2014-2015 Game Recaps
I was entertained. If you weren’t please seek medical attention immediately.
It felt like the Chicago Blackhawks controlled this contest tonight for the better part of 45 minutes of game action. The thing is, they really didn’t though. The Red Wings seemed to get their legs underneath them in the final frame and it was the right time considering the game was tied heading into the that last period of play. This game was pretty much flipped on its head. Even the shot totals reflected that with the Blackhawks hammering Detroit 17-6 in the first period, an 8-8 even second period and the Wings having an 11-7 advantage in the last period.
But back to how I opened this: this was a hell of a hockey game and it really is a shame we only play these guys twice a year anymore.
Coming up a fraction of an inch short of taking all six points on a three-games-in-four nights stretch probably should feel better than it does. But when the Blackhawks fail on four power-play chances – including a 4-on-3 in overtime – and take a dumb penalty that gives an inferior opponent a chance to swing the momentum, it becomes a little more difficult to swallow.
The no-call on the ice is what put the ‘Hawks at a disadvantage even before the video review, and to me the more disheartening fact of that same sequence was Brandon Saad hitting the crossbar that would’ve made the puck that toed the line moot. Antti Raanta ended up getting out-classed in the shootout, Mike Smith decided not to completely suck for a night and the Blackhawks dropped the first of an eight-game homestand, 3-2 to Arizona.
With Kris Versteeg about to make his return against Vancouver on Wednesday, the focus now shifts to who will be sent down to Rockford to open up a roster spot. Will it be Teuvo? Nordstrom? We’ll find out soon enough.
But let’s take a quick look at some points from this loss…
- As close as Shaw was to getting credited for the winning goal, he was just as close to blowing the whole thing. A bonehead turnover in his own zone led to a breakaway that Raanta was able to stone. I’d seriously like to know why this guy doesn’t catch more flak from the beats and why Q continues to put every ounce of trust in giving Shaw power-play time and minutes in big situations. I know us here at CtA have harped on this topic plenty, but it deserves mentioning as long as it continues happening. In his defense, he won 12 of 15 at the dot.
- Speaking of problems, Ben Smith continues to be terrible. His gaffe led directly to Arizona’s second goal, and he spent most of his nearly 12 minutes on his ass. Also, Johnny Oduya was #bad again after a solid showing against St. Louis.
- Patrick Kane cannot take that penalty. I’m guessing he was voicing his displeasure over an offsides call, but that’s no excuse to be sent to the box for only the second time this season. The mistake ended up in the back of the net, and the Hawks were caught in a tie game despite owning most of the contest up to that point.
- To speak on more positive notes, the Saad-Toews-Hossa line was fantastic. I’m convinced Toews listened to the podcast, because even he would admit the bit of ribbing we gave him for his recent play was warranted. He had an extremely solid all-around game and assisted on both of Hossa’s goals. Saad drew the penalty on Erat in overtime and created the opportunity on the delayed call.
- Staying with Hossa, let’s keep this little run going, shall we? He’s scored each of the Blackhawks’ last four goals after netting the final two in Sunday’s win over the Blues. He scored four goals in his previous 16 games combined.
Oh, let us know what you think about Teuvo…
Everything else I have is in Boxing….
There are plenty of things that piss me off. Like traffic, people who are too lazy and ignorant to clear the pile of snow on the top and back of their vehicles and let it blind other drivers on the expressway, and those who say, “Yuck, this tastes disgusting. Here, try it.”
You can add the Blackhawks playing like dog shit during a long, important road trip to that list. They squandered two points against the Kings, dismantled a flawed Ducks team, failed to do much of anything against the Sharks and then looked rather disinterested against the Wild in a game where getting a pair of points was pretty much necessary.
Each player we consider bad was downright awful, and the ones we count on for production weren’t very good either. Corey Crawford was probably the best Blackhawk on Tuesday. Too bad he didn’t get any help, as the ‘Hawks were blanked for the first time in consecutive games for the first time since 2006.
I break down most everything in Boxing, but here are a couple of points:
— In the CtA text thread during the game, a solid point was brought up. The Hawks simple have too many “just guys,” i.e. players who simply put on a uniform, skate around, do essentially nothing and head back to the bench. Joakim Nordstrom, Ben Smith, Andrew Shaw, Bryan Bickell, Michal Rozsival and Johnny Oduya were discussed. The fourth line as a whole basically has been terrible. Why Shaw continues to get minutes on the first power-play unit and in important situations when a goal is needed simply defies logic at this point. His bonehead penalty seconds after the ‘Hawks were awarded a power play is a prime example.
— Pat Foley reminded us again how Coach Q consistently makes the point that the team that comes out better after a 5-on-3 situation usually seizes momentum and wins the game. Well, the ‘Hawks had a great kill of such a situation and turned away the rest of the penalty … then still gave up 24 shots on goal in the period and came away with zero points. Thanks.
