Thank you, Boys, for slamming the door shut and setting fire to the place on your way out of that series. I know that many Hawks fans are already turning their eyes to the Avs-Wild series and our eventual Second Round match-up, but let us take this Blackhawks Sabbath Day. Savor the victory: we dispatched the Blues with four straight wins. In the First Round. That feels goooooood . . .
We should also take a moment to remember what losing that series would have meant. Sure, we’ve all been there before – a first-round exit after winning the Cup is bad, no matter what. Losing to the Blooooooos, though? During this entire series, the potential to lose bubbled up inside me, crowding out any rational thought, any notion that I should keep this game in perspective. How could I? These people eat kittens. They traded for Steve Ott.
But we didn’t lose. We defeated them. Those cretinous pretenders-to-the-throne return to their rightful place, complete with Mr. Big Time Deadline Acquisition. The Spirit of Chicago flies on.
Now that the Blues have been safely despatched, the burning question for Hawks fans is the identity of their 2nd Round opponents. Will it be the young, speedy and bloody lucky Avs with their stellar goaltending, or the tenacious, gritty and annoying Wild with their.. uh, goaltending? Which is the more desirable matchup?
A question of this magnitude is beyond the feeble minds of this blog, so we’ve enlisted one of our celebrity pals to bring his unique point of view and razor-sharp insight to the matter.
Over to you, Jay
There’ll be a recap along at some point.. until then
First off, please accept our apologies for the delayed recap. Adam and I watched the game at Stanley’s last evening and were grossly over-served. So you can blame them. Although I will say that we enjoyed ourselves and almost certainly abused the all you can eat catfish deal. Perhaps the most satisfying thing about the entire evening was watching all of the depressed and dejected Blues fans milling around Sedgwick’s (a St. Louis bar) next door as we stumbled out. I wanted to taste and bottle their tears. One group standing around had guys sporting Barrett Jackman, Kelly Chase and David Perron sweaters. That has to be the most pathetic collection ever assembled in one place.
Anyhow, if you told me last Saturday evening that the Blackhawks would be coming home for Game 6 with a chance to knock the Blues out, I probably would have laughed in your face and sworn under my breath. You’d think I’d have learned by now after watching the Vancouver series in 2011 and the Detroit series last year never to count this team out, but I still sunk into despair as the series headed back to Chicago. Two heartbreaking losses. Two losses pissed away in the closing minutes and seconds. A top pair defenseman banished for brutality for two absolutely must win games, and all of this with a coach making a few seemingly bizarre personnel decisions. The people who clung on to hope seemed almost delusional to me. Instead, as the series once again heads back to Chicago, fans can realistically picture the Blackhawks heading to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since before the Olympic break. Of course, they’ll have to finish the Blues off first.
Hello hockey friends (Jim Nantz voice). I’d like to take a minute and introduce myself, my name is John Faker, yes that’s my real name. I have been a Blackhawks fan for as long as I can remember. My love for hockey started with my father who used to play pond hockey growing up in northern Indiana and gave me his old wooden stick when I was a kid. My best friend Ryan and I used to spend countless hours shoveling snow off the ice of the lake I lived on so we could smash into each other and score into homemade goals. I do not claim to be an expert on hockey, but I, like you, watch a ton of hockey, especially the Blackhawks. Today I would like to share with you an observation I recently noted on twitter . I’m fortunate to be followed by most of the guys from this site (and that they put up with my rambling) and when they saw this they asked me if I would like to write about it.
Patrick Kane has amazing hands. Every time I watch him he does something so ridiculous I just have to shake my head. How does a guy who is 5’10” consistently skate around NHL players twice his size and do the things that he does? A lot of his skill has to do with his wrists and hands. Patrick Kane has always had a great wrist shot, and when he came into the league he used it very effectively. Take his first NHL goal as an example.
One thing to notice on this shot is where Kane’s stick is when he starts the shooting motion. Notice the line on his feet and where the stick and puck are when he shoots the puck.
That is not exactly what you would call a big windup. What this tells us is that Kane gets most of his power from his wrists. Even with such a little backswing, Kane can explode the puck into the top corner over the glove of the goalie. Granted this is a 2 on 1, but the shot itself and the mechanics are pretty impressive for Kane being such a small guy. One of the things unknown to a lot of Blackhawks fans is just how muscular Patrick Kane is. If you want to shoot the puck like that when you are 5’10” you have to have incredible upper body strength and wrists. Patrick Kane is one of the strongest guys on the Blackhawks. The last thing you should note is the wrist that is at the bottom of the stick, the one that generates all the power. It’s his left wrist. Keep this in mind, but more on that later.
When I started thinking about Kane and how well he shoots the puck, one goal immediately came to mind, April 4th, 2010 against Calgary:
The really telling replay starts at :35. This is a Patrick Kane shot with a considerable amount of backswing. Watch as the puck launches like a missile up to the top corner of the net. I don’t know if there is a goalie in the league that could have stopped that shot. Here are a few more goals from Kane with that explosive release.
