Chicago Blackhawks

NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at Anaheim Ducks

So Close : Ducks 4 – Blackhawks 2

NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at Anaheim Ducks

Well, that sucked. The Blackhawks played a (mostly) good game in Anaheim, but another victory just wasn’t in the cards tonight. It’s really late so we’ll get right to it.

Peter Holland opened the scoring just a minute and a half into the game for the Ducks after Brent Seabrook inexplicably failed to clear the zone not once, but twice in the same sequence. Just minutes later, following a (horrible) Brandon Bollig penalty, Jonathan Toews scored on a shorthanded breakaway that won’t soon be forgotten. After blocking a blast off the stick of Sheldon Souray, Toews was off to the races and went forehand, backhand and then back to the forehand, undressing Jonas Hiller in the process. If you missed it, go watch it.

The Hawks were outshot 7-2 through the first 12 minutes, and indeed at times it felt like the Ducks were dominating the play in the opening frame. The Hawks were able to escape the first period ties thanks in large part to the brilliance of Corey Crawford.

The second period was a tale of two Blackhawk power plays. The first came just two minutes into the period. It featured exactly zero shots on net. It was horrific. It made me cry. Ten minutes later, they went back to the man advantage and looked like a completely different team, moving bodies around and getting traffic in front of Hiller. It culminated with a 93 MPH Nick Leddy rocket finding it’s way through traffic and past Hiller. Credit to Viktor Stalberg, who loomed large out in front.

It appeared the Hawks went ahead by two early on in the 3rd when Brandon Bollig directed a puck past Hiller – but the suits in Toronto ruled there was a distinct kicking motion and disallowed the goal. But not to worry – the Hawks were pushing the play. At one point, Steve Konroyd opined the Hawks were playing like they were down a goal. Indeed (early on), it appeared the Hawks would avoid going into their usual shell and keep attacking, but it wouldn’t last.

As the Hawks started to fall back, the Ducks seized the momentum. All of the sudden, the Hawks were on their heels. Bobby Ryan tapped in a fat rebound to tie the game with five and a half minutes remaining. Then, it all collapsed. Ryan Getzlaf moved in on a 2 on 1 with Teemu Selanne, who beat Crawford five hole. It was Selanne’s first goal in 10 games and only his 6th of the year. Sheldon Souray added a late empty net goal. Bah.

Now it’s super late so just a few Bullit Pointz (or whatever):

* Instead of being 7 points up in the Conference, the Hawks are now just 3 points ahead of the Ducks.

* What massive balls the Captain possesses. Sheldon Souray is famous for his cannon. Toews had no qualms whatsoever about stepping in front of it. It lead to a breakaway and a goal. All hail Jonathan Toews.

* Corey Crawford had a fantastic first 55 minutes. The last 5? Not so much.

* Patrick Kane skated 25 minutes tonight. I know they’re far away and have five days off coming up, but if Hossa can’t go on Monday I’d like to see someone from Rockford get called up. If Joel Queneville is only going to let Daniel Carcillo play three shifts and still refuses to dress Jamal Mayers, then why not give him someone he can use in the short term? The Hawks have NHL ready talent in Rockford, there is no need to wear down guys like Kane.

* Tough guy Bryan Allen really showed Marcus Kruger who was boss there at the end of the second period. What a douche.

* Speaking of douches, in the second period Brandon Bollig delayed beginning his backcheck to scream at the official. Note to Bollig: You are not Jonathan Toews. Shut up and get back.

* Quenneville was surprisingly upbeat in his post-game press conference. Not really sure what to make of that. He “hopes” Marian Hossa will play Monday. So do I.

* Brandon Saad had another fantastic game.

* You know you’re pumped for the Kings on Monday. Look out for another CtA podcast on Sunday evening.

Coffee is for Closers: Blackhawks 5 – Avalanche 2

Two for Flinching

This is the type of game you want to see the Blackhawks play against a team that can match them in the speed department. Getting in shooting lanes, not committing penalties, controlling possessions and forcing the other team to either get a goalie win or score more while being outshot by nearly double. There was never a point during this contest where you ever thought Chicago wouldn’t win.

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toews face oilers

One Bad Frame: Oilers 6 – Blackhawks 5

You Again?

We failed to recap the first regulation loss (my fault) that bucked the point streak to open the season but the difference in both that contest and this one against the Oilers was the same. One bad period where the Hawks surrendered four goals and it put the game out of reach. The difference between Friday and Sunday’s game was that Chicago battled back and nearly completed the comeback against the Oil.

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Brandon Bollig recalled from Rockford

This means a sick, cruel joke was played on all of us yesterday. Get well soon, Michael Frolik.

"This sweater looks much better on me, doesn't it guys?"

Blackhawks send Bollig to Ice Hogs

"This sweater looks much better on me, doesn't it guys?"

“This sweater looks much better on me, doesn’t it guys?”

I’ll tell ya where he’ll go. Someplace warm. A place where the beer flows like wine. Where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. I’m talkin’ bout a little place called… Rock-ford.

No word yet on a possible call up. Does this mean Jimmy Hayes or Ben Smith comes up? Is Steve Montador actually going to play hockey again? We have no idea.

So, what was your favorite memory of the Brandon Bollig era?

Boxing3-5Hawks-5-Wild-3Full

Streakin’ Gone Wild: Boxing with Blackhawks (5) and Wild (3)

Credit: Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune

Credit: Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune

“I’m running out of words to say here. I don’t know how many ways I can describe this 10-game winning streak. It’s exciting. We’re having fun.” – Jonathan Toews

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

The Streak hit 23 games – how awesome is it to see 20-0-3?! – and the streak within The Streak hit a franchise-record 10 straight victories with Tuesday’s 5-3 win over Minnesota. Are there enough positive adjectives to describe this run? I think everyone is running out of them.

And how fitting is it Marian Hossa scored on the night the ‘Hawks honored him for playing in his 1,000th career game Sunday?

(Quick note on that: Here’s where I have issues with the separation between the regular season and playoff statistics. Hossa also has played in 130 postseason games, which weren’t taken into account. If he played a game in the NHL, he played a game in the NHL. I think all of them should be recognized. Just my opinion.)

