Just under a week ago, the Phoenix Coyotes walked into the United Center and kicked the shit out of the Blackhawks in every aspect of the game. It was probably one of the three worst performances the Hawks put in this year – along with the Vancouver and Edmonton debacles. The Hawks had one good shift in the opening minutes and then watched the Coyotes dominate the last 55 minutes of the hockey game. The UC was a funeral parlor and you would have had to be drunker than Matthew Barnaby to enjoy yourself. Since that horrible evening, each team has played 2 games. The Coyotes were 0-2 in that time (losing to Winnipeg and Philly), while the Hawks took care of business against the Islanders and St. Louis.
The Coyotes come into the game 13-9-3, good for 4th place in the Pacific Division and 9th in the Western Conference. In their last 10 games they are a very mediocre 5-5-0, but they play their best hockey on the road, sporting a 7-4-1 record. The Hawks dominated the first meeting between these teams and the Coyotes controlled the second.
After a pathetic showing on Tuesday night, the Hawks’ get a chance to redeem themselves against one of the worst teams in the NHL. The Islanders roll into United Center at 7-11-4 with just 18 points. They are dead last in the Eastern Conference. To put things in perspective, the Isles have exactly 1 more point than the Columbus Blue Jackets. They suck very badly.
Things were supposed to be better for the Islanders this season but it just hasn’t happened. They are dead last in the NHL with just 1.96 goals per game and have only one player, Frans Nielsen , on the right side of the plus/minus category. Everybody’s favorite former Blackhawk Marty Reasoner was picked up to provide veteran leadership and has not yet recorded a goal and is a team worst-14. That should make you feel a little better about Stan Bowman not holding onto him last season.
Former #1 overall pick John Tavares looked poised to have a breakout season, but has disappointed with just 8 goals and 8 assists in 22 games. Tavares is tied for the Islanders lead in goals with linemate Matt Moulson. These aren’t horrible numbers, but they aren’t exactly great for a #1 overall pick. Michael Grabner had a great season last year but has underperformed this campaign with just 7 goals. line with Kyle Okposo and Nielsen.
One imagines the Islanders will stick with Al Montoya in goal. They have won two games in a row with him and probably won’t want to interrupt their little streak. They are a rare team that carries 3 goaltenders and Montoya is playing ahead of 2010 Stanley Cup run victim Evgeni Nabokov and biggest waste of money ever, Rick DiPietro.
Hopefully Nino Niederreiter plays – his name is awesome.
The Blackhawks come into the game tied with Detroit at 31 points – but the Red Wings have 2 games in hand. The Hawks’ have a ton of home games coming up here in December and need to make the most of it. A Friday night home game against a team like this is a game the Hawks’ simply need to have.
The Hawks’ played like shit on Tuesday night and they know it. As you probably know by now, Joel Quenneville juggled the lines again and has moved Patrick Kane back to RW with Jonathan Toews. As Bartl pointed out yesterday, it’s a risky move breaking up Toews and Patrick Sharp right now as those are the only two Hawks’ doing anything offensively as of late. But they can’t have both Marian Hossa and Kane struggling at the same time and a shake up isn’t uncalled for. Freddy Kruger is moving up to the 2nd line to center Hossa and Patrick Sharp – all that good work lately has paid off for Kruger.
Neither Dave Bolland or Brent Seabrook practiced yesturday, but both are expected to dress tonight.
Q will go with Ben Smith tonight ahead of Bryan Bickell, who has been a goddamn ghost of late. Bickell is clearly in the doghouse, and it will be a good chance for Smith to show him being a healthy scratch since Edmonton motivated him.
Corey Crawford is expected to get the nod in goal again for the Hawks’.
Bottom line: The Hawks’ need to walk out of this game with 2 points. No excuses. Beating the shit out of them like they did last season 5-0 would do just fine. Get it done.
Note from Bartl: I am very proud to welcome the newest addition to Cheer the Anthem: Chris Deme, who is the creator of the famous Facebook page Joel Quenneville’s Mustache. Chris is finishing up this year of law school at the moment, but he will be adding his thoughts on a regular basis. Please give him a warm welcome, as we are all very excited to have him on here at CtA!
