Most of you noticed the cavernous silence coming from Cheer The Anthem following the pair of weekend losses that shall be known henceforth as “The Alberta Ass-Whooping of 2011.” Between the two games, we were out-scored 14 – 4. That’s a High School JV football game.
The net effect was like a nature special with hyenas tearing apart a carcass: what could we say? Edmonton in particular was like watching a game of dodgeball between a class of fourth-graders and the University of North Carolina basketball team. Lambs to the slaughter.
Weekends like those are when being a blogger sucks the worst. You can’t talk up the positives, because there weren’t any; you don’t want to jump on the bring-up-the-IceHogs-and-fire-the-coaches bandwagon, because you know in a week they’ll be lighting up goalies like artificial Christmas trees. So what do you say?
Nothing. There’s nothing to say. All you can do is look forward, and that time is here. It’s game time again, tonight at the Shark Tank. San Jose awaits.
WORST. WEEKEND. EVER.
After some R&R in Vegas the last few days, the Blackhawks will continue the circus trip against Antii Niemi, Martin Havlat and the San Jose Sharks tomorrow night. As I’m sure you all know by now, the Hawks’ are coming off two of their worst games of the season – one of them being a 9-2 horror show in Edmonton. Predictably, people are losing their minds. The calls to bench Duncan Keith are starting on Twitter and elsewhere.
This is just about the most batshit thing I’ve ever heard and makes no sense whatsoever. In his last two games, Keith has been a -8 combined and certainly hasn’t been on top of his game. However, Fifth Feather points out some problems with putting the Edmonton debacle all on him and its not like #2 was the only Hawk who had a dreadful +/- that night. Aside from it being literally impossible to bench him (not enough d-men with Seabs hurt), have these people forgotten how good Keith looked in the Vancouver game and the games preceding it? Why would you rush to the whip when it appeared your best defenseman was finally returning to form before the whole team collectively turned to shit over the weekend?
The Blackhawks have problems on the back end, but it’s not all on Keith. The absence of Brent Seabrook is killing this team in the physical department and the continued presence of John Scott in the lineup every night necessitates more tough minutes be logged by Keith, Nick Leddy and Niklas Hjalmarrson.
Another issue is the surprising lack of depth on the defense. Most figured the Hawks had left the dark days of Scott, Nick Boynton and Jassen Cullimore behind when Stan Bowman went out and picked up Steve Montador, Sami Lepisto and Sean O’Donnell up in the offseason. Tragically, this has not been the case. O’Donnell and Lepisto don’t even play over the incompetent and useless Scott lately.
This is unacceptable and the way things are shaping up, Bowman might have to go out and acquire another defenseman with some of those millions he has saved. While most people are looking for the Hawks’ to acquire a Top 6 forward, the situation on the blue line might actually be more pressing, especially if Viktor Stalberg continues to play well with Jonathan Toews (not something I ever thought I’d be saying).
There would be no epic comeback this time. The intensity the Blackhawks had a couple nights ago in Vancouver was simply not there tonight. The offensively challanged Flames put 5 goals past Corey Crawford and controlled the tempo most of the night. The defense in particular was atrocious and the forwards shouldn’t get off much easier. Give the Flames a little credit - Mikka Kiprusoff was outstanding and Curtis Glenncross had 2 goals in the winning effort. The Hawks’ were short Michael Frolik and Brent Seabrook, but Ben Smith made his season debut and to many’s surprise did not single handedly carry the Hawks’ to victory.
Just a few quick thoughts because its Friday, ya know?
♦ The Hawks’ nearly had a too many men penalty in the opening minutes and Calgary had a goal off a terrible change. Joel Queneville is a good coach, but Hawks’ teams have been consistently horrible at executing basic line changes during his tenure here. I don’t know if it’s a result of Q’s penchant for matching up with the other teams or not but it is super fucking annoying.
♦ I would LOVE to know what was said between Jarome Iginla and Patrick Kane that got Iggy so pissed off.
