Another bad game against inferior opponents, another OT loss. That seems to be the way of it right now. The Hawks started their Western road trip with an almost immediate goal against and were chasing the game and, indeed, their tails thereafter.
Fans are nervous and unhappy right now, and with good reason. While we can try to be optimistic and chalk it down to tiredness, or mid-season ennui, the Hawks are losing ground in the West, not only to Anaheim and St Louis (who are now level on points but have the ROW toebreaker and three games in hand) but also to San Jose and, for that matter, Colorado. The gaping maw of the West Coast trip is swinging wide open right now and we don’t need much prompting to recall the nine-game losing streak two years ago.
If the Hawks play to their potential then there’s no reason why they won’t be at or near the top heading into the Olympic break. More performances like we’ve seen recently and we could be in for a torrid final six weeks.
Let’s talk about stuff:
Last night was a mess, albeit a thrilling, entertaining one. A clearly fired-up Wings raised their game and the Hawks, well, the Hawks kind of lowered theirs. They met in the middle and there was an almighty bang. It looked like the Hawks were going to streak away after a couple of early goals but they let the Wings back into the contest when they could and should have killed them off. Johnny Oduya and Brent Seabrook both made separate, serious errors and lapses that led directly to Detroit goals. The Wings even took the lead heading into the 3rd, until Marcus Kruger tied the game with that period’s only goal. Overtime came and went in a frantic blur and, once again, you felt that a tie would have been the appropriate place to leave it.
Last time the Hawks saw the Detroit Red Wings, they were on the end of a handshake line after a pulsating, heart-pounding 7 Game series where the Hawks had looked dead and buried after four games, only to surge back and win through Brent Seabrook’s overtime goal. I’m sure you all remember. Since then, many things have changed: the Hawks have a new Championship banner in their rafters, Detroit have moved to the Eastern Conference and the fortunes of both teams have taken a decidedly different path.
The last 10 minutes of this hockey game were stressful enough that it’s easy to understand how many people could forget that Blackhawks utterly dominated Anaheim during the first 50 minutes of the contest. No matter, the Blackhawks will take a much needed regulation victory against what the standings say is the best team in the Western Conference.
Marian Hossa kicked off the scoring when he beat Jonas Hiller high glove side after stick-handing Cam Fowler to his knees. It was a shorthanded tally for Hossa, who had one had his strongest games in quite some time. Hell, this was among his most dominating performances as a Blackhawk. Hoss would also provide the empty netter with just seconds remaining in the game. The long march toward 500 continues for #81. Kris Versteeg put the Hawks up 2-0 on a goal that while admittedly flukey, was still a result of Versteeg crashing the net hard with his stick on the ice. It was exactly the kind of dirty goal that snaps prolonged slumps. Unfortunately for Versteeg and the Blackhawks, he went down late 2nd period after colliding awkwardly with Bryan Bickell. Despite the goal, he played less than seven minutes in two periods. For now, Versteeg is officially listed as day-to-day.
We don’t do a Links roundup here on CtA because either
a) We assume that our smart, knowledgable, downright good-looking readers voraciously scour the Web for anything Hawks/ Hockey related or
b) We’re lazy good-for-nothings
With that in mind, there have been a couple of articles on other sites over the last few days that we’d like to make sure you don’t miss, for one reason or another. So here they are, with some commentary.
Our good friend Jen LC wrote this article about Bryan Bickell for Second City Hockey. I’d actually started doing the stats research myself for a similar article. Jen has done the digging, tied it all together and presented it to the world a thousand times better than I ever could. It’s essential reading.
There was a general sentiment on Twitter the other night, as Pat Foley & Eddie Olcyzk descended into a burbling mess of catchphrases, half-baked stats and witless propaganda, that Hawks fans were reaching breaking point with that less-than-dynamic duo. The next day we got a pair of great articles, the first from Sam Fels at The Committed Indian and shortly followed by Mike at Hockey Brunch In Chicago. Great reading in both and plenty of food for thought. Also jokes.
Another of our friends, Ryan Hackett. decided to do a Twitter-based recap of last night’s game with his own acerbic commentary. It’s hilarious. We can almost forgive him for being a Packers fan.
On the subject of funny, we got introduced to the wonderful The Full Amonte today. Here is a fictional recap of a Terrible Hawks Game from the Dark Days. Involves Mike Milbury, Jocelyn Thibault and Dave Manson.
Just Plain Dumb:
While we have directed you to some well thought-out and researched writings, there is another side to the Hockey Blogosphere.. I’d like to present two scrapings from the barrel, in chronological order.
First we had The Hockey News with some extremely half-witted trade ideas. It seems that every year the whole “Steve Ott to the Blackhawks” thing comes up. It remains a terrible, terrible Bad Idea.
Today we also got the joy of John Jaeckel at Hockeybuzz weighing in with a “Rumour” that “Passes the sniff test” about the Hawks trading with Winnipeg to reacquire the services of Andrew Ladd. You’ll have to read it to find out what he thinks is going back in return. Make sure you have a strong drink handy. Oh, and if you’re feeling bad about yourself, read the comments. They’ll make you feel a million times better, because at least you’re not as dumb as those people.
I guess part of the problem of being the reigning champs is that the opposition raise their game when you’re in their building, especially if they don’t see you that often. That, combined with a distictly lacklustre performance from the Hawks, leads to nights like last night.
I’m not one to get over-excited about the whole “Original 6″ thing, but this always feels special. The Canadiens in Montreal is one of the big red-letter days on the calendar. The Habs have 23 NHL-Era Stanley Cup banners hanging in their rafters; which is only three fewer than the Wings, Bruins, Hawks and Rangers’ combined total. Names like ‘Rocket’ Richard, Jean Beliveau, ‘Boom Boom’ Geoffrion, Guy Lafleur and Ken Dryden all created their legends with this club. The Centre Bell may not be as redolent with history as the old Montreal Forum but it’s still one of Hockey’s great arenas and crowds.
I’m looking forward to this, in other words.
That was my fault. Not the SO loss, the lack of entertainment. I made the mistake of saying, in my preview, that Hawks/Sharks is always fun: therefore we got to see the dullest 77 shot game you can imagine. It was so boring even legendary dullards like Doc Emrick and Pierre McGuire were losing interest and burbling off onto Foley-esque tangents. But I guess some stuff did happen and I suppose they pay me the big bucks to talk about it, so let’s get to it.
The San Jose Sha-Arks come to snowbound Chicago and they won’t even be the coldest representatives from California playing tonight. Hopefully everyone is safe and well stocked with booze because tonight should be fun. Last time these guys were here was the day of the tornadoes and I got to go to the game at the UC (thanks @Schatzipage!) at short notice. That was a 5-1 laugher as the Hawks bounced back from a humbling in Nashville. Tonight they return home after a (reasonably) successful swing to the East Coast and face up to one of the powerhouse Pacific teams, albeit one that is beaten up and stumbling a little.