Another bad game against inferior opponents, another OT loss. That seems to be the way of it right now. The Hawks started their Western road trip with an almost immediate goal against and were chasing the game and, indeed, their tails thereafter.
Fans are nervous and unhappy right now, and with good reason. While we can try to be optimistic and chalk it down to tiredness, or mid-season ennui, the Hawks are losing ground in the West, not only to Anaheim and St Louis (who are now level on points but have the ROW toebreaker and three games in hand) but also to San Jose and, for that matter, Colorado. The gaping maw of the West Coast trip is swinging wide open right now and we don’t need much prompting to recall the nine-game losing streak two years ago.
If the Hawks play to their potential then there’s no reason why they won’t be at or near the top heading into the Olympic break. More performances like we’ve seen recently and we could be in for a torrid final six weeks.
Let’s talk about stuff:
With a six-game road trip upcoming before the Olympic break, the Blackhawks headed into their final game at the United Center until March 4 coming off a dismal offensive performance against Minnesota and looking to provide some momentum going into their trip.
And what did we witness? Another dismal offensive performance that left us all scratching our heads and had some trying to place all the blame on Corey Crawford because, well, that’s what people tend to do – no matter what.
The Blackhawks missed open nets and failed plenty of solid opportunities when Glenview native Al Montoya wasn’t standing on his head, and Marian Hossa gift-wrapped Andrew Ladd’s winning goal in the Jets’ 3-1 victory Sunday. It marked the Blackhawks’ first loss in regulation in 27 games when they led after two periods.
The Blackhawks, who have failed to score at least two goals in back-to-back games for the first time since March 23 and 27, 2012, now embark on a trip that includes stops in Calgary, Vancouver, San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Phoenix before the Olympics.
Bryan Bickell was a healthy scratch, with Q saying “we want more, we need more” from him. Q simply is trying to send a message – he dressed both Kostka and Brookbank – but expect Bickell to be back in the lineup against Calgary.
Some thoughts before Boxing… (Actually, it’s one big thought)
Jim got into it with a few people on Twitter following the game, and it largely had to do with this:
If you’re Corey Crawford, and you want criticism to go away, you have to outplay Al Montoya.
— Jay Zawaski (@JayZawaski670) January 27, 2014
Leave it to Zawaski to try and make a game the Blackhawks clearly lost because of their inability – for the second straight game – to get a second goal by missing many, many chances into something about Crawford to fit his “controversy” narrative. The worst part is that people buy it, and therefore will continue to do so.
Montoya played fabulously and far above his means – he entered having given up 10 goals over his previous two starts – while the Blackhawks failed to convert on the chances Montoya allotted them. Furthermore, the deciding goal came off a horrible Hossa turnover, even before Ladd’s shot deflected in off Keith.
Zawaski continued by saying Crawford “needed to be in better position” and should have “bailed out a teammate.” C’mon guy. I’m sorry, but this loss isn’t on Crawford. And for anyone to say it is, is completely blind to the fact that the ‘Hawks lost because they couldn’t put the puck in the net – again.
In Boxing, I list the recent production from four of the Blackhawks’ top six. It’s pretty pathetic. The ‘Hawks haven’t scored an even-strength goal since Andrew Shaw’s tally in the first period against Detroit. They’re also 1 for 20 on the power play over the last six games.
If you want to place blame, start getting on the Blackhawks’ top players for not producing how they should. Blaming Crawford is a cop out, and someone like Zawaski should know better if he’s going to go by the title of “Blackhawks Analyst.”
Jonathan Toews said the ‘Hawks “just threw away another two points.” And that’s not on Crawford. The ‘Hawks played like a pile of dog shit in the third period at both ends of the ice. That was the problem. They played 40 minutes, not 60.
On that note, be sure to check out our latest episode of Cheer the Podcast. We talk plenty about the doldrums of January and this current slump, even before the loss to Winnipeg.
Cheer the Podcast Episode 6 (1/25/14): We got a new microphone! And have an intro! Once again we begin with reader e-mails as they increase in number, which include topics such as the 2nd line center acquisitions, playoff projections and who the Hawks want/don’t want to play, special teams recent performance, David Bowie and the recent sluggish play. Then we move into the upcoming road trip, Sochi security concerns, Blackhawks Nation’s photoshop larceny and the ever important sixth defenceman.
