I’m not one to get over-excited about the whole “Original 6″ thing, but this always feels special. The Canadiens in Montreal is one of the big red-letter days on the calendar. The Habs have 23 NHL-Era Stanley Cup banners hanging in their rafters; which is only three fewer than the Wings, Bruins, Hawks and Rangers’ combined total. Names like ‘Rocket’ Richard, Jean Beliveau, ‘Boom Boom’ Geoffrion, Guy Lafleur and Ken Dryden all created their legends with this club. The Centre Bell may not be as redolent with history as the old Montreal Forum but it’s still one of Hockey’s great arenas and crowds.
I’m looking forward to this, in other words.
It’s tough to say that a first-place team that just lost in regulation for the first time in 11 games is in a slump, but the Blackhawks sure seem to be the closest thing to it.
There’s no doubt that the ‘Hawks haven’t looked their best since the 7-2 shellacking they gave Colorado on Dec. 27. In the six games following that win, they blew three two-goal leads to the Blues, got only one through on the Kings, stumbled against the lowly Islanders, needed Sharp to save them against the Devils, allowed a tying third-period goal in a boring loss to the Sharks and got off to a piss-poor start in Thursday’s 3-2 home loss to the New York Rangers.
When you break it down, the ‘Hawks haven’t exactly been setting the world on fire during that 2-1-3 stretch. Looking to see that St. Louis is two points back with four games in hand, it makes this “slump” a bit more uneasy.
From Q postgame: ”We’ve got too many guys right now that aren’t contributing to that level we saw most of the season.”
At the same token, let’s not go full meatball and get discouraged. This team – like every team – will go through lulls, and I’m more than willing to take this one now rather than May. We could, however, do without Leddy and Rozsival engaging in a staring contest around the net on the winning goal.
It’s getting late, so here’s Boxing. More analysis will follow for games when I’m not at work, and also now that I’ll finally have cable and internet in my new apartment after 11 days of living like I was back in the 1980s.
Oh, quick note passed along to me by my high school buddy and Horse Racing Television anchor Scott Hazelton. Q, Mike Kitchen and former Bears assistant Mike Tice co-own a horse named Midnight Hawk. He’s racing at Santa Anita in California on Saturday at approximately 4:30 p.m. Central on Saturday, and the race will be broadcast on HRTV. Tune in to watch rich guys get richer. Midnight Hawk is a Kentucky Derby hopeful.
Tonight’s Podcast is titled Fuck the Purple Line. You’ll learn why about 20 minute into it as we give a PSA. Topics covered include the Olympics roster, notably Team Canada and Team Russia, the WJC tournament and Teuvo, Blackhawks line jumbles, goaltending, the Central division and some rambles about jerseys, the Oilers failed rebuild and we say the word liability a lot. Also, CHOO CHOO. Audio after the jump.
That was my fault. Not the SO loss, the lack of entertainment. I made the mistake of saying, in my preview, that Hawks/Sharks is always fun: therefore we got to see the dullest 77 shot game you can imagine. It was so boring even legendary dullards like Doc Emrick and Pierre McGuire were losing interest and burbling off onto Foley-esque tangents. But I guess some stuff did happen and I suppose they pay me the big bucks to talk about it, so let’s get to it.
The San Jose Sha-Arks come to snowbound Chicago and they won’t even be the coldest representatives from California playing tonight. Hopefully everyone is safe and well stocked with booze because tonight should be fun. Last time these guys were here was the day of the tornadoes and I got to go to the game at the UC (thanks @Schatzipage!) at short notice. That was a 5-1 laugher as the Hawks bounced back from a humbling in Nashville. Tonight they return home after a (reasonably) successful swing to the East Coast and face up to one of the powerhouse Pacific teams, albeit one that is beaten up and stumbling a little.
Friday night in Jersey, Patrick Sharp has a Hat-Trick, the Hawks score five and take the two points. All is well with the world, right? No, not so much as it happens. There was plenty last night that warrants some questioning, and we’ll get to that in the bullets. As it was, Sharp opened the scoring early in the 2nd Period with a mean snap shot after a nice feed from Toews. Greene tied it up for New Jersey a minute later, after a thorough blowing of defensive assignments, and that was it until things went beserk in the 3rd.
Let’s rapidly consign that farce last night to the garbage can of history, right next to the hopes of anyone who wanted the Hawks to grab the Terminally Useless Zenon Konopka off Waivers.
Last time we saw the Isles it was back in October. Nordstrom got his first goal, the Hawks blew a 1st Period lead and in the end made heavy work of a 3-2 win. Back then the Islanders were expected to be a playoff contender in the East, building off their previous season. Instead they now find themselves propping up the Godawful Metropolitan Division and third-from-bottom in the league. Which is to say, they suck.
That wasn’t so bad now, was it? After the fretting about this trio of games against upper-echelon Western Conference teams, the Hawks have come away with five out of six points available, both wins coming in regulation. After the goal-fests against Colorado and St Louis, this was a horse of a different colour: Playoff Hockey in December against the ever-punishing Kings.
The hits came hard and fast, mostly from LA and the margins for error were thin indeed. The tone was set when Colin Fraser dumped Michael Roszival over the boards between the benches. LA are one of those select few teams where leading in hits does not equate losing the possession battle: the Kings had the edge in Corsi 55%-45%. Duncan Keith was called upon to have another standout game, ending up 2nd star of the night.