Thank You For That: Blackhawks Dominate Blue Jackets, 6-1

"We won a game yesterday. If we win one today, that's two in a row. If we win one tomorrow, that's called a winning streak. It has happened before."

No matter how terrible the Blackhawks were during their nine-game road trip, at least we have the Columbus Blue Jackets to thank for being only slightly better than a drunk men’s league team.

Following up on their 4-2 slump-buster over the New York Rangers at MSG on Thursday, the ‘Hawks crushed the BJs 6-1 behind solid efforts from nearly everyone.

The victory marked the Blackhawks’ first back-to-back road wins since taking five straight from Nov. 25-Dec. 14.

After Sami Lepisto made every ‘Hawks fan replay Chris Campoli’s turnover in Game 7 against Vancouver in their minds 300-400 times, it was all Chicago.

Jonathan Toews made a hard move to the net and slid it past Steve Mason to tie it up, and Viktor Stalberg netted his eighth goal against the BJs this season just over four minutes later for what proved to be the game-winner.

Patrick Sharp took a great feed from Patrick Kane and one-timed it past Mason in the second before Kaner chased Mason through the five-hole less than two minutes later.

Marcus Kruger and Lepisto added the insurance in the third.

Hell of a game to write about in my first post in a long time. Moving and being without internet couldn’t have come during a better couple weeks so I didn’t have to talk about the lumps of shit that happened previously.

A few quick thoughts…

♦  Note to Lepisto: Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever make a fucking mistake. Ever. Next time, Q won’t just bench him, he’ll call Bowman from a cell on the bench and have him cut. Granted, Lepisto’s turnover was absolutely brutal, but he hasn’t been playing all that terribly lately. After the Jackets’ goal, Lepisto didn’t see another shift until he scored his goal, playing 5:59 for the game.

♦  Here are the Blackhawks’ numbers, with the “core” players highlighted:

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Will You Smile Again For Me? : Hawks Win 4-2

Let it all out, Hoss ( Bruce Bennett, Getty Images)

Maybe Alicia Keys (note: I do not listen to Alicia Keys ) knew what she was talking about in that one Jay Z song?

The Blackhawks rolled into New York and played absolutely inspired hockey all night long. The Hawks threw 4 first period goals past a stunned Martin Biron and that’s all they would need to beat the best team in the Eastern Conference. While things got a little bumpy at the end of the 2nd period, the outcome was never really in doubt after the forth Blackhawk goal – which came just under 10 minutes into the contest.

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The Glitter Rubs Right Off: Blackhawks Look For A Win On Broadway

Photo: AP

This date has been looming large on the horizon ever since this road trip began. New York Rangers franchise goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, arguably the best goaltender in the league since the new year, would likely be the most impenetrable netminder the Blackhawks faced on this road trip. And as the games — ok, let’s call them what they are… the losses — drew us nearer to today, Lundqvist kept getting better. In his last 8 games he has 7 wins, including 2 against Philadelphia and capped with a shutout of Boston on Tuesday. In that stretch of 8 games he has 3 shutouts and has let in a total of only 9 goals.

The way this was looking, the Blackhawks may as well have been shooting at a net protected by a force field.

But then, through some quirk of fate or coincidence, the darkness lifted, the clouds parted, and for the first time since before the All-Star break, the Hockey Gods smiled on the Chicago Blackhawks…

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Don’t Worry, She’ll Hold Together

Brohug? BROHUG!

Hear me, baby? Hold together.

Not only am I a stat wonk but I have a bit of an affection for using Star Wars to explain everything. The Blackhawks have lost lateral controls on their 2011-2012 campaign but the ship is still flying. If you’ve given up hope on this season, and I know for a fact that some of you have, no worries. It’s just hockey. I’m not going to question your fandom (which is stupid), call you a bandwagon jumper (equally unintelligent) or ask that you please turn in your Indian Head sweater along with your keycard on your way out. There’s some flaws that probably won’t be fixed on this roster, even after the February 27th trade deadline that is quickly approaching. What there is, however, is a window that’s very wide for this team in the future.