Audio after the jump.
That’s just your run-of-the-mill, please-get-this-crap-off-my-TV kind of game.
The Blackhawks entered Thursday’s matchup with Minnesota 9-0-3 in the second of back-to-back games, and they nearly pulled another point out of their asses in the final minutes. Alas, their sleep walking through the first 58 1/2 minutes did them in before falling 2-1.
The ‘Hawks have lost nine times in regulation this season. Three of those defeats have came against the Wild. Yes, one-third of the Blackhawks’ regulation losses have come against goddamn Minnesota. Let that sink in for a second.
It’s no secret we didn’t see anywhere near the Blackhawks’ best against Detroit save for the quick two-goal lead they eventually relinquished, but Thursday was just one sad sack of a performance from top to bottom. Q said after the game that no one stuck out, and I couldn’t agree more. Laziness, stupid penalties and missed opportunities all were had throughout the contest, and it grew frustrating to watch.
Having Keith out was another turd we had to swallow.
Thoughts before Boxing…
* So, I understand the bright side of pointing out that the Blackhawks have lost only twice in regulation over their last 18 games. At least they’ve gotten points more often than not. I get it. However, Let’s take a quick look at the seven OT/shootout defeats.
- Dec. 20: Blew two-goal lead at home to Vancouver before falling 3-2 in a shootout
- Dec. 28: Blew three separate two-goal leads at St. Louis, then lost 6-5 in a shootout
- Jan. 2: Lost 3-2 in OT to the New York Islanders. Yes, those New York Islanders.
- Jan. 5: Fell behind by two in a listless performance until the third, tied the game, lost 3-2 in a shootout to San Jose
- Jan. 11: Nothing until the third, then lost 2-1 in OT to Montreal
- Jan. 14: Fell behind quickly 2-0, recovered to tie it, lost in OT to Colorado
- Wednesday: The Detroit debacle
This 9-2-7 stretch hasn’t exactly been pleasant, though the wins over Anaheim and Boston were rather big. But the Blackhawks rarely have played a full game lately, either falling behind early and having to battle back or blowing a multiple-goal lead of their own while leaving an extra point on the table. Thursday was just a crapfest throughout, and I’m not exactly surprised the ‘Hawks played a full stinker given the direction they’ve been treading lately.
* Handzus is getting plenty of blame for lollygagging it back into the defensive end, allowing Pomniville to receive a great pass from Heatley to beat Raanta on the first goal. However, have you seen Bickell in that highlight? He began coasting at the red line. I’ll throw some blame his way as well.
* Anyone else ever think you’d see Hossa demoted/benched for even a single stretch like he was? Not sure if there was a specific message Q was sending, but still surprising. Hossa had a three-game goal-scoring streak snapped despite having a short-handed breakaway chance he failed to convert when the puck took off on him.
* Matt Cooke is still a prick, no matter how much he wants to try and convinced us he’s changed.
* Brandon Bollig. Quality minutes late in the third period of a close game. Again. It’s becoming as painful as brushing your teeth with barbed wire.
* Winnipeg, which had a four-game winning streak snapped with a loss to San Jose on Thursday, visits the UC on Sunday for “one of those great 6 o’clock starts.”
Last night was a mess, albeit a thrilling, entertaining one. A clearly fired-up Wings raised their game and the Hawks, well, the Hawks kind of lowered theirs. They met in the middle and there was an almighty bang. It looked like the Hawks were going to streak away after a couple of early goals but they let the Wings back into the contest when they could and should have killed them off. Johnny Oduya and Brent Seabrook both made separate, serious errors and lapses that led directly to Detroit goals. The Wings even took the lead heading into the 3rd, until Marcus Kruger tied the game with that period’s only goal. Overtime came and went in a frantic blur and, once again, you felt that a tie would have been the appropriate place to leave it.
Last time the Hawks saw the Detroit Red Wings, they were on the end of a handshake line after a pulsating, heart-pounding 7 Game series where the Hawks had looked dead and buried after four games, only to surge back and win through Brent Seabrook’s overtime goal. I’m sure you all remember. Since then, many things have changed: the Hawks have a new Championship banner in their rafters, Detroit have moved to the Eastern Conference and the fortunes of both teams have taken a decidedly different path.
