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.
Like the Blackhawks, the Ottawa Senators sit in sixth place in their conference. The difference is, Ottawa has won 6 of their last 7; Chicago… hasn’t. The Senators are on a tear, and they’re looking to repeat their filibuster of Boston when the Blackhawks take the ice tonight.
What has caused this surge? The main reason for it is a name you likely have never heard before: Erik Karlsson.
Anyone who has paid attention to my moan-and-groan missives and incessant grousing over the last 2 years with Cheer The Anthem knows that I am one of the most vocal opponents of the “lower body injury” non-disclosure standard. It’s ridiculous, it’s insulting to fans, and it prevents a vitally important function of the media at large: namely, being the watchdog on behalf of the fans and players to ensure that the teams aren’t rushing players back on to the ice before they are fully healed.
When I get a bee in my bonnet like this, I go hunting in search of evidence to support my conclusion — like any hot-headed blogger would do. Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up! But occasionally, I find out that I’m wrong. This is one of those times.
Under the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996, it is a violation of Federal law for a sports team to disclose the health information of one of their players (pronounced: “employees”) to anyone without the employee’s consent.
So if we want full disclosure, guess what? Too bad.
For those of you who are able to endure the lengthy explanation of the specifics, there are some idiosyncrasies about this law as it pertains to sports teams below the jump…
Both Ed and I had planned to get this to you before Johnny Oduya suited up in a game, but his schedule dealing with the trade deadline and a game that same night kept him from getting back to me at lightening speed. I know, how dare him focus on his beat writer job for a team currently fighting for a playoff spot.
Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press again was gracious enough to take time out to help us get a look into Oduya’s time in Winnipeg. He played his first game with the Blackhawks last night after Stan Bowman sent a second- and third-round pick for the upcoming unrestricted free agent at Monday’s deadline, playing nearly 20 minutes.
Here’s Oduya’s career breakdown:
Shortly after sending my his answers while I was sitting in my seat at the UC, Ed sent me an email saying, “Ouch. Looks like Oduya was a -3 in that period.” Luckily, it got better.
Here’s what Ed had to say, and thanks again to him for taking the time…
I guess that’s what you get when pitting a struggling team against another whose name isn’t even grammatically correct.
Luckily for the Blackhawks, they got their suck out of the way in the first period before Toronto melted down and allowed the ‘Hawks to come away with a 5-4 win at the United Center on Wednesday night.
I’ll save you the goal-by-goal rundown and give a couple of quick thoughts:
♦ Johnny Oduya ended up even after going a minus-3 in the first period, including a goal that came on his first shift wearing the Indian head. However, Brent Seabrook didn’t do him any favors on the first two goals with misplays that led to Leafs goals.
I traded emails with Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press regarding Oduya, and I’ll post his thoughts this afternoon, so check back later.
♦ Patrick Kane was solid all night and gave the ‘Hawks a spark with his play at center. His goal came on some clean up around the net after a Sami Lepisto shot. More of this please. Like, you know, always.
♦ Nice to see Andrew Shaw get on the board in his first game back, fighting off a check before circling to the near post and potting one. Also, his goaltender interference call followed by a roughing penalty was complete and total horseshit. Shaw’s rush to the net was aggressive and forced Jonas Gustavsson to move out of the crease, causing a collision with Shaw that was the result of aggressive play by both players. After that dog shit call, the refs gave Shaw a roughing call despite simply defending himself against Luke Schenn, who came from about 20 feet away from the play to blatantly attact Shaw behind the net.
♦ After the ‘Hawks tied it, Patrick Sharp committed a hockey sin by taking a horrible hooking penalty in the offensive zone before Chelsea Dagger finished playing after Shaw’s goal. Roughly 28 seconds later, the Leafs regained the lead.
♦ The importance of Marcus Kruger’s goal at the end of the first period may be overlooked the way the ‘Hawks were able to charge ahead through the rest of the game. His tally cut the lead to 3-2 and shifted momentum. Without the goal, the Leafs head into the second period with a two-goal lead and pretty much in control.
♦ That goal may have been especially important for the team’s psyche given Coach Q replaced Corey Crawford with Ray Emery to start the second period. Crawford allowed three goals on 10 shots, while Emery came in to make 24 saves over the last 40 minutes. You’ve got to think Emery is going to be the starter moving forward, and there’s no telling what’s going through Crawford’s head right now after being pulled in two straight.
With 17 games remaining now is the time to commit to the goaltender not hurting you the most, as sad as that sounds. It seems Emery is the one at this point. Someone needs to take the reigns heading into the postseason, and Razor is the closest thing the ‘Hawks have to a playoff goalie. Not to say he’s the answer given his struggles this season, but no team heads into the stretch run and into the playoffs using a pair of goaltenders – unless you’re St. Louis with Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott. Emery has to be the one Q commits to now, in my opinion. We’ll see what happens, though.
All right, here’s Boxing….
In a perfect world, Mikhail Grabovski would be skating out on to the ice at the United Center on Wednesday night wearing the Indian Head sweater. Such is not the case, as Chicago failed to acquire the playmaking forward that it needs at the trade deadline. Chicago fans will get a chance to see Grabs, however: he and the Leafs will be making a rare appearance at the UC, their first since November of 2009.
The bad news is that Toronto has been a team that, like the ‘Hawks, has had streaks of unstoppability during the season. The good news is, now is not one of those times. The Leafs have notched a win only once in the last 10 games, a losing streak severe enough to drop them to 10th place in the East and out of playoff contention.
Those familiar with the Maple Leafs are aware that February is usually when any successful Leafs squad starts to implode, and this year is no exception. They have wheeled the defibrillator and the oxygen cart into Damien Cox’s cube at the Star.