Is anyone else sick of the damn shootout?
Everyone would have liked to see the Hawks take two points in their first game back at the United Center and they were just a hair away from getting it done. The good news is, the Hawks are 13 games into the season and have gotten a point in each of the games. The bad news is, they should have had two tonight.
There were definitely good things to take away from this game. This was perhaps the most physical game the Blackhawks have played all season. Bryan Bickell throwing his weight into Ryan Getzlaf was beautiful. When you’re a big body guy with decent speed, you need to hit people. It was nice to finally see him doing that to one of the Ducks’ core guys. It seems the team has been playing with a bit of an edge ever since Jamal Mayers’ scrap with Raffi Torres.
The Blackhawks’ penalty kill continues to shine. They play with active sticks and are more aggressive on the penalty kill than I’ve seen in years, leading to an important 5 on 3 kill tonight. Credit to Niklas Hjalmarsson, Michael Frolik, and Marcus Kruger for their newfound PK skills. I know I wasn’t the only one cussing these guys out last year; their turnaround is nothing short of a Chicago miracle.
It’s been covered ad nauseum by beat writers and bloggers alike so I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time on the topic du jour, Raffi Torres. He’s a fourth line player and comparatively we don’t spend a whole lot of our thoughts on Jamal Mayers anymore. Matt McClure wrote a thoughtful piece at The Committed Indian on retaliation and I’d encourage reading that if you’re so inclined. Otherwise, this will be the last I mention of #37 in burgundy and white.
Onto the actual hockey game being played in Glendale tonight.
As a fan, you can be forgiven for looking past last night’s game with the most insignificant hockey club since the California Golden Seals to the tilt with 100% unmitigated evil this evening.
The game last night may not have been very fun or interesting, but it was the fifth straight victory for the ‘Hawks since the season began, matching a feat not seen round these parts since the 1971-1972 season. Tonight, the Blackhawks can make history by making it six straight.
But these goddamn Red Wings can always be counted on to spoil a good time, can’t they? Remember the banner raising ceremony opening night in 2010-2011? You sure do. Contests like the game tonight are what these rivalries are built on. You probably don’t want to miss this one.
Despite their fairly impotent (2-2-0) start, Detroit still possess all sorts of weapons the ‘Hawks will have to account for up front. The combination of Henrik Zetterberg and Damien Brunner will be dangerous, Pavel Datsyuk is going to be Pavel fucking Datsyuk, Johan Frazen will punch Patrick Kane in the head while moving slowly around the ice and guys like Dan Cleary, Mikael Samuelsson, Justin Abdelkader and Todd Bertuzzi will aggravate the living hell out of you. These aren’t ’07-’08 Red Wings – but they aren’t the Blue Jackets, either. If you let them fuck around in your zone, you will pay.
The issues with Detroit this year are almost entirely on their blue line (and that’s before you even look at all the injuries). After Niklas Kronwall, they’ll depend on Ian White, Kyle Quincy and Jonathan Ericsson (who returns tonight). If that isn’t awful enough, White and Ericsson have been hurt and they’ve been forced to lean heavily on youngster Brendan Smith and some guy named Brian Lashoff. How bad a defense are we talking here? Kent Huskins improved it. Q’s message to the ‘Hawks forwards need not be complicated tonight – get the puck deep and keep it there. It shouldn’t be a problem with this, uh, “defense” that Mike Babcock rolls out this season.
While Q has said he doesn’t like tinkering with the lines while the ‘Hawks are winning, one can reasonably expect the return of Michael Rosival and Brandon Bollig – which means you’re likely to get a Bollig-Jordin Tootoo bout at some point. As of this writing no starting goaltender had been announced, but with the Blackhawks off until Wednesday it stands to logic that Q gives Corey Crawford the crease again. It’s imperative the Blackhawks roll four lines and six defenseman tonight. Detroit has been off since Friday and the Blackhawks had to work a little harder than any of us expected in Ohio last night. There’s no need to overload anyone in the early going here, even if you are reaching for history.
You can probably disregard Chicago being the better team on paper. It’s the Blackhawks. It’s the Red Wings. It’s going to be a good game. Enjoy it.
