2011-12 Game Recaps

Extra Special: Overtime Boxing with Blackhawks and Canucks

"Hmm, smells like victory." (Photo: Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

Supposedly this game was so infuriating for Vancouver fans, their most-followed blog, Nucks Misconduct, couldn’t even bother to recap it, skipping right to previewing the Dallas game.

To credit one Canuck, Roberto Luongo played a hell of a game. Corey Crawford did him one better, though, and the Blackhawks ended the season series with a 2-1 overtime win Wednesday night at the United Center.

The ‘Hawks kept coming at Luongo, and he turned away some great chances. Crawford, after letting in a softy on the game’s first shift, ended up standing tall in the third period and OT to help the ‘Hawks escape with their fifth consecutive victory.

That’s as far as I’ll go to compliment those jagoffs, though. It still boggles my mind how any human being with any sort of sense can actually cheer for people like Kevin Bieksa and Alex Burrows. At least the Sedin twins are decent hockey players when they’re not falling all over themselves when they hit an ice shaving or an opponent blows wind through their pansy goatees.

Bieksa and Burrows are likely the two biggest pieces of squirrel feces on this entire planet, and they proved it again tonight. Canucks fans – and the Canucks themselves – can bitch all they want about Duncan Keith’s hit, but Daniel Sedin’s earlier hit was just as dirty and uncalled for. If Keith would’ve went down like a ton of bricks, it would’ve been and looked just as badly.

However, that said, Keith’s hit was dirty. He brought the elbow up and knocked him in the jaw. If he plays Sunday, call me surprised. Since he’s not a repeat offender, one game should about do it.

Also on the who-might-not-play front, Marcus Kruger didn’t play after leaving in the second period. Kane went 3 for 18 on draws Wednesday, so that part doesn’t make it sit well that Kruger may not be out there against a Predators team can bury teams if they win the majority at the dot.

Onto happier things, Johnny Oduya fired the puck on net after a Dave Bolland setup, and Andrew Shaw gave it a little nudge after doing his job – going hard to the net – for the game-winner. Hell of a game, but I wouldn’t mind being saved a heart attack by not seeing the Canucks in the postseason.

Don’t look now, but the Blackhawks are only three points back of the No. 2 seed, currently held by Vancouver, with nine games to go.

Boxing for ya…

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For Starters, a W: Boxing with ‘Hawks and Capitals

Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune

It’s not some sort of state secret. Every coach in the NHL will tell you getting the first goal can change the complexion of game. If a team is lucky enough to get the first two, then you can pretty much focus on burying the opposition.

For the third straight game – all wins, by the way – the Blackhawks scored first, and for the second consecutive contest they got the first two goals before their opponent had a shot on net. No more fucking around, they seem to be saying.

The ‘Hawks scored early and finished late, beating Washington 5-2 on Sunday at the United Center. For a team most were writing off without a healthy Jonathan Toews, the ‘Hawks are 7-1-1 since the Leap Day win over Toronto and are within four points of Detroit and Nashville for the No. 4 seed and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs with nine games to go.

If Washington wants to get back on track, it can start Monday by knocking off the slumping Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena and doing the ‘Hawks a favor.

Stuff before Boxing…

♦   Remember when most figured Coach Q had given the crease to Ray Emery for the duration of the season? Nakis and I never were convinced of that, and Q is being as predictable as ever and riding the hot hand. Corey Crawford wasn’t tested much Sunday, but his 16 saves were enough to improve him to 7-2-0 with a 2.12 goals-against average since Feb. 16. He struggled in a three-game stretch in losses to Dallas, Los Angeles, and getting yanked in the win over Toronto, but he’s back to playing above average, which is really what most of us are asking for to continue.

With nine games to go, no one has any idea if Q will commit to either one of them. It seems to be working right now, though.

♦   So, Michael Frolik still plays for the Blackhawks. Interesting.

