Blackhawks

Edmonton Remodeled the Basement, But It Still Stinks

Photo: thestar.com

Following the dead-last finish by the Edmonton Oilers last season, the first thing to do was boot Pat Quinn out of his day-to-day role, and up to middle management where he could do less damage. Tom Renney was brought in to steer the team to a better finish than last year. That hurdle could be cleared by a paraplegic tortoise.

Then the team was re-made via the draft, some trades, and the promotion of some youngsters from the minor leagues, Juniors, and the European ranks. Veterans Ethan Moreau, Mike Comrie, Patrick O’Sullivan, Ryan Stone, Chris Minard, Robert Nilsson, Marc Pouliot and Riley Nash were all given early release for good behavior, so as to clear space for the newest victims.

The Oilers brought in some experience in the form of former Blackhawks Colin Fraser and Jim Vandermeer, but mostly young talent — first among them (quite literally) being Taylor Hall, highly-coveted superstar forward and number one overall pick in the 2010 NHL draft. Edmontonians hailed the super-scoring wunderkind as the next coming of Wayne Gretzky. They would soon be disappointed. Through 8 games, Hall is a minus-4 with only 3 points.

Joining Hall in the category of those most likely to have their skates filled with shaving cream were Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi, both of whom had the benefit of lower expectations given the blazing hot spotlight being shined on their teammate. So far they have both performed better than Taylor Hall, but it’s still early.

Goaltending questions also plagued the Oilers in the off-season, as former-Blackhawk netminder and now Edmonton mainstay goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin came dangerously close to starting the 2010-11 season in, umm… jail! Found guilty on DUI charges (twice the legal blood-alcohol limit while driving at nearly twice the speed limit) in Arizona, Khabibulin received a fine and a 30-day jail sentence. However, his legal team is appealing, and they managed to convince the judge to let him stay free on bail while the appeal is in progress.

This debacle coming so close to training camp, the Oilers were forced to sign veteran netminder Martin Gerber, who was promptly placed on waivers once Khabibulin weaseled his way out of a stint in the pokey. Khabby is backed up by Jeff Delauriers who has not seen any action to date.

So have the improvements helped? Will Edmonton be able to climb out of the basement? Not so far. Edmonton is (you guessed it) dead last in the Western Conference with a 2-4-2 record, giving up an average of 3.5 goals on 33 shots against per game. The much-hoped-for offense hasn’t materialized as yet either: Defenseman Ryan Whitney is the only player with more than 5 points.

So the Blackhawks face a team with little offense, shoddy defense and porous goaltending, that is also playing the second half of back-to-back games after losing to the Columbus Blue Jackets in a shootout last night. Looks like we have a recipe for an overwhelming Blackhawks victory this evening.

This is all good news, because if ever you wanted to play the worst team in the league, it is when you just lost one of your leading scorers to injury. Already suffering through the lengthy absence of defenseman Brian Campbell, the Blackhawks announced on Thursday that Marian Hossa will be out for the next two weeks with an upper-body injury. Right wing Ben Smith has been recalled from Rockford, and will be in the lineup tonight against the Oilers.

Wait a second. Ben Smith? BEN SMITH? Now we know that Jeremy Morin is not ready to return from his injury yet, so he’s out. But you still have Igor Makarov, Brandon Pirri, and Kyle Beach to choose from. Rob Klinkhammer, as un-exciting as he may be, is also an option. Yet they recall Ben Friggin’ Smith?

I swear, this guy has pictures of Stan Bowman doing the watusi with somebody’s niece. That’s the only way Ben Smith gets the call over these other forwards.

At any rate, the jumbled lines from Wednesday night’s victory over Los Angeles will be jumbled again, which won’t hurt much, since scoring output was no better than when the usual suspects were in their usual places. So expect Coach Joel Quenneville to be playing his 60-minute game of musical wingers.

