St. Louis Blues
Well done, Blues, well done. You saw the cream of the Just-Outside-The-AHL-Playoffs tonight, but you didn’t flinch and ground out a gritty victory. I hope you enjoyed it. Hard Times are a-coming.
In other news, The Wild will be the Hawks first-round opponents.. but more o’ that later. Hope those who went to Gonna Drinken 2 aren’t suffering too badly this morning and we’ll be back with much, much more before the Real Fun begins.
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.
– 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….
Watching this game, I kept imagining what it would be like for the Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues to meet in this year’s playoffs.
It’ll likely be extremely nerve-wracking, but no one can deny how hard-fought of a series it would be.
For the second straight meeting, a 3-1 deficit was erased before a shootout decided the outcome, and the ‘Hawks once again came out on top 4-3.
Before getting into the good stuff, I’ll make it known that allowing a goal within a minute after scoring is goddamn annoying, and for it to happen twice makes me want to punt my cat. And blowing a two-goal lead with less than 10 minutes remaining in the third period makes me want to punt my girlfriend’s cat. Neither are acceptable – even with Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith out of the lineup. If you can get a two-goal lead in the third period with both of them out, then you should be able to hold it with both of them out. End of story.
With that said, no real harm done, as the ‘Hawks came away with two points, and giving St. Louis the extra one doesn’t matter one bit given the ‘Hawks have no chance to catch them anyway.
The Blackhawks did their part with a chance to clinch a playoff spot, but San Jose shit the bed once again and got shut out in Phoenix, delaying the inevitable for another couple of days. While the No. 6 seed may not make you feel all tingly inside, whoever comes out of the Pacific Division clusterfuck won’t exactly scare me. If the ‘Hawks pull the “upset” and St. Louis gets by whatever Pacific remnants are left in the eighth spot, us fans will be driving to road playoff games in the second round.
A couple notes before Boxing…
♦ Only 20 shots on goal for the Blues tonight, marking the 10th straight game the Blackhawks have allowed less than 30 reach the net. The ‘Hawks are 20-8-2 when allowing 25 shots or less.
♦ With that said, Corey Crawford can’t allow three to get past him and stop only 17, especially given the first one was pretty soft. He made up for it in the shootout though, which makes it forgivable.
♦ The ‘Hawks are 10-2-2 since beating Toronto on Feb. 29, and that’s with the power play going an are-you-absolutely-fucking-kidding-me 5 for 43 (11.6 percent). Can you image if the Blackhawks were simply goddamn serviceable with the extra man? Christ. Two more missed chances tonight, making the ‘Hawks 0 for 15 over their last four games.
Boxing for ya…
How did the Blackhawks beat the St. Louis Blues two weeks ago? By pounding them into submission? By Jamal Mayers making dents in B.J. Crombeen’s melon? By Brandon Bollig trying to tenderize Ryan Reeves? So many will say ‘yes’, and assert that a physical game will be imperative to beating St. Louis tonight. I’m going to disagree.
Chicago beat the Blues by first of all, recovering from a 3-goals-against meltdown by Ray Emery in the first period; and secondly, by throwing 46 shots at the Blues’ goal while limiting their shots against to just 24.
Tonight will be no different. If the Blackhawks use their speed, press their forecheck, take advantage of a demonstrably slower St. Louis defense, and not waste time and energy throwing the body, they will win. How do I know? One week prior to that game, the Blackhawks managed only 20 shots on goal against St. Louis while allowing 31 shots against. Chicago lost 5-1. And Bollig and Reaves went at it in that game too, precious little good it did.
While it’s very true few – if any – of us expected the Blackhawks to be in this position after being atop the NHL standings not so long ago, putting some distance between them and the rest of the crowding teams at the bottom of the Western Conference playoff picture is a welcome relief.
The ‘Hawks pulled out a 4-3 shootout win over St. Louis at the United Center on Tuesday night, moving five points ahead of seventh-place Phoenix and six up on a few trying to claim the eighth spot.
With 11 games to play, it seems like a comfortable distance, and the Blackhawks are coming close to being locked into the No. 6 seed and a date with the Pacific Division winner in the first round – possibly red-hot Dallas, which the ‘Hawks get to see Friday.