♦   Patrick Kane really has been stepping up lately, and it’s coming just at the right time. With the news that Toews suffered a setback in his recovery from a concussion, Kaner has helped make that a little easier news to take given how well he and the ‘Hawks have been playing. There’s never a good time to have the Captain out, but this nice little stretch is making it more tolerable.

♦   With Toews out, the ‘Hawks went 36 for 55 at the dot Sunday. That’s neat.

♦   Viktor Stalberg winning that race to the puck, getting himself under control then charging the net with a move in mind and patience to execute it was a thing of beauty. For someone who seemed so far off the handle when it came to keeping himself and his blazing speed tamed to be able to fit it into an actual game, he’s seems to be starting to get it more and more each game. Oh, and he gets to light up Columbus again soon.

♦   Alex Ovechkin reminded us that despite him having another “down” year, he’s still one of the best in the game with his move on Duncan Keith. Ovechkin’s goal gives him at least 30 in every season since he entered the league in 2005. Yeah, that’s good.

Here’s Boxing…

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Breathing Room: Boxing with ‘Hawks and Blues

Credit: Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune

While it’s very true few – if any – of us expected the Blackhawks to be in this position after being atop the NHL standings not so long ago, putting some distance between them and the rest of the crowding teams at the bottom of the Western Conference playoff picture is a welcome relief.

The ‘Hawks pulled out a 4-3 shootout win over St. Louis at the United Center on Tuesday night, moving five points ahead of seventh-place Phoenix and six up on a few trying to claim the eighth spot.

With 11 games to play, it seems like a comfortable distance, and the Blackhawks are coming close to being locked into the No. 6 seed and a date with the Pacific Division winner in the first round – possibly red-hot Dallas, which the ‘Hawks get to see Friday.

This much time without Jonathan Toews makes that seem like a decent consolation prize to avoid the likes of Nashville and Detroit in round one.

Most everything else will come in Boxing, but here’s a couple things I noticed…

♦   Johnny Oduya may not get the credit, but his keep-in is what led to Viktor Stalberg’s goal in the second period. For a guy who was being cursed out before even donning the Indian head, he’s been playing pretty damn well.

♦   What is Coach Q to do on Friday after Ray Emery allowed three goals on six shots in his sixth straight start, then Corey Crawford came on to play well in relief and earn the win? Does Q simply take Emery’s performance as another bad night against the Blues (he’s 3-1-1 with a 15 goals-against in his current stretch, though eight have come against St. Louis)? Or does Q take Crawford’s performance as him regaining his confidence and hoping he can ride that against Dallas?

The problem with the latter move is that it may in turn get Emery thinking too much. Then if Crawford goes in the poop tank, can Emery step right in again? It’s a decision Q has to make, and it will tell whether or not the crease is indeed Emery’s, or if Crawford still has a chance of being the No. 1 heading into the playoffs.

♦  Brandon Bollig bothers me. While I believe Ryan Reaves indeed is living remnants of some bacterial growth found on an unrefrigerated seven-year-old block of cheese, his hit on Jamal Mayers was nothing deserving of Bollig immediately dropping the gloves and getting an instigator. He gave St. Louis a chance to completely put the game away. Tell me what’s so great about this guy that people enjoy him, but despised John Scott.

OK, I’m tired. Boxing…

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Point Taken: Boxing with ‘Hawks and Kings

"Can you believe this effing guy, Dave?"

So you’re telling me that Jonathan Quick guy is pretty good, eh?

Quick beat the Blackhawks for the third time in four meetings this season – including two shutouts and a 0.99 goals-against average in those matchups – and helped the Kings to a 3-2 shootout win at the United Center.

“Experts” seem to tell us that goaltending is the difference between Stanley Cup contenders and pretenders around this time of the season, and if it holds true L.A. is going to be tough to beat with Quick between the pipes.

