Semyon Varlamov is the reason the Colorado Avalanche got one point, let alone the two they walked away with tonight. He was outstanding stopping 46 of 48 shots that reached him, with at least a handful or more being spectacular saves. I’m going to leave the off ice stuff out of this and give him credit for playing an excellent game tonight. His teammates didn’t much help him in the effort as Colorado was playing in its own end for roughly 75% of this game.
The Blackhawks also deserve credit of their own. You don’t generate 75% of the scoring chances in a hockey game without thoroughly dominating the 18 skaters the other team iced.
I guess part of the problem of being the reigning champs is that the opposition raise their game when you’re in their building, especially if they don’t see you that often. That, combined with a distictly lacklustre performance from the Hawks, leads to nights like last night.
I’m not one to get over-excited about the whole “Original 6″ thing, but this always feels special. The Canadiens in Montreal is one of the big red-letter days on the calendar. The Habs have 23 NHL-Era Stanley Cup banners hanging in their rafters; which is only three fewer than the Wings, Bruins, Hawks and Rangers’ combined total. Names like ‘Rocket’ Richard, Jean Beliveau, ‘Boom Boom’ Geoffrion, Guy Lafleur and Ken Dryden all created their legends with this club. The Centre Bell may not be as redolent with history as the old Montreal Forum but it’s still one of Hockey’s great arenas and crowds.
I’m looking forward to this, in other words.
It’s tough to say that a first-place team that just lost in regulation for the first time in 11 games is in a slump, but the Blackhawks sure seem to be the closest thing to it.
There’s no doubt that the ‘Hawks haven’t looked their best since the 7-2 shellacking they gave Colorado on Dec. 27. In the six games following that win, they blew three two-goal leads to the Blues, got only one through on the Kings, stumbled against the lowly Islanders, needed Sharp to save them against the Devils, allowed a tying third-period goal in a boring loss to the Sharks and got off to a piss-poor start in Thursday’s 3-2 home loss to the New York Rangers.
When you break it down, the ‘Hawks haven’t exactly been setting the world on fire during that 2-1-3 stretch. Looking to see that St. Louis is two points back with four games in hand, it makes this “slump” a bit more uneasy.
From Q postgame: ”We’ve got too many guys right now that aren’t contributing to that level we saw most of the season.”
At the same token, let’s not go full meatball and get discouraged. This team – like every team – will go through lulls, and I’m more than willing to take this one now rather than May. We could, however, do without Leddy and Rozsival engaging in a staring contest around the net on the winning goal.
It’s getting late, so here’s Boxing. More analysis will follow for games when I’m not at work, and also now that I’ll finally have cable and internet in my new apartment after 11 days of living like I was back in the 1980s.
Oh, quick note passed along to me by my high school buddy and Horse Racing Television anchor Scott Hazelton. Q, Mike Kitchen and former Bears assistant Mike Tice co-own a horse named Midnight Hawk. He’s racing at Santa Anita in California on Saturday at approximately 4:30 p.m. Central on Saturday, and the race will be broadcast on HRTV. Tune in to watch rich guys get richer. Midnight Hawk is a Kentucky Derby hopeful.
Tonight’s Podcast is titled Fuck the Purple Line. You’ll learn why about 20 minute into it as we give a PSA. Topics covered include the Olympics roster, notably Team Canada and Team Russia, the WJC tournament and Teuvo, Blackhawks line jumbles, goaltending, the Central division and some rambles about jerseys, the Oilers failed rebuild and we say the word liability a lot. Also, CHOO CHOO. Audio after the jump.
That was my fault. Not the SO loss, the lack of entertainment. I made the mistake of saying, in my preview, that Hawks/Sharks is always fun: therefore we got to see the dullest 77 shot game you can imagine. It was so boring even legendary dullards like Doc Emrick and Pierre McGuire were losing interest and burbling off onto Foley-esque tangents. But I guess some stuff did happen and I suppose they pay me the big bucks to talk about it, so let’s get to it.
The San Jose Sha-Arks come to snowbound Chicago and they won’t even be the coldest representatives from California playing tonight. Hopefully everyone is safe and well stocked with booze because tonight should be fun. Last time these guys were here was the day of the tornadoes and I got to go to the game at the UC (thanks @Schatzipage!) at short notice. That was a 5-1 laugher as the Hawks bounced back from a humbling in Nashville. Tonight they return home after a (reasonably) successful swing to the East Coast and face up to one of the powerhouse Pacific teams, albeit one that is beaten up and stumbling a little.
