CHICAGO — Jeremy Morin sat on his haunches at the back of the cage. Every muscle tensed. His fists were clenched, held stiffly in front of his shins. When I happened to make eye contact with him, he let out a low growl. The young man’s rage distorted the air around him.
Bryan Bickell, on the other hand, slept soundly in the next cage over. Whenever Morin wasn’t growling, Bickell’s soft snoring filled the room. A snapshot of Bickell’s baby was taped to the wires beside his head.
Contrary to popular belief, Joel Quenneville’s “dog house” is more than a metaphor. Never before glimpsed by anyone outside the Blackhawks organization, there is a bona fide detention center. It is a small, dead-end cinder block hallway buried deep in the United Center’s bowels.
Several years ago (no one will specify when), an equipment manager heard that an animal testing lab at the University of Chicago was upgrading its enclosures. He bought seven cages destined for the scrap heap, brought them to this hallway, and bolted them to the wall. According to unconfirmed reports, Joel Quenneville smiled.
Morin and Bickell were not alone on the day I was granted access. Brad Richards occupied a spot down the hall. He sat against one side of his cage, watching pensively as a handler showed me the water bottles and feeding trays. Brandon Saad was on “part-time” – he could roam freely between practice sessions, but had to return immediately after dinner.
I tried to speak to Richards several times, but my handler wouldn’t allow it. The old timer’s eyes were hollow and doubtful. He seemed more rueful than angry.
“I think it’s good for them,” my handler was saying. “It shows them what Q’s looking for. Sometimes, they need this kind of motivation.”
It was then that I noticed small notes taped to the cage doors. They were titled “Requirements for Release.” I hurried closer to read them but each simply said “More.”
I turned to ask about the vagueness of this when Quenneville himself entered the hallway. Morin’s rage evaporated. His body uncoiled. He slumped into a heap and turned towards the wall behind him.
Quenneville merely grunted. Walking past, he motioned for me to follow. At the end of the hallway he pressed a single cinderblock, causing a hidden door to swing open with a loud hiss.
“Are you sure, Q?” asked the handler. Q said nothing. I followed him through the doorway.
We were in darkness. Then the lights snapped on and a gleaming contraption of steel, tubes, wires, gauges and switches loomed before us. My handler scurried in, rounded the machine’s base, and began pressing buttons. Steam hissed. Beeps and bloops and whirring echoed off the walls.
I asked what this monstrosity was. “Machine,” replied Quenneville.
“What does it do?” I asked.
“Machine,” said Quenneville. “Kiwi fruit.”
The machine was thirty feet tall and twice that at its widest. It took my handler several minutes to power it up. When he was done he was out of breath. He came back to stand beside me.
“Some of those gauges are hard to turn,” he said, panting.
“What is this thing?”
“It’s the Blender.”
Hello hockey friends (Jim Nantz voice). I’d like to take a minute and introduce myself, my name is John Faker, yes that’s my real name. I have been a Blackhawks fan for as long as I can remember. My love for hockey started with my father who used to play pond hockey growing up in northern Indiana and gave me his old wooden stick when I was a kid. My best friend Ryan and I used to spend countless hours shoveling snow off the ice of the lake I lived on so we could smash into each other and score into homemade goals. I do not claim to be an expert on hockey, but I, like you, watch a ton of hockey, especially the Blackhawks. Today I would like to share with you an observation I recently noted on twitter . I’m fortunate to be followed by most of the guys from this site (and that they put up with my rambling) and when they saw this they asked me if I would like to write about it.
Patrick Kane has amazing hands. Every time I watch him he does something so ridiculous I just have to shake my head. How does a guy who is 5’10” consistently skate around NHL players twice his size and do the things that he does? A lot of his skill has to do with his wrists and hands. Patrick Kane has always had a great wrist shot, and when he came into the league he used it very effectively. Take his first NHL goal as an example.
One thing to notice on this shot is where Kane’s stick is when he starts the shooting motion. Notice the line on his feet and where the stick and puck are when he shoots the puck.
That is not exactly what you would call a big windup. What this tells us is that Kane gets most of his power from his wrists. Even with such a little backswing, Kane can explode the puck into the top corner over the glove of the goalie. Granted this is a 2 on 1, but the shot itself and the mechanics are pretty impressive for Kane being such a small guy. One of the things unknown to a lot of Blackhawks fans is just how muscular Patrick Kane is. If you want to shoot the puck like that when you are 5’10” you have to have incredible upper body strength and wrists. Patrick Kane is one of the strongest guys on the Blackhawks. The last thing you should note is the wrist that is at the bottom of the stick, the one that generates all the power. It’s his left wrist. Keep this in mind, but more on that later.
