Those of you who play Fantasy Hockey may be familiar with this feeling: when a player that you have high, high hopes of, a player that’s slipped under other’s radar, falls to you in the Draft and you rub your hands with glee; thinking about how smart you are, about how your secret weapon is going to propel you to glory and then… pfffft… not a disaster but nothing special either. Know that feeling? Do I?
After a harrowing 5-3 loss to Minnesota at the UC on Saturday, the Hawks headed for the Twin Cities for a second go-round with one of the hottest teams in the league. The first game was one where it felt that every single rub of the green went against Chicago, coupled with a goalie standing on his head. Tonight it was very much the reverse.
I planned to do Boxing tonight, but I ended up having to watch the game at work and couldn’t get around to it. Plus, there are some things to talk about that can’t be done through Boxing. I will do it after Thursday’s game against the ‘Ning. I think. I hope.
Taking at least a point in eight of the first nine games is something that should be celebrated. Not in the NHL-record-24-straight-games-to-start-a-season sort of fashion, but it’s definitely impressive – even for a team coming off its second Stanley Cup title in four years.
But there’s no doubt there’s some uneasiness resonating within the fan base about the Blackhawks’ inability to find twine in the third period this season, leading to some unnecessarily uncomfortable outcomes. Such was the case Tuesday, as the ‘Hawks blew a 2-0 lead in the final period before Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp scored in the shootout for a 3-2 win over Florida.
I know it seems like the easy way out, and I’m probably in the minority, but paint me unworried – which is precisely the stance the Blackhawks are taking. It’s October, and they’ve ended up with two points more often than not.
”We’re not happy with giving up leads in the third period,” Sharp said. ”We’d like to close teams out by scoring in the third period and get out of here, but when the games get tight we seem to play better and that’s important. It would be a lot worse if we were coming away with no points instead of two.”
”I don’t think we’re playing any different than the first two periods. I don’t think we’re sitting on leads,” Quenneville said. ”We’re not complaining, let’s put it that way.”
Here we go then: the Hawks head away from the UC for the first (sort of) extended trip away and it’s off to the Sunshine State with Mothers in tow (which should at least spare us the endless golfing anecdotes from Pat & Eddie later on). Not that Florida is the sort of place I’d care to take my own mother.
Rumour has it that the real reason that Joachim Nordstrom was sent back down to Rockford is that the Hawks did not feel that an impressionable young Swede should be exposed to Florida or, at least, not until he’s warmed up with a couple more trips to St Louis.
Before I start looking ahead, I wanted to take a look back at Saturday’s 3-1 win over the Leafs, when Dave Bolland made his first trip to the United Center as a visitor and the whirlwind of emotions that went along with it.
We’ve been through this before when key members of the 2010 Cup team returned to the UC after being jettisoned, but Bolland hitting the ice in a Leafs sweater felt very different – for me, at least. Him being dealt on draft night probably was the least surprising transaction Stan Bowman has made after Bolland had a rather disappointing 2013 regular season.
He battled injuries – which was becoming all too familiar – and his inability to supplant himself as a consistant second-line center who could win draws became tired. There’s no question Bolland is talented, and his playoff performances from seasons past along with his lively personality kept some on his side. But when it came down to it, we all knew he had to go. It was merely a formality.
Had Bolland not scored the clinching goal in Game 6 against Boston, which may end up going down as the most famous goal in Blackhawks history – surpassing that of Patrick Kane in 2010 – due to the situation, the sadness we felt watching him go likely wouldn’t have reached the heights it did. But he did work his ass off to get in front of the net and beat Tuukka Rask 17 seconds after Bryan Bickell’s equalizer, and he did give us that famous celebration of tossing his gloves to the ice before Frolik jumped into his arms. We’re not going to forget that. Ever. And that’s why seeing him on the ice Saturday wearing Toronto colors felt more strange than maybe it should have.
Does that video tribute get played, sans the goal obviously, had he not delivered one of the greatest moments in franchise history? Doubtful. The standing ovation that followed? Maybe, but I can’t imagine the game is stopped to give him that much attention. The fact is, his 399 games donning the Indian head, including the playoffs, will be defined by the last few seconds he wore it.