Friday night in Jersey, Patrick Sharp has a Hat-Trick, the Hawks score five and take the two points. All is well with the world, right? No, not so much as it happens. There was plenty last night that warrants some questioning, and we’ll get to that in the bullets. As it was, Sharp opened the scoring early in the 2nd Period with a mean snap shot after a nice feed from Toews. Greene tied it up for New Jersey a minute later, after a thorough blowing of defensive assignments, and that was it until things went beserk in the 3rd.
Let’s rapidly consign that farce last night to the garbage can of history, right next to the hopes of anyone who wanted the Hawks to grab the Terminally Useless Zenon Konopka off Waivers.
Last time we saw the Isles it was back in October. Nordstrom got his first goal, the Hawks blew a 1st Period lead and in the end made heavy work of a 3-2 win. Back then the Islanders were expected to be a playoff contender in the East, building off their previous season. Instead they now find themselves propping up the Godawful Metropolitan Division and third-from-bottom in the league. Which is to say, they suck.
That wasn’t so bad now, was it? After the fretting about this trio of games against upper-echelon Western Conference teams, the Hawks have come away with five out of six points available, both wins coming in regulation. After the goal-fests against Colorado and St Louis, this was a horse of a different colour: Playoff Hockey in December against the ever-punishing Kings.
The hits came hard and fast, mostly from LA and the margins for error were thin indeed. The tone was set when Colin Fraser dumped Michael Roszival over the boards between the benches. LA are one of those select few teams where leading in hits does not equate losing the possession battle: the Kings had the edge in Corsi 55%-45%. Duncan Keith was called upon to have another standout game, ending up 2nd star of the night.
The last time the Kings came to West Madison Street the Hawks were seething after a pantsing in Toronto and made them pay the price. That 3-1 beating was somewhat deceptive, though: the Kings were at the end of a four game road trip and looked tired & disinterested. They have plenty of reason to be motivated tonight, though: they’re coming off two straight losses to the Stars and Preds, are 3rd in the Pacific and must be casting nervous glances at Vancouver steaming up behind them. Jon Quick is nearly ready to return but it’ll likely be the excellent Ben Scrivens in net tonight.
Calloway Me A Cab
Cheer the Podcast Episode 3 (12/29/13): The Blues and Packers continue to make us miserable but we soldier on to talk about the top six make up among Blackhawks forwards, World Junior Championship hockey, the Ducks on the rise while the Wild swoon and answer a few e-mails. We also share our thoughts on the Blackhawks Stadium Series jersey choice.
Click below to listen through WordPress’ media player, and the iTunes link can be found here. Be sure to subscribe, rate and review us on there while continuing to fill our mailbag at firstname.lastname@example.org
I specifically waited until this morning to put together a recap because I was so pissed off last night that I knew everything I wrote would be pure emotional rage with very little logic sprinkled in. The Blues fans on meth reading this know what I’m talking about.
The Blackhawks entered last night’s showdown in St. Louis with a 17-0-1 record when scoring at least four goals, with the lone defeat being that 6-5 OT loss to Tampa Bay way back on Oct. 24. I was doing nothing short of dreaming up ways to make fun of the Blues after the ‘Hawks went up 2-0 and 3-1 in the first period, figuring they’d tack on a couple more and send Nakis to the St. Louis-area bars with insults in tow. It looked much like the Colorado laugher from the night before.
Then the first two-goal lead evaporated. Brandon Saad and Brent Seabrook gave the ‘Hawks another, but they blew that, too. What was even more enraging was how quickly it happened, with Tarasenko and Berglund scoring goals they probably shouldn’t have.
Antti Raanta in a shootout? We can only hope we don’t have to see that happen again. To say he’s bad in the tiebreaker would be as nice as telling Ken Hitchcock he looks fine the way he is. And just like that, the Blackhawks pissed away three separate two-goal leads and handed two points to the hated Blues, who have won four straight in the series.
But that’s where I’m going to draw the line right now when it comes to these two teams. I’m going to jump ahead to May, because we all know there’s a good chance the Blues and ‘Hawks will be battling it out in the playoffs.
We all know about Joel Quenneville and his various qualities. However there are six more guys out there in Conference III, coaching their teams for better or worse (much, much worse in some cases). Here’s a quick guide, at this halfway point of the Season, to how they’re doing and whether or not they should have U-Haul on speed-dial.
Mike Yeo: Minnesota Wild
Appearance: Like a High School Social Sciences teacher who has just been hit on the back of the head with a condom.
