Admit it. You haven’t been excited about a Blackhawks/Stars game since Ed Belfour and Brett Hull wore the Star. Even when they had Brad Richards and James Neal they weren’t all that exciting to watch.
So what makes the game tonight different? Well, Dallas (39-27-5) currently occupies the 3 seed in the Western Conference standings with a ever so slim 2 point lead over Phoenix and the Sharks only 3 points behind. With the Blackhawks currently the 6th seed, Dallas would be the opponent in the 1st round.
While it’s very true few – if any – of us expected the Blackhawks to be in this position after being atop the NHL standings not so long ago, putting some distance between them and the rest of the crowding teams at the bottom of the Western Conference playoff picture is a welcome relief.
The ‘Hawks pulled out a 4-3 shootout win over St. Louis at the United Center on Tuesday night, moving five points ahead of seventh-place Phoenix and six up on a few trying to claim the eighth spot.
With 11 games to play, it seems like a comfortable distance, and the Blackhawks are coming close to being locked into the No. 6 seed and a date with the Pacific Division winner in the first round – possibly red-hot Dallas, which the ‘Hawks get to see Friday.
This much time without Jonathan Toews makes that seem like a decent consolation prize to avoid the likes of Nashville and Detroit in round one.
Most everything else will come in Boxing, but here’s a couple things I noticed…
♦ Johnny Oduya may not get the credit, but his keep-in is what led to Viktor Stalberg’s goal in the second period. For a guy who was being cursed out before even donning the Indian head, he’s been playing pretty damn well.
♦ What is Coach Q to do on Friday after Ray Emery allowed three goals on six shots in his sixth straight start, then Corey Crawford came on to play well in relief and earn the win? Does Q simply take Emery’s performance as another bad night against the Blues (he’s 3-1-1 with a 15 goals-against in his current stretch, though eight have come against St. Louis)? Or does Q take Crawford’s performance as him regaining his confidence and hoping he can ride that against Dallas?
The problem with the latter move is that it may in turn get Emery thinking too much. Then if Crawford goes in the poop tank, can Emery step right in again? It’s a decision Q has to make, and it will tell whether or not the crease is indeed Emery’s, or if Crawford still has a chance of being the No. 1 heading into the playoffs.
♦ Brandon Bollig bothers me. While I believe Ryan Reaves indeed is living remnants of some bacterial growth found on an unrefrigerated seven-year-old block of cheese, his hit on Jamal Mayers was nothing deserving of Bollig immediately dropping the gloves and getting an instigator. He gave St. Louis a chance to completely put the game away. Tell me what’s so great about this guy that people enjoy him, but despised John Scott.
OK, I’m tired. Boxing…
See, the Blues didn’t think it was enough to pound us 5-1 at their rink last week. They’ve just signed a 19-year-old rookie phenom draft pick, and they’re coming into our house hoping to do it again.
Jaden Schwartz, having finished up a 30-game, 41-point sophomore season with Colorado College, inked an entry-level deal on Monday and will be in the lineup tonight against the Blackhawks. Of the 15 goals Schwartz pumped in for the Tigers this year, 5 were on the power play, and 4 were game-winners. And guess what? All of those numbers were down from his freshman year!
You should insert your favorite Spaceballs joke here, by the way…
So you’re telling me that Jonathan Quick guy is pretty good, eh?
Quick beat the Blackhawks for the third time in four meetings this season – including two shutouts and a 0.99 goals-against average in those matchups – and helped the Kings to a 3-2 shootout win at the United Center.
“Experts” seem to tell us that goaltending is the difference between Stanley Cup contenders and pretenders around this time of the season, and if it holds true L.A. is going to be tough to beat with Quick between the pipes.
He stole the show from Ray Emery, who was making his fifth straight start and had another solid outing. If it weren’t the Blackhawks’ ineptitude in the shootout, he would’ve come away with a victory. He stopped the first five shooters before Mike Richards finally broke through, while Quick was perfect on the other end – not to mention stoning Viktor Stalberg on a penalty-shot attempt in the third period.
