2011-12 Regular Season

Hawks Acquire Oduya : Scott To Rangers

Who farted?

Well, the trade deadline came and went today without the Blackhawks making the major splash many of you probably hoped for.

Stan Bowman decided the rent was too damn high and sat on his hands for the most part instead of going out and getting the 2nd Center and shutdown defenseman that this team so desperately needed. He had plenty of cap space to make just about any deal he wanted happen – but the opportunity simply didn’t present itself.

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No Joy In Mudville: Another Game Without Toews In Anaheim

Photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Having endured one and a half periods of the festering colostomy bag that was last night’s game against Los Angeles, I don’t feel the slightest bit guilty about being in a bitter and sardonic mood as we approach the puck drop for the Blackhawks’ tilt against the Anaheim Ducks. Gordon Bombay’s squad is 7-1-2 in their last 10 games, pushing 5 of those tilts to overtime (and prevailing in 3 of them). Anaheim has climbed out of the laughing-stock category with Columbus and Edmonton, and is just 6 points out of a playoff spot as today’s action begins.

All things considered, I think I’d rather have the ‘Hawks playing the Sharks.

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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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Jonathan Toews’ Car Has Difference Of Opinion With Immovable Object

Just kidding, this isn't his car...

Following yesterday’s media feeding frenzy over reports that Blackhawks Captain Jonathan Toews may have a concussion, he was unfortunate enough to be the center of Twit-rumor-ligula after photos surfaced of his black AMG Mercedes having had words with a steel support for the L train on Lake Street. The car got the worst of that disagreement, and witnesses claimed to see Tazer climb out of the car and receive attention from EMT’s who had arrived on the scene.

The Blackhawks released the following statement regarding the injury:

Jonathan Toews was in a minor one-car collision this morning in downtown Chicago while driving himself to the United Center. He was not injured.

So you can just imagine the insanity that broke loose on the Twitterscape, as the Blackhawks PR department (who would have known about the incident hours before the photos surfaced online) twiddled their thumbs while speculation about everything from the severity of Toews injury, to his level of sobriety, to Patrick Kane being in the passenger seat, to whether the Canucks had installed the bridge support there overnight ran rampant through the social media sphere.

Hint for next time fellas: ostriches with their heads in the sand just THINK they’re safe.

Anyhoo, Tazer is fine, he did apparently get a ride to the hospital in an ambulance as a precaution and at the behest of the team’s medical staff. The Tribune contacted him by text when the story started to get legs and his reply was, “I’m good.” From the looks of the photos, the airbag likely deployed. So Tazer’s ears are gonna ring a little while, and he’ll be sore in the chest for a day or two. Those things save your life, but they’re not pleasant to be around.

Toews was not slated to play tonight anyhow, he missed the game against Detroit with an upper-body injury as well. So, move along people, nothing to see here. Though I would bet that Toews’ insurance agent is not having a particularly good day. If the frame’s bent, they’ll total that puppy. An AMG SL65 coupe lists for around $200K. Ouch…

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Proverbial Cheese Sandwich: Dallas Visits The UC

Photo: The Associated Press

It’s easy to forget about Dallas, mainly since the Blackhawks haven’t seen them since splitting a home-and-home with them to open the season in October. But also because in terms of the standings, the Stars haven’t been a factor. They’ve been cruising around in bubble-team land for most of the year, currently hovering a game back of the 8th spot in the Western Conference.

Then one remembers who tends goal for them, and you get that knot in your stomach. Kari Lehtonen, who fought off 37 shots in his team’s winning effort against Chicago to start the year, has always been a serious pain in the ass to get a puck behind. Going back to last season, when Chicago managed to drop 3 games to Dallas, the Blackhawks did a fine job of humiliating themselves twice on the visitor’s ice — the first by blowing a 3-0 lead and managing to lose 4-3 in a shootout, the second by getting shut out 5-0 while Lehtonen barely broke a sweat at the other end of the rink.

No matter where they sit in the standings, the Stars always give the ‘Hawks trouble. Tonight should be no different.

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Blackhawks Blackjack: Splitting Aces, Not 10s

I never really cared for Peaches and Herb, did you Dunc?