Not exactly the demeanor in which we’d like to see a win in Columbus but no one is going to turn down two points, short season or not. The Hawks came out with cement skates in the first ten minutes of the game being outshot 8 to 1 before finally breaking open the smelling salts. Mark Letestu’s goal came after two Crawford saves. Keith, Seabrook or Dave Bolland need to clear the crease in that instance. Patrick Kane made a nice play at his own blue line to evade a pinching Jacket defender and was then aggressive in his play to the net. He wasn’t able to beat Mason but left a juicy rebound for Dave Bolland who was wise to follow 88 to the net. Tied after the first 20 minutes.
The 2nd period was mostly controlled by the Hawks despite being unable to cash in on 2 Jacket penalties. Bryan Bickell made a nice play to prevent a clearing attempt and then went straight to the net to provide a nice screen/tip in front of Steve Mason for the Hawks 2nd goal. They would lead the rest of the game thanks in large part to a botched interference call that disallowed a Columbus tying goal on a powerplay later in the period.
Mark Letestu scored the early goal for the Jackets but he’s also responsible for the dagger that won the game. A failed clearing attempt that was picked off by Patrick Kane who then set up the Captain for a pretty goal. Two games in a row the Captain has converted a big goal in the final frame. The Jackets made it close late in the 3rd on a goal that was the result of a 2nd lost board battle by the Hawks top defensive pairing. On the plus side, it’s a positive to see Q throw out both Toews and Kruger for the defensive zone draw that preceded the goal. It was one of the few faceoff loses for the Captain tonight.
Five straight to start the 48.
- Speaking of powerplays, it’d be great if CSN Chicago could show us how much is time is left in a shorthanded situation. Your graphic guys should not be ITT Tech graduates. Please and thank you.
- Corey Crawford was excellent tonight and we may as well continue to give Quenneville credit in this shortened season for his roster decisions as they’ve worked out well. Brookbank’s limited minutes and effectiveness were put out against an inferior team so that (hopefully) Rozie skates tonight against Detroit. Same thing can be said about Crawford as he was needed to make some saves that I think it’s safe to say would likely have gotten past Ray Emery. The saves after Patrick Kane’s turnover on a 2nd period powerplay stick out big time tonight.
- 0 for 4 on the powerplay. It was bound to happen at some point. 5 for 5 on the kill, however, is great to see from a much improved penalty kill unit (even if they did get lucky but we’ll get to that later). Let’s try not to march to the box that much and test our luck though.
- Good on Jamal Mayers to stick up for Kruger after Jared Boll ran him into the boards. The instigation penalty, not so much. Especially in a 2-1 hockey game. Nothing wrong with finding Boll on his next shift and settling the score at that point.
- Hawks caught a MAJOR break on the goal that was wiped away. That wasn’t interference on Crawford and it sure as hell wasn’t a high stick. Take ‘em when you get ‘em.
- Chicago was outhit 24-12 tonight. They won. Get used to it.
- Dave Bolland’s double minor was inexcusable. Good on Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp to negate half that but if the Rat is gonna rat, he needs to do it in a less debilitating way. This is also a reason why the Jackets are top candidates for the #1 pick as well. How do you blow a 4 minute powerplay in the 3rd down two goals?
- Could be worse. We could have lost to the Wizards tonight like the other United Center tenant. Onto the AARP Wings squad tomorrow.
Go ahead and accuse me of looking past a team and jinxing the Blackhawks but I’m not buying it. The Columbus Blue Jackets, ever the doormat of the Central division, did little to improve their already pathetic hockey team during the lockout. Gone is Rick Nash to the Rangers in return for Brandon Dubinsky, who many wanted in an Indian Head during Chicago’s struggles to fill their gap on the second line down the middle. Dubinsky has yet to dent the scoresheet in four games in a Columbus uniform; in fact the two NHL ready players the Jackets received for Nash have a total of one point through the young season.
Make no mistake about it, the Blackhawks should walk out of Nationwide Arena today with two points and not think twice.
Through four games, the Blackhawks have won in seemingly every way possible.
They’ve dominated (Kings), simply outscored the opposition in a game with shoddy goaltending (Coyotes), jumped out to a big lead and held on for dear life (Blues) and battled back from a multiple-goal deficit – the latter being a 3-2 overtime win over Dallas on Thursday night.