Defense should be unchanged, though it’s a toss-up as to whom between John Scott and Jordan Hendry will be enjoying press box popcorn for the tilt. Since this is the first game of a Blackhawks’ back-to-back, I expect Corey Crawford to start against Edmonton. Give him the weaker of the two starts to pad his stats a bit.

Game time is 7:30: TV is Comcast SportsNet, broadcast radio WGN AM-720, and XM channel 208.

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Boxing with Hawks/Kings, 10/27/10

Sorry, sorry, sorry for getting this up so late. Tim put together a good recap and I’m having so much sympathy for  Marian Hossa getting hurt that I’m starting to get sick. Without further ado, here’s your “Boxing” from Wednesday night’s Blackhawks 3-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings.

As always, there are two separate images — one for the summary, one for the actual box score. Click on the image to enlarge it.

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UPDATE: Marian Hossa Out “a couple of weeks”

Photo: AP/Yahoo Sports

Blackhawks Coach Joel Quenneville announced following practice today that winger Marian Hossa would miss “a couple of weeks” with an upper-body injury.

He said that the injury “was not serious in nature” and “would not require surgery.”

Hmmm…

Speculation continues to float that Hossa has sustained a concussion, which the evidence would support. Also possible is a re-injury of the shoulder that required surgery last summer — causing Hossa to miss more than one-quarter of the season.

Hossa has 7 goals and 11 points, second on the Blackhawks in both categories. The Hawks are averaging less than 3 goals scored per game. Losing his output will likely have a negative effect on the team’s standings in the Conference.

Unless some our other million-dollar men can start earning their kibble. Time will tell…

Hawks Beat Kings: Antti Who?

Photo: AP/Yahoo Sports

Blackhawks fans got to see the team put one in the win column at the United Center last night, and against one of the better teams in the league at that. But looking beyond the net result, that’s where the good news ends.

Well, almost. The undisputed star of the game was Blackhawks goaltender Marty Turco, who turned away 33 shots for his fifth win in his last six starts. Turco’s rebound control was nearly flawless, he was mindful of his now-legendary five-hole weakness, and with a little help from his three red, iron friends behind him he put on a Dominic Hasek-like display of acrobatics and aeronautics throughout the game. Turco now boasts a .927 save percentage, good for 3rd in the league among goalies with more than five starts.

Antti… Antti who?

Outside of the crease, however, the news ranged from bad to worse. The bad news was, apart from seeing score sheet contributions from unusual sources, Coach Joel Quenneville’s line shake-up could hardly be called a success. Managing only 28 shots on goal — including a mere two from defensemen whose mothers call them something other than Duncan — the Hawks goal production continues to be a disappointment. The Hawks average under 3 goals scored per game, and they did nothing to boost that statistic last night. Were Kings starter Jonathan Quick in goal instead of backup Jonathan Bernier, the outcome could have been much different. And once again conditioning showed itself to be a weak spot, as was evident at the beginning of the third period.

Then, there’s worse. Blackhawks powerhouse winger Marian Hossa left the game early in the second period with an undisclosed upper-body injury and did not return. No information was available after the final buzzer, and we will have to wait until a formal evaluation takes place today before we know the extent of his injury — and how much time he is expected to miss.

In case you have been paying too much attention to which porn star is in Charlie Sheen’s closet this week, Hossa missed the first 20-odd games of last season with a shoulder injury that required surgery to repair. If that shoulder has been re-injured, we may be looking at weeks, or even months before his return.

Discount Hossa’s contribution to the score sheet, and the Hawks are averaging just barely over 2 goals per game. That’s not enough to keep a .500 record, let alone make the playoffs. Right now we are getting meager (that’s putting it lightly) contributions from the likes of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Dave Bolland and the youngsters in the forward ranks. If Hossa goes under the knife again, and these guys don’t start to crank it up, it is going to be a season we will all want to forget.