When I started thinking about Kane and how well he shoots the puck, one goal immediately came to mind, April 4th, 2010 against Calgary:
The really telling replay starts at :35. This is a Patrick Kane shot with a considerable amount of backswing. Watch as the puck launches like a missile up to the top corner of the net. I don’t know if there is a goalie in the league that could have stopped that shot. Here are a few more goals from Kane with that explosive release.
Starting at 4:00 of this video:
Corey Schneider is a pretty decent goalie and this isn’t an odd man rush. But Kane puts so much force on that shot that Schneider doesn’t really have a chance. Again, Kane’s stick at the start of the shot is a bit in front of his feet. Wrist strength people.
A Goal against Buffalo from October 2010. Kaner pretty much just flips this at the net and it still has ridiculous velocity and 2010 Ryan Miller doesn’t have a chance.
As I am sure most of you remember, late in the 2011 season Patrick Kane hurt his left wrist. For the last few games of the season and the Vancouver “Slayed the Dragon” series (dammit Campoli), Kane just didn’t look like himself. We were told that he would be fine after an offseason of rest and it was nothing to worry about. Of course later that summer on July 19th, it was announced that Patrick Kane had surgery on his wrist. We all remember the 2011-2012 season and how a lot of the narrative was that Patrick Kane under performed. Kane had 23 goals and 43 assists and the 66 points were a career low. Most Blackhawks fans who watched that season knew that something was not right with Kane and his wrist. Kane wasn’t helped by shooting 9.1%, about 2% below his career average, but taking a closer look shows a bit more.
October 2011 against Boston:
There are two shots here, the initial shot and then the goal and both look incredibly weak. For both shots Kane is wide open.
Late October, 2011 against Nashville:
The thing to watch here for me is instead of launching the puck forward and up he kind of just pushes against his stick. He does the same thing in the video above. It shows me that he doesn’t have a whole lot of strength in his wrist and is making up for it with his arms. The puck still goes in the net, but it could be due to Pekka Rinne being surprised by a change up and expecting the typical Kane top shelf wrister.
December 2011 against Calgary:
Kane seems to make this move all the time against Calgary, get the puck near the wall and skate to open ice in the slot. Kane has a large area to work in when he beats the initial defender but the shot doesn’t seem to have any follow through. The whole motion looks abbreviated compared to his earlier career. This is a pretty sure sign the injury was bothering him. When an athlete plays hurt they sometimes change the little things (like their golf swing, baseball swing, or throwing motion) so when they do that repeatable motion, it doesn’t hurt as much. At this point Kane had been injured for 8 months (injured in April 2011).
This goal is from April of 2012 against the Wild.
Hossa puts the puck right on Kane’s stick and you can see Kane just doesn’t have the same zip as those earlier goals. There seems to be a bit of hesitation and the whole shot motion doesn’t look as quick or smooth as the videos previously linked. It is possible that this is late in an extended shift, but when have we ever seen Kane hesitate with a wide open net? The late offseason surgery definitely took its toll on Kane that year.
The amazing thing about most of these goals is that even though the shots are weak and hesitant, Kane still scores. Patrick Kane is an amazing talent that everyone should never take for granted.
*cough* Barry Rozner *cough*
During the lockout, one of the things on the back of my mind was Kane’s wrist injury and how the long offseason should help him to really get that strength back that he lost over the previous year. You can see a bit in these videos of Kane playing in Switzerland that the “pushing” motion had gone away and he was launching the puck again. This is a pretty good sign that his wrist was much stronger than the previous season.
1:54 of this weird fan video:
It was very evident that after the lockout Kane had gained his strength back. I think the big thing for Kane was trying to get back to his old healthy shot mechanics. He was most likely compensating for his injury and a few bad habits were developed between April 2011 and January 2013. Even in the 2013 season there were still small lingering effects of the injury. Kane was awesome, don’t get me wrong, but it’s hard to break bad habits.
Here is a shot last season against Anaheim:
It’s not hugely noticeable, but there is a bit of the pushing motion still there. I think this is more of trying to get away from the bad mechanic and getting back to his normal one.
Here is a good example from March 2013 against Colorado:
Patrick Kane has hardly any “backswing” and he puts a ton of stank on this puck. Someone should call some hospitals for the right post because it got brained.
