2011-12 Game Recaps
No matter how terrible the Blackhawks were during their nine-game road trip, at least we have the Columbus Blue Jackets to thank for being only slightly better than a drunk men’s league team.
Following up on their 4-2 slump-buster over the New York Rangers at MSG on Thursday, the ‘Hawks crushed the BJs 6-1 behind solid efforts from nearly everyone.
The victory marked the Blackhawks’ first back-to-back road wins since taking five straight from Nov. 25-Dec. 14.
After Sami Lepisto made every ‘Hawks fan replay Chris Campoli’s turnover in Game 7 against Vancouver in their minds 300-400 times, it was all Chicago.
Jonathan Toews made a hard move to the net and slid it past Steve Mason to tie it up, and Viktor Stalberg netted his eighth goal against the BJs this season just over four minutes later for what proved to be the game-winner.
Patrick Sharp took a great feed from Patrick Kane and one-timed it past Mason in the second before Kaner chased Mason through the five-hole less than two minutes later.
Marcus Kruger and Lepisto added the insurance in the third.
Hell of a game to write about in my first post in a long time. Moving and being without internet couldn’t have come during a better couple weeks so I didn’t have to talk about the lumps of shit that happened previously.
A few quick thoughts…
♦ Note to Lepisto: Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever make a fucking mistake. Ever. Next time, Q won’t just bench him, he’ll call Bowman from a cell on the bench and have him cut. Granted, Lepisto’s turnover was absolutely brutal, but he hasn’t been playing all that terribly lately. After the Jackets’ goal, Lepisto didn’t see another shift until he scored his goal, playing 5:59 for the game.
♦ Here are the Blackhawks’ numbers, with the “core” players highlighted:
Maybe Alicia Keys (note: I do not listen to Alicia Keys ) knew what she was talking about in that one Jay Z song?
The Blackhawks rolled into New York and played absolutely inspired hockey all night long. The Hawks threw 4 first period goals past a stunned Martin Biron and that’s all they would need to beat the best team in the Eastern Conference. While things got a little bumpy at the end of the 2nd period, the outcome was never really in doubt after the forth Blackhawk goal – which came just under 10 minutes into the contest.
Let’s get something out of the way first. Yes, I am about to subscribe to your Fire Coach Q newsletter but I haven’t quite put my credit card number in yet.
Here are your shift charts, CORSI and I tried to get the line combinations however LwL doesn’t have them available yet so I’ll be going from memory on those. At first glance, the CORSI makes it look like a game that a puck possession team should have won. Vlasic and the tank known as Dougie Murray were out leading their team in keeping pucks away from Antti Niemi which helped San Jose’s cause. We outshot the Sharks by five but once again that doesn’t matter when the Hawks defense looks like it did last night.
The first two goals I’m hesitant to place the blame on Corey Crawford. How many times did we have to see Eddie Olczyk diagram that first powerplay goal and put the blame on Marian Hossa though? As can be taken by my handle here, I’m a pretty big Hossa fan. I think Hossa covered his assignment and was heading for the shooting lane to block the shot. Crawford came out to challenge on Burns’ shot from the point and as we’ll discover later, a common theme arose from that. The puck went wide, Leddy got worked physically in front and Corey never regained his spot in the crease. The second goal I will just consider a wash because the fact the Hawks were shorthanded after Joe Thornton punched Jonathan Toews in the face and removed his helmet is something not even Ed Hochuli could explain clear enough for me.
Still, the Hawks were able to scramble back and get two goals from an unlikely source in Marcus Kruger. Both were nice net crashing plays by Umlaut, especially the 2nd where he went backhand on a rebound. That goodwill was soon spoiled by, no NOT Viktor Stalberg, but Duncan Keith’s inability to not only retain Vik’s pass at the blue line but coming back on the break and never getting into position. He seemed to give up and assume that the 2 on 1 break would result in a goal. Dylan Olsen got back, Keith never did. By the time he got back he never got in proper position and Thornton was able to bank one in off of Crawford.
