Firstly, I’d like to thank the fellas over at Hockee Night – Forklift, CT and Morph – for putting together an awesome fundraiser over at Galway Bay last night. Not only are they fun to drink and watch hockey with, they’re also fantastic people.
And because I did my share of drinking – I mean, they would have been insulted if I didn’t get my money’s worth – this probably will be the shortest recap in this site’s history.
Few things are more frustrating than watching the Blackhawks struggle to get one past Roberto Luongo, but such was the case last night.
On the bright side, the one that did get past him – Patrick Kane’s tally off a beautiful feed from Andrew Shaw in the third period – gave the ‘Hawks another standings point. Two straight shootout losses won’t blow anyone’s skirt up after six straight wins, but how many of you would complain if you were told the Blackhawks would be 6-0-2 after their first eight games?
Tonight, it’s onto Calgary to try and ended a four-game losing streak at the Saddledome and capture two points with Ray Emery in net. But first, some thoughts from Friday night’s game…
For the 84th consecutive season, the Chicago Blackhawks will not go undefeated. Darn.
While the shootout loss is disappointing, the all-important standings point – they’ve earned 13 out of a possible 14 – came with it. And on top of it, the ‘Hawks had a very solid all-around effort to begin a six-game road trip – at the end of which they’ll have already played nearly half of their road games for the entire season.
Lots of good in this one. The ‘Hawks made it clear they were going to pressure Josh Harding and the Minnesota defense from the get-go, and it led to a goal from Andrew Shaw that was made possible by Bryan Bickell’s rush to the net.
Jonathan Toews then caught Harding five-hole from the left wing, forcing Niklas Backstrom into action early.
The penalty kill was stellar again, snuffing out another 3-on-5 disadvantage and four short-handed situations in all, including one to end the third period to preserve the point. Oh, and Corey Crawford. He made three saves before the ‘Hawks lost Matt Cullen on the game’s first goal and can’t be blamed for raging douchebag Cal Clutterbuck’s redirection in the second period.
Then there was this save on the 5-on-3:
While the ‘Hawks obviously controlled possession for most of the final two periods – the Wild had only two shots in the third – most of their shots weren’t off quality chances. The aggressiveness and bull-rushing of the net we saw early on faded and Backstrom wasn’t challenged to make many tough saves.
Though Patrick Sharp hit the crossbar in regulation and again in the shootout, I don’t think he played his best game. He seemed a step slow all night, and he was flat-footed when Mikko Koivu, I believe, skated into the zone right past Sharp, forcing him to take what could have been a costly penalty at the end of the third.
And Dave Bolland lost 14 of 20 faceoffs. Holy shitball does that need to stop, and fast. That’s way too many possessions behind given up for the second line.
On to Boxing. Right-click the image and select ‘view’ to enlarge…
Never have the Blackhawks won their first six games. And there’s little better than watching them set that franchise record by beating hated Detroit – in overtime, no less.
Nick Leddy’s tally in OT was the difference in a 2-1 victory that seemed far-fetched given the way the ice was tilted for most of the contest. Luckily Corey Crawford was on our side.
Crawford and some stellar penalty killing helped snuff out Detroit’s six power plays, which including a 5-on-3 in the second period. Between Michael Frolik being extremely active on the kill, Crow making some tough saves and the Wings shooting themselves in the foot, Detroit’s in ability to get more than one through on numerous chances proved to be the difference.
– This is the shit part of only playing Western Conference foes in a shortened season: Every OT game hands over a point that could prove to be crucial in the division race and battle for playoff seeding. With Detroit unable to find its scoring touch, a regulation victory was there for the taking, but …
– … they looked completely gassed in the third period on the end of a back-to-back. That’s understandable, especially given they played most of the second period shorthanded. Though it’s frustrating to give up a point to the Red Wings, the flip side of that is the ‘Hawks got two points when they didn’t appear they’d even snatch one at times.
