2011-12 Regular Season
The tryptophan coma everyone talks about following Thanksgiving dinner is actually a myth, you know. To get enough tryptophan into your system to turn you narcoleptic would require that you eat something like 1,750 pounds of turkey in one sitting. And despite some valiant attempts on my part, I was only ever able to consume about one third of that.
Let’s hope the Blackhawks aren’t sleepy after their Turkey Day festivities, as they have the fifth game of the Circus Trip facing them this afternoon when the team heads into Anaheim to face the Ducks. The lead-up to this game has been uninspiring, with the Blackhawks trying to break a 3-game losing streak — the second one this month — and struggling to deal with the absence of key members of its young core.
This visit to the Pond might be just what the doctor ordered.
After dropping three straight games while being outscored 15-4, it may be hard to look at things to be thankful for at the present moment.
Even after going winless in the games since their 5-1 spanking of the Canucks, the Blackhawks still sit tied for second in the Western Conference and atop the Central Division with a 12-7-3 record and 27 points. The surprising Minnesota Wild and the San Jose Sharks – who just showed us why they are high in the standings – are the only ones on par with the ‘Hawks.
Last year the Blackhawks were still running on a Stanley Cup hangover with a record of 10-10-2 after playing 22 games, which was only good for fourth in the division and 11th in the Western Conference. They were not getting consistent play from their No. 1 goaltender – at that time was Marty Turco – and Nick Boynton (yuck) was still in the lineup. The new additions to the team had a hard time adjusting to the new scenery, and chemistry wasn’t there after the salary cap purge during the previous offseason.
The Blackhawks may have lost their last three games, but there have been several things that fans should be thankful for so far this season. They have seen great play from their goaltender, from their veterans and young guns, and even some new pieces which were added in the off-season.
Most of you noticed the cavernous silence coming from Cheer The Anthem following the pair of weekend losses that shall be known henceforth as “The Alberta Ass-Whooping of 2011.” Between the two games, we were out-scored 14 – 4. That’s a High School JV football game.
The net effect was like a nature special with hyenas tearing apart a carcass: what could we say? Edmonton in particular was like watching a game of dodgeball between a class of fourth-graders and the University of North Carolina basketball team. Lambs to the slaughter.
Weekends like those are when being a blogger sucks the worst. You can’t talk up the positives, because there weren’t any; you don’t want to jump on the bring-up-the-IceHogs-and-fire-the-coaches bandwagon, because you know in a week they’ll be lighting up goalies like artificial Christmas trees. So what do you say?
Nothing. There’s nothing to say. All you can do is look forward, and that time is here. It’s game time again, tonight at the Shark Tank. San Jose awaits.
WORST. WEEKEND. EVER.
After some R&R in Vegas the last few days, the Blackhawks will continue the circus trip against Antii Niemi, Martin Havlat and the San Jose Sharks tomorrow night. As I’m sure you all know by now, the Hawks’ are coming off two of their worst games of the season – one of them being a 9-2 horror show in Edmonton. Predictably, people are losing their minds. The calls to bench Duncan Keith are starting on Twitter and elsewhere.
This is just about the most batshit thing I’ve ever heard and makes no sense whatsoever. In his last two games, Keith has been a -8 combined and certainly hasn’t been on top of his game. However, Fifth Feather points out some problems with putting the Edmonton debacle all on him and its not like #2 was the only Hawk who had a dreadful +/- that night. Aside from it being literally impossible to bench him (not enough d-men with Seabs hurt), have these people forgotten how good Keith looked in the Vancouver game and the games preceding it? Why would you rush to the whip when it appeared your best defenseman was finally returning to form before the whole team collectively turned to shit over the weekend?
The Blackhawks have problems on the back end, but it’s not all on Keith. The absence of Brent Seabrook is killing this team in the physical department and the continued presence of John Scott in the lineup every night necessitates more tough minutes be logged by Keith, Nick Leddy and Niklas Hjalmarrson.