This much time without Jonathan Toews makes that seem like a decent consolation prize to avoid the likes of Nashville and Detroit in round one.
Most everything else will come in Boxing, but here’s a couple things I noticed…
♦ Johnny Oduya may not get the credit, but his keep-in is what led to Viktor Stalberg’s goal in the second period. For a guy who was being cursed out before even donning the Indian head, he’s been playing pretty damn well.
♦ What is Coach Q to do on Friday after Ray Emery allowed three goals on six shots in his sixth straight start, then Corey Crawford came on to play well in relief and earn the win? Does Q simply take Emery’s performance as another bad night against the Blues (he’s 3-1-1 with a 15 goals-against in his current stretch, though eight have come against St. Louis)? Or does Q take Crawford’s performance as him regaining his confidence and hoping he can ride that against Dallas?
The problem with the latter move is that it may in turn get Emery thinking too much. Then if Crawford goes in the poop tank, can Emery step right in again? It’s a decision Q has to make, and it will tell whether or not the crease is indeed Emery’s, or if Crawford still has a chance of being the No. 1 heading into the playoffs.
♦ Brandon Bollig bothers me. While I believe Ryan Reaves indeed is living remnants of some bacterial growth found on an unrefrigerated seven-year-old block of cheese, his hit on Jamal Mayers was nothing deserving of Bollig immediately dropping the gloves and getting an instigator. He gave St. Louis a chance to completely put the game away. Tell me what’s so great about this guy that people enjoy him, but despised John Scott.
OK, I’m tired. Boxing…
See, the Blues didn’t think it was enough to pound us 5-1 at their rink last week. They’ve just signed a 19-year-old rookie phenom draft pick, and they’re coming into our house hoping to do it again.
Jaden Schwartz, having finished up a 30-game, 41-point sophomore season with Colorado College, inked an entry-level deal on Monday and will be in the lineup tonight against the Blackhawks. Of the 15 goals Schwartz pumped in for the Tigers this year, 5 were on the power play, and 4 were game-winners. And guess what? All of those numbers were down from his freshman year!
You should insert your favorite Spaceballs joke here, by the way…
Back on December 3rd, the Blackhawks got 4 goals past St. Louis netminder Brian Elliot. The next time he let 4 goals get past him in one game was February 22nd.
Now: want to know the bad news? He’s not the best goaltender playing for the Blues right now. Jaroslav Halak hasn’t let more than 2 goals get past him since February 9th. He’s 6-1-0 in his last 7 starts, with a 1.40 GAA and .949 save percentage in that stretch.
Awww, damnit. The Blackhawks get a win streak going, and what do you know? Another hot goaltender. Must we go through this EVERY BLOODY TIME?!?
One day, the Blackhawks are sitting atop the Central Division standings, at times boasting the most points in the NHL. The next, they wouldn’t even have home-ice advantage in the first round if the playoffs began at that moment.
It’s a difficult time to keep up with the constant shifts in the standings, but such is life in the competitive Central – which is currently on pace to make a bit of history while providing us fans with some entertaining hockey down the stretch.
This is the 13th season since the NHL went to six divisions and the current playoff format in 1998-99 (the 2004-05 season marked the lockout). In the 12 completed seasons, at least one division has sent four teams to the playoffs 10 times.
In a game Blackhawks fans likely won’t forget soon, Minnesota beat Dallas on the final day of the 2010-11 regular season to prevent the Pacific from becoming the first division to send all five teams to the postseason.
Essentially, the playoff format has three division winners and five “wild-card” teams. The only seasons one division didn’t claim three “wild-cards” were 2000-01 and 2005-06.
The 2008-09 season marked the one time two divisions accomplished the feat. The Atlantic and the Central, when Detroit (No. 1 seed), the ‘Hawks (4), St. Louis (6) and Columbus (8) qualified four of their five teams – the only time since current realignment the Central has done it.
Overall, a single division qualifying a quartet is quite common. The rarity lies in what the Central currently is on pace to accomplish – place all four teams within the top six seeds.