♦ The first Flames goal was a result of Duncan Keith guessing incorrectly and Lee Stempniak taking advantage. He had an assist, but #2 was in 2010-2011 mode for most of the night and was a -4.
♦ Edzo compared Viktor Stalberg to Ken Yaremchuk after Stalberg took a lap around the Calgary zone with the puck. This is probably not the first time many have heard the comparison, albeit for different reasons.
♦ The opening minute of 2nd was a disaster. Rene Bourque scored 40 seconds in and 17 seconds later Paul Byron was gifted in the slot after Nick Leddy tried to get a little too cute while attempting a tight pass to Dave Bolland. The Hawks’ would cut the lead 5 minutes later when Marian Hossa blasted a one-timer past Kiprusoff on a 4 on 3 power play, but the Hawks’ never really recovered from the Byron goal.
♦ Halfway through the 2nd, Ben Smith carried the puck into the zone in a 1-1 situation and briefly leaned to his left like he was going to try and cut the slot, but changed his mind and went outside instead. One has to wonder if he had a flashback to the Brandon Smith hit there that concussed him.
♦John Scott is lucky his blatant hit from behind on Tim Jackman wasn’t just a few feet closer to the Calgary bench or we would have had Lemieux/Draper all over again. Calgary was pissed and frankly they were probably justified.
♦ This game sucked. Luckily, the Hawks’ will have a chance to rebound tomorrow night in Edmonton. One suspects Ray Emery will get the start as the Hawks’ will face San Jose, Los Angles and Anaheim starting Wednesday. 2 points are a must tomorrow if the Hawks’ want to capture 6 or 7 points on this road trip considering the opponents the rest of the way.
Has Jarome Iginla been traded yet? No? Just checking…
What about now?
It seems that whenever things go south in Calgary the entire hockey media north of the border asserts, en masse, that a deal is imminent. It’s the solution for everything — like duct tape, or chicken soup, or re-booting. Or at least, that’s what the hockey elite in Canada seem to think.
You had to believe that after the 6-2 punishment the Vancouver Canucks gave the Blackhawks back on November 6th, all the sports media in B.C. probably spend the next several days pounding their chests and stomping around like the kid in the teen angst movies that ends up getting beaten like a mule, spit on and run up a flagpole for good measure.
Hope you had your fun while it lasted, fellas. Now it’s our turn. Time to go into their rink, humiliate them in front of their slack-jawed fans, then take a meatloaf-sized crap at center ice and climb into the limousine.
♦ First things first – Brad Richards is apparently dating Olivia Munn. And here you thought he should have stayed in Dallas…
♦ A big congratulations to Eddie Belfour. The Eagle was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame yesterday along with Joe Nieuwendyk, Mark Howe and Doug Gilmore. Belfour amassed 484 carrer wins (201 in Chicago) with the Blackhawks, Sharks, Stars, Maple Leafs and Panthers and ranks #10 all time in career shutouts with 76. He won a Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars in 1999 and a NCAA Championship in 1987 with North Dakota. Belfour was last Blackhawk to win the Calder Trophy (1991) before Patrick Kane (2007). He remains the most recent Blackhawk to win a Vezina, which he took home in both 1991 and 1993. Losing Eddie was tough, but at least the Blackhawks got Ulf Dahlen in return.
There are only two names you need to know to understand the meteoric performance of the Edmonton Oilers this young season. Both of these names have taken the team, and the league, by near-complete surprise; and in one case, has most people scratching their heads.
The names are: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Nikolai Khabibulin. The 18-year-old rookie and the inconsistent netminder 20 years his senior have been the catalysts for Edmonton rising near the top of the Western Conference standings.
The Edmonton Oilers’ patience has paid off. They come into the United Center tonight sitting atop the Northwest Division, and eager for some payback against a Chicago team that has manhandled them over the past several years.