Mentioning the name Niklas Hjalmarsson around Hawks fans these days is sure to start a debate, not only about Hjammer’s current state, but also his future on the Hawks. It almost seems like a “Civil War” is brewing amongst Hawks fans about what to do with him, with half of Chicago wanting to give him the ax, while the other half are ready to drop to their knees and beg Bowman to stick with him. As a law student, I’ve been trained to examine both sides of every issue or argument, so I’m notorious for playing devil’s advocate in everything I do. That being said, let’s take a look at both sides of this debate.
Let’s start with Hjammer’s numbers, because as the saying goes, numbers don’t lie.
• Age: 24
• Cap Hit: $3.5 million through 2014
• Goals: 0
• Assists: 2
• +/-: 4
• Blocked Shots: 62
• Hits: 19
• Average TOI: 20:23
Hjalmarsson is 24 years old, which means he still has time to improve.
Hjalmarsson, along with teammate Sami Lepisto, lead Blackhawks defensemen with a +4.
Hjalmarsson’s blocked shots currently rank 4th in the NHL just behind Josh Gorges, Ladislav Smid, and Niklas Kronwall. He has improved his shot-blocking skills each season. In 2009-2010, Hjalmarsson posted 137 blocked shots. After the departure of shot-blocking specialist Brent Sopel the following year, Hjammer posted a team-leading 166 blocked shots (13th in the NHL). This season, Hjammer is on pace for just shy of 200 blocked shots. He has undoubtedly taken over as the shot-blocking specialist on the team.
Hawks news first :
A lot going on at Hawks’ practice today. Joel Quenneville has decided to reunite Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on the top line. Viktor Stalberg will ride along on the left wing. Stalberg must have died in a previous life saving a bunch of babies from a fire. He is very, very lucky.
It appears Marcus Kruger will get a shot to play with Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa on the 2nd line. You could feel the shake up coming after the 4-1 drubbing against the Coyotes. Kane has been way to quiet lately along with Hossa and Dave Bolland. Q also appears to have taken Bryan Bickell off double secret probation and is putting him back with Bolland and Michael Frolik.
It wasn’t that long ago the Blackhawks had a dominating lead in the Central Division and led the Western Conference .
That is no longer the case.
Their lead has all but disappeared. The Hawks hold an insignificant one-point lead in a very tight division and the Blues and Red Wings each have games in hand on the Hawks.
The honeymoon is over and this season is quickly becoming a roller coaster ride that everyone would like to get off. Any talk about running away and hiding in the Central Division after Christmas has disappeared and the discussion has become about survival rather than dominance.
The Chicago Blackhawks played arguably their best period of hockey in the third period against Anaheim, coming back from a 4-2 deficit to put the game in the win column with a 6-5 victory. Jonathan Toews notched 2 goals and 3 assists to go along with Patrick Sharp’s hat-trick. Corey Crawford had a solid outing stopping 24 shots, while Jonas Hiller had his night spoiled by getting the hook when the ‘Hawks onslaught got the best of him.
Whatever happened in the locker room between the 2nd and 3rd, it needs to happen before tonight’s game. If the ‘Hawks bring that kind of energy against the Kings, they’ll be in pretty good shape.
The tryptophan coma everyone talks about following Thanksgiving dinner is actually a myth, you know. To get enough tryptophan into your system to turn you narcoleptic would require that you eat something like 1,750 pounds of turkey in one sitting. And despite some valiant attempts on my part, I was only ever able to consume about one third of that.
Let’s hope the Blackhawks aren’t sleepy after their Turkey Day festivities, as they have the fifth game of the Circus Trip facing them this afternoon when the team heads into Anaheim to face the Ducks. The lead-up to this game has been uninspiring, with the Blackhawks trying to break a 3-game losing streak — the second one this month — and struggling to deal with the absence of key members of its young core.
This visit to the Pond might be just what the doctor ordered.
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.