2010-11 Ramblings

Hello, Hockey World. My name is Patrick Sharp

"Quick. Come see how good looking I am!" (AP)

Most of  Patrick Sharp’s popularity stems from his good looks.

Now, he’s the most handsome All-Star Game MVP there’s ever been.

This award wasn’t for his victory in a random Internet Sexiest NHL Player contest, nor did Sharp Dressed Man play after any of his accomplishments on a national stage — a goal and two assists. It just so happens his star shined brighter than any other Sunday in Raleigh.

Not bad for a guy who gets roughly the fifth-most attention on his own team.

It’s no secret Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Marian Hossa are the most talked-about Blackhawks. The fans voted in the first three, despite Sharp having a better season when the ‘Hawks needed it most with the departures and injuries.

Hell, Sharp wasn’t even on the damn ballot.

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Roundtable: Blackhawk Up, SCH, Hockee Night, Fifth Feather, TTMI

Matt McClure of Second City Hockey sent out a few questions for us idiots to discuss now that we have just passed the midway point of the season. The answers come from myself, Forklift of Hockee Night, Sam Fels of The Committed Indian, SCH and NBC.com’s Madhouse Enforcer, the Fifth Feather and Chris Block of The Third Man In. Enjoy, ya’ll.

McClure: All right men, it’s been far too long since we’ve done one of these. It seems like it’s a decent point in the season to do one so let’s get at it, shall we?

1) What do you see as being wrong with Duncan Keith to this point in the season, and can it be fixed?

Forklift: I’m hoping it’s something as simple as him being a little overwhelmed at being paid $8 million, and is trying to do too much. You can see where he’s just not simplifying his game – looking for that one extra pass, shooting where there’s no lane, playing with the puck too much. All things that are not part of the Duncan Keith game. 

I’m envisioning the solution being R. Lee Ermey walking into the Hawks’ dressing room and yelling at him “What’s the matter with you, boy? You’re DUNCAN KEITH!!! Start playing like you’re DUNCAN KEITH!!! Do you understand me???”

Fifth Feather: At this point in the season, other than blasting shot after shot off shin guards, he’s been alright.  His start to the season is what everyone remembers now, but the mistakes Keith has been making lately (poor angles, firing the puck away without looking, etc.) are all things he’s been doing his whole career.  So I’m not sure those things will ever be wholly rectified.  

The difference between last year and this year was his shot finding the back of the net with a bit more regularity and his mistakes weren’t as glaring because when he did make them, it was Huet’s fault or the opposition didn’t capitalize on them.

Bartl: I’m inclined to side with The Feather here, because a lot of his mistakes are things we’ve seen before. The difference seems to be they’re happening a lot more frequently than last season. Maybe he’s over-thinking, trying to anticipate the opponent’s forecheck rather than than reacting to what it gives him to work with. The blind passes are more frequent, and when he does hold possession, he seems to be holding it too long. Far too many times he’s been caught dilly-dalying with the puck as the opposition moves on in him force a turnover or at least slow down the ‘Hawks attack. Then there’s the obvious blind shots without finding a lane before firing. Whether or not it can be fixed depends on him dealing with the mental side of getting over his mistakes, in my opinion.

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Your Turn Again: December Mail Bag

There were a rousing lot of questions from you BlackhawkUP-sters last month, here’s a sampling…

The Blackhawks seem to be teetering in and out of a playoff spot. That’s not good. What’s the problem? — Chris, Grand Crossing

The Blackhawks got off to a worse-than-average start, and are only now starting to play the kind of hockey we expect from the defending Stanley Cup Champions. Last season they took the “best defense is a good offense” approach, and it worked wonderfully — because they had nearly a dozen credible scoring threats and the most consistent and stingy top-four defensemen in the league (arguably).

They tried to continue with that strategy this season, and it bombed. Neither the offense nor the defense was delivering. In the 15 games starting October 15, the Blackhawks won only 6 of them. Out of the most recent 15 games, they won 9. So essentially we’re playing far better, and just cleaning up the mess we made earlier this season. They keep improving like this, and not only will we make the playoffs, we’ll start on home ice.

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No Other Way To Put This: End The Shootout, Or Else

I have just watched another catastrophic nightmare ending to a critically important hockey game, as Canada and Sweden went to a shootout in the IIHF World Junior Championships. Tied 5 – 5 through overtime, these two undefeated teams then subjected themselves to a skills competition, essentially a slightly more dramatic coin-flip, to decide who won the game.

Yes, I’m from Canada. Yes, the Canadians lost. That’s immaterial. I have this same reaction even when I’m watching a game where the outcome is of zero consequence to me or the teams I cheer for. The utilization of the shootout in ANY hockey game is a tragedy, and an irrefutably heinous marriage of convenience and short attention spans.