That’s all well and good, and he gave us one of the best sports memories of our lives, but we have to realize his previous deficiencies were what sent him packing for Canada. It was tough Saturday, and I’m glad it’s finally over.
Now, for the week ahead….
These are never easy to write. It’s one thing losing to a strong St Louis team after a close, hard-fought game. That stings. Losing after a close, hard-fought game where the Blues also got away with behaving like meth heads fighting over the last rat roasting on the garbage fire? That really hurts. But that’s not the worst of it..
At the moment no one in St Louis gives a shit about the Blues. Now they know how the rest of the NHL feels, all the time. The Best Fans In Baseball are too busy laying in the meth and practicing pushing wheelchair-bound ushers down stairs ahead of Saturday’s playoff game to expand their precious bender-scratch on Hockey. (It’s a meaningful Playoff game, too, with the StL side not being the ones facing elimination, a situation entirely alien to Blues fans.) Luckily this game is in Chicago so Hawks fans are supposed to outnumber Blues supporters.
Time for more fun with numbers and your views on proceedings in sunny Carolina the other night.
Little Dee probably said it best above……
2 points is 2 points? I guess that would be the line if you’re the glass half full type. A cynic might counter by pointing out the ‘Hawks have now failed to put away leads in three different games. Me? I’m hoping we can chalk this up to a team that just couldn’t be moved to give every drop on a Tuesday night in October against a complete non-entity.
As much as we all may hate to say it – Edzo was exactly right (at least for tonight) when he said in the pre-game show that the Blackhawks seem to be having trouble getting that killer third goal when they’ve managed to get a two point lead. It’s not encouraging by any means, but I’d caution against freaking about this prematurely. Keep in mind there are teams out there that would love to have this kind of problem. At the end of the night, the ‘Hawks got that second point back and Carolina getting out with one doesn’t affect the ‘Hawks one iota. All’s well that ends well?
On the plus side tonight, the bottom six put in tough minutes and generally fared quite well. Just look at those Corsi numbers in the link. Bravo.
Corey Crawford was terrific once again and was nails in the shootout. Marian Hossa netted his second goal of the season. Hossa, who hadn’t stood out to date, seemed to come to life after being worked by Brett Bellemore behind the Carolina net in the first period. The lesson here? Don’t anger the Hoss.
The only guys who you can really say had bad games were Michal Rozsival and Joakim Nordstrom. Nordstrom’s #fancystats were fine, but he failed to advance to the puck to the neutral zone before Ron Hainsey scored the tying goal for the Hurricanes. Rozsival took two terrible penalties and looked a step behind most of the night. I’m starting to understand this platoon strategy in the sixth spot more and more.
*This was the 2,500th victory in Chicago Blackhawks history. Plan the parade?
* Will Nordstrom’s first consequential mistake cost him a spot in the lineup on Thursday night? I’m guessing yes.
* Brandon Pirri was a healthy scratch. What kind of asset management is this? This isn’t the 2010-2011 campaign, Q. You have the luxury of playing around a little bit and figuring out what guys like Brandon Pirri and Jeremy Morin can bring to the table . Why not use this opportunity?
* The Hurricanes began the shootout with Nathan Gerbe. Okay then….
* How about that pass from ‘Zus to set up the Patrick Sharp breakaway? Jonathan Toews set up Patrick Kane with a similar outlet pass in the second period, but Kane was unable to convert.
* Speaking of Kane: THE SPIN-O-RAMA RETURNS!
*Toews was 6-for-15 at the dot. Andrew Shaw was 3-for-10. That’s disgusting.
*St. Louis on Thursday night. Embrace the rage/hatred flowing through you. The hate is good.
UPDATE: Community Ratings sheet has been added. VOTE!
Well, that was harder than it should have been. Two points secured, a lot of dominance from the Hawks (the Stats make hilarious reading), some good things, some bad things., some things to learn. My brother the Stats Guru was assuring me, prior to the game, that this Islanders team is the real deal and are going to tear it up in the Metropolitan Division. Colour me unconvinced, but they do have a very impressive sucker-punch and they got to use that a couple of times tonight. Also, John Tavares is very good at Hockey. Let’s get into it ..