Patrick Kane, who continues to play out of his mind, made a beautiful backhand pass to a waiting Marian Hossa for the winner to complete the comeback from two goals down.
The ‘Hawks have won their first four for the first time since the 1973-74 season and aren’t showing any signs of slowing down. I saw a tweet during the game that the Blackhawks were showing signs of fatigue due to the condensed schedule, and I don’t believe that’s true for a minute.
Sure, Michal Rozsival farted away a puck in his own zone that led to an easy goal that put the ‘Hawks behind 2-0, and Patrick Sharp wasn’t exactly thinking straight when he blindly fired the puck to center ice that led to a late penalty that could’ve cost the ‘Hawks the game. But tired? I saw jump all night.
And how good were the special teams? The Blackhawks went 3 for 7 with the man advantage, marking the first time they’ve scored three power-play goals since going 4 for 9 in a 4-2 win over Calgary on Dec. 5, 2010.
We saw very little standing around and plenty of puck movement, as evidenced by Sharp’s feed to Jonathan Toews for the equalizer in the third, followed by the Kane-to-Hossa masterpiece.
– Corey Crawford was taking a beating on social media after allowing that first goal, and then again after Duncan Keith saved his ass at the end of the second period. While there aren’t many excuses for letting that puck trickle through his legs on the second instance, Crawford deserves credit for making the initial stop with a man bearing down on him full speed on a breakaway. He stopped a penalty shot and made a key save on a redirected puck in OT with the ‘Hawks a man down. Not sure what else everyone is expecting from the man.
– Speaking of Keith, he played a fabulous game tonight and has been extremely solid through four. Brent Seabrook on the other hand? He’s just not looking very sharp yet. The penalty shot was his fault after he took his eye off the puck and let it slip under his stick.
– Nick Leddy is playing good hockey, and he would’ve gotten much more praise tonight had Hossa been able to beat Kari Lehtonen – who stood on his head most of the night – off Leddy’s great feed. Leddy’s one-man charge into the zone on the power play was a thing of beauty, and his pass to Hossa was a great find. More of this, please.
Onto Boxing. Click to enlarge…
First things’s first: I can’t begin to explain how excited I am to be doing Boxing again. Sitting in Section 326, Row 12, Seat 9 sporting my Duncan Keith No. 3 Michigan State sweater made me forget about everything that transpired over the last six months. It felt great to be back watching hockey at the United Center, and I can’t wait to get back there Sunday.
As for the game, the Blackhawks’ onslaught of first-period odd-man rushes yielded only a single goal when Patrick Kane put a sweet move on Brian Elliott to complete a 3-on-0 as the Blues napped after a turnover. Somehow, after seemingly dominating the majority of the period, the ‘Hawks were outshot 9-7 and headed into the second period short a man after Marian Hossa took a tripping penalty with less than 20 seconds left.
Goals from Brent Seabrook in the second (originally credited to Keith) and Viktor Stalberg in the third were enough to hold off St. Louis, which made things interesting with a pair of goals in the final period.
– The Blackhawks are off to a 3-0-0 start, which would seem pretty arbitrary during an 82-game season. With this campaign already being at the 45-game mark, earning six quick points could go a long way. And if you told me they’d be unbeaten after facing Los Angeles, Phoenix and St. Louis to open the season, I would have asked who replaced your sanity with the optimism of Richard Simmons.
– So, it looks like the Kane trade talk can pipe down for, like, another couple days, eh?
– Corey Crawford was damn good. He made the saves he was expected to make, and then plenty more. He snuffed out St. Louis’ comeback attempt when the momentum shifted and played big during the Blues’ final burst to end the game. There shouldn’t be any question that Crawford gets the start Thursday in Dallas.
– Brandon Saad shook off a slow start and questionable decision-making to have a second solid game. He seemed very timid in the first period but by the third he was very aggressive getting into the Blues’ zone.
– I know I need to accept that Joel Quenneville will continue to dress someone for the sole purpose of him playing roughly five meaningless minutes, but why Brandon Bollig deserves to wear an NHL sweater at this point is beyond me. I mean Christ, even the Blues scratched Ryan Reaves.
Let’s get to the season’s first Boxing, including my channeling into the mind of Jonathan Toews. There’s one image for the summary, another for the box score. Click on each to enlarge….
