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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Playoffs: Blackhawks vs RedWings
Game 7 OT/Series Win Recap

"Dog Day Sunrise"

This was it, folks. The game for all the beans. The Hawks fought back against the hated Red Wings to force a game 7, at home. They had the momentum, and their home crowd behind them. Could the avenge the last game 7 they played in, where Vancouver ended their Stanley Cup defense, in 2011? There were no settled stomachs in Chicago for this one, and a riot damn near broke out, on West Madison, but not for what you'd expect.

The game opened up with a furious pace with wide open skating, physical play, and great chances. This was exactly what everyone had hoped for, in a game 7. The Hawks were out shot early, but rebounded to lead the period 13-10. What a first period.

The action only let up slightly in the second period. There was more wide open skating, physical play and more great chances. The Blackhawks took a 1-0 lead early on, and held onto that lead for the entire period and out shot the Wings 11-6. Twenty minutes to go...

It didn't take Detoilet long to tie up the game. Twenty six seconds, to be exact. They also had a majority of the third period chances. The Hawks came back and eventually won the game, if not for a terrible call, but more on that later. They took the game to overtime and eventually finished off the Wings. Next target, LA! Holy crap, can I breathe now?

The Good

  • The Hawks killed off an early Duncan Keith tripping penalty, but not without a few tense moments. Crawford was huge, and the PK stood tall.
  • Bickell was an absolute bulldozer early on, plowing through the Detoilet defenders and throwing some big hits. He also pulled a filthy move on The Whipping Boy in the second period, but couldn't get a shot off. If only he could finish.
  • Just a minute into the second period the Blackhawks Hossa, Handzus and Sharp took advantage of a long shift and ended up with a 3-on-1. They used their open players perfect, and the puck ended up on Shooter's stick with a wide open net.
  • How can you not mention the play of Corey Crawford. He was a wall all game, and had no chance on the goal. Mention Ray Emery; I DARE you! This is Crawford's net, and if anyone thinks otherwise, they are colossal morons.
The Bad

  • Keith's first period penalty could have put the Hawks in an early hole, but the PK bailed him out after a stupid trip.
  • Thirty seconds into the third period the Blackhawks let the Wings walk around them and score a 2 on 4 goal. Bad decisions all around on this play. Oduya misjudged the play at the blue line and everything fell apart after that. Zetterberg was the fortunate goal scorer on this one. All tied up. This was just the beginning of Johnny Oduya's third period obituary. He played like a hot mess for a majority of the play in that period.
  • Blackhawks; faceoffs. Only El Capitan was over 50%, and Kruger was 0-4. The rest were in between, to the tune of 48%
  • Jonathan Toews was minus 1 with ONE shot on net. He HAS to be better against LA, and you can bet your ass they will be watching tapes of what Detoilet did to him.
  • Blackhawks powerplay. Back to being a steaming pile of rancid bull dung. They will not get away with this against LA, I promise you that.
The Ugly

  • After Filppula went off with an injury, it was blazing through twitter that Shaw gave him a slew foot. I watched the play a few times, and I didn't see it. Call me blind. Shaw looked slightly off balance, but it didn't look like he kicked Filppula's foot out. It's ice, folks. It's slippery.
  • Watching Duncan Keith work the first powerplay point is fucking maddening. Nick Leddy needs to be there, end of story. Leddy is the only Hawks defenseman capable of carrying the puck past center ice.
  • The ugliest of ugly!!! Ugly like Tyler Kennedy. The Blackhawks looked to have scored the game winning goal with 1:49 left, and because of some chippy bullshit behind the play, referee Stephen Walkom claimed to have blown the play dead. Brandon Saad got pushed into the Detoilet bench and then body slammed to the ice. For his trouble Saad was assessed a coincidental minor with dumb shit Kyle Quincey. Saad did nothing, but receive a rough ride, and was thrown to the ground. You don't make that call with 2 minutes left in game 7 of a tie game. Not on any planet. The NHL averted a huge controversy with the Hawks winning in OT, and Stephen Walkom averted what might have turned into an uncomfortable legacy. I hope Walkom has Brent Seabrook on his Christmas card list.

  • This needed a section of it's own...Brent Seabrook and Dave Bolland had been the Blackhawks goats for the entire series, and changed that all in a matter of a few seconds. Bolland threw a big hit on Gustav (don't call me Gus) Nyquist in the neutral zone, separating him from the puck. The hit freed the puck up for Seabrook to grab and head into the Wings zone. He got over the blue line and unleashed a wrist shot that went off the foot of Tigger Kronwall and over Howard's glove. Game, Set, Match; on to round 3!!!

