Out of the frying pan and into the fire, so to speak. After a humiliating loss to the Red Wings on Saturday, the Blackhawks get to suit up against yet another Western Conference rival on a hot streak in the form of San Jose. The new year has been good to the Sharks, with 6 wins and a shootout loss to their credit thus far.
In those six victories, they never allowed their opponents to tally more than twice. Defense is a big key to the Sharks’ game — they are 5th-best in the league in goals against. There is just one regular member of the Sharks roster who has a negative plus/minus. One. It’s Jason Demers, in case you’re interested.
But that’s not to say the Sharks have lost their once-potent offense. The usual one-two punch of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau is still as effective as ever, with the three-four punch combination of Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture close behind. Those four account for over 130 points of the Sharks’ offense. This is not a team that is prone to sitting back and protecting a lead.
Wow. What a roller-coaster ride that was. One can’t help but wonder what the outcome would have been if the Blackhawks had decided to play in the 1st period.
About that abortion of a 1st period – it may have been one of the worst of the season (excluding the Edmonton game, of course). Detroit was able to glide right into the Hawks zone and set up while the Hawks couldn’t even execute a dump and chase. Detroit led in shots on goal by an astounding 21-4 (9-0 through the first 7 minutes) margin and out-hit the Blackhawks 12-9. As you probably guessed by looking at the shots on goal, the Wings dominated every aspect of the game in the opening frame. The only reason this game wasn’t 5-0 at the end of the period was Corey Crawford, who was outstanding.
The biggest challenge about this game isn’t the Red Wings’ roster, or its goaltender, or Coach Cranky Pants, or the brain-dead knuckle-draggers throwing seafood on the ice.
Detroit (*spitting noise*) is nearly unbeatable on home ice.
But notice I said “nearly.”
When you’re stacked with loads of talented youth in your system and under-performing or injured starters in the NHL, in comes the carousel of players going back and forth between the NHL and AHL. Case in the point, the 2011-12 Blackhawks.
With the return of Marcus Kruger from injury this morning Joel Quenneville was forced to make a decision about which of his young studs wouldn’t make the cut.
Marcus Kruger, as a center, will always find a warm welcome on the Hawks, seeing as they need as much help as possible in the middle. With rookies Andrew Shaw and Jimmy Hayes playing lights out and both producing huge last night against Minnesota, Q had a decision to make.
There are few teams better than the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Minnesota Wild to use as slumpbusters in the NHL right now. That is precisely what the Blackhawks have done in their last two games. They could have stuck their tails between their legs after Patrick Sharp went down with his injury. Instead, they responded with swagger.
Viktor Stalberg has taken Sharp’s spot, playing with Toews and Kane. He’s taken full advantage of that opportunity with four goals in two games.
Andrew Shaw and Jimmy Hayes are showing that they are here to stay. Sign them up. I have to give Shaw some credit. I was a major doubter when he got called up, not of his potential but whether he was ready for the NHL. He’s shut me up really fast. These two kids have been the spark the Hawks needed on the third and fourth lines. Shaw scored his second NHL goal in tonight’s game and continues to impress me every game with smart and energetic shifts. Both Shaw and Hayes scored goals against the Wild, showing that they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Remember earlier this season, not long ago in fact, when everyone soiled their unmentionables over the headline, “Minnesota Wild First in Western Conference?” Oh, how things change.
For those of us feeling bummed or pissed or confused about the Blackhawks’ latest string of losses, we should thank our snowblowers that we’re not Minnesota Wild fans.
The Wild have two wins — that’s TWO WINS — in their last 13 games. The second one came against San Jose just this past Tuesday, when they blew a 2-goal lead and needed a shootout to finally get the W. They now sit clinging desperately to 7th place in the Western Conference, having dropped from 1st in just over a month. Unbelievable.
Guess they should have held on to Cam Barker, huh?
I got home very late tonight, so this will be short before I get to Boxing.