Now THAT was a convincing victory. Despite a shaky start to the game, the Blackhawks came to play last night and easily took care of the Flames. The Blackhawks got outstanding performances from Marian Hossa (shocking), Duncan Keith and Ray Emery. The result was a 4-1 victory and a spot all alone in 1st place in the Western Conference. Duncan Keith appeared in his 500th NHL game and opened the scoring in the first after a rebound that hoped over Daniel Carcillo’s stick found its way to Keith who buried it home. The goal may not have happened had Miikka Kiprusoff decided to get up and get back into position after going down to make the first save, but that’s his decision. The Hawks went up 2-0 after a Brent Seabrook drive found its way through Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews traffic out front of Kipper on the power play. The Hawks PP was 1/4 on the night (cause for celebration). The game got interesting for a few minutes halfway through the 3rd after Olli Jokinen ripped a wrist shot over the blocker of Emery. Curtis Glencross provided a fantastic screen in front of Razor, who had no chance to stop the shot. The Hawks put it away after Boss Hoss set up Viktor Stalberg with a pass you’d have to see to believe. It was nice to see Stalberg finish on that one after missing on a couple of chances earlier in the game. He probably could have had 3 or 4 goals had things gone his way. The Blackhawks finished things off after Kane potted an empty netter. Overall, a good effort by the Hawks on home-ice. Their record at the UC improved to 6-1-2 and they have a chance to make it 7-1-2 tomorrow against an Edmonton team who seems to be coming back to earth after a very impressive start to the season.
Remember a few years ago when the Calgary looked like they were going to become a big rival of the Blackhawks? The Hawks faced the Mike Kennan-led Flames in their first playoff series since 2002 in the opening round of the 2008-2009 postseason. The series (which the Hawks won 4-2) started with Marty Havlat scoring just 12 seconds into overtime in Game 1 and ended with the Hawks knocking out the Flames 4-1 in Calgary in Game 6. The Hawks went on to lose in the Western Conference final that year to Detoilet but won the Stanley Cup the following season. They have appeared in 7 playoff series since defeating the Flames. Calgary has not been to the postseason since – their last postseason goal was scored by criminal Todd Bertuzzi. Sucks to be them.
Yup, it’s been all downhill for the Flames since that point and things aren’t getting any better. Jarome Iginla continues to be one of the best hockey players of all-time, yet is still inexplicably surrounded by dogshit. One of the great mysteries of all time will be why the Flames never got this man a true center to play with. The Flames are 6-7-1 coming into the game tonight and are coming off a 3-0 loss to a surprisingly good Minnesota Wild team. Nothing about this Flames team is special (except Iginla), their PK is right in the middle of the pack and their PP only converts on 15% of its chances (a number the Hawks pathetically envy). The Flames hold the distinction of having the worst FO% in the league (46%) and won just 35% of their draws against the Wild on Tuesday night. One bright spot for Calgary tonight will be their 2007 1st round pick Mikael Backlund appearing in his 1st game of the season after missing time with a broken pinky finger. Apparently, Backlund will center a line with Iginla on it – lucky him!
It was less than one week ago that I was typing, “The Blackhawks are in first place in the Western Conference…” A lot can change in a week, huh? Not that we’ve dropped too far in the standings, but if we keep playing like we have been we’ll find ourselves battling the Columbus Blue Jackets for the coveted spot in the Western Conference basement. And wow, is Columbus ever in the basement.
This is the second meeting between these two teams, and I wrote in the first game preview that Columbus had a 1-8-1 record. Well, not a lot has changed: they have added 1 win and 3 losses. They are the proud owners of 5 (that’s “five”) points. As a matter of rub-it-in trivia, even if they had twice as many points, they would still be in last place in the West.
If you were wondering why there are so many teams bunched up so closely at the top of the Western Conference standings, it’s because every other team has been beating on Columbus like a red-headed step-pinata.
For those of you who missed the timeless sports-classic film “Bull Durham,” go back to FourSquare, this article isn’t for you. But for those who didn’t, it’s my contention that we have our own Ebbie Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh right here in the Chicago Blackhawks dressing room.
His name is Nick Leddy. And instead of throwing bean-balls at the mascot, he is throwing close games right in the dumpster. His flubs against Tampa Bay led directly to the Bolts’ third goal, and the game-winner in OT.