Starting at 4:00 of this video:
Corey Schneider is a pretty decent goalie and this isn’t an odd man rush. But Kane puts so much force on that shot that Schneider doesn’t really have a chance. Again, Kane’s stick at the start of the shot is a bit in front of his feet. Wrist strength people.
A Goal against Buffalo from October 2010. Kaner pretty much just flips this at the net and it still has ridiculous velocity and 2010 Ryan Miller doesn’t have a chance.
As I am sure most of you remember, late in the 2011 season Patrick Kane hurt his left wrist. For the last few games of the season and the Vancouver “Slayed the Dragon” series (dammit Campoli), Kane just didn’t look like himself. We were told that he would be fine after an offseason of rest and it was nothing to worry about. Of course later that summer on July 19th, it was announced that Patrick Kane had surgery on his wrist. We all remember the 2011-2012 season and how a lot of the narrative was that Patrick Kane under performed. Kane had 23 goals and 43 assists and the 66 points were a career low. Most Blackhawks fans who watched that season knew that something was not right with Kane and his wrist. Kane wasn’t helped by shooting 9.1%, about 2% below his career average, but taking a closer look shows a bit more.
October 2011 against Boston:
There are two shots here, the initial shot and then the goal and both look incredibly weak. For both shots Kane is wide open.
Late October, 2011 against Nashville:
The thing to watch here for me is instead of launching the puck forward and up he kind of just pushes against his stick. He does the same thing in the video above. It shows me that he doesn’t have a whole lot of strength in his wrist and is making up for it with his arms. The puck still goes in the net, but it could be due to Pekka Rinne being surprised by a change up and expecting the typical Kane top shelf wrister.
December 2011 against Calgary:
Kane seems to make this move all the time against Calgary, get the puck near the wall and skate to open ice in the slot. Kane has a large area to work in when he beats the initial defender but the shot doesn’t seem to have any follow through. The whole motion looks abbreviated compared to his earlier career. This is a pretty sure sign the injury was bothering him. When an athlete plays hurt they sometimes change the little things (like their golf swing, baseball swing, or throwing motion) so when they do that repeatable motion, it doesn’t hurt as much. At this point Kane had been injured for 8 months (injured in April 2011).
This goal is from April of 2012 against the Wild.
Hossa puts the puck right on Kane’s stick and you can see Kane just doesn’t have the same zip as those earlier goals. There seems to be a bit of hesitation and the whole shot motion doesn’t look as quick or smooth as the videos previously linked. It is possible that this is late in an extended shift, but when have we ever seen Kane hesitate with a wide open net? The late offseason surgery definitely took its toll on Kane that year.
The amazing thing about most of these goals is that even though the shots are weak and hesitant, Kane still scores. Patrick Kane is an amazing talent that everyone should never take for granted.
*cough* Barry Rozner *cough*
During the lockout, one of the things on the back of my mind was Kane’s wrist injury and how the long offseason should help him to really get that strength back that he lost over the previous year. You can see a bit in these videos of Kane playing in Switzerland that the “pushing” motion had gone away and he was launching the puck again. This is a pretty good sign that his wrist was much stronger than the previous season.
1:54 of this weird fan video:
It was very evident that after the lockout Kane had gained his strength back. I think the big thing for Kane was trying to get back to his old healthy shot mechanics. He was most likely compensating for his injury and a few bad habits were developed between April 2011 and January 2013. Even in the 2013 season there were still small lingering effects of the injury. Kane was awesome, don’t get me wrong, but it’s hard to break bad habits.
Here is a shot last season against Anaheim:
It’s not hugely noticeable, but there is a bit of the pushing motion still there. I think this is more of trying to get away from the bad mechanic and getting back to his normal one.
Here is a good example from March 2013 against Colorado:
Patrick Kane has hardly any “backswing” and he puts a ton of stank on this puck. Someone should call some hospitals for the right post because it got brained.
The one that really made me notice that Patrick Kane’s shot was back to normal was the OT winner Wednesday night against the St. Louis St. Paul dumpster sandwich Blues.
If you watch one of the replays, beginning at 2:00 of this video, how much does that look like the goal against Calgary from April 2010 up the page? The puck just takes off like a missile and freezes Ryan Miller. Patrick Kane is an amazing hockey player. I think that Kane’s wrist injury hindered him for quite a while. Wrists injuries can be tricky; most Bears fans might remember Brian Urlacher saying in 2009 that if his wrist had been injured a millimeter the other way, his career would be over. I think that it took a long time for Kane to recover from that injury, especially with how important his wrists are to his game. I think the best news for Blackhawks fans is that Patrick Kane is fully healthy and playing the best hockey of his career.
Of course that’s also the worst news for every other team in the NHL.
Monday night’s game, although a welcome win and a slight relieving of the pressure, felt like something of a false dawn: the Hawks were badly outplayed and required heroics from Crawford to hang in there. Last night was a different kettle of fish, altogether. The Hawks looked and felt closer to their usual selves and St Louis struggled to keep up with them most of the night. Obviously there were some lumps and bumps (and yes, another blown lead, but we’ll get to that) but when it mattered the Hawks came out on top, and now head back to St Louis tied and looking at a best-of-three to advance.
