Take 5, D: Hawks @ Stars Preview

Having seen off all four of the Western Conference Canadians, the Blackhawks are back on Conference III duty tonight against that Conference’s surprising basement-dwellers.

Of course, the Stars are not as bad as their position suggests: they’re 7-3-0 on their last 10 and have games in hand on Nashville & Winnipeg. They’ve just come off a high-speed mugging of Anaheim, scoring a very-Blackhawks-like three goals in under a minute of the Third period.The last meting between these two was closer than the eventual scoreline suggested (Offensive Juggernaut Niklas Hjalmarsson‘s 200 foot empty-netter, remember?)

In Jamie Benn-Tyler Seguin-Valeri Nichushkin the Stars have a top-line that can skate with anyone. It falls off fairly rapidly after that, though. It’ll be interesting to see where Lindy Ruff deploys them tonight; as usual the Blackhawks are rolling deep and with Marian Hossa restored to the lineup there is truly phenomenal power on the Blackhawks Top 6. Michal Handzus is there, too.

Last time in Dallas the Hawks managed to take 6 penalties: they got away with it because the Stars PP is ranked 29th in the league and, frankly, sucks. However, staying out of the box is always a smart move, yes? On the subject of smart moves, it would be a decent idea to give Antti Raanta another look against the average Sh% Stars, but it looks likely that it’ll be Corey Crawford back in net. Kari Lehtonen will start for Dallas.

The Stars are the definition of “Middle-of-the-pack by pretty much every metric that counts. This is not to say they’re not dangerous: they can hurt you and quickly, as the Ducks found out. As journey’s end for the Circus Trip draws ever closer, a better than .500 record guaranteed, the Hawks will need to watch out for any complacency or thinking ahead to Phoenix. If they can avoid that, then they should be far too strong for the Stars.

 

Puck drops at 7.30 Central.

 

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are taking the opportunity to relax with friends, family and a beverage rather than fighting over cut-price TVs in Best Buy.

 

 

Déjà Vu and We’re Through with You: Blackhawks 3 – Flames 2

Thankful for ToewsFace

Not sure I want to get used to having to come back against the Flames but it certainly is better to be on this side of the equation having been on the other far more recently when it comes to Chicago sports. A late third period goal to tie it and this time overtime wasn’t even necessary. Calgary was content finishing their meltdown in regulation. I’ll go ahead and join the chorus in saying that today, I am thankful for the Patricks.

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Questioning Joel

 

We’re at the half-way point of the Circus Trip and the Blackhawks seem to have put a couple of chastening losses (in Nashville & Denver) behind them to see off the Jets, Canucks and Edmonton. A win tonight in Calgary will guarantee a better-than 0.500 result from the trip to the West. Injured players like Michal Handzus and and Michael Kostka are returning to the fold, Marian Hossa is available again. Duncan Keith is in imperious form and Patrick Kane is on a record-equalling points streak. Tonight we will see backup goalie Antti Raanta make his first NHL start.

Yet for the last couple of days  Hawks fans on the internet, the blogs in particular, have been angry, confused and argumentative. The reason? Head Coach Joel Quenneville and his perplexing personnel decisions (and yes, I know that the decision to send Jeremy Morin to Rockford rests ultimately with Stan Bowman: we’ll get to that)

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Got Fuel To Burn, Got Roads To Drive : Blackhawks 5 – Oilers 1

Before we start, take a look at this hilarious video (courtesy of our pal @LevNaginsky ) of Corey Crawford being, uh……hilarious. Corey Crawford is now providing you quality goaltending and zany physical comedy. What a guy.

We will now proceed with your regular wrap:

Things went exceeding well tonight for the Blackhawks despite Joel Quenneville selecting the second, third, and fourth lines by picking names out of a hat and Iron Man Corey Crawford dressing for the fifteenth consecutive fucking game. The Hawks jumped all over the Oilers right off the bat and didn’t take their foot off the neck of the Oilers until they were up by four goals. This game felt out of reach for the Oilers only halfway through the first period when Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane struck within three minutes of each other to give the Hawks an early lead. They would go on to dominate the rest of the period and could have led by even more had Devan Dubynk not made several big saves.