Stay tuned here, and join us on Twitter if you haven’t already for the latest news. We’ll be watching the Marian Hossa injury reports come in as they happen, and we’ll pass it along. Say a prayer, rub that rabbit’s foot, or whatever it is you do. This could be big, for all the wrong reasons.

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Kings Visit Chicago: Pardon us while we kick your Majesty’s arse

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 21: Wayne Simmonds  of the Los Angeles Kings celebrates after scoring a second period goal against the Phoenix Coyotes during the NHL game at Jobing.com Arena on October 21, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Usually I start these previews by taking a look at our opponent for the night. But there has actually been some turbulence in BlackhawkLand, so it’s worth exploring that first and getting to the Kings in a few minutes.

As you know, Blackhawks Coach Joel Quenneville is not shy about moving players around the lineup, even in the middle of games. Well, Tuesday at practice he apparently had just drawn names out of a hat, because exactly *nobody* could have predicted what combinations were on display. Observe and be confused:

Line 1: Patrick Sharp / Jonathan Toews / Jack Skille

Sharp back on the wing, where he’s most productive; Jonathan Toews at center, no surprise there; and look who’s earned himself a chance to play with the big boys! Bet he was out ordering the biggest hunk of meat in the joint at Gibson’s last night.

Line 2: Troy Brouwer / Tomas Kopecky / Marian Hossa

Kopecky at center, a position he played while with the Red Wings (*spitting noise*), but the Hawks have yet to try him at this position for anything more than an in-game stint. We have seen how well he seems to work with Marian Hossa, so that seems to make sense. Brouwer will provide some defensive capabilities and a little grit.

Now things get weird.

Line 3: Viktor Stalberg / Dave Bolland / Patrick Kane

The Slump Line. Bolland has been downright depressing, Kane’s hangover seems to have lasted longer than expected, and Stalberg has shown fleeting bursts of exceptional play amid long stretches of demonstrative mediocrity. Two speedy wingers might be a good combination, as we saw with Kane and Jeremy Morin during the pre-season. But merely the fact that Kane is relegated to the third line is a message in itself: pick it up, kid. Those goals don’t score themselves.

Line 4: Bryan Bickell / Jake Dowell / Fernando Pisani

Two fourth line regulars and, in my opinion, one headed for the scrap heap. Pisani was as long a shot as Ryan Potulny, who has already rode the Greyhound out to Rockford. Pisani has been all but invisible so far this season, and while he wasn’t expected to be anything but a role player, the role he’s played so far is “Dead Weight #3.”

All of this is an attempt to get the once-potent Blackhawks offense to kick it into gear. We make a big deal out of this every time Coach Q tries new line combinations in practice. The Twitterscape and Blogosphere nearly had an aneurysm when the initial reports came out of practice. But just watch: after all of this hullaballoo, QStache will have Toews centering Kane and Brouwer, and Sharp between Hossa and Kopecky by midway through the second period.

The Blackhawks got even better news on the Brian Campbell beat: he may be back in the lineup in under a week, making my two-to-three weeks prediction from yesterday look rather foolish. But even more foolish would be bringing Campbell back too early, only to have him suffer a season-ending injury to the same MCL. I hope these doctors know what they’re doing, and don’t screw us harder by bringing him back too soon.

That leaves the defensive pairings just where they were, with John Scott and Jordan Hendry drawing straws to see who sits this one out. Later today we’ll find out who gets the start in net: bank on it being Marty Turco, but follow us on Twitter at @blackhawksup and you’ll know as soon as it’s announced. Come on, you know you want to…

The Hawks will meet up with a Kings team that is off to a very strong start. 6-2 with 12 points, good for second place in the NHL. Anze Kopitar leads the charge for the Kings’ offense, though they are spreading the wealth rather wide: ten players have one or more tallies in only eight games. On the back end, netminder Jonathan Quick boasts a 1.95 GAA with only one loss to speak of. Yikes. The only good news is, defensive wunderkind Drew Doughty will not be in the lineup tonight, having had a setback in his recovery from what is being called an “apparent” concussion.

