Los Angeles Kings
So you’re telling me that Jonathan Quick guy is pretty good, eh?
Quick beat the Blackhawks for the third time in four meetings this season – including two shutouts and a 0.99 goals-against average in those matchups – and helped the Kings to a 3-2 shootout win at the United Center.
“Experts” seem to tell us that goaltending is the difference between Stanley Cup contenders and pretenders around this time of the season, and if it holds true L.A. is going to be tough to beat with Quick between the pipes.
He stole the show from Ray Emery, who was making his fifth straight start and had another solid outing. If it weren’t the Blackhawks’ ineptitude in the shootout, he would’ve come away with a victory. He stopped the first five shooters before Mike Richards finally broke through, while Quick was perfect on the other end – not to mention stoning Viktor Stalberg on a penalty-shot attempt in the third period.
The main problem was Duncan Keith, who should immediately take the film, CD, floppy disk or whatever it is this game has been recorded on and bury it along with Jimmy Hoffa. Both Kings goals were the result of his turnovers, including one that lead to a 4-on-1 break for L.A. with the game merely 1 1/2 minutes old.
Patrick Kane had a solid night, and Marcus Kruger again was rewarded for playing hard in front of the net. Other than that, the Blackhawks will take the point and move on to Tuesday, when St. Louis comes into the United Center for another showdown.
The big news out of the Los Angeles Kings’ camp in the last month is the dismissal of veteran no-nonsense coach Terry Murray and the hiring of veteran no-nonsense coach Darryl Sutter. The general consensus among the pundits based outside of California was, “There’s a difference?” Murray was implementing a defense-based system, and getting buy-in from the superstar offensive weapons like Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards was difficult. Sutter will implement the same system, so how is that going to improve things?
The jury is still out, as Sutter has only 3 games under his belt as coach, notching 2 wins and a loss — about on par with what the team has been doing the rest of December. But as there is a history between Sutter and GM Dean Lombardi (former GM at San Jose who hired Sutter to coach the Sharks during his tenure there), expect Sutter to get several years to get the team to follow his lead.
The key problem for Los Angeles is offense. In 12 games thus far in December, they have scored more than 2 goals in regulation exactly once. And folks, that includes the games they WON. Granted, they have allowed the seventh-fewest goals against in the league, an impressive stat. But when you are also scoring the second-fewest, that’s bad. If Sutter can get the second stat up while keeping the first one down, he’s got a chance at making the playoffs.
The Chicago Blackhawks played arguably their best period of hockey in the third period against Anaheim, coming back from a 4-2 deficit to put the game in the win column with a 6-5 victory. Jonathan Toews notched 2 goals and 3 assists to go along with Patrick Sharp’s hat-trick. Corey Crawford had a solid outing stopping 24 shots, while Jonas Hiller had his night spoiled by getting the hook when the ‘Hawks onslaught got the best of him.
Whatever happened in the locker room between the 2nd and 3rd, it needs to happen before tonight’s game. If the ‘Hawks bring that kind of energy against the Kings, they’ll be in pretty good shape.
King me, please.
The Blackhawks completed a four-game season sweep of L.A. with a 4-3 victory that came with a few surprises, including:
» The sweep itself. Who the hell saw that coming, especially with the ‘Hawks struggles
» Jonathan Toews’ early – and welcome – return from injury
» Jake Dowell being scratched with no explanation yet if it relates to his 3rd-period benching against the Ducks
» Patrick Sharp’s fifth career two-goal game against the Kings. That’s, like, a lot.
The Captain’s return proved to be not only timely, but also not rushed. Most of us were worried about whether or not he’d be fully ready to go, and he quelled those worries with a solid performance. Toews’ “lucky” goal that bounced in off an errant clearing attempt by Drew Doughty happened because he was in front of the net like he should have been.
Sharp had another very handsome night, potting a goal on the power play and adding another off an aggressive forecheck by him and Tomas Kopecky. Nifty passing on the PP goal, as Kane made a nice pass across while Marian Hossa baited Jarrett Stoll into sinking toward the net, opening the passing lane.
Cash. Money. Hoes.