Another issue is the surprising lack of depth on the defense. Most figured the Hawks had left the dark days of Scott, Nick Boynton and Jassen Cullimore behind when Stan Bowman went out and picked up Steve Montador, Sami Lepisto and Sean O’Donnell up in the offseason. Tragically, this has not been the case. O’Donnell and Lepisto don’t even play over the incompetent and useless Scott lately.
This is unacceptable and the way things are shaping up, Bowman might have to go out and acquire another defenseman with some of those millions he has saved. While most people are looking for the Hawks’ to acquire a Top 6 forward, the situation on the blue line might actually be more pressing, especially if Viktor Stalberg continues to play well with Jonathan Toews (not something I ever thought I’d be saying).
There would be no epic comeback this time. The intensity the Blackhawks had a couple nights ago in Vancouver was simply not there tonight. The offensively challanged Flames put 5 goals past Corey Crawford and controlled the tempo most of the night. The defense in particular was atrocious and the forwards shouldn’t get off much easier. Give the Flames a little credit - Mikka Kiprusoff was outstanding and Curtis Glenncross had 2 goals in the winning effort. The Hawks’ were short Michael Frolik and Brent Seabrook, but Ben Smith made his season debut and to many’s surprise did not single handedly carry the Hawks’ to victory.
Just a few quick thoughts because its Friday, ya know?
♦ The Hawks’ nearly had a too many men penalty in the opening minutes and Calgary had a goal off a terrible change. Joel Queneville is a good coach, but Hawks’ teams have been consistently horrible at executing basic line changes during his tenure here. I don’t know if it’s a result of Q’s penchant for matching up with the other teams or not but it is super fucking annoying.
♦ I would LOVE to know what was said between Jarome Iginla and Patrick Kane that got Iggy so pissed off.
♦ The first Flames goal was a result of Duncan Keith guessing incorrectly and Lee Stempniak taking advantage. He had an assist, but #2 was in 2010-2011 mode for most of the night and was a -4.
♦ Edzo compared Viktor Stalberg to Ken Yaremchuk after Stalberg took a lap around the Calgary zone with the puck. This is probably not the first time many have heard the comparison, albeit for different reasons.
♦ The opening minute of 2nd was a disaster. Rene Bourque scored 40 seconds in and 17 seconds later Paul Byron was gifted in the slot after Nick Leddy tried to get a little too cute while attempting a tight pass to Dave Bolland. The Hawks’ would cut the lead 5 minutes later when Marian Hossa blasted a one-timer past Kiprusoff on a 4 on 3 power play, but the Hawks’ never really recovered from the Byron goal.
♦ Halfway through the 2nd, Ben Smith carried the puck into the zone in a 1-1 situation and briefly leaned to his left like he was going to try and cut the slot, but changed his mind and went outside instead. One has to wonder if he had a flashback to the Brandon Smith hit there that concussed him.
♦John Scott is lucky his blatant hit from behind on Tim Jackman wasn’t just a few feet closer to the Calgary bench or we would have had Lemieux/Draper all over again. Calgary was pissed and frankly they were probably justified.
♦ This game sucked. Luckily, the Hawks’ will have a chance to rebound tomorrow night in Edmonton. One suspects Ray Emery will get the start as the Hawks’ will face San Jose, Los Angles and Anaheim starting Wednesday. 2 points are a must tomorrow if the Hawks’ want to capture 6 or 7 points on this road trip considering the opponents the rest of the way.
Has Jarome Iginla been traded yet? No? Just checking…
What about now?
It seems that whenever things go south in Calgary the entire hockey media north of the border asserts, en masse, that a deal is imminent. It’s the solution for everything — like duct tape, or chicken soup, or re-booting. Or at least, that’s what the hockey elite in Canada seem to think.
You had to believe that after the 6-2 punishment the Vancouver Canucks gave the Blackhawks back on November 6th, all the sports media in B.C. probably spend the next several days pounding their chests and stomping around like the kid in the teen angst movies that ends up getting beaten like a mule, spit on and run up a flagpole for good measure.
Hope you had your fun while it lasted, fellas. Now it’s our turn. Time to go into their rink, humiliate them in front of their slack-jawed fans, then take a meatloaf-sized crap at center ice and climb into the limousine.
