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.
The last time the Kings came to West Madison Street the Hawks were seething after a pantsing in Toronto and made them pay the price. That 3-1 beating was somewhat deceptive, though: the Kings were at the end of a four game road trip and looked tired & disinterested. They have plenty of reason to be motivated tonight, though: they’re coming off two straight losses to the Stars and Preds, are 3rd in the Pacific and must be casting nervous glances at Vancouver steaming up behind them. Jon Quick is nearly ready to return but it’ll likely be the excellent Ben Scrivens in net tonight.
Calloway Me A Cab
Cheer the Podcast Episode 3 (12/29/13): The Blues and Packers continue to make us miserable but we soldier on to talk about the top six make up among Blackhawks forwards, World Junior Championship hockey, the Ducks on the rise while the Wild swoon and answer a few e-mails. We also share our thoughts on the Blackhawks Stadium Series jersey choice.
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I specifically waited until this morning to put together a recap because I was so pissed off last night that I knew everything I wrote would be pure emotional rage with very little logic sprinkled in. The Blues fans on meth reading this know what I’m talking about.
The Blackhawks entered last night’s showdown in St. Louis with a 17-0-1 record when scoring at least four goals, with the lone defeat being that 6-5 OT loss to Tampa Bay way back on Oct. 24. I was doing nothing short of dreaming up ways to make fun of the Blues after the ‘Hawks went up 2-0 and 3-1 in the first period, figuring they’d tack on a couple more and send Nakis to the St. Louis-area bars with insults in tow. It looked much like the Colorado laugher from the night before.
Then the first two-goal lead evaporated. Brandon Saad and Brent Seabrook gave the ‘Hawks another, but they blew that, too. What was even more enraging was how quickly it happened, with Tarasenko and Berglund scoring goals they probably shouldn’t have.
Antti Raanta in a shootout? We can only hope we don’t have to see that happen again. To say he’s bad in the tiebreaker would be as nice as telling Ken Hitchcock he looks fine the way he is. And just like that, the Blackhawks pissed away three separate two-goal leads and handed two points to the hated Blues, who have won four straight in the series.
But that’s where I’m going to draw the line right now when it comes to these two teams. I’m going to jump ahead to May, because we all know there’s a good chance the Blues and ‘Hawks will be battling it out in the playoffs.
We all know about Joel Quenneville and his various qualities. However there are six more guys out there in Conference III, coaching their teams for better or worse (much, much worse in some cases). Here’s a quick guide, at this halfway point of the Season, to how they’re doing and whether or not they should have U-Haul on speed-dial.
Mike Yeo: Minnesota Wild
Appearance: Like a High School Social Sciences teacher who has just been hit on the back of the head with a condom.
How Is He Doing?: Not so good. The Wild are now firmly on the Playoff bubble and have hit a serious skid of late, exacerbated by goaltending problems that absolutely no-one could have foreseen except people who know about “Serious Illness” “AHL-Level Goalies” and “Nik Backstrom is Old & Bad”. Likely to be made the scapegoat for some pretty bad Front-Office decisions.
Who’s His Boss?: Chuck Fletcher, who spent 196m of owner Craig Leipold’s last remaining dollars on two players, thus necessitating the Lockout so that the poor man could afford to feed his family (of gold-plated lemurs that he keeps in the spare bathroom on his 2nd-best yacht). So not to blame for the mire that they find themselves in, at all.
Job Security: May have been fired by the time you read this.
Killing Two Birds?
Well, that was certainly fun.
After 20 minutes of play tonight you pretty much knew where this was going. Three goals, one on the man advantage, and Patrick Sharp was just one goal away from a hattie on his birthday. He completed the trick barely 30 seconds into the 2nd period and the Hawks never let up the remainder of the way. Fuck, Michal Handzus scored a goal tonight because Patrick Kane put up a point in his 13th straight. Whitewashing. By the end, I’d run out of words to describe the thing.
Tonight sees the Blackhawks returning to action, after a three-day break over the Festive Period, with the first of three tricky games in four nights. First up the Colorado Avalanche, former Western Conference high-flyers and still a formidable opponent, come to the UC; then Saturday sees a short trip to the Scottrade to take on another heavyweight in the St Louis Blues. There will then be a Sunday “Break” where we get to chew our fingers to the bone over Bears/Packers before the Los Angeles Kings make their second trip to West Madison. All three of these games are against Western Conference contenders of one stripe or another and all three will present stiff challenges to be surmounted.