The phrase on Blackhawks fans’ lips these days is, “What the HELL is wrong?!?” I’ll tell you what’s wrong in a minute, and you’re going to be more than a little surprised. But the matter at hand is tonight’s game against the Avalanche.
Looking at this Avalanche team reveals one very salient point: this will NOT be the Colorado Avalanche we see next year. 8 players on their current roster are unrestricted free agents at the end of this season, and another 7 are restricted free agents. Most of the guys we face off against tonight are up for grabs when the season ends.
Hope Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman has some of our scouts with us on this trip.
My fear as we entered January was that the Blackhawks would bring it during the big games and slack off with the so-called “lesser” opponents. I mentioned Colorado as one of the teams we should not look past. I also mentioned Edmonton. Mmm-hmm. Well, it’s time for the Colorado game. And guess what? The Avalanche are on a friggin’ tear.
3 wins in a row, 8 wins in their last 9 games, 3 straight wins on the road, and victories over Detroit, Washington, Philadelphia, St. Louis, San Jose and Tampa Bay — all in the month of December. Colorado is getting solid and occasionally sensational goaltending from what has become its tandem of J.S. Giguere and Semyon Varlamov, and putting up the necessary goals on a night-in, night-out basis to bring home the wins.
This is not the Colorado team that we beat 3-1 out in Denver on October 20. If the Blackhawks treat it that way, this is another Edmonton loss waiting to happen.
On Saturday evening, Jeff was having his weekly psychotic episode. These almost always include (but are not limited to) alcohol, friends, and the Michigan State Spartans football game. This one was particularly bad, as the Spartans went down 14 – 0 in the first 7 minutes of the game, rallied to a 31 – 14 lead — which they then blew in the fourth quarter, only to win against #6 Wisconsin on the already-legendary Hail Mary pass with no time left on the clock.
I’ve spoken to the doctors, and Jeff may be well enough to take visitors as early as tomorrow afternoon. But in the mean time, your fix of “Boxing” will be delayed until after the Ducks game on Tuesday.
I know, you’re disappointed, for the second time. As the Blackhawks were not able to pull together the same fate as MSU: they also came from behind, they also blew a late-game lead, but lost 5 – 4 in a shootout to Colorado. This defeat was much the same as Thursday’s victory, but the bounces went against the Blackhawks this time.
The Blackhawks’ season looked, at the outset, to be fraught with peril: shaky backup goaltending, injuries to key forwards, defensive pairing mix-and-match, questions about conditioning, and the ever-present ticking time bomb that exists in the form of newly-acquired winger Daniel Carcillo. The first six games of the season find the Blackhawks with a 4-1-1 record, and showing the potential for another Stanley Cup run. Thursday’s game was a good example of that potential.
Watching the Blackhawks take on the Avalanche it was apparent that these were two closely-matched teams: young and fast, with quick and dangerous snipers up front and scary-good goaltending on the back end. Thursday’s game saw lots of end-to-end action, goaltenders peppered with shots — and standing on their heads to keep their teams in it, and a lot of quick transitions at the blue line.
Tonight, we are going to see that same Avalanche team again; and again, the Blackhawks are going to have to play the same fast, disciplined game to get past them.
Whew, now that was fast-paced hockey.
The Blackhawks were able to calm themselves after the Avs’ initial first-period rush, get into the flow of the game and come away with a 3-1 victory in Colorado, going 2 for 2 on the brief road trip.
I’m tired, so just a few quick observations before Boxing …
♦ With the entire game going pretty much back and forth at warp speed, both Corey Crawford and Semyon Varlamov saw nearly everything thrown at them, neither giving up a bad goal on the night. The Blackhawks put two difficult shots past Varlamov, while Crawford wasn’t able to get in front of an unfortunate bounce. Varlamov should be spending the night in jail after his ridiculous save on Marcus Kruger.
♦ “Bick-Bo-Fro … douchebag”: A bit of a left turn from the “quid pro quo” comment from The Hangover, but this line has been something special thus far. Poor, poor Michael Frolik. Varlamov robbed him of his first goal on a beautiful chance right in front. Bickell has played his ass off and Bolland, well, …. please for the love of holy Christ stay healthy.
♦ Dan Carcillo’s fantastic pass set up Jonathan Toews’ goal, marking yet another solid feed from Carcillo. He got rewarded with his 2nd point as a ‘Hawk, though it’s not for the shortage of some great opportunities he’s set up which simply haven’t gone in the net.