I’ve had a concussion, and it’s pretty “apparent” when you have one. If you can’t remember getting hit, you have a concussion. Don’t know why they’re beating around the bush.

The off-season was an average one for the Kings. After losing out on the Ilya Kovalchuk Sweepstakes, they went about building their team up with mere mortals. Sean O’Donnell and Fredrik  Modin were among those allowed to walk; long-time Leafs underachiever Alex Ponikarovsky came over from the Penguins, and Canucks’ cast-off Willie Mitchell was brought in to bolster the blue line.

Suffice to say that the LA Kings are rolling, and it’s going to be hard to stop them, especially with our deficient defense and sporadic offense. Game time 7:30pm, TV is Comcast SportsNet; broadcast radio WGN AM-720, and XM subscribers will hear the game on channel 208.

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October Mail Bag: Injuries, Trapezoids, and Fool-Idiot Suck-Weasels

Letters... We get letters...

We have a little break in the action, the Blackhawks are enjoying three days off to lick their wounds from the embarrassing losses over the weekend, so we thought it was time to open up the Mail Bag and answer some of your Blackhawks and hockey questions. Lots of new hockey fans in the Chicago area, so remember: there are no stupid questions!

How serious is Brian Campbell’s injury, and when do we expect him back?

— Dave, River North

A sprained MCL (medial collateral ligament, it’s a vertical stretchy thing on the inside of your knee) is not as serious as a torn MCL, so the Hawks dodged a bullet there. Plus there’s good news from the weekend: Mr. Campbell skated for the first time in the last couple of days. He’s on target for his return to the lineup, which is… they’re not saying. But figure at least two more weeks, and maybe three. He’s got to get doctor’s clearance for participating in practices, and then to do contact drills, both of which usually take a week. They’re talking about him returning for the Circus Road Trip, which starts on November 17th. So cross your fingers.

I’ve watched hockey before, and they’ve put some new lines on the ice behind the net that I don’t understand. What do those mean?

— Huey, Mundelein

Nothing whatsoever. It’s called the trapezoid, and in theory it is supposed to be a restricted zone where goaltenders can’t play the puck. But neither the goaltenders nor the referees really know what that means, so play continues as it did before the area was created. Just ignore it.

How come some goals get reviewed and some goals don’t?

— Mika, Kankakee

Because some refs are idiots, and some aren’t! No seriously, in theory every goal is reviewed. But when the guys that review the goals think the refs might have screwed up, they stop the proceedings on the ice and take as much time as they want to in order to sort things out. Whether each goal is *actually* reviewed, I’ve seen enough blown calls to believe that’s not the case.

There is also allegedly a “war room” back in Toronto, where every goal from every game is reviewed to make sure the *reviewers* are getting the call right. But that’s a load of crap. They just got the dedicated satellite feeds because they wanted free Playboy Channel.

Hey! They made a big deal about fool-idiot suck-weasel referee Bill McCreary retiring last year. But then I watched the Blackhawks game the other day, and there he is! What gives?

— Mark, Addison

Yes, they did. And yes, you did. Buckethead is back, and despite being 54 years old and barely able to skate two lengths of the ice without an oxygen mask, Mr. McCreary will be donning the stripes and blowing call after call after call again for the 2010-11 season. Apparently NHL Director of fool-idiot suck-weasels Terry Gregson talked McCreary out of retiring late last season, because apparently there were too many veteran fool-idiot suck-weasels retiring, and the rookie fool-idiot suck-weasels replacing them were actually worse! If you can believe that.

I once watched two games with the Blackhawks playing against Tampa Bay and Florida, during which a grand total of four goals were scored. Replays for each of the four showed very clearly that McCreary, reffing both games, blew three out of the four goal/no-goal calls. That’s a 75% failure rate, and that was over ten years ago. He hasn’t gotten any better since then.

