The punishment for watching the Blackhawks as much as some of us do is that we can’t just accept taking two points from one of the hottest and talented teams in the NHL without delving into some underlying issues – and there were a few that need to be pointed out from Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout win over Tampa Bay.
Oh, you want the good stuff first? OK, let’s look at the good stuff.
♦ For as much as we’ve harped on Kris Versteeg on this site, on Twitter, on Facebook, in our own text and email threads, in your haunted dreams, etc., he’s actually been pretty decent lately, and it’s tough not to justify his place on the top line with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews – for now. Sure, you’re still going to find him blindly firing a pass to the center of the ice with no one there and he’ll stickhandle himself out of position, but he’s getting to the net and creating some chances. It’s far more than what we expected after playing like a pile of dog shit last season.
♦ Corey Crawford got hung out to dry twice – both involved Brent Seabrook, and we’ll get to that later – but he played another solid game and has done so pretty much all season. His solid play furthers my point of cocking your hand back and swiftly decking anyone who suggests anyone else is the system is better suited for his starting role.
There’s more good, and overall the ‘Hawks played rather well on both ends Tuesday, but here are some things that are concerning:
While still trying to process exactly what the hell happened there in the last three minutes of the 3rd period you’d have to be one joyless bastard to not have enjoyed tonight’s hockey game at the United Center. Seven goals with five of them coming from the home reds and even a few quality saves thrown in from both goaltenders made this a quality affair. Really helped to rinse the taste out from the six minute stretch that cost the Blackhawks a win on Friday night against the Capitals.
CHICAGO — Jeremy Morin sat on his haunches at the back of the cage. Every muscle tensed. His fists were clenched, held stiffly in front of his shins. When I happened to make eye contact with him, he let out a low growl. The young man’s rage distorted the air around him.
Bryan Bickell, on the other hand, slept soundly in the next cage over. Whenever Morin wasn’t growling, Bickell’s soft snoring filled the room. A snapshot of Bickell’s baby was taped to the wires beside his head.
Contrary to popular belief, Joel Quenneville’s “dog house” is more than a metaphor. Never before glimpsed by anyone outside the Blackhawks organization, there is a bona fide detention center. It is a small, dead-end cinder block hallway buried deep in the United Center’s bowels.
Several years ago (no one will specify when), an equipment manager heard that an animal testing lab at the University of Chicago was upgrading its enclosures. He bought seven cages destined for the scrap heap, brought them to this hallway, and bolted them to the wall. According to unconfirmed reports, Joel Quenneville smiled.
Morin and Bickell were not alone on the day I was granted access. Brad Richards occupied a spot down the hall. He sat against one side of his cage, watching pensively as a handler showed me the water bottles and feeding trays. Brandon Saad was on “part-time” – he could roam freely between practice sessions, but had to return immediately after dinner.
I tried to speak to Richards several times, but my handler wouldn’t allow it. The old timer’s eyes were hollow and doubtful. He seemed more rueful than angry.
“I think it’s good for them,” my handler was saying. “It shows them what Q’s looking for. Sometimes, they need this kind of motivation.”
It was then that I noticed small notes taped to the cage doors. They were titled “Requirements for Release.” I hurried closer to read them but each simply said “More.”
I turned to ask about the vagueness of this when Quenneville himself entered the hallway. Morin’s rage evaporated. His body uncoiled. He slumped into a heap and turned towards the wall behind him.
Quenneville merely grunted. Walking past, he motioned for me to follow. At the end of the hallway he pressed a single cinderblock, causing a hidden door to swing open with a loud hiss.
“Are you sure, Q?” asked the handler. Q said nothing. I followed him through the doorway.
We were in darkness. Then the lights snapped on and a gleaming contraption of steel, tubes, wires, gauges and switches loomed before us. My handler scurried in, rounded the machine’s base, and began pressing buttons. Steam hissed. Beeps and bloops and whirring echoed off the walls.
I asked what this monstrosity was. “Machine,” replied Quenneville.
“What does it do?” I asked.
“Machine,” said Quenneville. “Kiwi fruit.”