The one that really made me notice that Patrick Kane’s shot was back to normal was the OT winner Wednesday night against the St. Louis St. Paul dumpster sandwich Blues.
If you watch one of the replays, beginning at 2:00 of this video, how much does that look like the goal against Calgary from April 2010 up the page? The puck just takes off like a missile and freezes Ryan Miller. Patrick Kane is an amazing hockey player. I think that Kane’s wrist injury hindered him for quite a while. Wrists injuries can be tricky; most Bears fans might remember Brian Urlacher saying in 2009 that if his wrist had been injured a millimeter the other way, his career would be over. I think that it took a long time for Kane to recover from that injury, especially with how important his wrists are to his game. I think the best news for Blackhawks fans is that Patrick Kane is fully healthy and playing the best hockey of his career.
Of course that’s also the worst news for every other team in the NHL.
These are the dark times. The Hawks trail St. Louis in the series, 2-0. They lost both games during the final minutes. Seabs is out for three games after trying to end Backes. Bickell somehow escaped sanction after doing his best Dustin Brown impression. If you want a counter-argument to all the Meatball Hawks fans out there always going on about how the Hawks need to be harder, Saturday’s loss is your retort (and you don’t even need shiny stats to make it).
So it turns out the reports of Detroit’s demise in this series were grossly exaggerated. Many Blackhawks fans were understandably eager to bury Detroit after Game One, unfortunately it just doesn’t work that way in the playoffs. The advanced stats pretty much confirmed the eye test – the Hawks were terrible while the Red Wings were fantastic.
You, the fan, have every right to be annoyed with the Blackhawks lack of urgency this afternoon, but give the Red Wings the (significant) credit they deserve, too. They silenced the United Center (quiet as I’ve ever heard it) by slowing down the Hawks in the neutral zone using THE LOCK and seemed to get in the way of just about every shot the Hawks attempted. Unlike Game One, nobody in a red sweater had room to maneuver and Jimmy Howard never had to bail out the guys in front of him. The Wings played the perfect road game and will go back to Detroit with home ice advantage and the belief that they can play with the Blackhawks.
Mike Babcock said it best after the game: “Series On.” It sure is.
Let’s get to the nitty gritty
* Andrew Shaw was atrocious. I counted three plays where he had possession but failed to get the puck into the Detroit zone. One Shaw giveaway led to a shorthanded breakaway for the Wings.
* Jonathan Toews complained about the officiating after the game. He had reason to be pissed off about the non-call on Henrik Zetterberg for mauling him while he was down, but somehow I don’t think anyone is buying the ‘poor officiating cost us’ angle tonight. Plus, everybody knows the Blackhawks power play is horrendous anyway.
The Chicago Blackhawks look to make history Tuesday night as they host the Vancouver Canucks. Should the Blackhawks win this game, they will tie the NHL record for the longest point streak to open a season. The current record of 16 games is held by the 2006-2007 Anaheim Ducks.
All indications are that long-time Chicago laughing target Roberto Luongo will not get the start tonight. It appears we have bruised his ego enough for one career. Cory Schneider will get the nod tonight. Schneider has been one of the most up-and-down goalies in the league this season. His GAA’s over his seven starts are as follows: 11.27, 1.85, 0.00, 4.00, 1.00, 1.01, 4.08. A lot of this can be attributed to some absolutely embarrassing defensive play in front of him.
Look for a newly invigorated Vancouver team, enjoying the energy of a returning Ryan Kesler. Despite their OT loss against the Blues on Sunday, the Canucks have been playing high quality hockey lately.
As always, look for everyone’s favorite “tough guy” Kevin Bieksa to try some of his trademarked pathetic chirping and then cower by the refs once he gets the attention of one of the bigger guys.
Alex Burrows is still a tool.
It’s been over two weeks since the Hawks have seen home ice and this will be the last time they don their white sweaters until the final day of February. Having already gathered 8 of 10 points on this road trip, the Blackhawks could come away with nothing in the Music City tonight and still consider this trip quite a success.
And that’s what worries me.
If your day was anything like mine, you sat on the couch for a solid ten hours and watched a lot of football and even more hockey. It was glorious fun, yes, but somehow one can still feel exhausted after such a marathon. It’s really late so we’ll have a somewhat abbreviated recap. Here’s a few thoughts on a sloppy, but entertaining hockey game:
– Marian Hossa was outstanding for the second straight day. As Jonthan Toews alluded to after the game, we’re witnessing Hoss playing a whole different sport than everyone else right now. Seeing him punish the team that employs the scum who probably lowered his quality of life at some point in the future made it that much sweeter. Good on Hoss.