Do you like to gamble? Me too. I’m sure you’ve been at a Blackjack table when someone has split 10s and wanted to hit them upside the head with your shoe. On the other hand, there’s one card that you always want to split. Aces. Well, after four wins and five games with Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith being split up, I’m starting to think that Joel Quenneville would be that guy splitting 10s if he reunites them. He needs to treat them like aces. The status of Niklas Hjalmarsson is still up in the air and Nick Leddy has really improved his play when skating with Brent Seabrook. The Hawks have allowed 2, 1, 1, and 1 in their four wins and even the three goal game in Nashville was a good effort. It was also Sami Lepisto’s first game since the Kennedy administration.

This mostly relates to even strength play. The penalty kill has seen Keith and Seabrook together with Sean O’Donnell getting time with Leddy. Hjalmarsson can take Leddy’s time on the PK when he returns, or even Dylan Olsen who has been seen there.  I’d rather not even begin to talk about the powerplay because there’s still a forward on the point there.

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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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This Is OUR House, Bitches: Blackhawks Host Red Wings

Photo: Associated Press

Yes, Detroit (*spitting noise*) has won 23 straight at home; and yes, that is an all-time NHL record — which will continue to grow until they lose. But they have a problem.

They’re in OUR house today, and the Blackhawks are on a winning streak of their own. So if they think they’re going to have an easy time of it this evening, they came to the wrong place. December 30th ring a bell, bitches?

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Thank You For That: Blackhawks Dominate Blue Jackets, 6-1

"We won a game yesterday. If we win one today, that's two in a row. If we win one tomorrow, that's called a winning streak. It has happened before."

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:

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The Glitter Rubs Right Off: Blackhawks Look For A Win On Broadway

Photo: AP

This date has been looming large on the horizon ever since this road trip began. New York Rangers franchise goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, arguably the best goaltender in the league since the new year, would likely be the most impenetrable netminder the Blackhawks faced on this road trip. And as the games — ok, let’s call them what they are… the losses — drew us nearer to today, Lundqvist kept getting better. In his last 8 games he has 7 wins, including 2 against Philadelphia and capped with a shutout of Boston on Tuesday. In that stretch of 8 games he has 3 shutouts and has let in a total of only 9 goals.

The way this was looking, the Blackhawks may as well have been shooting at a net protected by a force field.

But then, through some quirk of fate or coincidence, the darkness lifted, the clouds parted, and for the first time since before the All-Star break, the Hockey Gods smiled on the Chicago Blackhawks…

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Don’t Worry, She’ll Hold Together

Brohug? BROHUG!

Hear me, baby? Hold together.

Not only am I a stat wonk but I have a bit of an affection for using Star Wars to explain everything. The Blackhawks have lost lateral controls on their 2011-2012 campaign but the ship is still flying. If you’ve given up hope on this season, and I know for a fact that some of you have, no worries. It’s just hockey. I’m not going to question your fandom (which is stupid), call you a bandwagon jumper (equally unintelligent) or ask that you please turn in your Indian Head sweater along with your keycard on your way out. There’s some flaws that probably won’t be fixed on this roster, even after the February 27th trade deadline that is quickly approaching. What there is, however, is a window that’s very wide for this team in the future.

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Misery : 0-8-1

( Christian Petersen -Getty Images)

0-8-1. That is worse than the start the Columbus Blue Jackets got off to at the beginning of the season. I hope all the jerks taking their kids to Disney on Ice are having a great time – because its killing the Chicago Blackhawks.

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Talk Is Cheap: Blackhawks Look To End Losing Streak In Nashville

Photo: Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

The Blackhawks play Nashville tonight, and it’s my job to tell you about what we can expect during the game. So here’s the obligatory paragraph about the Predators before we talk about the Blackhawks’ 8-game losing streak.

Nashville is 6-2-2 in their last 10 games, most recently losing in a shootout to Boston. They’ve always been a defense-first team, but this year they are doing well in both categories — just outside the top-10 in both goals-for and goals-against. They can kill you from many, many angles: 9 players have 11+ goals, 9 players have 29+ points. Goaltender Pekka Rinne continues to shine, his .924 save percentage ranks among the league’s top-10. Neither Ryan Suter nor Shea Weber has been traded, and likely won’t be before the puck drops this evening. So that’s bad for us.

Will that work? Okay. On to business.

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No Rest For The Weary: Coyotes Host Blackhawks

Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

I’m sure we’d all like to call a “time out” and give the Blackhawks a week off where the team, coaches, and management get to assess what’s wrong, figure out how to fix it, and get this train back on the tracks again. But there’s no rest for the weary, as Chicago is back in action tonight against the Phoenix Coyotes.

