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.
Well, the trade deadline came and went today without the Blackhawks making the major splash many of you probably hoped for.
Stan Bowman decided the rent was too damn high and sat on his hands for the most part instead of going out and getting the 2nd Center and shutdown defenseman that this team so desperately needed. He had plenty of cap space to make just about any deal he wanted happen – but the opportunity simply didn’t present itself.
What a disaster.
The Blackhawks travled to California this weekend with a chance to build some momentum after going 4-1 in their last 5 games. Sure, they blew a 3rd period lead against Dallas on Thursday, but considering they won their 4 previous games after a horrible losing streak, a split in California would have put the Hawks at 5-2 since the end of the losing streak and the Blackhawks still could have been viewed as a team on the rise. It wasn’t to be. They got annihilated in Los Angles and the result tonight wasn’t much better.
Having endured one and a half periods of the festering colostomy bag that was last night’s game against Los Angeles, I don’t feel the slightest bit guilty about being in a bitter and sardonic mood as we approach the puck drop for the Blackhawks’ tilt against the Anaheim Ducks. Gordon Bombay’s squad is 7-1-2 in their last 10 games, pushing 5 of those tilts to overtime (and prevailing in 3 of them). Anaheim has climbed out of the laughing-stock category with Columbus and Edmonton, and is just 6 points out of a playoff spot as today’s action begins.
All things considered, I think I’d rather have the ‘Hawks playing the Sharks.
“When they got that first one, we need to stay the course and for whatever reason we seemed to get away from our game. We didn’t manage the puck well in the third, and as a result we lose the game.” – Jamal Mayers
This one is tough to be angry about. It’s just damn annoying.
Not only do we have to listen to reports and read official statements about the possibly concussed Jonathan Toews getting into a car accident in the morning, we’re treated to a game in which the ‘Hawks looked… blah.
The Blackhawks’ 3-1 loss to Dallas on Thursday at the United Center looked pretty good for about 50 minutes, with the ‘Hawks controlling much of the game and seemingly dictating the pace – not that it was all that exciting to begin with.
Corey Crawford was playing well and making the necessary saves on the few lapses in front of him, and he seemed on his way to helping record the team’s first shutout.
Then a string of unfortunate bounces and a relaxed style of play did the ‘Hawks in, as three deflected goals got past Crow to send them to their first loss in regulation when leading after two periods this season.
Going to get straight to a couple things here…
♦ Seven times the Blackhawks have put five or less shots on goal in the third period, with Thursday being the only time they lost. Basically, Coach Q and the gang decided the one-goal lead was enough and took down the firing squad to play a prevent-type D.
I don’t care what team you’re playing in this league, a one-goal lead with 20 minutes to play is not safe, and to think and/or play otherwise is just not smart. Add that onto the fact something named Richard Bachman was playing his ass off for the Stars all night, he’s still a backup goaltender. Attack him, disrupt him – like how they did on Marian Hossa’s goal and what they did against Detroit the other night – and get a goal or two to put it away.
Instead, the ‘Hawks took their foot off the pedal and it cost them in a four-point game.
♦ Dallas, meanwhile, did exactly what the Blackhawks were doing the past few games to get back on track – put people in front of the net and get dirty goals. Steve Ott and Michael Ryder scored on deflections, then Brent Seabrook’s skate got an assist on Loui Eriksson’s tip-in. Crawford had no chance on any of them. Sure, there were some minor blimps on the ‘Hawks end that kept the puck in their own zone, but the results are more telling than what led up to them. Dallas was attacking, the Blackhawks were tightening up. Game over.
♦ John Scott played 2:22 and had five shifts. Dallas came into the game ranked 21st in the NHL in fighting majors, making Scott’s presence damn near worthless – again.
♦ Bryan Bickell was probably the most noticeable forward for the ‘Hawks tonight. Pretty solid game all around.
♦ Power play: 0 for 31 over the last 12 games.
♦ Interesting trend: There were nine games on the NHL schedule Thursday, with seven road teams picking up wins.
♦ With the accident this morning and all the concussion rumors, it will be interesting to see if Toews makes the trip out west to face the Los Angeles Kings – with the newly acquired Jeff Carter – and Anaheim.
Here’s your Boxing…
Following yesterday’s media feeding frenzy over reports that Blackhawks Captain Jonathan Toews may have a concussion, he was unfortunate enough to be the center of Twit-rumor-ligula after photos surfaced of his black AMG Mercedes having had words with a steel support for the L train on Lake Street. The car got the worst of that disagreement, and witnesses claimed to see Tazer climb out of the car and receive attention from EMT’s who had arrived on the scene.
The Blackhawks released the following statement regarding the injury:
Jonathan Toews was in a minor one-car collision this morning in downtown Chicago while driving himself to the United Center. He was not injured.
So you can just imagine the insanity that broke loose on the Twitterscape, as the Blackhawks PR department (who would have known about the incident hours before the photos surfaced online) twiddled their thumbs while speculation about everything from the severity of Toews injury, to his level of sobriety, to Patrick Kane being in the passenger seat, to whether the Canucks had installed the bridge support there overnight ran rampant through the social media sphere.
Hint for next time fellas: ostriches with their heads in the sand just THINK they’re safe.