He stole the show from Ray Emery, who was making his fifth straight start and had another solid outing. If it weren’t the Blackhawks’ ineptitude in the shootout, he would’ve come away with a victory. He stopped the first five shooters before Mike Richards finally broke through, while Quick was perfect on the other end – not to mention stoning Viktor Stalberg on a penalty-shot attempt in the third period.

The main problem was Duncan Keith, who should immediately take the film, CD, floppy disk or whatever it is this game has been recorded on and bury it along with Jimmy Hoffa. Both Kings goals were the result of his turnovers, including one that lead to a 4-on-1 break for L.A. with the game merely 1 1/2 minutes old.

Patrick Kane had a solid night, and Marcus Kruger again was rewarded for playing hard in front of the net. Other than that, the Blackhawks will take the point and move on to Tuesday, when St. Louis comes into the United Center for another showdown.

Here’s Boxing…

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Bizarro World: Boxing with Blackhawks and Blues

(Chris Lee, McClatchy-Tribune)

Our power play wasn’t good. We couldn’t settle the puck down, we couldn’t make a pass and they were forechecking us hard. We didn’t deserve to win. It just wasn’t good enough. – Marian Hossa

So, that’s the world we live in now, eh? The St. Louis Blues are the front-runners for the President’s Trophy down the stretch of the season. Not since Joel Quenneville manned the bench in 1999-2000 have the Blues been this good in the regular season.

With that said, Tuesday night’s 5-1 loss was another recipe for disaster: Shitty power play, shitty penalty kill, outplayed in net and out-muscled throughout. This crap is looking all too familiar.

Hopefully Jonathan Toews will be back Friday and he can kick everyone in the ass a bit, but this game just didn’t seem to be anything more than “blah.” The Blues are flat out the better team, and it pains me to say it.

I don’t have the energy for more. There simply isn’t much to analyze that hasn’t been said already. The Blackhawks have trouble entering the zone on the power play and leaving their own zone, well, always. The play in net is spotty at best. Special teams all around is pretty much a Disney on Ice. I’m not going to beat you down with it.

I’ll get into a bit more here in the summary of Boxing, but I left the actual box score for you to take a look at and decide for yourself what you’d like to analyze. Go ahead and throw in your own thoughts in the comments…

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Man Advantage Advantage: Hawks 2 – Senators 1

Behind the Net: Where stats come from

Here’s your CORSI and shift charts to start. We begin there because it’s the first thing I noticed when watching the game. I didn’t even really need to look at the charts tonight because Joel Quenneville kept his hand off the lever and maintained a very consistent lineup throughout this entire game. We’ll get back to that in our quick hits but it had to be mentioned first and foremost since it’s not something that happens, well, ever.

The first period was pretty much one of consistent movement as there were very few stoppages. The Hawks were controlling the pace and the puck for the vast majority of the first 20 minutes. They played a simple game, one that involved a single premise. Get the puck on the net. Instead of moving the puck around the perimeter once they gained the zone, Chicago stuck to one or two passes and then immediately tried to put the puck on the net. Most of the Hawks chances came between the circles or right at the goal mouth. To be perfectly honest, it was a pleasure to watch that first period despite going into the intermission down 1-0. Speed to the outside, center the puck to the trailer and fire it at the net. That’s JMH hockey porn right there. My only complaint was the standstill nature of the powerplay once again.

In the second period it was again the Hawks controlling the pace and outshooting the Senators 17-7. Patrick Sharp got a penalty shot opportunity early in the period but failed to convert. Sharp went wide, made one move and then tried to go glove side high but Lehner simply beat him. About 3 minutes and change later, the Hawks got on the board with Bryan Bickell’s goal on a delayed penalty. If the Blackhawks could treat that man advantage like they treat their powerplays (two skaters in front, work the puck behind the office and center it) our powerplay probably wouldn’t have a 38 chance drought. [looks at score sheet] HOLY SHIT WE SCORED A POWERPLAY GOAL LATER IN THE PERIOD. And would you look at that… two skaters in front, Hossa gets a rebound and takes it behind the office to get a wraparound.