The main problem was Duncan Keith, who should immediately take the film, CD, floppy disk or whatever it is this game has been recorded on and bury it along with Jimmy Hoffa. Both Kings goals were the result of his turnovers, including one that lead to a 4-on-1 break for L.A. with the game merely 1 1/2 minutes old.
Patrick Kane had a solid night, and Marcus Kruger again was rewarded for playing hard in front of the net. Other than that, the Blackhawks will take the point and move on to Tuesday, when St. Louis comes into the United Center for another showdown.
Gotta love these Original Six matchups.
The last time the ‘Hawks faced the Rangers they were on a 9 game losing streak and starting straight into the abyss. They marched into Madison Square Garden and put 4 goals up in the first 10 minutes of the game – including a penalty shot goal by Jonathan Toews just over a minute into the game. Tonight, they will face the Rangers after a horribly dispiriting 5-1 loss to St. Louis on Tuesday. In that game, the Blackhawks went 0-5 on the PP and couldn’t even manage a single shot on 3 of them. It was awful and you are a true fan if you managed to stay with that game through the end. But not everything is fucked right now. The ‘Hawks have won 3 out of their last 4 including impressive road wins in Ottawa and Detroit.
It’s been a busy few weeks for the Men of Four Feathers: a losing streak, a winning streak, injuries, rookie call-ups, goaltenders and deadline trades have all kept Blackhawks fans on the edge of their seats.
While taking a break from the mayhem, the boys from Cheer The Anthem sat down early this week to toss around their opinions on these subjects, as well as traffic on the Edens, acetylene torches and the Bermuda Triangle in the March edition of the Round Table…
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Our power play wasn’t good. We couldn’t settle the puck down, we couldn’t make a pass and they were forechecking us hard. We didn’t deserve to win. It just wasn’t good enough. – Marian Hossa
So, that’s the world we live in now, eh? The St. Louis Blues are the front-runners for the President’s Trophy down the stretch of the season. Not since Joel Quenneville manned the bench in 1999-2000 have the Blues been this good in the regular season.
With that said, Tuesday night’s 5-1 loss was another recipe for disaster: Shitty power play, shitty penalty kill, outplayed in net and out-muscled throughout. This crap is looking all too familiar.
Hopefully Jonathan Toews will be back Friday and he can kick everyone in the ass a bit, but this game just didn’t seem to be anything more than “blah.” The Blues are flat out the better team, and it pains me to say it.
I don’t have the energy for more. There simply isn’t much to analyze that hasn’t been said already. The Blackhawks have trouble entering the zone on the power play and leaving their own zone, well, always. The play in net is spotty at best. Special teams all around is pretty much a Disney on Ice. I’m not going to beat you down with it.
I’ll get into a bit more here in the summary of Boxing, but I left the actual box score for you to take a look at and decide for yourself what you’d like to analyze. Go ahead and throw in your own thoughts in the comments…
Back on December 3rd, the Blackhawks got 4 goals past St. Louis netminder Brian Elliot. The next time he let 4 goals get past him in one game was February 22nd.
Now: want to know the bad news? He’s not the best goaltender playing for the Blues right now. Jaroslav Halak hasn’t let more than 2 goals get past him since February 9th. He’s 6-1-0 in his last 7 starts, with a 1.40 GAA and .949 save percentage in that stretch.
Awww, damnit. The Blackhawks get a win streak going, and what do you know? Another hot goaltender. Must we go through this EVERY BLOODY TIME?!?
A thought crossed my mind last week. We sit here writing about this and that, and our readers loyally glance over our opinions and our pieces each and every day, but we (or at least I) have never opened up the floor to the fans to ask questions.
Earlier this week, I posted an update on Joel Quenneville’s Mustache giving fans an opportunity to ask any questions they want about the Blackhawks, hockey, or life in general.
I spent the next few days answering some of these questions, and picking a few of them to share with the world on Cheer the Anthem. So, without further ado, here are your questions:
Here’s your CORSI and shift charts to start. We begin there because it’s the first thing I noticed when watching the game. I didn’t even really need to look at the charts tonight because Joel Quenneville kept his hand off the lever and maintained a very consistent lineup throughout this entire game. We’ll get back to that in our quick hits but it had to be mentioned first and foremost since it’s not something that happens, well, ever.
