So Brandon Pirri’s Days in the Doghouse are over: the center was traded to the Panthers last night for.. well, not very much. The price for Pirri is a 3rd Round pick in this years’ Draft and a 5th Rounder in 2016 which is chump change for an NHL-ready player who has been tearing the AHL apart when not up at the big club. Clearly the Hawks can’t afford to take on more salary than strictly neccesary, being tight enough to the Cap as it is, but this seems like they took the first deal available to get rid of a player whose face no longer fits. Why this should be, I don’t know.
We’re just a little over 24 hours away from the last Stadium Series game of the NHL season and I’ve got a little crowdsourcing to do in regards to the whole outdoor hockey phenomenon. While I was driving home after the Ranger game last night I had my radio tuned to The Score. In a rare moment of utility, the host whose name I can’t remember sparked an interesting discussion. Has outdoor hockey lost its appeal already and is the NHL overdoing it with now five of these outdoor games in a season?
Well, I’ve finally run out of Minutemen song titles to use in Previews/Recaps.. fitting that this one never made it to future editions of Double Nickels On The Dime (one of the greatest albums ever made), because this game needs to be buried deep where we will never, ever, see or think of it again.
It’s hard to put a lot of stock in that one. I can’t remember the last time an actual hockey game felt secondary to other external events like this. Patrick Kane’s absence, the Olympic break, Brandon Pirri’s demotion to Rockford and the Peter Regin deal all seemed to converge to make the last game of this road-trip a tedious afterthought.
At the outset of this Road Trip, that we’ve all been nervously eyeing for months, the general consesus was that eight points out of the six games would represent an excellent return. Well, with only the game in Glendale to come, the Hawks are at that mark already and, more importantly, have negotiated the Californians with only a SO loss in San Jose to rue. Granted, it’s helped that the three teams at the top of the Pacific Division have chosen this moment to hit slumps of their own, but it’s with a sense of relief and a hurdle negotiated that the Hawks can turn to Arizona and then either Sochi or nearly three weeks off before they arrive at MSG on the 27th.
The Hawks are having something of a torrid time lately. A “Blip”, a “Stutter”, call it what you will. But if you’re planning on calling it a “Slump” then you might want to take a look at tonight’s opponents and thank your lucky stars, because the LA Kings are having one hell of a slump right now.
If you’ve listened to the latest Podcast (and if you haven’t, why not?) or are misfortunate enough to follow me on Twitter, you may have heard mention of a line of T-Shirt (and other) designs that I’ve come up with and am now bothering innocent people about. Well, here it is.
The store is run & maintained by the folks at Redbubble, who handle all the details
Alternatively, if you let your gaze wander directly above this article, you’ll notice a new button called, of all things, “Southbound To Loop” which is also a link to the store. Do take a look and feel free to let me know what you think.
The plan is to add to this all the time, new arrivals will be posted on my Twitter account
OK. thanks for listening/looking and reading!
Kings preview will be up closer to game time.
Saturday in San Jose.. and the part of the Road Trip that we’ve been looking forward to (and/or dreading) kicks in as the Hawks start the first of three dates with the Californian heavyweights. San Jose are one of several teams now right in the Hawk’s rearview mirror, but they’ve hit a bit of a wobble themselves, having dropped the last three games to somewhat temper a recent hot-streak (they are now 6-4-0 in their last 10)
Another bad game against inferior opponents, another OT loss. That seems to be the way of it right now. The Hawks started their Western road trip with an almost immediate goal against and were chasing the game and, indeed, their tails thereafter.
Fans are nervous and unhappy right now, and with good reason. While we can try to be optimistic and chalk it down to tiredness, or mid-season ennui, the Hawks are losing ground in the West, not only to Anaheim and St Louis (who are now level on points but have the ROW toebreaker and three games in hand) but also to San Jose and, for that matter, Colorado. The gaping maw of the West Coast trip is swinging wide open right now and we don’t need much prompting to recall the nine-game losing streak two years ago.
If the Hawks play to their potential then there’s no reason why they won’t be at or near the top heading into the Olympic break. More performances like we’ve seen recently and we could be in for a torrid final six weeks.
Let’s talk about stuff:
Last night was a mess, albeit a thrilling, entertaining one. A clearly fired-up Wings raised their game and the Hawks, well, the Hawks kind of lowered theirs. They met in the middle and there was an almighty bang. It looked like the Hawks were going to streak away after a couple of early goals but they let the Wings back into the contest when they could and should have killed them off. Johnny Oduya and Brent Seabrook both made separate, serious errors and lapses that led directly to Detroit goals. The Wings even took the lead heading into the 3rd, until Marcus Kruger tied the game with that period’s only goal. Overtime came and went in a frantic blur and, once again, you felt that a tie would have been the appropriate place to leave it.
