All right, it’s really late so you’re not going to get any analysis from me tonight other than what’s in the “Boxing.” However, be sure to check out today’s Daily Esposito below this post to catch up on your former Blackhawks.
Click the images to enlarge and, as always, I hope you enjoy it.
It’s been an exciting few days for Blackhawks fans, as we wound down the Circus Trip with four wins, our star winger got injured at practice, and the phrase “goalie controversy” threatened to rear its ugly head again. But we’ll get to that in a minute. The task at hand are the boys in blue and gold, and game time is not even 12 hours away.
The clamoring for Corey Crawford to get the nod in net Tuesday has come to fruition. Unfortunately, so has the official confirmation that Nick Boynton is a worthless piece of shit.
CSN’s Tracey Myers (@TramyersCSN) reported a couple of nuggets on her Twitter account today. First, Boynton and Marian Hossa collided in practice and Hossa was sent back to the locker room to be looked at. No word yet on Hossa’s condition. However, if Hossa is out for an extended period of time yet again, Boynton and his lisp are going to be swinging from a building somewhere.
Myers reported later that Crawford will get his third straight start Tuesday night against St. Louis. He’s 4-0-0 with a 1.23 GAA in his last four starts, including three road victories. Giving the kid a start at home riding a hot streak should’ve gone without saying, but it was good to see Joel Quenneville announce it early.
The only time Crawford faced the Blues was Feb. 2, 2006 in a 6-5 shootout loss. Crawford gave up five goals and made 34 saves in a brief call-up.
It should also go without saying that Q needs to ride Crawford as long as possible with the way he’s been playing. A loss shouldn’t immediately relegate Crawford back to the bench if he plays well. For a Blackhawks team seemingly lacking a spark, Crawford resembles the closest thing to a pick-me-up at the moment.
And on top of all that, Marty Turco is the class act we all knew he was. According to Brian Hamilton of the Trib:
“Corey’s going to play, I think, and he should,” Turco said. “He’s been playing great, he’s been playing great all year, has won a few in a row. We want to get on a roll. I’m here to win, no matter what.”
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”
Since the LA Kings visited the United Center on October 27th, the Kings went on a tear. Los Angeles won six in a row, followed by a six-game stretch in which they allowed the opposing teams to take 11 of the 12 possible points from them. The Blackhawks arrive in Los Angeles on the occasion of that 13th game, wondering if the Kings will break their streak of bad luck, or start a new one.
The teams that de-throned the Kings in that stretch were nothing to sneeze at, including Columbus and Montreal, both in the top four teams of their respective conferences. But the key to these wins appears, statistically at least, to be dependent on two players. With rare exception, the following maxim is true: if Jonathan Quick plays, LA wins. If Jonathan Bernier gets the start, LA loses. Chicago faced Bernier in their game at the United Center.
Tonight, the Blackhawks will face Jonathan Quick.
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…
Well, not much to be thankful for after that shit. I’d have rather eaten my roommate’s toe jam.
I know this may sound vague, but that game was just bad to watch. At no point did I feel confident about a ‘Hawks victory. And if any of you clowns start talking about Antti Niemi and how the Blackhawks got a first-hand glimpse of why we miss him, I may hang myself with dental floss.
Granted, he played well. However, a few other goalies who haven’t been in net when the ‘Hawks won the Stanley Cup have also played well against us this season. So, let’s move on from that.
It’s quite clear Nick Boynton needs to remove his penis from Jen Patterson long enough to play some serviceable hockey. What has Jordan Hendry done to be in QStache’s dog house? Why does he continue to troll Boynton and Jassen Cullimore on the ice when Hendry hasn’t done to warrant the constant healthy scratches? It’s starting to become mind-boggling.
More dipshit penalties, such as Bryan Bickell’s absolute comeback killer with a holding-the-stick call, then a follow-up unsportsmanlike conduct for a double minor which is the clear result of him being a fucking whining bitch. Sit in the box and shut the fuck up. You already did something stupid, don’t do more stupid stuff.
The best thing was Patrick Sharp’s awesome deflection past Niemi. Good to see him back in the groove with three goals in four games. Neato stuff there.
Marian Hossa got another assist, giving him four in two games. However, he’s scored one goal in 12 games. That needs to end soon.
Oh, and did the ‘Hawks leave Patrick Kane in Vegas to pick up hookers and drink his own piss hoping to drink the same 39 beers twice? It would be nice to see some consistency. Games like his 1 G, 2 A performance against Vancouver are too few and far between. Kane has 22 points, which is one off Sharp’s pace, but imagine if he played every single game like he played last season when he was trying to overcome the “20 Cent” label. Christ Almighty.
I have some more stuff in a Turkey Day edition of “Boxing.” Sorry again for the delay in these, and thanks to those who enjoy it so much to send messages telling me how much you love it. As Tim said yesterday, sometimes life gets in the way. You’re alive and reading it now, so you’ll be fine.
Click on the images to enlarge. See you again Friday for Gordan Bombay Appreciation Night.