We wouldn’t see Stalberg on the ice after that incident and I’ll be addressing that in the bullets.
The final period was marred two goals where Corey Crawford once again left his crease only to not return in time as hockey puck, party of two, had taken his reservation there. Someone please chain him to the net because the book is out and I’m tired of reading it. You get Crawford down, away from the net and he can’t scramble to get back in time. Now, let’s get some bullets in here.
The Hawks were lucky to not be trailing by several goals at the end of the 1st period.
The opening period saw each team playing rather tentativly, which makes sense as both teams entered the game with long losing streaks. The goaltenders each made some decent saves and the Blackhawks had a power play opportunity that yielded exactly zero shots. Former Minnesota Wild winger Chuck Kobesaw had the best chance of the period in the waning seconds with Ray Emery down and out, but he missed a wide open net. This game didn’t really begin until the 2nd period though.
First, I’ll go ahead and preface everything with that I more than agree the Blackhawks need to add depth on defense. Moreover, I believe the ‘Hawks need to simply focus more in their own zone, which goes for everyone wearing the Indian head. I don’t think any of this can be disputed one bit.
But against my own good judgement, I took to Twitter after the game and saw more trading of Patrick Kane. More trading for Tim Thomas. People talking about trading the entire team, with the only untouchable being Jonathan Toews. People ready to fire Joel Quenneville.
I don’t know why I continue to be surprised by this. One game – granted, an extremely bad one that pissed me off royally – and all of the sudden the Blackhawks’ proverbial ship is sinking with 30 games to play while being six points back of the Western Conference-leading Detroit Red Wings. To break it into simpler terms for those who have been following hockey since 2009, that would translate to three games.
If the Cubs or White Sox were three games out of first with 30 to play, would you be calling to trade the entire damn team? Didn’t think so.
There are plenty of things I didn’t like about The Disaster at Rexall Place – Part Duex, but sometimes assholes like Sam Gagner have 8-point nights when a team plays like dog shit on both ends of the ice. Luckily, the Blackhawks don’t lose 20 points for the lopsided 8-4 loss. This isn’t Final Jeopardy, and the ‘Hawks didn’t bet it all and get the question wrong. It simply adds another number under the ‘L’ column, just like the last four.
Am I sugarcoating this defeat? A little. The Blackhawks’ six-game road losing streak is their longest since their franchise-record 19-game skid in 2003-04.
But there are so many meatballs out there forcing me to do it. I don’t want to be the calming voice. I’d much rather rant logically and swear up and down while throwing things at my cat, but as I wrote on Twitter, the Blackhawks have possibly the most bi-polar fan base in all of sports. If the ‘Hawks win their next two games, some of these same people clamoring for wholesale changes will be talking Stanley Cup again. I refuse to pour petrol on that fire.
With all that said, I’m angry about the loss, as I’ll show in Boxing…
NOTE: Having trouble with the box score tonight, so no Boxing. It’ll be back after the Edmonton game – hopefully.
Any loss to Vancouver rivals a complete rectal examination, though I came away somewhat pleased overall after the ‘Hawks fell 3-2 in overtime Tuesday.
Basically, I saw plenty more good than bad out there, which is all you can ask for after a week off, thrusting a new player into a big role and beginning a nine-game road trip.
♦ Seeing Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp on the ice was a positive, though Sharp wasn’t himself and Toews ended up missing a few shifts in the first period. I wouldn’t be surprised if one or both of them took off Thursday’s game in Edmonton.
With that said, Toews’ unbelievably stellar move in the OT nearly won the game if it weren’t for Cory Schneider playing to puck so well. The hand/wrist/whatever didn’t seem to bother him there.
♦ #ShawFacts – The love and affection for Andrew Shaw has worn off, and now we’re simply expecting him to be an NHL contributor if he’s going to play with the big club.
There may not be a team in the league looking more forward to the All-Star break than the Blackhawks.
Playing without Jonathan Toews and of course Patrick Sharp, the ‘Hawks looked fell short on the defensive end a dropped the final game before the break, 3-1 to the Predators.
