The Good News: The Hawks returned to the scene of their worst performance of the year and came out with a modicum of pride restored and, more importantly, two points
The Bad News: There are still four more games against Nashville this season.
Cheer the Podcast Episode 2 (12/16/13): Topics covered include 24/7’s HBO coverage of the Maple Leafs-Red Wings Winter Classic, Bryan Bickell’s return to the Blackhawks lineup and its implications on the rest of the roster, plus reader e-mails and a look into the close of the calendar year for the Blackhawks schedule.
Now, admittedly I did not watch last night’s contest against the Leafs due to a prior engagement (it’s still on my DVR, I might watch it just to make sure it really happened) but the type of play tonight at the United Center is what I would have expected against that Toronto team, not these Kings. Conversely, I would not have been surprised if the 7-3 drubbing came against Los Angeles. But in a complete role reversal, the Blackhawks absolutely dominated possession, out shooting LA 40-22, and were responsible for about two-thirds of any shot attempt directed towards either net. The Kings never mounted anything resembling an offense and were lucky to not be the first shutout victim of the 2013-14 season for the Blackhawks tonight.
So I say it again… just what the hell happened exactly in the Air Canada Center on Saturday?
Sod that for a game of soldiers. About the only thing missing from last night’s disaster was someone getting hurt. I’m, sure no-one wants to talk about it, so we’ll get it out of the way quickly & move on to eyeing up LA.
Got that Friday feeling? Good, us too. The Blackhawks are heading into the weekend after a run of three games where they scored at least six goals (and also won by at least four). The mood around Hawks Nation is positively buoyant, after a brief outbreak of DOOM folowing Corey Crawford’s injury. It’s going to be a busy weekend after a few days off; first a trip to the ACC to play the slumping Leafs, a game that, while it will lack the ferocity of the old Norris Division days, is always one to circle on the calendar. The following night sees one of the Western Conference’s genuine powerhouses, the Kings, roll into town for the first time this season. LA have gotten over their usual slow start and are rumbling up the standings on the back of a five-game winning streak.
I won’t go to much into the upcoming games, as each warrants its own preview; instead here are five thoughts that are rattling around in what passes for my brain after the last week of Chicago Hockey. Feel free to debate, debunk & demolish in the comments. You can also call me a ‘Thundering Flangehead’ if you like.
Welp, Philadelphia sure got Phucked.
Trailing 1-0 after 20, the Blackhawks dominated the final 40 and ran away with a 7-2 victory over the Flyers on Wednesday night that had a good portion of the United Center faithful leaving early to beat the traffic.
What they saw before heading out into the penis-shrinking frigid temperatures was a beatdown perfectly suited for an embarrassment of a Philadelphia squad. Seven goals by seven different Blackhawks. They’ve scored 19 goals during their three-game winning streak, making it look so easy that Jonathan Toews literally has goals coming out of his ass.
Our friend Brandon Spinner points out that the ‘Hawks haven’t scored at least six goals in three straight games since Jan. 21-24, 1993.
— The ‘Hawks have six players with at least 10 goals. Six. Andrew Shaw got into double digits with his wrap-around tally past Rey M. Murray. Shaw is Chicago’s third-line center. He has 10 goals. You know how many Flyers have 10 goals? Hint: It equals the same amount of Stanley Cups they’ve won over the last 36 seasons.
— Patrick Kane had two assists, bringing him to within one point of Sidney Crosby for the NHL lead. He has a point in 19 of his last 20 games, yet that didn’t stop the guy in Sec. 326, Row 13, Seat 11 from saying shit like this all night: DAT KANE, WHYS HE ALWAYS LOOKIN FER DA PASS? HE’S NOT DOIN NUTTIN. GOTS NO SPEED. SUMFFINS WRONG WIT DAT KANE GUY TONIGHT. HE DONT LOOK NO GOOD. I hope you’re reading this, too. Moron.