If the Penguins offered to trade Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury for Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, do you think we should take the deal?

— Stewart, West Loop

Stew, it is my fervent hope that Jonathan Toews turns into the Blackhawks version of Steve Yzerman, playing his entire career in a Blackhawks uniform and wearing the captain’s ‘C’ until they raise the #19 to the roof of the United Center. I would be surprised if we could keep Patrick Kane that long, as the contract offers that will await him upon the day he becomes an unrestricted free agent will likely be out of reach for the Hawks.

That having been said, I think if the phone rang in Stan Bowman’s office and somebody from the Penguins organization were on the line offering that deal, I think we’d have to sedate the Blackhawks’ GM to keep him from laughing himself to death. I would be hard pressed to find two players on any team right now that match the output — and potential — of Kane and Toews. And the two flame-outs from the Pens that you mentioned definitely don’t come close.

Who do you think the Blackhawks’ biggest rival is this year, Detroit or Vancouver?

— Brian, Joliet

I think the Blackhawks’ biggest rival this year is the Blackhawks from *last* year. The fans won’t be concerned about whether we beat Detroit or Vancouver so much as whether we win the cup again. As Jeff has outlined here recently, it’s a fool’s errand to expect a championship team this year. But that won’t stop the fans’ expectations from being elevated to that point. As for Detroit and Vancouver, we’ll bitch-slap both of them enough for us to enjoy this year. Don’t you worry.

The Red Wings are going to win it all this year!!!

— Chris, Novi, MI

Everybody’s entitled to their opinion, Chris. Now go put your nuts in a toaster.

That’s it for now, but keep those letters and e-mails coming! See you in November with another edition of Mail Bag.

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Theory of the Three-Year Grace Period

I’ve lived by a notion for quite some time. There’s no right or wrong, but there’s a general understanding I believe should be accepted by an avid supporter of any franchise.

It’s the Theory of the Three-Year Grace Period. It’s fairly simple, and the Chicago Blackhawks are the perfect example.

If I had to come up with a general overview of the Theory, it would go something like this: If the franchise you support wins a championship, you have no right to get angry or upset regarding any player decisions — excluding “star players” — made by management for a period of three years.

To be more clear, the Theory does not include coaching decisions. For instance, I can be completely perplexed and question  QStache for jumbling the lines or, more importantly, why the living hell he continues to scratch  Jordan Hendry when John Scott noticeably sucks.

Here are the general principles:

Players are often forgotten, but championships are remembered forever.

If you’re a supporter of a franchise, you’ll remember the exact place you were and whom you were with when your team wins a championship. I can tell you the exact places I was when the Chicago Bulls won all six of their titles in the 1990s, and I’ll always remember where I was on June 9, 2010. None of those memories will ever, ever go away.

However, I have no idea where  Bobby Hansen went for the 1992-93 season after sparking the Bulls to a fourth-quarter rally in Game 6 of the 1992 NBA Finals. He’s long been forgotten. And in 10-15 years, I challenge you to remember where  Brent Sopel went after the ‘Hawks won the Cup. But in 10 years, you’ll still remember where you were and whom you were with when the ‘Hawks ended their 49-year title drought.

Repeating championships are nice, but it’s a greedy thought.

Sometimes we forget how hard it is to win one championship, let alone two, three, four, etc. And for a long-suffering Blackhawks fan, I can’t see how that’s possible. Do you realize how long 49 years is?

It’s very easy for a fan to become entitled and spoiled by a championship. Many great athletes played their entire career without winning a championship, and many franchises with extremely large fan bases have gone years without a single title *cough* Cubs *cough.*

As a fan, take your title and be happy for a little while. A repeat is just gravy. In the case of Blackhawks fans, enjoy the Stanley Cup we currently have and enjoy some good hockey. Take in the banner when you go to the United Center. Watch your championship DVD. Re-watch Game 6 on your DVR. You’ll enjoy it just as much as you did live.