Here are the video highlights:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Playoffs: Blackhawks at Detroit - Game 6 Win Recap

"Sweating Bullets"

Game 6 in Detoilet with the season on the line. We all know how the Blackhawks got here. Here is what went down:

The Hawks looked a lot like the Hawks of games 1 and 5 as play started, Monday night. The shots were even at 10-10 and the Hawks had an early powerplay goal, but Detoilet was able to tie the game late very late in the period.

The second period was owned by the Wings. They out shot the Hawks 18-10 and had the only goal of the middle twenty. This left the Blackhawks with 20 minutes left in their season. How would they respond?

Te answer the previous question, the third period was all Blackhawks. Even though they were out shot 10-8, they scored three goals to the Wings one, and forced the series back to Chicago for game 7. Playoff hockey, baby!! If you're not bordering on a full Myocardial Infarction, you're not breathing.

I'm not predicting ANYTHING, and my optimism will stay VERY guarded. Wednesday will be a nervous night in the Puckin Household. The Vancouver series a few years ago (Fucking Chris Stromboli) taught me not to get ahead of myself, but the odds are favoring the Hawks.

The Good

  • It didn't take long for the Blackhawks to take a 1-0 lead, with a Brendan Smith (aka The Whipping Boy) penalty led to a Marian Hossa goal. El Capitan took the puck from behind the goal line right to the net, with all hell broke loose in front. Hoss was the one who finally put it into the net and after a delay from the booth in Toronto, it was confirmed. Imagine the powerplay being a huge part of a playoff win. Shocking, I know.
  • The Hawks didn't take long in the third period, to tie the game up. Just a minute into the period an Oduya keep in and a Hjalmarsson corner dig out, ended up on the stick of Handzus. Zus waited Howard out and surgically beat him stick side. The play was set up by The Whipping Boy being out of position again. Brendan Smith stupidly got mesmerized by the puck like a Labrador chasing a squirrel and chased it into the corner, leaving Handzus wide open.
  • Four minutes after the Handzus goal, Toews looked to get away with an offsides play that eventually ended up in the Wings corner. Toews dug the puck out and fed Bickell, who had position on The Whipping Boy. Howard made the first save, but Bickell poked the rebound in around Howward's leg, for a Blackhawks lead. After further examination by Pierre McGuire, the play wasn't offsides because the Ginger Jack Ass brought the puck back into the zone himself.
  • The Hawks kept pouring it on about half way though the third period. Frolik out raced Carlo Colaiacovo and was in on a breakaway, when Colaiacovo slashed him and drew a penalty shot. Frodo took full advantage of Howard's bad positioning on the penalty shot and beat him on a backhand high to Howards glove side. 4-2 Hawks. Detoilet fans and Mike Milbury can bitch all they want about the call, but these are today's NHL rules. Slash a guy on the hands from behind on a breakaway and you'll get called.
  • I would have never guessed, in twelve parsecs, that Bryan Bickell would become the Blackhawks John Druce, yet here we are. One Trick Bick has taken all of my shaming to heart. He's hitting people, and making shit happen in front of the net. He's a man possessed.
  • Yes, Crawford gave up a total woofer of a goal, that put the Wings up 2-1, BUT he also made up for it with SEVERAL huge saves. 35 saves in nothing to bark at.
The Bad

  • With the first period closing, the Blackhawks Dave Bolland failed to get the puck out of the zone and Detoilet capitalized. The Whipping Boy was able to direct the puck along the boards to the 150 year old Drew Miller (or he just looks that way), who just sent it on net. Crawford made the initial save but Eaves scooped up the rebound and put it around Crawford, to tie up the game. That's not good for my acute angina
  • Everyone takes a turn to be stuck on stupid for the Blackhawks, and this time it was Michal Roszival. Two dumb second period penalties didn't help the Hawks effort. Keep playing with penalty kill fire and they will get burned.
  • With about 4 minutes remaining, El Capitan was sent in by a Hjalmarsson stretch pass for a breakaway and missed. He is clearly off his game because he doesn't miss those. Those are usually money.
  • After a stupid Marian Hossa penalty late in the third period, the Wings dug a loose puck out of the Hawks corner and a long Brunner slapshot ended up beating Crawford with 51.7 seconds remaining. Just had to make it interesting, Hoss, didn't you? 4-3 Hawks.
  • Dream Warrior and Lucky Number Sleven were both minus two. How does that even happen in a game that you score 4 goals and win?
  • Stalberg still hasn't made it out of Chateau Bow Wow, because he only played 7:35. By far the least time by any Hawks player.
The Ugly