If your day was anything like mine, you sat on the couch for a solid ten hours and watched a lot of football and even more hockey. It was glorious fun, yes, but somehow one can still feel exhausted after such a marathon. It’s really late so we’ll have a somewhat abbreviated recap. Here’s a few thoughts on a sloppy, but entertaining hockey game:
- Marian Hossa was outstanding for the second straight day. As Jonthan Toews alluded to after the game, we’re witnessing Hoss playing a whole different sport than everyone else right now. Seeing him punish the team that employs the scum who probably lowered his quality of life at some point in the future made it that much sweeter. Good on Hoss.
-David Bolland as the second line center is working out just fine. Two goals tonight for Bolland, including one of the strangest, funniest goals I’ve seen in a long while. I only wish we could have seen Mike Smith freak out like that during the playoffs last year.
-Speaking of Smith, he has now let in ten goals in two games. Enjoy that stat and brandish it if happen to run into one of the six Coyote fans in the world tomorrow.
- We’d rather see Marcus Kruger than Andrew Shaw on the third line, but they was effective all night long. Bryan Bickell and Viktor Stalberg (both guys who were rumored to be on the move at certain points of the offseason) clicking together certainly didn’t seem likely, but they’re doing just that and I think we’re all okay with it. Stalberg had several chances tonight, finishing one of them in the second period off a nice feed from Bickell. He missed on a breakaway in the third frame, but was a key factor in Bolland’s powerplay goal in the first – battling in front of Mike Smith with
Dave Derek Morris and giving Patrick Kane the space he needed to set up Bolland. Stalberg gave Morris such a problem that Morris threw him to the ice in frustration after Bolland scored. Good job, Vik.
- The fourth line was talked about a lot on Twitter during the game and did have a few dominant shifts in the Phoenix zone in the first and second periods. However, Michael Frolik and Kruger each finished the game -2. Brandon Bollig got his ass kicked in a fight with BizNasty and didn’t play much after taking a completely unnecessary tripping penalty about as far away from the ‘Hawks net as you can get.
-I’ve avoided dealing with the awfulness that is Ray Emery’s goaltending because I didn’t want to spoil the good time. So, I will not fret over our backup goaltender. I will not fret over our backup goaltender. I will not fret over our backup goaltender. I will not fret over our backup goaltender. I will not fret over our backup goaltender……..No, screw it, I’m fretting. Emery was putrid and made what should have been a good old fashioned ass kicking a nail biter at one point. This situation has been allowed to fester and should reflect poorly on Stan Bowman if it ends up costing the Blackhawks.
-Not related to tonight’s game, but please appreciate Rockford IceHogs goalie Carter Hutton beating the absolute shit out of Grand Rapids Griffins goaltender Petr Mrazek in a bench clearing brawl two night ago. Damn.
- The game on Tuesday night against St. Louis is shaping up to be a regular doozy. What could make it more awesome? Well, Bartl will be back with Boxing.
Apologies for the late recap today. By now you all know the Blackhawks walked into Los Angeles and put a damper on an otherwise memorable afternoon for the Kings and their fans. Marian Hossa dominated. Corey Crawford made the saves he had to and the Blackhawks weren’t giving an inch in their own zone all afternoon.
We won’t do a full narrative summary of this game only because you’ve probably read summaries elsewhere and after a long day of drinking, I simply can’t remember all the details. We’ll give you a couple of quick thoughts on the game from yesterday before we move on to the Phoenix game tonight.
- Marian Hossa went a long way toward alleviating fears that he may not be the same player after Raffi Torres nearly killed him last year. Hoss dominated almost every shift he took and had one of his best games as a Blackhawk. If he does this all year long, it’ll be awfully hard for Stan Bowman to sell the idea of buying him out.
- Corey Crawford’s performance will keep the mob off his back until at least Tuesday when Vladimir Tarasenko and Blues come to town.
- One can’t help but feel good for Michael Frolik. There’s no question he’s been an offensive disappointment since being acquired from Florida, but that wrist shot over the glove of Jonathan Quick was a thing of beauty and he put in some tough minutes on the penalty kill as well. Frolik may not be the player ‘Hawks fans thought they were getting, but he’s a guy that’s easy to pull for. Here’s hoping Frolik turns it around this year.