– I think I’ve figured out why Pavel Datsyuk is so annoying. It’s because he doesn’t do anything to annoy me except consistently play well against my favorite team while wearing that uniform. That’s it. Nothing else. He’s one of the best players in the world, does it with class and has a game I wished he had played all these years wearing the Indian head. When he went 1-on-4 through the ‘Hawks with sick puck-handling before nearly beating Crawford with a backhand, I about shit myself.
– Speaking of Crawford, his second-period performance was fantastic. To face a 3 on 5 and five other short-handed situations on the end of a back-to-back and help turn them all away can’t be discounted, even if he didn’t even see the third-period goal that slipped through five-hole. Again I’ll ask: What more do you want from him at this point?
– Now comes a six-game road trip, beginning with new-look Minnesota on Wednesday. We’ll be back to preview that journey, which includes paying a visit to those assholes in Vancouver on Friday and the Feb. 5 tilt with undefeated San Jose.
Now for another edition of Boxing. Right-click on the image and click view to enlarge…
As a fan, you can be forgiven for looking past last night’s game with the most insignificant hockey club since the California Golden Seals to the tilt with 100% unmitigated evil this evening.
The game last night may not have been very fun or interesting, but it was the fifth straight victory for the ‘Hawks since the season began, matching a feat not seen round these parts since the 1971-1972 season. Tonight, the Blackhawks can make history by making it six straight.
But these goddamn Red Wings can always be counted on to spoil a good time, can’t they? Remember the banner raising ceremony opening night in 2010-2011? You sure do. Contests like the game tonight are what these rivalries are built on. You probably don’t want to miss this one.
Despite their fairly impotent (2-2-0) start, Detroit still possess all sorts of weapons the ‘Hawks will have to account for up front. The combination of Henrik Zetterberg and Damien Brunner will be dangerous, Pavel Datsyuk is going to be Pavel fucking Datsyuk, Johan Frazen will punch Patrick Kane in the head while moving slowly around the ice and guys like Dan Cleary, Mikael Samuelsson, Justin Abdelkader and Todd Bertuzzi will aggravate the living hell out of you. These aren’t ’07-’08 Red Wings – but they aren’t the Blue Jackets, either. If you let them fuck around in your zone, you will pay.
The issues with Detroit this year are almost entirely on their blue line (and that’s before you even look at all the injuries). After Niklas Kronwall, they’ll depend on Ian White, Kyle Quincy and Jonathan Ericsson (who returns tonight). If that isn’t awful enough, White and Ericsson have been hurt and they’ve been forced to lean heavily on youngster Brendan Smith and some guy named Brian Lashoff. How bad a defense are we talking here? Kent Huskins improved it. Q’s message to the ‘Hawks forwards need not be complicated tonight – get the puck deep and keep it there. It shouldn’t be a problem with this, uh, “defense” that Mike Babcock rolls out this season.
While Q has said he doesn’t like tinkering with the lines while the ‘Hawks are winning, one can reasonably expect the return of Michael Rosival and Brandon Bollig – which means you’re likely to get a Bollig-Jordin Tootoo bout at some point. As of this writing no starting goaltender had been announced, but with the Blackhawks off until Wednesday it stands to logic that Q gives Corey Crawford the crease again. It’s imperative the Blackhawks roll four lines and six defenseman tonight. Detroit has been off since Friday and the Blackhawks had to work a little harder than any of us expected in Ohio last night. There’s no need to overload anyone in the early going here, even if you are reaching for history.
You can probably disregard Chicago being the better team on paper. It’s the Blackhawks. It’s the Red Wings. It’s going to be a good game. Enjoy it.
Not exactly the demeanor in which we’d like to see a win in Columbus but no one is going to turn down two points, short season or not. The Hawks came out with cement skates in the first ten minutes of the game being outshot 8 to 1 before finally breaking open the smelling salts. Mark Letestu’s goal came after two Crawford saves. Keith, Seabrook or Dave Bolland need to clear the crease in that instance. Patrick Kane made a nice play at his own blue line to evade a pinching Jacket defender and was then aggressive in his play to the net. He wasn’t able to beat Mason but left a juicy rebound for Dave Bolland who was wise to follow 88 to the net. Tied after the first 20 minutes.