The third period was a frustrating 20 minutes of the Hawks turtling and being outshot 10-5. It was also Joel Quenneville sending Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook out there for nearly 12 minutes each. Dylan Olsen and Sami Lepisto recorded three shifts each while Leddy and Oduya picked up nine respectively. The last two minutes were skittish but the Sens really only mounted a couple solid chances in the final frame.

  • I’m probably reaching apologist status with Corey Crawford but I’m in agreement with Q. This is Ray Emery’s crease to lose right now. I still think we’re going to see a lot of juggling of the goalies because I’m not sure Razor’s hip can handle the constant work but I’ll refrain from delivering a backhanded compliment here. Ray Emery made key stops tonight and was very good. Own that blue paint, Razor. The deed is yours now.
  • Consistency! Joel Quenneville! He did it! Take a look below as I’ve organized the shift charts by line. Look how they all line up!

Click to Embiggen

  • The powerplay, oh my, the powerplay. The first one sucked because there were five statues with Indian Heads out there but after that, it was all movement. Behind the office, two skaters in front, wristers or slap shots from the point. Even on the delayed penalty we saw this and it resulted in Bickell’s goal. Baby steps and I will take it. Keep it up, boys.
  • Seabrook and Keith still skated nearly half an hour tonight. I know it’s a one goal game but I think you can trust Leddy or Oduya a bit more in the 3rd. Even the 3rd pairing. Still, a win so I can’t complain much here. 27 minutes and change isn’t that bad.
  • Nice save in the 2nd period, Johnny Oduya. Razor was on his stomach and had no idea where the puck was. Hopefully they give you a save at hockey-reference.
  • Andrew Shaw is getting a bit more disciplined but I still don’t want him on anything but the 4th line. Jimmy Hayes seems to make more sense on a checking line that places an emphasis on defense and positioning.
  • Viktor Stalberg committed a penalty in the third period and actually saw the ice after it. More Quenneville progress.
  • Going to need you all to sit down before reading this next point. Seated? Good. Nick Leddy led all Blackhawk skaters with a +8 CORSI.  Only Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek were better overall.
  • I think we need to find a way to keep Andrew Brunette in the top six after Toews gets back. That Brunette-Kane-Hossa line was generating chances all night long. Perhaps it’s time Bruno came back up top with the Captain and Kaner?
  • How the hell did Matt Gilroy miss that open net on the Sens 3rd period powerplay?
  • One more time, for emphasis. Take a gander at where the majority of our chances came from. Circles and slot. Only 8 of 37 from the halfboards around the point area.

Click to Embiggen

  • Get well soon, Cap’n.

Winning By Default: Boxing with Blackhawks and Maple Leafs

"Increase my killing power, eh?" (Chicago Tribune)

I guess that’s what you get when pitting a struggling team against another whose name isn’t even grammatically correct.

Luckily for the Blackhawks, they got their suck out of the way in the first period before Toronto melted down and allowed the ‘Hawks to come away with a 5-4 win at the United Center on Wednesday night.

I’ll save you the goal-by-goal rundown and give a couple of quick thoughts:

♦   Johnny Oduya ended up even after going a minus-3 in the first period, including a goal that came on his first shift wearing the Indian head. However, Brent Seabrook didn’t do him any favors on the first two goals with misplays that led to Leafs goals.

I traded emails with Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press regarding Oduya, and I’ll post his thoughts this afternoon, so check back later.

♦   Patrick Kane was solid all night and gave the ‘Hawks a spark with his play at center. His goal came on some clean up around the net after a Sami Lepisto shot. More of this please. Like, you know, always.

♦  Nice to see Andrew Shaw get on the board in his first game back, fighting off a check before circling to the near post and potting one. Also, his goaltender interference call followed by a roughing penalty was complete and total horseshit. Shaw’s rush to the net was aggressive and forced Jonas Gustavsson to move out of the crease, causing a collision with Shaw that was the result of aggressive play by both players. After that dog shit call, the refs gave Shaw a roughing call despite simply defending himself against Luke Schenn, who came from about 20 feet away from the play to blatantly attact Shaw behind the net.

