Nuccio DiNuzzo / Chicago Tribune

Drunk On The Train To Chicago: Hawks 3 – Blues 2 (OT)

First off, please accept our apologies for the delayed recap. Adam and I watched the game at Stanley’s last evening and were grossly over-served. So you can blame them. Although I will say that we enjoyed ourselves and almost certainly abused the all you can eat catfish deal. Perhaps the most satisfying thing about the entire evening was watching all of the depressed and dejected Blues fans milling around Sedgwick’s (a St. Louis bar) next door as we stumbled out. I wanted to taste and bottle their tears. One group standing around had guys sporting Barrett Jackman, Kelly Chase and David Perron sweaters. That has to be the most pathetic collection ever assembled in one place.

Anyhow, if you told me last Saturday evening that the Blackhawks would be coming home for Game 6 with a chance to knock the Blues out, I probably would have laughed in your face and sworn under my breath. You’d think I’d have learned by now after watching the Vancouver series in 2011 and the Detroit series last year never to count this team out, but I still sunk into despair as the series headed back to Chicago. Two heartbreaking losses. Two losses pissed away in the closing minutes and seconds. A top pair defenseman banished for brutality for two absolutely must win games, and all of this with a coach making a few seemingly bizarre personnel decisions. The people who clung on to hope seemed almost delusional to me. Instead, as the series once again heads back to Chicago, fans can realistically picture the Blackhawks heading to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since before the Olympic break. Of course, they’ll have to finish the Blues off first.

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KaneWristShot

An in-depth look at Patrick Kane, his wrists, and how his 2011 injury affected him.

 

KaneWristShot

Hello hockey friends (Jim Nantz voice). I’d like to take a minute and introduce myself, my name is John Faker, yes that’s my real name. I have been a Blackhawks fan for as long as I can remember. My love for hockey started with my father who used to play pond hockey growing up in northern Indiana and gave me his old wooden stick when I was a kid. My best friend Ryan and I used to spend countless hours shoveling snow off the ice of the lake I lived on so we could smash into each other and score into homemade goals. I do not claim to be an expert on hockey, but I, like you, watch a ton of hockey, especially the Blackhawks.  Today I would like to share with you an observation I recently noted on twitter . I’m fortunate to be followed by most of the guys from this site (and that they put up with my rambling) and when they saw this they asked me if I would like to write about it.

 

Patrick Kane has amazing hands. Every time I watch him he does something so ridiculous I just have to shake my head. How does a guy who is 5’10” consistently skate around NHL players twice his size and do the things that he does?  A lot of his skill has to do with his wrists and hands. Patrick Kane has always had a great wrist shot, and when he came into the league he used it very effectively. Take his first NHL goal as an example.

One thing to notice on this shot is where Kane’s stick is when he starts the shooting motion. Notice the line on his feet and where the stick and puck are when he shoots the puck.

 

That is not exactly what you would call a big windup. What this tells us is that Kane gets most of his power from his wrists. Even with such a little backswing, Kane can explode the puck into the top corner over the glove of the goalie. Granted this is a 2 on 1, but the shot itself and the mechanics are pretty impressive for Kane being such a small guy. One of the things unknown to a lot of Blackhawks fans is just how muscular Patrick Kane is. If you want to shoot the puck like that when you are 5’10” you have to have incredible upper body strength and wrists. Patrick Kane is one of the strongest guys on the Blackhawks.  The last thing you should note is the wrist that is at the bottom of the stick, the one that generates all the power. It’s his left wrist. Keep this in mind, but more on that later.

 

When I started thinking about Kane and how well he shoots the puck, one goal immediately came to mind, April 4th, 2010 against Calgary:

The really telling replay starts at :35. This is a Patrick Kane shot with a considerable amount of backswing.  Watch as the puck launches like a missile up to the top corner of the net. I don’t know if there is a goalie in the league that could have stopped that shot. Here are a few more goals from Kane with that explosive release.

 

Starting at 4:00 of this video:

 

Corey Schneider is a pretty decent goalie and this isn’t an odd man rush. But Kane puts so much force on that shot that Schneider doesn’t really have a chance. Again, Kane’s stick at the start of the shot is a bit in front of his feet. Wrist strength people.

 

A Goal against Buffalo from October 2010. Kaner pretty much just flips this at the net and it still has ridiculous velocity and 2010 Ryan Miller doesn’t have a chance.

 

 

Patrick Kane with his cast

As I am sure most of you remember, late in the 2011 season Patrick Kane hurt his left wrist. For the last few games of the season and the Vancouver “Slayed the Dragon” series (dammit Campoli), Kane just didn’t look like himself. We were told that he would be fine after an offseason of rest and it was nothing to worry about.  Of course later that summer on July 19th, it was announced that Patrick Kane had surgery on his wrist. We all remember the 2011-2012 season and how a lot of the narrative was that Patrick Kane under performed. Kane had 23 goals and 43 assists and the 66 points were a career low. Most Blackhawks fans who watched that season knew that something was not right with Kane and his wrist.  Kane wasn’t helped by shooting 9.1%, about 2% below his career average, but taking a closer look shows a bit more.