Anyhoo, Tazer is fine, he did apparently get a ride to the hospital in an ambulance as a precaution and at the behest of the team’s medical staff. The Tribune contacted him by text when the story started to get legs and his reply was, “I’m good.” From the looks of the photos, the airbag likely deployed. So Tazer’s ears are gonna ring a little while, and he’ll be sore in the chest for a day or two. Those things save your life, but they’re not pleasant to be around.
Toews was not slated to play tonight anyhow, he missed the game against Detroit with an upper-body injury as well. So, move along people, nothing to see here. Though I would bet that Toews’ insurance agent is not having a particularly good day. If the frame’s bent, they’ll total that puppy. An AMG SL65 coupe lists for around $200K. Ouch…
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It’s easy to forget about Dallas, mainly since the Blackhawks haven’t seen them since splitting a home-and-home with them to open the season in October. But also because in terms of the standings, the Stars haven’t been a factor. They’ve been cruising around in bubble-team land for most of the year, currently hovering a game back of the 8th spot in the Western Conference.
Then one remembers who tends goal for them, and you get that knot in your stomach. Kari Lehtonen, who fought off 37 shots in his team’s winning effort against Chicago to start the year, has always been a serious pain in the ass to get a puck behind. Going back to last season, when Chicago managed to drop 3 games to Dallas, the Blackhawks did a fine job of humiliating themselves twice on the visitor’s ice — the first by blowing a 3-0 lead and managing to lose 4-3 in a shootout, the second by getting shut out 5-0 while Lehtonen barely broke a sweat at the other end of the rink.
No matter where they sit in the standings, the Stars always give the ‘Hawks trouble. Tonight should be no different.
Do you like to gamble? Me too. I’m sure you’ve been at a Blackjack table when someone has split 10s and wanted to hit them upside the head with your shoe. On the other hand, there’s one card that you always want to split. Aces. Well, after four wins and five games with Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith being split up, I’m starting to think that Joel Quenneville would be that guy splitting 10s if he reunites them. He needs to treat them like aces. The status of Niklas Hjalmarsson is still up in the air and Nick Leddy has really improved his play when skating with Brent Seabrook. The Hawks have allowed 2, 1, 1, and 1 in their four wins and even the three goal game in Nashville was a good effort. It was also Sami Lepisto’s first game since the Kennedy administration.
This mostly relates to even strength play. The penalty kill has seen Keith and Seabrook together with Sean O’Donnell getting time with Leddy. Hjalmarsson can take Leddy’s time on the PK when he returns, or even Dylan Olsen who has been seen there. I’d rather not even begin to talk about the powerplay because there’s still a forward on the point there.
No Jonathan Toews. No Pavel Datsyuk. Still, the same ol’ gritty rivalry.
The Blackhawks and Red Wings gave us another entertaining battle on both ends of the ice, and Corey Crawford beat Jimmy Howard in a fantastic goaltending dual as the ‘Hawks held on for a 2-1 victory Tuesday night at the United Center.
Jimmy Hayes was rewarded with a goal after working in front of the net, then assisted on Marcus Kruger’s tally with some nice board work and a charge to the back of the net, as Kruger tipped in an Andrew Brunette shot that bounced off Howard.
You know the basics, so let’s get to some other stuff…
♦ It obviously wasn’t ideal to have Toews out of the lineup with the always-vague upper-body injury, though there weren’t many points in the contest I was screaming for Toews to be there. The final minute sticks out, when The Captain would’ve been on the ice for in-zone draws as the Wings had the extra skater, and Dave Bolland lost two to give Detroit a couple more shots at Crawford as the clock ticked away. Other than that, the ‘Hawks keep the Red Wings at bay and Henrik Zetterberg damn near invisible.
♦ Patrick Kane was solid tonight, and it was only for a spectacular Howard save on Patrick Sharp that Kaner didn’t register a point. Kane took the puck on the far side and circled toward the center of the ice while the ‘Hawks were on the power play. He skated the puck to the near side and went right at Justin Abdelkader, who had lost his stick. Kane was able to move in and create a passing lane to get the puck to Sharp camping in front of the net. Howard went post-to-post and stuck out his left pad, snuffing out the chance. Nonetheless, a smart, heads-up play by Kaner. He was all over the place and seemed to step up his game with Toews out.
♦ Speaking of the power play: 0 for 30 over the last 11 games, with the last PP goal coming when Bolland beat Pekka Rinne in a 3-1 home loss to Nashville on Jan. 24 – the last game before the All-Star break.
♦ Crawford’s play wasn’t stellar, but his saves were not exactly routine. I saw far less rebounds than in the previous games during his current stretch of four straight games with one GA. Him staying in the blue paint more often than not has seemed to pay off, and his run has quelled the talk of trading for a goaltender – for now.
♦ When a goaltender is on like Howard was tonight, garbage goals are necessary to grind out a win like this. The ‘Hawks got them with the help of some aggressive play in front of Howard, taking advantage of a couple loose pucks and pounding them home. This seems to have been lacking recently.
♦ Going 28 for 54 at the dot without Toews is definitely a victory on that end. With that being said, here’s to hoping Toews doesn’t have to sit out Thursday against Dallas.