The shootout must be banned from any and every league and tournament across the entire spectrum of hockey, from the tiniest Mite house league up to Juniors, College, minor leagues, as well as the NHL and Olympic Games. This must happen without further delay.

Why? One simple and indisputable reason: it is not hockey. Hockey is a game played with five skaters and a goaltender on the ice for each team, a ticking clock, referees, and a puck. Shootouts have few of those characteristics, and in removing the primary elements from the equation it no more resembles hockey than it does a tuna fish sandwich. When fans go to a HOCKEY GAME, they expect to see HOCKEY. They expect the team that they cheer for to play HOCKEY. And most importantly, they want the decision of which team wins or loses to be determined exclusively by the outcome of a game of HOCKEY. It is becoming evident that actions must be taken to ensure that this is the only way in which hockey games are played.

What can be done? Lots. Countries should lobby the IIHF and other international governing bodies to remove the shootout from any sanctioned tournaments. If they do not, they should refuse to send their teams. Fans can call their local NHL and AHL teams and complain, then put their money where their mouths are and make it clear to the teams that their refusal to attend games is exclusively because of the shootout. Colleges and universities can petition the NCAA to abandon the shootout, and fans can vote with their pocketbooks there as well. Finally, parents with kids in hockey leagues should get involved at that level and make it clear that the shootout is an unacceptable way of determining the outcome of a hockey game.

I’m dead serious about this. Football, baseball, basketball, none of them end tie games with a skills competition on any level, amateur or professional. Hockey is disgracing itself merely by considering the possibility of such nonsense; the fact that it has actually been implemented at nearly all levels of the sport — most of whom look to the NHL for guidance in implementing such things — is a loathsome and humiliating disgrace for the sport.

The shootout must go, immediately, from all levels of hockey. If the leagues won’t do it, and the teams don’t care, it’s up to the people who are passionate about the game of hockey to make their voices heard and bring this issue to the forefront.

The fact that the game of hockey is tarnishing its long and storied reputation with such an execrable and treasonous display speaks to the vile nature of those running the sport. They should be ashamed of themselves, and passionate traditionalists should strive at every turn to let them know that.

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Tale of two defenses in one year’s time

I had planned to come home and write this anyway, but Chris Kuc’s story regarding the Blackhawks’ gap control gave me even more reason.

The problem I have with this article isn’t that it was written, but more so in the way it was written and where the focus of the story lies. The Blackhawks have always emphasized controlling the gap and taking away opponents’ easy entries into the offensive zone. They’re not just starting to put more time into practicing it, it’s simply that they’re doing it better over the past two games.

The story seems to be written as if this is a new thing the ‘Hawks are becoming good at doing. When a topic like this comes up, there’s no question it has to be compared to the way it was done during a championship campaign.

Last season,  Duncan Keith won the Norris Trophy disrupting zone entries.  Brent Seabrook did a hell of a job at this as well.  Brian Campbell and  Niklas Hjalmarrson were solid at the blue line, and even  Brent Sopel played his part when he wasn’t getting caught flat-footed, though his strengths blossomed when the puck had already been in the zone.

Once again, it’s not a matter of the ‘Hawks just starting to talk about this. I don’t attend practices or hang out in the locker or film rooms, but I can put in a safe guess this has been a topic of discussion all year. The Blackhawks simply aren’t going to forget one of their main strengths which helped them win the Stanley Cup.

If a defensive unit — and back-checking forwards — can disrupt the opposition’s entry into the zone and force more dumps than controlled entries, the game can become a battle for the puck along the boards — another thing the ‘Hawks excelled at winning last season. More dumps, more board battles and less controlled entries leads to fewer shots for the opponent, simply because the offense has difficulty getting into a rhythm and setting up its offense.

Through 35 games last season, Blackhawks goaltenders faced 842 shots on goal. This season? 1,016. That’s a whopping difference of 174 shots, which averages out to roughly five more shots per game. While the latter stat may seem minuscule, remember it only takes one shot to put the puck in the net — as simple and stupid and obvious as that may sound to you.

More statistics after the jump

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Tim Bits for Friday, December 10

Some quick news flashes for Blackhawks’ fans as the team wraps up activities for the day in San Jose:

Multiple sources on the scene are reporting that Corey Crawford will be in net for the Blackhawks when they take on the Sharks on Saturday. This should not be a surprise to anyone.

It was also suggested by Coach Joel Quenneville that Jordan Hendry may return to the lineup against San Jose. We haven’t seen him wearing the Indian Head sweater since November 7th against Edmonton. And few people were complaining. Hendry is a big goose-egg on the scoresheet and a -2 in 11 games this season.

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20 cents for your thoughts: Injured Patrick Kane out for three weeks

"Welp, see ya later." (CSNChicago.com)

The news  Patrick Kane will be out for up to three weeks with a left leg injury came without much of an uproar. The general consensus seems to be: “It looked worse than that. Three weeks isn’t so bad.”