-David Bolland as the second line center is working out just fine. Two goals tonight for Bolland, including one of the strangest, funniest goals I’ve seen in a long while. I only wish we could have seen Mike Smith freak out like that during the playoffs last year.
-Speaking of Smith, he has now let in ten goals in two games. Enjoy that stat and brandish it if happen to run into one of the six Coyote fans in the world tomorrow.
– We’d rather see Marcus Kruger than Andrew Shaw on the third line, but they was effective all night long. Bryan Bickell and Viktor Stalberg (both guys who were rumored to be on the move at certain points of the offseason) clicking together certainly didn’t seem likely, but they’re doing just that and I think we’re all okay with it. Stalberg had several chances tonight, finishing one of them in the second period off a nice feed from Bickell. He missed on a breakaway in the third frame, but was a key factor in Bolland’s powerplay goal in the first – battling in front of Mike Smith with
Dave Derek Morris and giving Patrick Kane the space he needed to set up Bolland. Stalberg gave Morris such a problem that Morris threw him to the ice in frustration after Bolland scored. Good job, Vik.
– The fourth line was talked about a lot on Twitter during the game and did have a few dominant shifts in the Phoenix zone in the first and second periods. However, Michael Frolik and Kruger each finished the game -2. Brandon Bollig got his ass kicked in a fight with BizNasty and didn’t play much after taking a completely unnecessary tripping penalty about as far away from the ‘Hawks net as you can get.
-I’ve avoided dealing with the awfulness that is Ray Emery’s goaltending because I didn’t want to spoil the good time. So, I will not fret over our backup goaltender. I will not fret over our backup goaltender. I will not fret over our backup goaltender. I will not fret over our backup goaltender. I will not fret over our backup goaltender……..No, screw it, I’m fretting. Emery was putrid and made what should have been a good old fashioned ass kicking a nail biter at one point. This situation has been allowed to fester and should reflect poorly on Stan Bowman if it ends up costing the Blackhawks.
-Not related to tonight’s game, but please appreciate Rockford IceHogs goalie Carter Hutton beating the absolute shit out of Grand Rapids Griffins goaltender Petr Mrazek in a bench clearing brawl two night ago. Damn.
– The game on Tuesday night against St. Louis is shaping up to be a regular doozy. What could make it more awesome? Well, Bartl will be back with Boxing.
(We’re moving right along with the CtA season preview. Today we take a look at the Pacific Divison which has a ton of old guys.)
#3 Phoenix (97) -#7 San Jose (96) – #8 Los Angles (95) – Dallas (89) – Anaheim (80)
LOS ANGELES KINGS:
New Guys: Nobody. This team is pretty much the opposite of the 2010 Blackhawks. They get to keep the band together.
Gone: Nobody. Well, Ethan Moreau retired, but he doesn’t really count.
Young players to keep an eye on: The Kings have a number of fantastic young offensive players in their system, but with every position on the roster filled, it doesn’t look like there will be a need to carry any of them. Should a center go down, Andrei Loktionov would be a candidate to fill the roster spot. Slava Voynov is the kid on the blue line and should get more minutes in his second season. While he had a quiet playoff, he’s still one of the most intriguing young defenseman in the NHL and possess with an absolute blast from the point. Dwight King, who was stellar for the Kings when they got hit with the injury bug, will also enter his second season.
Outlook: Pretty damn good. The lockout should have taken care of any hangover problems and they have the entire Cup roster ready to make another run. Watch out.
New Guys: 112 year old Jaromir Jagr, Derek Roy, Cody Eakin, Aaron Rome (eww) and Ray Whitney (also old).
Gone: Brad Richards (just rubbing it in), Mike Ribeiro (SUSHI), Sheldon Souray (has a ‘Baywatch’ wife), Steve Ott (gross) and Adam Burish (I thought he sucked but you all loved him).
Young Players to (probably not) watch: They have a couple good young prospects like goaltender Jack Campbell, Brett Ritchie and 6’7 fucking monster Jamie Oleksiak – but I’m not sure any of these guys fit into their immediate plans. There may be spots to be had on their (weak) blue line for players like Brenden Dillion and Patrick Nemeth. Personally, I love those hulking defenseman so I hope its Oleksiak.