Well! What a difference 6 months makes.
6 months and one day ago, Antti Niemi was stellar between the pipes for Chicago as the Blackhawks swept the San Jose Sharks from the Western Conference Finals on their way to winning the Stanley Cup.
Now, Niemi is struggling in net for the Sharks, and both teams are shadows of their former selves. Chicago is hovering just one point above the 8th spot in the West; and if the playoffs were to start today, the Sharks would be scouting good tee times. So while on the surface this game appears to be a heated re-match of last year’s playoff encounter, in reality it will likely come down to which team sucks less.
The Sharks have been streaky this year: win two, lose two. Win three, lose three. They are coming off a loss and two OT defeats in their last three games, due in no small part to feeble goaltending. Neither Niemi nor starter Antero Nittymaki could get their team through overtime in their previous two efforts, and neither Colorado nor Dallas needed more than 3 shots to dent the twine for the game-winner. With Niemi’s 3.93 GAA, that honestly should come as a surprise to nobody.
Offense has been San Jose’s bread and butter for some time now, with Uber-Players Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley leading the charge on the team’s first line. They are getting goal support from other players too this year, with Ryane Clowe, Joe Pavelski and defenseman Dan Boyle close behind in the points race. That explains why the Sharks have scored five or more goals in 5 of their 9 wins so far this season.
Defense hasn’t been stellar so far, with half of their core lineup hovering at or below the +1 mark, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic bringing up the rear with a -10 on the season. Former Blackhawks draft pick Kent Huskins is a bright spot, with two assists and a +7 in 19 games.
The slow start to the year has San Jose fans puzzled, and the blogosphere talking trade. One thing is for sure: this is not last year’s Sharks.
So much the better, because this is not last year’s Blackhawks either. This time last year, the Blackhawks were wrapping up an 8-game winning streak that would leave their record at 16-5-2. This year, the Hawks longest winning streak is 4 games, and their record is 11-10-2.
Confidence should be high in the locker room, however: the Blackhawks’ had 13 players with at least one point in Saturday’s 7 – 1 win over Vancouver, chasing long-time whipping-boy Roberto Luongo in the process. It was a night for the stars to come out and play: Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane, and Jonathan Toews all lit the lamp, and Marian Hossa had 3 assists on the night.
Also starting to shine more brightly is Troy Brouwer, who has two goals in as many games and is starting to assert himself more decisively. Recently-written-off Fernando Pisani has four points in five games; and don’t look now, but Viktor Stalberg is fifth on the team with six goals, and he hasn’t even adjusted to playing with Kane and Toews yet. If that line ever gels the way it potentially could, they could change games all by themselves.
Goaltending remains solid: both netminders are above .900 save percentage and below 3.00 GAA, and one more win puts Corey Crawford back at the .500 mark for the year.
The weak spot continues to be defense, where the play of (though it pains me to say it) Duncan Keith deserves to be singled out as particularly sub-par. At least once a period he’s making a bad pass, getting his pocket picked, or losing a battle against the boards that allows a scoring chance for the opposing team.
It’s almost to the point of asking, “What’s wrong with the kid?” Bad breakup with the fiancee? Family member sick? Paying too much for car insurance? This is *not* the Norris Trophy-winning defenseman we saw last year, and honestly, something needs to be done about it. I have a feeling that if Dunc gets his act together this team will start to see a substantial rebound. In my opinion, somebody needs to take the reins on that task. Coach Q…
Late start tonight: puck drops at 9:30pm Chicago time. It’s a national broadcast on the NHL Network, though Chicago viewers will see the game on WGN. Broadcast radio is WGN AM-720, and XM subscribers should tune in to channel 205
A few bits and pieces from around the league on the Blackhawks’ day off.
Fan voting for the NHL All-Star Game has always seemed to me to be the election easiest to rig. Teams scatter fan ballots like confetti all over home games, and team with the most fans at the most games gets the most players into the game. The league is trying to put a lid on that, in its own way; but in the mean time the Blackhawks are reaping the benefits.
Despite his play being less than stellar of late, Blackhawks’ defenseman Duncan Keith is currently ranked first among defensemen, and second overall behind only Sidney Crosby in All-Star fan voting. Other notables on the Blackhawks include Jonathan Toews (3rd among forwards), Patrick Kane (5th) and Marian Hossa (8th). Some dedicated souls have Marty Turco sitting 14th among goaltenders as a write-in candidate, but it looks like Montreal’s Carey Price is going to win that one by a mile.
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We’re going to suggest you take a trip into enemy territory here, and visit one of our red-headed step-sister sites on the FanSided.com network. This time, in honor of tomorrow’s game against San Jose, we present you with Blades of Teal — which you have to admit is a pretty catchy title. They’ll give you an insider’s peek inside the tank in San Jose.
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A brief We’ll Always Love Them Even If They Wear Other Jerseys Now update for you.