The first period was pretty much one of consistent movement as there were very few stoppages. The Hawks were controlling the pace and the puck for the vast majority of the first 20 minutes. They played a simple game, one that involved a single premise. Get the puck on the net. Instead of moving the puck around the perimeter once they gained the zone, Chicago stuck to one or two passes and then immediately tried to put the puck on the net. Most of the Hawks chances came between the circles or right at the goal mouth. To be perfectly honest, it was a pleasure to watch that first period despite going into the intermission down 1-0. Speed to the outside, center the puck to the trailer and fire it at the net. That’s JMH hockey porn right there. My only complaint was the standstill nature of the powerplay once again.
In the second period it was again the Hawks controlling the pace and outshooting the Senators 17-7. Patrick Sharp got a penalty shot opportunity early in the period but failed to convert. Sharp went wide, made one move and then tried to go glove side high but Lehner simply beat him. About 3 minutes and change later, the Hawks got on the board with Bryan Bickell’s goal on a delayed penalty. If the Blackhawks could treat that man advantage like they treat their powerplays (two skaters in front, work the puck behind the office and center it) our powerplay probably wouldn’t have a 38 chance drought. [looks at score sheet] HOLY SHIT WE SCORED A POWERPLAY GOAL LATER IN THE PERIOD. And would you look at that… two skaters in front, Hossa gets a rebound and takes it behind the office to get a wraparound.
The third period was a frustrating 20 minutes of the Hawks turtling and being outshot 10-5. It was also Joel Quenneville sending Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook out there for nearly 12 minutes each. Dylan Olsen and Sami Lepisto recorded three shifts each while Leddy and Oduya picked up nine respectively. The last two minutes were skittish but the Sens really only mounted a couple solid chances in the final frame.
- I’m probably reaching apologist status with Corey Crawford but I’m in agreement with Q. This is Ray Emery’s crease to lose right now. I still think we’re going to see a lot of juggling of the goalies because I’m not sure Razor’s hip can handle the constant work but I’ll refrain from delivering a backhanded compliment here. Ray Emery made key stops tonight and was very good. Own that blue paint, Razor. The deed is yours now.
- Consistency! Joel Quenneville! He did it! Take a look below as I’ve organized the shift charts by line. Look how they all line up!
- The powerplay, oh my, the powerplay. The first one sucked because there were five statues with Indian Heads out there but after that, it was all movement. Behind the office, two skaters in front, wristers or slap shots from the point. Even on the delayed penalty we saw this and it resulted in Bickell’s goal. Baby steps and I will take it. Keep it up, boys.
- Seabrook and Keith still skated nearly half an hour tonight. I know it’s a one goal game but I think you can trust Leddy or Oduya a bit more in the 3rd. Even the 3rd pairing. Still, a win so I can’t complain much here. 27 minutes and change isn’t that bad.
- Nice save in the 2nd period, Johnny Oduya. Razor was on his stomach and had no idea where the puck was. Hopefully they give you a save at hockey-reference.
- Andrew Shaw is getting a bit more disciplined but I still don’t want him on anything but the 4th line. Jimmy Hayes seems to make more sense on a checking line that places an emphasis on defense and positioning.
- Viktor Stalberg committed a penalty in the third period and actually saw the ice after it. More Quenneville progress.
- Going to need you all to sit down before reading this next point. Seated? Good. Nick Leddy led all Blackhawk skaters with a +8 CORSI. Only Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek were better overall.
- I think we need to find a way to keep Andrew Brunette in the top six after Toews gets back. That Brunette-Kane-Hossa line was generating chances all night long. Perhaps it’s time Bruno came back up top with the Captain and Kaner?
- How the hell did Matt Gilroy miss that open net on the Sens 3rd period powerplay?
- One more time, for emphasis. Take a gander at where the majority of our chances came from. Circles and slot. Only 8 of 37 from the halfboards around the point area.
- Get well soon, Cap’n.