  • I never thought I'd say that a bad El Capitan penalty changed momentum, but that's exactly what happened. It's almost like the Hawks collectively all thought, "not again". They finally shook off the stink off in the third period, but it took quite a while.
  • I can't express how annoying it is to watch Duncan Keith blindly shoot into opponents shin pads. It's like he's oblivious to the previous 1,000 times he's done it. Wake up and adjust, already!
  • Crawford picked a terrible time to give up a weak goal. Half way through the second period he let up a 45 footer to forth liner Joakim Andersson (who coincidentally won 8 of 9 faceoffs against Hawks centers). It was just a wrist shot that Crawford just completely whiffed on. Complete woofer of a goal. If there is one think I've learned as a goalie it's that you should never trust your glove alone, on a long shot. If you get your body/head/weenis in the way and you miss with the flipper, you still block it. We can all let him slide based on his followup performance, but I hope Stephane Waite is beating this into his head with a mallet.
  • If you can imagine, the Hawks were even worse than past games at the dots. They were 39% AS A TEAM. El Capitan was the only Hawks center than even sniffed 50%. It's really amazing the Hawks managed 4 goals, when they were that awful.
  • The Whipping Boy, Brendan Smith. The guy was in on almost every goal against. Hilarious. I'd like to find that guy on Twitter who was yapping at me about Smith during game 2. How's your boy treating you now? Somewhere, Ben Smith is laughing his ass off.

The fine gentlemen at HockeeNight started this, and I have to jump on the bandwagon.
Mighty Mike D from Cheer The Anthem gets the credit for the mash, and the #GorillaSalad reference is genius. I'm just mad I didn't do this first.

Here are the actual video highlights:

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Playoffs: Blackhawks vs RedWings - Game 5 Win Recap

"More Than Meets the Eye"

Saturday turned out to be Detoilet's first chance to eliminate the Hawks and send them packing for good. After this magical season, the Blackhawks worst arch enemy had a chance to upset them and end their season. With the Rangers getting eliminated right at game time, it was up the the Blackhawks to keep from having two highly touted teams bounced. On to the action.

The Hawks came out more physical in the first period, and had a majority of the chances. They also had the only goal of the period. Forgive the fans for not falling for this false sense of security, because we've fallen for it before. Big hits and a goal on 12 shots were a good start but 11 shots given up were also concerning.

The Hawks opened up a two goal lead in the second period, after letting the Wings tie the game. They out shot the Wings once again, 16-11. One would think a 2 goal lead would last, but we've learned not to count our blessings in this series.

The Hawks continued their new more consistant play in the third period, they out shot the Wings a cartoonish 17-4 in the period and iced the game with their 4th goal. There will be a game 6 in Detoilet on Monday.

The Good

  • Dr. Lineblender was in full effect Saturday night. The defensive pairs were back to what they were early in the season(2/7,4/27,32/8). Saad was playing with Stalberg and Shaw. Bickell, Handzus and Hossa were together. Toews, Kane and Sharp were together. The forth line was Kruger, Frolik and Bolland.
  • The combination of Bickell, Hanzus and Kane caused all kinds of problems for the Wings defense resulting in Bryan Bickell with the puck on his stick in front of a gaping net. This time around the puck made it's way to the back of the net for a 1-0 Hawks lead.
  • Andrew Shaw put the Hawks back up by one goal, in the second half of the second period, tipping a Duncan Keith powerplay shot past Howard. The Hawks had dominating control of the play for the duration of powerplay. The Wings simply couldn't even get a stick on the puck. Where has this powerplay been, and why can't they do this all the time?
  • After another Abdelkader penalty, El Capitan finally broke his slump with a sweet snipe from the right side of the net. He read Howard down on the ice, banked it off Howard's mask and into the net. 3-1 Hawks.
  • Shaw got his second goal of the game, when he picked up a Stalberg shot that was blocked wide of the net and wrapped it around the post beating Jimmy Howard, who was late getting back to his post. Shaw just happened to be coasting behind the net, when the Stalberg shot went wide and died just in front of him. In one motion he pushed it to the goal line, and into the net.
The Bad

  • With the Hawks holding momentum almost halfway through the first period what does Stalberg do? He takes a lazy offensive zone interference penalty. Fucking brain dead.
  • I am sick to death of Duncan Keith shooting into opponents shin pads. Sick and fucking tired of it!
  • Dan Cleary used a 4 on 4 situation halfway through the second period to tie the game up. Zetterberg set him up with a nice backhand saucer pass that Brendan Smith got a piece up, and ended up on Cleary's stick. Frolik was late on the back check and Cleary beat him to the net.
  • The Hawks were still pretty bad at the dots, but better than the last few games. Toews and Bolland were the worst, at 40% and 47% respectively.
The Ugly

  • I haven't bitched much about the refs this series at all, but the Wings got away clear and obvious too many men penalty in the second period. Brutal! They missed several calls, including what should have been a goal, in the first period and a Frolik breakaway.