The Blackhawks did everything they could to attempt to lose this game, however. They were outplayed in the first period until Hossa tied it late, then took three shitty penalties in a row in the third period. The too-many-men call is flat out stupid, Duncan Keith was sleep-skating on his dipshit toss over the boards, and Toews’ high-stick shouldn’t have happened. It led to the equalizer until Toews’ shin scored the winner.
A few more thoughts here:
» Patrick Kane is still being bothered by his injury, I’ve decided. I came to this conclusion when he skated in with Dave Bolland on a 2-on-1 and did not once even consider putting the puck on net. Confidence? Well, maybe, given that he’s still getting back in the groove after sitting out eight games. More importantly, he looks a bit shaky on his skates, and I believe it may hurt him to plant and twist that ankle in order fire off a decent shot. Kane glided into the zone and looked at Bolland the whole way. Kane is a scorer, and that’s what we need from him. The cute pass on an odd-man rush is not what anyone wants to see. If it’s the ankle like I believe it is, maybe a night off for Kane would do some good.
» Brent Seabrook did his best Nick Boynton impression by making a blind, dipshit clearing attempt that resulted in a turnover and a Kings goal. Overall, he played like a pile of shit.
» Corey Crawford got another win, but hopefully he made out with the posts on the Staples Center nets after the game. Those red, iron bastards sure helped deflect the pucks outwardly. I’d count and tell you how many posts the Kings hit in the game, but my calculator is broken. However, he made a great save on Anze Kopitar’s chance with under a minute left and Jonathan Quick on the bench in favor of the extra man.
» The minutes of Jack Skille and Viktor Stalberg were next to nothing after a decent night in Anaheim, when QStache benched Dowell. Skille and Stalberg rode the pine most of the game, and Dowell watched from the press box as a healthy scratch. Granted, Skille did have a turnover that led to a Kings goal, but it would be nice if people with credentials would ask some questions about all this.
And now for Boxing. Click the images to enlarge:
Click the jump for Boxing with ‘Hawks/Kings
The Blackhawks held a team meeting on Monday, likely to discuss the three game losing streak and the most recent loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday night. We will never know exactly what was said at the gathering, though we will get the usual barrage of cliches and platitudes: “Our best players have to be our best players,” and other meaningless Yogi Berra-isms.
But what *should* they be saying? Is it time for a Come To Jesus Meeting about defensive responsibility? Should Coach Joel Quenneville start separating the men from the boys, call out the kids to start stepping things up and show them one-way tickets on the Rockford Shuttle? Should Captain Jonathan Toews start naming names of vets who aren’t pulling their weight and reaming them a new sphincter?
Or, should the team just invite their mothers to the meeting?
The BLACKHAWKS are …
… 20-17-3 (T-4th, Central)
… 8-7-3 on the road
… 4-5-1 in their last 10 (Lost 3)
… 6-4-1 against the Pacific Division
… 16-7-2 when scoring first
… 16-3-1 when leading after 2nd period
The KINGS are …
… 22-15-1 (4th, Pacific)
… 13-4-1 at home
… 5-5-0 in their last 10 (Lost 3)
… 4-5-0 against the Central Division
… 17-4-0 when scoring first
… 12-0-0 when leading after 2nd period
POWER PLAY: Blackhawks, 24.8% (1st) ; Kings, 17.7% (14th)
PENALTY KILL: Blackhawks 79.0% (25th) ; Kings 84.4% (8th)
» The Blackhawks have won the last two meetings in L.A., including a 2-1 victory Nov. 27
» The ‘Hawks haven’t won three straight in L.A. since winning two in 1996 and another in 1997
Click the jump for more STATS
Beating a bitter rival rather convincingly while undermanned is one thing. Following up that performance two nights later against another contender is downright beautiful.
Without Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane, the Blackhawks have held their own through a stretch when points in the competitive Central Division are becoming a necessity. The ‘Hawks gained four points on Detroit this weekend after the Communists fell to Dallas on Sunday night.
The ‘Hawks have a golden opportunity to continue picking up points on the division when Nashville visits Wednesday, but we’ll get into that over the next couple of days.
