Another third period collapse cost the Blackhawks a point on Saturday, and it was only due to remarkable goaltending on the part of Corey Crawford that they managed to keep it to one. But the story was different on Sunday, as the Blackhawks erupted for four goals in the third period, turning up the gas and stuffing the previous night’s loss down the Predators’ throats.
Additionally it was a weekend that showed some of the areas of weakness the Blackhawks need to work on: between the two games their superstar forwards scored only one of the ‘Hawks’ eight goals; penalty killing was heinous; and the predictability of the Blackhawks’ shootout participants means everyone but the greenest of rookie goaltenders knows who is shooting, in what order, and where they will be aiming for.
There were 13 former hawks to take the ice last night amassing a total of just one goal and one assist. The on goalie won his second game in a row and his name is Antti Niemi. Hope you enjoy this edition of the Espo. I don’t know what I am going to do this week without any hawks games… Might actually do homework for once…
Click the jump for updates from the 1/17/11 games
This edition of the Espo has the games from Saturday and Sunday night. Saturday the former hawks had a good night. Antti got his first win in a while and the skater had ten points scoring three goals and seven assists. (Pretty good production from these guys.) On Sunday there were seven ex-Feather heads to take the ice. The two goalies split their decisions. The one win came from the goalie who is playing his ass off this season and the other one got a DUI in the crease… The skaters produced four goals totaling 14 points for the weekend, seven of both goals and assists. Hope you enjoy this edition and had a good weekend. Was a loooong weekend for this college kid… But at least the Hawks got 3 of 4 points possible.
Click the jump for updates from this weekends games
The Chicago Blackhawks have an important two games this weekend with the division rival Predators, who just had a six-game win streak come to an end with a 3 – 2 loss to Florida. We know this team and their strategy well: aggressive two-man forecheck; three-across modified trap defense; and stingy — but not impenetrable — goaltending.
The Preds are 2nd in the league in goals against, but 24th in goals scored. Their leading scorer Patrick Hornqvist has a whopping 13 goals. Patrick Sharp has 25 goals, and the Blackhawks have 6 players with 10 goals or more.
So the key for this weekend will be breaking out of our zone, smashing through their defense, and pummeling their goaltender. Also mission-critical: ZERO mistakes in our own zone. Having Nick Boynton out of the lineup should help to minimize that problem. We lost the first two games to these guys this season, but took the third in a definitive 4 – 1 victory at home on December 22 — battering goaltender Anders Lindback with 35 shots. Repeat that performance, and we’re golden.
So that’s the Predators in a nutshell: now on to more important matters. There are several things to be on the lookout for with the Blackhawks, first among them rookie goaltender Corey Crawford. Craw-daddy has a 120+ minute shutout streak going, and will start again tonight in Nashville.
First up, let’s dispense with the “gotta be a record” talk. The modern era record is 323 minutes set by Brian Boucher with Phoenix in 2004. But the longest shutout streak in the history of the NHL is held by Alec Connell of the Ottawa Senators back in 1927 — 461 minutes, 29 seconds. Seven and a half games.
But the really interesting talk involves a certain trophy that starts with a ‘C’ that is given to the top rookie in the NHL. This, to my way of thinking, is the Chicago media types getting WAY ahead of themselves and creating something fun to write about.
After all, when Steve Mason won the rookie of the year back in 2008-09 he racked up 33 wins. Corey Crawford is currently at 15, and there are 37 games left in the season. Assuming he gets 4 out of 5 starts, he’d have to win 18 of those 30 games to meet Mason’s mark. Not that 33 wins is the minimum requirement, I’m just saying — it’s a long shot. Let’s be happy that we have a hot starter with a strong, veteran waiting in the wings, and hope it continues.
The other thing to keep an eye on will happen when the puck drops, and will be invisible to the naked eye. Rookie defenseman Nick Leddy is playing his 10th game with the Blackhawks tonight. The minute the puck drops, Nick Leddy is likely to be with the Blackhawks for the rest of the season.
The ten-game threshold is the point at which the team “burns” the first year of Leddy’s entry-level contract. That means that the team has decided that Leddy is ready for the NHL, and is willing to back up that opinion by tossing aside a half-million dollars. From a practical perspective, the team would not breech this limit without a firm intention to keep Leddy in Chicago for the remainder of the season. No sense in blowing 500 large if you aren’t going to get your money’s worth.
Get used to seeing Nick Leddy as the fifth D-man with the Blackhawks. A welcome change.
Game time is 7:00pm tonight in Music City. TV is Comcast SportsNet, broadcast radio is WGN AM-720, and XM subscribers can find the game on channel 239.
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There were nine former hawks to take the ice last night. Eight of them were skaters who only were able to produce one goal, which was by a fine Ladd-y. The one goalie to play decided to get off his ass and start playing… and put up an impressive performance.