Outlook: It’s sort of sad to see the Stars Twitterverse treating Jagr as if he were Sidney Crosby. But I guess it can’t be denied the Stars are sporting a different look this year and that should be refreshing to their fans. Roy and Eakin strengthen the Stars down the middle, yes, but that defense still looks awfully suspect. The Stars always seem to hover right around that 8th spot and I’m sure they’ll be right there again. Maybe the addition of a few seasoned vets like Jagr and Whitney will get them back into the playoffs……or maybe not. The best news for the team this offseason was the announcement that will be sporting a new uniform very soon. We can all agree this is a good thing.
New players: Steve Sullivan (still alive), Zybnek Michalek, David Moss and Nick Johnson.
Gone: Ray Whitney, Adrian Aucoin (only Columbus would have him) and Taylor Pyatt.
Young players to keep an eye on: Puck mover David Runbland should make the team. Otherwise, there aren’t many spots on the blue-line to be had and their offensive pipeline is nil.
Outlook: This team is boring as hell and I don’t want to really waste my team thinking about them. A lot depends on Mike Smith replicating his performance from last season. A dull team that competes every single night. Always dangerous. Continuing to watch Oliver Ekman-Larrson develop will be a pleasure. He should give fans in either Seattle or Quebec City something to cheer about for years to come.
New Players: Bryan Allen, Sheldon Souray, Daniel Winnik and Brad Staubitz.
Gone: Lubomir Visnovsky (currently doing everything he can not to be an Islander), Sheldon Brookbank (now a Blackhawk) and the mustachioed George Parros.
Not Gone: Teemu Selanne. He’s sticking around for one more season. Admit it, you don’t give a shit about the Ducks and you wanted him to be a Jet. I sure did
Young players to keep an eye on: Devante Smith-Pelly and potentially Emerson Etem. Both are good, strong forwards on a team desperately in need of some depth behind their big three. Power forward Kyle Palmeri is another candidate to see time in the NHL.
Outlook: Bruce Boudreau will coach his first full season with the Ducks. They got some help on the back end in free agency, but this is still a team with a few glaring problems. My theroy is that Jonas Hiller struggled because he stopped wearing that badass black helmet with the gold cage. Or maybe it was the vertigo. This is a team that teases a fire sale every year, but if they stumble this season it could finally happen. I want Bobby Ryan.
San Jose Sharks:
New Players: Brad Stuart (former Red Wing) and Adam Burish.
Gone: Torrey Mitchell and Daniel Winnik.
Young players to watch: Uh, none? There’s that tool who wears #69. They have Chicago area native Tommy Wingels who played well for them last season. They also have Sebastian Stalberg – Vik’s brother. In retrospect, they probably shouldn’t have traded Charlie Coyle.
Outlook: This is a team that has a bunch of good players but just never seems to be able to but it all together. Are Stuart and Burish what they’ve been missing all along? I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. I’m always conflicted when I think about the Sharks. I want to pull for Marty and Nemo and Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski are certainly likable players. But at the end of the day the fuckbaggery of Joe Thornton and guys likes Marc -Edouard Vlasic are enough to make me forget all that other stuff. Remember Thronton’s repeated targeting of the head of Jonathan Toews? Vlasic’s love of the slash behind the play? Then add the whole Hjammer offersheet thing. Yeah, screw the Sharks.
There were teams holding multiple first-round picks, teams looking to move disgruntled stars, teams looking to shed salary, and teams looking to improve their draft position. The 2012 NHL Entry Draft had all the makings of a first-round free-for-all — and for once, it did not disappoint!
Even before the first 10 picks were in the books, there were players and picks flying all over the room. Jordan Staal sent to Carolina for Brandon Sutter and the Hurricanes’ 1st round pick; Lubomir Visnovsky traded from the Ducks to the Islanders; Mike Ribiero went from Dallas to Washington.
And Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman was smack dab in the middle of all the action…
One concussion, one car accident, one too many moguls, one too many beers, one of any number of things can deep-six your carefully-chosen and highly-coveted first round selection in the NHL draft. In some ways, the pick has more value before it turns into a living, breathing human being: because once it is, you’re stuck with it — and whatever happens to it.
So in some ways, your first round pick is kind of like shooting skeet while blindfolded. You do your best and prepare carefully, but in the end your success rate depends just as much on luck and fate as it does on anything else.
When presented in that light, maybe we’re taking this draft business a little too seriously. But let’s face it: most of us aren’t interested in seeing who the Blackhawks pick with their #18 selection; we’re hoping that some deal gets done during the draft that changes the ‘Hawks roster, or draft position, or both. So let’s explore some possibilities.