“You lolligag around the infield…”
Actually, lolligagging is a word that really can’t be used to describe Leddy’s game. In fact, quite the opposite. He’s very quick, which leads him to believe that he can tear around any area of the ice with impunity. When he goes on these little escapades, he leaves his position to be covered by a winger — who is then a target to be exploited by the other team, since that winger is not trained to play that position. Leddy creates a defensive weakness with his end-to-end rushes. That’s unnecessary, and it’s only a matter of time before other teams exploit that weakness when it arises.
Enough about the Vancouver game, I’m trying to block it from my memory. The Blackhawks had better do the same, because like most years of late, they will have their hands full with their division-rival opponent at the other end if I-55, just for a different reason this time.
St. Louis’ 6-7-0 record does not speak to their current situation. They are a team in a state of upheaval, and it’s every man for himself when the puck drops tonight.
This is going to be a fast, brutal game. The Blackhawks will have to keep their heads to stay in it.
So, there isn’t any reason to rehash the shitshow from last night. Bartl already tried to drive most of you to suicide and I’m sure many of you have spent your day much as I have mine – trying to figure out exactly what the hell happened last night.
You remember the Vancouver Canucks, right? Colors are green, blue and white; big funny-looking whale on their jersey; coach keeps whining about other teams not playing fair? Not ringing a bell?
Well, in the playoffs last year they blew a 3 games to none lead against the Blackhawks before FINALLY squeaking by in overtime of game 7? And we had to serve up a giveaway on a silver platter with nobody between them and the goalie for them to win?
Their goalie’s an overrated head case, fans have a massive inferiority complex, and the entire province of British Columbia wanted to lynch me after I called Daniel and Henrik Sedin “The Tampon Twins?”
Okay, you got it now. Good. Well, they’re in town tonight. And it’s a great time for them to visit.
Much like the Boston game Oct. 15, the Blackhawks seemed to shift into neutral while sitting on a one-goal lead in the third period they hoped to close out.
And much like that contest, the opposition was able to tie it up and bring it to a shootout. At least they got two points out of this one, beating Florida 3-2 following the game of Candyland
I’m going to try something new and get even deeper into the Boxing theme here. Let me know if it works:
Jabs (Quick hits)
♦ Duncan Keith missing tonight didn’t have much affect against a mediocre team like Florida, and hopefully it won’t matter much against Tampa Bay, either. The Lightning have totaled three goals in their last two games. Sean O’Donnell and Nick Leddy seem a capable pair to be able to make up for Keith’s absence.
♦ Corey Crawford played a fantastic game tonight and kept the ‘Hawks ahead for as long as he could once they knocked back the throttle a bit. Allowing 43 shots obviously isn’t good, but the Panthers totaled 42 against Winnipeg four nights before. They fire the puck, so no need to panic, really.
Haymakers (Solid plays from the ‘Hawks)
♦ Jonathan Toews made a hell of a play to step in front of the pass and go hard to the net to score his goal. Vintage Captain.
♦ Patrick Kane once again showed just how well he can read a play to make the correct pass, firing it across the ice through the defense to set up Marian Hossa. Anyone shocked it was Tomas Kopecky who came into the play late to leave the slot wide open to allow that pass?
♦ Crawford was solid all night. Tough to pinpoint a single moment, but he was turning away a relentless amount of shots from the Panthers’ firing squad.
Counter-punches (The opposition)
♦ Both goals were tough on Crawford, who didn’t have much of a chance on either. Weiss’ goal took a tough bounce away from Crow, and Jovo’s goal was simply a great play by him.
Low Blows (Not-so-good stuff)
♦ The Blackhawks looked absolutely awful on their lone power play opportunity, once again making an otherwise talented team look silly. The ‘Hawks have scored 31 of their 38 goals at even strength, and they have one less short-handed goal (3) than they do with the man advantage. Just strange for a team with so much offensive talent.