- Joel Quenneville rolled four lines and Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook both played under 24 minutes. This is a recipe for success. Sure, it was easy to do yesterday as the ‘Hawks dominated from the get-go, but we’d all like to see more of this.
Moving onto the game tonight in Phoenix:
Ray Emery will get the start in goal tonight against Phoenix. Many would like to have seen Crawford get a chance to build on his outing last night, but Q and Co. have the condensed schedule in mind and this decision was probably made a week or so ago.
In other lineup news, Daniel Carcillo suffered some kind of leg injury yesterday and will miss the next month of the season. We may not be the biggest Carcillo fans, sure, but it sucks for a guy who rehabbed for months to get injured in his very first game back. A tough blow for Carcillo, to be sure. However, his injury gives Brandon Saad a shot to crack the lineup. It’ll be interesting to see if Q just slots Saad into Carcillo’s spot with Jonathan Toews and Hossa – or changes the lineup entirely. Could this be Viktor Stalberg’s chance to enter the top six again?
We’re still waiting to hear if Michael Rosival will replace Sheldon Brookbank in the lineup tonight. Rosival played for Phoenix last year, but Q usually will stick with a lineup as long as it wins. We’ll see.
The odds favor Academy Award nominee Mike Smith starting in goal tonight for Phoenix. While he let in four goals against Dallas last night, the Coyotes don’t play again until Wednesday and Jason LaBarbera sort of sucks.
The Coyotes may be a boring team, but that doesn’t mean they’re a bad one. All the usual suspects (Vrbata-Doan-Hanzel) are still around for Phoenix with new additions Steve Sullivan and Matthew Lombardi providing some depth. But their blue line is their real strength, with Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Keith Yandle and the newly acquired Zbynek Michalek leading the way. The ‘Hawks best effort will be required if they are to come home for the Blues game Tuesday night with 4 points.
…and yes, Raffi Torres is still suspended. If you were hoping for shenanigans, tonight probably isn’t the night.
We’ll be around later with a (full) recap.
(Now we’ll take a look at the division the Canucks win every year in a cakewalk and managed to feature exactly one playoff team last year.)
#1 Vancouver (111) Calgary (90) Colorado (88) Minnesota (81) Anaheim (80)
New guys: Jason Garrison (I wanted him), Cam Barker (you’re all horrible people for making fun), Jim Vandermeer (?) and Derek Joslin.
Gone: Samuel Pahlsson (yup, that one), Sami Salo (one ball joke) and Aaron Rome.
Not yet gone: Roberto Luongo
Young players to keep an eye on: There really isn’t a whole lot here. With injuries to guys like Ryan Kesler and David Booth, hulking winger Zach Kassian will get a shot to play in the Vancouver top six. Chicago Wolves defenseman Kevin Connauton scares the shit out of me – but at least it looks like he’s at least another season away from leaving Rosemont. Should Kesler or Booth miss more time than expected, puny 5’8 center Jordan Schroeder could be called upon to fill the void. Due to all the injuries, 2011 1st round pick Niklas Jensen will get a shot to make the roster out of camp, but that appears to be a long shot.
Outlook: Think a team with Barker and Vandermeer can’t make the playoffs? Think again. Edmonton and Minnesota aren’t pushovers anymore, sure, but the Northwest still belongs to the Canucks. Their depth looks questionable, but as soon as it *really* starts to hurt, they can pull the trigger on a Luongo deal and probably improve multiple spots. Garrison should more than make up for the loss of Sami Salo and I can’t imagine the Sedin’s letting this team nose-dive. As much as you don’t want to hear this, it looks like Vancouver probably gets home ice for at least the opening round.
New guys: Nail Yakupov (clearly a cancer in the dressing room) , Justin Schultz (this guy could have played anywhere in the NHL and chose Edmonton), and Mark Fistric (became an Oiler just the other day).
Gone: Taylor Chorney.
Young players to keep an eye on: All of them. Yakupov, Schultz, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and the list just goes on and on. All of these damn guys are probably going to be superstars (if they aren’t already) and constitute a fine young core for Edmonton. How the hell they plan on paying all these #1 picks in the future is beyond me – but that’s their problem. Should injury strike their defense, 6’3 Swede Oscar Klefbom (a fine hockey name) could see his first NHL action. 2011 2nd rounder David Musil would be another option here.