Some quick thoughts before Boxing…

– The third line guys – Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw and Viktor Stalberg – came through again. Bickell scored twice, though one came with Brandon Saad delivering the pass you see in the picture above. Bickell’s first goal had him being in the perfect place at the right time, with Shaw and Stalberg picking up assists.

– Brandon Saad. That is all.

– Patrick Kane came through with another clutch goal, scoring on one of the only four shots the Blackhawks had in the third period. And to that point…

– The whole let’s-sit-back-and-just-ride-this-thing-out mentality when the ‘Hawks get a lead of two goals or more nearly came back and bit them in the ass for the fifth time this season. If there’s one thing to change when it comes to this team, it’s that.

The Blackhawks are so successful because of their puck position and the aggressiveness that comes with it. That’s where their talent shines. However, when they decide to sit back and let the game come to them, things nearly unravel. Here’s a quick snippet of the other times that’s happened this season:

Opponents-Comebacks

Solution? Stay aggressive. Role the lines until the final horn sounds and keep attacking. The Blackhawks are being outscored 19-18 in the third period this season.

The rest is in Boxing. Right-click on the image, then click ‘view’ to enlarge…

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NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at Detroit Red Wings

Heart Attack Hockey : Blackhawks 2 – Red Wings 1

NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at Detroit Red Wings

Sorry for the delayed recap. Sometimes it’s just your mom’s birthday. Let’s get to it because it’s late and I’m pining to watch ‘The Walking Dead’ tonight. Somthing actually has to happen this evening after the snoozer last week, right? *Update: Solid episode.

What. A. Game. The Blackhawks were awarded two points for their efforts. The Red Wings got one. But the real winners today were anyone who watched this game and the game of hockey in general. Holy shit. While the game was largely irrelevant in the grand scheme of things for the Blackhawks, every single point these days matters for Detroit. I’m glad the ‘Hawks were able to rob them of at least one. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t depressed we’re not going to be able to witness these games six times each season anymore. Re-alignment blows. To the fun stuff.

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19-0-3

We’ll be around later tonight with a recap. For now, just take some time to reflect on what an awesome hockey game you had the privilege of watching this afternoon.

hawks toews fans

Minimum Payment: Blackhawks 4 – Blue Jackets 3

Viktor Stalberg: Swedish Limbo Champion (photo credit to Jonathan Daniel, NHL.com)

I’ll be honest with you all in saying that I definitely missed the first goal of the game. While driving to the destination that I was watching last night’s game, we had a little user error and had to listen to the first five minutes on the radio. I did rewatch the game today so now that I’ve seen it twice I feel I can competently comment on what transpired.

That was about as bad as I’ve seen this team look this year and still get a win.

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CHI v EDM

Prerequisite: Blackhawks v. Oilers Pregame Warmup

Nail Yakupov Shortly After Opening N64 on Christmas

And the beat goes on… Just 24 hours after shutting out Columbus and extending their points streak to 18 to open the lockout abbreviated campaign, the Blackhawks once again go to the ice at the United Center against a bottom 5 team in their conference. A game the Blackhawks would like to have prior to heading on to proper competition in St. Louis on Thursday. The Oil have been a bit of an up and down group, something you’d expect out of a young team like this. Tonight they’ll be without Taylor Hall after his indefensible knee dust up with Cal Clutterbuck. It’s the last game he’ll miss before returning to action.

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Jannik Hansen Suspended 1 Game for Hit on Marian Hossa. Yep, 1 Game. That’s It.

There’s the video from Brendan Shanahan, who may have been drunk when levying this suspension.

Jannik Hansen getting only one game for a deliberate elbow to the back of Marian Hossa’s head is unbelievably pathetic, especially given the penalties he’s handed out. How Hansen’s actions are somehow viewed as less threatening than what Duncan Keith got a whopping five games for last season when he hit Daniel Sedin is absolutely amazing to me.

Let’s just hope Hossa is OK.

Boxing2-19Hawks-4-Canucks-3Full

So It’s Like That, Eh?: Boxing with Blackhawks (4) and Canucks (3)

(Credit: Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune)

(Credit: Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune)

Sorry for the delayed wrap, but by now I’m sure you all know the Blackhawks (13-0-3) tied the NHL record by acquiring at least one point in the first 16 games of the season.

What we don’t know are two important things: 1) The status of Marian Hossa after he left the game when Jannik Hansen hit him with a deliberate elbow to the back of the head, and 2) What kind of disciplinary action, if any, has been handed down to Hansen by Brendan Shanahan.

There is a hearing schedule with Hansen for 2:30 p.m. CST, so we will be back after we get updates on Hossa and Hansen. Until then, here’s Boxing to help recap the rest of last night’s contest…

Right-click the image, then click ‘view’ to enlarge:

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Photo by Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune

Blackhawks Look to Make History Against Canucks

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The Chicago Blackhawks look to make history Tuesday night as they host the Vancouver Canucks. Should the Blackhawks win this game, they will tie the NHL record for the longest point streak to open a season. The current record of 16 games is held by the 2006-2007 Anaheim Ducks.

All indications are that long-time Chicago laughing target Roberto Luongo will not get the start tonight. It appears we have bruised his ego enough for one career. Cory Schneider will get the nod tonight. Schneider has been one of the most up-and-down goalies in the league this season. His GAA’s over his seven starts are as follows: 11.27, 1.85, 0.00, 4.00, 1.00, 1.01, 4.08. A lot of this can be attributed to some absolutely embarrassing defensive play in front of him.

Look for a newly invigorated Vancouver team, enjoying the energy of a returning Ryan Kesler. Despite their OT loss against the Blues on Sunday, the Canucks have been playing high quality hockey lately.

As always, look for everyone’s favorite “tough guy” Kevin Bieksa to try some of his trademarked pathetic chirping and then cower by the refs once he gets the attention of one of the bigger guys.

Alex Burrows is still a tool.

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Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

Too Fasth: Blackhawks Drop a Shootout to the Ducks

Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

Is anyone else sick of the damn shootout?

Everyone would have liked to see the Hawks take two points in their first game back at the United Center and they were just a hair away from getting it done. The good news is, the Hawks are 13 games into the season and have gotten a point in each of the games. The bad news is, they should have had two tonight.

