2011-12 Game Previews
After suffering heartbreaking loss on Thursday night, the ‘Hawks still have a chance steal home ice in the series tonight. At the afternoon skate today the Blackhawks were rolling with the same lines they played with onThursday night. One suspects (prays) that Quenneville is just bluffing.
It’s hard to imagine that Q would be crazy enough to throw Sean O’Donnell back into lineup tonight, but this is a man who played John Scott on a regular basis. O’Donnell was consistently out of position and made horrible decisions all night long.
Niklas Hjalmarsson had one of his worst games as a Chicago Blackhawk on Thursday and one can’t help but attribute some of that to his partner. The Coyotes are a team that is ferocious on the forecheck and getting someone who can move the puck on the other side would probably go a long way in getting a minimally competent, non-panikly Hjalmarsson back for the ‘Hawks. Sami Lepisto is the guy who fits the bill here. But again, we don’t know what Q plans to do tonight.
It’s finally that time of year, folks. The regular season is now meaningless history. History will be made, starting now. The two month grueling process of hell, otherwise known as the Stanley Cup Playoffs, begins its 2012 chapter.
The Blackhawks start their run in Phoenix. Everyone was begging for the 3-6 seed matchup for the past month. Well, folks, you got your wish. We get to face the Yotes.
Game 1 will need to be a statement game. Mike Smith has been very stingy against the Hawks (and the rest of the league, for that matter) in every game this year. The Hawks will need to score, and they will need to score early tonight.
Jonathan Toews practiced with the team yesterday afternoon and expects to play tonight. I hate to be cynical, but I’ll believe it when I see it. His status seems to change by the hour, which is understandable with finicky head injuries. Assuming Toews comes back, it could give the Hawks the spark they need to score early.
The Yotes are a physical team and will get after you and crash the net. The defense needs to make a statement tonight too. The Hawks cannot let the Yotes win the battles in front of Corey Crawford, leading to an easy tap-in. When you’re facing a tough goaltender like Smith, you cannot give up easy goals. The Hawks’ defense needs to make Phoenix work hard for their goals. If they don’t, they will not win this game or this series.
The Hawks play a quick, open game of hockey, which is the exact opposite style that Phoenix plays. They tend to grind it out. Due to this, Phoenix will look to physically out-battle the Hawks and, excuse my language, knock the Hawks on their asses to slow the game down (see: Minnesota Wild vs. Blackhawks, regular season games 80 & 81). The Hawks can’t afford to get caught up in the post-whistle stupidity and goonery. The Hawks need to keep their cool and play at their level, rather than that of Phoenix.
Lastly, if Toews does indeed come back, the Hawks will need to keep an eye on him. Phoenix will be going after him physically. You can bet your house on it. It will be really important for them to find the right balance of sticking up for their captain, and not getting carried away playing grab-ass. Blackhawks fan-favorite Raffi Torres is nearing the one-year anniversary of his demolition of Brent Seabrook. Just hope he doesn’t try to celebrate the anniversary with a gift for Toews.
Game starts at 9:00 PM Central on NBCSN.
Chicago never had the lead in their game against Minnesota last Sunday, which isn’t how the Blackhawks play their best game. However they did fight back to erase 3 deficits and force the Wild to a shootout. A shootout which the Blackhawks lost, eventually. But beyond showcasing the pugilistic talents of the bottom-six forwards, this game showed that this Blackhawks team may have a lot more perseverance and “guts” than we saw earlier this season.
The playoffs are right around the corner. The Blackhawks had better get a heaping helping of guts on the menu, and start making quick work of trifling teams like Minnesota, pretty quick. Like, perhaps, tonight.
Every time the Blackhawks go up against Boris Badenov and the Nashville Predators I find myself sitting there wondering, Why the HELL does Chicago have such problems with this team? Other teams kick the crap out of them regularly, as evidenced by Nashville’s losses to Pittsburgh and cellar-dweller Edmonton just last week. Why, oh WHY, do the Blackhawks usually end up either on the short end of a close game, or being humiliated by a staggering margin against these pukes?