Here are the video highlights:

Friday, May 24, 2013

Playoffs: Blackhawks at Detroit - Game 4 Loss Recap

"Hand Of Doom"

By now you all know the bad news. The Wings beat the Hawks 2-0, to go up 3-1 in the series. The Hawks controlled the first period, but went completely mental in the second, loosing all composure. The third period was all about Red Wings lock down, and the Hawks headed back home with the prospect of being eliminated Saturday, at home no less.

I'm too disgusted with this effort to put up a cutsey period by period analysis. Let's be honest here, the Hawks are in bad shape, and 60 minutes from an early summer of golfing. Memorial Day may end up being the Blackhawks memorial. On with the bad news, brace yourselves:

The Good

  • It's hard to find a anything good in a 2-0 loss, but the Hawks actually played very well in the first period. They out shot the Wings 14-10 but couldn't capitalize on the MANY Wings turnovers. Maybe I need to give Jimmy Howard credit, but just who the hell is this Jimmy Howard and where did he come from??????
  • Corey Crawford did what he is suppose to do. He played well, and only gave up one goal. In fact, the way he has played for both series should tell you that all that "play Ray Emery" horseshit should be over. He has not cost the Hawks a single game. The Hawks are beating themselves. As I'll reitterate below, Two goals scored, in three games, are in no way shape or form Corey Crawford's fault. If you even utter the name of Ray Emery, you deserve to be flogged with a bag of rusty nails.
  • I know he ended up with a couple of infractions in that nightmare of a second period, but it should be pointed out that Bryan Bickell has been HITTING PEOPLE! In what are probably the final games of his Blackhawks career, he finally figured out that he's bigger than most opponents and can use that to his advantage, rather than act like he is some 180 lb sniper ripping off wrist shots from 55 feet out. Enjoy New Jersey or Florida, Bick.
The Bad

  • As was said by some people watching the game with me, you could just see the goal coming from a mile away. Six straight powerplay minutes (or should I say 5:59) and the second Kindl got the puck on his stick, I knew it was going in the net. You cannot physically kill every powerplay, especially when you've gone apeshit and taked three penalties in the first half of the second period.
  • The empty net goal doesn't even matter, but their puck possession prior to it should be noted. PISS POOR.
  • 40%, 47%, 44%, 29%. Those are the Blackhawks faceoff percentages, minus El Capitan's 61%. It all starts with puck possession for this team, and they weren't getting it.
  • Is it too late to go back and wish for the San Jose matchup?
The Ugly

  • I have no explanation for Jonathan Toews absolutely losing his shit in the second period, and taking three penalties. The frustration was clearly evident with El Capitan. The third penalty was the worst, because the game winning goal was scored with one second remaining on it. You can't expect to win many games scoring 2 goals in three games. I'm not looking forward to a summer of the rest of the NHL fanbase mumbling about how Toews cracked under the pressure.
  • I said it before, and I'm repeating it once again. Their fucking terrible powerplay and lack of anyone named Toews winning faceoffs was a concern. To all of you Twitards that wanted to argue the fact, because they were rolling through the regular season, HOW YA LIKE ME NOW?????
  • Oh, and when I was concerned they were peaking too early, yeah that.
  • Lets talk about Toews and Sharp missing breakaways in the first period shall we? Bet they'd like to have at least ONE of those back now, dontcha think?
  • How the hell does your best puck moving defenseman end up with EIGHT FUCKING THIRTY EIGHT of ice time? Really, Q? This was your answer to the Wings trap? If there wasn't some unreported injury, this alone should get Quenneville fired. It makes NO fucking sense.
  • Other blogs and fans might tell you it's still not time to panic, but they are wrong. Get your voodoo dolls and antacids out because the Hawks are dangerously close to choking.

Here are the video highlights:

Monday, May 20, 2013

Playoffs: Blackhawks at Detroit
Game 3 Loss Recap

"Random Acts of Senseless Violence"

After a disappointing game 2 the Blackhawks were in Detoilet for game 3. No preview needed, you know the drill. On to the action.