The machine was thirty feet tall and twice that at its widest. It took my handler several minutes to power it up. When he was done he was out of breath. He came back to stand beside me.
“Some of those gauges are hard to turn,” he said, panting.
“What is this thing?”
“It’s the Blender.”
HAWKS 6 5 – CANADIENS 1 0 [SOOOO CLOSE!]
Late Sunday night, after the shutout loss to the Winnipeg Jets, Corey Crawford [SHUTOUT] called his mother. He had an unusual request. “You and the other moms still have those minivans, right?” he asked. “Can you get everyone together and meet us at the border? We don’t want to take the plane to Montreal.”
Crawford mère was confused but she didn’t let on. Of course everyone still owned their minivans. Of course they could rustle up une petit caravanne, drive down to the New York border, and ferry a professional hockey team to its hotel. It would be a great way to spend some extra time with her son [SHUTOUT] and his teammates.
Corey [SHUTOUT] told his mom to figure out the details, except for one thing: “Shawzer said it can only be hockey moms.”
Crawford mère nearly pointed out that Mr. Shaw’s request was superfluous. There is not a mother in Châteauguay who was not, at some point, a hockey mom. Then she thought better of it. The emotions roiling Mr. Shaw were obvious, even third-hand.
[STET] Mr. Shaw needed his mom. Like the rest of his team, Mr. Shaw has been playing far below expectations. Asked to fill the “2C” role on a Stanley Cup favorite, Mr. Shaw has run into the natural limits of his game. He loses the majority of his face-offs. Defensive responsibility baffles him. Playmaking ability taunts him from just beyond his grasp. [STET]
Tonight was different. [SHUTOUT] The Blackhawks dominated the Canadiens in every respect. [Well, Except the 1st Period.] Brad Richards opened the scored [!!!!] , putting in a rebound on his eighth attempt. Patrick Kane tallied a natural hat-trick, including the game winner. Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad also joined in the fun. [Sigh. But Versteeg scored twice! My son’s faith is rewarded! Rundblad had TWO assists!]
Looking at those relaxed, happy faces in the visitor’s dressing room tonight, it seems that Crawford [SHUTOUT] was right. This team needed a few hours nestled in the supportive bosom of les mères de Châteauguay.
Captain Jonathan Toews™ [Who did score] told the press scrum that Les Mères “helped us remember why we play the game.” Captain Jonathan Toews™ channeled those memories into four points, all assists. He went on, saying “We needed to remember our love of this game, to play with our heart, not our heads. We needed to relax. Try not to force things. Canada. Moms. Hockey moms. Hockey moms Canada this game is in our blood it is character we have character goals will come goals heart.”
Patrick Kane tallied a hat trick, including the game winner. He paid Les Mères their due respect. “I think every kid growing up playing hockey . . .” he began, then trailed off. Captain Jonathan Toews™ leaned over and finished his sentence: “remembers those van rides to games, how your Hockey Mom would center you.”
“Yeah,” Kane continued. “I also watched my favorite highlights of myself, but Canada Hockey Moms.”
Asked what inspired his life coaching breakthrough, Crawford [SHUTOUT] told the press corps it was “empathy.” After the Winnipeg loss, Corey sensed the rising tide of self-doubt in his teammates. He remembered all the times growing up that he doubted his own ability. He thought about the off-season following the Blackhawks’ first round exit against Phoenix. What did he do then? He called his mom. [SHUTOUT]
[Go fuck yourself, Emelin.]
Peter Holland scored 2 minutes into the third period to put the Leafs ahead for good 3-2 on Saturday night. It was Holland’s first goal on the season and it helped to set up the real story of the night’s contest: James Reimer was sensational. Optimus Reim stopped 45 of 47 shots, including 26 (!!!) in the third period. The telling statistics to gauge the Hawks’ effectiveness in this game, though, are going 2-4 on the power play (good) and not scoring on 36 even strength shots (bad).