♦ Kaner really has that move down, saving a point for the ‘Hawks after they put it in cruise control once again. The Blackhawks need to learn how to finish these games out rather than riding a one-goal lead and hoping to hold on with conservative play. Nonetheless, Crawford stoned both shots in the shootout to pick up the win.
Every year the Blackhawks do a father/son trip, usually involving some kind of bonding excursion. This year it took the form of a golf outing while dodging alligators in the Florida heat. The event spilled over into the social media arena, with Daniel Carcillo dissing the Lepisto twosome for bird-watching instead of shooting birdies. But fun and games aside, we have two difficult contests to get through when we’re not wading through the Everglades looking for a #4 Titleist, starting with the new-look Florida Panthers.
This past March, we were chuckling to ourselves as we prepared to face a Panthers team assembled out of the remnants of the league-basement Florida squad from the previous year, and the bargain bin cast-offs picked up at the end of the free agent signing period. It was a joke on skates, the money-saving brainchild of former Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon, and everyone expected a rout.
Everyone except the Panthers, it turns out: they caught the Blackhawks flat-footed and scrapped their way to a 3 – 2 victory. But a much different, and much more dangerous Florida team awaits the ‘Hawks tonight. Hopefully the Blackhawks’ players don’t leave their A-game on the fairway.
Talking hockey while wondering why people still read Phil Rogers……
♦Lets start with the power play, shall we? As I’m sure you’re all aware, it badly sucks. A PP which contains Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp is 4 of 45 though 11 games – that’s a 8.9 % conversion rate, good for 29th in the league ahead of only a putrid Blues squad. Some people have blamed personnel. Some people blame assistant coach Mike Kitchen. Who the hell really knows? One thing is for certain, somebody told them to start firing away before the game Monday night. The PP (especially in the 3rd period) had a ton of pucks heading towards the net. Had the Hawks been facing another goaltender, the story coming out of Monday nights game easily could have been that the Hawks power play had finally broken through. Is there a brightside here? Well, if your powerplay is going to go 4 for 45 – it’s not a bad time to do it while your team is on a 7-2-2 roll. The PP will look to get going tomorrow against a Florida Panthers penalty kill led by – Tomas Kopecky? Seems like the perfect opportunity to get things rolling.
♦On the flip side of that coin, the Hawks penalty kill is kicking every sort of ass there is. Toews, Hossa, Dave Bolland, Michael Frolik and Jamal Mayers have been exceptional and led the PK to a 91.7% success rate – 3rd best in the league behind an unstoppable Pittsburgh Penguins team and the Buffalo Sabers (I’ll chalk that up to Ryan Miller). The PK was one of the most frustrating aspects of the 2010-2011 squad and it’s a great relief to see that they’ve turned it around (especially if they are going to take 5 penalties a night like Monday). Quick note: Bolland leads the league in shorthanded goals with 2.
♦Speaking of Bolland, there is a must see video in this article about Bryan Bickell’s goal monday night showing Bolland discreetly tripping Kevin Klein in the slot and opening space for Bickell to finish. Another classic Rat moment. I enjoy these immensely.
Wouldn’t it be a riot if the players got to dress up for Hallowe’en games? If I were better at PhotoShop I’d have prepared a whole album full of images for you for this preview of the Blackhawks vs. Predators game, but instead we’ll just have to use our imaginations.
Nashville Head Coach Bary Trotz’s (Boris Badonov) team marches into the United Center tonight for these clubs’ first meeting of the season. These teams split the 6-game series last year 3 each, the biggest difference being the margin of victory. When Nashville won, it was a one-goal game. When Chicago won, it was (for some strange reason) *exactly* three goals. Go figure.
So life and work got in the way of me seeing any of the game last night. Praise Jeebus for DVR! The Blackhawks faced off against a miserable Columbus Blue Jackets team just a night after laying an egg in Carolina. They got back in the win column, having the good fortune of facing some guy named Allen York (an R.P.I. teammate of Brandon Pirri) in the Columbus net. The Hawks were able to come away with a 5-2 victory. Time is short so just a quick recap today:
The Columbus Blue Jackets’ season so far: 10 games, 1 win, 8 losses, 1 OTL, for a total of 3 (that’s “three”) points, and they’re 0-5-0 on the road.
