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)
Tonight the Hawks edged out the Stars in a game that shouldn’t have been but was closer than that scoreline suggests. The Hawks weathered an early storm that saw the Stars pile on the shots and Corey Crawford make some good saves. Then Dallas were the victim of the first of a long string of weak or poor refereeing calls, losing Cody Eakin on a questionable Goalie Interference call, and the Hawks capitalised with Andrew Shaw scoring an excellent goal while on his knees. The Hawks doubled their lead in the 2nd with a goal that I believe is currently credited to Kris Versteeg. Ryan Garbutt, of all people got one back after a defensive lapse then Duncan Keith saw a long range effort evade Kari Lehtonen for 3-1. Garbutt got it back within one goal in the 3rd when he managed to stuff the puck home of Crawford. With the Stars pressing hard and Lehtonen pulled it appeared that Niklas Hjalmarsson ended it with a shot from dep in his own half, however it was judged to have been touched by Bollig’s high stick at the Blue Line and waved off. Shortly thereafter, however, Marian Hossa bullied his way to the front off a fortuitous bounce (Lehtonen was en route to the bench, assuming the puck was leaving the zone) and iced the game. There was time for some dumbness featuring Bollig and Roussel and the two points went in the bag.
Oh, and some young Finn made his debut tonight, too.. guess we’d better mention that, hey?
Well, tonight was a complete joke from start to finish. The Nashville Predators are a defensively sound team that struggle to score goals (3rd worst in the league) and were at the end of a brutal road trip. Therefore, of course, the Hawks spotted them a two-goal lead that they never looked like relinquishing. Coupled with St Louis winning in Pittsburgh, any hopes of winning the Division are pretty much gone.
So the Teuvo thing is probably overdoing it a lot of bit, but the outlook tonight as opposed to the afternoon the Blackhawks beat the Bruins back in January is astoundingly different, isn’t it? It’s not that the Blackhawks aren’t still a very serious threat to win the Stanley Cup, but they’re now facing the very real possibility of having to march through Colorado, St. Louis and either San Jose or Anaheim without home ice in any series. Sure, the playoffs were always going to be a hideous slog no matter where they finished, but going on the road for the duration seems like a tall order for even the best of teams. Prior to the Kings (who won it all) in 2011-2012, six teams have advanced to the Stanley Cup finals without having home ice through the playoffs: the 1980-1981 North Stars, 1990-1991 North Stars, 1993-1994 Canucks, 2002-2003 Ducks, 2005-2006 Oilers and the 2009-2010 Flyers. None of those teams went on to win the Stanley Cup. The point is not to dampen your enthusiasm about the Blackhawks this year, but it’s become apparent that the Blues are out of reach and the mission is to avoid opening up on the road against Colorado. Who knows what will happen out in the Pacific, but the Sharks and Ducks would open at home against the Hawks in the Western Conference Finals if the season ended today and the Hawks advanced that far. The Avs lost tonight and share 93 points with the Blackhawks, but they remain ahead in the standings due to their five additional regulation victories. Each team has thirteen games remaining. Fun!
Let me begin by stressing that this is not meant to be a serious statistical study of these matchups, nor is meant to be any sort of indication as to how the Post-Season will go this year: the sample sizes are way too small and there are too many variables, as, for instance, in the number of games in a Season series. This is purely out of interest and was sparked off by our good friend @BvrlyBrewmaster asking about it on Twitter. So take all of the following with a large helping of salt. All numbers were reached by me manually adding up stuff on NHL dot com, so (as my High School Maths Teachers could attest) there is ample scope for error, and please point any out so I can fix them.
Coming off a thorough pantsing of the hapless Beej on Thursday, the Hawks have a chance to apply some pressure on St Louis (who are in action against the Wild) by beating up on the league-bottom Sabres in Patrick Kane’s hometown tonight. The Sabres were already awful and spent the Trade Deadline period divesting themselves of as many remotely useful pieces as they could. So it’s a Trap Game, right? I think we can all agree on that?
Now normally I put in the Fenwick chart and some other analytical thoughts in here when I do the recaps but, yeaaaaah, we really don’t need to bother with that type of stuff tonight. The Blackhawks and their new fangled lines put together by Two Time Stanley Cup Winning Coach Joel Quenneville™ absolutely wrecked shop on West Madison Street tonight. So, for your viewing pleasure, I’ve accumulated some GIFs and videos for after the jump. Bartl’s still on his honeymoon and boxing will return when he’s done enjoying some well deserved R&R in Hawaii.
Wrapping up the Stadium Series game about four days after the fact because I’ve been out of town so excuse the tardiness of this post. With that in mind, here’s a video synopsis of what I saw for about four hours last Saturday.
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.