Blackhawks

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Gameday Preview: Caps v. Hawks

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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.

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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.”

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Game Day Illustrated: Kings v. Blackhawks Game 2

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Interregnum Illustrated: Hawks-Wild Game 5

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Blackhawks Game Day Illustrated – Let’s Do It Again!

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An in-depth look at Patrick Kane, his wrists, and how his 2011 injury affected him.

 

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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.

 

 

Patrick Kane with his cast

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:
 
http://video.blackhawks.nhl.com/videocenter/console?id=2011020060-406-h
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:

http://video.blackhawks.nhl.com/videocenter/console?id=2011020159-603-h

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:

http://video.blackhawks.nhl.com/videocenter/console?id=2011020479-412-h

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.

http://video.blackhawks.nhl.com/videocenter/console?id=2011021184-427-h

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:

http://video.blackhawks.nhl.com/videocenter/console?id=2012020503-479-h

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:

http://video.blackhawks.nhl.com/videocenter/console?id=2012020425-275-h

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.

 

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Blackhawks Game Day: All Hail the Blender

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Interregnum Illustrated: Hawks-Blues Game 3

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The Interregnum Illustrated: Hawks-Blues Game 3

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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).

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Interregnum Illustrated: Hawks-Blues Game 1

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Game One is in the books. Now comes the Horrible Lull before Game Two, where nightmares reign.

“Series On” : Blackhawks-Red Wings Game Two Recap

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 bullets asterisks:

* 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.

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Photo by Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune

Blackhawks Look to Make History Against Canucks

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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.

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This Is Not the Trap Game You Are Looking For: Blackhawks @ Predators Warmup

One half of 21 years and almost $200M of the Preds’ defense

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.

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Blackhawks 6 – Coyotes 4 : ‘Hawks collect points out west

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.

96-97 Bicycle NHL Aces Playing Cards

CtA Season Preview: Pacific Division Edition

96-97 Bicycle NHL Aces Playing Cards

96-97 Bicycle NHL Aces Playing Cards

(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.)

Pacific Division

2011-2012 Standings:
#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.

Dallas Stars:

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.

Phoenix Coyotes:

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.

Anaheim Ducks:

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 StalbergVik’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.