Myself, Jim and Tim decided to touch on a few issues heading into the annual Circus Trip. Three idiots, three questions. Get some.
1) Just when Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith seemed to be regaining their form together, Seabrook goes down with an injury which may keep him out as the ‘Hawks embark on the annual Circus Trip. How will Seabrook’s absence affect the defensive corps, and who will you be looking for to step up?
Jim: Ugh. Seabrook going down sure took a bit of the fun out of an otherwise fantastic Sunday for Chicago sports fans. The timing of this is fucking horrible and certainly dampens the outlook as the Hawks head out on the Oregon Trail. Seabrook brings the mean back on the Hawks blue line and he certainly would have been nice to have in the Vancouver and Anaheim games – two teams which bring it physically. God only knows what this does to the pairings. Does Q revert back to Keith and Leddy, or does he let Monty step up into the first pair and keep Hjammer and Leddy together? Hjammer is going to have to be the physical force back there and Nick Leddy is going to have to continue to eat up important minutes (27 against Edmonton). The biggest impact will be on Duncan Keith. #2 will be asked to pick up the load (especially on the PK), much as Seabrook did when he went down. I think Duncs will be equal to the task. The absolute worst part of all of this? You guess it.….more John Scott. Shoot me now.
Tim: I think we saw a decent picture of how this group will adjust to the absence of one of its leaders with the Keith hand injury. That’s a very positive sign. And just like in those games, I hope Coach Q has the sense to dress 6 qualified defensemen, instead of John Scott.
As for who needs to step up, the name we have heard precious little of so far this season is Niklas Hjalmarsson. Granted, at least he isn’t getting nightly delay-of-game penalties anymore. But he needs to make more of an impact out there on a nightly basis. So far he’s been largely invisible.
Bartl: Seabrook stepped up when Keith was out, now Keith is going to have to do the same with his rekindled partner sidelined. While Hammer quite obviously will need to step up his game, that’s something we’ve known for quite some time now. The defensive deficiencies lie with Scott, Lepisto and/or O’Donnell to play smart, sound hockey. While that those qualities waived bye-bye to Scott a long time ago, it’s the other two I’m concerned about. Neither have been able to crack the lineup ahead of that elephant on skates, and having to rely in decent minutes from either of them racks my brain. Aside from that Montador likely won’t be seeing as much time at forward given he’ll need to play more minutes on D, and taking away a hot stick from a clicking offense is rarely good.
♦ First things first – Brad Richards is apparently dating Olivia Munn. And here you thought he should have stayed in Dallas…
♦ A big congratulations to Eddie Belfour. The Eagle was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame yesterday along with Joe Nieuwendyk, Mark Howe and Doug Gilmore. Belfour amassed 484 carrer wins (201 in Chicago) with the Blackhawks, Sharks, Stars, Maple Leafs and Panthers and ranks #10 all time in career shutouts with 76. He won a Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars in 1999 and a NCAA Championship in 1987 with North Dakota. Belfour was last Blackhawk to win the Calder Trophy (1991) before Patrick Kane (2007). He remains the most recent Blackhawk to win a Vezina, which he took home in both 1991 and 1993. Losing Eddie was tough, but at least the Blackhawks got Ulf Dahlen in return.
There are only two names you need to know to understand the meteoric performance of the Edmonton Oilers this young season. Both of these names have taken the team, and the league, by near-complete surprise; and in one case, has most people scratching their heads.
The names are: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Nikolai Khabibulin. The 18-year-old rookie and the inconsistent netminder 20 years his senior have been the catalysts for Edmonton rising near the top of the Western Conference standings.
The Edmonton Oilers’ patience has paid off. They come into the United Center tonight sitting atop the Northwest Division, and eager for some payback against a Chicago team that has manhandled them over the past several years.