Breaking down Patrick Kane’s season by looking at his end-of-year totals is impossible. All you see is the fact that his goals, assists, and points were all down against the last 2 years. The story of the boy’s season is much more intricate, and it all started last summer when a certain Blackhawks executive who shall remain nameless (but whose name rhymes with “Dan Showman”) decided to cover up his inability to obtain a second-line center, and in the process throw a wrench into Kane’s season.
In short, Kane was put in a position to fail, and I don’t hold him responsible for his statistical slump. It’s most demonstrably the fault of the guy who has never played a single minute of time in the NHL.
When the season ended, the five of us here at Cheer The Anthem held a “draft” of sorts, to determine who did which player’s evaluation. A couple of rounds went by and I saw that nobody had picked Patrick Kane yet. So I said, “Okay, sure, why not.”
That was late April.
Now, regretting that decision, I decided to separate this evaluation into two parts — to dispense with the off-ice shenanigans and trade discussion up front, then on Monday we’ll talk about how Kane plays hockey.
* * * * *
We’ve all seen the pictures and read the articles about Patrick Kane’s Cinco de Mayo visit to Madison, Wisconsin, so I’m not going to re-live the experience with you now. But from this we know three things: first, the kid is a binge drinker, if not an actual alcoholic; second, that this behavior has established itself as a pattern over the last 3 summers; and third, that he is to the point where he needs help. Arguing with these points is merely denying reality and making excuses for a kid who doesn’t need people to make excuses for him anymore.
The 2012 NHL trade deadline was awash in armchair quarterbacking, as is usually the case; but this year, nobody could agree on what the Blackhawks needed to add to the mix. There were advocates for replacing nearly every position on the ice, including misinformed Moneyball disciples treating players like futures contracts and suggesting that “Jonathan Toews‘ trade value has never been higher!”
Please, go launch a hostile takeover or something. Come at me with that nonsense, I’ll implant your graphing calculator in your pancreas — the fun way.
As it turns out, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman showed his impotence, failing to acquire the 2nd-line center that fans and media pundits had been unanimously clamoring for since 2010. He also added another “Who?” on the blue line, and unpleasant memories of The Chris Campoli Incident flashed before our eyes. Thank goodness Johnny Oduya turned out to be a far better bet, though his first 20 minutes in a Blackhawks uniform didn’t help to ease our fears one bit…
We should have seen this coming. Specifically, we should have taken Florida Panthers’ fans seriously when they echoed our, “Ha-ha, you got Skille!” chants with, “Ha-ha, you got Frolik!” Apparently the scouts on both teams had mad cow disease when doing the assessments on these guys. Like just watching them play wasn’t enough to make them walk away for good.
But at least Florida regained its common sense in the off-season. Whereas Jack Skille got re-signed at $825K, our intrepid StanBow somehow thought Michael Frolik was worth nearly double his salary from the previous two years, and on a 3-year contract to boot. Once the ink dried on that deal, it was very obvious who got the better of this trade.
And then the 2011-12 season started…
When the Blackhawks signed veteran winger Jamal Mayers in the off-season, I thought it was the best acquisition they made. 12-year veteran, decent size, decent speed, enough grit and gristle to be useful. Sure, past his prime. But for the price we signed him at, he might chip in for 10 goals and 15 assists and provide some veteran leadership on the 3rd or 4th lines.
Those totals didn’t materialize (6G + 9A, and zippo in the playoffs), but we got a healthy dose of what Mayers was made of in the first 15 games of the season. Before the campaign was a month old he had 2 goals, including a game-winner, plus 2 helpers; and was getting an average of one shot on goal each night. He also took it upon himself to beat the crap out of no fewer than 5 guys. He was the only Blackhawk who registered a fighting major until Daniel “CarBomb” Carcillo went nuts during the Vancouver game on November 6th. Mayers was doing all of this while logging an average of only 10 minutes of ice time a night.
So now the season is over, and Mayers is a free agent. He was, arguably, the best investment Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman made — dollar for dollar — in the 2011 off-season. Hard not to pass on that kind of success again…
Go ahead and think sweet thoughts about how the Blackhawks stormed back from 0-3 down against Vancouver last season. Say it. “Anything can happen!” “It’s not over yet!”
This doesn’t feel the same, though, does it?
Losing back-to-back overtime playoff games on home ice is one thing, but the manner in which they were lost is even more disheartening. Once again, Mikkel Boedker slipped one past Corey Crawford in the extra period, and the Coyotes took a 3-1 series lead over the ‘Hawks with a 3-2 win Thursday at the United Center.