If you think your franchise stopped liking winning, you’re stupid.

Every management representative of the franchise you support wants to win again. If you think you want to win, multiply it by 100 and you’ll come close to knowing how they feel. Not only do they feel a sense of pride, but they get very rich by winning. If management makes moves, it’s either because they’re forced by player demands/league rules which would financially over-extend the franchise or break rules, OR because it’s simply at management’s discretion the player be moved.

And since the management of your franchise made the right personnel moves the season before which won you the championship you’ll never forget, I’d say there’s a decent head on that person’s shoulders.

If I had to come with FAQs on the Theory, here’s what it would look like:

If my team made the finals, do I live by the Theory?

No. Simply playing for a championship does not qualify you to live by the Theory. The reason being that your team was THAT close to a title, and you have every right to challenge and question management for making offseason or in-season moves that you feel may bring down the chances of winning a title. For example, Philadelphia Flyers fans can challenge and question with great vigor any player moves made.

Can I still be upset about the actual play of the new/current players and be just as passionate about my team winning another championship?

Of course. It’s the reason we love sports so much. Some players — new or remaining — are just terrible, and teams are forced to win titles in spite of those players. However, to say, “Damn, we should have kept Departed Player X rather than get this asshole,” is not right. As previously stated in the general principles, the move was made for a reason by the management who gave you the championship you’ll never forget.

Why is it the Theory of the Three-Year Grace Period and not four, five, six, etc.?

Three years for a championship team is plenty of time to reload/rebuild/find a new direction to win another title. If a franchise had to over-extend itself to win you the title you’ll never forget, management deserves time to be able to do what’s right by them to keep the franchise running successfully, though it may not feasibly be at a championship level.

If your team has not won another title within those three years, you have every right to challenge and question moves heading into the fourth year of the drought. After all, we’re still supportive fans and paying customers who help feed the franchise money. Especially since we’re living in a “I want it right now!” society, three years is more than enough time.

* * * *

The Theory can be difficult to live by for fans, including myself. I questioned the Blackhawks sending  Nick Leddy to Rockford when he was more than serviceable during his stint, especially because  Brian Campbell is out with an injury. Nick Boynton and  Scott are worthless. In my mind, I couldn’t justify the decision. Then I checked out my Stanley Cup Champions t-shirt, and I immediately began to trust  Stan Bowman.

However, I will never, ever, ever complain about the ‘Hawks trading  Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg, Brent Sopel, Ben Eager or Andrew Ladd, letting Adam Burish sign with Dallas or walking away from  Antti Niemi. I made it pretty clear why simply based on what the Blackhawks had left to compete this season. But beyond that, I trust Bowman. I trust his hockey mind and I trust what he needs to do in order to stay competitive yet stay within financial compliance.

The bottom line is that I keep hearing a lot about how we should have kept one or more of the above players mentioned when the Blackhawks struggle. And the memory of people questioning the signing of  Marian Hossa at the expense of letting  Martin Havlat walk even furthers my point that management is smarter than us — no matter hard it is for us to admit.

I want to see the Blackhawks repeat as Stanley Cup champions as much as the next person. I probably think about it so much it borders on being unhealthy.

But if they are hoisting the Cup in 2011, management put the players on the ice, not us. And if they’re not? Well, that Stanley Cup champions t-shirt still looks pretty sweet.

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Bupkis for the weekend: ‘Hawks drop a pair to annoying division rivals

I hate you. (Chicago Tribune)

Admittedly, I spent most of this weekend focused on on a college reunion for the Michigan State vs. Northwestern game and wasn’t focused on the Blackhawks. The problem with that? I still saw enough shitting the bed that annoyed me.

The winning streak was nice, but the shortcomings we’ve been pointing out during those wins ultimately came back to bite us in the ass Friday night against the St. Louis Blues during the 4-2 loss in Chicago Jr. Then, Columbus did its best impression of the ‘Hawks, coming back from two goals down Saturday to beat us 3-2 at the UC.

