I had planned to come home and write this anyway, but Chris Kuc’s story regarding the Blackhawks’ gap control gave me even more reason.
The problem I have with this article isn’t that it was written, but more so in the way it was written and where the focus of the story lies. The Blackhawks have always emphasized controlling the gap and taking away opponents’ easy entries into the offensive zone. They’re not just starting to put more time into practicing it, it’s simply that they’re doing it better over the past two games.
The story seems to be written as if this is a new thing the ‘Hawks are becoming good at doing. When a topic like this comes up, there’s no question it has to be compared to the way it was done during a championship campaign.
Last season, Duncan Keith won the Norris Trophy disrupting zone entries. Brent Seabrook did a hell of a job at this as well. Brian Campbell and Niklas Hjalmarrson were solid at the blue line, and even Brent Sopel played his part when he wasn’t getting caught flat-footed, though his strengths blossomed when the puck had already been in the zone.
Once again, it’s not a matter of the ‘Hawks just starting to talk about this. I don’t attend practices or hang out in the locker or film rooms, but I can put in a safe guess this has been a topic of discussion all year. The Blackhawks simply aren’t going to forget one of their main strengths which helped them win the Stanley Cup.
If a defensive unit — and back-checking forwards — can disrupt the opposition’s entry into the zone and force more dumps than controlled entries, the game can become a battle for the puck along the boards — another thing the ‘Hawks excelled at winning last season. More dumps, more board battles and less controlled entries leads to fewer shots for the opponent, simply because the offense has difficulty getting into a rhythm and setting up its offense.
Through 35 games last season, Blackhawks goaltenders faced 842 shots on goal. This season? 1,016. That’s a whopping difference of 174 shots, which averages out to roughly five more shots per game. While the latter stat may seem minuscule, remember it only takes one shot to put the puck in the net — as simple and stupid and obvious as that may sound to you.
More statistics after the jump
Ok kiddies, 14 different Ex-hawks took the ice last night, and they actually were pretty productive. The Blackhawks South (Atlanta Thrashers) thrashed their opponent for the second straight game. In their last two games they have outscored their opponent 13-4. Also we saw a couple more shutouts in the league. Eight points were scored by the former hawks, four of each the goal and assist variety. A former Stanley Cup Champion hawk also matched and surpassed his point total of last year in his game.
Click the jump for updates from the 12/20/10 games
Very quiet night for the former Featherheads. No points scored with just just three skaters taking the ice including a red hot goaltender. Combined minus-2 with just six shots on goal.
Click the jump for Updates from the 12/19/10 Games
Beating a bitter rival rather convincingly while undermanned is one thing. Following up that performance two nights later against another contender is downright beautiful.
Without Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane, the Blackhawks have held their own through a stretch when points in the competitive Central Division are becoming a necessity. The ‘Hawks gained four points on Detroit this weekend after the Communists fell to Dallas on Sunday night.
The ‘Hawks have a golden opportunity to continue picking up points on the division when Nashville visits Wednesday, but we’ll get into that over the next couple of days.
After three straight losses and picking up only a single point against Western Conference foes San Jose and Colorado, the Blackhawks needed to respond with the Communists and Kings visiting the United Center — where they’ve played like dog shit at times this season. They’re now 6-2-0 in their last eight at home and giving the crowd something to cheer about after losing four of five at the UC previous to this stretch.
Jonathan Toews continues to play like an animal. Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith are playing better, and Corey Crawford keeps impressing. It’s a shame Crawford’s success is linked with the meatballs’ version of Mary Turco’s so-called failures because Crawford is making a hell of a name for himself with his play this season. I wish we could all just shut up and be happy the Blackhawks have two solid goaltender to go to at any given time, but I keep forgetting this is Chicago. Silly me.
Going along those lines and knowing there’s no in between when it comes to either jumping from the Whatchu Talkin’ ‘Bout Willis Tower or celebrating like the ‘Hawks have repeated already, I’m taking this weekend in stride and sitting in the middle like I’m hoping most of you are.
Two wins against top conference contenders are fabulous, especially because the Blackhawks continue their dominance of the Kings this season. However, there’s still those farts against the Sharks and Big Falling Snow Pile that resonate. Much like I didn’t down a bottle of Advil following those losses, I’m not going to start having celebratory sex with Kaner’s leftovers. I’m strapping in for the rest of the homestand and preparing myself for a more thorough evaluation after the 1st of the year.
With that being said, here’s your “Boxing” from the weekend. First, it’s ‘Hawks/Wings. Then, scroll down for ‘Hawks/Kings. Click the images to enlarge. For those viewing on the iPhone, attempt to enlarge your screen with your fingers like you would for anything else. The reason I say this is because Spinner got an email regarding this, and I want to make sure I can help those out having trouble viewing. If you are, comment here and I’ll figure something out for you.
Click the jump for Boxing with ‘Hawks/Wings and ‘Hawks/Kings.
The big news out of Los Angeles has been the arrival of newly-acquired Bruins forward Marco Sturm — which hasn’t really happened yet. Sturm has not played a game this season because of surgery to repair torn ligaments in his knee, and he is not expected to be in the Kings’ lineup until their return to LA next week. Boston gave Sturm to the Kings for absolutely nothing, and that’s not a joke or an exaggeration. The Bruins moved him simply to stay compliant with salary cap restrictions. Officially the other side of the deal was “future considerations,” but Boston GM Peter Chiarelli confirmed that they received literally zilch in return.