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Misery : 0-8-1

( Christian Petersen -Getty Images)

0-8-1. That is worse than the start the Columbus Blue Jackets got off to at the beginning of the season. I hope all the jerks taking their kids to Disney on Ice are having a great time – because its killing the Chicago Blackhawks.

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Talk Is Cheap: Blackhawks Look To End Losing Streak In Nashville

Photo: Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

The Blackhawks play Nashville tonight, and it’s my job to tell you about what we can expect during the game. So here’s the obligatory paragraph about the Predators before we talk about the Blackhawks’ 8-game losing streak.

Nashville is 6-2-2 in their last 10 games, most recently losing in a shootout to Boston. They’ve always been a defense-first team, but this year they are doing well in both categories — just outside the top-10 in both goals-for and goals-against. They can kill you from many, many angles: 9 players have 11+ goals, 9 players have 29+ points. Goaltender Pekka Rinne continues to shine, his .924 save percentage ranks among the league’s top-10. Neither Ryan Suter nor Shea Weber has been traded, and likely won’t be before the puck drops this evening. So that’s bad for us.

Will that work? Okay. On to business.

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No Rest For The Weary: Coyotes Host Blackhawks

Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

I’m sure we’d all like to call a “time out” and give the Blackhawks a week off where the team, coaches, and management get to assess what’s wrong, figure out how to fix it, and get this train back on the tracks again. But there’s no rest for the weary, as Chicago is back in action tonight against the Phoenix Coyotes.

The bad news: Phoenix is on a 4-game winning streak. The good news: they have the second-worst power play in the league. So maybe if Coach Joel Quenneville gets his head out of his ass and leaves Nick Leddy on the bench during the penalty kill, we’ll have a shot tonight. More on that in a few moments…

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Marco? Marco? Fish Out of Water! Sharks 5 – Hawks 3

I agree Johnny. Chain him to the net.

Let’s get something out of the way first. Yes, I am about to subscribe to your Fire Coach Q newsletter but I haven’t quite put my credit card number in yet.

Here are your shift chartsCORSI and I tried to get the line combinations however LwL doesn’t have them available yet so I’ll be going from memory on those. At first glance, the CORSI makes it look like a game that a puck possession team should have won. Vlasic and the tank known as Dougie Murray were out leading their team in keeping pucks away from Antti Niemi which helped San Jose’s cause. We outshot the Sharks by five but once again that doesn’t matter when the Hawks defense looks like it did last night.

The first two goals I’m hesitant to place the blame on Corey Crawford. How many times did we have to see Eddie Olczyk diagram that first powerplay goal and put the blame on Marian Hossa though? As can be taken by my handle here, I’m a pretty big Hossa fan. I think Hossa covered his assignment and was heading for the shooting lane to block the shot. Crawford came out to challenge on Burns’ shot from the point and as we’ll discover later, a common theme arose from that. The puck went wide, Leddy got worked physically in front and Corey never regained his spot in the crease. The second goal I will just consider a wash because the fact the Hawks were shorthanded after Joe Thornton punched Jonathan Toews in the face and removed his helmet is something not even Ed Hochuli could explain clear enough for me.

Still, the Hawks were able to scramble back and get two goals from an unlikely source in Marcus Kruger. Both were nice net crashing plays by Umlaut, especially the 2nd where he went backhand on a rebound. That goodwill was soon spoiled by, no NOT Viktor Stalberg, but Duncan Keith’s inability to not only retain Vik’s pass at the blue line but coming back on the break and never getting into position. He seemed to give up and assume that the 2 on 1 break would result in a goal. Dylan Olsen got back, Keith never did. By the time he got back he never got in proper position and Thornton was able to bank one in off of Crawford.

We wouldn’t see Stalberg on the ice after that incident and I’ll be addressing that in the bullets.