♦ Duncan Keith disrupted a play in the neutral zone, which ended up leading to Patrick Sharp’s handsome goal. After Keith forced the turnover, the ‘Hawks were able to get into transition, pepper Varlamov with a couple of in-tight chances before Sharp sniped the short side to beat him. It was the second straight solid game for Keith, who has been taking plenty of heat lately.
OK, time for Boxing. Two images, click to enlarge …
The Colorado Avalanche are an enigma. They are 3 – 5 – 2 in their last 10 games, the most recent of which were a win over Detroit and losses to the Islanders and Phoenix. But the start of the season they were on a tear, and they currently sit one point ahead of Chicago in the Western Conference standings.
There is simply no telling which Avalanche team is going to show up on any given night with this bunch. They could skate circles around the team leading the league in points, or they could give up 6 goals to some cellar dweller.
However, we know one thing: they’ve beaten the Blackhawks three times already this season, including back-to-back defeats in a home-and-home in mid-December. So the four-game season series is blown: now we’re just playing for the two points, and pride.
Here’s to hoping the big shit cloud hovering over the beginning of the week rolls out of town with the passing days.
Once again the Blackhawks urinated through another game, dropping their third to Colorado Big Falling Snow Pile 4-3 on Wednesday night. However, there are more positives that came out of tonight’s trail of stinky skid marks than from Monday’s.
The ‘Hawks outshot the Avs by a large amount — 38-23. Problem is, Craig Anderson decided he wanted to stop damn near everything, unlike Monday.
While I’m damn pissed off about this loss, which dropped the ‘Hawks to 16-14-3 and into 10th place in the Western Conference, I’m not about to start robbing old ladies of their handbags. The ‘Hawks didn’t play a phenominal game, but they didn’t exactly leave road apples on the bed either.
The obvious turning point came on the phantom call assessed to Jordan Hendry, who was simply battling for the puck when Daniel Winnick skated directly into his elbow. There was blood, and Hendry got four minutes in the box when he shouldn’t even gotten two.
Tomas Fleischmann then proceeded to score on both ensuing power plays with Hendry in the box, then added another later to complete his third-period hat trick. Tomas. Fucking. Fleischmann.
Corey Crawford did his best Marty Turco impression tonight by flopping all over the crease and getting caught out of position. The Avs should’ve had another goal on an empty net with Crawford sprawled out, but Brent Seabrook made a block to save his ass. I have a feeling, however, that the meatballs won’t be clamoring for Turco to start Friday because, well, Turco didn’t start the season as the backup. To get more on the goaltending shit, check out Fork’s little write-up.
Onto your latest edition of “Boxing.” Enjoy.
Click the jump for Boxing with ‘Hawks/Avs
Now that all of our loved ones are letting us have sharp objects without supervision again following the manic-depressive episode that was the 7 – 5 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Monday, it’s time to load up on mood stabilizers and settle in for the re-match: Blackhawks vs. Avalanche at the United Center tonight, 7:30pm.
As for me, they’ve taken off the restraints, I’ve written an apology to that bus full of pre-schoolers (most of whom won’t need counseling, it turns out), and my lawyer thinks he can get the charges dropped as long as I promise never to go within 1000 yards of a meat packing plant again. Something tells me they’ll leave the restraining order in place, however.
What an absolute horrendous loss to have to deal with. I would make the whole team walk home if it was up to me.
Four possible points and the ‘Hawks come away with one on a two-game trip, mostly because the defense couldn’t figure out how to do a goddamn thing in a dog-shit-eating 7-5 loss to Colorado. To make matters worse, Craig Anderson was on fucking fire coming into the game, the ‘Hawks put five in against him, and then they still proceeded to lose.
Before I get to “Boxing,” I have some other thoughts.
√ I want to know why Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith decided to do Jager shots before the game. Seabrook especially was so fucking bad that I can barely type this sentence without my fingers shaking. He seemed so mesmerized by the puck carrier that he completely lost men crashing the net. You’d need a calculator to count the number of Avalanche skaters open in the slot tonight. Pathetic.
√ There are some Jack Skille fans out there, but I’m not one of them. Yes, he got a goal. But the Avs first goal is directly on him for not just chipping that puck out of the zone while deciding to fuck around with it. What’s more is that the guy just looks like he’s skating around the ice without a thought as to what his next move is going to be. Everything is reactionary, when sometimes you need to have a logical plan as to what is going to happen. He just seems too stupid to have that type of brain capacity.
