During the third period of the Toronto matchup on Saturday, Blackhawks’ defenseman Duncan Keith blocked a shot with his right hand and appeared to get hurt. Today in Florida he was not on the ice for practice, however we got a heaping helping of zilch regarding the full extent of the injury.
What the Blackhawks have done the last 10 games in the Western Conference, the Toronto Maple Leafs have done in the East. With who’s-THIS-fucking-guy goaltender James Reimer between the pipes, the Leafs have surged to a 6-1-3 record over their last ten games. After having been written off for another year by pretty much everyone as recently as the All-Star Break, they are now within 4 points of a playoff spot.
Tonight the Leafs play host to the similarly-resurgent Chicago Blackhawks, setting up a Clash of the Titans in the NHL’s broadcast media Coliseum: an Original-Six matchup on CBC’s Saturday night edition of Hockey Night in Canada. The only thing that would make this more perfect is if it were at Maple Leaf Gardens. But alas, time marches on.
“Hear about the Hurricanes?” Ask this question, even in Raleigh, and the answer usually comes back, “No! Was anybody hurt? Are they coming here? Do I need to board up the house?” Ask 100 random people on the streets of Chicago who Eric Staal is, about 3 will know he’s the Captain of the Hurricanes. I doubt you’ll find more than 2 who can answer that question correctly within a 10 block radius of the RBC Center.
Carolina’s about chitterlings, NASCAR, basketball and good ol’ Southern hospitality. Not exactly hockey country. Easy to explain why, like most teams south of the Mason-Dixon line, the ‘Canes are in the bottom half of the league for nightly attendance, filling only 17 out of every 20 seats on average. Shame, too: because even with a team put together with a $10 million salary cap cushion, they are in 7th place in the Eastern Conference and will likely make the playoffs.
My best bud sent me a text during an intermission: “Jonathan Toews is on a drug. It’s called ‘Jonathan Toews.’”
I couldn’t have put it better myself.
The addiction has seem to spread to the Blackhawks, who are playing their best hockey of the season following a 6-4 win against Calgary on Wednesday. The best part? The Flames were just as good. There’s no question the better team won.
Both of Toews’ goals were gorgeous, with the first even more handsome after Patrick Kane hit Patrick Sharp cross-ice, leaving Toews wide open in the crease. The second? Just the captain being the captain.
Marian Hossa capped it with a goal in his fifth straight game.
There was plenty more in between, including a mini-breakdown at the beginning of the third period, but Boxing will do the rest of my talking. Have at it:
Welcome back to the return of Behind Enemy Lines! Today, Vicki Hall of the Calgary Herald answers a few questions regarding the Flames’ surge up the Western Conference standings, the previous three matchups this season and the resurgence of Jarome Iginla.
It’s clear Vicki put a lot of thought into her answers. If this is one interview you read all the way through, make sure it’s this one.
Bartl: The fluctuating Western Conference standings reordered again Tuesday with Calgary’s win against St. Louis, moving the Flames back ahead of the Blackhawks. Can you shed some light on how Calgary has responded to what’s at stake with each game as it shoots to return to the postseason?
Hall: The Flames have basically been fighting for their playoff lives since Christmas. Seriously. They languished in 14th place at the time and had little, if any, chance of clawing back into the race. Somehow, they’ve done just that by breaking the season into three-game segments and pledging to win at least two out of every three. They’ve accomplished that goal, thus far, but much work remains.
Click the jump for the rest of the Q&A
Shhhh… Come closer…
I’m not going to say this too loud. I’m preposterously superstitious, and the jinx factor is as strong as using the word “sh****t” when a goalie is going into the third period with no goals against. So lean in…
The Blackhawks have a winning streak going. Five games and counting.
You just can’t make it easy can you, Blackhawks?
When Tomas Kopecky decided to be, well, Tomas Kopecky, and flick the puck over the boards for absolutely no justified reason, I thought for sure the league’s 26th-ranked penalty was going to let Minnesota tie it.
