THAT’S the way you start a road trip, fellas.
With clowns and elephants occupying the United Center, the ‘Hawks began their annual Circus Trip with a 5-1 thumping of hated Vancouver, giving the Canucks a bit of payback for the ass-whipping they handed them in Chicago.
So, how do you counter the league’s top-ranked power play unit? Don’t give them any power play chances. Seems easy enough. Both ‘Hawks penalties came on coincidental minors, and the Canucks never had the man advantage all night.
Hockey Broad and I traded comments on the Circus Trip Roundtable, with both of us agreeing the ‘Hawks needed to stay out of the box with the penalty kill being less-than-stellar recently. Mission accomplished.
Next up is the Calgary Flames on Friday, and I’ll be watching that game from some sports book in Las Vegas, as I’m headed out for a little vacation. Jim will have your recaps while I’m away, so the next Boxing you’ll get will be after next Wednesday’s visit to San Jose.
Some quick thoughts first …
♦ A lot of what we covered in our roundtable was exactly what happened tonight. We discussed how Duncan Keith would step up with Brent Seabrook out, and he did – minus his awful pass which led to a breakaway. Special teams needed to improve, and it did. Corey Crawford’s recent struggles? Eh, fuck those. Lots of good all around.
♦ Speaking of that, Marian Hossa is just sick. And it was also nice to see him get into a little scuffle. He’s so reserved at times that you wonder if he’s just floating around the ice without a care in the world. But for him to show that emotion, everyone better watch the fuck out.
♦ Crawford – what a night. Saw the puck well throughout the game, and he made a hell of a save on Jannik Hansen’s short-handed breakaway when Keith farted the puck away.
♦ Vancouver’s lone goal appeared to start when Nick Leddy made a poor decision to pinch when one member of the Ambiguously Incestuous Duo had a clear advantage to a loose puck. Sedin lofted it over Leddy along the boards to his brother (shocking), who then found Hansen with a nice pass through Niklas Hjalmarsson. Eh well, I guess.
♦ Speaking of the Sedins, I know that the shit I give them around here is largely biased due to the rivalry. But really, truthfully, honestly, how do Canucks fans cheer for these dirty, cheap assholes? Whichever red-headed step child shoved his stick into Crawford’s crotch as Crawford held the puck near his neck waiting for an obvious freeze should be tarred and feathered and not allowed to see an NHL rink for 10 games. Truly classless, much like their constant diving and shithole antics that make me wonder how these shitheads don’t get called for more penalties. It really, really sucks that they’re good hockey players, because they really disgrace the game at times.
♦ Glad Steve Montador decided he wanted to be Gordie Howe. He’s already halfway to his career high in goals.
The rest is in Boxing …Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.
You had to believe that after the 6-2 punishment the Vancouver Canucks gave the Blackhawks back on November 6th, all the sports media in B.C. probably spend the next several days pounding their chests and stomping around like the kid in the teen angst movies that ends up getting beaten like a mule, spit on and run up a flagpole for good measure.
Hope you had your fun while it lasted, fellas. Now it’s our turn. Time to go into their rink, humiliate them in front of their slack-jawed fans, then take a meatloaf-sized crap at center ice and climb into the limousine.
Myself, Jim and Tim decided to touch on a few issues heading into the annual Circus Trip. Three idiots, three questions. Get some.
1) Just when Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith seemed to be regaining their form together, Seabrook goes down with an injury which may keep him out as the ‘Hawks embark on the annual Circus Trip. How will Seabrook’s absence affect the defensive corps, and who will you be looking for to step up?
Jim: Ugh. Seabrook going down sure took a bit of the fun out of an otherwise fantastic Sunday for Chicago sports fans. The timing of this is fucking horrible and certainly dampens the outlook as the Hawks head out on the Oregon Trail. Seabrook brings the mean back on the Hawks blue line and he certainly would have been nice to have in the Vancouver and Anaheim games – two teams which bring it physically. God only knows what this does to the pairings. Does Q revert back to Keith and Leddy, or does he let Monty step up into the first pair and keep Hjammer and Leddy together? Hjammer is going to have to be the physical force back there and Nick Leddy is going to have to continue to eat up important minutes (27 against Edmonton). The biggest impact will be on Duncan Keith. #2 will be asked to pick up the load (especially on the PK), much as Seabrook did when he went down. I think Duncs will be equal to the task. The absolute worst part of all of this? You guess it.….more John Scott. Shoot me now.
Tim: I think we saw a decent picture of how this group will adjust to the absence of one of its leaders with the Keith hand injury. That’s a very positive sign. And just like in those games, I hope Coach Q has the sense to dress 6 qualified defensemen, instead of John Scott.
As for who needs to step up, the name we have heard precious little of so far this season is Niklas Hjalmarsson. Granted, at least he isn’t getting nightly delay-of-game penalties anymore. But he needs to make more of an impact out there on a nightly basis. So far he’s been largely invisible.