Here’s my brief Sunday morning recap of what I saw. And this is all assuming you watched the games, so if you’re looking for a traditional recap check the Blackhawks’ official site….

♦  David Perron  continues to shove his stick directly up my ass for dropping him on my fantasy team by killing the ‘Hawks. The asshole has all of his four goals and four of his five points in two games against the Blackhawks. I only have myself to blame. Well, actually…

♦  Nick Boynton  is officially playing like the guy who’s been a castoff for a few teams over the past few seasons, sat in Rockford for most of last season and was a healthy scratch whenever possible during the ‘Hawks Cup run. How  Jen Patterson  wants any part of this guy is beyond me, especially if she’s ever seen him lace up his skates. Boynton is constantly out of position, and because of that is flailing around the ice most of the time wondering where he should go next.

He pinches when he shouldn’t pinch, he falls for the slightest of fakes and is so slow  Hans Moleman  could run him down. He played like a complete pile of dog shit in both games this weekend, and the best part of the Blackhawks having the next three days off is that I don’t have to watch Boynton attempt to be a hockey player.

♦  I’m not sure how many of you thought you’d ever say this, but  Tomas Kopecky  being out Saturday seemed to hurt the ‘Hawks. His absence did allow for Kane/Toews/Sharp to get back together for the night and allowed  Dave Bolland  to get back with  Marian Hossa  and  Troy Brouwer.  But as much shit as Kopecky gets, he still plays solid, pretty fundamental hockey, which seemed to be lacking toward the end of the second and into the third.

♦  Speaking of Bollandany excuses for his poor performance to date can officially be thrown out the window. Talk all you want about him centering players who aren’t as talented like  Fernando Pisani  and  Bryan Bickell,  but Saturday he skated with one of the league’s top goal scorers and a guy who should have been playing on the top two lines all season long. Bolland’s 41.4 faceoff percentage is atrocious, and he simply looks like a kid skating around that needs a haircut.

Bolland has one goal and one assist in 10 games and I’m about ready to start calling out QStache to make him a healthy scratch to set him straight. It’s becoming a nightmare to watch.

♦  Patrick Sharp  is playing out of his mind. He’s tied with  Steven Stamkos  for the NHL lead in goals and continues to be a very handsome man.

♦  On the other hand, Hossa has slowed down and has now been held without a point in three straight games.

♦  Both  Marty Turco  and  Corey Crawford  played well in their starts this weekend — especially Crawford. The kid gave us every opportunity to win and each of the three goals he gave up came on defensive lapses. Turco’s performance was solid in St. Louis, but he needs to stop the Blues’ third goal hands down. I understand there was traffic, but that’s the second time this season — including the home opener against Detroit  — that he let a weak shot trickle five-hole for the game-winner.

♦  Don’t look now, but Kopecky has more points than  Jonathan Toews   and  Patrick Kane.  This includes Saturday night’s game when Toews had a goal and an assist in a game when Kopecky sat out. Kane hasn’t scored a goal in five games. I’m assuming this won’t continue for the rest of the season. However, if it does, the short blonde guy swinging from a noose off the Michael Jordan statue will be me.

♦  I understand  Duncan Keith  is leading the NHL by averaging nearly a half hour of ice time (29:44), but he’s slapping that puck around like he’s thinking, “I won the Norris, so I can do whatever I want.” Now, to be clear, I don’t think Keith is the type of guy who thinks that way. However, he’s sure as hell playing like it. He’s attempting to force pucks in places they have no business going even if there weren’t three opponents in the way, and I’m failing to remember a time when I thought to myself, “Man, Duncs played really well tonight.”

♦ This is just hilarious.  Adam Burish  apologizes for being a shitty video-game character.

Ok, I’m about done here. A combined edition of “Boxing” will be up tomorrow morning, then you can expect something from Tim either tomorrow or Tuesday.