— Patrick Sharp had a goal and two assists, making the handsome one officially on fire. Four goals and four assists during the winning streak. Remember when he used to play for the Flyers? And they gave him to the Blackhawks because they had too many centers and has flourished as a wing? And even played center on the 2010 Cup team at times? Hahahaha. I like that story.
— So, the penalty kill was meh, and the power-play unit gave up a pair of short-handed breakaways. But Antti Raanta was all over those, and he played a pretty solid net overall – especially given he played last night against Dallas. This two-day break should suit him well. Oh, and the ridiculous scoring output is sure helping ease his transition to holding down the fort in Crawford’s absence.
— Nice little tribute welcoming back Emery. He must’ve really missed hearing Chelsea Dagger.
Here’s Boxing. The other idiots will be here with you Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday, as I’m going to be doing plenty of drinking during an extended birthday weekend. You’ll hear me with Adam and Jim on Cheer the Podcast early next week, though.
Well, city of Dallas, thank you for providing us with two teams Chicago can laugh at on consecutive nights.
After the Bears broke open a tight game to rout the Cowboys on Monday Night Football, the Blackhawks scored early and often in a 6-2 domination of the Stars on Tuesday.
Before we go any further – especially since we won’t get to see him again until March 25 – can we all agree that Antoine Roussel is one of the biggest jagoffs this planet has ever seen? Kris Versteeg giving him that little shot as the clock wound down got him all butthurt, but Roussel was a piece of shit all night with his antics. And of course, that asshole scores twice. At least they had little meaning, unlike the last meeting at the United Center. He’s about as much fun as a morning-after-White Castle shart.
On to more important things, the resounding victory was a nice follow after dominating Florida on Sunday, and a solid precursor heading into Wednesday’s tilt at the UC against Philadelphia. Antti Raanta was solid, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Brandon Saad and Duncan Keith all played very well, and the ‘Hawks got a little revenge, too.
A couple things I wanted to point out…
— We’ve all been pretty tough on Brent Seabrook around here, but I thought he played a solid game tonight, including the pass that sprung Kane for his breakaway goal. He played tough along the boards and drew a couple penalties.
— Though the ‘Hawks failed to convert on that early, extended 5-on-3, it wasn’t because they were short on chances. Sure, it stings not to pot one there, but Lehtonen made a couple of nice saves and pucks went just wide. Had they not generated anything, it would be more concerning.
— As Nakis wrote on Twitter, nice goal by Future 3rd-line Winger Michael Kostka.
— Keith’s slap pass to Sharp that led to a breakaway goal was a thing of beauty. By the way, he’s fourth in the league with 24 assists. Not fourth among defensemen, but fourth in the goddamn NHL. That’s neat.
— With the news Corey Crawford will be out three weeks – and I think that’s a gift given how bad he looked coming off the ice Sunday – it’s Raanta’s net. He might even get the call against the Philly as well given that the backup is now something named Kent Simpson. He let in a softy in the second and then one in the closing seconds to Dallas’ resident cocksucker, but he played some solid goal and made 27 saves.
— Jonathan Toews missed a couple shifts and only took 11 draws, losing seven. Hand? Wrist? Just precaution in a blowout? We’ll see.
Before I get to Boxing, I’d like to first apologize for my lack of presence around the site lately. I got married – yes, I actually was able to convince someone to marry me – and have been dealing with a pending move back into the city, so things outside of here have been a bit hectic. I’ll be around a lot more now, especially as we get Cheer the Podcast going regularly.
Here we go….
Among the topics covered are Corey Crawford’s injury in the Florida game and what it means going forward, goaltending contracts in general, the James Neal-Shawn Thornton mess in Pittsburgh and Boston plus some general talk about the East vs. the West stack-up so far. Enjoy! Hopefully next week we’ll be able to deliver on the surprise we mention in the first minute or so.