The bad news: Phoenix is on a 4-game winning streak. The good news: they have the second-worst power play in the league. So maybe if Coach Joel Quenneville gets his head out of his ass and leaves Nick Leddy on the bench during the penalty kill, we’ll have a shot tonight. More on that in a few moments…

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Fresh Chum For The Sharks: Chicago Visits San Jose

Photo: AP

It’s difficult to believe that less than a month ago, Chicago took down the San Jose Sharks at the United Center; and furthermore that the game was our second straight victory over San Jose this year. The only game we lost to the Sharks was in the Tank back in November on the Circus trip, and that was a 1-0 loss.

We can skate with this team. Well… we could skate with this team. Of late we can’t skate with Edmonton, or Colorado, or any one of a host of other teams that we should skate circles around. We’re having trouble beating the bottom feeders these days.

The Sharks are in first place in the Pacific Division. Oh Nellie, here we go…

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Plenty Of Blame To Go A – Round Table for February

There have been far worse times to be a Blackhawks fan, that goes without saying. But for many of us this last string of losses has conjured up images of Dirk Graham behind the bench, Mike Smith making trades that only a mental patient would approve of, and Steve Passmore flopping around in the crease like a carp that got dropped on the dock. Is this how it begins? Will a six-game skid turn the season into a wash? Are we headed for another five decades of doom and despair? What can snap the Blackhawks out of the funk that they’re in? The boys got together to discuss the current situation, what might be wrong, and what could be done about it in this month’s Round Table…

*     *     *     *     *

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Stoppable Force vs. Movable Object: Blackhawks Visit Colorado

Photo: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The phrase on Blackhawks fans’ lips these days is, “What the HELL is wrong?!?” I’ll tell you what’s wrong in a minute, and you’re going to be more than a little surprised. But the matter at hand is tonight’s game against the Avalanche.

Looking at this Avalanche team reveals one very salient point: this will NOT be the Colorado Avalanche we see next year. 8 players on their current roster are unrestricted free agents at the end of this season, and another 7 are restricted free agents. Most of the guys we face off against tonight are up for grabs when the season ends.

Hope Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman has some of our scouts with us on this trip.

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Much Ado About Goaltending

If we’re all in agreement this season is considered “Stanley Cup or Bust” for the Blackhawks, then I can forget about discussing anything in between.

Playoffs? Expected. Division title? Well, at least home-ice advantage, or the fan base expects doom.

It’s a part of living within a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately society. Winning streaks mean championships, and losing streaks mean fire sales. You’ll have to look fast to find the in between, especially with the come-as-you-are outlets like Facebook and Twitter.

Lately, the cries have been about the goaltending duo of Corey Crawford and Ray Emery, and how the Blackhawks stand no chance to advance in the postseason unless changes are made – no matter how drastic.

If you’ve yet to recognize a trend in the Stan Bowman era, goaltending is not his top priority. And there’s a couple justified reasons for that.

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Don’t Break the Glass Yet

Before everyone goes out to their Super Bowl engagements tomorrow I had planned to write a piece on PDO and who would be a prime candidate for a breakout right now. (Hint: focus was going to be Dave Bolland with a pinch of Bryan Bickell) After only one point gathered out of six over the past week that just didn’t seem like a good idea anymore. Instead, I’m just going to write a short post that sends you off to hopefully your very own snack stadium with just one request.

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Recap: This Fire is Out of Control

AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jeff McIntosh

A first period goal from Olli Jokinen was not a comforting way to start the game.  It was a gorgeous slapper to the top the net that surely made some Hawks fans think, “Oh boy, here we go again.”

The Hawks responded in clutch form by knotting it up with 29 seconds left in the first period.  Patrick Kane delivered a gorgeous pass Brent Seabrook who buried it in the net to tie it up.

Last second goals like Seabrooks, are huge going into the intermission to grab some momentum back and come out strong in the second, as the Hawks did for the most part.

The Hawks played a fairly solid second period until Michael Frolik took a stupid double minor penalty with 3:24 left in the period.

Jay Bouwmeester capitalized on the back end of the power play scoring with a little over a minute left in the second.

The Hawks played a much more physical second period, going after the body and at least tried finishing their checks, which is more than they do on a typical night. More >

Brace Yourselves, There’s A Game Tonight: Blackhawks Take On Calgary

Photo: AP

I tell you, the last time I had that much fun, I was getting a barium enema. Last night’s game against Edmonton made my intestines seize up in exactly the same way. Hopefully tonight against Calgary we can maybe back off the severity to manual rectal exam.