Now THAT was a convincing victory. Despite a shaky start to the game, the Blackhawks came to play last night and easily took care of the Flames. The Blackhawks got outstanding performances from Marian Hossa (shocking), Duncan Keith and Ray Emery. The result was a 4-1 victory and a spot all alone in 1st place in the Western Conference. Duncan Keith appeared in his 500th NHL game and opened the scoring in the first after a rebound that hoped over Daniel Carcillo’s stick found its way to Keith who buried it home. The goal may not have happened had Miikka Kiprusoff decided to get up and get back into position after going down to make the first save, but that’s his decision. The Hawks went up 2-0 after a Brent Seabrook drive found its way through Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews traffic out front of Kipper on the power play. The Hawks PP was 1/4 on the night (cause for celebration). The game got interesting for a few minutes halfway through the 3rd after Olli Jokinen ripped a wrist shot over the blocker of Emery. Curtis Glencross provided a fantastic screen in front of Razor, who had no chance to stop the shot. The Hawks put it away after Boss Hoss set up Viktor Stalberg with a pass you’d have to see to believe. It was nice to see Stalberg finish on that one after missing on a couple of chances earlier in the game. He probably could have had 3 or 4 goals had things gone his way. The Blackhawks finished things off after Kane potted an empty netter. Overall, a good effort by the Hawks on home-ice. Their record at the UC improved to 6-1-2 and they have a chance to make it 7-1-2 tomorrow against an Edmonton team who seems to be coming back to earth after a very impressive start to the season.
It was less than one week ago that I was typing, “The Blackhawks are in first place in the Western Conference…” A lot can change in a week, huh? Not that we’ve dropped too far in the standings, but if we keep playing like we have been we’ll find ourselves battling the Columbus Blue Jackets for the coveted spot in the Western Conference basement. And wow, is Columbus ever in the basement.
This is the second meeting between these two teams, and I wrote in the first game preview that Columbus had a 1-8-1 record. Well, not a lot has changed: they have added 1 win and 3 losses. They are the proud owners of 5 (that’s “five”) points. As a matter of rub-it-in trivia, even if they had twice as many points, they would still be in last place in the West.
If you were wondering why there are so many teams bunched up so closely at the top of the Western Conference standings, it’s because every other team has been beating on Columbus like a red-headed step-pinata.
For those of you who missed the timeless sports-classic film “Bull Durham,” go back to FourSquare, this article isn’t for you. But for those who didn’t, it’s my contention that we have our own Ebbie Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh right here in the Chicago Blackhawks dressing room.
His name is Nick Leddy. And instead of throwing bean-balls at the mascot, he is throwing close games right in the dumpster. His flubs against Tampa Bay led directly to the Bolts’ third goal, and the game-winner in OT.
“You lolligag around the infield…”
Actually, lolligagging is a word that really can’t be used to describe Leddy’s game. In fact, quite the opposite. He’s very quick, which leads him to believe that he can tear around any area of the ice with impunity. When he goes on these little escapades, he leaves his position to be covered by a winger — who is then a target to be exploited by the other team, since that winger is not trained to play that position. Leddy creates a defensive weakness with his end-to-end rushes. That’s unnecessary, and it’s only a matter of time before other teams exploit that weakness when it arises.
Enough about the Vancouver game, I’m trying to block it from my memory. The Blackhawks had better do the same, because like most years of late, they will have their hands full with their division-rival opponent at the other end if I-55, just for a different reason this time.
St. Louis’ 6-7-0 record does not speak to their current situation. They are a team in a state of upheaval, and it’s every man for himself when the puck drops tonight.
This is going to be a fast, brutal game. The Blackhawks will have to keep their heads to stay in it.
So, there isn’t any reason to rehash the shitshow from last night. Bartl already tried to drive most of you to suicide and I’m sure many of you have spent your day much as I have mine – trying to figure out exactly what the hell happened last night.
You remember the Vancouver Canucks, right? Colors are green, blue and white; big funny-looking whale on their jersey; coach keeps whining about other teams not playing fair? Not ringing a bell?
Well, in the playoffs last year they blew a 3 games to none lead against the Blackhawks before FINALLY squeaking by in overtime of game 7? And we had to serve up a giveaway on a silver platter with nobody between them and the goalie for them to win?
Their goalie’s an overrated head case, fans have a massive inferiority complex, and the entire province of British Columbia wanted to lynch me after I called Daniel and Henrik Sedin “The Tampon Twins?”
Okay, you got it now. Good. Well, they’re in town tonight. And it’s a great time for them to visit.
