With a six-game road trip upcoming before the Olympic break, the Blackhawks headed into their final game at the United Center until March 4 coming off a dismal offensive performance against Minnesota and looking to provide some momentum going into their trip.
And what did we witness? Another dismal offensive performance that left us all scratching our heads and had some trying to place all the blame on Corey Crawford because, well, that’s what people tend to do – no matter what.
The Blackhawks missed open nets and failed plenty of solid opportunities when Glenview native Al Montoya wasn’t standing on his head, and Marian Hossa gift-wrapped Andrew Ladd’s winning goal in the Jets’ 3-1 victory Sunday. It marked the Blackhawks’ first loss in regulation in 27 games when they led after two periods.
The Blackhawks, who have failed to score at least two goals in back-to-back games for the first time since March 23 and 27, 2012, now embark on a trip that includes stops in Calgary, Vancouver, San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Phoenix before the Olympics.
Bryan Bickell was a healthy scratch, with Q saying “we want more, we need more” from him. Q simply is trying to send a message – he dressed both Kostka and Brookbank – but expect Bickell to be back in the lineup against Calgary.
Some thoughts before Boxing… (Actually, it’s one big thought)
Jim got into it with a few people on Twitter following the game, and it largely had to do with this:
If you’re Corey Crawford, and you want criticism to go away, you have to outplay Al Montoya.
— Jay Zawaski (@JayZawaski670) January 27, 2014
Leave it to Zawaski to try and make a game the Blackhawks clearly lost because of their inability – for the second straight game – to get a second goal by missing many, many chances into something about Crawford to fit his “controversy” narrative. The worst part is that people buy it, and therefore will continue to do so.
Montoya played fabulously and far above his means – he entered having given up 10 goals over his previous two starts – while the Blackhawks failed to convert on the chances Montoya allotted them. Furthermore, the deciding goal came off a horrible Hossa turnover, even before Ladd’s shot deflected in off Keith.
Zawaski continued by saying Crawford “needed to be in better position” and should have “bailed out a teammate.” C’mon guy. I’m sorry, but this loss isn’t on Crawford. And for anyone to say it is, is completely blind to the fact that the ‘Hawks lost because they couldn’t put the puck in the net – again.
In Boxing, I list the recent production from four of the Blackhawks’ top six. It’s pretty pathetic. The ‘Hawks haven’t scored an even-strength goal since Andrew Shaw’s tally in the first period against Detroit. They’re also 1 for 20 on the power play over the last six games.
If you want to place blame, start getting on the Blackhawks’ top players for not producing how they should. Blaming Crawford is a cop out, and someone like Zawaski should know better if he’s going to go by the title of “Blackhawks Analyst.”
Jonathan Toews said the ‘Hawks “just threw away another two points.” And that’s not on Crawford. The ‘Hawks played like a pile of dog shit in the third period at both ends of the ice. That was the problem. They played 40 minutes, not 60.
On that note, be sure to check out our latest episode of Cheer the Podcast. We talk plenty about the doldrums of January and this current slump, even before the loss to Winnipeg.
Cheer the Podcast Episode 6 (1/25/14): We got a new microphone! And have an intro! Once again we begin with reader e-mails as they increase in number, which include topics such as the 2nd line center acquisitions, playoff projections and who the Hawks want/don’t want to play, special teams recent performance, David Bowie and the recent sluggish play. Then we move into the upcoming road trip, Sochi security concerns, Blackhawks Nation’s photoshop larceny and the ever important sixth defenceman.
Audio after the jump.
That’s just your run-of-the-mill, please-get-this-crap-off-my-TV kind of game.
The Blackhawks entered Thursday’s matchup with Minnesota 9-0-3 in the second of back-to-back games, and they nearly pulled another point out of their asses in the final minutes. Alas, their sleep walking through the first 58 1/2 minutes did them in before falling 2-1.
The ‘Hawks have lost nine times in regulation this season. Three of those defeats have came against the Wild. Yes, one-third of the Blackhawks’ regulation losses have come against goddamn Minnesota. Let that sink in for a second.
It’s no secret we didn’t see anywhere near the Blackhawks’ best against Detroit save for the quick two-goal lead they eventually relinquished, but Thursday was just one sad sack of a performance from top to bottom. Q said after the game that no one stuck out, and I couldn’t agree more. Laziness, stupid penalties and missed opportunities all were had throughout the contest, and it grew frustrating to watch.
Having Keith out was another turd we had to swallow.
Thoughts before Boxing…
* So, I understand the bright side of pointing out that the Blackhawks have lost only twice in regulation over their last 18 games. At least they’ve gotten points more often than not. I get it. However, Let’s take a quick look at the seven OT/shootout defeats.
– Dec. 20: Blew two-goal lead at home to Vancouver before falling 3-2 in a shootout
– Dec. 28: Blew three separate two-goal leads at St. Louis, then lost 6-5 in a shootout
– Jan. 2: Lost 3-2 in OT to the New York Islanders. Yes, those New York Islanders.
– Jan. 5: Fell behind by two in a listless performance until the third, tied the game, lost 3-2 in a shootout to San Jose
– Jan. 11: Nothing until the third, then lost 2-1 in OT to Montreal
– Jan. 14: Fell behind quickly 2-0, recovered to tie it, lost in OT to Colorado
– Wednesday: The Detroit debacle
This 9-2-7 stretch hasn’t exactly been pleasant, though the wins over Anaheim and Boston were rather big. But the Blackhawks rarely have played a full game lately, either falling behind early and having to battle back or blowing a multiple-goal lead of their own while leaving an extra point on the table. Thursday was just a crapfest throughout, and I’m not exactly surprised the ‘Hawks played a full stinker given the direction they’ve been treading lately.
