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.
For those of you who missed the timeless sports-classic film “Bull Durham,” go back to FourSquare, this article isn’t for you. But for those who didn’t, it’s my contention that we have our own Ebbie Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh right here in the Chicago Blackhawks dressing room.
His name is Nick Leddy. And instead of throwing bean-balls at the mascot, he is throwing close games right in the dumpster. His flubs against Tampa Bay led directly to the Bolts’ third goal, and the game-winner in OT.
“You lolligag around the infield…”
Actually, lolligagging is a word that really can’t be used to describe Leddy’s game. In fact, quite the opposite. He’s very quick, which leads him to believe that he can tear around any area of the ice with impunity. When he goes on these little escapades, he leaves his position to be covered by a winger — who is then a target to be exploited by the other team, since that winger is not trained to play that position. Leddy creates a defensive weakness with his end-to-end rushes. That’s unnecessary, and it’s only a matter of time before other teams exploit that weakness when it arises.
Sorry, no Boxing tonight. I went out, I’m tired and it takes a long time. It’ll be back Thursday, I promise …
Trying to sugarcoat the past few games is a waste of time, we know that. But I’m going to take a quick step back.
The Blackhawks went down to Florida and got three points on a brief trip in which they very easily could have come out with zero. Then they came home and shit the bed against Vancouver. It pissed us off, royally.
So Q decided he was going to change things up. It resulted in a 3-0 loss in St. Louis, and now we’re about to hang up our proverbial skates with 67 games to play, which is more ridiculous than any line combination Q could ever dream up.
I’ll quickly concede the fact Q shuffles his lines irregularly, at times when it seems unnecessary. This does not qualify as one of those times.
There’s plenty of discussion pointing to the fact that it’s only November, and Q should not be panicking by shifting players around in “unfamiliar” positions with “unfamiliar” players. That right there is the exact point – it’s only November. If there’s a time to make some changes to feel things out after a dog shit stretch, it’s right now. And that’s especially true heading into a road game against team in turmoil playing its first game with a brand new coach.
If Q was pulling the slot machine with his players hoping to pull gold from his ass against a seasoned conference opponent, I could understand a bit of flack heading his way. Despite a stretch in which the ‘Hawks played like shit, I could at least understand the concern.
But to present a quick newsflash to everyone, there’s going to be another dog shit stretch this season – maybe two, or three, or … well, you get the point. Go ahead and change your diapers upon hearing that, but it’ll happen. The best of teams lose games, and most often in succession. During an 82-game season, slumps are going to happen.
With that said, sometimes change breaks a slump. Moreover, especially with a changed roster like the Blackhawks’, teams don’t walk into camp simply tossing combinations together while saying, “Yep, this is going to be it for the next 82 games. Fuck everyone.” Things changed in camp, things change during the season.
Every coach in this league changes line combinations. Most recently, the New York Islanders snapped a six-game losing streak by completely changing personnel and beat Washington 5-3. Jack Capuano felt the need to do what he could in order to spark his squad. It worked, and that’s awesome.
Sometimes, things don’t work. Tuesday’s loss was an example of that. However, that doesn’t mean Q needs to be chastised for it. The ‘Hawks played three consecutive games in which their game wasn’t up to expectations. For Q to toss something together in hopes of surprising an already stunned Blues team learning Ken Hitchcock’s system in two days is not earth-shattering. It’s closer to normal than if he sat on his hands.
I won’t defend certain things. John Scott being in the lineup is never a good idea, and that’s not something I’ll ever be on Q’s side about. The power play? Absolutely pathetic, and someone needs to be held responsible for these disgusting displays, because it’s now a chronic problem which needs to be fixed for the Blackhawks to be the elite team they hope to be this season.
But to get upset at Q for making some line changes to test things out heading into the 15th game of the season against a team with its collective head spinning in circles due to more drastic change than a line combination is panic in itself. Say Q is panicking all you want, but you’re then in turn exceeding his “panic” by miles.
There’s a time and a place for everything, and early November seems to be that time when Q should be allowed to test his squad with some different looks. It’s normal, every coach does it. There’s no bubble around Chicago under which things work drastically different than any other NHL city.
OK, the changes for Tuesday didn’t work out. The ‘Hawks are now 8-4-3 and lead the Central Division. Relax, please. I have some confidence Q isn’t going to troll out the same lines Thursday…. right?
And if he does? Well, it’s only November.
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