♦ Viktor Stalberg – Good for you, kid.
♦ Jared Boll/Referees – You’re assholes
♦ Marian Hossa – Badass
♦ Corey Crawford – Just gave up another rebound.
That’s it. I’m tired. Here’s Boxing…
News Flash: the Columbus Blue Jackets fired their coach.
Everything else about the team is still the same as the last time we discussed them. Key players are injured; marquee names are trying their damnedest but can’t produce; offense sucks; defense is worse; goaltending is pathetic.
I really wish there was more to go into here, but there really isn’t. I feel like I’m giving Columbus the short end of the stick compared to the other previews I do, but how many different ways can you say, “Columbus sucks?” I ran out months ago.
If you’re a glass half empty person, you think the loss of Patrick Sharp comes at the worst possible time for the Blackhawks. With the PP going down the crapper (again) and the schedule getting a lot tougher, the Hawks can ill-afford to be without a key cog in their top-6 for the next 3 to 4 weeks.If you’re the glass half full sort, you say to yourself that this injury could have been much worse and the kids they have called up from Rockford have been impressive.
It’s not going to get any easier for us. — Jonathan Toews
Somewhere in the depths of hell, a Red Wings fan just hit a slick patch of ice.
Halfway through the season, the St. Louis Blues are tied for first place in the Central Division, while the Blackhawks are mired in a four-game losing streak.
Not exactly what anyone expected, especially since the ‘Hawks scored the first goal in three of those loses. Adding shit luck on top of another loss when the ‘Hawks were in position win, Patrick Sharp has an always vague upper-body injury, suffered during or shortly after his goal put the ‘Hawks up 2-0.
Some quick things before Boxing does the rest…
♦ As Toews said, nothing is going to get easier any time soon. After Columbus and Minnesota this week, here’s how it looks, in order:
at Detroit, vs San Jose, vs Buffalo, vs Florida, at Nashville, vs Nashville, at Vancouver.
Oh, and jaunt to Vancouver is the beginning of a nine-game road trip from Jan. 31-Feb. 18.
♦ There’s evidence of panic among the feather-headed faithful. While most of it is unwarranted and illogical, it’s hard not to blame the overreactions as this losing streak continues. It’s now a matter if Stan Bowman feels the same panic, sees the issues and makes a move quicker than we thought he would as the ‘Hawks seemed to be rolling just a couple weeks ago.
What’s the right move? Make a deal and bring more uncertainty to a locker room already on edge? Or do you ride out the skid and figure it out in a couple week? There might not be a “right time” anymore. And if Sharp is going to miss games, Stan may get edgy himself and spring some people. Time will tell.
♦ Speaking of Sharp, the injury seems to be a bit of a mystery. Before I weigh in, let’s see what the diagnosis is Monday and react from there.
♦ We can bitch about the officiating through our sleep tonight, but the fact remains the Blackhawks didn’t take advantage when they got the calls, and the Red Wings did just that. The ‘Hawks converted their first power play attempt, then shit themselves on the next five. And if that wasn’t enough, Jimmy Hayes couldn’t convert a penalty shot that would’ve put the ‘Hawks up 3-1 and made Detroit’s climb more uphill.
I won’t deny the non-calls on Tomas Holmstrom for tripping Brent Seabrook and the bench for two many men didn’t hurt the Blackhawks’ chances, but there were plenty more opportunities, and that’s where you should direct your anger – especially since the ‘Hawks power play this season largely has resembled an orgy breaking out at the National Federation of the Blind.
♦ Not even Dennis Rodman would know what to do with all the rebounds Corey Crawford is giving up right now. He made some big plays tonight and likely will be back in net Tuesday, but I think it’s safe to say the jury is still out on how much he can be trusted down the stretch.
♦ Of the Blackhawks’ 17 total losses, Marian Hossa has gone scoreless in 14 of them.
♦ Patrick Kane: 2 goals, 4 assists, minus-4 since Dec. 11 (13 games).