In the 5 games between these teams this season, the Blackhawks have come away with a only one win — and that one went into overtime. Chicago has better records this year against St. Louis, Vancouver, and Detroit (*spitting noise*). They’re laughing at us in Music City, counting the ‘Hawks as an easy win, and hoping that they manage to land Chicago as a first-round playoff opponent instead of the Red Wings.
Nashville fans are laughing at us. That has to fucking stop. Tonight. And that means the Blackhawks had better deliver a crushing blow to this Predators team, and make it clear that taking Chicago lightly will be a costly mistake.
How did the Blackhawks beat the St. Louis Blues two weeks ago? By pounding them into submission? By Jamal Mayers making dents in B.J. Crombeen’s melon? By Brandon Bollig trying to tenderize Ryan Reeves? So many will say ‘yes’, and assert that a physical game will be imperative to beating St. Louis tonight. I’m going to disagree.
Chicago beat the Blues by first of all, recovering from a 3-goals-against meltdown by Ray Emery in the first period; and secondly, by throwing 46 shots at the Blues’ goal while limiting their shots against to just 24.
Tonight will be no different. If the Blackhawks use their speed, press their forecheck, take advantage of a demonstrably slower St. Louis defense, and not waste time and energy throwing the body, they will win. How do I know? One week prior to that game, the Blackhawks managed only 20 shots on goal against St. Louis while allowing 31 shots against. Chicago lost 5-1. And Bollig and Reaves went at it in that game too, precious little good it did.
Having just done a brief tour of some of the less scenic parts of New Jersey, I can tell those of you who haven’t been there to skip it. New Jersey is to New York City what Gary, Indiana is to Chicago — except with half the smell and twice the abandoned buildings. Got the picture?
Hey, the truth hurts. And with the Blackhawks’ ranks depleting faster than they can call up reinforcements from Rockford, the truth is more painful than usual these days. But we’ll go there later.
Right now, the matter at hand is a New Jersey Devils team that, fortunately, won’t land in the basement of the Atlantic Division thanks to an Islanders team with a nice lottery position. But a team that is nonetheless in big trouble as its latest bout of losses presents the real possibility of missing the playoffs. Surging teams in the form of Buffalo and Washington may just use the last 6 games of the season to kick New Jersey straight to the golf course.
Will offensive titans Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, and Zach Parise be able to light the lamp enough to make up for Martin Brodeur’s fading talents between the pipes? Hopefully not tonight…
The last 3 years the Blackhawks have faced the Canucks in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Why should this year be any different? The way it’s shaping up right now, it’s a decent possibility that Vancouver will be the Blackhawks’ first-round opponent. Tonight’s game will give us a preview of what we can expect.
Tonight will also be a test of the Blackhawks’ mettle: can they continue their first period dominance? Can they beat teams that are ahead of them in the standings the way they have beaten teams below them? And can they continue their recent solid play in the absence of Captain Jonathan Toews?
Buckle up, people. This game’s going to be close: either be a hard-fought win, or a very disappointing loss. No blowout in sight this evening.
This is really quite simple. The Columbus Blue Jackets, albeit lately playing well, are the worst professional hockey team among the 30 that make up the National Hockey League. They score the 2nd fewest goals in the NHL, give up the 2nd most goals in the NHL, have the 26th ranked powerplay, the worst penalty kill, generally don’t score first and might have the single worst general manager since Mike Milbury turned the Islanders into the Pirates of this league. In short, the Columbus Blue Jackets are absolutely terrible and probably should be competing for the Calder Cup instead of the Stanley Cup.
We got that covered? Great.
Alexander Ovechkin has 29 goals this season for Washington.
The next closest guy on the stats sheet has only 18.
How do you defend the Washington Capitals? I’ll give you three guesses…
Admit it. You haven’t been excited about a Blackhawks/Stars game since Ed Belfour and Brett Hull wore the Star. Even when they had Brad Richards and James Neal they weren’t all that exciting to watch.
So what makes the game tonight different? Well, Dallas (39-27-5) currently occupies the 3 seed in the Western Conference standings with a ever so slim 2 point lead over Phoenix and the Sharks only 3 points behind. With the Blackhawks currently the 6th seed, Dallas would be the opponent in the 1st round.