Despite the offense lacking, I didn’t feel the offense necessarily was the issue. Nick Leddy and Niklas Hjalmarsson are becoming painful to watch. Absolutely and completely painful. It actually hurts from getting so damn angry at their problems – and they’re many.
No more crap about Leddy being young and learning and being thrust into a position to learn on the job. He’s playing for a Stanley Cup contender, and that label for the ‘Hawks comes in spite of him, not because of him. The second goal was a direct result of his inability to play defense with enough muscle nor brains. The blind ring around the boards didn’t work simply because he thrre it into a forechecker’s legs, leading to a nice kick pass for Mike Fisher’s goal.
Hjalmarsson gets plenty of blame as well, as Fisher had all day to prepare himself for that pass. At this point, I’d like to see Sami Lepisto get a night with one of these two in the press box. Something needs to be done.
(UPDATE: It’s since been confirmed it was Sean O’Donnell on the ice with Leddy, and not Hammer. My eyes weren’t working right from the opposite end of the stadium, which is my bad. However, it doesn’t change my stance that one of these guys needs a seat up high for at least a game.)
♦ Corey Crawford is giving up far too many rebounds, but this game could’ve gotten out of hand tonight if it weren’t for him. Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith allowed a breakaway chance, as did Hjalmarsson’s flat feet. Crawford stopped them both, then made some saves in the third that could’ve doomed the ‘Hawks had they gotten past him. No real praise, but no real thoughts of this being his fault by any means.
♦ Dave Bolland won 17 of 20 faceoffs tonight. Dave. Bolland. Won. 17. Of. 20. Faceoffs. I slowed it down for you to make you read it slower. Between that and his goal, I think he embraced taking Toews’ spot on the top line.
♦ Marian Hossa is an under-appreciated part of this team. He never gets enough credit, in my book. The reason he’s not talked about much is because he doesn’t do much wrong. I guess it gets hard to constantly praise someone.
♦ Patrick Kane stopping to twirl mid-breakaway is a prime example of him thinking too much about his slump. No, I really don’t have any idea what’s running through his head. It could be hookers or pretty pink bows. However, it’s hard not to speculate when a true, killer goal scorer refuses to simply take his space and go hard to the net to try and beat the goaltender like he’s always capable of doing.
♦ Andrew Shaw has officially become Q’s new Kris Versteeg. Shaw led all ‘Hawks forwards in ice time tonight, and while he’s playing hard, I don’t necessarily believe he deserved all that time. Q is trying to ride the hot hand, but Shaw hasn’t exactly done anything stellar over the past few games to have me going nuts over him. As I’ve said before, everyone needs to stay grounded on this guy – including Q.
♦ Michael Frolik was a healthy scratch in favor of Bryan Bickell. And no one cared or noticed one way or the other. The drop off of these guys is epic.
The amount of pain resulting from Saturday’s 5-2 loss in Nashville is to be determined.
Jonathan Toews played less than 10 minutes before leaving, and the ‘Hawks played careless defense and got sub-par goaltending from Corey Crawford, helping extend their road losing streak to four games.
There’s little question the “upper-body” injury that kept Toews from finishing is the same that sent him to the bench against Florida. The slash to the hand/wrist area is the likeliest of anything anyone can think it to be. How it got aggravated, though, is anyone’s guess.
I know this may be tough to hear without a diagnosis and it coming after a humiliating defeat to a division rival, but as long as Toews’ injury isn’t a clean break, it came at the best possible time. If it’s necessary, Toews can sit Tuesday and then relax for a week after skipping the All-Star game next Saturday, and we can see where we’re at then. If this happened in the middle of a three-games-in-four-nights stretch, then I may be a bit more concerned.
That doesn’t mean I’m not now, especially since the vagueness of the NHL injury front keeps us from knowing much. However, though briefly, I’m remaining optimistic.