The final period was marred two goals where Corey Crawford once again left his crease only to not return in time as hockey puck, party of two, had taken his reservation there. Someone please chain him to the net because the book is out and I’m tired of reading it. You get Crawford down, away from the net and he can’t scramble to get back in time. Now, let’s get some bullets in here.

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Fresh Chum For The Sharks: Chicago Visits San Jose

Photo: AP

It’s difficult to believe that less than a month ago, Chicago took down the San Jose Sharks at the United Center; and furthermore that the game was our second straight victory over San Jose this year. The only game we lost to the Sharks was in the Tank back in November on the Circus trip, and that was a 1-0 loss.

We can skate with this team. Well… we could skate with this team. Of late we can’t skate with Edmonton, or Colorado, or any one of a host of other teams that we should skate circles around. We’re having trouble beating the bottom feeders these days.

The Sharks are in first place in the Pacific Division. Oh Nellie, here we go…

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Plenty Of Blame To Go A – Round Table for February

There have been far worse times to be a Blackhawks fan, that goes without saying. But for many of us this last string of losses has conjured up images of Dirk Graham behind the bench, Mike Smith making trades that only a mental patient would approve of, and Steve Passmore flopping around in the crease like a carp that got dropped on the dock. Is this how it begins? Will a six-game skid turn the season into a wash? Are we headed for another five decades of doom and despair? What can snap the Blackhawks out of the funk that they’re in? The boys got together to discuss the current situation, what might be wrong, and what could be done about it in this month’s Round Table…

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Close Your Eyes And See The Skies Are Falling : Hawks lose 5-2

"Take your time, Stan. " (US Presswire photo)

Oh boy.

The Hawks were lucky to not be trailing by several goals at the end of the 1st period.

The opening period saw each team playing rather tentativly, which makes sense as both teams entered the game with long losing streaks. The goaltenders each made some decent saves and the Blackhawks had a power play opportunity that yielded exactly zero shots. Former Minnesota Wild winger Chuck Kobesaw had the best chance of the period in the waning seconds with Ray Emery down and out, but he missed a wide open net. This game didn’t really begin until the 2nd period though.

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Stoppable Force vs. Movable Object: Blackhawks Visit Colorado

Photo: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The phrase on Blackhawks fans’ lips these days is, “What the HELL is wrong?!?” I’ll tell you what’s wrong in a minute, and you’re going to be more than a little surprised. But the matter at hand is tonight’s game against the Avalanche.

Looking at this Avalanche team reveals one very salient point: this will NOT be the Colorado Avalanche we see next year. 8 players on their current roster are unrestricted free agents at the end of this season, and another 7 are restricted free agents. Most of the guys we face off against tonight are up for grabs when the season ends.

Hope Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman has some of our scouts with us on this trip.

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Much Ado About Goaltending

If we’re all in agreement this season is considered “Stanley Cup or Bust” for the Blackhawks, then I can forget about discussing anything in between.

Playoffs? Expected. Division title? Well, at least home-ice advantage, or the fan base expects doom.

It’s a part of living within a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately society. Winning streaks mean championships, and losing streaks mean fire sales. You’ll have to look fast to find the in between, especially with the come-as-you-are outlets like Facebook and Twitter.

Lately, the cries have been about the goaltending duo of Corey Crawford and Ray Emery, and how the Blackhawks stand no chance to advance in the postseason unless changes are made – no matter how drastic.

If you’ve yet to recognize a trend in the Stan Bowman era, goaltending is not his top priority. And there’s a couple justified reasons for that.

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Don’t Break the Glass Yet

Before everyone goes out to their Super Bowl engagements tomorrow I had planned to write a piece on PDO and who would be a prime candidate for a breakout right now. (Hint: focus was going to be Dave Bolland with a pinch of Bryan Bickell) After only one point gathered out of six over the past week that just didn’t seem like a good idea anymore. Instead, I’m just going to write a short post that sends you off to hopefully your very own snack stadium with just one request.

