Blackhawks Blackjack: Splitting Aces, Not 10s

I never really cared for Peaches and Herb, did you Dunc?

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.

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Back in the Swing of Things: Boxing with Blackhawks and Red Wings

I laughed. (Credit: Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune)

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.

Here’s Boxing…

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This Is OUR House, Bitches: Blackhawks Host Red Wings

Photo: Associated Press

Yes, Detroit (*spitting noise*) has won 23 straight at home; and yes, that is an all-time NHL record — which will continue to grow until they lose. But they have a problem.

They’re in OUR house today, and the Blackhawks are on a winning streak of their own. So if they think they’re going to have an easy time of it this evening, they came to the wrong place. December 30th ring a bell, bitches?

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Thank You For That: Blackhawks Dominate Blue Jackets, 6-1

"We won a game yesterday. If we win one today, that's two in a row. If we win one tomorrow, that's called a winning streak. It has happened before."

No matter how terrible the Blackhawks were during their nine-game road trip, at least we have the Columbus Blue Jackets to thank for being only slightly better than a drunk men’s league team.

Following up on their 4-2 slump-buster over the New York Rangers at MSG on Thursday, the ‘Hawks crushed the BJs 6-1 behind solid efforts from nearly everyone.

The victory marked the Blackhawks’ first back-to-back road wins since taking five straight from Nov. 25-Dec. 14.

After Sami Lepisto made every ‘Hawks fan replay Chris Campoli’s turnover in Game 7 against Vancouver in their minds 300-400 times, it was all Chicago.

Jonathan Toews made a hard move to the net and slid it past Steve Mason to tie it up, and Viktor Stalberg netted his eighth goal against the BJs this season just over four minutes later for what proved to be the game-winner.

Patrick Sharp took a great feed from Patrick Kane and one-timed it past Mason in the second before Kaner chased Mason through the five-hole less than two minutes later.

Marcus Kruger and Lepisto added the insurance in the third.

Hell of a game to write about in my first post in a long time. Moving and being without internet couldn’t have come during a better couple weeks so I didn’t have to talk about the lumps of shit that happened previously.

A few quick thoughts…

♦  Note to Lepisto: Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever make a fucking mistake. Ever. Next time, Q won’t just bench him, he’ll call Bowman from a cell on the bench and have him cut. Granted, Lepisto’s turnover was absolutely brutal, but he hasn’t been playing all that terribly lately. After the Jackets’ goal, Lepisto didn’t see another shift until he scored his goal, playing 5:59 for the game.

♦  Here are the Blackhawks’ numbers, with the “core” players highlighted:

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Will You Smile Again For Me? : Hawks Win 4-2

Let it all out, Hoss ( Bruce Bennett, Getty Images)

Maybe Alicia Keys (note: I do not listen to Alicia Keys ) knew what she was talking about in that one Jay Z song?

The Blackhawks rolled into New York and played absolutely inspired hockey all night long. The Hawks threw 4 first period goals past a stunned Martin Biron and that’s all they would need to beat the best team in the Eastern Conference. While things got a little bumpy at the end of the 2nd period, the outcome was never really in doubt after the forth Blackhawk goal – which came just under 10 minutes into the contest.

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The Glitter Rubs Right Off: Blackhawks Look For A Win On Broadway

Photo: AP

This date has been looming large on the horizon ever since this road trip began. New York Rangers franchise goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, arguably the best goaltender in the league since the new year, would likely be the most impenetrable netminder the Blackhawks faced on this road trip. And as the games — ok, let’s call them what they are… the losses — drew us nearer to today, Lundqvist kept getting better. In his last 8 games he has 7 wins, including 2 against Philadelphia and capped with a shutout of Boston on Tuesday. In that stretch of 8 games he has 3 shutouts and has let in a total of only 9 goals.

The way this was looking, the Blackhawks may as well have been shooting at a net protected by a force field.

But then, through some quirk of fate or coincidence, the darkness lifted, the clouds parted, and for the first time since before the All-Star break, the Hockey Gods smiled on the Chicago Blackhawks…

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Don’t Worry, She’ll Hold Together

Brohug? BROHUG!

Hear me, baby? Hold together.

Not only am I a stat wonk but I have a bit of an affection for using Star Wars to explain everything. The Blackhawks have lost lateral controls on their 2011-2012 campaign but the ship is still flying. If you’ve given up hope on this season, and I know for a fact that some of you have, no worries. It’s just hockey. I’m not going to question your fandom (which is stupid), call you a bandwagon jumper (equally unintelligent) or ask that you please turn in your Indian Head sweater along with your keycard on your way out. There’s some flaws that probably won’t be fixed on this roster, even after the February 27th trade deadline that is quickly approaching. What there is, however, is a window that’s very wide for this team in the future.

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Misery : 0-8-1

( Christian Petersen -Getty Images)

0-8-1. That is worse than the start the Columbus Blue Jackets got off to at the beginning of the season. I hope all the jerks taking their kids to Disney on Ice are having a great time – because its killing the Chicago Blackhawks.

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Talk Is Cheap: Blackhawks Look To End Losing Streak In Nashville

Photo: Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

The Blackhawks play Nashville tonight, and it’s my job to tell you about what we can expect during the game. So here’s the obligatory paragraph about the Predators before we talk about the Blackhawks’ 8-game losing streak.

Nashville is 6-2-2 in their last 10 games, most recently losing in a shootout to Boston. They’ve always been a defense-first team, but this year they are doing well in both categories — just outside the top-10 in both goals-for and goals-against. They can kill you from many, many angles: 9 players have 11+ goals, 9 players have 29+ points. Goaltender Pekka Rinne continues to shine, his .924 save percentage ranks among the league’s top-10. Neither Ryan Suter nor Shea Weber has been traded, and likely won’t be before the puck drops this evening. So that’s bad for us.

Will that work? Okay. On to business.

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No Rest For The Weary: Coyotes Host Blackhawks

Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

I’m sure we’d all like to call a “time out” and give the Blackhawks a week off where the team, coaches, and management get to assess what’s wrong, figure out how to fix it, and get this train back on the tracks again. But there’s no rest for the weary, as Chicago is back in action tonight against the Phoenix Coyotes.

The bad news: Phoenix is on a 4-game winning streak. The good news: they have the second-worst power play in the league. So maybe if Coach Joel Quenneville gets his head out of his ass and leaves Nick Leddy on the bench during the penalty kill, we’ll have a shot tonight. More on that in a few moments…

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