There were definitely good things to take away from this game. This was perhaps the most physical game the Blackhawks have played all season. Bryan Bickell throwing his weight into Ryan Getzlaf was beautiful. When you’re a big body guy with decent speed, you need to hit people. It was nice to finally see him doing that to one of the Ducks’ core guys. It seems the team has been playing with a bit of an edge ever since Jamal Mayers’ scrap with Raffi Torres.

The Blackhawks’ penalty kill continues to shine. They play with active sticks and are more aggressive on the penalty kill than I’ve seen in years, leading to an important 5 on 3 kill tonight. Credit to Niklas Hjalmarsson, Michael Frolik, and Marcus Kruger for their newfound PK skills. I know I wasn’t the only one cussing these guys out last year; their turnaround is nothing short of a Chicago miracle.

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It's there for the taking, let them self-destruct

Roughness Unnecessary: Blackhawks @ Coyotes Warmup [UPDATE]

It's there for the taking, let them self-destruct

It’s there for the taking, let them self-destruct

It’s been covered ad nauseum by beat writers and bloggers alike so I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time on the topic du jour, Raffi Torres. He’s a fourth line player and comparatively we don’t spend a whole lot of our thoughts on Jamal Mayers anymore. Matt McClure wrote a thoughtful piece at The Committed Indian on retaliation and I’d encourage reading that if you’re so inclined. Otherwise, this will be the last I mention of #37 in burgundy and white.

Onto the actual hockey game being played in Glendale tonight.

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(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Sunday Funday?

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)


As a fan, you can be forgiven for looking past last night’s game with the most insignificant hockey club since the California Golden Seals to the tilt with 100% unmitigated evil this evening.

The game last night may not have been very fun or interesting, but it was the fifth straight victory for the ‘Hawks since the season began, matching a feat not seen round these parts since the 1971-1972 season. Tonight, the Blackhawks can make history by making it six straight.

But these goddamn Red Wings can always be counted on to spoil a good time, can’t they? Remember the banner raising ceremony opening night in 2010-2011? You sure do. Contests like the game tonight are what these rivalries are built on. You probably don’t want to miss this one.

Despite their fairly impotent (2-2-0) start, Detroit still possess all sorts of weapons the ‘Hawks will have to account for up front. The combination of Henrik Zetterberg and Damien Brunner will be dangerous, Pavel Datsyuk is going to be Pavel fucking Datsyuk, Johan Frazen will punch Patrick Kane in the head while moving slowly around the ice and guys like Dan Cleary, Mikael Samuelsson, Justin Abdelkader and Todd Bertuzzi will aggravate the living hell out of you. These aren’t ’07-’08 Red Wings – but they aren’t the Blue Jackets, either. If you let them fuck around in your zone, you will pay.

The issues with Detroit this year are almost entirely on their blue line (and that’s before you even look at all the injuries). After Niklas Kronwall, they’ll depend on Ian White, Kyle Quincy and Jonathan Ericsson (who returns tonight). If that isn’t awful enough, White and Ericsson have been hurt and they’ve been forced to lean heavily on youngster Brendan Smith and some guy named Brian Lashoff. How bad a defense are we talking here? Kent Huskins improved it. Q’s message to the ‘Hawks forwards need not be complicated tonight – get the puck deep and keep it there. It shouldn’t be a problem with this, uh, “defense” that Mike Babcock rolls out this season.

While Q has said he doesn’t like tinkering with the lines while the ‘Hawks are winning, one can reasonably expect the return of Michael Rosival and Brandon Bollig – which means you’re likely to get a Bollig-Jordin Tootoo bout at some point. As of this writing no starting goaltender had been announced, but with the Blackhawks off until Wednesday it stands to logic that Q gives Corey Crawford the crease again. It’s imperative the Blackhawks roll four lines and six defenseman tonight. Detroit has been off since Friday and the Blackhawks had to work a little harder than any of us expected in Ohio last night. There’s no need to overload anyone in the early going here, even if you are reaching for history.

You can probably disregard Chicago being the better team on paper. It’s the Blackhawks. It’s the Red Wings. It’s going to be a good game. Enjoy it.

Cheesy Toews-Kane Kit Kat Commercial to Follow

Style Points Not Required: Blackhawks 3 – Blue Jackets 2

Cheesy Toews-Kane Kit Kat Commercial to Follow

Cheesy Toews-Kane Kit Kat Commercial to Follow

Not exactly the demeanor in which we’d like to see a win in Columbus but no one is going to turn down two points, short season or not. The Hawks came out with cement skates in the first ten minutes of the game being outshot 8 to 1 before finally breaking open the smelling salts. Mark Letestu’s goal came after two Crawford saves. Keith, Seabrook or Dave Bolland need to clear the crease in that instance. Patrick Kane made a nice play at his own blue line to evade a pinching Jacket defender and was then aggressive in his play to the net. He wasn’t able to beat Mason but left a juicy rebound for Dave Bolland who was wise to follow 88 to the net. Tied after the first 20 minutes.

The 2nd period was mostly controlled by the Hawks despite being unable to cash in on 2 Jacket penalties. Bryan Bickell made a nice play to prevent a clearing attempt and then went straight to the net to provide a nice screen/tip in front of Steve Mason for the Hawks 2nd goal. They would lead the rest of the game thanks in large part to a botched interference call that disallowed a Columbus tying goal on a powerplay later in the period.

Mark Letestu scored the early goal for the Jackets but he’s also responsible for the dagger that won the game. A failed clearing attempt that was picked off by Patrick Kane who then set up the Captain for a pretty goal. Two games in a row the Captain has converted a big goal in the final frame. The Jackets made it close late in the 3rd on a goal that was the result of a 2nd lost board battle by the Hawks top defensive pairing. On the plus side, it’s a positive to see Q throw out both Toews and Kruger for the defensive zone draw that preceded the goal. It was one of the few faceoff loses for the Captain tonight.

Five straight to start the 48.

    Observations

- Speaking of powerplays, it’d be great if CSN Chicago could show us how much is time is left in a shorthanded situation. Your graphic guys should not be ITT Tech graduates. Please and thank you.