It doesn’t get much sweeter than beating the St. Louis Blues on their home ice in front of the biggest contingent of degenerates known to man.
Cheer louder for a hit than a goal? Check.
Looking like dip shits during your power play “dance?” Check.
Getting behind a team that quite obviously can’t compete talent-wise so it has to resort to playing like cheap hooligans? Double check.
Saturday’s 5-2 win at the Whatever the Hell They’re Calling it Now Stadium Arena Place was a nice kick in the ass to a team which, admittedly had been playing well – especially there. If the ‘Hawks had to play the Blues for 82 games, no one would have to worry about the “coming out flat” talk or wondering where their energy is hiding.
It’s a Sunday, so no random thoughts or anything. Here’s your Boxing…
Sorry, no Boxing tonight. I went out, I’m tired and it takes a long time. It’ll be back Thursday, I promise …
Trying to sugarcoat the past few games is a waste of time, we know that. But I’m going to take a quick step back.
The Blackhawks went down to Florida and got three points on a brief trip in which they very easily could have come out with zero. Then they came home and shit the bed against Vancouver. It pissed us off, royally.
So Q decided he was going to change things up. It resulted in a 3-0 loss in St. Louis, and now we’re about to hang up our proverbial skates with 67 games to play, which is more ridiculous than any line combination Q could ever dream up.
I’ll quickly concede the fact Q shuffles his lines irregularly, at times when it seems unnecessary. This does not qualify as one of those times.
There’s plenty of discussion pointing to the fact that it’s only November, and Q should not be panicking by shifting players around in “unfamiliar” positions with “unfamiliar” players. That right there is the exact point – it’s only November. If there’s a time to make some changes to feel things out after a dog shit stretch, it’s right now. And that’s especially true heading into a road game against team in turmoil playing its first game with a brand new coach.
If Q was pulling the slot machine with his players hoping to pull gold from his ass against a seasoned conference opponent, I could understand a bit of flack heading his way. Despite a stretch in which the ‘Hawks played like shit, I could at least understand the concern.
But to present a quick newsflash to everyone, there’s going to be another dog shit stretch this season – maybe two, or three, or … well, you get the point. Go ahead and change your diapers upon hearing that, but it’ll happen. The best of teams lose games, and most often in succession. During an 82-game season, slumps are going to happen.
With that said, sometimes change breaks a slump. Moreover, especially with a changed roster like the Blackhawks’, teams don’t walk into camp simply tossing combinations together while saying, “Yep, this is going to be it for the next 82 games. Fuck everyone.” Things changed in camp, things change during the season.
Every coach in this league changes line combinations. Most recently, the New York Islanders snapped a six-game losing streak by completely changing personnel and beat Washington 5-3. Jack Capuano felt the need to do what he could in order to spark his squad. It worked, and that’s awesome.
Sometimes, things don’t work. Tuesday’s loss was an example of that. However, that doesn’t mean Q needs to be chastised for it. The ‘Hawks played three consecutive games in which their game wasn’t up to expectations. For Q to toss something together in hopes of surprising an already stunned Blues team learning Ken Hitchcock’s system in two days is not earth-shattering. It’s closer to normal than if he sat on his hands.
I won’t defend certain things. John Scott being in the lineup is never a good idea, and that’s not something I’ll ever be on Q’s side about. The power play? Absolutely pathetic, and someone needs to be held responsible for these disgusting displays, because it’s now a chronic problem which needs to be fixed for the Blackhawks to be the elite team they hope to be this season.
But to get upset at Q for making some line changes to test things out heading into the 15th game of the season against a team with its collective head spinning in circles due to more drastic change than a line combination is panic in itself. Say Q is panicking all you want, but you’re then in turn exceeding his “panic” by miles.
There’s a time and a place for everything, and early November seems to be that time when Q should be allowed to test his squad with some different looks. It’s normal, every coach does it. There’s no bubble around Chicago under which things work drastically different than any other NHL city.
OK, the changes for Tuesday didn’t work out. The ‘Hawks are now 8-4-3 and lead the Central Division. Relax, please. I have some confidence Q isn’t going to troll out the same lines Thursday…. right?
And if he does? Well, it’s only November.
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