Chicago Blackhawks

Sign of What’s to Come?: Boxing with Blackhawks and Red Wings

(Credit: Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune)

After watching such a well-played game between two world-class teams like the one that went on at the United Center on Friday night, I’m all out of jokes for the hated Red Wings.

I have to show some respect, however much I can muster begrudgingly.

The season isn’t even halfway completed yet, but I can’t help but think of the torture – yet unbelievable excitement – a Western Conference final matchup between the Blackhawks and Red Wings would bring.

The first 40 minutes were some of the best hockey I watched in a long time when factoring in the play of both teams. Fittingly, it took a third-period tie-breaking goal and some big defensive stops at the end, and it was the Blackhawks who came out on top 3-2.

Detroit may be the oldest team in the league, but it is still filled with tons of talent. The Red Wings are going to need to get better on the road (now 9-11-0) if they’re to make serious noise come mid-April, but any team likely would struggle a bit during a stretch playing 11 of 14 away from home.

Before we get to the final Boxing of 2011, here are some thoughts…

♦  OK, so I am going to rag a bit on an old fogy. Nicklas Lidstrom still is a good defender, even at his ripe old age. He was in perfect position to save a Marian Hossa goal while Jimmy Howard was down and out. However, he is not a GREAT defenseman anymore. Lidstrom’s Norris Trophy last season was no more than a parting gift for years of service in the league, then the fucker decided to come back. He’s been overrated for roughly four years, and it’s starting to piss me off.

Thankfully, Jonathan Toews exposed him like Mel Gibson at a Hanukkah party. Toews skated right past him to the center off the ice to accept a feed that led to a breakaway, and Lidstrom could do nothing but hook him, forcing a penalty shot. Toews proceeded to abuse Howard through the five-hole – shocking huh? – to tie the game.

At the end of the first period, Toews played the puck beautifully off the boards, lifted Lidstrom’s stick, corralled the puck and skated in. Again, Lidstrom hooked Toews to slow him down, because that’s all he could do after being left in the dust yet again.

♦  Patrick Kane at center wasn’t so bad, though he was late on the backcheck, allowing former Michigan State hero (sorry) Justin Abdelkader to come right up the gut and score past a diving Corey Crawford.

♦  Marian Hossa – my God. Could’ve easily had a trick tonight. His goal showed every aspect of his game we’ve all come to love. He was in the right spot to get the puck just below the red line, strong enough to fight through stick checks and talented enough to fire the puck past Howard on his around-the-world play.

Hossa’s career high is 100 points with Atlanta in 2006-07, when he scored 43 goals and added 57 assists. He’s currently at 41 points (17G, 24A), and if this fucking beast stays healthy, he may set a new high this season.

♦   Crawford was… meh. Nothing too good, nothing too bad. Even if those couple that hit the post got by him, there wasn’t much he could do anyway. Bertuzzi’s goal went in off the felon’s ass. He’ll be in net on Monday, in my opinion.

♦   I agree Jimmy Hayes looked good and played physically. However, his interference penalty was just dumb, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to take less than nine minutes of playing and start talking about staying power. Nice debut, now show me more.

And here’s your last Boxing of 2011. Happy New Year to everyone, and thank you so much for stopping by to read our rants…

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Let It Begin: Dead Things Bring Their Putrid Stench To United Center

Photo: AP

Alas, gone are the days when we can joke about Detroit (*spitting noise*) being better suited for catheters than jock straps. No doubt embarrassed by the constant jokes about Depends undergarments and tapioca pudding, tonight the Red Wings will dress only three players age 35 or older: felon Todd Bertuzzi, AARP spokesperson Nicklas Lidstrom, and backup bingo-caller Ty Conklin.

That’s probably for the better: I was running out of senior citizen jokes. And yes, Tomas Holmstrom falls into that category as well, but he fell and broke his hip while going to get his dentures re-fitted. Or something. Anyhow, he isn’t playing tonight.