It was a welcome surprise to not only see a solid kill, but then have Jonathan Toews make a perfect pass to Marian Hossa for the game-clinching shorty.
From 9th to 5th in a matter of a couple hours. Five straight wins allows for such things. Most importantly, Monday’s 4-2 victory against the Wild came in regulation to avoid handing over an extra point to a team the Blackhawks are fighting in the constantly fluctuating Western Conference standings.
I’m very tired tonight, so I’m going to let Boxing do most of the talking. Enjoy, ya’ll.
With all the attention on the NHL trade deadline today (when the Blackhawks picked up defenseman Chris Campoli from the Ottawa Senators for pathetic minor-league flame-out Ryan Potulny and an exchange of draft picks) it was easy to forget that the ‘Hawks have a game tonight. The Men of Four Feathers are in Minnesota to take on the Wild, a team with an identical record but by virtue of the screwy tie-breaking system sit just ahead of them in the Western Conference standings.
This is a must-win game, the fourth in a stretch of 22 must-win games for the Blackhawks. But we’ll add another requirement to the Blackhawks’ job tonight: win in REGULATION.
The funny thing is the points awarded to each the Blackhawks and Coyotes somewhat relates to the scoring of a boxing match.
The Blackhawks won periods one and three, dominating like we haven’t seen nearly enough of this season. Phoenix took the second period when the ‘Hawks left their talent in the locker room.
Two points for Chicago, one for the Coyotes.
I guess the main point, however, is that we need not necessarily worry about HOW the points are earned right now – just that they’re earned. Obviously handing over a point to a team we’re chasing in the West isn’t anywhere near ideal, but progress was made – even if it’s not the amount we really wanted.
Oh right, the astoundingly good things. Well, I’d like to know how many true fans of other teams can look at one player on their roster and say, “I know that he’s not going to let me down tonight,” each time their team hits the ice. Blackhawks fans are fortunate enough to have Jonathan Toews be that guy. It never gets old to praise the Captain, and he proves worthy of it each night. The fact that he’s not discussed more is a testament to just how ridiculously solid he has been this season, almost as if he’s willing this team to get into the playoffs.
Oh, and Marian Hossa is once again nearing man-crush status. He’s scored a goal in three straight games for the first time since Oct. 15-18.
♦ Fels already beat me to it, but I was thinking the same thing as him when Jordan Hendry went down: Stan Bowman is most likely going to overpay for a defenseman today. It’s going to happen, we just have to hope it’s no one like a Troy Brouwer who will be the price. I never, ever, ever, ever in a million years thought I’d say this, but releasing Nick Boynton may have come at the wrong time. While I absolutely and genuinely think he brings nothing positive to the ice, it would be nice to have that extra defensive body who has at least had experience playing with these guy be available. If Bowman ends up farting away a top-6 forward or harming the future by dealing a top prospect for a rental defenseman, The Curse of Nick Boynton will continue …
♦ Hi, penalty kill. Any chance this improves in my lifetime? Combine the extreme problems the ‘Hawks had tonight – which all but led to them blowing a pair of two-goal leads – with Hendry’s injury, and Bowman has 60 minutes of film to justify being as desperate as virgin one-legged midget come the deadline. It’s going to take some restraint from him to not make a reaction trade to tonight’s events. Hopefully he slept on it rather than making calls immediately after the ‘Hawks left the ice.
♦ Corey Crawford is second in the NHL in goals-against average. If any of you out there, even those who believe Crawford was ready to play in the league, say you believed this would happen this year, you’re lying and it’s not funny.
Boxing will take you from here ….
Today is the kick-off to the most grueling part of the Blackhawks’ season: five games over seven days, starting with three opponents hovering just above them in the Western Conference standings. Today’s opponent is the Phoenix Coyotes, who recently wrapped up an 8-game winning streak that included a 3 – 2 shootout win against Chicago. It was this stretch of solid play that propelled them to fourth place in the West.
This is a big one for the Blackhawks, and we owe these pukes. But how do we derail this train?