- Corey Crawford was excellent tonight and we may as well continue to give Quenneville credit in this shortened season for his roster decisions as they’ve worked out well. Brookbank’s limited minutes and effectiveness were put out against an inferior team so that (hopefully) Rozie skates tonight against Detroit. Same thing can be said about Crawford as he was needed to make some saves that I think it’s safe to say would likely have gotten past Ray Emery. The saves after Patrick Kane’s turnover on a 2nd period powerplay stick out big time tonight.

- 0 for 4 on the powerplay. It was bound to happen at some point. 5 for 5 on the kill, however, is great to see from a much improved penalty kill unit (even if they did get lucky but we’ll get to that later). Let’s try not to march to the box that much and test our luck though.

- Good on Jamal Mayers to stick up for Kruger after Jared Boll ran him into the boards. The instigation penalty, not so much. Especially in a 2-1 hockey game. Nothing wrong with finding Boll on his next shift and settling the score at that point.

- Hawks caught a MAJOR break on the goal that was wiped away. That wasn’t interference on Crawford and it sure as hell wasn’t a high stick. Take ‘em when you get ‘em.

- Chicago was outhit 24-12 tonight. They won. Get used to it.

- Dave Bolland’s double minor was inexcusable. Good on Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp to negate half that but if the Rat is gonna rat, he needs to do it in a less debilitating way. This is also a reason why the Jackets are top candidates for the #1 pick as well. How do you blow a 4 minute powerplay in the 3rd down two goals?

- Could be worse. We could have lost to the Wizards tonight like the other United Center tenant. Onto the AARP Wings squad tomorrow.

CBJ Looking Ahead

Wipe Your Feet: Blackhawks-Blue Jackets Preview

Scott Howson in his natural habitat of failure

Scott Howson in his natural habitat of failure

Go ahead and accuse me of looking past a team and jinxing the Blackhawks but I’m not buying it. The Columbus Blue Jackets, ever the doormat of the Central division, did little to improve their already pathetic hockey team during the lockout. Gone is Rick Nash to the Rangers in return for Brandon Dubinsky, who many wanted in an Indian Head during Chicago’s struggles to fill their gap on the second line down the middle. Dubinsky has yet to dent the scoresheet in four games in a Columbus uniform; in fact the two NHL ready players the Jackets received for Nash have a total of one point through the young season.

Make no mistake about it, the Blackhawks should walk out of Nationwide Arena today with two points and not think twice.

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Credit: USA Today

Better Late than Never: Overtime Boxing with Blackhawks (3) and Stars (2)

Credit: USA Today

Credit: USA Today

Through four games, the Blackhawks have won in seemingly every way possible.

They’ve dominated (Kings), simply outscored the opposition in a game with shoddy goaltending (Coyotes), jumped out to a big lead and held on for dear life (Blues) and battled back from a multiple-goal deficit – the latter being a 3-2 overtime win over Dallas on Thursday night.

Patrick Kane, who continues to play out of his mind, made a beautiful backhand pass to a waiting Marian Hossa for the winner to complete the comeback from two goals down.

The ‘Hawks have won their first four for the first time since the 1973-74 season and aren’t showing any signs of slowing down. I saw a tweet during the game that the Blackhawks were showing signs of fatigue due to the condensed schedule, and I don’t believe that’s true for a minute.

Sure, Michal Rozsival farted away a puck in his own zone that led to an easy goal that put the ‘Hawks behind 2-0, and Patrick Sharp wasn’t exactly thinking straight when he blindly fired the puck to center ice that led to a late penalty that could’ve cost the ‘Hawks the game. But tired? I saw jump all night.

And how good were the special teams? The Blackhawks went 3 for 7 with the man advantage, marking the first time they’ve scored three power-play goals since going 4 for 9 in a 4-2 win over Calgary on Dec. 5, 2010.

We saw very little standing around and plenty of puck movement, as evidenced by Sharp’s feed to Jonathan Toews for the equalizer in the third, followed by the Kane-to-Hossa masterpiece.

Other stuff…

Corey Crawford was taking a beating on social media after allowing that first goal, and then again after Duncan Keith saved his ass at the end of the second period. While there aren’t many excuses for letting that puck trickle through his legs on the second instance, Crawford deserves credit for making the initial stop with a man bearing down on him full speed on a breakaway. He stopped a penalty shot and made a key save on a redirected puck in OT with the ‘Hawks a man down. Not sure what else everyone is expecting from the man.

– Speaking of Keith, he played a fabulous game tonight and has been extremely solid through four. Brent Seabrook on the other hand? He’s just not looking very sharp yet. The penalty shot was his fault after he took his eye off the puck and let it slip under his stick.

Nick Leddy is playing good hockey, and he would’ve gotten much more praise tonight had Hossa been able to beat Kari Lehtonen – who stood on his head most of the night – off Leddy’s great feed. Leddy’s one-man charge into the zone on the power play was a thing of beauty, and his pass to Hossa was a great find. More of this, please.

Onto Boxing. Click to enlarge…

Boxing1-24Hawks-3-Stars-2-Full

Credit: Chris Swede, Chicago Tribune

Eat Crow: Home-Opener Boxing with Blackhawks (3) and Blues (2)

Credit: Chris Swede, Chicago Tribune

Credit: Chris Swede, Chicago Tribune

First things’s first: I can’t begin to explain how excited I am to be doing Boxing again. Sitting in Section 326, Row 12, Seat 9 sporting my Duncan Keith No. 3 Michigan State sweater made me forget about everything that transpired over the last six months. It felt great to be back watching hockey at the United Center, and I can’t wait to get back there Sunday.

As for the game, the Blackhawks’ onslaught of first-period odd-man rushes yielded only a single goal when Patrick Kane put a sweet move on Brian Elliott to complete a 3-on-0 as the Blues napped after a turnover. Somehow, after seemingly dominating the majority of the period, the ‘Hawks were outshot 9-7 and headed into the second period short a man after Marian Hossa took a tripping penalty with less than 20 seconds left.

Goals from Brent Seabrook in the second (originally credited to Keith) and Viktor Stalberg in the third were enough to hold off St. Louis, which made things interesting with a pair of goals in the final period.

