♦ First things first – Brad Richards is apparently dating Olivia Munn. And here you thought he should have stayed in Dallas…
♦ A big congratulations to Eddie Belfour. The Eagle was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame yesterday along with Joe Nieuwendyk, Mark Howe and Doug Gilmore. Belfour amassed 484 carrer wins (201 in Chicago) with the Blackhawks, Sharks, Stars, Maple Leafs and Panthers and ranks #10 all time in career shutouts with 76. He won a Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars in 1999 and a NCAA Championship in 1987 with North Dakota. Belfour was last Blackhawk to win the Calder Trophy (1991) before Patrick Kane (2007). He remains the most recent Blackhawk to win a Vezina, which he took home in both 1991 and 1993. Losing Eddie was tough, but at least the Blackhawks got Ulf Dahlen in return.
There are only two names you need to know to understand the meteoric performance of the Edmonton Oilers this young season. Both of these names have taken the team, and the league, by near-complete surprise; and in one case, has most people scratching their heads.
The names are: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Nikolai Khabibulin. The 18-year-old rookie and the inconsistent netminder 20 years his senior have been the catalysts for Edmonton rising near the top of the Western Conference standings.
The Edmonton Oilers’ patience has paid off. They come into the United Center tonight sitting atop the Northwest Division, and eager for some payback against a Chicago team that has manhandled them over the past several years.
Now THAT was a convincing victory. Despite a shaky start to the game, the Blackhawks came to play last night and easily took care of the Flames. The Blackhawks got outstanding performances from Marian Hossa (shocking), Duncan Keith and Ray Emery. The result was a 4-1 victory and a spot all alone in 1st place in the Western Conference. Duncan Keith appeared in his 500th NHL game and opened the scoring in the first after a rebound that hoped over Daniel Carcillo’s stick found its way to Keith who buried it home. The goal may not have happened had Miikka Kiprusoff decided to get up and get back into position after going down to make the first save, but that’s his decision. The Hawks went up 2-0 after a Brent Seabrook drive found its way through Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews traffic out front of Kipper on the power play. The Hawks PP was 1/4 on the night (cause for celebration). The game got interesting for a few minutes halfway through the 3rd after Olli Jokinen ripped a wrist shot over the blocker of Emery. Curtis Glencross provided a fantastic screen in front of Razor, who had no chance to stop the shot. The Hawks put it away after Boss Hoss set up Viktor Stalberg with a pass you’d have to see to believe. It was nice to see Stalberg finish on that one after missing on a couple of chances earlier in the game. He probably could have had 3 or 4 goals had things gone his way. The Blackhawks finished things off after Kane potted an empty netter. Overall, a good effort by the Hawks on home-ice. Their record at the UC improved to 6-1-2 and they have a chance to make it 7-1-2 tomorrow against an Edmonton team who seems to be coming back to earth after a very impressive start to the season.
Remember a few years ago when the Calgary looked like they were going to become a big rival of the Blackhawks? The Hawks faced the Mike Kennan-led Flames in their first playoff series since 2002 in the opening round of the 2008-2009 postseason. The series (which the Hawks won 4-2) started with Marty Havlat scoring just 12 seconds into overtime in Game 1 and ended with the Hawks knocking out the Flames 4-1 in Calgary in Game 6. The Hawks went on to lose in the Western Conference final that year to Detoilet but won the Stanley Cup the following season. They have appeared in 7 playoff series since defeating the Flames. Calgary has not been to the postseason since – their last postseason goal was scored by criminal Todd Bertuzzi. Sucks to be them.
Yup, it’s been all downhill for the Flames since that point and things aren’t getting any better. Jarome Iginla continues to be one of the best hockey players of all-time, yet is still inexplicably surrounded by dogshit. One of the great mysteries of all time will be why the Flames never got this man a true center to play with. The Flames are 6-7-1 coming into the game tonight and are coming off a 3-0 loss to a surprisingly good Minnesota Wild team. Nothing about this Flames team is special (except Iginla), their PK is right in the middle of the pack and their PP only converts on 15% of its chances (a number the Hawks pathetically envy). The Flames hold the distinction of having the worst FO% in the league (46%) and won just 35% of their draws against the Wild on Tuesday night. One bright spot for Calgary tonight will be their 2007 1st round pick Mikael Backlund appearing in his 1st game of the season after missing time with a broken pinky finger. Apparently, Backlund will center a line with Iginla on it – lucky him!
It was less than one week ago that I was typing, “The Blackhawks are in first place in the Western Conference…” A lot can change in a week, huh? Not that we’ve dropped too far in the standings, but if we keep playing like we have been we’ll find ourselves battling the Columbus Blue Jackets for the coveted spot in the Western Conference basement. And wow, is Columbus ever in the basement.