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The last time the Florida Panthers were in town it required a police escort to get the visitors’ bus to the UC, due to heavy snow. That was in January 2012 and Kris Versteeg spoke of his emotion on his first sight of the Stanley Cup banner that he had helped to win. The Hawks won 3-1 that night.
We’ll that was then and this is now. Versteeg is once more a Hawk and there’s a new Cup banner hanging in the rafters. The Panthers roll into town 3rd last in the Eastern Conference, 12 points adrift of a Wild Card slot. So they’re pretty much dead and buried, then.
Here come the Ducks..
The only team that the 2013 Blackhawks couldn’t solve roll up to the UC tonight in a similar position to last year, with the Hawks at the top of the League and Anaheim being among the leaders of the pursuing pack.
This was a hell of a hockey game. The Wild came out of the gates firing as Matt Cooke dented the twine not even five minutes into the contest on a goal from the slot. Torrey Mitchell’s pass was from behind the goal line in the corner and Cooke put it home. After that it wasn’t until a Wild powerplay late in the 2nd period that the scoreboard operator had to make a move. For the better part of the first 40 minutes, the play was even. Both teams traded chances and Quenneville relied heavily on his top line and pairing.
It is what it is. I’m not going to second-guess this overmuch. These lines probably make the most sense based on the pieces available in St Paul. The fact that there is an NHL-ready (if not 100% yet then learning) Center getting ready for a game in Charlotte with the Icehogs tonight while a winger is the 2nd Line pivot and two players with 8 & 9 NHL games between them are on the 3rd line with a Defenseman is just one of those things that we’re going to have to try to ignore and have faith that Q knows what he’s doing.
Otherwise we might think he’s out of his mind.
As my esteemed colleague JesusMarianHossa pointed out on Twitter, chances are that the erstwhile 3rd line will be more like the 4th, certainly in terms of TOI. This whole “The 4th Line is ROCKIN'” narrative should get put to a stern test because it’s been a possession black-hole and is likely to see some hefty opposition tonight.
Mike Yeo does love his match-ups and obviously has last change. so look for him to get his big guns out aginst them. The Minnesota lines have a slightly makeshift look about them, with Mikael Granlund now out indefinitely with a concussion. They are expected to roll Parise-Koivu-Pominville ahead of Heatley-Coyle-Niederreiter. This could get hairy quite quickly. Apparently Saad could also see some time at Center, too. What is guaranteed is a lot of double-shifting, so it’s a good thing this isn’t the first of a back-to-back with the Ducks coming to Chicago tomorrow, hey?
Anyway, I would expect the line blender in overdrive if things don’t start well tonight.
The Wild are no slouches, as we discovered already this year, outside of the top-tier Parise & Suter, they have Jason Pominville, Coyle & Niederreiter all contributing well. Jared Spurgeon is having an excellent year thus far and of course there’s that goalie. The Wild allow the 2nd fewest Shots Against in the League and Josh Harding has a SV% of .939.
This could be a long night against a genuine Conference III contender.
Of course, it might all click brilliantly, the Hawks annihilate the Wild and Q looks like a genius.
Guess there’s only one way to find out.
Puck drops at 7
The day after an annoying defeat to Dallas was not spent in idle reflection.
We saw two players recalled from Rockford, one player demoted there, a player on IR also headed for the Icehogs and two more players not making the trip to Minnesota.
Busy day at the office. So, what does it all mean?
So, back to the UC and the blessed relief of Pat & Edzo who have, in between whining about luxury travel, also been a-hankering for that soft-serve ice cream in Chicago.
It’s back to business as usual, and I do mean usual, as the Stars provide the opposition yet again (part of Realignment means that we’re going to get very used to certain teams)
It’s been a hell of a long time since we’ve done one of these – since right before Game 6, to be exact – so we decided to get back on the horse. Bartl and Nakis (Pronounced n-AAAAAAAA-kis, as I was told later) welcomed Adam into the fold for his first ‘cast. We discussed:
– Mighty Mike’s trip to U S and A
– Kris Versteeg since the trade
– Brandon Pirri
– The awfulness of the Eastern Conference
– The domination of the Western Conference
– The fucking Blues
And other stuff. Go ahead and take a half hour out of your time and give us idiots a listen. Enjoy!