Other things…

The Blackhawks are off to a 3-0-0 start, which would seem pretty arbitrary during an 82-game season. With this campaign already being at the 45-game mark, earning six quick points could go a long way. And if you told me they’d be unbeaten after facing Los Angeles, Phoenix and St. Louis to open the season, I would have asked who replaced your sanity with the optimism of Richard Simmons.

So, it looks like the Kane trade talk can pipe down for, like, another couple days, eh?

Corey Crawford was damn good. He made the saves he was expected to make, and then plenty more. He snuffed out St. Louis’ comeback attempt when the momentum shifted and played big during the Blues’ final burst to end the game. There shouldn’t be any question that Crawford gets the start Thursday in Dallas.

Brandon Saad shook off a slow start and questionable decision-making to have a second solid game. He seemed very timid in the first period but by the third he was very aggressive getting into the Blues’ zone.

I know I need to accept that Joel Quenneville will continue to dress someone for the sole purpose of him playing roughly five meaningless minutes, but why Brandon Bollig deserves to wear an NHL sweater at this point is beyond me. I mean Christ, even the Blues scratched Ryan Reaves.

Let’s get to the season’s first Boxing, including my channeling into the mind of Jonathan Toews. There’s one image for the summary, another for the box score. Click on each to enlarge….

Boxing1-22Hawks-3-Blues-2Sum

Boxing1-22Hawks-3-Blues-2Box

Blackhawks 6 – Coyotes 4 : ‘Hawks collect points out west

If your day was anything like mine, you sat on the couch for a solid ten hours and watched a lot of football and even more hockey. It was glorious fun, yes, but somehow one can still feel exhausted after such a marathon. It’s really late so we’ll have a somewhat abbreviated recap. Here’s a few thoughts on a sloppy, but entertaining hockey game:

- Marian Hossa was outstanding for the second straight day. As Jonthan Toews alluded to after the game, we’re witnessing Hoss playing a whole different sport than everyone else right now. Seeing him punish the team that employs the scum who probably lowered his quality of life at some point in the future made it that much sweeter. Good on Hoss.

-David Bolland as the second line center is working out just fine. Two goals tonight for Bolland, including one of the strangest, funniest goals I’ve seen in a long while. I only wish we could have seen Mike Smith freak out like that during the playoffs last year.

-Speaking of Smith, he has now let in ten goals in two games. Enjoy that stat and brandish it if happen to run into one of the six Coyote fans in the world tomorrow.

- We’d rather see Marcus Kruger than Andrew Shaw on the third line, but they was effective all night long. Bryan Bickell and Viktor Stalberg (both guys who were rumored to be on the move at certain points of the offseason) clicking together certainly didn’t seem likely, but they’re doing just that and I think we’re all okay with it. Stalberg had several chances tonight, finishing one of them in the second period off a nice feed from Bickell. He missed on a breakaway in the third frame, but was a key factor in Bolland’s powerplay goal in the first – battling in front of Mike Smith with Dave Derek Morris and giving Patrick Kane the space he needed to set up Bolland. Stalberg gave Morris such a problem that Morris threw him to the ice in frustration after Bolland scored. Good job, Vik.

- The fourth line was talked about a lot on Twitter during the game and did have a few dominant shifts in the Phoenix zone in the first and second periods. However, Michael Frolik and Kruger each finished the game -2. Brandon Bollig got his ass kicked in a fight with BizNasty and didn’t play much after taking a completely unnecessary tripping penalty about as far away from the ‘Hawks net as you can get.

-I’ve avoided dealing with the awfulness that is Ray Emery’s goaltending because I didn’t want to spoil the good time. So, I will not fret over our backup goaltender. I will not fret over our backup goaltender. I will not fret over our backup goaltender. I will not fret over our backup goaltender. I will not fret over our backup goaltender……..No, screw it, I’m fretting. Emery was putrid and made what should have been a good old fashioned ass kicking a nail biter at one point. This situation has been allowed to fester and should reflect poorly on Stan Bowman if it ends up costing the Blackhawks.

-Not related to tonight’s game, but please appreciate Rockford IceHogs goalie Carter Hutton beating the absolute shit out of Grand Rapids Griffins goaltender Petr Mrazek in a bench clearing brawl two night ago. Damn.

- The game on Tuesday night against St. Louis is shaping up to be a regular doozy. What could make it more awesome? Well, Bartl will be back with Boxing.

Meteor Showers and Tidal Waves : Hawks Destroy the Champs & Phoenix Preview

Apologies for the late recap today. By now you all know the Blackhawks walked into Los Angeles and put a damper on an otherwise memorable afternoon for the Kings and their fans. Marian Hossa dominated. Corey Crawford made the saves he had to and the Blackhawks weren’t giving an inch in their own zone all afternoon.

We won’t do a full narrative summary of this game only because you’ve probably read summaries elsewhere and after a long day of drinking, I simply can’t remember all the details. We’ll give you a couple of quick thoughts on the game from yesterday before we move on to the Phoenix game tonight.

- Marian Hossa went a long way toward alleviating fears that he may not be the same player after Raffi Torres nearly killed him last year. Hoss dominated almost every shift he took and had one of his best games as a Blackhawk. If he does this all year long, it’ll be awfully hard for Stan Bowman to sell the idea of buying him out.

- Corey Crawford’s performance will keep the mob off his back until at least Tuesday when Vladimir Tarasenko and Blues come to town.

- One can’t help but feel good for Michael Frolik. There’s no question he’s been an offensive disappointment since being acquired from Florida, but that wrist shot over the glove of Jonathan Quick was a thing of beauty and he put in some tough minutes on the penalty kill as well. Frolik may not be the player ‘Hawks fans thought they were getting, but he’s a guy that’s easy to pull for. Here’s hoping Frolik turns it around this year.

- Joel Quenneville rolled four lines and Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook both played under 24 minutes. This is a recipe for success. Sure, it was easy to do yesterday as the ‘Hawks dominated from the get-go, but we’d all like to see more of this.

Moving onto the game tonight in Phoenix:

Ray Emery will get the start in goal tonight against Phoenix. Many would like to have seen Crawford get a chance to build on his outing last night, but Q and Co. have the condensed schedule in mind and this decision was probably made a week or so ago.