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Some Gotta Win, Some Gotta Lose…

Photo: Getty Images

Since Monday, players on the St. Louis Blues have been doing their usual off-day routine: daily practice, dry-land training, watching last week’s episode of “Glee” over and over and over, and cursing their agent for landing them on  such a suck-bag team.

What they haven’t done since Monday is play a game. That means they are going to be well-rested, fired up in front of the home-town crowd, and looking for revenge after blowing a 2-0 lead with 6 minutes to go in the third and falling to the Blackhawks 3-2 in OT. Their wrists will be a little sore from… well, they’ve had the whole week off, you figure it out.

No changes in the lineup for St. Louis, as Cam Janssen is still not ready to return from the concussion he suffered while masturbating running into his own teammate during a game October 9th. Goaltenders Jaroslav Halak and Ty Conklin will likely split the starts on the Blues Friday/Saturday back-to-back games, but word is we will be facing Halak on Friday.

The Blues hope to win games on defense and goaltending this year, but that plan is already showing its weaknesses. They slid to a 2-1-2 record following Monday’s OT loss to the Blackhawks, and they are going to have to pick up the scoring if they expect to win anything. 14 goals in 5 games is not a recipe for a winning team.

Despite the history between these clubs, there wasn’t much to report in the penalties department from the last outing. A Bryan Bickell/David Backes rematch is possible, but judging from the way the teams played earlier this week, I’m not expecting the gloves to be dropped.

On the Blackhawks’ side, Coach Q seems to have Jordan Hendry, Jack Skille and Viktor Stalberg’s names in a hat and is drawing one after each practice to see who sits. We’ll find out after the morning skate who today’s victim is, the safe money is on Hendry.

One wonders why it won’t be John Scott, who may as well be painted day-glo orange and plopped down on the blue line for guys to skate around. Watching him out there is like watching somebody try to eat linguine with a spork. He simply doesn’t have the tools for the job.

It’s been hard not to notice the production from the “energy line” wingers Skille and Stalberg. With Stalberg displaying his sniper capabilities by flicking one past a stunned Roberto Luongo for the Blackhawks’ only regulation-time goal on Wednesday, we may see those two grow into bigger roles with the team as the season continues.

We are still waiting for the Blackhawks who aren’t named “Hossa” or “Sharp” to start scoring like they are capable of doing. Conditioning continues to be a problem with the Blackhawks, as the OT period against the Blues on Monday illustrated frighteningly. The Hawks were badly out-skated and allowed 7 shots in under 4 minutes of play before Patrick Sharp flipped home the game winner. Shots against was a factor again against Vancouver, with the Hawks giving up 29 in regulation and another 8 in the overtime period. Thank goodness Marty Turco is starting to look very solid between the pipes — but relying on him will come back to bite us, mark my words.

In Brian Campbell news, the injured defenseman is reported to be on target in his recovery from a sprained MCL suffered during pre-season, and should start skating again soon. Look for doctors to clear him to lace ‘em up next week.

Follow us on Twitter at @blackhawksup and you’ll get the latest on healthy scratches and starting goaltenders once they’re announced. Also check back here for post-game wrap-ups and our exclusive “Boxing” feature tomorrow morning.

Puck drops at 7:00, and it’s dropping from a rather sexy hand at Scottrade Center tonight: IRL hottie Danica Patrick will be on hand to help the players pitch some tents. I gotta say, as a race car driver, she’s a great bikini model.

TV is Comcast SportsNet, broadcast radio WGN AM-720, and XM subscribers can find the game on channel 207.

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Boxing with Hawks/Canucks, 10/20/10

Sorry for getting this up so late, but I had some car issues I had to work with yesterday and there was a bunch of other shit going on that you don’t care about. So, here’s your latest edition of “Boxing” from the Blackhawks’ shootout win Wednesday against the Vancouver Canucks.

There are two separate images — one for the Summary and one for the Box. Click on the images to enlarge them.

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