Heading north to Minnesota we find John Madden starting to hit his stride after a slow start. His quick stick at the faceoff dot and penalty-killing abilities are helping Minnesota to secure a playoff spot.
Further north in Edmonton, we have seen Colin Fraser three times already this season, fulfilling his role as a grinding center with 22 hits to complement his 2 goals and 1 assist.
Up in Toronto, winger Kris Versteeg got off to a hot start and was an immediate favorite with fans and sports writers alike. But the bloom is off the rose, as his 6 goals and 6 assists are far fewer than Leafs faithful were expecting from a top-six forward. Don’t worry, Kris: the Toronto press tends to anoint anyone with a modicum of talent. Just stay consistent, they’ll get over it soon enough and start picking on somebody else.
Blackhawks’ fan favorite and consummate smart-ass Adam Burish landed in Dallas, and surprising nobody but his mother who is (no doubt) still ashamed, he leads the team in penalty minutes. He has seen time on a line with Mike Ribiero and Brenden Morrow, and has 2 goals to show for it.
But the real action is in Dixie, where some former Blackhawks are transforming a Thrashers team that we saw earlier this month. Winger Ben Eager has been throwing his weight around with 35 hits. Blueliner Brent Sopel continues his solid stay-at-home play, logging 15 minutes a night (and still sporting the homeless-musician haircut).
Dustin “BIG BUFF” Byfuglien has taken Atlanta by storm, returning to his native position on the blue line, and sitting second on the team in points — including a team-leading 4 game-winning goals. The Thrashers put the “A” on his sweater in recent weeks.
And finally, Andrew Ladd was recently named Captain of the Atlanta Thrashers, leading the team with 21 points (7 G, 14 A). He is having what more than one journalist is calling a “career year,” as his scoring and leadership abilities are illustrating the raw talent that has earned him two Stanley Cup rings. Congratulations, Andrew!
My update on Antti Niemi will be seen tomorrow morning: check back for our preview of the Blackhawks vs. Sharks tilt.
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One last note: Jeff wanted me to apologize to all of you for not getting your favorite “Boxing” features up following the games over the weekend. He told me to say that he’s been sitting at home playing “Call of Duty: Black Ops” and smearing Crisco on his nether regions.
And now, he’ll never let me apologize for him ever again!
No seriously, as is the case with all of us, work and life intervene. Jeff had his clothes stapled to his desk by cruel co-workers last week, and the custodial staff went through several pairs of needle-nosed pliers trying to break him loose. But he promises to be back in the saddle and “Boxing” again for you shortly.
Okay, well that was torture.
The Blackhawks followed up a dominant performance against the worst team in the Western Conference (a 5 – 0 win over Edmonton) with a middling effort against the second-worst team in the Western Conference (last night’s 7 – 2 loss to Calgary). The ‘Hawks are now back to .500, for the Circus trip, and for the season.
Tonight it’s the Vancouver Canucks, the team Chicago has bounced from the playoffs the last two years straight — turning Vancouver fans against their starting goaltender and team captain in the process. Now Roberto “WWWWWWWWWAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH” Luongo is just a plain old goalie, the captain’s ‘C’ now residing on the jersey of Henrietta Sedin.
But the change hasn’t improved Luongo’s play any, as the Canucks fell to the Hawks 2 – 1 earlier this year at the United Center, each of the Blackhawks deking Luongo out of his panty liners in the shootout to seal the win. Luongo’s 2.69 GAA, .913 save percentage and 7-5-2 record suggest that this year is bound to disappoint Canucks fans once again.
Offensively, the Sedin twins have been the Canucks bread and butter this season, and sure enough they are tied for the team lead with 24 points each. Mikael Samuelson and Ryan Kessler are the next most prolific forwards at 12 points apiece, so you have a frame of reference for exactly how much the Canucks are relying on the Sedins’ output this year. Suffice to say, stop the Sedins and you stop the Canucks.
But the Blackhawks have been having a hard time stopping anyone this year, as the loss to Calgary illustrated rather embarrassingly. Brian Campbell was the only blueliner that ended the night in positive territory, but the carnage was spread pretty evenly among the remaining defensive corps. Marty Turco’s barely-above-.800 save percentage from the tilt is the worst performance since the Edmonton shellacking on October 29th, and the most goals-allowed by him this season.
Marty, this is NOT the time to turn into Marc Lamothe. Coach Joel Quenneville has decided not to take that chance, and is starting Corey Crawford between the pipes tonight.
The Blackhawks’ offensive stars were kept off the score sheet completely in the Calgary game, another bad sign. The fact that we are wondering which of our million-dollar men are going to earn their keep on any given night is an indication that this team is not firing on all cylinders, and in fact has a long way to go.
And so, we cross our fingers, and hope for the best.
9:00pm CST game time this evening. Comcast SportsNet for TV here in Chicago, and Canadian viewers will see this game as the second part of a Hockey Night In Canada double-header on CBC. Broadcast radio is WGN AM-720, and XM subscribers will hear the game on channel 204.