This game was the same story of domination without anything to show for it on the scoreboard. It’s incredibly frustrating to be on the short end of a goalie win, it’s even more frustrating when it happens seemingly every loss. The Committed Indian posted a pretty relevant tweet last night talking about the sustainability of the opposition’s SV%. And, while true, the Hawks are unfortunately not playing the same opponent every night. It’s not just one goaltender that has Chicago’s number. We’re looking at 4 or 5 in this short season so far. Yes, we should still expect the floodgates to open, but we’re 11 games in, it needs to happen soon.
Let’s break it down…
In the happy glow surrounding Marian Hossa’s 1,000th NHL point, we should really have been bracing ourselves for the Hot Takes on his HOF candidacy from the Hockey Meeja. Sure enough, The Hockey News’ Blowhard-In-Chief, Ken Campbell, was quick to get the crayons out today to let us know that he has his doubts.
Patrick Sharp’s nifty backhander in the shootout sealed the 5-4 W up for the Blackhawks last night. Good. But this game shouldn’t have gone to a shootout. Despite being about a billion times more exciting than the muck and grind 1-0 loss on Tuesday, there are still some deficiencies that Chicago needs to address.
Who cares about that crap, though? Marian Hossa scored his 1000th career point on a goal in the third period! He should be in the hall of fame, his 81 should be raised in Chicago, and there should probably be a parade for him. He’s the best. I love Marian Hossa. I hope he plays forever.
Let’s break this thing down…
Coach Q said at Tuesday’s morning skate – to paraphrase – that he wasn’t concerned about scoring. He knows his team can score. What he’s concerned about is keeping the puck out of their own net.
Scott Darling has done a pretty damned good job of that in his first two NHL starts, stopping 56 of the 58 shots he’s faced. And the goal he allowed against the Ducks? It came off of the Blackhawks’ inability to generate chances on the power play before Brent Seabrook’s blunder allowed Devante Smith-Pelly to streak down the ice on a breakaway.
If Q wants to be confident in his offense, fine. I mean, the talent is there, obviously. But don’t ignore the issues. The Blackhawks haven’t scored more than two goals in four straight games, losing three. The power play is 2 for 13 in that stretch and has converted just 18.4 percent on the season.
Furthermore, Andrew Shaw should not be tied for the team lead in goals with three. Saad, Hossa, Toews – these guys need to start putting pucks in the net. And two of Kane’s three goals came in one game – against Philadelphia. If Q thinks there aren’t problems offensively, then he needs to get his head out of his ass. It seems like the goaltenders – all three of them – have a pretty solid hold on the net when they’re in there. That would be the least of my concerns right now.
I’m posting this pretty late after the game, so everything else I have to say is in Boxing. Have at it …..
I ran into the CI crew during the first intermission at the corner bar near section 322, and Fels asked me when the last time two Chicago-area goaltenders faced each other prior to Sunday. My best guess was when Craig Anderson went up against Glenview native Al Montoya, and the last time they started against each other was Jan. 2.
The last time it actually happened in Chicago? Beats me, but Lemont native Scott Darling won Sunday’s Battle of the Chicago Suburbs by making 32 saves in a 2-1 win over the Senators and Park Ridge’s Anderson.
Darling wasn’t tested all that much, but he kept cool for a guy making his NHL debut in his hometown for the team he grew up rooting for, which I guess is kind of a big deal or something if you’re searching for a narrative. Not a bad one, but more importantly I’m happy the Blackhawks were able to come away with two points with their third-string goaltender as Corey Crawford sat out a fourth straight game.
Most of us here at CtA have discussed Crawford missing an extended period would probably be the most damning injury to the Blackhawks’ success this season. Antti Raanta and Darling have at least showed they can hold up in a small sample size, but going on much longer without Crawford, who is 3-0-1 with a 1.66 GAA and .926 save percentage (take that, haters), sure isn’t ideal.
The only goal Darling gave up was Milan Michalek’s short-handed tally in the second period, and it’s tough to blame him for it. As Brad Richards was coming to the boards to secure the puck off a ring-around, the ref inexplicably skated in front of Richards, forcing him to miss it. That sprung Alex Chiasson and Michalek, and well, you know the rest.