 

October 2011 against Boston:
 
http://video.blackhawks.nhl.com/videocenter/console?id=2011020060-406-h
There are two shots here, the initial shot and then the goal and both look incredibly weak. For both shots Kane is wide open.

 

Late October, 2011 against Nashville:

http://video.blackhawks.nhl.com/videocenter/console?id=2011020159-603-h

The thing to watch here for me is instead of launching the puck forward and up he kind of just pushes against his stick. He does the same thing in the video above.  It shows me that he doesn’t have a whole lot of strength in his wrist and is making up for it with his arms. The puck still goes in the net, but it could be due to Pekka Rinne being surprised by a change up and expecting the typical Kane top shelf wrister.

 

December 2011 against Calgary:

http://video.blackhawks.nhl.com/videocenter/console?id=2011020479-412-h

Kane seems to make this move all the time against Calgary, get the puck near the wall and skate to open ice in the slot. Kane has a large area to work in when he beats the initial defender but the shot doesn’t seem to have any follow through. The whole motion looks abbreviated compared to his earlier career. This is a pretty sure sign the injury was bothering him. When an athlete plays hurt they sometimes change the little things (like their golf swing, baseball swing, or throwing motion) so when they do that repeatable motion, it doesn’t hurt as much. At this point Kane had been injured for 8 months (injured in April 2011).

 

This goal is from April of 2012 against the Wild.

http://video.blackhawks.nhl.com/videocenter/console?id=2011021184-427-h

Hossa puts the puck right on Kane’s stick and you can see Kane just doesn’t have the same zip as those earlier goals. There seems to be a bit of hesitation and the whole shot motion doesn’t look as quick or smooth as the videos previously linked. It is possible that this is late in an extended shift, but when have we ever seen Kane hesitate with a wide open net?  The late offseason surgery definitely took its toll on Kane that year.

 

The amazing thing about most of these goals is that even though the shots are weak and hesitant, Kane still scores. Patrick Kane is an amazing talent that everyone should never take for granted.

*cough*  Barry Rozner *cough*

During the lockout, one of the things on the back of my mind was Kane’s wrist injury and how the long offseason should help him to really get that strength back that he lost over the previous year. You can see a bit in these videos of Kane playing in Switzerland that the “pushing” motion had gone away and he was launching the puck again. This is a pretty good sign that his wrist was much stronger than the previous season.

 

1:54 of this weird fan video:

It was very evident that after the lockout Kane had gained his strength back. I think the big thing for Kane was trying to get back to his old healthy shot mechanics. He was most likely compensating for his injury and a few bad habits were developed between April 2011 and January 2013. Even in the 2013 season there were still small lingering effects of the injury. Kane was awesome, don’t get me wrong, but it’s hard to break bad habits.

 

Here is a shot last season against Anaheim:

http://video.blackhawks.nhl.com/videocenter/console?id=2012020503-479-h

It’s not hugely noticeable, but there is a bit of the pushing motion still there. I think this is more of trying to get away from the bad mechanic and getting back to his normal one.

 

Here is a good example from March 2013 against Colorado:

http://video.blackhawks.nhl.com/videocenter/console?id=2012020425-275-h

Patrick Kane has hardly any “backswing” and he puts a ton of stank on this puck. Someone should call some hospitals for the right post because it got brained.

 

The one that really made me notice that Patrick Kane’s shot was back to normal was the OT winner Wednesday night against the St. Louis St. Paul dumpster sandwich Blues.

If you watch one of the replays, beginning at 2:00 of this video, how much does that look like the goal against Calgary from April 2010 up the page? The puck just takes off like a missile and freezes Ryan Miller. Patrick Kane is an amazing hockey player. I think that Kane’s wrist injury hindered him for quite a while. Wrists injuries can be tricky; most Bears fans might remember Brian Urlacher saying in 2009 that if his wrist had been injured a millimeter the other way, his career would be over. I think that it took a long time for Kane to recover from that injury, especially with how important his wrists are to his game. I think the best news for Blackhawks fans is that Patrick Kane is fully healthy and playing the best hockey of his career.

Of course that’s also the worst news for every other team in the NHL.

 

IllusInter_Game4

Interregnum Illustrated: Hawks-Blues Game 4

IllusInter_Game4

goal

Tarantula: Blues 3 Hawks 4 (OT)

goal

Monday night’s game, although a welcome win and a slight relieving of the pressure, felt like something of a false dawn: the Hawks were badly outplayed and required heroics from Crawford to hang in there. Last night was a different kettle of fish, altogether. The Hawks looked and felt closer to their usual selves and St Louis struggled to keep up with them most of the night. Obviously there were some lumps and bumps (and yes, another blown lead, but we’ll get to that) but when it mattered the Hawks came out on top, and now head back to St Louis tied  and looking at a best-of-three to advance.