If that doesn’t work, click and listen here
Spoiler Alert: Yes, yes he is.
One of the subplots to last night’s victory over the Coyotes was Brandon Pirri‘s TOI (or the distinct lack of same)
That was fun, wasn’t it?
I don’t know about you, but I had a certain sense of resignation coming in to tonight’s game. Having seen the weary, lacklustre performance against the Stars, knowing it was the last game of a long road trip and just how hard a place to win Glendale is, I was expecting the worst.
Instead we got two periods of scintillating Hawks hockey sandwiching one where they lost their focus. The bombardment started as the Hawks pinned the Yotes in their zone for most of the early running, before ending up with a minute and a half of 5 on 3 time. Duncan Keith made the pass, Marian Hossa took the shot and Patrick Kane turned it past Mike Smith. Smith’s evening took a turn for the worse a few minutes later when a shot from his Bestest Friend In The Whole Wide World, Andrew Shaw, somehow dribbled in between his stick & the post. Almost immediately it became 3-0 when Offensive Juggernaut Nicklas Hjalmarsson placed a peach of a shot beyond Smith’s glove hand. We held our breath, anticipating a stick-smashing or the hook for Smith, who was clearly struggling. No such luck, however, and that did it for the 1st.
The 2nd period was a whole new kettle of fish: the Yotes came out reinvigorated and quickly got a goal back from Rob Klinkhammer. Then the Hawks started taking penalties: first Oduya went off for a cross-check. Almost immediately after the Hawks killed that one, Hjalmarsson took a slashing penalty and turned it into a double-minor for opening his mouth to the ref. Mike Riberio, who the cretins calling the game for Phoenix apparently compared to Patrick Kane, set up Radim Vrbata to bring it to 3-2. With Hjammer still in the box, Oduya hooked Vermette and joined him. The Hawks killed off the 5-3 and then Martin Hanzal demonstrated exactly what sort of Dumb Fuck he is by pointlessly slashing Seabrook. That, mercifully, was it for the 2nd.
The 3rd period was a return to relentless Hawks dominance and Brandon Bollig, of all people, scored with a nice wrister to restore the two goal advantage. If you ever want to see sheer nonchalant genius, watch the way Marian Hossa tucks away his ENG. I swear he’s not even watching when it hits the back of the net.
Job done. 6-1 on the Circus Trip and a potential hurdle negotiated.
- Antti Raanta did very well tonight. He has some issues with his game that need sorting: lateral movement and any time he skates out of his crease being the main ones. However, his shot-stopping is exemplary and he had to stop 32 of them, some of which were point blank redirects. This kid is going to be just fine.
- Duncan Keith grabbed two assists tonight, which, I believe, puts him in the Top 3 League-wide. Pat Kane has started a new points-streak and Sharp, Toews & Saad were relentless. Even Brent Seabrook had a good night.
- Shane Doan is apparently Captain of the Coyotes. Swear I didn’t see his elbowy self all night.
- Mike Smith managed a couple of half-hearted flops and was bitching to the refs about Andrew Shaw being in the same timezone as him, but no stick-smashing theatrics, sadly. He was not good tonight, but was spared the hook because who knows what a Thomas Greiss is?
- Brandon Pirri appears to be the newest resident of Q’s doghouse. 7.07 TOI. More on this another day, I think.
- There was a true battle of the Dumbass Callers going on tonight: FOX had the Yotes callers comparing Mike “Varly-Lite” Ribeiro to Patrick Kane and CSN had Pat Foley, his voice cracking with emotion/scotch, lamenting Eddie Olcyzk’s heavy 1st Class travel schedule between his two high-paying jobs over the holiday weekend. I’m sure all the MinimumWage-earning retail staff who had to skip Thanksgiving and then face floods of assholes on Black Friday are clubbing together to buy him a big bunch of roses.
