As the Winnipeg Jets celebrate their reincarnation north of the border, the team that represents the ashes of the old incarnation of that squad still sits, parched, in the dusty climes of Phoenix, awaiting whatever fate Fuhrer Bettman decides they should have. Stuck in the mobius loop of lousy-team-low-revenue-no-buyers-can’t-attract-good-players-so-lousy-team, Bettman faces mountains of humiliation should the team be forced to move from a location he personally hand-picked for NHL expansion. So, he isn’t approving any deals that involve moving the team to places where snowmobiles are used as transportation for part of the year.
The proud, arrogant little bastard should be beaten to death at center ice before puck drop at the All-Star Game. Fans of hockey all over the world would pay $5000 a ticket to watch that.
But I digress…
The two points we needed. The injury we didn’t.
As is frequently the case, Blackhawks’ fans are faced with a good news/bad news headline following an important game against a Conference rival. The Blackhawks played a tight game, allowing only 23 shots on Corey Crawford in a 2 – 1 victory over Phoenix, but suffered what may be a back-breaking loss in Patrick Sharp if his injury proves to be serious.
With the bulk of the hockey headlines coming out of southern Arizona being about legal battles and ownership changes and Gary Bettman stomping his feet like a child being told he can’t have candy at the supermarket, it’s easy to forget that there’s actually a hockey team there.
A team that is in fourth in the Western Conference, nipping at the heels of Division leader San Jose. A team on a five-game winning streak. A team that has scored the seventh-most goals in the league, yet has not one single 20-goal scorer. Although with two of their players named Lauri and Adrian, I’m not sure how seriously we’re supposed to take them.
The funny thing is the points awarded to each the Blackhawks and Coyotes somewhat relates to the scoring of a boxing match.
The Blackhawks won periods one and three, dominating like we haven’t seen nearly enough of this season. Phoenix took the second period when the ‘Hawks left their talent in the locker room.
Two points for Chicago, one for the Coyotes.
I guess the main point, however, is that we need not necessarily worry about HOW the points are earned right now – just that they’re earned. Obviously handing over a point to a team we’re chasing in the West isn’t anywhere near ideal, but progress was made – even if it’s not the amount we really wanted.
Oh right, the astoundingly good things. Well, I’d like to know how many true fans of other teams can look at one player on their roster and say, “I know that he’s not going to let me down tonight,” each time their team hits the ice. Blackhawks fans are fortunate enough to have Jonathan Toews be that guy. It never gets old to praise the Captain, and he proves worthy of it each night. The fact that he’s not discussed more is a testament to just how ridiculously solid he has been this season, almost as if he’s willing this team to get into the playoffs.
Oh, and Marian Hossa is once again nearing man-crush status. He’s scored a goal in three straight games for the first time since Oct. 15-18.
♦ Fels already beat me to it, but I was thinking the same thing as him when Jordan Hendry went down: Stan Bowman is most likely going to overpay for a defenseman today. It’s going to happen, we just have to hope it’s no one like a Troy Brouwer who will be the price. I never, ever, ever, ever in a million years thought I’d say this, but releasing Nick Boynton may have come at the wrong time. While I absolutely and genuinely think he brings nothing positive to the ice, it would be nice to have that extra defensive body who has at least had experience playing with these guy be available. If Bowman ends up farting away a top-6 forward or harming the future by dealing a top prospect for a rental defenseman, The Curse of Nick Boynton will continue …
♦ Hi, penalty kill. Any chance this improves in my lifetime? Combine the extreme problems the ‘Hawks had tonight – which all but led to them blowing a pair of two-goal leads – with Hendry’s injury, and Bowman has 60 minutes of film to justify being as desperate as virgin one-legged midget come the deadline. It’s going to take some restraint from him to not make a reaction trade to tonight’s events. Hopefully he slept on it rather than making calls immediately after the ‘Hawks left the ice.
♦ Corey Crawford is second in the NHL in goals-against average. If any of you out there, even those who believe Crawford was ready to play in the league, say you believed this would happen this year, you’re lying and it’s not funny.
Boxing will take you from here ….
Today is the kick-off to the most grueling part of the Blackhawks’ season: five games over seven days, starting with three opponents hovering just above them in the Western Conference standings. Today’s opponent is the Phoenix Coyotes, who recently wrapped up an 8-game winning streak that included a 3 – 2 shootout win against Chicago. It was this stretch of solid play that propelled them to fourth place in the West.
This is a big one for the Blackhawks, and we owe these pukes. But how do we derail this train?
EDITORS NOTE: Tim and Bartl put together a combo post here. Tim has the commentary, Bartl has your shortened version of Boxing from both the Stars and Coyotes games where he breaks down the summary. Enjoy, ya’ll.