Welcome to Gary Bettman’s NHL.
So with a new sniper not quite in the lineup, the Blackhawks will be staring down essentially the same team they faced on November 27th. The Blackhawks came away from that tilt with a 2 – 1 victory behind 21 saves from Corey Crawford.
The Kings are mired in that mud puddle of teams scratching and clawing for the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference, finding themselves shy by two points at the moment. There’s a worst-kept secret about Los Angeles, and it’s this: 55 of their 82 goals — fully two-thirds of their offense — have been scored by five guys. So if we can manage to keep Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams, Dustin Brown, Jarret Stoll, and Ryan Smyth off the score sheet, we’re golden. We’ve beaten each of their goaltenders once this year, but you can bet they’ll throw Jonathan Quick and his 1.98 GAA at us this evening. It will not be easy to get pucks past him.
The good news in the last two days for the Chicago Blackhawks is that they are coming off a WIN! No, that’s not a typo: we WON! And against Detroit (*spitting noise*) of all people. I guess we shouldn’t be all that surprised: this is the season of miracles, after all.
And while we cherish the rafter-rattling cheers of “DEEE-TROIT SUCKS!!!” raining down on the Scum as we send them home with their tails between their legs, the challenge now becomes to keep this momentum going against the Kings tonight.
Now, let me just say this before we go too much further. On these “heritage night” events, we have to find some way to keep Pat Foley and Eddie Olczyk away from the bar before the broadcast. From the way they sounded at the opening face-off, here’s what I believe happened. They got to the rink around 4pm, went straight to the hospitality suite and rubbed elbows with all the Ambassadors on hand for the event. They joked and laughed, told war stories from the “Golden Era,” and slugged back a bottle or more of Glenfiddich between the two of them. By the time they got on the air, they were in no shape to water a plant, let alone do the play-by-play for a hockey game. During the third period they were calling Wings netminder Jimmy Howard “Corey Crawford” and not even having the presence of mind to correct themselves. It was pretty embarrassing.
The Blackhawks, however, were on their game from the start. They played 60 minutes of hockey without once going short-handed against the Red Wings, something they would do well to repeat as the rest of the season continues. They also managed to play if not an excellent defensive game, at least an above-average one. This, too, is something that the Hawks could use night in and night out.
No changes to the roster from Saturday’s game, though watch for Coach Joel Quenneville to continue his game of musical wingers as he tries out various combinations with newly-signed center Ryan Johnson. Wingers Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Viktor Stalberg are all confirmed to be out of the lineup, and Corey Crawford will get the start in net. Let’s have another game like the last one, and we should have ourselves a winning streak.
Family-friendly Sunday night start time of 6:00pm this evening. Second straight national broadcast on the NHL Network, blacked out in Chicago in favor of WGN-TV. Broadcast radio is WGN AM-720, and XM subscribers should look for the game on channel 206
Special note for tonight’s game: Up in Section 318 you’ll find a knockout brunette with the most gorgeous blue eyes you’ve ever seen. Lord only knows why she married the loser she did, and he mooches Hawks tickets off her too. But hey, he writes for BlackhawkUp.com, so he can’t be all bad. Drop by and shake his hand, he’ll be wearing the Duncan Keith home jersey and probably talking somebody’s ear off.
19 Former Hawks took the Ice last night with 3 Goals and 4 Assists scored. By the way, another one of our former netminders is doing well. Check it out.
Click the Jump for Updates from the 12/18/10 Games
6 Former Featherheads took the ice last night and there was only one point scored which was a goal. Small bit on how a former hawk who never skated with the Indian head on his jersey is putting together a decent season.
Click the Jump for Updates from the 12/17/10 Games
I looked back at the Blackhawks’ schedule several times, and still couldn’t believe that we had only met up with Detroit (*spitting noise*) once so far this season. It seemed unreasonable, since we play them six times during the campaign. But then I remembered what a typical season schedule looks like, and I looked ahead to April. We play them three times in the last eight games. And, we play them tonight.
The Hawks are coming off two emasculating losses to the Colorado Avalanche, which I won’t go into for fear of tearing my laptop apart like a spiral notebook in fits of barely-controllable rage. They now must look ahead to tonight’s game with the team that is leading the Central Division and sits first overall in the Western Conference by a sizable margin. Oh goodie.
Here Ya Go Kiddies
Last night we had 20 Former Blackhawks, 19 PIM, 8 Former Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks, 7 Points, 5 Assists, Minus 4, 2 Goals, and a Partridge in a Pear Tree. Oh and a Drunk Goalie who got a rare win.
Click the Jump for updates from the 12/16/10 games
Sixteen former Chicago Blackhawks took the ice last night, and the 14 skaters combined for 8 points (3 G, 5A). A couple of guys had some big games while others seemed like they were out to have fun and skate around with their girlfriends. Of the 2 goalies who played, one came away with a heart-wrenching victory that we all want to forget, and the other who left us for “more” money to play with the Sharks lost his game.
Click the Jump for updates from the 12/15/10 games