These are the dark times. The Hawks trail St. Louis in the series, 2-0. They lost both games during the final minutes. Seabs is out for three games after trying to end Backes. Bickell somehow escaped sanction after doing his best Dustin Brown impression. If you want a counter-argument to all the Meatball Hawks fans out there always going on about how the Hawks need to be harder, Saturday’s loss is your retort (and you don’t even need shiny stats to make it).
The series resumes at the United Center tonight, the Hawks are 0-2, Brent Seabrook is suspended, Corey Crawford is blaming himself and it’s been nearly 148 minutes of Hockey since a Blackhawks forward scored a goal. How we all doing?
Oh my. 3OT to start the series. That was a strange but enthralling game last night, and one that could feed any number of narratives; most of them dead wrong. The momentum of the game shifted throughout: the Blues started hotter & hungrier out of the gate and took a lead through Adam Cracknell after four minutes. The Hawks were getting pinned down in their own zone and we feared the worst. However, after Johnny Oduya tied it (on the first of a couple of goals that Miller would like back) the Hawks found their legs and began to dominate. Brent Seabrook and Vladimir Tarasenko exchanged goals before Patrick Kane gave the Hawks the lead with a superb finish on a stretch pass from Toews. That was three goals in seven shots on Miller and we had visions of the hook coming for him and the game turning into a laugher. In fact, I believe that if the Hawks had been able to capitalise on several great chances to extend the lead before the 2nd ntermission, you’d have seen the Blues lose their composure entirely.
And here we go…
The time for talking is almost done and the 1st Round of the Playoffs begins for the defending Champions tonight in Missouri. I know I wanted this matchup, but I guess it’s a “Careful what You Wish For” situation. The Blues look to be returning to (nearly) full health and have had some time to regather themselves after losing the last six games of the season. An awful lot of media outlets seem to be picking the Hawks in six, and such an outcome wouldn’t surprise me but, really, anything goes here.
As anyone who has had the misfortune of meeting me knows, I LOVE beer. So much so that I’ve started making my own. We all know about the symbiosis between Hockey and alcoholic beverages so I’ve decided to put two of my favourite things together and come up with a Victory Beer for this postseason.
And so it ends, 82 games down, 3rd in the Central, 5th in the West, 7th in the league. 1st round opponents as yet uncertain (please oh please oh please be the Blues) Anyway, if you’re expecting a serious breakdown of last night, look elsewhere. Just a few bits and bobs to go through on this Sunday morning:
Tonight is the last home game of the Regular Season, it’s against another O6 team and… well. that’s about all that it’s got going for it. The Hawks are, barring the Avs collapsing, locked into 3rd place in the Central and the Habs are in 2nd place in the Atlantic with two points on the Lightning. There is nothing to play for tonight which is reflected in Montreal leaving Price, Moen, Prust, Emelin and Markov out of the lineup. The useless Doug Murray is suspended.
Cheer the Podcast Episode 10 (4.7.14): Jim and Adam host a Bartl-less podcast as he recovers from his vacation exploits. Topics covered include the Toews-Orpik controversy about #grit, the performances of Jeremy Morin and Peter Regin with Bryan Bickell, a few e-mails that include an discussion about hockey and television production, and a look at the Blackhawks blue line going into 2014-15. In the East the guys roast the Leafs and lament the Wings keeping their playoff streak.
Audio after the jump.
I don’t know if Ken Hitchcock was trying to be snarky when he commented on the ‘Workers’ in the Blackhawks lineup today, but it certainly was a case of Power To The People as a Hawks team stripped of some major assets due to injury (and yet another Q “Message” benching in the case of Brandon Saad) rode roughshod over the Blues. St Louis played last night (and got their asses handed to them 4-0 by the Avs) and were certainly showing signs of fatigue. For most of the game they were an offensive non-entity and didn’t even have the energy to indulge in their normal level of asshattery.
Goals from Jeremy Morin, Patrick Sharp, Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith gave Chicago the victory that, ultimately, means little in terms of the Divisional race this year but was, nonetheless, pleasing as any victory over St Louis is.
This will be the last time the Hawks see the Blues until the 2nd Round (provided both teams get there, of course). While St Louis have won most of the matchups this year they’ve all been by the narrowest margins. The only blowout belongs to the Hawks, giving them a better aggregate score (thus far). but none of this matters a damn, now. St Louis are locks for the Divisional title and fighting it out with the Bruins for the Presidents Trophy. The Hawks will face Colorado in the 1st round and almost certainly will start on the road. However, anyone anticipating a disinterested game clearly didn’t see the Blues losing their collective minds in the 3rd period of their 4-0 drubbing by the Avs last night. The two teams combined for 120 PIMs in the 3rd Period (with the result no longer in question). Brendan Morrow may be facing Supplementary Discipline for a cross check on John Mitchell and the entire Blues ‘Leadership’ followed Captain manly man David Backes’ example and got themselves tossed from the game. Remarkable (and the Avs contributed their share, it should be added)