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q death done

The Big Foist: Hawks @ Oilers Preview

playin' Checkers on a Chessboard

From the Genius that brought us “John Scott as Power Play Forward” and “Daniel Carcillo On The 2nd Line“, Joel “Stache” Quenneville is proud to present “Michal Handzus: Winger“. I think he’s doing it on purpose at this stage, just to annoy.

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Anxious Mo-Fo: Hawks 2 Canucks 1

DAT CRAWSTINK CANT STEAL NO GAMES MY FRENT!

Chances are, if you spend any time hanging out where the Meatballs be at, you’ve heard this or something similar. This was a common theme even before Crawford’s new contract further fanned the flames of ill-informed fautuousness (Alliteration is fun!)

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Love Dance: Hawks @ Canucks Preview

Hope you enjoyed that moment while it lasted, Ryan.

 

Remember these guys? You could be forgiven if they’d slipped your mind of late. Despite fighting out some of the bitterest Playoff Series of the last five years and usually managing to pack plenty of incident into their Regular Season games, the Hawks and Canucks only played three times last year. They split a pair of SO victories and a Hawks team sleepwalking to the Presidents Trophy had one of their rare off-nights, dropping a 3-1 decision in British Columbia. The Nucks were then swept out of the first round while the Hawks.. well, we know what they got up to in the Post-Season.

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StanBo Knows : Versteeg Again A Blackhawk

Mike Devine comes to town and Kris Versteeg becomes a Blackhawk again. Coincidence? I think not…..

The Blackhawks won a hockey game tonight, but nobody is going to give a shit about that in the morning. Following the 5-4 shootout victory, it was announced that the Blackhawks and Panthers had agreed to a trade that will bring former Blackhawk Kris Versteeg back to Chicago in exchange for former 1st round pick Dylan Olsen and the sizable but awkward Jimmy Hayes. It was also announced that the Blackhawks would send winger Jeremy Morin back to Rockford. That move shouldn’t surprise anyone as it has become apparent that Joel Quenneville was in the process of making Morin his own personal “Where’s Waldo.”

Nobody saw this coming. Versteeg, who jumped around the top three lines during his first stint with the Hawks, will likely slots in on the third line with Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell. One would imagine he’ll get a chance to play on both the PP and PK as well. If nothing else, the days of Sheldon Brookbank skating on the third line are over. Shaw and Bickell may not be Bolland and Havlat, but they aren’t anything to sneeze at either. Make not mistake, the third line just became a lot more formidable.

The best part of this whole goddamn thing? The Florida Panthers have retained half of his salary through the 2015-2016 season. Stan Bowman is the goddamn best.

Dylan Olsen still has upside and maybe Jimmy Hayes flourishes in the right situation. But right now, it looks like Bowman acquired a proven NHL forward for a winger who didn’t quite fit and a defenseman whose momentum within the organization seems to have stalled after appearing in 28 games during the 2011-2012 regular season. Good luck to both of them. Oh, Stanbo might want to check for any foul odors emanating from any stairwells in his home over the next week or so……

You’d have to be one hell of a miserable bastard not to feel good right now. Sweet dreams, Hawks fans.

Two Beads At the End: Jets 1 Hawks 4 Choads 2

There’s an English soccer chant that goes something along the lines of “CAN WE PLAY YOU EVERY WEEK?”. That’s how I feel about the Winnipeg Jets. They’re bad. Bad with a capital “Beej”. Four more games as hopelessly mismatched as this would be just dandy, thanks (he said, dooming the Hawks to lose the rest of the series)  I’ve got some grousing to do, so I’ll get through what was a fun, if forgettable, game as quickly as I can.