Bartl: Seabrook stepped up when Keith was out, now Keith is going to have to do the same with his rekindled partner sidelined. While Hammer quite obviously will need to step up his game, that’s something we’ve known for quite some time now. The defensive deficiencies lie with Scott, Lepisto and/or O’Donnell to play smart, sound hockey. While that those qualities waived bye-bye to Scott a long time ago, it’s the other two I’m concerned about. Neither have been able to crack the lineup ahead of that elephant on skates, and having to rely in decent minutes from either of them racks my brain. Aside from that Montador likely won’t be seeing as much time at forward given he’ll need to play more minutes on D, and taking away a hot stick from a clicking offense is rarely good.
♦ First things first – Brad Richards is apparently dating Olivia Munn. And here you thought he should have stayed in Dallas…
♦ A big congratulations to Eddie Belfour. The Eagle was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame yesterday along with Joe Nieuwendyk, Mark Howe and Doug Gilmore. Belfour amassed 484 carrer wins (201 in Chicago) with the Blackhawks, Sharks, Stars, Maple Leafs and Panthers and ranks #10 all time in career shutouts with 76. He won a Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars in 1999 and a NCAA Championship in 1987 with North Dakota. Belfour was last Blackhawk to win the Calder Trophy (1991) before Patrick Kane (2007). He remains the most recent Blackhawk to win a Vezina, which he took home in both 1991 and 1993. Losing Eddie was tough, but at least the Blackhawks got Ulf Dahlen in return.
The Edmonton Oilers are going to be playoff contenders, though the jury is still out on when that time will come. The Blackhawks showed them glimpses of what it’s going to take to get there.
The ‘Hawks captured a 6-3 victory Sunday night at the United Center, sending themselves off on a good note heading into the annual Circus Trip – kind of.
Brent Seabrook hit the boards hard and suffered the always-vague lower-body injury which could prevent him from traveling with the team for its six-game jaunt. Q said Seabrook will be evaluated more Tuesday and is going with a “day-to-day” amateur diagnosis.
This could present a multitude of problems for a defense already dressing John Scott. The onus will fall on Sami Lepisto and Sean O’Donnell to fill the void left by the absence of one of the NHL’s best defensemen. That means two players who couldn’t even crack the lineup ahead of a no-talent gorilla will have to attempt to do enough of a Seabrook impression to help anchor the blue line.
I guess we’ll find out more soon if that’s the case …
♦ Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: These kids are good. Hall took advantage of mistakes by both Duncan Keith and Nick Leddy to win the puck and create scoring chances with hard rushes to the net, and also was robbed by Corey Crawford after putting himself into a scoring position in the slot. Eberle’s goal was a pretty move just after coming out of the box, and RNH showed exactly why he was the No. 1 overall pick and stuck with the big club.
The Oil remind me greatly of the 2007-08 Blackhawks – Lots of young talent and not enough veteran support which left them teetering on the brink of breaking out. Nikolai Khabibulin was in net – for 49 starts, anyway – for those ‘Hawks, who got it together the next year when Khabi put together a 25-8-7 season. While Edmonton won’t be getting home-ice advantage in the postseason no matter Khabi’s solid play so far, I fully expect the Oilers to be contending for the No. 8 seed if they can manage to avoid 2-4 road trips like this one down the line. The talent is there.
♦ The ‘Hawks moved to 7-1-2 at home, earning 16 of a possible 20 points at the UC. Part of last season’s shitfest had to do with the fact the Blackhawks were less-than-stellar on home ice, even when the schedule seemingly was doing them favors. Not the case this season – so far.
♦ Another power-play goal. I think I’ll wet my pants.
Onto Boxing….Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.
There are only two names you need to know to understand the meteoric performance of the Edmonton Oilers this young season. Both of these names have taken the team, and the league, by near-complete surprise; and in one case, has most people scratching their heads.
The names are: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Nikolai Khabibulin. The 18-year-old rookie and the inconsistent netminder 20 years his senior have been the catalysts for Edmonton rising near the top of the Western Conference standings.
The Edmonton Oilers’ patience has paid off. They come into the United Center tonight sitting atop the Northwest Division, and eager for some payback against a Chicago team that has manhandled them over the past several years.