* Handzus is getting plenty of blame for lollygagging it back into the defensive end, allowing Pomniville to receive a great pass from Heatley to beat Raanta on the first goal. However, have you seen Bickell in that highlight? He began coasting at the red line. I’ll throw some blame his way as well.
* Anyone else ever think you’d see Hossa demoted/benched for even a single stretch like he was? Not sure if there was a specific message Q was sending, but still surprising. Hossa had a three-game goal-scoring streak snapped despite having a short-handed breakaway chance he failed to convert when the puck took off on him.
* Matt Cooke is still a prick, no matter how much he wants to try and convinced us he’s changed.
* Brandon Bollig. Quality minutes late in the third period of a close game. Again. It’s becoming as painful as brushing your teeth with barbed wire.
* Winnipeg, which had a four-game winning streak snapped with a loss to San Jose on Thursday, visits the UC on Sunday for “one of those great 6 o’clock starts.”
Last night was a mess, albeit a thrilling, entertaining one. A clearly fired-up Wings raised their game and the Hawks, well, the Hawks kind of lowered theirs. They met in the middle and there was an almighty bang. It looked like the Hawks were going to streak away after a couple of early goals but they let the Wings back into the contest when they could and should have killed them off. Johnny Oduya and Brent Seabrook both made separate, serious errors and lapses that led directly to Detroit goals. The Wings even took the lead heading into the 3rd, until Marcus Kruger tied the game with that period’s only goal. Overtime came and went in a frantic blur and, once again, you felt that a tie would have been the appropriate place to leave it.
Last time the Hawks saw the Detroit Red Wings, they were on the end of a handshake line after a pulsating, heart-pounding 7 Game series where the Hawks had looked dead and buried after four games, only to surge back and win through Brent Seabrook’s overtime goal. I’m sure you all remember. Since then, many things have changed: the Hawks have a new Championship banner in their rafters, Detroit have moved to the Eastern Conference and the fortunes of both teams have taken a decidedly different path.
Cheer the Podcast Episode 5 (1/18/14): Among the topics covered today are e-mail submissions from readers, HockeyBuzz and how its rumors may rot your brain out, Bryan Bickell and what’s been written about him, HockeeNight’s GONNA DRINKEN, the death of a terrible jersey, Pat Foley and Eddie Olczyk and the properly setting expectations up and down the roster. Audio after the jump.
The last 10 minutes of this hockey game were stressful enough that it’s easy to understand how many people could forget that Blackhawks utterly dominated Anaheim during the first 50 minutes of the contest. No matter, the Blackhawks will take a much needed regulation victory against what the standings say is the best team in the Western Conference.
Marian Hossa kicked off the scoring when he beat Jonas Hiller high glove side after stick-handing Cam Fowler to his knees. It was a shorthanded tally for Hossa, who had one had his strongest games in quite some time. Hell, this was among his most dominating performances as a Blackhawk. Hoss would also provide the empty netter with just seconds remaining in the game. The long march toward 500 continues for #81. Kris Versteeg put the Hawks up 2-0 on a goal that while admittedly flukey, was still a result of Versteeg crashing the net hard with his stick on the ice. It was exactly the kind of dirty goal that snaps prolonged slumps. Unfortunately for Versteeg and the Blackhawks, he went down late 2nd period after colliding awkwardly with Bryan Bickell. Despite the goal, he played less than seven minutes in two periods. For now, Versteeg is officially listed as day-to-day.
We don’t do a Links roundup here on CtA because either
a) We assume that our smart, knowledgable, downright good-looking readers voraciously scour the Web for anything Hawks/ Hockey related or
b) We’re lazy good-for-nothings
With that in mind, there have been a couple of articles on other sites over the last few days that we’d like to make sure you don’t miss, for one reason or another. So here they are, with some commentary.
Our good friend Jen LC wrote this article about Bryan Bickell for Second City Hockey. I’d actually started doing the stats research myself for a similar article. Jen has done the digging, tied it all together and presented it to the world a thousand times better than I ever could. It’s essential reading.
There was a general sentiment on Twitter the other night, as Pat Foley & Eddie Olcyzk descended into a burbling mess of catchphrases, half-baked stats and witless propaganda, that Hawks fans were reaching breaking point with that less-than-dynamic duo. The next day we got a pair of great articles, the first from Sam Fels at The Committed Indian and shortly followed by Mike at Hockey Brunch In Chicago. Great reading in both and plenty of food for thought. Also jokes.
Another of our friends, Ryan Hackett. decided to do a Twitter-based recap of last night’s game with his own acerbic commentary. It’s hilarious. We can almost forgive him for being a Packers fan.
On the subject of funny, we got introduced to the wonderful The Full Amonte today. Here is a fictional recap of a Terrible Hawks Game from the Dark Days. Involves Mike Milbury, Jocelyn Thibault and Dave Manson.
Just Plain Dumb:
While we have directed you to some well thought-out and researched writings, there is another side to the Hockey Blogosphere.. I’d like to present two scrapings from the barrel, in chronological order.
First we had The Hockey News with some extremely half-witted trade ideas. It seems that every year the whole “Steve Ott to the Blackhawks” thing comes up. It remains a terrible, terrible Bad Idea.
Today we also got the joy of John Jaeckel at Hockeybuzz weighing in with a “Rumour” that “Passes the sniff test” about the Hawks trading with Winnipeg to reacquire the services of Andrew Ladd. You’ll have to read it to find out what he thinks is going back in return. Make sure you have a strong drink handy. Oh, and if you’re feeling bad about yourself, read the comments. They’ll make you feel a million times better, because at least you’re not as dumb as those people.
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.