 

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BHGD_TheBlender

Blackhawks Game Day: All Hail the Blender

BHGD_TheBlender

Crawford

Interregnum Illustrated: Hawks-Blues Game 3

Crawford

Boxing Blues Game 3

It’s Kind of a Thing Again: Game 3 Boxing with ‘Hawks (2) and Blues (0) – Blues lead Series 2-1

 

(Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune)

(Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune)

 

In Game 1 and 2, the Blackhawks were outplayed for long stretches, held a one-goal lead in the third period before eventually succumbing to late goals in overtime defeats.

Game 3 had plenty of similarities, but Corey Crawford stood tall in net and led the Blackhawks to a 2-0 victory in one of the better games he’s ever played. His 34-save effort got the ‘Hawks back into the series and gave us all the hope we’ve been looking for after two disheartening losses.

Puck possession and a general presence in the offensive zone were essentially non-existent from about the initial burst in the first period through the final minutes of the third, and the Blues continued to up the pressure and controlled most of the action. These stretches were all too familiar from the first two games in St. Louis, and it seemed the Blues would score that eventual cock-stomping goal we’ve all come to expect.

Crawford played well in Game 1 and admittedly not so well in Game 2, but he was exceptional Monday – and the ‘Hawks needed every last bit of it.

Jonathan Toews was able to slip one past Ryan Miller in the first period, and Crawford made it stand up until Marcus Kruger added an empty netter in the final seconds. It was another up-and-down performance from the ‘Hawks, with plenty of improvement still left in order to even this series Wednesday.

– Sheldon Brookbank played a lot better than I expected and didn’t seem out of place at all filling in for the suspended Brent Seabrook. He made one defensive-zone turnover that had us holding our breath, but other than that he was solid. He even took hit from behind by known piss drinker Maxime Lapierre, who proceeded to act as if he had just been the victim of the world’s greatest injustice. Fuck you, Maxime.

– Remember how so many of us still had confidence because the ‘Hawks played well enough to win the first two games but still lost? That’s exactly how Blues fans feel after Monday, except they are still one game up and have the chance to bury the Blackhawks into a 3-1 hole heading back to St. Louis. Crawford was the difference this time by being basically perfect, but a replica of this Blues performance and one blip of imperfection from Crawford on Wednesday easily could have the ‘Hawks coming up on the losing end.

– Brandon Bollig and Ryan Reaves combined for less than 10 minutes of ice time in Game 3 because they’re both worthless piles of shit who serve absolutely zero purpose yet continued to be dressed.

– Meanwhile, Jeremy Morin sat in the press box – again.

– So, about the power play. St. Louis gave the ‘Hawks four prime chances to provide some breathing room on the scoreboard in the second period, including a brief 5 on 3. The Blackhawks are now 1 for 14 in the series, and it’s starting to become a problem given that the Blues continue to take stupid penalties and the ‘Hawks can’t take advantage. At one point on the 2-man advantage, Patrick Sharp held the puck roughly eight feet from the net for seven straight seconds with nary a shot or pass for absolutely no reason. That type of stagnation, along with trying to generate offense from the point rather than in around the net, isn’t going to get it done.

– Michal Handzus was great on the kill again Monday. He’s still a fart in the wind 5 on 5, and there’s no reason for him to be centering the second line and dragging it down. It’s a tough line to toe when he’s playing so well when the ‘Hawks are shorthanded.

– Toews won 19 of 24 faceoffs. That’s, like, good and stuff.

So the Blackhawks got away with a less-than-stellar effort to get back in the series. Get another one Wednesday – hopefully without giving fans acid reflux – and it will be a best of three. Let’s take this one and move on.

 

Here’s Boxing……..

 

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The Interregnum Illustrated: Hawks-Blues Game 3

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These are the dark times. The Hawks trail St. Louis in the series, 2-0. They lost both games during the final minutes. Seabs is out for three games after trying to end Backes. Bickell somehow escaped sanction after doing his best Dustin Brown impression. If you want a counter-argument to all the Meatball Hawks fans out there always going on about how the Hawks need to be harder, Saturday’s loss is your retort (and you don’t even need shiny stats to make it).

Figure It Out: Blues @ Hawks Preview

Chicago Soul by mmD

 

The series resumes at the United Center tonight, the Hawks are 0-2, Brent Seabrook is suspended, Corey Crawford is blaming himself and it’s been nearly 148 minutes of Hockey since a Blackhawks forward scored a goal. How we all doing?