The Hawks came out with a little more of an edge in the first period than they have in a while, but it wouldn't last long. They weren't able to manage any goals, but they out shot the Wings 15-9. Not a bad period in a hostile environment.

The second period was a completely different story. The Wings took control around halfway through the period and never really lost it. They matched the Hawks first period out shooting them 14-8 and out scoring the Hawks 2-0.

The third period was even in score, and slightly favored the Hawks in shots, but the Hawks never fully recovered from the terrible second period, and lost 3-1. The now faced the unfortunate possibility of going down 3-1 before getting back to the UC.

The Good

  • The line of Toews, Stalberg, and Saad was utterly dominant in the first 5 minutes of the second period. It was like a 5 minutes powerplay.
  • Not even half way through the second and El Capitan had 6 shots on net. It all came to a screeching halt there, though.
  • Crazy 8s got the Hawks back within one goal, with fifteen minutes remaining in the third period. He was able to out race the Detroit defense for a breakaway, and beat Howard 5-hole.
  • Go figure that a couple of the best Hawks chances were when the third line that was together all season got back together. Stalberg breakaway and the following rebounds.
  • The Hawks penalty kill continued to stay hot, and is probably the only reason the Hawks didn't lose 5-1.
The Bad

  • Andrew Shaw started his horseshit late in the first period. He drew all kinds of attention dragging a Wings player to the box with him, but Bickell stuck his yap into the mix and ended up with two minutes of his own, leaving the Hawks shorthanded. Shaw was out of his fucking mind all night. He ended up getting thrown out with a late misconduct shortly after making one of the few positive plays he made, which was a big check on Colaiacovo.
  • The Wings opened up a 1-0 lead about halfway through the first period after Nyquist out raced Leddy and then twisted Seabrook around like a top. He out waited Crawford and then put it over the fallen goalie.
  • Almost immediately following the Nyquist goal, thirty seconds to be exact, the fourth lines faced off and the puck ended up in the back of the Hawks net again thanks to Drew Miller. Timeout Hawks, and a much needed one.
  • Shooter got a breakaway with about 5 minutes into the third and was stopped by Howard.
  • Another Wings game, another night of getting their dicks kicked in at the dots. Shaw and Handzus were the only two Hawks over 50%.
The Ugly

  • It didn't take long for Jakub Kindl to take a bit of a cheap shot on Stalberg and send him to the locker room. Kindl saw Stalberg coming for a big hit and undercut him, sending him into the boards head first. Real Cute.
  • The Hawks were probably robbed of a goal when Shaw was called for being in the crease and interfering with Howard. I can't say that it looked like he interfered at all, on any replay I saw.
  • Datsyuk stuck a daggar in the Hawks heart with a 2-on-2 goal just seven minutes into the third period that Crawford should have saved, with the time and view he had of it.
  • I'm not sure if I am being over critical of a 4th line player, but Kruger has looked like absolute shit on the ice. Bad turnovers, terrible passes, and just overall bad decisions. I'd be happy only seeing him on the PK, at this point.

Here are the video highlights:

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Playoffs: Blackhawks vs RedWings - Game 2 Loss Recap

"Tempo of the Damned"

What better on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Chicago, than Blackhawks playoff hockey? The answer is NOTHING. The Hawks faced the Wings in game two Saturday, after a convincing game one win. This one looked to be a little closer than game one, so lets get right to it!

The first period started a little slow for the Blackhawks, with the Wings coming out to make a statement. The Hawks were actually out shot 12-8 but scored the only goal of the period. You would expect the Hawks to use their speed to wear the Wings down in the final 40 minutes. ONE WOULD THINK!

That wasn't the case in the second period, as the Wings owned the play all period. They scored two goals on eight shots, and held the Blackhawks to only 5 shots. All that aside, the Hawks were only down one goal, and had plenty of time to wake up.

That certainly didn't happen, as the Hawks just mailed this one in. The Wings scored two goals in the third period on ten shots, and thoroughly embarrassed the Hawks. On to game three.