The Flames team that we face tonight has a slightly different look than when we visited them back in November. Gone is former Blackhawks power winger Rene Bourque, and in comes former Canadiens’ center Mike Cammalleri. The impact has been minimal so far, with Cammalleri notching 2 goals in the 6 games he’s played with Calgary. Also gone is center Brendan Morrison who was traded to… well, to us! He’ll be taking on his former team for the first time tonight at the ScotiaBank Saddledome.

The Flames are chasing a playoff spot right now, sitting 5 points back of 8th-place Minnesota in the Western Conference. Calgary GM Jay Feaster is trying to make a few last-minute moves to shore up his roster for the push to the finish, though he has stated for the twelve-thousandth time that he is not trading Jarome Iginla. In case you were wondering…

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Crime Scene Remediation: Blackhawks Return To Edmonton

Photo: AP

November 19th was a low point, to say the least. Allowing 9 goals on 34 shots, the Blackhawks humiliated themselves in front of a giddy Edmonton crowd that, despite the cliche of Canadians’ courtesy and good manners, took to taunting the ‘Hawks in the 3rd period.

Apparently all bets are off when the puck drops.

So thousands of television sets all over Chicagoland were damaged by flying objects hurtled by frustrated fans, and the Blackhawks left Alberta having left their egos, their confidence, and any illusions of dominating Western Conference opponents splattered all over the Rexall Place ice. It took a crime scene remediation team four days to clean it up.

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Adding is Done with Numbers, Not Names

NOTE FROM BARTL: I’d like to welcome our newest member and resident statistician to the staff. He’ll be contributing to Cheer the Anthem when he gets free time. His stuff is good. You’ll read it.

Less of these getting to the goalie, please

If you’re a Twitter user, you’ve no doubt seen our staff of beat reporters for the Hawks respond to trade ideas from the fanbase. The inherent difficulty here is that most of us that follow the sport are just that: fans. The names that are suggested are more representative of a panicked Yankee fan dialing into WFAN asking if, “we can trade Swishah and a prospect for Longoria and Matt Moowah.”

I like to daydream too. Picturing Shea Weber, Ryan Suter or P.K. Subban in an Indian Head sweater looks great, but it’s simply not plausible. Instead, what I’d prefer to do here is suggest a real option that may not move your needle, but it’ll address a glaring weakness that the Blackhawks are currently saddled with. More after the jump.

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Silver Linings : Crow’s New Cage

(Getty Images)

Is that sour taste out of your mouth yet? Yeah, it’s not out of mine either. Losing to the fucking Canucks is the absolute worst. If you’ve been a Blackhawks fan since the early 90’s, you’ve sort of been conditioned to expect losses in games with Detroit. Sure it sucks, but you knew it was coming. When they lose to the Blues, you can at least be reasonably sure they will kick the shit out of them next time – because they are the lowly Stanley Cup trophy-less St. Louis Blues. But losing to Vancouver? Goddamn it stings quite a bit. The worst part about this loss is that there won’t be a chance at revenge until March 21st, when the two teams face each other for the final time of the season at United Center. The last time Vancouver beat us, the Hawks only had to wait 10 days to see them again.

The Blackhawks battled their asses off last night, but ultimately fell short in overtime when nobody seemed to notice Thing 1 (or was it 2?) costing right into the wide open slot. Not scoring in the 2nd period (which they absolutely dominated) proved to come back and bite the Hawks right in the keister. An unbelievable goaltending performance by Cory Schneider and one bad giveaway by Viktor Stalberg were the keys to the Canucks victory. It’s as simple as that.

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With A Single Step: Blackhawks’ Journey Starts In Vancouver

Photo: John Gress, Reuters

And so, it begins: the home stretch of the regular season, kicked off by a 9-game road trip over the next 20 days, during which we take on 8 different Western Conference opponents starting tonight with our old friends the Vancouver Canucks.

So how have LuLu Belle and the Tampon Twins been lately, anyhow?

Well, LuLu is playing so well that his coach doesn’t trust him to play the Big Bad Blackhawks who made him cry; and just before the All-Star break the Tampons were held to a single point, going minus-4 between them against the one-point-out-of-last-place Lightning. Not exactly what you call inspiring performances.

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