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Recap: This Fire is Out of Control

AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jeff McIntosh

A first period goal from Olli Jokinen was not a comforting way to start the game.  It was a gorgeous slapper to the top the net that surely made some Hawks fans think, “Oh boy, here we go again.”

The Hawks responded in clutch form by knotting it up with 29 seconds left in the first period.  Patrick Kane delivered a gorgeous pass Brent Seabrook who buried it in the net to tie it up.

Last second goals like Seabrooks, are huge going into the intermission to grab some momentum back and come out strong in the second, as the Hawks did for the most part.

The Hawks played a fairly solid second period until Michael Frolik took a stupid double minor penalty with 3:24 left in the period.

Jay Bouwmeester capitalized on the back end of the power play scoring with a little over a minute left in the second.

The Hawks played a much more physical second period, going after the body and at least tried finishing their checks, which is more than they do on a typical night. More >

Brace Yourselves, There’s A Game Tonight: Blackhawks Take On Calgary

Photo: AP

I tell you, the last time I had that much fun, I was getting a barium enema. Last night’s game against Edmonton made my intestines seize up in exactly the same way. Hopefully tonight against Calgary we can maybe back off the severity to manual rectal exam.

The Flames team that we face tonight has a slightly different look than when we visited them back in November. Gone is former Blackhawks power winger Rene Bourque, and in comes former Canadiens’ center Mike Cammalleri. The impact has been minimal so far, with Cammalleri notching 2 goals in the 6 games he’s played with Calgary. Also gone is center Brendan Morrison who was traded to… well, to us! He’ll be taking on his former team for the first time tonight at the ScotiaBank Saddledome.

The Flames are chasing a playoff spot right now, sitting 5 points back of 8th-place Minnesota in the Western Conference. Calgary GM Jay Feaster is trying to make a few last-minute moves to shore up his roster for the push to the finish, though he has stated for the twelve-thousandth time that he is not trading Jarome Iginla. In case you were wondering…

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More Ammo for the Meatballs: Boxing with Blackhawks and Oilers

(Greg Southam/MCT photo)

First, I’ll go ahead and preface everything with that I more than agree the Blackhawks need to add depth on defense. Moreover, I believe the ‘Hawks need to simply focus more in their own zone, which goes for everyone wearing the Indian head. I don’t think any of this can be disputed one bit.

But against my own good judgement, I took to Twitter after the game and saw more trading of Patrick Kane. More trading for Tim Thomas. People talking about trading the entire team, with the only untouchable being Jonathan Toews. People ready to fire Joel Quenneville.

I don’t know why I continue to be surprised by this. One game – granted, an extremely bad one that pissed me off royally – and all of the sudden the Blackhawks’ proverbial ship is sinking with 30 games to play while being six points back of the Western Conference-leading Detroit Red Wings. To break it into simpler terms for those who have been following hockey since 2009, that would translate to three games.

If the Cubs or White Sox were three games out of first with 30 to play, would you be calling to trade the entire damn team? Didn’t think so.

There are plenty of things I didn’t like about The Disaster at Rexall Place – Part Duex, but sometimes assholes like Sam Gagner have 8-point nights when a team plays like dog shit on both ends of the ice. Luckily, the Blackhawks don’t lose 20 points for the lopsided 8-4 loss. This isn’t Final Jeopardy, and the ‘Hawks didn’t bet it all and get the question wrong. It simply adds another number under the ‘L’ column, just like the last four.

Am I sugarcoating this defeat? A little. The Blackhawks’ six-game road losing streak is their longest since their franchise-record 19-game skid in 2003-04.

But there are so many meatballs out there forcing me to do it. I don’t want to be the calming voice. I’d much rather rant logically and swear up and down while throwing things at my cat, but as I wrote on Twitter, the Blackhawks have possibly the most bi-polar fan base in all of sports. If the ‘Hawks win their next two games, some of these same people clamoring for wholesale changes will be talking Stanley Cup again. I refuse to pour petrol on that fire.