The Good

  • With just about six minutes remaining in the first period, Shooter snuck in behind Hawks whipping boy, Brendan Smith. He lifted Smith's stick just as he was going to intercept a breakout pass and they were off to the races. Smith fell, and left Sharp, Kane and Handzus to feast on his goalie. Sharp tried to hit Kane with a pass that was blocked, but landed on the stick of Handzus. Zus then fed a wide open Kane for the easy open netter. 1-0 Hawks
  • With time running out in the first period, Zetterberg had a prime chance, from the Hawks corner, to set up a back door goal for Kronwall. Hjalmarsson was able to one up Kronwall by lifting his stick, snuffing out the chance. That is a play that the casual fan doesn't notice but wins games. Plays like that are just as important as the goals.
  • Not that this will show up in the stats, but Crawford made several nice saves to keep them in the game. This loss is not on him.
The Bad

  • Rozy Val set up Saad for a nice cross ice back door chance about 7 minutes into the game, and Saad waited far too long to get the shot off. Howard beat him to the post. Playoff hockey, kid. One timers, for fucks sakes!
  • Jakub Kindl and Damien Brunner tied the game up, about two and a half minutes into the second period. The shot was a light dump towards the net and seemed to have eyes and deflect off Brunner. That's one the that Hawks and Crawford would like back.
  • The Hawks broke down in their own end and Sharp allowed Brendan Smith to sneak in behind him late in the second period to allow the Wings to take a 2-1 lead. Zetterberg set the play up, but the Blackhawks laziness was a huge contributor.
  • The Hawks went down 4-1 as Bolland won a faceoff, but then let Zetterberg skate right past him. Seabrook took a half assed pinch attempt and Zetterberg skated right around him, to lead a 3 on 2 chance. The puck was dropped back to Filppula who shrugged off a Bolland half assed attempt to knock him off the puck, and got Crawford to open up the 5 hole. 4-1 Wings.
  • For the second game in a row the Blackhawks were horse collared at the faceoff dots. The only one over the 50% mark was InvisiBolly. El Capitan was at 40% which makes for a terrible day.
The Ugly

  • During the Hawks first powerplay Leddy fell down between the Wings blue line and red line. Cory Emmerton ended up with a break-a-way, but Seabrook was able to catch up to him, and Crawford was able to make the save.
  • Hjalmarsson looked to be on whatever was making Sharp sleepy, letting Franzen get in behind him and beat Crawford for a 3-1 Wings lead. You cannot let a player as slow as Franzen get in behind you and eat your goalie up. That's pathetic.
  • Stalberg missed his second game in a row, as a healthy scratch. This has to be some of the dumbest shit ever. Gorilla Salad can run around like a mental patient doing dumb shit, and Stalberg is sitting in the press box.
  • Rozy Val and Oduya were plus 1, but the rest of the defensive corp were a combined minus EIGHT!
  • The Hawks out hit the Wings 36-26. So, all the fucking meatballs can quit with the "they have to get more hits", horseshit. It obviously makes no difference.
  • Even though they killed all the powerplays against, Bolland alone had 3 penalties. Seriously, what the fuck is he trying to accomplish?

Here are the video highlights:

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Playoffs: Blackhawks vs RedWings - Game 1 Win Recap

"The Toxic Waltz"

The western conference semifinals opened up, Wednesday night in the United Center, with the Blackhawks facing their most hated rival, the Detoilet Red Wings. This might be the storybook ending that the Hawks/Wings rivalry deserves. Next season they will be off to feast on the Eastern Conference, leaving the Hawks to muck it up with the likes of the St. Louis Blues. Repulsive, I know. Anyhow, the Wings were coming off an emotional game 7 and series win against the Anaheim Ducks. For that, I must thank the Wings. That was now in the past, so back to hating the Wings. Dave Bolland was replacing Stalberg in the lineup, as well as Carcillo making an appearance. This was going to, no doubt, be a rough series, but championships don't come easy. Live from the United Center in Chicago, this IS the Blackhawks and Red Wings.

The Hawks came out and had a Jeckyl/Hyde type opening period, in game one. They were buzzing around the rink, early on, and even took a 1-0 lead. As they have been known to do, though, they fell asleep and allowed Detroit to tie the game back up. Some stupid penalties gave the Wings some prime opportunities in the closing half of the period, who actually out shot the Hawks 7-6.

The Blackhawks made up for a 50/50 first period by coming out in the second and out shooting the Wings 17-5. Of course, none of those 17 shots resulted in any goals, but the pressure was seriously on. The Wings had to consider themselves lucky that the game was still tied, but that wouldn't last long.

It was only a matter of time, with all the shots that the Hawks were getting, before they opened up the game. The third period was that time. They scored 3 goals, while out shooting the Wings and unbelievable 19-9. That was enough for the Hawks to take game one, 4-1.