Last time the Hawks saw the Detroit Red Wings, they were on the end of a handshake line after a pulsating, heart-pounding 7 Game series where the Hawks had looked dead and buried after four games, only to surge back and win through Brent Seabrook’s overtime goal. I’m sure you all remember. Since then, many things have changed: the Hawks have a new Championship banner in their rafters, Detroit have moved to the Eastern Conference and the fortunes of both teams have taken a decidedly different path.
The last 10 minutes of this hockey game were stressful enough that it’s easy to understand how many people could forget that Blackhawks utterly dominated Anaheim during the first 50 minutes of the contest. No matter, the Blackhawks will take a much needed regulation victory against what the standings say is the best team in the Western Conference.
Marian Hossa kicked off the scoring when he beat Jonas Hiller high glove side after stick-handing Cam Fowler to his knees. It was a shorthanded tally for Hossa, who had one had his strongest games in quite some time. Hell, this was among his most dominating performances as a Blackhawk. Hoss would also provide the empty netter with just seconds remaining in the game. The long march toward 500 continues for #81. Kris Versteeg put the Hawks up 2-0 on a goal that while admittedly flukey, was still a result of Versteeg crashing the net hard with his stick on the ice. It was exactly the kind of dirty goal that snaps prolonged slumps. Unfortunately for Versteeg and the Blackhawks, he went down late 2nd period after colliding awkwardly with Bryan Bickell. Despite the goal, he played less than seven minutes in two periods. For now, Versteeg is officially listed as day-to-day.
We don’t do a Links roundup here on CtA because either
a) We assume that our smart, knowledgable, downright good-looking readers voraciously scour the Web for anything Hawks/ Hockey related or
b) We’re lazy good-for-nothings
With that in mind, there have been a couple of articles on other sites over the last few days that we’d like to make sure you don’t miss, for one reason or another. So here they are, with some commentary.
Our good friend Jen LC wrote this article about Bryan Bickell for Second City Hockey. I’d actually started doing the stats research myself for a similar article. Jen has done the digging, tied it all together and presented it to the world a thousand times better than I ever could. It’s essential reading.
There was a general sentiment on Twitter the other night, as Pat Foley & Eddie Olcyzk descended into a burbling mess of catchphrases, half-baked stats and witless propaganda, that Hawks fans were reaching breaking point with that less-than-dynamic duo. The next day we got a pair of great articles, the first from Sam Fels at The Committed Indian and shortly followed by Mike at Hockey Brunch In Chicago. Great reading in both and plenty of food for thought. Also jokes.
Another of our friends, Ryan Hackett. decided to do a Twitter-based recap of last night’s game with his own acerbic commentary. It’s hilarious. We can almost forgive him for being a Packers fan.
On the subject of funny, we got introduced to the wonderful The Full Amonte today. Here is a fictional recap of a Terrible Hawks Game from the Dark Days. Involves Mike Milbury, Jocelyn Thibault and Dave Manson.
Just Plain Dumb:
While we have directed you to some well thought-out and researched writings, there is another side to the Hockey Blogosphere.. I’d like to present two scrapings from the barrel, in chronological order.
First we had The Hockey News with some extremely half-witted trade ideas. It seems that every year the whole “Steve Ott to the Blackhawks” thing comes up. It remains a terrible, terrible Bad Idea.
Today we also got the joy of John Jaeckel at Hockeybuzz weighing in with a “Rumour” that “Passes the sniff test” about the Hawks trading with Winnipeg to reacquire the services of Andrew Ladd. You’ll have to read it to find out what he thinks is going back in return. Make sure you have a strong drink handy. Oh, and if you’re feeling bad about yourself, read the comments. They’ll make you feel a million times better, because at least you’re not as dumb as those people.
I guess part of the problem of being the reigning champs is that the opposition raise their game when you’re in their building, especially if they don’t see you that often. That, combined with a distictly lacklustre performance from the Hawks, leads to nights like last night.
I’m not one to get over-excited about the whole “Original 6″ thing, but this always feels special. The Canadiens in Montreal is one of the big red-letter days on the calendar. The Habs have 23 NHL-Era Stanley Cup banners hanging in their rafters; which is only three fewer than the Wings, Bruins, Hawks and Rangers’ combined total. Names like ‘Rocket’ Richard, Jean Beliveau, ‘Boom Boom’ Geoffrion, Guy Lafleur and Ken Dryden all created their legends with this club. The Centre Bell may not be as redolent with history as the old Montreal Forum but it’s still one of Hockey’s great arenas and crowds.