Jonathan Toews’ goal was the Blackhawks’ first in the second period all season, and it also gave Patrick Kane his 500th career point off the assist.
Anything else I’ve got is in this season’s first edition of Boxing. Have at it….
We mentioned in the St. Louis game recap that the Blackhawks either set up a dumb, chase-Oshie-around box-and-one type of coverage or Jonathan Toews got lost on Dmitri Jaskin’s game winner last night. Take a look at what actually happened on Jaskin’s second career NHL goal:
This is simple enough. The Blues had been making some changes: a D-pair (Bouwmeester and Pietrangelo) has just entered the surface to hold the puck in the zone, and a new forward (Jaskin) is waiting at the bench. Bouwmeester flips the puck to the net, and the Hawks have the Blues outnumbered down low 3 v 5. However, as Toews is sucked deep to the front of the crease, attacking the same forward (Patrik Berglund) as Niklas Hjalmarsson, Johnny Oduya floats comfortably behind the four battling in front. TJ Oshie is wide open, and (yes, goaltending experts) good rebound control by Antti Raanta puts the puck safely into the corner. Both wingers are properly set up at the top of the circles.
Here is where the breakdown begins. Toews, for reasons unknown, skates behind the net. The puck stays with Berglund along the near-side boards. Schwartz heads to the bench for a line change. The box-and-one seems kind of evident now, as you see Toews is nowhere close to being in position, while the other four players are in a box. Coverage is not bad here because the Blues are still in the process of making the change, leaving Toews’s responsibility safely to the outside. But then…
Berglund rims the puck around the boards. Toews shifts to the front of the net, and both Saad and Oduya chase to the far-side boards. If this is a true box-and-one, Oduya should stay at home picking up Oshie, and Saad should bust it to the boards to battle and try and get the puck out to Toews, who should be in the slot at this point. Kane properly moves towards the top of the circles to get after his point man. Berglund floats back to the front of the net. Even on a rim-around pass to the opposite point, the likelihood of Oduya tracking this puck down is low. He makes a mistake, but the opportunity to take a chance exists because it looks as if Toews is going to stay home in front of the net. The breakdown continues as neither Oduya nor Saad win the race to the puck and Pietrangelo fires it on goal…
As the puck is shot on goal, Jaskin enters the picture right off of the bench. Saad and Kane both have their point men pretty well-covered (yes, Kane is not RIGHT ON TOP OF HIS MAN, but Ol’ Jabe is not open). But now, we see Toews chase Oshie into the corner. Again, a mind-boggling play considering that Oshie has one point on the year, an accidental assist from earlier in the game, and he can’t score from there with 7.6 seconds left. He’s not dangerous in that position. Hjalmarsson has Berglund covered in front just fine, but Oduya does not pick up Jaskin.
Let’s go even further into this and say that Toews is marking Oshie. Let’s say Oduya picks up Jaskin and the play goes on the same way. TJ Oshie scores here. Toews is two steps behind the man he’s covering, and Oshie is looking to get to the front of the net. It’s bad coverage either way by the captain, and I think he and Oduya confused each other.
And here’s the goal. Jaskin is wide open. It’s clear Oduya never looked at him and tries to go back to his place in the box on D. Hjalmarsson does see him, but it’s too late when he releases from Berglund. Jaskin skated by Kane, who had an obligation to grab Bouwmeester, thinking his center would cover the slot area. Saad is in the right spot. But we see Toews, again chasing behind Oshie. This time, stick up in the air and straight legged. I’m convinced that if Jaskin doesn’t get that rebound, Oshie does. And if Raanta miraculously stops a shot here, Patrik Berglund is wide open in front too.
All in all, absolutely miserable defensive zone coverage late in the period. The Blackhawks need better from Toews in his own end. He can help make up for Oduya’s deficiencies by being in the right spots.
Dmitri Jaskin’s goal with 5 seconds left in the second period ended up being the game winner as the Blues took down the Hawks on Saturday night. Another comeback attempt in the third failed for Chicago as they couldn’t quite figure out Brian Elliott. Again.