The Good

  • In some of the first few shifts, Justin Abdelkader tried to throw a big hit at Michal Roszival and ended up eating the shaft of Rozy Val's stick. Probably dirty on Rozy's part, but sometimes you have to send a message.
  • Something I didn't think I'd say, the Hawks opened up the scoring on the powerplay with a steal by El Capitan and Sharpie on Brendan Smith just inside the Wings blue line. Toews then got the puck over to Hoss, and who just rifled a one timer past Howard into the net.
  • Dave Bolland was invisible in the first period, but he certainly showed up in the final two. He was obviously getting under the skin of the Wings, and had a third period break-a-way. I guess he really does like the third line.
  • The Hawks jumped on yet another Wings lapse in coverage to tie up the game, almost halfway through the third. Oduya slid into a hole the size of the entire burnt out city of Detroit, in the Wings zone. Sharp found him with a pass, and Oduya surgically beat Howard on the glove side.
  • I have to point out how nice it is to see Todd Bertuzzi in a virtually useless role. That guy can chow on a festering scrotum.
  • Dream Warrior Kruger put the Hawks up by two, with 8:30 remaining in the game. The play was set up but Gorilla Salad's forecheck, and resulting possession. Mr. Gorilla Salad threw the puck through the crease and it squirted out to Kruger, who pitched it over a prone Howard. There was blood in the water.
  • He didn't show up on the scoresheet, but Saad had several really good chances, and could have easily had 2 goals. That Quenneville wakeup call really did something for him.
  • The usually solid Lucky Number Sleven saved a huge chance, late in the third period. A Crawford rebound was whacked over him and hit the crossbar. The puck was actually heading towards the net but Seabrook whacked it out of mid air and out of harms way.
  • A late terrible Oduya turnover that ended up smack dab in front of the net, was saved by Crawford beautifully and then eventually turned around the other way, resulting in Shooter empty net goal. When it rains, it pours, Detoilet.
  • Toews, Handzus, and Bolland were all over 50% at the dots, but Kruger and Frolik were a collective 0-13. Which clearly needs to be better in game 2.
  • Sharp Dressed Man had three points and led the Hawks with 7 shots. Shoulder looks good, doesn't it?
  • Just imagine the fits that Viktor Stalberg's speed would have given the Wings.
The Bad

  • That first fluke aside, the Blackhawks powerplay is still complete and utter dog dung. It boggles my mind how they could manage to completely screw up such great man advantages with the talent they have.
The Ugly

  • The Hawks allowed Damian Brunner to bring the puck in from the center line in with little to no resistance, just about 2 minutes after the Hossa goal. The defense got completely crossed up and there wasn't a defender on Brunner's half of the rink. Seabrook closed the space, but Brunner still got a solid shot off. Crawford made saves on the shot and one rebound, but the second rebound was poked past him, tying up the game.
  • Andrew Shaw ended up with not one, but TWO penalties in the first period. Neither of which were even close to tolerable. With second penalty, Shaw barely grazed an already fallen Kindl with his elbow. There is no need to even put yourself in that position, though.

Here are the video highlights:

Friday, May 10, 2013

Playoffs: Blackhawks vs Wild
Game 5 Series Finale Win Recap

"Five Magics"

The Blackhawks returned to Chicago, Thursday night for their first chance at moving on to the second round, since the spring of 2010. We all remember how that went. Anyhow, the Blackhawks seem to be the recipients of some fortunate opponent injuries, more specifically, the Wild goalies. In game 4, their original backup, Josh Harding, was hurt and their 3rd string goalie, Darcy Keumper, was forced into action. The Wild never really stood a chance after that. The Blackhawks played just well enough leave St. Paul splitting the two games there 1-1. That's good enough for me. First try at elimination tonight. Live from the United Center in Chicago, it's the Blackhawks and the Wild.

The Wild came out with an honest and great effort, tying the Blackhawks in shots 10-10. Even with their effort and a stupid Hawks penalty, the Wild weren't able to put anything into the net. The Hawks, on the other hand, scored the only goal in the first period. On the way to round two or a Wild comeback?

The wheels fell off the cart, and it burst into flames, for the Wild in the second period. They were able to score a goal to break the shutout, but the Blackhawks scored THREE goals to break any momentum. That is just a hole that an 8th seed can't recover from. The Hawks out shot Minny pretty handily, 13-8.

The third period was really academic, because the Hawks were well out in front and in control. They actually didn't take their foot off the gas, though, and were still able to add a 5th goal on 10 shots while holding the Wild to a measly 4 shots. The Wild were like a beaten dog all period long, and I can't say they were ever a threat in the series. On to round 2.