♦   After the ‘Hawks tied it, Patrick Sharp committed a hockey sin by taking a horrible hooking penalty in the offensive zone before Chelsea Dagger finished playing after Shaw’s goal. Roughly 28 seconds later, the Leafs regained the lead.

♦   The importance of Marcus Kruger’s goal at the end of the first period may be overlooked the way the ‘Hawks were able to charge ahead through the rest of the game. His tally cut the lead to 3-2 and shifted momentum. Without the goal, the Leafs head into the second period with a two-goal lead and pretty much in control.

♦   That goal may have been especially important for the team’s psyche given Coach Q replaced Corey Crawford with Ray Emery to start the second period. Crawford allowed three goals on 10 shots, while Emery came in to make 24 saves over the last 40 minutes. You’ve got to think Emery is going to be the starter moving forward, and there’s no telling what’s going through Crawford’s head right now after being pulled in two straight.

With 17 games remaining now is the time to commit to the goaltender not hurting you the most, as sad as that sounds. It seems Emery is the one at this point. Someone needs to take the reigns heading into the postseason, and Razor is the closest thing the ‘Hawks have to a playoff goalie. Not to say he’s the answer given his struggles this season, but no team heads into the stretch run and into the playoffs using a pair of goaltenders – unless you’re St. Louis with Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott. Emery has to be the one Q commits to now, in my opinion. We’ll see what happens, though.

All right, here’s Boxing….

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To Hell We Ride : Hawks Drop Two in California

( Kelvin Kuo-US PRESSWIRE, US PRESSWIRE)

What a disaster.

The Blackhawks travled to California this weekend with a chance to build some momentum after going 4-1 in their last 5 games. Sure, they blew a 3rd period lead against Dallas on Thursday, but considering they won their 4 previous games after a horrible losing streak, a split in California would have put the Hawks at 5-2 since the end of the losing streak and the Blackhawks still could have been viewed as a team on the rise. It wasn’t to be. They got annihilated in Los Angles and the result tonight wasn’t much better.

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Strapping it Down: Boxing with ‘Hawks and Stars

(Credit: Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune)

“When they got that first one, we need to stay the course and for whatever reason we seemed to get away from our game. We didn’t manage the puck well in the third, and as a result we lose the game.” – Jamal Mayers

This one is tough to be angry about. It’s just damn annoying.

Not only do we have to listen to reports and read official statements about the possibly concussed Jonathan Toews getting into a car accident in the morning, we’re treated to a game in which the ‘Hawks looked… blah.

The Blackhawks’ 3-1 loss to Dallas on Thursday at the United Center looked pretty good for about 50 minutes, with the ‘Hawks controlling much of the game and seemingly dictating the pace – not that it was all that exciting to begin with.

Corey Crawford was playing well and making the necessary saves on the few lapses in front of him, and he seemed on his way to helping record the team’s first shutout.

Then a string of unfortunate bounces and a relaxed style of play did the ‘Hawks in, as three deflected goals got past Crow to send them to their first loss in regulation when leading after two periods this season.

Going to get straight to a couple things here…

♦   Seven times the Blackhawks have put five or less shots on goal in the third period, with Thursday being the only time they lost. Basically, Coach Q and the gang decided the one-goal lead was enough and took down the firing squad to play a prevent-type D.

I don’t care what team you’re playing in this league, a one-goal lead with 20 minutes to play is not safe, and to think and/or play otherwise is just not smart. Add that onto the fact something named Richard Bachman was playing his ass off for the Stars all night, he’s still a backup goaltender. Attack him, disrupt him – like how they did on Marian Hossa’s goal and what they did against Detroit the other night – and get a goal or two to put it away.