√ If you said one word about Marty Turco being a bad goalie because of tonight, you didn’t watch the game. Turco didn’t have a chance on those goals, and his defense left him hanging. Denis Savard said in the studio after the game that it’s possible the Blackhawks were “holding their sticks tighter” hoping to get a win for Turco because he hasn’t played much. Whatever the case, the ‘Hawks played like hell in front of him. But, the meatballs are going to keep on him mainly because…
√ Corey Crawford played well replacing him. Crawford made some big saves and did play a better game than Turco did. He deserves each minute he’s getting right now, and you’re not going to hear me complain about Crawford continuing to start. However, Turco really isn’t playing horrible either. Rather than bitching about Turco and licking Crawford’s ball sweat, you should be happy the ‘Hawks have two very serviceable goaltenders who can each play when asked.
√ Paul Stastny’s goal was impressive, batting the puck ahead of him with his stick and putting it in the net. Give him credit despite the turnover the ‘Hawks made which helped lead to it.
All right, I’m gonna let “Boxing” do the rest.
Click the jump for “Boxing”
As Chicago finishes digging out from the fluffy white present Old Man Winter dumped on us over the weekend, the Blackhawks arrive in Denver for the first of a home-and-home series with the Colorado Avalanche culminating on Wednesday at the United Center. The first meeting between these two clubs was also in Denver for the season opener, when the Hawks fought back from a 3 – 1 deficit but still managed to come away with a 4 – 3 overtime loss.
A harbinger of the season to come, it would seem.
My nice new job allows me access to screenshots of the box scores, so I thought I’d take advantage and try to put something together for last night’s Blackhawks opener vs. the Colorado Avalanche.
I’m going to try and do this as much as I can this season. Can’t guarantee I’ll get to it every single game. Sorry if the font is a bit small, but it’s definitely readable. Let me know what everyone thinks.
When Jeff brought me on board, one of the things he told me was that if I disagreed with something he was advocating in one of his posts, feel free to say so.
Didn’t take long. Heh heh…
But we’ll get to that in a minute. I just have some quick thoughts about two rookie mistakes from the same play during last night’s game — Colorado’s first goal. The first mistake was from Nick Leddy, who was the victim of a bouncing puck, and incredibly speedy pair of forwards, and getting caught flat-footed in the attacking zone.
Sitting on the right point and fielding a pass from his mate Niklas Hjalmarsson, the puck bounces over Leddy’s stick, takes a Colorado carom off the boards, and it’s off to the races. What could he have done differently? The only thing that comes to mind is sacrificing the attacking zone: going to one knee to field the pass coming across from Hammer, using his hands to settle the puck down (keeping it in front of him and pushing it into the neutral zone, away from the Avalanche forwards), and having the team re-group. Other that that, the kid lost a foot race against one of the speediest guys in the league, pure and simple.
Credit to Coach Joel Quenneville, however: he still kept the kid out there, and Leddy put in a solid effort in 19+ minutes in place of the injured Brian Campbell. As he matures he is going to be a valuable asset to the team. However, it appears at this point that he’s not over the holy-shit-I’m-in-the-NHL jitters. This time last year, Leddy was trying to persuade a lovely young Scandahoovian girl to write his English paper for him. Now he’s skating alongside Olympic gold medalists. That would screw with anybody’s perspective.
The other rookie mistake was from 10-year NHL veteran Marty Turco. And this is where Jeff and I disagree. Turco was not the reason the game went into overtime; he’s the reason the Blackhawks didn’t win it in regulation.
Defensemen are taught from an early age: in a 2-on-1, play the pass. Play the PASS, play the PASS, PLAY THE PASS. This means that you never, EVER, stop covering the guy *without* the puck. Why?
First of all, it eliminates confusion between you and your goaltender as to who is covering whom. Secondly, it leaves the situation as a 1-on-0, and usually from a bad angle.
The path from the blue line to the net is a funnel. The further you can push the attacking forwards towards the goal, the less lateral room they have to maneuver, and the fewer shot options they have available. You keep them thinking about the pass/shoot decision until they’re so far down they’ve (still) got nobody to pass to very little open net to shoot at. That gives the advantage to the goaltender, and all of a sudden your 2-on-1 isn’t so scary anymore.
For this reason, they tell goaltenders from an early age, play the shooter. That’s where Mr. Turco fucked up.
As Nick Leddy was out of sight behind the play, it became a 2-on-1 towards our goal with Niklas Hjalmarsson busting his meatballs to cover the guy in the slot. This put Avs forward Chris Stewart carrying the puck off on the left circle with nobody to get a (decent) pass to. Perfect, right? Turco can stop that, right?
No. Turco was playing the pass, standing so far out of his crease I could have parked the U.S.S. Constellation, two of it’s tender ships and a life raft between him and the goal post, leaving Stewart to flick a wrist shot past Turco. An 8-year-old could have buried that shot with his skates untied. Fool-idiot rookie mistake.