In other lineup news, Daniel Carcillo suffered some kind of leg injury yesterday and will miss the next month of the season. We may not be the biggest Carcillo fans, sure, but it sucks for a guy who rehabbed for months to get injured in his very first game back. A tough blow for Carcillo, to be sure. However, his injury gives Brandon Saad a shot to crack the lineup. It’ll be interesting to see if Q just slots Saad into Carcillo’s spot with Jonathan Toews and Hossa – or changes the lineup entirely. Could this be Viktor Stalberg’s chance to enter the top six again?

We’re still waiting to hear if Michael Rosival will replace Sheldon Brookbank in the lineup tonight. Rosival played for Phoenix last year, but Q usually will stick with a lineup as long as it wins. We’ll see.

The odds favor Academy Award nominee Mike Smith starting in goal tonight for Phoenix. While he let in four goals against Dallas last night, the Coyotes don’t play again until Wednesday and Jason LaBarbera sort of sucks.

The Coyotes may be a boring team, but that doesn’t mean they’re a bad one. All the usual suspects (Vrbata-Doan-Hanzel) are still around for Phoenix with new additions Steve Sullivan and Matthew Lombardi providing some depth. But their blue line is their real strength, with Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Keith Yandle and the newly acquired Zbynek Michalek leading the way. The ‘Hawks best effort will be required if they are to come home for the Blues game Tuesday night with 4 points.

…and yes, Raffi Torres is still suspended. If you were hoping for shenanigans, tonight probably isn’t the night.

We’ll be around later with a (full) recap.

Credit: Bill Turianski www.billsportsmaps.com

CtA Season Preview: Northwest Division Edition

Credit: Bill Turianski www.billsportsmaps.com

Credit: Bill Turianski www.billsportsmaps.com

(Now we’ll take a look at the division the Canucks win every year in a cakewalk and managed to feature exactly one playoff team last year.)

Northwest Division

2011-2012 Standings
#1 Vancouver (111) Calgary (90) Colorado (88) Minnesota (81) Anaheim (80)

Vancouver Canucks

New guys: Jason Garrison (I wanted him), Cam Barker (you’re all horrible people for making fun), Jim Vandermeer (?) and Derek Joslin.

Gone: Samuel Pahlsson (yup, that one), Sami Salo (one ball joke) and Aaron Rome.

Not yet gone: Roberto Luongo

Young players to keep an eye on: There really isn’t a whole lot here. With injuries to guys like Ryan Kesler and David Booth, hulking winger Zach Kassian will get a shot to play in the Vancouver top six. Chicago Wolves defenseman Kevin Connauton scares the shit out of me – but at least it looks like he’s at least another season away from leaving Rosemont. Should Kesler or Booth miss more time than expected, puny 5’8 center Jordan Schroeder could be called upon to fill the void. Due to all the injuries, 2011 1st round pick Niklas Jensen will get a shot to make the roster out of camp, but that appears to be a long shot.

Outlook: Think a team with Barker and Vandermeer can’t make the playoffs? Think again. Edmonton and Minnesota aren’t pushovers anymore, sure, but the Northwest still belongs to the Canucks. Their depth looks questionable, but as soon as it *really* starts to hurt, they can pull the trigger on a Luongo deal and probably improve multiple spots. Garrison should more than make up for the loss of Sami Salo and I can’t imagine the Sedin’s letting this team nose-dive. As much as you don’t want to hear this, it looks like Vancouver probably gets home ice for at least the opening round.

Edmonton Oilers:

New guys: Nail Yakupov (clearly a cancer in the dressing room) , Justin Schultz (this guy could have played anywhere in the NHL and chose Edmonton), and Mark Fistric (became an Oiler just the other day).

Gone: Taylor Chorney.

Young players to keep an eye on: All of them. Yakupov, Schultz, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and the list just goes on and on. All of these damn guys are probably going to be superstars (if they aren’t already) and constitute a fine young core for Edmonton. How the hell they plan on paying all these #1 picks in the future is beyond me – but that’s their problem. Should injury strike their defense, 6’3 Swede Oscar Klefbom (a fine hockey name) could see his first NHL action. 2011 2nd rounder David Musil would be another option here.

Outlook: Is this team closer to the ’07-’08 Blackhawks or the ’08-’09 Blackhawks? It’s impossible to say. Some analysts have suggested that the lockout could benefit younger teams. If that’s the case, then the Oil should be in decent sharp – even with Nikolai Khabibulin in net. In my view, the weakest area on this team is the blue line. Yes, Schultz is a great young prospect, but this isn’t a unit many teams are going to fear as they move into the Oilers zone. The offensive potential is pretty much unlimited. If the trio of #1 overall picks click right away, those defensive problems may not matter much. Edmonton is one of the tougher teams to judge this year. Could go either way. Sorry, total cop-out.

Minnesota Wild

New guys: Zach Parise (now sporting a Mr. Monopoly monocle at all times) , Ryan Suter (ditto Parise), Zenon Konopka, Jake Dowell and Torrey Mitchell.

Gone: Guillaume Latendresse, Erik Christensen and Mike Lundin.

Young players to watch: The Wild have a pool of prospects that should make any Blackhawks fan who supports realignment strongly reconsider. They are stocked pretty much everywhere. Center-icemen Mikael Backlund and Charlie Coyle, along with defenseman Jonis Brodin and Matthew Dumba, are elite prospects. While it’s unlikely any of them except Backlund (and maybe Dumba) see time in the NHL this year, all are worth keeping an eye on in the future. Guys that have seen NHL time like Brett Bulmer and Jason Zucker could be called upon again if needed. Mario Lucia, Zach Phillips, Johan Larsen and Matt Hackett round out their prospect poll. Not too shabby. In fact, it’s absolutely terrifying.

Outlook: As good as this team may one day be, expectations are probably set a little too high for this season. While you can’t blame Minnesota fans for being excited with the arrival of Parise and Konopka Suter, there are still a lot of question about this teams defensive depth and nobody knows how quickly this semi-overhauled roster will take to gel. The improvements are impossible to ignore, but this is still a team that looks scarier for what they might one day become – as opposed to what they currently are.