Alright, look, St. Louis is a good team. They will make you pay for mistakes. The Blackhawks are lucky they didn’t pay for more mistakes. But the defensive tire fire that led to Jaskin’s goal can be directly attributed to Jonathan Toews chasing TJ Oshie around the zone. That freed up Johnny Oduya to attack the puck on the far side boards with Brandon Saad, but unfortunately, neither one of those guys decided to pick up Jaskin coming off the bench. Game over. With 5 seconds to play in the period, there’s no reason to play some kind of aggressive box-and-one defensive coverage that marks a guy who has one point on the season. It’s absurd. And if that wasn’t the set up, then the captain went for a swim, which he did a half dozen times last night.
Let’s break it down…
Well, at least we only have to play these guys two more times, right?
We’ve been waiting for a dominating win like this one. The Blackhawks were rewarded for being better than and outplaying the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night. Considering the ways Chicago has won this year, it was a relief to see them get out to an early lead and not let up for a full 60 minutes. It’s weird to say this after watching him give up four goals, but Steve Mason was the reason this game wasn’t a dozen to nil. The Flyers defensemen are awful and the Blackhawks made them pay.
Let’s break down this beating, shall we?
I was not prepared for this shit. I didn’t bring my golf shoes. I wanted to tell you what the Hawks did wrong, did right, and what piled up into the great big heap of action we fork over to the Hockey Gods.
But I can’t. The game was a fucking mess. Oduya scored early; Andrew Shaw waved his stick over the dot because he is supposed to do that, not because he could win a draw; Weber did a Weber on a 4 on 3; the clock tick-tocked while I muttered “What the fuck?” under my breath into some very nice cask conditioned ale; an obsequious Florida State fan cheered at the TV behind me; Toews forced a turn-over, created a break away, and potted a short-handed game winner in OT that I had to watch six times to understand; then I walked home trying to figure out why that was my reward for spending the day excited about this game.
The Hawks got away with this one. They won. They dominated possession (58.18% Fenwick For at 5v5). But they still went to OT. They still gave up a point in Conference III. You can’t do that in this division. You can’t do that with the Kings.
And that’s the thing. That’s what’s burning me, even after a long walk in the cold tonight. I still feel that puck knocking off Leddy and knuckling past Crow. I still see Drew Doughty’s chinless face in my dreams. I want the Hawks to read “It’s a marathon” op eds for losers and sneer and put on that sweater and knock the shit out of every team in the league.
I don’t want perspective. We kept our perspective all last year. Look what it got us.
If tonight’s game was the Hawk’s response to Q’s “let’s not be cute” speech, get fucking cute again right now.
And get Shaw off the dot.
Welp. The Blackhawks dominated Calgary in just about every facet of the game except for the one that counted. Credit to Jonas Hiller for keeping this game from becoming a 10-1 domination. The Flames’ netminder was fantastic, making some huge saves and getting bailed out by some Blackhawks blunders on the doorstep. If every Hawks loss this year looks like that one, we won’t have too much to complain about.
Actually, there wasn’t much to complain about other than going 1-7 on the power play. Even with that atrocious percentage, the Hawks power play had scoring chances and just couldn’t finish.
Anywho, let’s hit up some talking points and get back after it on Saturday night.
While it’s always good to see the Hawks dishing out a thumping to one of the league’s basement dwellers, it’s worth bearing in mind that this is likely going to be the worst team to visit the UC this season. Buffalo, despite some unconvincing talk about how they’re ‘not in the business of tanking’ this year, are terrible. That said, there’s enough promise in some of their young players that they’ll not be that way for all that much longer. Their time will surely come, but that time is not now.
Six different Blackhawks got their names on the scoresheet and yes, one of them was Gorilla Salad, which has surely got the droolers yelling “TOL YA SO, DAT CARCILLA IS GRATE AND HAS HEART AND GRIT”. The fact that he scored by going to the net had Edzo in raptures and likely in need of drycleaning his suit.
Anyway, there’s not an awful lot more to say about last night, so let’s get to some talking points and you can all go back to your Sunday hangover.