Now THAT was a convincing victory. Despite a shaky start to the game, the Blackhawks came to play last night and easily took care of the Flames. The Blackhawks got outstanding performances from Marian Hossa (shocking), Duncan Keith and Ray Emery. The result was a 4-1 victory and a spot all alone in 1st place in the Western Conference. Duncan Keith appeared in his 500th NHL game and opened the scoring in the first after a rebound that hoped over Daniel Carcillo’s stick found its way to Keith who buried it home. The goal may not have happened had Miikka Kiprusoff decided to get up and get back into position after going down to make the first save, but that’s his decision. The Hawks went up 2-0 after a Brent Seabrook drive found its way through Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews traffic out front of Kipper on the power play. The Hawks PP was 1/4 on the night (cause for celebration). The game got interesting for a few minutes halfway through the 3rd after Olli Jokinen ripped a wrist shot over the blocker of Emery. Curtis Glencross provided a fantastic screen in front of Razor, who had no chance to stop the shot. The Hawks put it away after Boss Hoss set up Viktor Stalberg with a pass you’d have to see to believe. It was nice to see Stalberg finish on that one after missing on a couple of chances earlier in the game. He probably could have had 3 or 4 goals had things gone his way. The Blackhawks finished things off after Kane potted an empty netter. Overall, a good effort by the Hawks on home-ice. Their record at the UC improved to 6-1-2 and they have a chance to make it 7-1-2 tomorrow against an Edmonton team who seems to be coming back to earth after a very impressive start to the season.
Remember a few years ago when the Calgary looked like they were going to become a big rival of the Blackhawks? The Hawks faced the Mike Kennan-led Flames in their first playoff series since 2002 in the opening round of the 2008-2009 postseason. The series (which the Hawks won 4-2) started with Marty Havlat scoring just 12 seconds into overtime in Game 1 and ended with the Hawks knocking out the Flames 4-1 in Calgary in Game 6. The Hawks went on to lose in the Western Conference final that year to Detoilet but won the Stanley Cup the following season. They have appeared in 7 playoff series since defeating the Flames. Calgary has not been to the postseason since – their last postseason goal was scored by criminal Todd Bertuzzi. Sucks to be them.
Yup, it’s been all downhill for the Flames since that point and things aren’t getting any better. Jarome Iginla continues to be one of the best hockey players of all-time, yet is still inexplicably surrounded by dogshit. One of the great mysteries of all time will be why the Flames never got this man a true center to play with. The Flames are 6-7-1 coming into the game tonight and are coming off a 3-0 loss to a surprisingly good Minnesota Wild team. Nothing about this Flames team is special (except Iginla), their PK is right in the middle of the pack and their PP only converts on 15% of its chances (a number the Hawks pathetically envy). The Flames hold the distinction of having the worst FO% in the league (46%) and won just 35% of their draws against the Wild on Tuesday night. One bright spot for Calgary tonight will be their 2007 1st round pick Mikael Backlund appearing in his 1st game of the season after missing time with a broken pinky finger. Apparently, Backlund will center a line with Iginla on it – lucky him!
Couldn’t say it much better than Dennis Green during his famous rant.
The BJs showed us and the Blackhawks exactly what we expected: That they’re a dog shit team which the ‘Hawks needed to steamroll after some sub par performances recently.
The Blackhawks dominated every aspect of their 6-3 thumping of Columbus on Thursday night, and they’ll head into back-to-back home games this weekend on a positive note.
Just a couple things before Boxing …
♦ Q said he hoped the ‘Hawks came out “angry” tonight after the past couple of farts they left on the ice. Whether it was anger or the overall stench of the Blue Jackets that had the ‘Hawks rolling, I don’t care. Take the easy two points and see if you can institute all the good done over the weekend at home.
♦ The Blackhawks have given up 13 goals over their last three games. Eight of them have come while they were shorthanded. The penalty kill now sits at 76.5 percent – bad enough for 23rd in the league. That’s not exactly neat.
♦ Hopefully John Scott missed the team flight and is getting in some sort of trouble in Columbus so he’s placed in jail and we don’t have to worry about him dressing this weekend.
♦ Of the Blackhawks’ 50 goals this season, only two have come from defensemen (Steve Montador’s goal Thursday doesn’t count since he was playing forward at the time) and both have come from Nick Leddy. I’m surprised by this, though that may mean the ‘Hawks aren’t taking their shots from the point to get the puck on net to create some more chances and “garbage” goals. If they were doing that, you’d think a few more would have gotten through by now. I mean, we’re 16 games into the season …
Enjoy Boxing …
It was less than one week ago that I was typing, “The Blackhawks are in first place in the Western Conference…” A lot can change in a week, huh? Not that we’ve dropped too far in the standings, but if we keep playing like we have been we’ll find ourselves battling the Columbus Blue Jackets for the coveted spot in the Western Conference basement. And wow, is Columbus ever in the basement.
This is the second meeting between these two teams, and I wrote in the first game preview that Columbus had a 1-8-1 record. Well, not a lot has changed: they have added 1 win and 3 losses. They are the proud owners of 5 (that’s “five”) points. As a matter of rub-it-in trivia, even if they had twice as many points, they would still be in last place in the West.
If you were wondering why there are so many teams bunched up so closely at the top of the Western Conference standings, it’s because every other team has been beating on Columbus like a red-headed step-pinata.