*We should mention that their owner, Craig Leipold, was a big driver of this lockout on the owners side. So fuck him and his team. Hating Minnesota is going to be a lot of fun.

Colorado Avalanche

New guys: PA Parenteau (the rare player who wants to leave the Islanders), Greg Zanon and John Mitchell.

Gone: Peter Mueller (getting a second chance with Dale Tallon) and Jay McClement.

Young players to keep an eye on: Colorado’s defense is a disaster, so guys like Ty Barrie, Stefan Elliott and/or Duncan Siemens could get a look once this team is out of the playoff race – which will probably be about three weeks from now. Often injured prospect Joey Hishon may finally get a look if they can’t lure back Ryan O’Reilly from Russia. Mark Olver went to Northern Michigan University, which makes him awesome.

Outlook: This team sucks and will be even suckier if they can’t re-sign O’Reilly. Sure, Gabriel Landeskog is a monster and they have a number of talented forwards, but like we mentioned already, that defense is just terrible. The goaltending behind it is almost as bad. Not a playoff team. Moving on.

Calgary Flames

New guys: Sven Bartschi (remember this name), Roman Cervenka, Dennis Wideman (contain your laughter) and Jiri Hudler (condolences to Hudler on the recent passing of his father).

Gone: Olli Jokinen (obligatory waffle gif), David Moss and Scott Hannan.

Not gone because Jay Feaster is delusional: Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff.

Young players to keep an eye on: Bartschi and Markus Granlund (coming over from Finland). The Flames also drafted John Gaudreau, but he’s a few years away. T.J. Brodie is an option on the blue line if they don’t want to torture themselves with Anton Babchuk and Corey Sarich.

Outlook: This team has some talent, yes, but still drag around entirely too much dead weight. The guys over at Hockeenight are always making fun of Flames for giving out no-trade clauses to any and all comers – and its’s completely true! It’s like this roster was carefully booby trapped to guard against any and all rebuilding efforts. Even if they wanted to give up the chasing the dragon and start over, they couldn’t do it.

Oh, and Mike Cammalleri is still a douche.

Western Conference playoff picks:

Los Angeles-St.Louis-Vancouver-Chicago-Phoenix-Detroit-Minnesota-San Jose

(That concludes the Western Conference portion of our season preview. We’ll be back in the next day or so with a look at the East.)

96-97 Bicycle NHL Aces Playing Cards

CtA Season Preview: Pacific Division Edition

96-97 Bicycle NHL Aces Playing Cards

96-97 Bicycle NHL Aces Playing Cards

(We’re moving right along with the CtA season preview. Today we take a look at the Pacific Divison which has a ton of old guys.)

Pacific Division

2011-2012 Standings:
#3 Phoenix (97) -#7 San Jose (96) – #8 Los Angles (95) – Dallas (89) – Anaheim (80)

LOS ANGELES KINGS:

New Guys: Nobody. This team is pretty much the opposite of the 2010 Blackhawks. They get to keep the band together.

Gone: Nobody. Well, Ethan Moreau retired, but he doesn’t really count.

Young players to keep an eye on: The Kings have a number of fantastic young offensive players in their system, but with every position on the roster filled, it doesn’t look like there will be a need to carry any of them. Should a center go down, Andrei Loktionov would be a candidate to fill the roster spot. Slava Voynov is the kid on the blue line and should get more minutes in his second season. While he had a quiet playoff, he’s still one of the most intriguing young defenseman in the NHL and possess with an absolute blast from the point. Dwight King, who was stellar for the Kings when they got hit with the injury bug, will also enter his second season.

Outlook: Pretty damn good. The lockout should have taken care of any hangover problems and they have the entire Cup roster ready to make another run. Watch out.

Dallas Stars:

New Guys: 112 year old Jaromir Jagr, Derek Roy, Cody Eakin, Aaron Rome (eww) and Ray Whitney (also old).

Gone: Brad Richards (just rubbing it in), Mike Ribeiro (SUSHI), Sheldon Souray (has a ‘Baywatch’ wife), Steve Ott (gross) and Adam Burish (I thought he sucked but you all loved him).

Young Players to (probably not) watch: They have a couple good young prospects like goaltender Jack Campbell, Brett Ritchie and 6’7 fucking monster Jamie Oleksiak – but I’m not sure any of these guys fit into their immediate plans. There may be spots to be had on their (weak) blue line for players like Brenden Dillion and Patrick Nemeth. Personally, I love those hulking defenseman so I hope its Oleksiak.

Outlook: It’s sort of sad to see the Stars Twitterverse treating Jagr as if he were Sidney Crosby. But I guess it can’t be denied the Stars are sporting a different look this year and that should be refreshing to their fans. Roy and Eakin strengthen the Stars down the middle, yes, but that defense still looks awfully suspect. The Stars always seem to hover right around that 8th spot and I’m sure they’ll be right there again. Maybe the addition of a few seasoned vets like Jagr and Whitney will get them back into the playoffs……or maybe not. The best news for the team this offseason was the announcement that will be sporting a new uniform very soon. We can all agree this is a good thing.

Phoenix Coyotes:

New players: Steve Sullivan (still alive), Zybnek Michalek, David Moss and Nick Johnson.

Gone: Ray Whitney, Adrian Aucoin (only Columbus would have him) and Taylor Pyatt.

Young players to keep an eye on: Puck mover David Runbland should make the team. Otherwise, there aren’t many spots on the blue-line to be had and their offensive pipeline is nil.

Outlook: This team is boring as hell and I don’t want to really waste my team thinking about them. A lot depends on Mike Smith replicating his performance from last season. A dull team that competes every single night. Always dangerous. Continuing to watch Oliver Ekman-Larrson develop will be a pleasure. He should give fans in either Seattle or Quebec City something to cheer about for years to come.

Anaheim Ducks:

New Players: Bryan Allen, Sheldon Souray, Daniel Winnik and Brad Staubitz.

Gone: Lubomir Visnovsky (currently doing everything he can not to be an Islander), Sheldon Brookbank (now a Blackhawk) and the mustachioed George Parros.