What we’ve seen in this series is a team consistently one step behind the other, constantly giving chase, even making it interesting at times, but ultimately falling short. I don’t for one second believe the Blackhawks have been badly outplayed in this series, but Phoenix is playing just well enough to overcome the talent gap and is beating the ‘Hawks on scheme rather than skill.
The whole let’s-spot-the-Coyotes-a-lead-until-late-in-the-third-period-then-tie-it-when-we-look-defeated thing might be exciting, and this series has had no shortage of free hockey. It’s the mental lapses that lead the games to get to that point that are the most frustrating, and Phoenix is taking full advantage.
There’s no doubt the ‘Hawks missed Marian Hossa and even Andrew Shaw, but what ultimately changed? The same shit happens whether they’re in the lineup or not. The Blackhawks are that close, but it really doesn’t mean a damn thing. Losing one-goal, overtime games is the same as losing 10-0. If it was January and the ‘Hawks were playing this way, we could say, “The Blackhawks haven’t played at their best the past four games and they’ve still taken all of them to overtime and earned a point. That’s a good sign.”
In the playoffs, it gets you down 3-1 in a series to a team that doesn’t possess the talent, but just wants it more. And that’s the thing – it really doesn’t seem like the ‘Hawks want it until they’ve fallen behind. They can talk all they want about what needs to change and they know where their deficiencies lie. They did that all season. It’s nothing new. But if you can’t change what needs to be changed, if you can’t execute the way you know you must, then all that talk is about as useful as screen door in a submarine.
If seeing Hossa go off on a stretcher isn’t enough to get the ‘Hawks psyched to be flying all over the ice, then what in the funky hell is enough? What’s it going to take? If they know the answer, it may be too late anyway.
A full day has passed, and I still can’t believe the ‘Hawks won that game. Complete disappointment to utter elation to ridiculously nervous to celebratory shots all in about 40 minutes. Saturday had some of everything.
And once again, it had Brent Seabrook. Definitely the MVP of the first two games for the Blackhawks, Seabrook was a part of a last-second regulation goal to tie the game. His blast from the point was redirected past Mike Smith by Patrick Sharp, sending the ‘Hawks into OT where Bryan Bickell would win it 4-3.
Just a couple of quick things as we await Game 3 at the UC on Tuesday…
♦ First, let’s address the “hit” on Smith by Andrew Shaw. Before getting fully into it, the NHL needs to immediately institute a rule that states if a player needs medical attention from the bench due to an apparent blow to the head, said player should be required to be taken to the locker room for testing as soon as he’s able to stand on the ice. With all the constant policing against hits to the head and the effects on star players – Jonathan Toews, Sidney Crosby, etc. – you would think this would be in the rulebook already.
Smith laid there for a few minutes as if he had gotten shot. Shaw clearly was trying to avoid the contact, and whatever happened incidentally did not require the sack-of-bricks fall and ensuing fake blackout by Smith. If it was that serious, Smith should never have stayed in the game. Instead, we may have witnessed the best dive of the playoffs – even better than Ryan Kesler’s load of bullshit on Sunday night – that almost cost the ‘Hawks the game due to a major penalty call.
Shaw will meet with Brendan Shanahan today, and if Shaw is issued any sort of suspension, Shanahan should immediately be fired. For the rest of his career as The Shanahammer, he’ll have to answer for not penalizing Shea Weber and rightly so. For Shaw to be levied a suspension and Weber allowed to skate free would be such a crime there’s no way Shanahan can ever be taken seriously again.
When teams finish off the regular season hot and head into the playoffs on a role, you can throw the records and the seeds out the window. Sometimes, things inexplicably just seem to go right for said team.
Phoenix played roughly 59 and a half minutes without their leading scorer, survived a possibly deflating tying goal late in the third and beat the Blackhawks in Game 1 3-2 in overtime on Thursday night in the desert.
Radim Vrbata played all of 30 seconds before leaving with an injury, but Martin Hazal’s redirect past Corey Crawford ended up being the difference – along with some help from Mike Smith.
A series of icing calls in OT didn’t help either, the last coming from Marcus Kruger, who subsequently lost the ensuing draw to Hanzal before he scored the winner.
It ruined the comeback of Jonathan Toews, who wasted little time showing how much the ‘Hawks missed him. He scored the game’s first goal and later assisted on Brent Seabrook‘s tally with less than 15 seconds left in regulation.