♦ Allowing a 100-foot goal became Crawford’s biggest of his many blemishes this season – and maybe his career. We can talk about funny bounces all we want, but that floater has to be stopped. The momentum completely shifted after the ‘Hawks controlled most of the game to that point. He’d later go down like he took a shotgun to the chest on a move by Kostitsyn, leading to the hook in favor of Ray Emery, who was promptly greeted with a breakaway he stopped.
♦ Nick Leddy and Niklas Hjalmarsson - I’m begging them to prove their worth soon. Leddy’s offensive talent doesn’t help with what the Blackhawks need. They have plenty of scoring. What the ‘Hawks need is defensive reliability, which he’s not giving at the moment. The failed clear led to Hammer staring at Legwand, as Wilson slid right behind him for an easy goal. That’s not on Crow, that’s the defense. And Duncan Keith didn’t do Crow any favors by coming up way too high on the kill, leaving Smith two clear cracks at putting it into the net.
♦ Marian Hossa played an outstanding game at both ends, and potted the only Blackhawks’ goals while making the red-hot Pekka Rinne look pretty damn bad.
That’s your top line, ladies and gentlemen.
The Blackhawks came away with five of six points in their three-games-in-four-nights stretch, dominating San Jose 4-3 – save for a few moments.
Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Viktor Stalberg combined for two goals and three assists in the victory, coming up with big goals – and two more near-goals – to help improve the ‘Hawks to 3-0-2 in their last five games.
♦ It’s tough to ignore the play of Stalberg, despite the fact half of his 14 goals have come against Columbus. Nonetheless, when you’re hot, you’re hot. His goal was nothing short of perfection on all accounts, charging hard toward the net after recognizing the open space. With his speed and first step, these goals can continue happening, especially playing on a line with two of the league’s best passers.
♦ Kaner is in a big scoring slump, and if it wasn’t obvious enough, Antti Niemi absolutely robbed the living hell out of him in the first period. Toews and Kane executed a perfect 2-on-1, and Niemi seemed down and out. As we’re all privy to when Niemi was wearing the Indian head, he suck out the glove across the open net and snagged a sure-goal out of the air. Kane couldn’t believe it, and Toews had to go console him. It’s a shame, but it seems as if he’s getting closer to ending that slump.
♦ Toews’ goal was the work of the entire line. Stalberg hustled to bother Niemi, and the puck shot out to Kane on the left board. Without a hesitation, he fired it to the front with Toews waiting, and all three got on the score sheet. I’ll mention this again later, but Toews described the goal during the intermission interview and referred to Niemi as “their goaltender.” Fuck the friendship when it comes to getting a win, eh?
♦ Another goal from Andrew Shaw, who may get a statue outside the UC soon if it were up to a good chunk of the fan base. I like the guy. I think he brings plenty of things to the table and it’s hard to ignore his scoring numbers. He went 6 for 6 at the dot tonight and has an awesome Napoleon complex.
However, quoting the Gin Blossoms, Shaw may want to start singing: “If you don’t expect too much from me, you might not be let down.” Thinking this guy is the second coming of Denis Savard will only make for a long fall from the top of the What-You-Talkin’-About Willis Tower. If this keeps up, awesome. Build his statue. But when he starts to screw up – and he will – remember to be objective toward your newly found hero.
♦ I’d like to thank the ‘Hawks for taking my mind off what I witness first-hand at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday. That first period was complete shit show. Following that with five solid periods helps.
Wow. What a roller-coaster ride that was. One can’t help but wonder what the outcome would have been if the Blackhawks had decided to play in the 1st period.
About that abortion of a 1st period – it may have been one of the worst of the season (excluding the Edmonton game, of course). Detroit was able to glide right into the Hawks zone and set up while the Hawks couldn’t even execute a dump and chase. Detroit led in shots on goal by an astounding 21-4 (9-0 through the first 7 minutes) margin and out-hit the Blackhawks 12-9. As you probably guessed by looking at the shots on goal, the Wings dominated every aspect of the game in the opening frame. The only reason this game wasn’t 5-0 at the end of the period was Corey Crawford, who was outstanding.