This is the second meeting between these two teams, and I wrote in the first game preview that Columbus had a 1-8-1 record. Well, not a lot has changed: they have added 1 win and 3 losses. They are the proud owners of 5 (that’s “five”) points. As a matter of rub-it-in trivia, even if they had twice as many points, they would still be in last place in the West.
If you were wondering why there are so many teams bunched up so closely at the top of the Western Conference standings, it’s because every other team has been beating on Columbus like a red-headed step-pinata.
For those of you who missed the timeless sports-classic film “Bull Durham,” go back to FourSquare, this article isn’t for you. But for those who didn’t, it’s my contention that we have our own Ebbie Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh right here in the Chicago Blackhawks dressing room.
His name is Nick Leddy. And instead of throwing bean-balls at the mascot, he is throwing close games right in the dumpster. His flubs against Tampa Bay led directly to the Bolts’ third goal, and the game-winner in OT.
“You lolligag around the infield…”
Actually, lolligagging is a word that really can’t be used to describe Leddy’s game. In fact, quite the opposite. He’s very quick, which leads him to believe that he can tear around any area of the ice with impunity. When he goes on these little escapades, he leaves his position to be covered by a winger — who is then a target to be exploited by the other team, since that winger is not trained to play that position. Leddy creates a defensive weakness with his end-to-end rushes. That’s unnecessary, and it’s only a matter of time before other teams exploit that weakness when it arises.
Enough about the Vancouver game, I’m trying to block it from my memory. The Blackhawks had better do the same, because like most years of late, they will have their hands full with their division-rival opponent at the other end if I-55, just for a different reason this time.
St. Louis’ 6-7-0 record does not speak to their current situation. They are a team in a state of upheaval, and it’s every man for himself when the puck drops tonight.
This is going to be a fast, brutal game. The Blackhawks will have to keep their heads to stay in it.
So, there isn’t any reason to rehash the shitshow from last night. Bartl already tried to drive most of you to suicide and I’m sure many of you have spent your day much as I have mine – trying to figure out exactly what the hell happened last night.
You remember the Vancouver Canucks, right? Colors are green, blue and white; big funny-looking whale on their jersey; coach keeps whining about other teams not playing fair? Not ringing a bell?
Well, in the playoffs last year they blew a 3 games to none lead against the Blackhawks before FINALLY squeaking by in overtime of game 7? And we had to serve up a giveaway on a silver platter with nobody between them and the goalie for them to win?
Their goalie’s an overrated head case, fans have a massive inferiority complex, and the entire province of British Columbia wanted to lynch me after I called Daniel and Henrik Sedin “The Tampon Twins?”
Okay, you got it now. Good. Well, they’re in town tonight. And it’s a great time for them to visit.
Much like the Boston game Oct. 15, the Blackhawks seemed to shift into neutral while sitting on a one-goal lead in the third period they hoped to close out.
And much like that contest, the opposition was able to tie it up and bring it to a shootout. At least they got two points out of this one, beating Florida 3-2 following the game of Candyland
I’m going to try something new and get even deeper into the Boxing theme here. Let me know if it works:
Jabs (Quick hits)
♦ Duncan Keith missing tonight didn’t have much affect against a mediocre team like Florida, and hopefully it won’t matter much against Tampa Bay, either. The Lightning have totaled three goals in their last two games. Sean O’Donnell and Nick Leddy seem a capable pair to be able to make up for Keith’s absence.
♦ Corey Crawford played a fantastic game tonight and kept the ‘Hawks ahead for as long as he could once they knocked back the throttle a bit. Allowing 43 shots obviously isn’t good, but the Panthers totaled 42 against Winnipeg four nights before. They fire the puck, so no need to panic, really.
Haymakers (Solid plays from the ‘Hawks)
♦ Jonathan Toews made a hell of a play to step in front of the pass and go hard to the net to score his goal. Vintage Captain.
♦ Patrick Kane once again showed just how well he can read a play to make the correct pass, firing it across the ice through the defense to set up Marian Hossa. Anyone shocked it was Tomas Kopecky who came into the play late to leave the slot wide open to allow that pass?
♦ Crawford was solid all night. Tough to pinpoint a single moment, but he was turning away a relentless amount of shots from the Panthers’ firing squad.
Counter-punches (The opposition)
♦ Both goals were tough on Crawford, who didn’t have much of a chance on either. Weiss’ goal took a tough bounce away from Crow, and Jovo’s goal was simply a great play by him.
Low Blows (Not-so-good stuff)
♦ The Blackhawks looked absolutely awful on their lone power play opportunity, once again making an otherwise talented team look silly. The ‘Hawks have scored 31 of their 38 goals at even strength, and they have one less short-handed goal (3) than they do with the man advantage. Just strange for a team with so much offensive talent.
♦ Kaner really has that move down, saving a point for the ‘Hawks after they put it in cruise control once again. The Blackhawks need to learn how to finish these games out rather than riding a one-goal lead and hoping to hold on with conservative play. Nonetheless, Crawford stoned both shots in the shootout to pick up the win.