So, what went wrong? A lot of things…
♦ The Coyotes’ first goal had such incredible amounts of horrendous shit happening that I can barely bring myself to discuss it. Niklas Hjalmarsson hasn’t exactly been Mr. Dependable in the last, well, most of the season, but that might have been the worst shift of his life. In a span of about 45 seconds, Hjammer made an errant pass for an in-zone turnover, whiffed on a clearing attempt, sent a blind ring around the boards, poked away a badly needed freeze from Crawford, before finally allowing Taylor Pyatt to slip behind him to knock in a goal that was all – and I mean ALL – Hjammer’s fault.
What a fucking deflating stretch that was for the ‘Hawks. And no, I won’t ignore the fact the Coyotes got away with a blatant too many men non-penalty that could’ve been called by Stevie Wonder. However, there was too much farting from Hjammer going on that it trumps those two seconds of blindness from the refs. I saw many people blaming the officiating after the game, but that’s just a poor excuse from sore losers. The ‘Hawks lost that game on their own, and it all started with Hjammer’s terrible play on this goal.
♦ If that weren’t enough, the Blackhawks got caught badly in a change, leading to known cocksucker Raffi Torres skating into the zone unabated before finding Antoine Vermette for the go-ahead goal. Hjammer is an actual human being and is not invisible, but he still parked himself in Crawford’s line of sight, allowing Vermette to blast it home.
♦ Quick give me a good reason why Sean O’Donnell played ahead of Dylan Olsen. Now, take your reasoning of, “Maybe Q doesn’t want to play so many rookies in the playoffs,” and shove it directly into your asscrack. Hurry and try and find another one. I dare you.
O’Donnell not only provided a lovely screen on the OT goal, but he was so far away from the net on an even-strength point shot that I have to wonder if he’s ever played hockey before in his life. Nick Leddy was left to deal with Hanzal in front of the crease, and that proved to be no good for anyone as Hazal got his stick on the shot and put it in.
As Nakis pointed out on Facebook, it’s time to send O’Donnell to the glue factory. Go ahead and play the “He has playoff experience!” card, too, if you wish. That’s bullshit as well. Put his old ass in the press box and call it a day. Damnit.
♦ Brandon Bollig over Jimmy Hayes in the playoffs, when teams barely drop the gloves? Yep, makes sense – for all six minutes of Bollig’s ice time. Thanks.
♦ Part of me loved the energy Andrew Shaw brought to the game. The logical part of me was screaming at him to calm the fuck down (oxymoron?). Shaw was at it before the puck even dropped and continued running his mouth throughout the game. He luckily got away with a blatant trip with about three minutes left that could’ve killed the Blackhawks’ chance to tie the game.
♦ Speaking of, when Seabrook scored that goal, not once did I think the ‘Hawks were going to lose this game. What’s got two thumbs and was very, very wrong? This guy.
♦ Once again dividing myself in two, I’m conflicted on what Vrbata’s injury may do in the grand scheme of things for this series. On one hand, if it’s serious and he can’t play, it seems to be a great advantage for the ‘Hawks with the opposition’s leading score shelved. On the other hand, the Coyotes just beat the Blackhawks by taking advantage of mistakes and getting solid goaltending from Smith. Vrbata may not have made much difference. Let’s wait for the diagnosis, I guess.
Game 2 in the desert on Saturday night. Most of the CtA crew will be out and about watching the ‘Hawks hopefully tie things up, and we’ll let you know where we’re headed if anyone wants to watch me freak out over absolutely everything that happens while drinking heavily.
And with those 4.5 words, he’s back.
Jonathan Toews officially will play in Game 1 against the Phoenix Coyotes tonight, and may we all rejoice and breathe a sigh of relief. After sitting out 22 games due to a concussion, the Captain will return.
Here’s what he told Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune:
“I’m very excited. I don’t think I’ve gone through anything like this in my career where it’s been touch-and-go for just over two months and you don’t really know when you’re going to feel 100 percent. (And) you’re doing everything you can and it seems to always be the same thing every time you wake up. These last couple of weeks have been really good. I’ve worked really hard not only to get over this but to feel ready and feel well enough to play a game. I’m really happy about that. Not only myself but the rest of the guys are excited to go out there and play.”
Obviously, this doesn’t guarantee anything in terms of wins and loses, but there’s no bad news about finding out Toews will be in the lineup. Does Q send him out there centering Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa? Will he shy away from contact at all? One thing is for certain, the Coyotes aren’t going to go easy on Toews for a single second. He’ll be the target of physical play every shift he’s on the ice.
Either way, things got a whole lot better for tonight’s matchup. See you on Comcast at 9pm.