With the 2014-15 campaign set to start tonight the staff got together today (read: we sent an e-mail because we’re at work and needed a distraction) to try their hands at prognosticating the upcoming season. Go ahead and bookmark this so you can make fun of us in April when the Washington Capitals somehow win the President’s Trophy or something. Without further needless introduction, here’s what we came up with for the coming hockey season.
Cheer the Podcast Episode 17 (10.5.14): With the salary cap move finally taken care of Jim, Tom and Adam get together to talk about life after Nick Leddy. We can guarantee this will be the #1 Kyle Cumiskey searched podcast on iTunes by Wednesday. The Daniel Carcillo Experience is back in town and, so, well… [trails off while looking at the horizon]. But there’s NHL hockey this week so basically we spend almost an hour waffling about the 13th and 14th forwards and 3rd pairing affecting the Blackhawks Cup chances this season
Audio after the cliff.
Well then, that was quite the 48 hour period, wasn’t it? With a devastating left/right combo the Hawks’ management landed a knockout blow square on the chin of any fans who had lingering hopes that this was the most progressive organisation in hockey. Dan Carcillo is back, Nick Leddy is gone, Peter Regin is on his way out via waivers and two of the brightest prospects are back in the AHL. And now? Now the Hawks are finally cap-compliant, but at what cost?
Cheer the Podcast Episode 16, Part 2 (9.19.14): The second half of the season opening podcast concludes with a preview through the Central division. We more than live up to our reputation as the #1 Dallas Star fan on Twiiter while a new season of laughs at the expense of Winnipeg and St. Louis begins.
Audio after the jump.
Cheer the Podcast Episode 16, Part 1 (9.16.14): And, we’re back! In the first installment of a two part podcast to open the 2014-15 season the crew largely focuses on the Blackhawks and what has changed since the draft (hint: not much). The guys also welcome Tom Pauly to his first podcast as a CtA member. Topics discussed include the cap and speculation on who will go to get under it, Versteeg’s leash, which kids will move from the Rock to Chicago and a small segment on professionalism from the least professional bloggers currently covering the Blackhawks*.
Audio after the jump.
“We offered Kevin what we believed was a generous and fair contract. Unfortunately, he felt it was in his best interests to become a free agent.” – Stan Bowman
The Blackhawks issued a statement today which confirmed news that anyone who has been paying attention knew three months ago: Kevin Hayes will not sign his entry level contract with the Blackhawks. The team will receive a compensatory 2nd round draft pick (54th overall) in the 2015 NHL Draft, which is thought to be quite deep by people who seem to know that sort of thing. Hayes will be eligible to sign with another team at midnight.
It’s common knowledge that Hayes desires to play in the NHL immediately. Accordingly, he’s been linked to teams such as Calgary, Florida, Colorado (laughable bottom six) and the suddenly depleted New York Rangers. One would think teams like Edmonton (who would be insane to start running the clock on Leon Draisaitl) and Vancouver would be interested as well. Most of the scuttlebutt seems to focus around Calgary and Florida, though. If you believe Hayes just wants to play, Calgary is probably the most logical destination due to the ample number of jobs up for grabs and the presence of his college flame, Johnny Gaudreau. Many will tell you that Gaudreau made Kevin Hayes at Boston College and it’s not hard to imagine why Hayes would like to ride that train as far as it’ll take him.
Prepare yourselves for some rampant speculation: we’re into August, the Cruellest Month for Hockey fans (with apologies to TS Eliot) and there is very little happening. However, what we do know for sure is that,somewhere between now and the puck drop in Dallas on the 2nd of October, there is going to have to be a change to the Hawks roster.
As of this writing, Chicago are $2,216,795 over the Salary cap (all figures from Capgeek). This count includes Teuvo Teravainen’s $894,167 but even if he starts in Rockford and someone like MANSHITTER or Nordstrom comes up instead, the Hawks will still be over the cap by nearly $2 million. So, clearly, something is going to have to happen and by far the most likely (but not the only, as we shall see) outcome is that a player gets moved to free up the neccesary cap room.
Which leads us to the question, of course: who is it gonna be?
Let’s have some wild guesses that will doubtless be proved utterly wrong, shall we?