Hmm, interesting. It’s funny how we all panic when  Marty Turco lets in a soft goal, yet we’re relatively calm when the Blackhawks’ point-per-game winger will be shelved for nearly a month. If you can figure that out, well, you’re a step ahead of me.

Fact is, a day without Kane is a day too many. There’s been times this season he’s been clearly absent from the game while his Give A Fuck is in the shop. However, at least he’s been on the ice. We all know when Kane decides he’s going to do something spectacular, it happens more often than not. I’d rather have Kane roaming the ice without a care in the world rather than have him watching from the press box.

The It’s-Not-So-Bad mentality may go away quickly tomorrow when the Blackhawks take the ice without both Kane and  Marian Hossa for the first time since Hossa signed with the ‘Hawks. They missed games separately, but not together.  Jonathan Toews put the Blackhawks on his back Sunday against Calgary, and we’re going to be hoping he can do that again for however long it takes Hossa to return.

As I stated after Sunday’s game, the Blackhawks are already dressing  John Scott at forward. Since Scott has the offensive talent of Dennis Rodman, losing both Kane and Hossa — along with Fernando Pisani still out — the attack is considerably less intimidating.

While  Chris Kuc says  Jeremy Morin should be back with the ‘Hawks tomorrow night against Dallas, my assumption is  Ryan Potulny will get his I-Pass and make the trip up from Rockford. Imagine if someone in your fantasy league offered you Morin and Potulny for Kane. You’d probably laugh yourself into a coma.

Maybe I’m not being optimistic enough, or everyone else is lacking the pessimism necessary to be a realist.

But three weeks without Kane? Sounds as fun as a fart in a 100-floor elevator ride to me.

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

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Too Many Men on the Site

PUCKCAST: Tim and HOCKEENIGHT get their Nick Boynton on

Plus a bunch more. Have a listen and get a laugh rather than killing your boss while you hate your job today.

End The Controversy: A Tale of Four Goalies

Photos: TSN.ca

The Blackhawks’ rookie goaltender Corey Crawford came off the Circus Trip with three starts, three wins, and a GAA hovering just below 1.00. The calls went out for a third straight start after his wins over the Ducks and Kings, and he got it on Tuesday night against St. Louis. He came away with another win, but I think he showed us exactly why doing a flip-flop for the starting role with Marty Turco is a mistake.

Before we get into that, I want to take you back ten years and revisit the story of two young goaltenders in the Blackhawks organ-eye-zation. Michael Leighton and Craig Anders(s)on — I really should tell that story about the extra ‘s’ — were both drafted by Chicago and came into the AHL in 2001. They played as a tandem in Norfolk, which was then the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate, and over the next three years started to gain confidence at the pro level.

Here and there they would get the occasional call-up, mostly to sit on the bench at the UC and watch Steve Passmore flop all over the ice and get his ass handed to him. Then, disaster struck. Blackhawks’s starting goaltender Jocelyn Thibault injured his hip, underwent surgery and was to miss a total of 60 games during the 2003-04 season.

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“It’s not rocket surgery”: Crawford to start, Boynton hurts Hossa

"I got this." (Chicago Tribune)

The clamoring for  Corey Crawford to get the nod in net Tuesday has come to fruition. Unfortunately, so has the official confirmation that  Nick Boynton is a worthless piece of shit.

CSN’s  Tracey Myers (@TramyersCSN) reported a couple of nuggets on her Twitter account today. First, Boynton and  Marian Hossa collided in practice and Hossa was sent back to the locker room to be looked at. No word yet on Hossa’s condition. However, if Hossa is out for an extended period of time yet again, Boynton and his lisp are going to be swinging from a building somewhere.

Myers reported later that Crawford will get his third straight start Tuesday night against St. Louis. He’s 4-0-0 with a 1.23 GAA in his last four starts, including three road victories. Giving the kid a start at home riding a hot streak should’ve gone without saying, but it was good to see  Joel Quenneville announce it early.

The only time Crawford faced the Blues was Feb. 2, 2006 in a 6-5 shootout loss. Crawford gave up five goals and made 34 saves in a brief call-up.

It should also go without saying that Q needs to ride Crawford as long as possible with the way he’s been playing. A loss shouldn’t immediately relegate Crawford back to the bench if he plays well. For a Blackhawks team seemingly lacking a spark, Crawford resembles the closest thing to a pick-me-up at the moment.

And on top of all that,  Marty Turco is the class act we all knew he was. According to Brian Hamilton of the Trib:

“Corey’s going to play, I think, and he should,” Turco said. “He’s been playing great, he’s been playing great all year, has won a few in a row. We want to get on a roll. I’m here to win, no matter what.”

Either Tim or I will have updates on the Hossa injury as we get them. Check our Facebook fan page or our Twitter for the the quickest info.