Every year the Blackhawks do a father/son trip, usually involving some kind of bonding excursion. This year it took the form of a golf outing while dodging alligators in the Florida heat. The event spilled over into the social media arena, with Daniel Carcillo dissing the Lepisto twosome for bird-watching instead of shooting birdies. But fun and games aside, we have two difficult contests to get through when we’re not wading through the Everglades looking for a #4 Titleist, starting with the new-look Florida Panthers.
This past March, we were chuckling to ourselves as we prepared to face a Panthers team assembled out of the remnants of the league-basement Florida squad from the previous year, and the bargain bin cast-offs picked up at the end of the free agent signing period. It was a joke on skates, the money-saving brainchild of former Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon, and everyone expected a rout.
Everyone except the Panthers, it turns out: they caught the Blackhawks flat-footed and scrapped their way to a 3 – 2 victory. But a much different, and much more dangerous Florida team awaits the ‘Hawks tonight. Hopefully the Blackhawks’ players don’t leave their A-game on the fairway.
Talking hockey while wondering why people still read Phil Rogers……
♦Lets start with the power play, shall we? As I’m sure you’re all aware, it badly sucks. A PP which contains Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp is 4 of 45 though 11 games – that’s a 8.9 % conversion rate, good for 29th in the league ahead of only a putrid Blues squad. Some people have blamed personnel. Some people blame assistant coach Mike Kitchen. Who the hell really knows? One thing is for certain, somebody told them to start firing away before the game Monday night. The PP (especially in the 3rd period) had a ton of pucks heading towards the net. Had the Hawks been facing another goaltender, the story coming out of Monday nights game easily could have been that the Hawks power play had finally broken through. Is there a brightside here? Well, if your powerplay is going to go 4 for 45 – it’s not a bad time to do it while your team is on a 7-2-2 roll. The PP will look to get going tomorrow against a Florida Panthers penalty kill led by – Tomas Kopecky? Seems like the perfect opportunity to get things rolling.
♦On the flip side of that coin, the Hawks penalty kill is kicking every sort of ass there is. Toews, Hossa, Dave Bolland, Michael Frolik and Jamal Mayers have been exceptional and led the PK to a 91.7% success rate – 3rd best in the league behind an unstoppable Pittsburgh Penguins team and the Buffalo Sabers (I’ll chalk that up to Ryan Miller). The PK was one of the most frustrating aspects of the 2010-2011 squad and it’s a great relief to see that they’ve turned it around (especially if they are going to take 5 penalties a night like Monday). Quick note: Bolland leads the league in shorthanded goals with 2.
♦Speaking of Bolland, there is a must see video in this article about Bryan Bickell’s goal monday night showing Bolland discreetly tripping Kevin Klein in the slot and opening space for Bickell to finish. Another classic Rat moment. I enjoy these immensely.
Wouldn’t it be a riot if the players got to dress up for Hallowe’en games? If I were better at PhotoShop I’d have prepared a whole album full of images for you for this preview of the Blackhawks vs. Predators game, but instead we’ll just have to use our imaginations.
Nashville Head Coach Bary Trotz’s (Boris Badonov) team marches into the United Center tonight for these clubs’ first meeting of the season. These teams split the 6-game series last year 3 each, the biggest difference being the margin of victory. When Nashville won, it was a one-goal game. When Chicago won, it was (for some strange reason) *exactly* three goals. Go figure.
The Columbus Blue Jackets’ season so far: 10 games, 1 win, 8 losses, 1 OTL, for a total of 3 (that’s “three”) points, and they’re 0-5-0 on the road.
I really should just stop right there and just save you the time, let the game speak for itself. This team sucks, and there’s precious little argument about that.
With the Blackhawks’ poor luck with shootouts of late (or at least, until the victory over Anaheim on Tuesday), one would think it hard to find a team doing worse than Chicago in that category. Fortunately for us, the ‘Hawks visit that team tonight. Carolina, despite having only 9 games under their belt, has 3 games in the ‘OTL’ column.
The bad stats don’t end there, with 5 of their top 6 scorers sitting south of zero in the plus-minus category, and their backup goaltender boasting a 4.46 GAA.
Let’s leave it as, things could be better in the land of NASCAR.
I did this a few times last season when I could, so I thought I’d share some facts heading into tonight’s contest at the RBC Center versus the Carolina Hurricanes.
While the Blackhawks are getting solid contributions from all four lines, the Hurricanes are scrambling after three straight losses. Here are their likely forward lines for the tilt:
Chad LaRose – NAME THAT STAAL … Eric Staal – Jiri Tlusty
SKINNERRRRR! – Jussi Jokinen – Tuomo Ruutu
Alexei Ponikarovsky – Brandon Sutter – Patrick Dwyer
Brett Sutter – Tim Brent (yes, that Tim Brent) / Derek Joslin - Zach Boychuk
Here are some stats/facts …
One of the curiosities of last season was the holy-crap performance of aging veteran Teemu Selanne. Despite having four decades in his rear view mirror, he notched 31 goals and a whopping 80 points in 73 regular-season games, adding a goal-per-game performance in the playoffs. Selanne and 4 other Ducks players were all north of 65 points on the 2010-11 season, and Selanne plus the other 4 will all be in the lineup tonight at the United Center: forwards Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Bobby Ryan, and defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky.
But I’m sure Anaheim Head Coach Randy Carlyle is hoping his offensive stars will start to shine soon, as the Ducks are near the bottom of the barrel in scoring, just barely nudging past 2 goals per game on average. Those five players account for fully two-thirds of the Ducks total offense to date. Pay close attention to those players, you shut down the Ducks offense — almost.
The Blackhawks’ season looked, at the outset, to be fraught with peril: shaky backup goaltending, injuries to key forwards, defensive pairing mix-and-match, questions about conditioning, and the ever-present ticking time bomb that exists in the form of newly-acquired winger Daniel Carcillo. The first six games of the season find the Blackhawks with a 4-1-1 record, and showing the potential for another Stanley Cup run. Thursday’s game was a good example of that potential.
Watching the Blackhawks take on the Avalanche it was apparent that these were two closely-matched teams: young and fast, with quick and dangerous snipers up front and scary-good goaltending on the back end. Thursday’s game saw lots of end-to-end action, goaltenders peppered with shots — and standing on their heads to keep their teams in it, and a lot of quick transitions at the blue line.
Tonight, we are going to see that same Avalanche team again; and again, the Blackhawks are going to have to play the same fast, disciplined game to get past them.
Whew, now that was fast-paced hockey.
The Blackhawks were able to calm themselves after the Avs’ initial first-period rush, get into the flow of the game and come away with a 3-1 victory in Colorado, going 2 for 2 on the brief road trip.
I’m tired, so just a few quick observations before Boxing …
♦ With the entire game going pretty much back and forth at warp speed, both Corey Crawford and Semyon Varlamov saw nearly everything thrown at them, neither giving up a bad goal on the night. The Blackhawks put two difficult shots past Varlamov, while Crawford wasn’t able to get in front of an unfortunate bounce. Varlamov should be spending the night in jail after his ridiculous save on Marcus Kruger.
♦ “Bick-Bo-Fro … douchebag”: A bit of a left turn from the “quid pro quo” comment from The Hangover, but this line has been something special thus far. Poor, poor Michael Frolik. Varlamov robbed him of his first goal on a beautiful chance right in front. Bickell has played his ass off and Bolland, well, …. please for the love of holy Christ stay healthy.
♦ Dan Carcillo’s fantastic pass set up Jonathan Toews’ goal, marking yet another solid feed from Carcillo. He got rewarded with his 2nd point as a ‘Hawk, though it’s not for the shortage of some great opportunities he’s set up which simply haven’t gone in the net.
♦ Duncan Keith disrupted a play in the neutral zone, which ended up leading to Patrick Sharp’s handsome goal. After Keith forced the turnover, the ‘Hawks were able to get into transition, pepper Varlamov with a couple of in-tight chances before Sharp sniped the short side to beat him. It was the second straight solid game for Keith, who has been taking plenty of heat lately.
OK, time for Boxing. Two images, click to enlarge …