After three straight losses and picking up only a single point against Western Conference foes San Jose and Colorado, the Blackhawks needed to respond with the Communists and Kings visiting the United Center — where they’ve played like dog shit at times this season. They’re now 6-2-0 in their last eight at home and giving the crowd something to cheer about after losing four of five at the UC previous to this stretch.
Jonathan Toews continues to play like an animal. Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith are playing better, and Corey Crawford keeps impressing. It’s a shame Crawford’s success is linked with the meatballs’ version of Mary Turco’s so-called failures because Crawford is making a hell of a name for himself with his play this season. I wish we could all just shut up and be happy the Blackhawks have two solid goaltender to go to at any given time, but I keep forgetting this is Chicago. Silly me.
Going along those lines and knowing there’s no in between when it comes to either jumping from the Whatchu Talkin’ ‘Bout Willis Tower or celebrating like the ‘Hawks have repeated already, I’m taking this weekend in stride and sitting in the middle like I’m hoping most of you are.
Two wins against top conference contenders are fabulous, especially because the Blackhawks continue their dominance of the Kings this season. However, there’s still those farts against the Sharks and Big Falling Snow Pile that resonate. Much like I didn’t down a bottle of Advil following those losses, I’m not going to start having celebratory sex with Kaner’s leftovers. I’m strapping in for the rest of the homestand and preparing myself for a more thorough evaluation after the 1st of the year.
With that being said, here’s your “Boxing” from the weekend. First, it’s ‘Hawks/Wings. Then, scroll down for ‘Hawks/Kings. Click the images to enlarge. For those viewing on the iPhone, attempt to enlarge your screen with your fingers like you would for anything else. The reason I say this is because Spinner got an email regarding this, and I want to make sure I can help those out having trouble viewing. If you are, comment here and I’ll figure something out for you.
Click the jump for Boxing with ‘Hawks/Wings and ‘Hawks/Kings.
The big news out of Los Angeles has been the arrival of newly-acquired Bruins forward Marco Sturm — which hasn’t really happened yet. Sturm has not played a game this season because of surgery to repair torn ligaments in his knee, and he is not expected to be in the Kings’ lineup until their return to LA next week. Boston gave Sturm to the Kings for absolutely nothing, and that’s not a joke or an exaggeration. The Bruins moved him simply to stay compliant with salary cap restrictions. Officially the other side of the deal was “future considerations,” but Boston GM Peter Chiarelli confirmed that they received literally zilch in return.
Welcome to Gary Bettman’s NHL.
So with a new sniper not quite in the lineup, the Blackhawks will be staring down essentially the same team they faced on November 27th. The Blackhawks came away from that tilt with a 2 – 1 victory behind 21 saves from Corey Crawford.
The Kings are mired in that mud puddle of teams scratching and clawing for the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference, finding themselves shy by two points at the moment. There’s a worst-kept secret about Los Angeles, and it’s this: 55 of their 82 goals — fully two-thirds of their offense — have been scored by five guys. So if we can manage to keep Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams, Dustin Brown, Jarret Stoll, and Ryan Smyth off the score sheet, we’re golden. We’ve beaten each of their goaltenders once this year, but you can bet they’ll throw Jonathan Quick and his 1.98 GAA at us this evening. It will not be easy to get pucks past him.
The good news in the last two days for the Chicago Blackhawks is that they are coming off a WIN! No, that’s not a typo: we WON! And against Detroit (*spitting noise*) of all people. I guess we shouldn’t be all that surprised: this is the season of miracles, after all.
And while we cherish the rafter-rattling cheers of “DEEE-TROIT SUCKS!!!” raining down on the Scum as we send them home with their tails between their legs, the challenge now becomes to keep this momentum going against the Kings tonight.