The 2nd period was mostly controlled by the Hawks despite being unable to cash in on 2 Jacket penalties. Bryan Bickell made a nice play to prevent a clearing attempt and then went straight to the net to provide a nice screen/tip in front of Steve Mason for the Hawks 2nd goal. They would lead the rest of the game thanks in large part to a botched interference call that disallowed a Columbus tying goal on a powerplay later in the period.
Mark Letestu scored the early goal for the Jackets but he’s also responsible for the dagger that won the game. A failed clearing attempt that was picked off by Patrick Kane who then set up the Captain for a pretty goal. Two games in a row the Captain has converted a big goal in the final frame. The Jackets made it close late in the 3rd on a goal that was the result of a 2nd lost board battle by the Hawks top defensive pairing. On the plus side, it’s a positive to see Q throw out both Toews and Kruger for the defensive zone draw that preceded the goal. It was one of the few faceoff loses for the Captain tonight.
Five straight to start the 48.
- Speaking of powerplays, it’d be great if CSN Chicago could show us how much is time is left in a shorthanded situation. Your graphic guys should not be ITT Tech graduates. Please and thank you.
- Corey Crawford was excellent tonight and we may as well continue to give Quenneville credit in this shortened season for his roster decisions as they’ve worked out well. Brookbank’s limited minutes and effectiveness were put out against an inferior team so that (hopefully) Rozie skates tonight against Detroit. Same thing can be said about Crawford as he was needed to make some saves that I think it’s safe to say would likely have gotten past Ray Emery. The saves after Patrick Kane’s turnover on a 2nd period powerplay stick out big time tonight.
- 0 for 4 on the powerplay. It was bound to happen at some point. 5 for 5 on the kill, however, is great to see from a much improved penalty kill unit (even if they did get lucky but we’ll get to that later). Let’s try not to march to the box that much and test our luck though.
- Good on Jamal Mayers to stick up for Kruger after Jared Boll ran him into the boards. The instigation penalty, not so much. Especially in a 2-1 hockey game. Nothing wrong with finding Boll on his next shift and settling the score at that point.
- Hawks caught a MAJOR break on the goal that was wiped away. That wasn’t interference on Crawford and it sure as hell wasn’t a high stick. Take ‘em when you get ‘em.
- Chicago was outhit 24-12 tonight. They won. Get used to it.
- Dave Bolland’s double minor was inexcusable. Good on Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp to negate half that but if the Rat is gonna rat, he needs to do it in a less debilitating way. This is also a reason why the Jackets are top candidates for the #1 pick as well. How do you blow a 4 minute powerplay in the 3rd down two goals?
- Could be worse. We could have lost to the Wizards tonight like the other United Center tenant. Onto the AARP Wings squad tomorrow.
Go ahead and accuse me of looking past a team and jinxing the Blackhawks but I’m not buying it. The Columbus Blue Jackets, ever the doormat of the Central division, did little to improve their already pathetic hockey team during the lockout. Gone is Rick Nash to the Rangers in return for Brandon Dubinsky, who many wanted in an Indian Head during Chicago’s struggles to fill their gap on the second line down the middle. Dubinsky has yet to dent the scoresheet in four games in a Columbus uniform; in fact the two NHL ready players the Jackets received for Nash have a total of one point through the young season.
Make no mistake about it, the Blackhawks should walk out of Nationwide Arena today with two points and not think twice.
Through four games, the Blackhawks have won in seemingly every way possible.
They’ve dominated (Kings), simply outscored the opposition in a game with shoddy goaltending (Coyotes), jumped out to a big lead and held on for dear life (Blues) and battled back from a multiple-goal deficit – the latter being a 3-2 overtime win over Dallas on Thursday night.