With all that said, I’m angry about the loss, as I’ll show in Boxing…

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Crime Scene Remediation: Blackhawks Return To Edmonton

Photo: AP

November 19th was a low point, to say the least. Allowing 9 goals on 34 shots, the Blackhawks humiliated themselves in front of a giddy Edmonton crowd that, despite the cliche of Canadians’ courtesy and good manners, took to taunting the ‘Hawks in the 3rd period.

Apparently all bets are off when the puck drops.

So thousands of television sets all over Chicagoland were damaged by flying objects hurtled by frustrated fans, and the Blackhawks left Alberta having left their egos, their confidence, and any illusions of dominating Western Conference opponents splattered all over the Rexall Place ice. It took a crime scene remediation team four days to clean it up.

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Adding is Done with Numbers, Not Names

NOTE FROM BARTL: I’d like to welcome our newest member and resident statistician to the staff. He’ll be contributing to Cheer the Anthem when he gets free time. His stuff is good. You’ll read it.

Less of these getting to the goalie, please

If you’re a Twitter user, you’ve no doubt seen our staff of beat reporters for the Hawks respond to trade ideas from the fanbase. The inherent difficulty here is that most of us that follow the sport are just that: fans. The names that are suggested are more representative of a panicked Yankee fan dialing into WFAN asking if, “we can trade Swishah and a prospect for Longoria and Matt Moowah.”

I like to daydream too. Picturing Shea Weber, Ryan Suter or P.K. Subban in an Indian Head sweater looks great, but it’s simply not plausible. Instead, what I’d prefer to do here is suggest a real option that may not move your needle, but it’ll address a glaring weakness that the Blackhawks are currently saddled with. More after the jump.

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Silver Linings : Crow’s New Cage

(Getty Images)

Is that sour taste out of your mouth yet? Yeah, it’s not out of mine either. Losing to the fucking Canucks is the absolute worst. If you’ve been a Blackhawks fan since the early 90’s, you’ve sort of been conditioned to expect losses in games with Detroit. Sure it sucks, but you knew it was coming. When they lose to the Blues, you can at least be reasonably sure they will kick the shit out of them next time – because they are the lowly Stanley Cup trophy-less St. Louis Blues. But losing to Vancouver? Goddamn it stings quite a bit. The worst part about this loss is that there won’t be a chance at revenge until March 21st, when the two teams face each other for the final time of the season at United Center. The last time Vancouver beat us, the Hawks only had to wait 10 days to see them again.

The Blackhawks battled their asses off last night, but ultimately fell short in overtime when nobody seemed to notice Thing 1 (or was it 2?) costing right into the wide open slot. Not scoring in the 2nd period (which they absolutely dominated) proved to come back and bite the Hawks right in the keister. An unbelievable goaltending performance by Cory Schneider and one bad giveaway by Viktor Stalberg were the keys to the Canucks victory. It’s as simple as that.

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Not as Bad as it Seems: Blackhawks Fall in OT

NOTE: Having trouble with the box score tonight, so no Boxing. It’ll be back after the Edmonton game – hopefully.

(Rich Lam/Getty photo)

Any loss to Vancouver rivals a complete rectal examination, though I came away somewhat pleased overall after the ‘Hawks fell 3-2 in overtime Tuesday.

Basically, I saw plenty more good than bad out there, which is all you can ask for after a week off, thrusting a new player into a big role and beginning a nine-game road trip.

♦   Seeing Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp on the ice was a positive, though Sharp wasn’t himself and Toews ended up missing a few shifts in the first period. I wouldn’t be surprised if one or both of them took off Thursday’s game in Edmonton.

With that said, Toews’ unbelievably stellar move in the OT nearly won the game if it weren’t for Cory Schneider playing to puck so well. The hand/wrist/whatever didn’t seem to bother him there.

♦  #ShawFacts – The love and affection for Andrew Shaw has worn off, and now we’re simply expecting him to be an NHL contributor if he’s going to play with the big club.

