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.
Killing Two Birds?
Tonight sees the Blackhawks returning to action, after a three-day break over the Festive Period, with the first of three tricky games in four nights. First up the Colorado Avalanche, former Western Conference high-flyers and still a formidable opponent, come to the UC; then Saturday sees a short trip to the Scottrade to take on another heavyweight in the St Louis Blues. There will then be a Sunday “Break” where we get to chew our fingers to the bone over Bears/Packers before the Los Angeles Kings make their second trip to West Madison. All three of these games are against Western Conference contenders of one stripe or another and all three will present stiff challenges to be surmounted.
Sincerest apologies for the late recap….
I’m still not sure I quite understand how it’s possible New Jersey only managed twelve shots on goal in a professional hockey game. Obviously everybody knows that the Devils play a very conservative style, but this was dreadfully boring even for them. How lopsided was the possession game? Only seven face-offs the entire game took place inside the Blackhawks zone. SEVEN! There were forty six total in the contest. You can’t spend that much time in your own zone against a team like the Blackhawks and expect to have any sort of chance to get even a point. I don’t care who you are or what your philosophy is – you have to score some goals when you’re playing a team like the ‘Hawks.
Think I’ll go out to Alberta, weather’s
good horrible there in the Fall Winter
Alberta or Bust after the jump
These guys again, hey?
Last time out the Hawks escaped the Rogers Arena in Vancouver by the skin of their teeth, thanks mainly to an outstanding performance from Corey Crawford who withstood a late Nucks siege after the Hawks scored twice in nine seconds to erase an early 5-on-3 goal from Ryan Kesler. Since then both team have been hot as hell, with a successful Circus Trip for the Hawks leading onto a series of 6-goal games. The Canucks also went on a hot streak, winning 7 in a row until they lost in a Shootout to Minnesota and then got walloped by the Stars last night. Obviously, the Hawks had their own unhappy landings against Minny, Anaheim and Toronto. They also don’t have Crawford and Antti Raanta makes his 8th consecutive start tonight.
Progress is made after the jump
More on PlAstiKK D’avE’s Dead Pool after the Jump
The Good News: The Hawks returned to the scene of their worst performance of the year and came out with a modicum of pride restored and, more importantly, two points
The Bad News: There are still four more games against Nashville this season.
Sod that for a game of soldiers. About the only thing missing from last night’s disaster was someone getting hurt. I’m, sure no-one wants to talk about it, so we’ll get it out of the way quickly & move on to eyeing up LA.
Got that Friday feeling? Good, us too. The Blackhawks are heading into the weekend after a run of three games where they scored at least six goals (and also won by at least four). The mood around Hawks Nation is positively buoyant, after a brief outbreak of DOOM folowing Corey Crawford’s injury. It’s going to be a busy weekend after a few days off; first a trip to the ACC to play the slumping Leafs, a game that, while it will lack the ferocity of the old Norris Division days, is always one to circle on the calendar. The following night sees one of the Western Conference’s genuine powerhouses, the Kings, roll into town for the first time this season. LA have gotten over their usual slow start and are rumbling up the standings on the back of a five-game winning streak.
I won’t go to much into the upcoming games, as each warrants its own preview; instead here are five thoughts that are rattling around in what passes for my brain after the last week of Chicago Hockey. Feel free to debate, debunk & demolish in the comments. You can also call me a ‘Thundering Flangehead’ if you like.
The last time the Florida Panthers were in town it required a police escort to get the visitors’ bus to the UC, due to heavy snow. That was in January 2012 and Kris Versteeg spoke of his emotion on his first sight of the Stanley Cup banner that he had helped to win. The Hawks won 3-1 that night.
We’ll that was then and this is now. Versteeg is once more a Hawk and there’s a new Cup banner hanging in the rafters. The Panthers roll into town 3rd last in the Eastern Conference, 12 points adrift of a Wild Card slot. So they’re pretty much dead and buried, then.
Here come the Ducks..
The only team that the 2013 Blackhawks couldn’t solve roll up to the UC tonight in a similar position to last year, with the Hawks at the top of the League and Anaheim being among the leaders of the pursuing pack.
It is what it is. I’m not going to second-guess this overmuch. These lines probably make the most sense based on the pieces available in St Paul. The fact that there is an NHL-ready (if not 100% yet then learning) Center getting ready for a game in Charlotte with the Icehogs tonight while a winger is the 2nd Line pivot and two players with 8 & 9 NHL games between them are on the 3rd line with a Defenseman is just one of those things that we’re going to have to try to ignore and have faith that Q knows what he’s doing.
Otherwise we might think he’s out of his mind.
As my esteemed colleague JesusMarianHossa pointed out on Twitter, chances are that the erstwhile 3rd line will be more like the 4th, certainly in terms of TOI. This whole “The 4th Line is ROCKIN'” narrative should get put to a stern test because it’s been a possession black-hole and is likely to see some hefty opposition tonight.
Mike Yeo does love his match-ups and obviously has last change. so look for him to get his big guns out aginst them. The Minnesota lines have a slightly makeshift look about them, with Mikael Granlund now out indefinitely with a concussion. They are expected to roll Parise-Koivu-Pominville ahead of Heatley-Coyle-Niederreiter. This could get hairy quite quickly. Apparently Saad could also see some time at Center, too. What is guaranteed is a lot of double-shifting, so it’s a good thing this isn’t the first of a back-to-back with the Ducks coming to Chicago tomorrow, hey?
Anyway, I would expect the line blender in overdrive if things don’t start well tonight.
The Wild are no slouches, as we discovered already this year, outside of the top-tier Parise & Suter, they have Jason Pominville, Coyle & Niederreiter all contributing well. Jared Spurgeon is having an excellent year thus far and of course there’s that goalie. The Wild allow the 2nd fewest Shots Against in the League and Josh Harding has a SV% of .939.
This could be a long night against a genuine Conference III contender.
Of course, it might all click brilliantly, the Hawks annihilate the Wild and Q looks like a genius.
Guess there’s only one way to find out.
Puck drops at 7
The day after an annoying defeat to Dallas was not spent in idle reflection.
We saw two players recalled from Rockford, one player demoted there, a player on IR also headed for the Icehogs and two more players not making the trip to Minnesota.
Busy day at the office. So, what does it all mean?