- Sellout for the Yotes for the first time ever. And it looked like 75% Chicago in there. The “Let’s Go Hawks” chants were as loud as any at the UC. The Hawks should have done their fan salute at the end.
OK, that’s that. First home game is our old pals Dallas at the UC on Tuesday. The guys can catch some rest and be proud of this road trip: the real hard labours lie directly ahead as December is shaping up to be a very tough month. Still, the Hawks are the team to beat in the league. I like the view from up here.
So, tonight is going to be the record-breaking single-game atttendance revenue for the Phoenix Coyotes in Glendale. As the previous record was $825.41 (Marci and Wade splashed out and bought the jumbo fries instead of regular: it was their anniversary, after all) this wasn’t so hard to do. Obviously the conveniently-located Jobing.com Arena is going to be full of brand new Hockey fans from the excellent work that new owners IceArizona are doing in growing the game in the desert, further showing their long-term commitment, right?
It’s probably as good a summary of this game as any to point out that, at its conclusion, 22 Professional Hockey players skated in unopposed to take shots on goal and 19 of them failed to score. It was that sort of a night.
It’s often said that the marl of a true Champion is the ability to eke out a win when not playing well and the Blackhawks certainly seemed to be testing that theory. They were outshot 29-26, and seemed to have difficulty passing to a teammate. Shots were deflecting off shinpads, pucks were bobbling and it just seemed like one of those nights. Corey Crawford caught the mood, going walkabout behind the goalline which allowed Horcoff to get the puck back in front for Rich Peverley to shoot it home.
The second period was a low-shot trudge, the only incident of note being the horrible injury sustained by Stephane Robidas, whose ankle seemed to give way as he competed for the puck, exarcebated by him sliding into the boards. He was stretchered off in agony and taken to the hospital, where the word is that he has, indeed, broken his ankle. Nasty.
Third period saw the Hawks upping the tempo a little and when they did the Stars becan to chase shadows. The game was tied when Patrick Sharp glanced in yet another Duncan Keith long-ranger, giving Duncs 21 assists for the year, good for 4th in the league, just behind some guy called Crosby. No winner was to be found in the rest of the period or OT, although Patrick Kane tried hard to keep his point streak alive, and we proceeded to the shootout. Regulation scoreres Sharp and Peverley converted on their attempts and then 16 shots were saved, missed or otherwise biffed until Ben Smith stepped up and rifled one past Lehtonen.
Ugly two points, but two points nonetheless and on a night where St Louis lost, allowing a tiny bit of daylight to open at the top of Conference III. A better efort is going to be needed against the Yotes in Phoenix tonight as the Hawks finish off this road trip. talking points:
- Expensive screw-up aside, Crawford had a pretty good night, turning away 28 shots at 0.966%. He also remains perfect in his career vs Penalty Shots, although he didn’t have too much to do with this one: Alex Chiasson hit the post with his attempt after Brent Seabrook hooked him. He was looking thoroughly bored by the time the SO finished
- The Stars did their best impersonation of the Blues last night: there were many cross-checks, cheap shots and general asshattery. Roussel, Garbutt and Dillon were the main culprits, Roussel getting away with butt-smashing Patrick Kane to the ground which sparked a confrontation between Sharp and Daley. Brent Seabrook looked like he was going to remove the head of the next person to get in Crawfords face. Aded to the generally scappy ugliness last night.
- Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad both did their level best to get something going but the final pass or shot just semed to be missing all night.
- Hopefully Robidas heals quickly: horrible to see a player suffering like that.
- Pat Foley, Cold Warrior, referred to Valeri Nichushkin as a “Skilled Soviet”. Clearly Pat hasn’t been sober since the Wall came down or he might have noticed that Nichuskin wasn’t even born when the Soviet Union stopped existing.
One to forget, two more points in the bag, the Circus Trip now 5-1-0 with one to play.
