Demon Cleaner : Hawks #1 in Western Conference

( Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images)

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.

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Firestarter : Blackhawks v. Flames

The Flames actually wore this abomination on their uniforms once.

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!

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The Blue Jackets are Who We Thought They Were: Boxing with ‘Hawks and BJs

"See that chick in the 8th row?" ... "Dude, after the game. I have ass to kick still." (John Grieshop, Getty Images)

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 …

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Blackhawks Visit Columbus: Who Will Suck Less?

Photo: John Grieshop/Getty Images

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.

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The Rose Goes In The Front, Big Guy…

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.

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It’ll Get Fixed … Right?

(Credit: Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE)

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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Moving On: Blackhawks Try To Shake The Blues In St. Louis

Photo: Anne-Marie Sorvin, US Presswire

Enough about the Vancouver game, I’m trying to block it from my memory. The Blackhawks had better do the same, because like most years of late, they will have their hands full with their division-rival opponent at the other end if I-55, just for a different reason this time.

St. Louis’ 6-7-0 record does not speak to their current situation. They are a team in a state of upheaval, and it’s every man for himself when the puck drops tonight.

This is going to be a fast, brutal game. The Blackhawks will have to keep their heads to stay in it.

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From the Ritz to the Rubble : Vancouver fallout and more

( Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

So, there isn’t any reason to rehash the shitshow from last night. Bartl already tried to drive most of you to suicide and I’m sure many of you have spent your day much as I have mine – trying to figure out exactly what the hell happened last night.

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Powerless: Boxing with Blackhawks and Canucks

Credit: Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune

This was one of those games that just didn’t have a good feel to it from the get-go. Very, very little went right, and the Blackhawks’ powerless play once again left massive logs of poop on the ice.

The ‘Hawks spent roughly the first three minutes of the game in their own zone, and it may have taken even longer for them to make consecutive tape-to-tape passes. Was it fatigue from three games in four nights? The travel from Florida? Spending time with pops?

Whatever it was, Sunday night was a shit-filled performance in the first meeting since the playoffs as the ‘Hawks fell 6-2 to the Canucks.

So much for the theory of, “When the ‘Hawks power play finally scores one, the goals will come in bunches.” The Blackhawks went a putrid 0 for 5 with the man advantage while looking as if they should have just started declining penalties. Five guys standing around, blinding throwing passes and playing as if they’ve never practiced the power play before won’t get anyone anywhere. It’s becoming borderline humorous. I can’t even get excited anymore when the opposition takes a penalty.

Oh, and if Steve Montador gets another second of power-play time, I’m going to strangle myself with dental floss.

♦   Your argument for that may be something like, “Lighten up. Vancouver came in with the sixth-ranked penalty kill and they have one of the better killing units in the league.” Well, the Blackhawks came in with the fourth-ranked kill and allowed the Canucks to go 5 for 6 with the man advantage as the ‘Hawks stood there with their jaws dropped as if they were watching Victoria’s Secret models undress.

The ‘Hawks struggled with their power plays mainly due to the Canucks’ active kill. They attack the puck while the other three play a solid zone to be able challenge the next pass. Too many times the Blackhawks were flat footed on their kill, watching and gazing at what a power play should actually look like.  Vancouver enters the zone hard or places a solid dump-in where a teammate can get it while the others get into position.

♦   I think the saddest part of the evening was watching the Canucks get into the heads of the Blackhawks by playing smart and physical to disrupt the ‘Hawks attack. While the amount of flopping done by the Sedins makes me want to petition Brendan Shanahan to institute the death penalty for diving, Vancouver drew penalties and then converted. It seems simple, but it’s a simplistic part of hockey the Blackhawks have been overlooking all season.

Here’s Boxing …

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The Bigger They Are: Canucks Visit Chicago

Photo: NHL

You remember the Vancouver Canucks, right? Colors are green, blue and white; big funny-looking whale on their jersey; coach keeps whining about other teams not playing fair? Not ringing a bell?

Well, in the playoffs last year they blew a 3 games to none lead against the Blackhawks before FINALLY squeaking by in overtime of game 7? And we had to serve up a giveaway on a silver platter with nobody between them and the goalie for them to win?

No? Nothing?

Their goalie’s an overrated head case, fans have a massive inferiority complex, and the entire province of British Columbia wanted to lynch me after I called Daniel and Henrik Sedin “The Tampon Twins?”

Okay, you got it now. Good. Well, they’re in town tonight. And it’s a great time for them to visit.

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