I’m looking forward to this, in other words.
That was my fault. Not the SO loss, the lack of entertainment. I made the mistake of saying, in my preview, that Hawks/Sharks is always fun: therefore we got to see the dullest 77 shot game you can imagine. It was so boring even legendary dullards like Doc Emrick and Pierre McGuire were losing interest and burbling off onto Foley-esque tangents. But I guess some stuff did happen and I suppose they pay me the big bucks to talk about it, so let’s get to it.
The San Jose Sha-Arks come to snowbound Chicago and they won’t even be the coldest representatives from California playing tonight. Hopefully everyone is safe and well stocked with booze because tonight should be fun. Last time these guys were here was the day of the tornadoes and I got to go to the game at the UC (thanks @Schatzipage!) at short notice. That was a 5-1 laugher as the Hawks bounced back from a humbling in Nashville. Tonight they return home after a (reasonably) successful swing to the East Coast and face up to one of the powerhouse Pacific teams, albeit one that is beaten up and stumbling a little.
Friday night in Jersey, Patrick Sharp has a Hat-Trick, the Hawks score five and take the two points. All is well with the world, right? No, not so much as it happens. There was plenty last night that warrants some questioning, and we’ll get to that in the bullets. As it was, Sharp opened the scoring early in the 2nd Period with a mean snap shot after a nice feed from Toews. Greene tied it up for New Jersey a minute later, after a thorough blowing of defensive assignments, and that was it until things went beserk in the 3rd.
Let’s rapidly consign that farce last night to the garbage can of history, right next to the hopes of anyone who wanted the Hawks to grab the Terminally Useless Zenon Konopka off Waivers.
Last time we saw the Isles it was back in October. Nordstrom got his first goal, the Hawks blew a 1st Period lead and in the end made heavy work of a 3-2 win. Back then the Islanders were expected to be a playoff contender in the East, building off their previous season. Instead they now find themselves propping up the Godawful Metropolitan Division and third-from-bottom in the league. Which is to say, they suck.
That wasn’t so bad now, was it? After the fretting about this trio of games against upper-echelon Western Conference teams, the Hawks have come away with five out of six points available, both wins coming in regulation. After the goal-fests against Colorado and St Louis, this was a horse of a different colour: Playoff Hockey in December against the ever-punishing Kings.
The hits came hard and fast, mostly from LA and the margins for error were thin indeed. The tone was set when Colin Fraser dumped Michael Roszival over the boards between the benches. LA are one of those select few teams where leading in hits does not equate losing the possession battle: the Kings had the edge in Corsi 55%-45%. Duncan Keith was called upon to have another standout game, ending up 2nd star of the night.
The last time the Kings came to West Madison Street the Hawks were seething after a pantsing in Toronto and made them pay the price. That 3-1 beating was somewhat deceptive, though: the Kings were at the end of a four game road trip and looked tired & disinterested. They have plenty of reason to be motivated tonight, though: they’re coming off two straight losses to the Stars and Preds, are 3rd in the Pacific and must be casting nervous glances at Vancouver steaming up behind them. Jon Quick is nearly ready to return but it’ll likely be the excellent Ben Scrivens in net tonight.
Calloway Me A Cab
We all know about Joel Quenneville and his various qualities. However there are six more guys out there in Conference III, coaching their teams for better or worse (much, much worse in some cases). Here’s a quick guide, at this halfway point of the Season, to how they’re doing and whether or not they should have U-Haul on speed-dial.
Mike Yeo: Minnesota Wild
Appearance: Like a High School Social Sciences teacher who has just been hit on the back of the head with a condom.
How Is He Doing?: Not so good. The Wild are now firmly on the Playoff bubble and have hit a serious skid of late, exacerbated by goaltending problems that absolutely no-one could have foreseen except people who know about “Serious Illness” “AHL-Level Goalies” and “Nik Backstrom is Old & Bad”. Likely to be made the scapegoat for some pretty bad Front-Office decisions.
Who’s His Boss?: Chuck Fletcher, who spent 196m of owner Craig Leipold’s last remaining dollars on two players, thus necessitating the Lockout so that the poor man could afford to feed his family (of gold-plated lemurs that he keeps in the spare bathroom on his 2nd-best yacht). So not to blame for the mire that they find themselves in, at all.
Job Security: May have been fired by the time you read this.