Outlook: Is this team closer to the ’07-’08 Blackhawks or the ’08-’09 Blackhawks? It’s impossible to say. Some analysts have suggested that the lockout could benefit younger teams. If that’s the case, then the Oil should be in decent sharp – even with Nikolai Khabibulin in net. In my view, the weakest area on this team is the blue line. Yes, Schultz is a great young prospect, but this isn’t a unit many teams are going to fear as they move into the Oilers zone. The offensive potential is pretty much unlimited. If the trio of #1 overall picks click right away, those defensive problems may not matter much. Edmonton is one of the tougher teams to judge this year. Could go either way. Sorry, total cop-out.
New guys: Zach Parise (now sporting a Mr. Monopoly monocle at all times) , Ryan Suter (ditto Parise), Zenon Konopka, Jake Dowell and Torrey Mitchell.
Gone: Guillaume Latendresse, Erik Christensen and Mike Lundin.
Young players to watch: The Wild have a pool of prospects that should make any Blackhawks fan who supports realignment strongly reconsider. They are stocked pretty much everywhere. Center-icemen Mikael Backlund and Charlie Coyle, along with defenseman Jonis Brodin and Matthew Dumba, are elite prospects. While it’s unlikely any of them except Backlund (and maybe Dumba) see time in the NHL this year, all are worth keeping an eye on in the future. Guys that have seen NHL time like Brett Bulmer and Jason Zucker could be called upon again if needed. Mario Lucia, Zach Phillips, Johan Larsen and Matt Hackett round out their prospect poll. Not too shabby. In fact, it’s absolutely terrifying.
Outlook: As good as this team may one day be, expectations are probably set a little too high for this season. While you can’t blame Minnesota fans for being excited with the arrival of Parise and
Konopka Suter, there are still a lot of question about this teams defensive depth and nobody knows how quickly this semi-overhauled roster will take to gel. The improvements are impossible to ignore, but this is still a team that looks scarier for what they might one day become – as opposed to what they currently are.
*We should mention that their owner, Craig Leipold, was a big driver of this lockout on the owners side. So fuck him and his team. Hating Minnesota is going to be a lot of fun.
New guys: PA Parenteau (the rare player who wants to leave the Islanders), Greg Zanon and John Mitchell.
Gone: Peter Mueller (getting a second chance with Dale Tallon) and Jay McClement.
Young players to keep an eye on: Colorado’s defense is a disaster, so guys like Ty Barrie, Stefan Elliott and/or Duncan Siemens could get a look once this team is out of the playoff race – which will probably be about three weeks from now. Often injured prospect Joey Hishon may finally get a look if they can’t lure back Ryan O’Reilly from Russia. Mark Olver went to Northern Michigan University, which makes him awesome.
Outlook: This team sucks and will be even suckier if they can’t re-sign O’Reilly. Sure, Gabriel Landeskog is a monster and they have a number of talented forwards, but like we mentioned already, that defense is just terrible. The goaltending behind it is almost as bad. Not a playoff team. Moving on.
New guys: Sven Bartschi (remember this name), Roman Cervenka, Dennis Wideman (contain your laughter) and Jiri Hudler (condolences to Hudler on the recent passing of his father).
Gone: Olli Jokinen (obligatory waffle gif), David Moss and Scott Hannan.
Not gone because Jay Feaster is delusional: Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff.
Young players to keep an eye on: Bartschi and Markus Granlund (coming over from Finland). The Flames also drafted John Gaudreau, but he’s a few years away. T.J. Brodie is an option on the blue line if they don’t want to torture themselves with Anton Babchuk and Corey Sarich.
Outlook: This team has some talent, yes, but still drag around entirely too much dead weight. The guys over at Hockeenight are always making fun of Flames for giving out no-trade clauses to any and all comers – and its’s completely true! It’s like this roster was carefully booby trapped to guard against any and all rebuilding efforts. Even if they wanted to give up the chasing the dragon and start over, they couldn’t do it.
Oh, and Mike Cammalleri is still a douche.
Western Conference playoff picks:
Los Angeles-St.Louis-Vancouver-Chicago-Phoenix-Detroit-Minnesota-San Jose
(That concludes the Western Conference portion of our season preview. We’ll be back in the next day or so with a look at the East.)