 

  • Brookbank at forward. It’s dumb. Q has his reasons (Brookbank deserves to stay in the side but Roszie needs the rotation) but they make sense only to Q.. if you’re playing a guy for 8.14 minutes (and more than half of that in the 3rd when the game was safe) and in an unfamilar position, it’s really doing nobody any good (for the record, Brookbank played 0.47 in the 1st and 2.45 in the 2nd). This may be a one-off, if so fine. If not…
  • Patrick Sharp looked to be having “One of those evenings”, drawing iron twice, before another handsome goal from close range. His linemates, Toews & Hossa, were operating at a level so far above Winnipeg that they were on the other side of the Pole.
  • Patrick Kane is very, very good at stickhandling. you heard it here 1,254,821st
  • “Big Buff” as Foley dribblingly called him all night, did a very good impression of an extremely large headless chicken.
  • Seriously, can we play the Jets every week? Please?
  • OK, to the angry bit. Yes, it’s the Pardy-Through-the Looking-Glass incident. You’ve all seen it and read about it, I won’t dwell overmuch on the utterly disgraceful lack of respect shown by the couple who grabbed the helmet and dumped the beer. What appalled me was the blatant disregard for Pardy’s safety: here we have a player who has just gone head-first into and through the glass at high speed, so clearly the thing to do is to yank his helmet off his head as hard as you can, because there’s no way that he might have already suffered a serious neck or head injury. For that alone I hope that the guy gets a lifetime ban from the UC. In the UK or Australia he would have been arrested for such conduct.
  • The other angry bit, from the same incident, also touches on Player Safety: even while Pardy was draped over the boards with fans and players trying to hold the giant sheet of glass away from his head, his teammates, particularly Anthony Peluso, decided that now was the time to jump Brandon Bollig.  Aside from being yet another example of the asinine trend of players trying to fight after hard but legal hits, this was ridiculous. I hope Claude Noel or someone else in the Jets org has taken the time to sit him down and talk to him about ‘Timing’.

OK, so much for that. It’s off to Dallas on Saturday. Peace.

Nature Without Man: Flames 3 Hawks 2 (OT)

I think we all saw this coming. There were gleeful prognostications on Twitter all day about what sort of firestorm was going to come down on Reto Berra in his very first NHL start.

Making his debut against the Hawks? Wow, that poor kid was going to get shelled, broken and possibly sent scurrying back to the AHL.

Well, he got shelled all right: 44 shots, the Hawks highest total this year. However, he stopped 42 of them, was the 1st Star of the game and is doubtless feeling very good about himself this morning.  So it goes.

This was a tedious and ultimately forgettable game and not something to get worked up about: dropping a point to Calgary in November is unlikely to come back to haunt us in the Spring (right?). After a 18 shot but no result 1st for the Hawks, Patrick Kane got it started in the 2nd with a nice wrister and we anticipated the floodgates opening. However, Mike Calamari tied it up; tipping in a shot from Wideman then, in the 3rd, Calgary took the lead via Curtis Glencross. Marian Hossa continued his nice recent run of form; finally scoring in the dying seconds of a PP after the Hawks had squanderd a minute and a half of 5 on 3 time.

To OT and a Kris Russell slapshot ended things.

It pinches to lose to dumpster fires like the Flames, but these things happen. What else we got?

Oh yes, TOI.  Jeremy Morin got 7.21. Smith, Pirri and Bollig between 10-11 minutes. Meanwhile Toews, Kane, Sharp and Hossa were all over 20 minutes. I wish I knew what Q is thinking. Three of those four are Olympic locks and, well, you know the rest. I guess its “First World Problems” if that’s the biggest issue; but the sudden sidelining, due to bits falling off them, of one or more of those guys for any long period of time could have serious consequences.

In Q’s favour, the D was more balanced with only Leddy (19.51) and Brookbank (16.54) not breaking the 20 minute mark.

It’s the Jets up next on Wednesday. As good an opportunity as any to wipe last night from the memory.