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With A Single Step: Blackhawks’ Journey Starts In Vancouver

Photo: John Gress, Reuters

And so, it begins: the home stretch of the regular season, kicked off by a 9-game road trip over the next 20 days, during which we take on 8 different Western Conference opponents starting tonight with our old friends the Vancouver Canucks.

So how have LuLu Belle and the Tampon Twins been lately, anyhow?

Well, LuLu is playing so well that his coach doesn’t trust him to play the Big Bad Blackhawks who made him cry; and just before the All-Star break the Tampons were held to a single point, going minus-4 between them against the one-point-out-of-last-place Lightning. Not exactly what you call inspiring performances.

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All-Star Shame: Bettman’s Pathetic Spectacle Should Be Euthanized

I’m a little late to the party on this one, so I apologize for not chiming in earlier. I’m late because, as with most fans of the game of hockey, I pay no attention to the All-Star Game whatsoever. It’s not hockey, and it’s definitely not a “game.” It’s 40 guys pretending to care who wins while goofing around for 3 periods and playing inside jokes on one another. It was only when my wife asked me to find out what channel the game was on that I blew my stack.

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Saturday Maintenance: Morrison Acquired, Toews Likely Returning, Bad Trade Talk

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman made his first splash into the trade market Friday, albeit the type of splash resulting from stepping into the bathtub.

It isn’t the deal many had hoped for, but getting center Brendan Morrison from Calgary for prospect Brian Connelly seems to be a solid depth move with very little risk.

Bowman said he’s been talking to Calgary “for awhile” to secure this deal, which seems beneficial for both teams.

Two things. First, Morrison is not the second-line center the fan base hoped the Blackhawks would acquire. His job will be – or should be, since we never seem to know what Q is thinking – to win draws on the fourth line while not playing a ton of minutes.

Second, he’s 36 with a history of knee problems, so don’t expect him to provide anything more than serviceable minutes.

It’s precisely the reason Bowman wasn’t about to give up anything of substance for him, and Connelly seems to be on the back end of the list when it comes to NHL potential for Blackhawks defensive prospects. An AHL All-Star doesn’t translate into NHL-ready, or even close to NHL-ready.

Adam Jahns of the Sun-Times posted a series of tweets with quotes from ‘Hawks players and Morrison himself regarding the trade, some ‘Hawks chirping after Morrison was injured in a meeting last season and his injury history.

The main thing to come from this deal is that Bowman is hitting the phones trying to make this team better. We’ll see what else he has up his sleeve.

♦   Jonathan Toews is expected to play Tuesday in Vancouver, according to Bowman.

He made sure to note the trade for Morrison had nothing to do with Toews’ injury, which came as a welcome relief.

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Life During Wartime : Hawks In A Dogfight, All-Star Draft

"Tazer, I don't want to go to Ottawa, I'm tired."( Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune)

So, the Blackhawks have to be the best 4th place Central Division team of all time going into an All Star break, right? If you would have told the general public a month and a half ago that the Blackhawks would be where they are at this point, they would have lost their collective shit. While most people aren’t freaking out quite yet,  the “trade Patrick Kane” movement that seems to spring up each time he hits a rough patch is back in force.

By far the most mind-blowing criticism we’ve seen in the past few days of Kane was that he was cherry picking  while 3 other Hawks were fighting in the defensive zone  (killing yet another too many men penalty) in the waning minutes of the Tuesday Nashville game. How can these people be serious? Why the hell else would Kane be on the ice at the end of a game on a penalty kill? THE HAWKS NEEDED A DAMN GOAL! OF COURSE HE WAS CHERRY PICKING! Game 5 in 2010 anyone?

Listen, we all know the Blackhawks lack a big time asset that will help us land the defenseman we need, but the notion that you would deal Kane at this point in his career is simply absurd and it’s getting extremely tedious going over this every time either Kane or the Blackhawks slump. Another thing, how many guys in the league would cut off a finger to have a down year in which they recorded 41 points in the first 50 games?

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