Preview up later. Have a good day!
Having seen off all four of the Western Conference Canadians, the Blackhawks are back on Conference III duty tonight against that Conference’s surprising basement-dwellers.
Of course, the Stars are not as bad as their position suggests: they’re 7-3-0 on their last 10 and have games in hand on Nashville & Winnipeg. They’ve just come off a high-speed mugging of Anaheim, scoring a very-Blackhawks-like three goals in under a minute of the Third period.The last meting between these two was closer than the eventual scoreline suggested (Offensive Juggernaut Niklas Hjalmarsson‘s 200 foot empty-netter, remember?)
In Jamie Benn-Tyler Seguin-Valeri Nichushkin the Stars have a top-line that can skate with anyone. It falls off fairly rapidly after that, though. It’ll be interesting to see where Lindy Ruff deploys them tonight; as usual the Blackhawks are rolling deep and with Marian Hossa restored to the lineup there is truly phenomenal power on the Blackhawks Top 6. Michal Handzus is there, too.
Last time in Dallas the Hawks managed to take 6 penalties: they got away with it because the Stars PP is ranked 29th in the league and, frankly, sucks. However, staying out of the box is always a smart move, yes? On the subject of smart moves, it would be a decent idea to give Antti Raanta another look against the average Sh% Stars, but it looks likely that it’ll be Corey Crawford back in net. Kari Lehtonen will start for Dallas.
The Stars are the definition of “Middle-of-the-pack by pretty much every metric that counts. This is not to say they’re not dangerous: they can hurt you and quickly, as the Ducks found out. As journey’s end for the Circus Trip draws ever closer, a better than .500 record guaranteed, the Hawks will need to watch out for any complacency or thinking ahead to Phoenix. If they can avoid that, then they should be far too strong for the Stars.
Puck drops at 7.30 Central.
Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are taking the opportunity to relax with friends, family and a beverage rather than fighting over cut-price TVs in Best Buy.
Not sure I want to get used to having to come back against the Flames but it certainly is better to be on this side of the equation having been on the other far more recently when it comes to Chicago sports. A late third period goal to tie it and this time overtime wasn’t even necessary. Calgary was content finishing their meltdown in regulation. I’ll go ahead and join the chorus in saying that today, I am thankful for the Patricks.
We’re at the half-way point of the Circus Trip and the Blackhawks seem to have put a couple of chastening losses (in Nashville & Denver) behind them to see off the Jets, Canucks and Edmonton. A win tonight in Calgary will guarantee a better-than 0.500 result from the trip to the West. Injured players like Michal Handzus and and Michael Kostka are returning to the fold, Marian Hossa is available again. Duncan Keith is in imperious form and Patrick Kane is on a record-equalling points streak. Tonight we will see backup goalie Antti Raanta make his first NHL start.
Yet for the last couple of days Hawks fans on the internet, the blogs in particular, have been angry, confused and argumentative. The reason? Head Coach Joel Quenneville and his perplexing personnel decisions (and yes, I know that the decision to send Jeremy Morin to Rockford rests ultimately with Stan Bowman: we’ll get to that)
Before we start, take a look at this hilarious video (courtesy of our pal @LevNaginsky ) of Corey Crawford being, uh……hilarious. Corey Crawford is now providing you quality goaltending and zany physical comedy. What a guy.
We will now proceed with your regular wrap:
Things went exceeding well tonight for the Blackhawks despite Joel Quenneville selecting the second, third, and fourth lines by picking names out of a hat and Iron Man Corey Crawford dressing for the fifteenth consecutive fucking game. The Hawks jumped all over the Oilers right off the bat and didn’t take their foot off the neck of the Oilers until they were up by four goals. This game felt out of reach for the Oilers only halfway through the first period when Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane struck within three minutes of each other to give the Hawks an early lead. They would go on to dominate the rest of the period and could have led by even more had Devan Dubynk not made several big saves.