Okay, so the characterization in this article’s title is not entirely accurate. Or is it? The ‘Hawks let two points that they could easily have taken from Dallas and Phoenix slip through their fingers. They ended the road trip with two wins, two outright losses, and two shootout losses over the six-game span. That’s not going to do it, folks.
If the Blackhawks continue this level of performance — one period of coordinated hard work and 40 minutes that look like five guys who only met each other when they took the ice six seconds ago — they are going to find themselves searching for Saturday tee times before the grass in Chicago is really even green.
Click the jump for Boxing with ‘Hawks/Stars/Coyotes
So what can you say about last night’s game against Dallas? How do you put a positive spin on that? “At least we had a good first period?” “Marty Turco was great up until the shootout?” “We managed to get a point out of it?” “Look on the bright side: we could have been playing the Islanders?”
Well, this officially sucks. It’s not even fun to watch. I pulled the hood over my head a few minutes into the third period. As I type this, the NHL On the Fly crew is calling the Blackhawks “weak.”
That’s actually a very good word to describe this team. They’re avoiding contact, not playing with any physicality, and look like there’s nothing keeping them motivated. Boos showered the ‘Hawks at the end of the second period. And why not? They deserved it.
Beyond that, the Blackhawks lost their seventh home game in regulation. They lost eight all of last season. The entire 2009-10 hockey season, they lost eight. They’re already at seven.
Duncan Keith must have developed an alcohol problem, because he’s playing drunk. Patrick Kane might as well have not played tonight. It’s really, really painful to watch — and that’s probably because it’s so shocking that we have no idea what to do anymore. These are the defending Stanley Cup champions, and they probably couldn’t even win a Shinny Stick tournament right now.
Without further ado, here’s another depressing edition of “Boxing.” As always, there are two separate images — one for the summary, one for the actual box score. Click on the image to enlarge it.
The Blackhawks take on the Phoenix Coyotes tonight at the United Center. After Sunday night’s disheartening loss to the Edmonton Oilers, I hope the concession stands are going to offer Maalox.
There have been some positives in the Blackhawks’ play. We are 3rd in the league in power play conversions, something that was a serious problem for us at this time last year. And our goaltending, originally thought to be our weak spot this season, has proved solid.
But that’s the end of the good news. Our penalty killing is so-so, our defense isn’t the impermeable fortress of last year, our veterans aren’t leading, our youngsters aren’t following, and the results show it. Above all, while we are showing flashes of brilliance here and there, our biggest problem is consistency.
The Oilers were a better team than the Blackhawks for about 45 seconds on Sunday. It cost the Blackhawks the game. They talk about a 60-minute effort, and that’s why. The Hawks didn’t play a bad game: decent number of shots, reduced their number of shots allowed, killed four penalties out of five, and kept the game at a defensive stale-mate against a speedy Edmonton squad. But one power play goal and a complete mental let-down on the following shift, and the visitors take home two points.
The mental lapse following the Oilers’ goal is not an isolated incident. Chicago Sun-Times reporter Adam Jahns scoured the box scores and found that the Blackhawks have allowed a goal against on the shift immediately following a goal no fewer than *seven* times this season. This is the kind of thing that makes coaches pull a Rumplestiltskin, and I would imagine it is the primary focus of Coach Joel Quenneville’s attention right now.
That, and shuffling the lines — AGAIN. Tuesday’s practice saw Patrick Kane moved to left wing (?!?!?) on a line with Marian Hossa and Dave Bolland. This can’t be a good sign, since both the Hossa/Bolland and Hossa/Kane combinations have been tried — with zero success — before. I see it as a sign that Q is simply throwing darts at a lineup sheet and seeing which ones land where.
There is something to be said for the definition of insanity here: doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. When you shuffle a deck and expect to have it come up all aces, something’s wrong.
It may be time for some new cards. But we’ll address that another day.
The Phoenix Coyotes are a team without a city right now, as the ownership battle — and no-doubt relocation fight immediately to follow — has yet to be settled. They come into the United Center with more overtime/shootout losses than any team in the league. After regulation, they are a perfect 0-5. Their roster boasts plenty of names you’ll recognize, like Eric Belanger, Shane Doan, Ray Whitney, Ed Jovanovski, Derek Morris, and Adrian Aucoin. But the whole, in this case, is far less than the sum of its parts.
This is another Edmonton, a team that we should beat handily. They sit second-to-last in the Conference, and goaltending has not been their strong point to date. However, as we saw on Sunday, the Blackhawks have had trouble with teams meeting this description. Let’s hope that they come out swinging and bury this one quickly.
Look for tweets from us about injuries, starting lineups, and scratches later today.
Game time is 7:30pm: TV is Comcast SportsNet, broadcast radio WGN AM-720, and XM subscribers can look for the game on channel 208.