I’m not saying we should have kept Antti Niemi, that ship has sailed. I disagree with the selection of Turco for just this reason. His performance is a balancing act, alternating between bailing the team out of deep doo-doo with Rogie Vachon acrobatics, and letting in crap goals like this one. If Turco hugs the post on this play like he’s supposed to, then the game is tied 2-2 going into the 3rd, and the Hawks win in regulation.
But as Jeff says, we’ve got 81 more of these to go. Nobody wins 82 games a season, this is just the start. We’re going to give ourselves ulcers if we judge each game strictly by the scoreboard. There was a lot to like about last night’s game. As the jitters subside, the team gets into proper condition, and the kids stop running into their teammates (not mentioning any names, Viktor Stalberg), we’re going to have a lot better outings than the one last night in Denver.
It’s pretty amazing how emotions shift so quickly. Until yesterday, I was still enjoying the Stanley Cup victory. Hell, I haven’t even gotten my season-ticket holder time to grope the thing. That happens Oct. 14.
But as soon as the VERSUS coverage shifted to Denver, I forgot everything that happened in June and during the Summer-long celebration. We’re back to reality, and the Colorado Avalanche made sure the Blackhawks know that, too.
The ‘Hawks showed flashes of their potential to repeat as champs, but also played like they were wearing slippers at times. It’s what comes with defending a title and having a target on your back. And there’s 81 more of these to go.
Though I would have loved to get started with a victory, the Blackhawks came out with a standings point from a game in which they trailed 3-1 and looked left for dead. So, there’s that.
Here’s the rest of what I’ve got for tonight…
♦ Before everyone starts leaving skid marks in their undies, Marty Turco is the reason that game even went to overtime. I wanted to get that out of the way just in case there’s a meathead reading this saying, “We should’ve never let Niemi walk.” Turco made some great saves tonight on good chances for the Avs — and more importantly, on good shots as well. There’s not much to complain about on any of those four goals.
♦ Turco’s athleticism is something we’re not used to, and it may cause heart failure for one or two people this season watching him chase the puck all over the place. Yes, he almost got burned getting caught in Bumblefuck deciding whether or not to chase down a loose puck entering the zone. But I’m convinced Turco’s ability to play the puck will be an asset for the ‘Hawks rather than a detriment. Minus the Chris Stewart goal, Turco snuffed the Avs on a couple more odd-man rushes because…
♦ … the ‘Hawks were noticeably different without Brian Campbell. The Avs had enough short-handed chances tonight to make me want to strangle a small child. Part of the reason for that is Campbell’s speed wasn’t around to make up for the blue-line shortcomings of the forwards at the point. Aside from that, Nick Leddy’s blunder which led to the Stewart goal may not have happened, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
Oh, and the Blackhawks gave up 41 shots. This can’t keep happening. And if it does, it’ll be a long season.
♦ Marian Hossa is a fucking animal. He just does everything right. Even forgetting his deflection goal and beautiful assist on Bryan Bickell’s tally, Hossa makes such good decisions and plays an outstanding defense for a forward. If he wasn’t known so much as a scorer and playmaker, I have no doubt he’d be getting more consideration for the Selke Trophy.
♦ Patrick Sharp is not only a very handsome man, he also played fantastic tonight. Even during the preseason, Sharp looked like a man just dying to get back on the ice and get the season started. Not a bad way to get going: Goal, assist and seven shots on goal.
♦ Getting back to Leddy’s miscue in the offensive zone that lead to Stewart’s goal: It was a 19-year-old play made by a kid seeing his first NHL action. Leddy turned a routine cross-ice pass into hacky sack. Niklas Hjalmarsson was forced to saucer it to Leddy, who had time to either settle the puck down with his hand — a la Duncan Keith – or simply let the puck slip past him and let the boards settle it down for him. Overall, Leddy didn’t play all that bad for a guy no one really figures is ready to play at this level. He made a rookie mistake.
Let’s just hope there’s not many more of them.Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.
A couple non-‘Hawks-related things…
For those who may not have noticed the names on certain posts, Tim Currell has jumped aboard to help me out with some thoughts and keep this site updated with insightful words. My fault, Tim, for not announcing this earlier. But be sure to check the names on the posts to know who’s writing and who to direct your feedback to. You can find each of our email addresses on the “About” page.
Holy. Fucking. Shitballs. Look at this fucking goal by Jordan Eberle, the Edmonton Oilers rookie making his NHL debut. I couldn’t go without posting this: