Is anyone else sick of the damn shootout?
Everyone would have liked to see the Hawks take two points in their first game back at the United Center and they were just a hair away from getting it done. The good news is, the Hawks are 13 games into the season and have gotten a point in each of the games. The bad news is, they should have had two tonight.
There were definitely good things to take away from this game. This was perhaps the most physical game the Blackhawks have played all season. Bryan Bickell throwing his weight into Ryan Getzlaf was beautiful. When you’re a big body guy with decent speed, you need to hit people. It was nice to finally see him doing that to one of the Ducks’ core guys. It seems the team has been playing with a bit of an edge ever since Jamal Mayers’ scrap with Raffi Torres.
The Blackhawks’ penalty kill continues to shine. They play with active sticks and are more aggressive on the penalty kill than I’ve seen in years, leading to an important 5 on 3 kill tonight. Credit to Niklas Hjalmarsson, Michael Frolik, and Marcus Kruger for their newfound PK skills. I know I wasn’t the only one cussing these guys out last year; their turnaround is nothing short of a Chicago miracle.
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.
He’s back. Who, you ask? Lubomir Visnovsky. I’ve got bad news too. He looks really good.
After a fairly disappointing start, posting 1 goal and 3 assists in 16 games, Visnovsky broke his finger and sat out a month.
Visnovsky returned to his team and made a statement last night against the Phoenix Coyotes. He had an assist, was a +2, and recorded 7 shots, while posting an impressive post-injury 24:23 of ice time. I watched the game for this very reason. I was interested in seeing how Visnovsky would bounce back from his injury and if he was capable of returning to the form he was in last season. He scored 18 goals and recorded 50 assists last year for the Ducks.
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.
As a season-ticket holder, I thank the Blackhawks for the extra hockey the past three home games. As a fan, I’m wondering what the hell is wrong with earning the two points without having to deal with the frustration of the goddamn shootout.
I don’t think I’m alone in thinking the ‘Hawks were lucky to come away with two points after a 3-2 shootout win at the UC on Tuesday night. Patrick Kane saved the night with two gorgeous assists and the shootout winner, though he didn’t make things easy with a bad giveaway which led to Teemu Selanne’s goal.
Dave Bolland took a bad penalty at the end of the first period, then Sean O’Donnell mixed in a delay-of-game before Marian Hossa was given an iffy penalty with 2:10 left in regulation. Fortunately, the Ducks converted on only one of these power plays, leaving the door open for the Blackhawks to earn the pair.
And before Jonathan Toews and Kaner netter goals in the shootout, Hossa ripped one off the post as the horn sounded off a great faceoff win by Toews. How he was able to win it perfectly while putting just the right touch on it so the 2.4 seconds didn’t run off, allowing Hossa to get a missile off is truly amazing to me.
Let’s talk about the rest in Boxing…
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.
There are three stories of interest coming out of Anaheim these days. The first is that Teemu Selanne, in the words of one sports reporter, refuses to act his age. The second is the eruption of winger Corey Perry, who has 15 points (including 11 goals) in his last 8 games. And finally is a goaltending conundrum that has three brand-name goaltenders struggling to put two wins together as the team claws towards a playoff spot.
The Ducks and the Blackhawks have both won 3 of their last 4 games, they are both locked in a tight battle for a playoff spot (the ‘Hawks in 7th, the Ducks in 8th in the Western Conference Standings), and they are both handing bonus points to opponents by allowing games to be pushed into overtime. Neither team can lose this game — but somebody will.
This time, the Blackhawks’ mothers got to witness the ‘Hawks fall into a last-place tie in the Central Division. How sweet of the kids.
The Blackhawks’ 2-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks offered some good things to take away from it. However, despite the fact the ‘Hawks outshot the Ducks 40-19, that disparity is a bit deceiving.
Yes, the ‘Hawks controlled the puck for damn near all of the third period when they held a 19-2 shot advantage. The problem is that most of those 19 shots didn’t offer many quality chances. Rather than being impressed with the ‘Hawks puck possession, I’m inclined to give the credit to the Ducks being able to keep the ‘Hawks from the net for most of the period.
Viktor Stalberg had the game tied when he put a wrister toward an open net from just a few feet out with Jonas Hiller sprawled across the crease. Then Dave Bolland, who saw Hiller down and watched Stalberg get ready to put the puck on the net, decided an attempt at a re-direct to fool the goaltender who wasn’t there. I can understand Bolland being in the moment, but I can’t remember the last time I saw someone attempt to re-direct a shot taken from that close. Stalberg put his arms up thinking it was a sure goal, then realized what happened. That fucking sucked.
To the ‘Hawks credit, they tried to do everything they could to get another one past Hiller, who played outstanding. Hiller even made a ridiculous initial save on Bryan Bickell’s goal before Bicks poked it through.
As you’ll notice in Boxing, the ‘Hawks were murdered at the dot. The chance of Jonathan Toews playing against the Los Angeles Kings becomes much more needed after witnessing that shit show.
There’s a mystery why Jake Dowell got benched in the third period, and hopefully Q gives us an explanation. Not a mystery? Tomas Kopecky has been playing like a pile of dog shit.
The Blackhawks’ 20-17-3 record puts them at exactly .500 and in last place while the rest of the division has games in hand. The official midway point of the season is tonight, and the ‘Hawks are currently looking up the ass of 10 teams in the Western Conference. I’m not going to hop in front of a Blue Line train just yet, but it’s also time to start realizing our Stanley Cup champs have to fight for a playoff spot in the second half.
Hey, at least we got a break from the sack of nipples that is Nick Boynton.
Without further ado, here’s Boxing. Click the images to enlarge
Click the jump for Boxing with ‘Hawks/Gordon Bombays
Tonight in Anaheim we will witness a meeting of two leaderless hockey teams. The Anaheim Ducks have lost Captain Ryan Getzlaf after he took a puck to the face in the Ducks’ game against the Coyotes on December 28th. He has been diagnosed with multiple nasal sinus fractures, and is listed as being out indefinitely.
Blackhawks’ Captain Jonathan Toews fell awkwardly into the boards with a man on top of him during the Blues game a week ago, and suffered a shoulder injury. He is listed as day-to-day, and was skating at practice on New Year’s Day — a nice present for ‘Hawks’ fans to start 2011. Turns out Captain Serious is also Captain I Dare You To Try To Stop Me From Skating.
Not in real life, thank the higher power. We’ve got enough problems with injuries that an alcoholic attorney with a bum knee wouldn’t quite fit in.
Here’s another edition of STATS Game, breaking down some facts regarding today’s matchup in Anaheim. Enjoy
The BLACKHAWKS are …
… 20-16-3 (T-3rd, Central)
… 8-6-3 on the road
… 5-4-1 in their last 10 (Lost 2)
… 6-3-1 against the Pacific Division
… 16-7-2 when scoring first
… 16-3-1 when leading after 2nd period
The GORDON BOMBAYS are …
… 20-17-4 (4th, Pacific)
… 12-6-1 at home
… 6-4-0 in their last 10 (Won 2)
… 1-8-1 against the Central Division
… 16-3-2 when scoring first
… 12-0-2 when leading after 2nd period
POWER PLAY: Blackhawks, 25.2% (2nd) ; Ducks, 21.0% (8th)
PENALTY KILL: Blackhawks 78.5% (26th) ; Ducks 79.9% (23rd)
» The Blackhawks are 3-13-0 with 2 ties in the last 18 AT Anaheim
» One of those wins was a 4-1 victory Nov. 26
Click the jump for more STATS
Well, Corey, it looks like it’s your show — for now.
A couple of very solid performances and an overall above-average season so far is good enough in my book to give Corey Crawford the keys to the Blackhawks’ ride. McClure of Second City Hockey said it best: Marty Turco is owed nothing here. He’s a hell of a guy, came here to win a ring and hasn’t played all that bad.
Crawford, a product of the ‘Hawks system who has paid his dues with the franchise, is playing to his capabilities and expectations. His 5-4-0 record may seem modest, but his GAA is a sparkling 2.07 in eight starts and nine total appearances. He made key saves in both games against Anaheim and Los Angeles and didn’t give up a single even-strength goal in either contest.
If Turco gets the start Tuesday, Coach Q should immediately have his head examined. There’s no reason not to go with Crawford.
With all of that said, let’s make this clear: There is no goalie controversy — yet. While Crawford has played well, he’s simply the guy who gives the Blackhawks the best chance to win right now. It’s too early to say he’s the one who gives the ‘Hawks the best chance to win for the rest of the season. Turco still holds that title, in my opinion. It’s not to say that can’t change, but Crawford has to do it for an extended period of time — like Antti Niemi did last season.
If Crawford gets his starts and continues to show he’s the right guy for the No. 1 job, the worst thing that happens is the ‘Hawks have a damn good veteran backup in Turco. That’s a good position to be in, especially given the Cristobal Huet situation in which we thought Dr. Phil would have to intervene.
So, with that being said, I’ll let “Boxing” do the rest of the talking from the weekend. First is the ‘Hawks 2-1 win against the Kings, followed by Friday’s 4-1 victory against the Gordon Bombays.
Click the jump for “Boxing”
The last time we saw the Anaheim Ducks it was less than two weeks ago at the United Center, and it was one of the games we want to remember from this year. Okay, Duncan Keith getting his pocket picked in the deep slot and allowing a goal less than a minute after we had taken the early lead wasn’t highlight-reel material. But the Blackhawks shelled Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller with 43 shots, allowing only 26 against, and Viktor Stalberg gave Corey Crawford the win with a late-OT goal.
It wasn’t perfect, but it was a nice send-off victory for the Circus Trip, as we now pay a visit to the Honda Center in Anaheim to see those same Ducks again. The Hawks are fresh off a loss in San Jose, where a stop-and-start effort ended in a 5 – 2 defeat, the salt in that wound being the name “Niemi” pasted across the jersey of the opposing goaltender. Hopefully the ‘Hawks get angry and hand it to the Ducks for some payback…
NOTE: Boxing with ‘Hawks/Not-so-Mighty Ducks is below
The not-so-hidden mishaps didn’t completely vanish with this victory, but the home losing streak sure did. Take it when you can.
Duncan Keith is still drunk, the ‘Hawks gave up yet another goal within a minute of scoring their own and Tomas Kopecky did his best Nick Boynton impression by taking a horrible penalty in the final minute of a tight game. Some things don’t change.
Thankfully, the result was more pleasant after Viktor Stalberg redirected a Keith shot in overtime to give the ‘Hawks a 3-2 victory against the Anaheim Ducks — their first win at home in five games.
I’m going to admit this right off the bat: When Kopecky went to the box, I figured the game was as good as over. Even if the ‘Hawks killed the remaining 53 seconds of the third — which I wasn’t confident about — no way were they going to kill the 4-on-3 to start overtime. I was just hoping to come away with two points for the weekend after the shootout loss to Nashville on Friday night.
Needless to say, I’m happy I was wrong.
Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist each, and it was a welcome sight to see those two on the scoresheet. Especially Hossa. Kid hadn’t scored in his last seven games.
I’m still having trouble getting over Keith’s turnover which led to Corey Perry’s first of two goals 57 seconds after Kane’s goal. To put into perspective how utterly poorly Keith has been playing lately, here’s the text I got from my Dad — who watches the ‘Hawks on and off, but isn’t invested — after Keith’s brain fart:
“Once a game, he falls asleep and costs his team a goal. This time less than a minute after we scored. I’m watching Andy Griffith.”
Can’t say I blame my Pops.
Other than Keith, Kopecky is off the hook after the ‘Hawks snatched the second point in overtime. Boynton was persecuted after his dipshit delay of game penalty cost the ‘Hawks earlier this season, and Kopecky was right in line to get a proverbial curb stomp if the Ducks netted one on the power play.
OK, OK. Yes, there’s some good. Corey Crawford played outstanding and made some key stops on point-blank chances, including a couple great saves in overtime. We’ve discussed Perry’s goal which Keith left Crawford out to dry, and Niklas Hjalmarsson was caught flat-footed as Perry skated right past him on his second goal. Crawford is going to get a couple of starts on the Circus Trip, and I’m hoping he shows more of what he did tonight.
The passing on the winning goal was fantastic, as Brian Campbell’s fake-shot-pass to Keith froze the Ducks on the far side of the ice, leaving Stalberg time to get into position for Keith’s slapper toward the net.
And speaking of the Circus Trip, this is a good time for all these assholes to get themselves some quality time together and quit telling us how it’s taking time to get the locker room acclimated with each other. I’ll be writing up a more detailed preview of the trip and what it’s done for the ‘Hawks the past couple of seasons, but if these guys come back liking each other more even if they go 2-4 I’ll be a happy man.
So, for now, that gigantic elephant with “YOU GUYS SUCK” written on the side of it that we didn’t want to look at anymore has left the locker room. There’s some tough road games coming up, and what a better way to hit the pavement than with a ‘W’ at home.
Without further ado, here’s a happier version of “Boxing.” As always, there’s two separate images — one for the game summary, and one for the actual box score. Click on the images to enlarge.
Last night’s game was a dramatic improvement over what we’ve seen lately from the Blackhawks. Yes, they let two leads slip away. Yes, they lost in a shootout. Yes, they only mustered four shots on goal in the 3rd.
But the team showed up. Jack Skille broke the jinx, twice. Viktor Stalberg lit the lamp. Defensively we were *far* more competent, only three players ended the night in the minus column. The Hawks were lining guys up, and standing up for their teammates. This was a good effort, and one hopes they can bring their first-period intensity into tonight’s game against Anaheim.
The big news from Duckville is that starting goaltender Jonas Hiller took a shot in the mask at practice on Saturday which resulted in a cut over his eyebrow that required four sutures. His status for tonight’s game has not been formally announced as of this writing, however one expects him to be in civvies for tonight’s tilt. That means Curtis McElhinny will likely be between the pipes tonight.
Which is good news, because the Ducks bring with them a 6-game winning streak. Forwards Teemu Selanne, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan all have a minimum of 6 goals and 17 points each. They have strong power-play conversion, they’re getting decent goal support from the blueline, and their goaltending has been solid. This is going to be a difficult test for the Blackhawks, even with Schmedley McLosermuffin in goal.
Doubtful that there will be any lineup changes for the Blackhawks, though the latest trade rumor concerning Corey Crawford and Tomas Kopecky might throw a wrench in things. Depends if they pull the trigger before the puck drops or not. Or at all. If anything happens before game time we’ll let you know via Twitter — follow us using the link below.
6:00pm start at the UC. WGN has the TV broadcast, WGN AM-720 for broadcast radio, and channel 204 for XM subscribers.