How Is He Doing?: Not so good. The Wild are now firmly on the Playoff bubble and have hit a serious skid of late, exacerbated by goaltending problems that absolutely no-one could have foreseen except people who know about “Serious Illness” “AHL-Level Goalies” and “Nik Backstrom is Old & Bad”. Likely to be made the scapegoat for some pretty bad Front-Office decisions.
Who’s His Boss?: Chuck Fletcher, who spent 196m of owner Craig Leipold’s last remaining dollars on two players, thus necessitating the Lockout so that the poor man could afford to feed his family (of gold-plated lemurs that he keeps in the spare bathroom on his 2nd-best yacht). So not to blame for the mire that they find themselves in, at all.
Job Security: May have been fired by the time you read this.
Killing Two Birds?
Well, that was certainly fun.
After 20 minutes of play tonight you pretty much knew where this was going. Three goals, one on the man advantage, and Patrick Sharp was just one goal away from a hattie on his birthday. He completed the trick barely 30 seconds into the 2nd period and the Hawks never let up the remainder of the way. Fuck, Michal Handzus scored a goal tonight because Patrick Kane put up a point in his 13th straight. Whitewashing. By the end, I’d run out of words to describe the thing.
Tonight sees the Blackhawks returning to action, after a three-day break over the Festive Period, with the first of three tricky games in four nights. First up the Colorado Avalanche, former Western Conference high-flyers and still a formidable opponent, come to the UC; then Saturday sees a short trip to the Scottrade to take on another heavyweight in the St Louis Blues. There will then be a Sunday “Break” where we get to chew our fingers to the bone over Bears/Packers before the Los Angeles Kings make their second trip to West Madison. All three of these games are against Western Conference contenders of one stripe or another and all three will present stiff challenges to be surmounted.
Sincerest apologies for the late recap….
I’m still not sure I quite understand how it’s possible New Jersey only managed twelve shots on goal in a professional hockey game. Obviously everybody knows that the Devils play a very conservative style, but this was dreadfully boring even for them. How lopsided was the possession game? Only seven face-offs the entire game took place inside the Blackhawks zone. SEVEN! There were forty six total in the contest. You can’t spend that much time in your own zone against a team like the Blackhawks and expect to have any sort of chance to get even a point. I don’t care who you are or what your philosophy is – you have to score some goals when you’re playing a team like the ‘Hawks.
Think I’ll go out to Alberta, weather’s
good horrible there in the Fall Winter
You’ve likely read most everything regarding last night’s 3-2 shootout loss to the hated Canucks, so I’ll try and be brief throughout some points and into Boxing.
— With Vancouver playing the second of a back-to-back – three in four nights overall – and the ‘Hawks coming off three days rest, the first period went about as expected. The Blackhawks outshot the Canucks 10-3 and, as evident by the chart seen below via Extra Skater, they pretty much dominated the play. Kris Versteeg got the ‘Hawks on the board with a deflection of Patrick Kane’s shot for the period’s only goal.
— As you can see, though, Vancouver turned it up a notch after a period of finding their legs and held the ‘Hawks relatively at bay, save for Kane’s goal less than five minutes into the second. The Canucks tightened up and clogged the neutral zone, allowing them to put more chances on net before tying the game.
– Antti Raanta could’ve been better, but each of those goals came off deflections. Kassian’s goal deflected in off Brent Seabrook’s inner leg and changed the puck’s trajectory. Raanta made a valiant effort on the second goal to go post-to-post, but Sedin got enough lift on a loose puck to get it off Raanta’s shoulder and into the net. Shit happens.
— That shootout was fucking agonizing and I hated every second of it. Especially when Lack somethefuckhow was able to snatch Kane’s backhand. I read Kane’s lips on TV and he explained it perfectly: “No fucking way.”
— The Blackhawks failed to score on the power play after going the last 10 games with at least one power-play goal. Kane said he thought the PP let the team down, but Vancouver has killed off 29 of their last 30 penalties and leads the NHL with a 90.2 PK percentage. Something had to give, and it so happened to be the ‘Hawks PP.
— Adam, Jim and I would like to thank Piece in Wicker Park for their hospitality while we were easily the most animated people in the place watching the game.
— Losing to Vancouver is never fun – at all – and it’s especially frustrating when blowing a two-goal lead to those assholes, but, well, whatever. 5-1-1 over the last seven ain’t so bad. Just pound the Devils on Monday.