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Blackhawks-Blues Boxing (1)

You Should Have Racing Stripes the Way You Keep Me in Pursuit: Overtime Boxing with Blues (4) and ‘Hawks (3) – Blues Lead Series 2-0

(Chris Sweda/ Chicago Tribune)

(Chris Sweda/ Chicago Tribune)

 

You want narratives? OK, I’ll give you narratives.. They’ll make you feel better. Which is good, because these are things you’re going to be hearing from the time you read this Sunday through faceoff of Game 3.

The Blackhawks were down 0-3 to Vancouver in 2011 and pushed the series all the way to overtime of Game 7. The ‘Hawks were down 1-3 to Detroit last season and came back and won the series on the way to winning the Stanley Cup. The Blues were up 2-0 on the Kings last season before coughing up the next four games.

Chicago has been down in a series and won, and St. Louis has been up in a series and lost. Hey! Look at that!

Want to be realistic? Probably not, but I’ll take the unpopular side and be realistic.

None of that shit matters a single bit. Not even one little word of it matters. Different teams, different years, different odds for everything. Different personnel, different opponent. If you want to get caught up in a feel-good narrative, you go right ahead and do that. I’m not going to be the one putting an arm around your shoulders to tell you, “History sides with us! We’re going to win for sure!” I have too much pride and logical thought to do that.

Now, that doesn’t mean I’m standing on the ledge, either. I might have been for the few hours following Saturday’s dick punch of a 4-3 overtime loss, but I’ve brought myself back to Earth a little bit to actually try and discuss some things without simply staring at the DOOM of a 0-2 deficit to those toenail eaters that reside in Chicago Jr.

We can begin anywhere here, so I’m just going to start with another thing you’ll be seeing for the next two days.

– Brent Seabrook’s hit is going to be characterized as dirty and will get him a suspension. There’s no suspense here. That’s what will happen. However, I’m not angry about the severity of the hit – would have probably been different had David Backes been completely upright – or what’s to follow, but rather pissed off that Seabrook put himself in that position in the first place. Up one goal, shorthanded, less than five minutes left in the third period of a playoff game and he’s taking runs at people in the corner. Seabrook would have gotten a charging call regardless of if he hit Backes in the head or shoulder or wherever. It was a hit that simply did not need to be made, and shouldn’t have been made. And then the worst possible outcome happened, and things got doubly fucked.

Not only did he put the Blackhawks in a bad position to have to kill off that major, but now a member of the top defensive pairing will be out likely multiple games in a series they trail 0-2. I understand hockey is a fast-moving, reactionary game, but Seabrook needs to take a split second to think about what the fuck he’s about to do and the situation he’s in.

– Let’s also not sleep on the league possibly taking action with Bryan Bickell, whose blatant knee-on-knee hit on Vladimir Sobotka put the ‘Hawks shorthanded in the third in the first place. He was luck to escape with a minor.

– So Brandon Bollig played a whopping 1:23 after the first period. Essentially, the ‘Hawks played the final two periods and into OT as if he’d gotten a red card (savor the soccer reference, folks). They could have put his sweater on a hanger behind the bench and it would have served the same purpose. I want Q to justify Bollig dressing in Game 3, Game 4 or for the rest of his life, for that matter. There were two guys in the press box that would have gotten more minutes had they just accidentally fallen off the bench and onto the ice.

– Speaking of changes, Michal Handzus 5-on-5 is a complete disaster. He’s as fast as a turtle in quick sand as serves as much purpose as a screen door in a submarine at even strength. Did he play well on the kill? Pretty much, but so did everyone. I would say Peter Regin could have done the same things he did shorthanded while also providing more 5-on-5.

– So, last-second goals were a thing for the Blues, eh? That sure as shit fucking sucked as much as winning a day with an NHL player and having Ryan Reaves show up.

– Lots of blame being placed on Corey Crawford for… everything. I’m sure he’d like to have the OT goal back despite not having X-ray vision to see through five guys and still be able to slow it down, but he’s the reason these games weren’t blowouts. Anyone who can’t see that should be watching an intense battle of team handball or something. That being said, he definitely wasn’t as good in Game 2 as he was in Game 1.

– Positive stuff we’re looking for, right? At least the next two games are played at the United Center. That’s something. The penalty kill has been outstanding and erased eight Blues power plays before falling six second short of killing off over six minutes of penalties to end the game. Also, the Blackhawks weren’t at their best for consistent stretches and could have won each game had it not been for late breakdowns of various kinds. Thing is, the Blues are sitting there saying, “We didn’t play our best either and still won these fucking games.” It goes two ways.

What we’ve gotten so far is the height of playoff competition in the first two games of a series against what has become a bitter rival. It’s going to make us more emotional. I get that. So I need to take my own advice and calm down a bit and see what happens in Game 3. A loss Monday and I’ll be wondering why you’re not panicking along with me.

Here’s Boxing……..

 

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