Patrick Kane, who continues to play out of his mind, made a beautiful backhand pass to a waiting Marian Hossa for the winner to complete the comeback from two goals down.
The ‘Hawks have won their first four for the first time since the 1973-74 season and aren’t showing any signs of slowing down. I saw a tweet during the game that the Blackhawks were showing signs of fatigue due to the condensed schedule, and I don’t believe that’s true for a minute.
Sure, Michal Rozsival farted away a puck in his own zone that led to an easy goal that put the ‘Hawks behind 2-0, and Patrick Sharp wasn’t exactly thinking straight when he blindly fired the puck to center ice that led to a late penalty that could’ve cost the ‘Hawks the game. But tired? I saw jump all night.
And how good were the special teams? The Blackhawks went 3 for 7 with the man advantage, marking the first time they’ve scored three power-play goals since going 4 for 9 in a 4-2 win over Calgary on Dec. 5, 2010.
We saw very little standing around and plenty of puck movement, as evidenced by Sharp’s feed to Jonathan Toews for the equalizer in the third, followed by the Kane-to-Hossa masterpiece.
– Corey Crawford was taking a beating on social media after allowing that first goal, and then again after Duncan Keith saved his ass at the end of the second period. While there aren’t many excuses for letting that puck trickle through his legs on the second instance, Crawford deserves credit for making the initial stop with a man bearing down on him full speed on a breakaway. He stopped a penalty shot and made a key save on a redirected puck in OT with the ‘Hawks a man down. Not sure what else everyone is expecting from the man.
– Speaking of Keith, he played a fabulous game tonight and has been extremely solid through four. Brent Seabrook on the other hand? He’s just not looking very sharp yet. The penalty shot was his fault after he took his eye off the puck and let it slip under his stick.
– Nick Leddy is playing good hockey, and he would’ve gotten much more praise tonight had Hossa been able to beat Kari Lehtonen – who stood on his head most of the night – off Leddy’s great feed. Leddy’s one-man charge into the zone on the power play was a thing of beauty, and his pass to Hossa was a great find. More of this, please.
Onto Boxing. Click to enlarge…
It’s not rocket surgery. Getting off to a good start in a season shortened because of children’s antics is paramount. And after three games, the Blackhawks have done what’s necessary.
Sweep a back-to-back against the defending Stanley Cup champions and the team that knocked them out of the playoffs? Check.
Dominate the majority of a home-opener versus an annoying division rival? Check.
It’s difficult to say “There’s a long way to go” when we’re already at the 45-game mark. And if you did, it’s really only half-true anyway. While 45 games means there’s plenty of time for the standings to shift, it also means there’s little margin for error if a team isn’t on pace with the rest of the conference’s top eight from the get-go.
Here’s a look at the 2011-12 playoff picture after each team played 48 games:
*Detroit – 32-15-1 – 65
*Vancouver – 29-15-4 – 62
*San Jose – 28-14-6 – 62
St. Louis – 29-13-6 – 64
Chicago – 29-13-6 – 64
Nashville – 28-16-4 – 60
Los Angeles – 23-15-10 – 56
Minnesota – 23-18-7 – 53
Colorado – 25-21-2 – 52
Dallas – 25-21-2 – 52
Calgary – 22-20-6 – 50
Phoenix – 21-19-8 – 50
Anaheim – 18-23-7 – 43
Edmonton – 18-26-4 – 40
Columbus – 13-29-6 – 32
*Rangers – 31-12-5 – 67
*Boston – 32-14-2 – 66
*Washington – 26-19-3 – 55
Philadelphia – 29-14-5 – 63
Pittsburgh – 27-17-4 – 58
Ottawa – 26-16-6 – 58
New Jersey – 26-19-3 – 55
Florida – 22-15-11 – 55
Toronto – 24-19-5 – 53
Winnipeg – 22-20-6 – 50
Tampa Bay – 21-23-4 – 46
Montreal – 18-21-9 – 45
Islanders – 19-22-7 – 45
Buffalo – 19-24-5 – 43
Carolina – 16-24-8 – 40
Take a quick look at the final standings. While 15 of the 16 playoff teams remained the same (Phoenix replaced Minnesota, we’ll get to that in a minute), the playoff matchups were much different.