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Welcome, Stalberg

CHARLES REX ARBOGAST / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

If you’ve even barely been paying attention to the Hawks lately, then you have undoubtedly heard of the emergence of Viktor Stalberg.

We are all surely familiar with his skating abilities and blazing speed.  Sadly, we are also familiar with his knack for poor finishing and lack of patience when shooting.  Had you mentioned Stalberg to me earlier in the season, even I would have rolled my eyes in frustration.

That all changed with his recent point streak (seven points over four games).  It seems his shooting patience and accuracy are finally catching up to his speed.  Stalberg producing, you say?  Go ahead, I’m listening.

The fairy tale, surge, or whatever you want to call it that began on December 18 with an assist against the Calgary Flames and ended last night against the Los Angeles Kings has gathered the attention of everyone from Joel Quenneville to ESPN fantasy hockey owners (myself included).

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Hawks Recall Jimmy Hayes : Brandon Pirri Back To Rockford

( Tim Fuller-US PRESSWIRE, US PRESSWIRE / September 25, 2011 )

Some quick news for you : Today the Blackhawks recalled former Toronto Maple Leafs second round pick Jimmy Hayes. Hayes was acquired by the Blackhawks for the 43rd overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft. Hayes played his college hockey at Boston College and his brother Kevin Hayes is a 1st round pick of the Blackhawks.  Jimmy is a big boy – listed at 6’6 and weighing 221 pounds. So far this season in Rockford he has 5 goals and 13 assists in 28 games. Apparently he will start with Jamal Mayers and Andrew Brunette on the 4th line for the Blackhawks against the Detroit Red Wings tomorrow night at United Center. We’ll have to see if he has the speed to keep up at an NHL level right now, but he should help with that whole “net presence” problem the Blackhawks seem to struggle with from time to time.

He wore #39 in the preseason – we’ll have to see what we can do about that. The Blackhawks also sent Brandon Pirri back to Rockford. All in all he wasn’t terrible, but he wasn’t exactly making any noise either.

Need Some Purple Pills: Impotent Kings Visit Chicago

Photo: AP

The big news out of the Los Angeles Kings’ camp in the last month is the dismissal of veteran no-nonsense coach Terry Murray and the hiring of veteran no-nonsense coach Darryl Sutter. The general consensus among the pundits based outside of California was, “There’s a difference?” Murray was implementing a defense-based system, and getting buy-in from the superstar offensive weapons like Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards was difficult. Sutter will implement the same system, so how is that going to improve things?

The jury is still out, as Sutter has only 3 games under his belt as coach, notching 2 wins and a loss — about on par with what the team has been doing the rest of December. But as there is a history between Sutter and GM Dean Lombardi (former GM at San Jose who hired Sutter to coach the Sharks during his tenure there), expect Sutter to get several years to get the team to follow his lead.

The key problem for Los Angeles is offense. In 12 games thus far in December, they have scored more than 2 goals in regulation exactly once. And folks, that includes the games they WON. Granted, they have allowed the seventh-fewest goals against in the league, an impressive stat. But when you are also scoring the second-fewest, that’s bad. If Sutter can get the second stat up while keeping the first one down, he’s got a chance at making the playoffs.

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It Only Gets Harder : Let Crow Ride The Wave

( Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune )

Well, things are rolling along pretty smoothly, eh? I don’t even have anything to complain about! This must be a first.

The Blackhawks continue to lead the NHL in points and are looking pretty damn solid just about everywhere at the moment. But things are about to get real. Up until this point in December, only 4 of 11 games were against teams that would make the playoffs today. Over the next 15 games, 10 will be against teams that would qualify for the postseason.

The good news is that the cosmos decided to balance things out, giving the Hawks 11 home games through those 15.  While it’s fantastic to lead the Central, it should be noted that the Red Wings and Blues aren’t exactly buried yet. A bad stretch over the next few weeks and the Blackhawks could easily be sitting in 3rd place.