Instead, the ‘Hawks took their foot off the pedal and it cost them in a four-point game.

♦   Dallas, meanwhile, did exactly what the Blackhawks were doing the past few games to get back on track – put people in front of the net and get dirty goals. Steve Ott and Michael Ryder scored on deflections, then Brent Seabrook’s skate got an assist on Loui Eriksson’s tip-in. Crawford had no chance on any of them. Sure, there were some minor blimps on the ‘Hawks end that kept the puck in their own zone, but the results are more telling than what led up to them. Dallas was attacking, the Blackhawks were tightening up. Game over.

♦   John Scott played 2:22 and had five shifts. Dallas came into the game ranked 21st in the NHL in fighting majors, making Scott’s presence damn near worthless – again.

♦   Bryan Bickell was probably the most noticeable forward for the ‘Hawks tonight. Pretty solid game all around.

♦   Power play: 0 for 31 over the last 12 games.

♦   Interesting trend: There were nine games on the NHL schedule Thursday, with seven road teams picking up wins.

♦   With the accident this morning and all the concussion rumors, it will be interesting to see if Toews makes the trip out west to face the Los Angeles Kings – with the newly acquired Jeff Carter – and Anaheim.

Here’s your Boxing…

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Back in the Swing of Things: Boxing with Blackhawks and Red Wings

I laughed. (Credit: Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune)

No Jonathan Toews. No Pavel Datsyuk. Still, the same ol’ gritty rivalry.

The Blackhawks and Red Wings gave us another entertaining battle on both ends of the ice, and Corey Crawford beat Jimmy Howard in a fantastic goaltending dual as the ‘Hawks held on for a 2-1 victory Tuesday night at the United Center.

Jimmy Hayes was rewarded with a goal after working in front of the net, then assisted on Marcus Kruger’s tally with some nice board work and a charge to the back of the net, as Kruger tipped in an Andrew Brunette shot that bounced off Howard.

You know the basics, so let’s get to some other stuff…

♦   It obviously wasn’t ideal to have Toews out of the lineup with the always-vague upper-body injury, though there weren’t many points in the contest I was screaming for Toews to be there. The final minute sticks out, when The Captain would’ve been on the ice for in-zone draws as the Wings had the extra skater, and Dave Bolland lost two to give Detroit a couple more shots at Crawford as the clock ticked away. Other than that, the ‘Hawks keep the Red Wings at bay and Henrik Zetterberg damn near invisible.

♦   Patrick Kane was solid tonight, and it was only for a spectacular Howard save on Patrick Sharp that Kaner didn’t register a point. Kane took the puck on the far side and circled toward the center of the ice while the ‘Hawks were on the power play. He skated the puck to the near side and went right at Justin Abdelkader, who had lost his stick. Kane was able to move in and create a passing lane to get the puck to Sharp camping in front of the net. Howard went post-to-post and stuck out his left pad, snuffing out the chance. Nonetheless, a smart, heads-up play by Kaner. He was all over the place and seemed to step up his game with Toews out.

♦   Speaking of the power play: 0 for 30 over the last 11 games, with the last PP goal coming when Bolland beat Pekka Rinne in a 3-1 home loss to Nashville on Jan. 24 – the last game before the All-Star break.

♦   Crawford’s play wasn’t stellar, but his saves were not exactly routine. I saw far less rebounds than in the previous games during his current stretch of four straight games with one GA. Him staying in the blue paint more often than not has seemed to pay off, and his run has quelled the talk of trading for a goaltender – for now.

♦   When a goaltender is on like Howard was tonight, garbage goals are necessary to grind out a win like this. The ‘Hawks got them with the help of some aggressive play in front of Howard, taking advantage of a couple loose pucks and pounding them home. This seems to have been lacking recently.

♦  Going 28 for 54 at the dot without Toews is definitely a victory on that end. With that being said, here’s to hoping Toews doesn’t have to sit out Thursday against Dallas.

Here’s Boxing…

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