Not Gone: Teemu Selanne. He’s sticking around for one more season. Admit it, you don’t give a shit about the Ducks and you wanted him to be a Jet. I sure did

Young players to keep an eye on: Devante Smith-Pelly and potentially Emerson Etem. Both are good, strong forwards on a team desperately in need of some depth behind their big three. Power forward Kyle Palmeri is another candidate to see time in the NHL.

Outlook: Bruce Boudreau will coach his first full season with the Ducks. They got some help on the back end in free agency, but this is still a team with a few glaring problems. My theroy is that Jonas Hiller struggled because he stopped wearing that badass black helmet with the gold cage. Or maybe it was the vertigo. This is a team that teases a fire sale every year, but if they stumble this season it could finally happen. I want Bobby Ryan.

San Jose Sharks:

New Players: Brad Stuart (former Red Wing) and Adam Burish.

Gone: Torrey Mitchell and Daniel Winnik.

Young players to watch: Uh, none? There’s that tool who wears #69. They have Chicago area native Tommy Wingels who played well for them last season. They also have Sebastian StalbergVik’s brother. In retrospect, they probably shouldn’t have traded Charlie Coyle.

Outlook: This is a team that has a bunch of good players but just never seems to be able to but it all together. Are Stuart and Burish what they’ve been missing all along? I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. I’m always conflicted when I think about the Sharks. I want to pull for Marty and Nemo and Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski are certainly likable players. But at the end of the day the fuckbaggery of Joe Thornton and guys likes Marc -Edouard Vlasic are enough to make me forget all that other stuff. Remember Thronton’s repeated targeting of the head of Jonathan Toews? Vlasic’s love of the slash behind the play? Then add the whole Hjammer offersheet thing. Yeah, screw the Sharks.

Central Division

CtA Season Preview: Central Division Edition

CENTRAL

(Over the next few days CtA will take at look at the offseason moves and potential young impact players of each team around the league. We’ll being going division by division, starting today with the teams we all know and hate in the Central. We’re damn glad to be back with you folks.)

CENTRAL DIVISON
2011-2012 Standings:
#2 St. Louis (109) – #4 Nashville (104) – #5 Detroit (102)- #6 Chicago (101) – Columbus (65)

Detroit Red Wings:

New Guys to hate: Damien Brunner, Mikael Samuelsson (again), Jordin Tootoo (you already hated him) and Carlo Colaiacovo (ahahaha).

Elsewhere: Niklas Lidstrom, Tomas Holmstrom (HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE), Juri Hudler and Brad Stuart.

Young players to keep an eye on: Brunner, Brandon Smith (Ben Smith will have his revenge) and Gustav Nyquist. Brunner is a wild-card, but he played with Z overseas and seemingly all the reports from Europe had he and Zetterberg developing a thing. Lets hope not. Nyquist, a guy I think is going to be pretty damn good, had 35 points in 34 games at Grand Rapids. We’ve all heard about Smith by this point. It’s a ‘show me’ season for him. It’s also possible we’ll see a little bit of Jakub Kindle this season.

Outlook: Yes, they look vulnerable in their own end, but they have Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. They’ll find a way into the post-season. Once they get there, those cracks in the D are likely to be fatal and we’ll start the ‘Shea Weber to Detroit’ watch. Man, that’s going to be horrible.

St. Louis Blues:

New Guys to hate: Vladimir Tarasenko (please go away), Jaden Schwartz and Jeff Woywitka.

Elsewhere: Carlo Colaiacovo and John Davidson.

Young players to keep an eye on: Tarasenko, Schwartz and Ian Cole (fuck Ian Cole). The thought of seeing Tarasenko 6 times each year for the next several years makes me want to run into a dark room and cry. He and Schwartz have the potential to be Toews/Kane lite. It’s hard to judge how effective young players are going to be, but there isn’t a team on the league that wouldn’t want this tandem. What I’m trying to convey here is that I’m really freaked out about that and you should be too. Ian Cole is a douche on Twitter and probably on the ice as well.

Outlook: Their style is boring as all hell, sure, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a very good hockey club. If they get the same goaltending they got last year then there’s no reason they can’t have that same kind of success. Much like the defending champion LA Kings, the Blues have almost everyone coming back from last season, so getting into rhythm shouldn’t be much of a problem, and that’s a good thing in a short season. Barrett Jackman still plays a meaningful role on this team and you’d have to think that comes back to bite them eventually. Hopefully.

Nashville Predators:

New Guys to hate: Scott Hannan and Ryan Ellis.

Elsewhere: Ryan Suter, Andrei Kostitsyn, Alexander Radulov and Andres Lindback.

Young players to keep an eye on: Ellis and (hopefully) Austin Watson. I honestly have no idea if Watson will play for Nashville or not this year, but Ellis will, and they need someone (and probably more than just one) to help fill the void left by Ryan Suter. Roman Josi is another young defenseman who Nashville will ask to contribute.

Outlook: They still have one of the best goaltenders in the game and Barry Trotz is a coach who always gets the most out of the roster afforded him, but the loss of Suter was absolutely devastating to this teams on ice product. Will they continue to be a thorn in everyone’s side or do they begin to fade away? I’m betting on the latter.

Columbus Blue Jackets:

New Guys to pity: Brandon Dubinksy, Artem Anisimov, Sergei Bobrovsky, Nick Foligno, Tim Erixon and Adrian Aucoin (resist the urge to kill).

Mercifully Elsewhere: Rick Nash and Mark Methot. Methot is now hilariously being talked about as Erik Karlsson’s partner in Ottawa this year. Poor Erik Karlsson.

Young players to keep and eye on: Truth be told, Columbus has a lot of good young talent – most of it on the blue line. John Moore, David Savard and Tim Erixon are all solid prospects and could (will) all see time in Columbus this season. Unfortunately, their best defensive prospect, Ryan Murray, is out for the next 6 months, so you won’t be seeing him this season. It appears Boone Jenner will be given a shot to make the big club, although that jump just feels unlikely. Will this be a breakout year for Ryan Johansen? How the hell should I know?

Outlook: I don’t think this Columbus team sucks as bad as everyone is making them out to suck. However, that doesn’t mean they still don’t suck really bad. Rick Nash is obviously not going to be replaced by anyone, James Wisniewski is counted on to play a significant role and their goaltending is, uh, well……..