Now, let me just say this before we go too much further. On these “heritage night” events, we have to find some way to keep Pat Foley and Eddie Olczyk away from the bar before the broadcast. From the way they sounded at the opening face-off, here’s what I believe happened. They got to the rink around 4pm, went straight to the hospitality suite and rubbed elbows with all the Ambassadors on hand for the event. They joked and laughed, told war stories from the “Golden Era,” and slugged back a bottle or more of Glenfiddich between the two of them. By the time they got on the air, they were in no shape to water a plant, let alone do the play-by-play for a hockey game. During the third period they were calling Wings netminder Jimmy Howard “Corey Crawford” and not even having the presence of mind to correct themselves. It was pretty embarrassing.
The Blackhawks, however, were on their game from the start. They played 60 minutes of hockey without once going short-handed against the Red Wings, something they would do well to repeat as the rest of the season continues. They also managed to play if not an excellent defensive game, at least an above-average one. This, too, is something that the Hawks could use night in and night out.
No changes to the roster from Saturday’s game, though watch for Coach Joel Quenneville to continue his game of musical wingers as he tries out various combinations with newly-signed center Ryan Johnson. Wingers Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Viktor Stalberg are all confirmed to be out of the lineup, and Corey Crawford will get the start in net. Let’s have another game like the last one, and we should have ourselves a winning streak.
Family-friendly Sunday night start time of 6:00pm this evening. Second straight national broadcast on the NHL Network, blacked out in Chicago in favor of WGN-TV. Broadcast radio is WGN AM-720, and XM subscribers should look for the game on channel 206
Special note for tonight’s game: Up in Section 318 you’ll find a knockout brunette with the most gorgeous blue eyes you’ve ever seen. Lord only knows why she married the loser she did, and he mooches Hawks tickets off her too. But hey, he writes for BlackhawkUp.com, so he can’t be all bad. Drop by and shake his hand, he’ll be wearing the Duncan Keith home jersey and probably talking somebody’s ear off.
Well, Corey, it looks like it’s your show — for now.
A couple of very solid performances and an overall above-average season so far is good enough in my book to give Corey Crawford the keys to the Blackhawks’ ride. McClure of Second City Hockey said it best: Marty Turco is owed nothing here. He’s a hell of a guy, came here to win a ring and hasn’t played all that bad.
Crawford, a product of the ‘Hawks system who has paid his dues with the franchise, is playing to his capabilities and expectations. His 5-4-0 record may seem modest, but his GAA is a sparkling 2.07 in eight starts and nine total appearances. He made key saves in both games against Anaheim and Los Angeles and didn’t give up a single even-strength goal in either contest.
If Turco gets the start Tuesday, Coach Q should immediately have his head examined. There’s no reason not to go with Crawford.
With all of that said, let’s make this clear: There is no goalie controversy — yet. While Crawford has played well, he’s simply the guy who gives the Blackhawks the best chance to win right now. It’s too early to say he’s the one who gives the ‘Hawks the best chance to win for the rest of the season. Turco still holds that title, in my opinion. It’s not to say that can’t change, but Crawford has to do it for an extended period of time — like Antti Niemi did last season.
If Crawford gets his starts and continues to show he’s the right guy for the No. 1 job, the worst thing that happens is the ‘Hawks have a damn good veteran backup in Turco. That’s a good position to be in, especially given the Cristobal Huet situation in which we thought Dr. Phil would have to intervene.
So, with that being said, I’ll let “Boxing” do the rest of the talking from the weekend. First is the ‘Hawks 2-1 win against the Kings, followed by Friday’s 4-1 victory against the Gordon Bombays.
Click the jump for “Boxing”
Since the LA Kings visited the United Center on October 27th, the Kings went on a tear. Los Angeles won six in a row, followed by a six-game stretch in which they allowed the opposing teams to take 11 of the 12 possible points from them. The Blackhawks arrive in Los Angeles on the occasion of that 13th game, wondering if the Kings will break their streak of bad luck, or start a new one.
The teams that de-throned the Kings in that stretch were nothing to sneeze at, including Columbus and Montreal, both in the top four teams of their respective conferences. But the key to these wins appears, statistically at least, to be dependent on two players. With rare exception, the following maxim is true: if Jonathan Quick plays, LA wins. If Jonathan Bernier gets the start, LA loses. Chicago faced Bernier in their game at the United Center.
Tonight, the Blackhawks will face Jonathan Quick.