— Did Teuvo play all that well? Not particularly, especially on the third goal. Is he being used properly? No, of course not. His time with Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp had little to do with Teuvo and everything with Brad Richards being so bad that Q had no choice but to make the switch.
— And hey, this road trip gets more fucking terrible. Winnipeg on Friday and an afternoon tilt with St. Louis. The Hawks have two points out of eight possible so far. At this point, getting at least to overtime in both games would be a victory.
The punishment for watching the Blackhawks as much as some of us do is that we can’t just accept taking two points from one of the hottest and talented teams in the NHL without delving into some underlying issues – and there were a few that need to be pointed out from Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout win over Tampa Bay.
Oh, you want the good stuff first? OK, let’s look at the good stuff.
♦ For as much as we’ve harped on Kris Versteeg on this site, on Twitter, on Facebook, in our own text and email threads, in your haunted dreams, etc., he’s actually been pretty decent lately, and it’s tough not to justify his place on the top line with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews – for now. Sure, you’re still going to find him blindly firing a pass to the center of the ice with no one there and he’ll stickhandle himself out of position, but he’s getting to the net and creating some chances. It’s far more than what we expected after playing like a pile of dog shit last season.
♦ Corey Crawford got hung out to dry twice – both involved Brent Seabrook, and we’ll get to that later – but he played another solid game and has done so pretty much all season. His solid play furthers my point of cocking your hand back and swiftly decking anyone who suggests anyone else is the system is better suited for his starting role.
There’s more good, and overall the ‘Hawks played rather well on both ends Tuesday, but here are some things that are concerning:
While still trying to process exactly what the hell happened there in the last three minutes of the 3rd period you’d have to be one joyless bastard to not have enjoyed tonight’s hockey game at the United Center. Seven goals with five of them coming from the home reds and even a few quality saves thrown in from both goaltenders made this a quality affair. Really helped to rinse the taste out from the six minute stretch that cost the Blackhawks a win on Friday night against the Capitals.
Coach Q said at Tuesday’s morning skate – to paraphrase – that he wasn’t concerned about scoring. He knows his team can score. What he’s concerned about is keeping the puck out of their own net.
Scott Darling has done a pretty damned good job of that in his first two NHL starts, stopping 56 of the 58 shots he’s faced. And the goal he allowed against the Ducks? It came off of the Blackhawks’ inability to generate chances on the power play before Brent Seabrook’s blunder allowed Devante Smith-Pelly to streak down the ice on a breakaway.
If Q wants to be confident in his offense, fine. I mean, the talent is there, obviously. But don’t ignore the issues. The Blackhawks haven’t scored more than two goals in four straight games, losing three. The power play is 2 for 13 in that stretch and has converted just 18.4 percent on the season.
Furthermore, Andrew Shaw should not be tied for the team lead in goals with three. Saad, Hossa, Toews – these guys need to start putting pucks in the net. And two of Kane’s three goals came in one game – against Philadelphia. If Q thinks there aren’t problems offensively, then he needs to get his head out of his ass. It seems like the goaltenders – all three of them – have a pretty solid hold on the net when they’re in there. That would be the least of my concerns right now.
I’m posting this pretty late after the game, so everything else I have to say is in Boxing. Have at it …..
I ran into the CI crew during the first intermission at the corner bar near section 322, and Fels asked me when the last time two Chicago-area goaltenders faced each other prior to Sunday. My best guess was when Craig Anderson went up against Glenview native Al Montoya, and the last time they started against each other was Jan. 2.
The last time it actually happened in Chicago? Beats me, but Lemont native Scott Darling won Sunday’s Battle of the Chicago Suburbs by making 32 saves in a 2-1 win over the Senators and Park Ridge’s Anderson.
Darling wasn’t tested all that much, but he kept cool for a guy making his NHL debut in his hometown for the team he grew up rooting for, which I guess is kind of a big deal or something if you’re searching for a narrative. Not a bad one, but more importantly I’m happy the Blackhawks were able to come away with two points with their third-string goaltender as Corey Crawford sat out a fourth straight game.
Most of us here at CtA have discussed Crawford missing an extended period would probably be the most damning injury to the Blackhawks’ success this season. Antti Raanta and Darling have at least showed they can hold up in a small sample size, but going on much longer without Crawford, who is 3-0-1 with a 1.66 GAA and .926 save percentage (take that, haters), sure isn’t ideal.
The only goal Darling gave up was Milan Michalek’s short-handed tally in the second period, and it’s tough to blame him for it. As Brad Richards was coming to the boards to secure the puck off a ring-around, the ref inexplicably skated in front of Richards, forcing him to miss it. That sprung Alex Chiasson and Michalek, and well, you know the rest.
Jonathan Toews’ goal was the Blackhawks’ first in the second period all season, and it also gave Patrick Kane his 500th career point off the assist.
Anything else I’ve got is in this season’s first edition of Boxing. Have at it….