I’m going to hit on a few issues here and Tim will be around with a preview of the Kings game…

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“What Are You Going To Do, Bleed On Me?” Blackhawks Host Columbus

It’s getting boring to list the woeful details of the pathetic state of affairs surrounding the Columbus Blue Jackets. This is the third meeting of these two teams, and each time the story gets more unpleasant.

It’s akin to King Arthur’s battle with the Black Knight: they talk big and look imposing at the outset, and they put up a good fight. But in the end they come away well beaten and embarrassed.

The Blue Jackets have re-claimed the basement in the NHL thanks to a four-game losing streak, which caps off a post-Thanksgiving run that saw them lose 9 of their last 12. Just four (count them, 4) of their players have a plus-minus rating that is not negative, and only one of those is above zero; James Wisniewski,, the off-season mega-contract recipient and purported defensive savior, leads the race to the bottom with a minus-19 on the season. Their “best” goaltender boasts only a 2.66 GAA and still has a losing record, while “starter” Steve Mason is 4-14-1 on the year. And with nearly all of their star players back in the lineup after an injury-riddled start, the BJ’s still couldn’t ride a first period hat-trick by star center Jeff Carter to victory, losing to Nashville in their last pre-holiday outing by a final of 6-5.

“You stupid bastard! You’ve got no arms left!”

It’s no fun beating up on a team that can’t defend themselves. It’s almost as if they should just jump behind the turnbuckle and yell, “No mas! No mas!” Pity them and their fans, for they still have 48 games left to play.

Probably for the better anyhow, there’s plenty to talk about with the Blackhawks.

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Endangered Species: Blackhawks Face Battered Penguins

Photo: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

And there it was, a bright flash of brilliance against the winter sky… The rarest of sights… Coming hence only one in 82…

It’s Crosby’s Comet!

And now, just as suddenly as it appeared, it is gone. Maybe it will show up again next year…

I’m sure that’s how Pittsburgh fans felt when their Sainted Wunderkind took the ice for those 8 games earlier this month, netting 2 goals and adding 10 assists to put him ahead of all but 9 of his teammates on the scoring chart. Which, when you think about it, either says a lot about Sidney Crosby, or a HELL of a lot about the rest of the Penguins.

But one thing to note about the Pens’ stats sheet is its sheer length: 29 skaters have put on the black and gold so far this season, due in no small part to the list of players with injuries stretching nearly as long as the stat sheet. At present, the following players who are NOT named “Crosby” are out of the lineup for Pittsburgh: Robert Bortuzzo, Dustin Jeffrey, Kris Letang, Ben Lovejoy, Paul Martin, Zbynek Michalek (bless you…), Richard Park, and Jordan Staal. Saying that we’re playing the farm team tonight is not that far off the mark.

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Housekeeping : Trades And Firings!

( Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

So let’s start with the good Blackhawks news. Brent Seabrook was able to put on his jacket after the game (HOLY SHIT!) and traveled with the rest of the team to Pittsburgh today. However, it seems unlikely that he dresses tomorrow against the Pens. Not traveling with the team was Dan Carcillo.Those radio shows don’t plan themselves people!

Jeremy Morin was quiet in his season debut last night, but Joel Quenneville kept him with  Johnny Toews and Patrick Kane the entire game – so he must have seen a few things he liked. The return of Morin is probably bad news for Viktor Stalberg. Stalberg was able to hold off Andrew Brunette and Dan Carcillo for top line duty with the living legends, but one has to wonder if his rope is up now that Morin is here.

Still no word on Rene Bourque’s status after his blatant hit from behind on Seabrook. If he gets off easy, I sincerely hope that is marks the end of the constant loving of Brendan Shanahan by some Blackhawks fans. It’s like these people don’t remember that the 1990′s happened. HE IS EVIL FOLKS. 100% PURE EVIL.

Mum also is the word on the goaltending situation for the Penguins/Canadiens back to back. It stands to reason that Q rolls with Ray Emery against Pittsburgh tomorrow. The Pens are the toughest opponent the Hawks will face this month and they can try to get Corey Crawford going again at the UC against the team he cheered for growing up (Montreal) on Wednesday.

Some random notes from around the league:

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