Click the jump for updates from the 1/14/11 games
The Colorado Avalanche are an enigma. They are 3 – 5 – 2 in their last 10 games, the most recent of which were a win over Detroit and losses to the Islanders and Phoenix. But the start of the season they were on a tear, and they currently sit one point ahead of Chicago in the Western Conference standings.
There is simply no telling which Avalanche team is going to show up on any given night with this bunch. They could skate circles around the team leading the league in points, or they could give up 6 goals to some cellar dweller.
However, we know one thing: they’ve beaten the Blackhawks three times already this season, including back-to-back defeats in a home-and-home in mid-December. So the four-game season series is blown: now we’re just playing for the two points, and pride.
Matt McClure of Second City Hockey sent out a few questions for us idiots to discuss now that we have just passed the midway point of the season. The answers come from myself, Forklift of Hockee Night, Sam Fels of The Committed Indian, SCH and NBC.com’s Madhouse Enforcer, the Fifth Feather and Chris Block of The Third Man In. Enjoy, ya’ll.
McClure: All right men, it’s been far too long since we’ve done one of these. It seems like it’s a decent point in the season to do one so let’s get at it, shall we?
1) What do you see as being wrong with Duncan Keith to this point in the season, and can it be fixed?
Forklift: I’m hoping it’s something as simple as him being a little overwhelmed at being paid $8 million, and is trying to do too much. You can see where he’s just not simplifying his game – looking for that one extra pass, shooting where there’s no lane, playing with the puck too much. All things that are not part of the Duncan Keith game.
I’m envisioning the solution being R. Lee Ermey walking into the Hawks’ dressing room and yelling at him “What’s the matter with you, boy? You’re DUNCAN KEITH!!! Start playing like you’re DUNCAN KEITH!!! Do you understand me???”
Fifth Feather: At this point in the season, other than blasting shot after shot off shin guards, he’s been alright. His start to the season is what everyone remembers now, but the mistakes Keith has been making lately (poor angles, firing the puck away without looking, etc.) are all things he’s been doing his whole career. So I’m not sure those things will ever be wholly rectified.
The difference between last year and this year was his shot finding the back of the net with a bit more regularity and his mistakes weren’t as glaring because when he did make them, it was Huet’s fault or the opposition didn’t capitalize on them.
Bartl: I’m inclined to side with The Feather here, because a lot of his mistakes are things we’ve seen before. The difference seems to be they’re happening a lot more frequently than last season. Maybe he’s over-thinking, trying to anticipate the opponent’s forecheck rather than than reacting to what it gives him to work with. The blind passes are more frequent, and when he does hold possession, he seems to be holding it too long. Far too many times he’s been caught dilly-dalying with the puck as the opposition moves on in him force a turnover or at least slow down the ‘Hawks attack. Then there’s the obvious blind shots without finding a lane before firing. Whether or not it can be fixed depends on him dealing with the mental side of getting over his mistakes, in my opinion.
4 Games last night, in which 6 former featherheads played. One point was recorded which was an assist from Kris Versteeg. Oh and Detroit *Spitting Noise* lost, making me a very happy guy. Enjoy folks…
Click the jump for updates from the 1/2/11 games
As usual, Mondays after two weekend games gets you a double dose of Boxing. Boom
I can sit here and say, “Yeah we got four points, but look at the competition,” but I may be in the minority of people who say the Blackhawks could be turning a corner.
The reason I bring up the possibility of a stretch of improved play is simply because of momentum. Sometimes, a couple of crappy wins can turn out to be the saving grace for a struggling team. The reason? The players remove the word “crappy” and look at the bare basics: A win is a win.
There won’t be any bold predictions from me guaranteeing this, nor will I say it cannot happen. But I’m leaning more on the side of this weekend being good for the Blackhawks’ 2011. Maybe it’s just the meatball in me.
Patrick Kane looks like he’s finally fully healthy. More importantly, he looks like he cares. His Give A Fuck has been broken for most of this season, so hopefully that got repaired along with his ankle.
The penalty kill still blows, though they killed their one against the Isles. That ended five straight de-pants-ings on the kill.
And how about dat der Corey Crawford guy der. First shutout of the season Sunday, and it was well deserved.
Not gonna waste a ton of time going over two games you’ve already seen, so here’s Boxing. As always, click the images to enlarge.
First up, ‘Hawks/Sens from Friday…
Click the jump for Boxing with ‘Hawks/Sens, followed by ‘Hawks/Isles
Go to the Senators home page, click on “News.” You’ll laugh your ass off.
“Senators Working Towards Major Turnaround.” “Alfredsson: We believe that we can be better.” “Sens GM Maintains Belief Turnaround Is Possible.” “Senators Carrying Optimism Into Season’s Second Half.”
Translation: “We know we suck, we’ll try to do better.”