Cheer the Podcast Episode 5 (1/18/14): Among the topics covered today are e-mail submissions from readers, HockeyBuzz and how its rumors may rot your brain out, Bryan Bickell and what’s been written about him, HockeeNight’s GONNA DRINKEN, the death of a terrible jersey, Pat Foley and Eddie Olczyk and the properly setting expectations up and down the roster. Audio after the jump.
The last 10 minutes of this hockey game were stressful enough that it’s easy to understand how many people could forget that Blackhawks utterly dominated Anaheim during the first 50 minutes of the contest. No matter, the Blackhawks will take a much needed regulation victory against what the standings say is the best team in the Western Conference.
Marian Hossa kicked off the scoring when he beat Jonas Hiller high glove side after stick-handing Cam Fowler to his knees. It was a shorthanded tally for Hossa, who had one had his strongest games in quite some time. Hell, this was among his most dominating performances as a Blackhawk. Hoss would also provide the empty netter with just seconds remaining in the game. The long march toward 500 continues for #81. Kris Versteeg put the Hawks up 2-0 on a goal that while admittedly flukey, was still a result of Versteeg crashing the net hard with his stick on the ice. It was exactly the kind of dirty goal that snaps prolonged slumps. Unfortunately for Versteeg and the Blackhawks, he went down late 2nd period after colliding awkwardly with Bryan Bickell. Despite the goal, he played less than seven minutes in two periods. For now, Versteeg is officially listed as day-to-day.
We don’t do a Links roundup here on CtA because either
a) We assume that our smart, knowledgable, downright good-looking readers voraciously scour the Web for anything Hawks/ Hockey related or
b) We’re lazy good-for-nothings
With that in mind, there have been a couple of articles on other sites over the last few days that we’d like to make sure you don’t miss, for one reason or another. So here they are, with some commentary.
Our good friend Jen LC wrote this article about Bryan Bickell for Second City Hockey. I’d actually started doing the stats research myself for a similar article. Jen has done the digging, tied it all together and presented it to the world a thousand times better than I ever could. It’s essential reading.
There was a general sentiment on Twitter the other night, as Pat Foley & Eddie Olcyzk descended into a burbling mess of catchphrases, half-baked stats and witless propaganda, that Hawks fans were reaching breaking point with that less-than-dynamic duo. The next day we got a pair of great articles, the first from Sam Fels at The Committed Indian and shortly followed by Mike at Hockey Brunch In Chicago. Great reading in both and plenty of food for thought. Also jokes.
Another of our friends, Ryan Hackett. decided to do a Twitter-based recap of last night’s game with his own acerbic commentary. It’s hilarious. We can almost forgive him for being a Packers fan.
On the subject of funny, we got introduced to the wonderful The Full Amonte today. Here is a fictional recap of a Terrible Hawks Game from the Dark Days. Involves Mike Milbury, Jocelyn Thibault and Dave Manson.
Just Plain Dumb:
While we have directed you to some well thought-out and researched writings, there is another side to the Hockey Blogosphere.. I’d like to present two scrapings from the barrel, in chronological order.
First we had The Hockey News with some extremely half-witted trade ideas. It seems that every year the whole “Steve Ott to the Blackhawks” thing comes up. It remains a terrible, terrible Bad Idea.
Today we also got the joy of John Jaeckel at Hockeybuzz weighing in with a “Rumour” that “Passes the sniff test” about the Hawks trading with Winnipeg to reacquire the services of Andrew Ladd. You’ll have to read it to find out what he thinks is going back in return. Make sure you have a strong drink handy. Oh, and if you’re feeling bad about yourself, read the comments. They’ll make you feel a million times better, because at least you’re not as dumb as those people.
Semyon Varlamov is the reason the Colorado Avalanche got one point, let alone the two they walked away with tonight. He was outstanding stopping 46 of 48 shots that reached him, with at least a handful or more being spectacular saves. I’m going to leave the off ice stuff out of this and give him credit for playing an excellent game tonight. His teammates didn’t much help him in the effort as Colorado was playing in its own end for roughly 75% of this game.
The Blackhawks also deserve credit of their own. You don’t generate 75% of the scoring chances in a hockey game without thoroughly dominating the 18 skaters the other team iced.