I really should just stop right there and just save you the time, let the game speak for itself. This team sucks, and there’s precious little argument about that.
With the Blackhawks’ poor luck with shootouts of late (or at least, until the victory over Anaheim on Tuesday), one would think it hard to find a team doing worse than Chicago in that category. Fortunately for us, the ‘Hawks visit that team tonight. Carolina, despite having only 9 games under their belt, has 3 games in the ‘OTL’ column.
The bad stats don’t end there, with 5 of their top 6 scorers sitting south of zero in the plus-minus category, and their backup goaltender boasting a 4.46 GAA.
Let’s leave it as, things could be better in the land of NASCAR.
One of the curiosities of last season was the holy-crap performance of aging veteran Teemu Selanne. Despite having four decades in his rear view mirror, he notched 31 goals and a whopping 80 points in 73 regular-season games, adding a goal-per-game performance in the playoffs. Selanne and 4 other Ducks players were all north of 65 points on the 2010-11 season, and Selanne plus the other 4 will all be in the lineup tonight at the United Center: forwards Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Bobby Ryan, and defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky.
But I’m sure Anaheim Head Coach Randy Carlyle is hoping his offensive stars will start to shine soon, as the Ducks are near the bottom of the barrel in scoring, just barely nudging past 2 goals per game on average. Those five players account for fully two-thirds of the Ducks total offense to date. Pay close attention to those players, you shut down the Ducks offense — almost.
On Saturday evening, Jeff was having his weekly psychotic episode. These almost always include (but are not limited to) alcohol, friends, and the Michigan State Spartans football game. This one was particularly bad, as the Spartans went down 14 – 0 in the first 7 minutes of the game, rallied to a 31 – 14 lead — which they then blew in the fourth quarter, only to win against #6 Wisconsin on the already-legendary Hail Mary pass with no time left on the clock.
I’ve spoken to the doctors, and Jeff may be well enough to take visitors as early as tomorrow afternoon. But in the mean time, your fix of “Boxing” will be delayed until after the Ducks game on Tuesday.
I know, you’re disappointed, for the second time. As the Blackhawks were not able to pull together the same fate as MSU: they also came from behind, they also blew a late-game lead, but lost 5 – 4 in a shootout to Colorado. This defeat was much the same as Thursday’s victory, but the bounces went against the Blackhawks this time.
The Blackhawks’ season looked, at the outset, to be fraught with peril: shaky backup goaltending, injuries to key forwards, defensive pairing mix-and-match, questions about conditioning, and the ever-present ticking time bomb that exists in the form of newly-acquired winger Daniel Carcillo. The first six games of the season find the Blackhawks with a 4-1-1 record, and showing the potential for another Stanley Cup run. Thursday’s game was a good example of that potential.
Watching the Blackhawks take on the Avalanche it was apparent that these were two closely-matched teams: young and fast, with quick and dangerous snipers up front and scary-good goaltending on the back end. Thursday’s game saw lots of end-to-end action, goaltenders peppered with shots — and standing on their heads to keep their teams in it, and a lot of quick transitions at the blue line.
Tonight, we are going to see that same Avalanche team again; and again, the Blackhawks are going to have to play the same fast, disciplined game to get past them.
As the Winnipeg Jets celebrate their reincarnation north of the border, the team that represents the ashes of the old incarnation of that squad still sits, parched, in the dusty climes of Phoenix, awaiting whatever fate Fuhrer Bettman decides they should have. Stuck in the mobius loop of lousy-team-low-revenue-no-buyers-can’t-attract-good-players-so-lousy-team, Bettman faces mountains of humiliation should the team be forced to move from a location he personally hand-picked for NHL expansion. So, he isn’t approving any deals that involve moving the team to places where snowmobiles are used as transportation for part of the year.
The proud, arrogant little bastard should be beaten to death at center ice before puck drop at the All-Star Game. Fans of hockey all over the world would pay $5000 a ticket to watch that.
But I digress…