If last season ended after 48 games, Detroit would have ended up with home-ice advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs, starting with a Minnesota team in the midst of what would turn out to be a horrible collapse.
Instead, Detroit ended up as the No. 5 seed and went on the road to start its series with Nashville, which it lost in six games. Rather than Minnesota parlaying its hot start into a playoff berth, it fell completely apart and ended up 12th in the conference.
On the other end of the spectrum, Phoenix would have been headed home after a rough 48 – three games before it began an 11-0-1 tear that propelled it back into contention. The Coyotes wound up winning the Pacific and making the franchise’s first appearance in the conference finals.
Save for Philadelphia-Pittsburgh, each first-round playoff matchup would have been different in both conferences in a shortened season.
Simply put, a quick start leaves less time to blow it (Minnesota). And if you struggle off the bat, there’s less time to make an epic run and recover (Phoenix). It’s not groundbreaking, but important to note nonetheless.
If last season ended after 48, we wouldn’t have had to endure that shitty nine-game losing streak that began with Game 49 and contributed to the Blackhawks dropping to the No. 6 seed to face a red-hot division winner in the first round.
It’s not so unfathomable to be discussing how their 3-0-0 start to this season is a solid move toward a nice playoff standing by shortened-season’s end. Yes, there’s plenty of time left and a bitch of a six-game road trip upcoming.
Still, there’s no reason to dismiss how far the Hawks’ fast start can take them in the grand scheme of things. But if the ‘Hawks fart away nine games again with little time to recover, it could be the difference in hosting the opening playoff game to watching the postseason on their expensive couches.
First things’s first: I can’t begin to explain how excited I am to be doing Boxing again. Sitting in Section 326, Row 12, Seat 9 sporting my Duncan Keith No. 3 Michigan State sweater made me forget about everything that transpired over the last six months. It felt great to be back watching hockey at the United Center, and I can’t wait to get back there Sunday.
As for the game, the Blackhawks’ onslaught of first-period odd-man rushes yielded only a single goal when Patrick Kane put a sweet move on Brian Elliott to complete a 3-on-0 as the Blues napped after a turnover. Somehow, after seemingly dominating the majority of the period, the ‘Hawks were outshot 9-7 and headed into the second period short a man after Marian Hossa took a tripping penalty with less than 20 seconds left.
Goals from Brent Seabrook in the second (originally credited to Keith) and Viktor Stalberg in the third were enough to hold off St. Louis, which made things interesting with a pair of goals in the final period.
– The Blackhawks are off to a 3-0-0 start, which would seem pretty arbitrary during an 82-game season. With this campaign already being at the 45-game mark, earning six quick points could go a long way. And if you told me they’d be unbeaten after facing Los Angeles, Phoenix and St. Louis to open the season, I would have asked who replaced your sanity with the optimism of Richard Simmons.
– So, it looks like the Kane trade talk can pipe down for, like, another couple days, eh?
– Corey Crawford was damn good. He made the saves he was expected to make, and then plenty more. He snuffed out St. Louis’ comeback attempt when the momentum shifted and played big during the Blues’ final burst to end the game. There shouldn’t be any question that Crawford gets the start Thursday in Dallas.
– Brandon Saad shook off a slow start and questionable decision-making to have a second solid game. He seemed very timid in the first period but by the third he was very aggressive getting into the Blues’ zone.
– I know I need to accept that Joel Quenneville will continue to dress someone for the sole purpose of him playing roughly five meaningless minutes, but why Brandon Bollig deserves to wear an NHL sweater at this point is beyond me. I mean Christ, even the Blues scratched Ryan Reaves.
Let’s get to the season’s first Boxing, including my channeling into the mind of Jonathan Toews. There’s one image for the summary, another for the box score. Click on each to enlarge….