The Good

  • El Capitan decided to make an appearance for game 5, chasing down a Seabrook dump in, and dropping it off to Hossa at the left dot in the Wild zone. Hossa immediately snapped the puck past Harding on the short side. Bang bang play with about 5 minutes left in the first period, and the crowd was sensing a celebration.
  • Dream Warrior Marcus Kruger raced into the Wild zone and beat the defense to a dump in behind the net, just over three minutes into the second period. He immediately wrapped the puck around the far post and beat a very late late to the post Josh Harding. You have to think that Harding's tardiness had to do with his injury from the previous game because he was not moving well at all.
  • Hossa scored his second of the game just over three minutes after the Kruger goal. Hoss just took the puck from behind the net and strongly drove across the crease with a defender all over him. His first shot was saved by Harding, but the rebound was pushed around Harding's left leg. He is Marian Hossa, and you simply are not! Again, Harding looked to be limited by his mysterious injury from the previous game. That ended Josh Harding's night and season. The boy named Darcy then entered the game, for the Hawks to feast on.
  • Thirty five seconds after Mitchell broke the shutout, Shaw picked up a puck that was shot to the short side of the net by Bickell. The puck shot back out past the far post where Shaw was camping out. I'm not really sure why Kuemper slid to follow a puck that was going 2 feet wide of the net, but thank you. This made him very slow getting over to the far post, and Shaw had an open net. Might have been the biggest goal of the game, with the Wild just starting to gain some momentum.
  • Mr Handsome fought El Capitan in front of the Wild net for a third period 5-on-3 Duncan Keith rebound, in front of Darcy Kuemper. Once he finally got a hold of the puck, Sharp chipped it into the net over Kuemper. If the game wasn't iced already, and it was, this goal was the final nail in the coffin.
  • The Blackhawks were 17 for 17 on the penalty kill in the series. That is huge!
  • For the second time in the series, Bryan Bickell freight trained a Wild player. This time the unfortunate victim was Tom Gilbert. Where has this Bryan Bickell been, and why are we just now meeting him?
  • Following the STUPID faceoff violation penalty, Crawford made an enormous save on Koivu sliding across the net and kicking out what looked like a sure goal.
  • Carcillo played his second game of the series and was slotted where he belongs, the 4th line. That I can live with, even though Ben Smith would bring more to the table.
The Bad

  • The Wild's Torrey Mitchell broke the shutout about halfway through the second period immediately following another successful Blackhawks penalty kill. Handzus and the rest of the crew fell asleep after patting themselves on the back following the PK, and let Mitchell sneak into the soft spot in the slot. Crawford really didn't have much of a chance to react. Meh, whatever. All that Wild fun and excitement would last exactly 35 seconds.
  • Kruger and Handzus were bitch slapped at the dots once again, helping drag the team totals under the 50% mark. This Handzus thing might have run it's course, which would be a perfect time for Bolland to get his ass on the ice and do something other than suck the life out of his linemates.
The Ugly

  • I need someone to ask Quenneville just how in the hell the Hawks have gotten TWO faceoff voilation penalties this year. I have NEVER seen that called before this season. Ridiculous rule, completely subjective, and pointless. The Wild spent all of game 4 cheating the faceoffs, and weren't even as much as warned, but Stalberg moving a half second early earns them a penalty?
  • Mouth breathing cementheat Mike Rupp earned himself a 2 and 10 after the game was well out of hand. There is that sandpaper, again. Did a helluva lot of good didn't it, eh?

Here are the video highlights:

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

2013 Chicago Blackhawks Regular Season Review

Well, that was a fun ride, wasn't it? The Blackhawks, OUR Chicago Blackhawks, just finished this truncated 2013 regular season with one of the best winning percentages in the history of the NHL. Yes, this season was 34 games short of a normal regular season and it should be taken with a grain of salt, but the fact of the matter is that they have had an exceptional 2013, thus far. Something that boggles my mind is how so many people dismiss their accomplishments, but expel themselves at the thought of the Pittsburgh Penguins. In all honesty, that is fine by me. Have your bukakke festival over the Pens, and let them deal with the pressure. It's all back to 0-0 in the playoffs, and anyone with a brain knows this. All the Presidents trophies and winning streaks mean nothing once the post season begins, but that doesn't mean we can't look back and enjoy what they have accomplished.

Lets jump right into this and grade each player on their regular season:

The Center Icemen

19 - Jonathan Toews - El Capitan had what is becoming the typical Captain Serious season. He was second on the team in scoring and played all but one meaningless game. When people like Sharp, Bolland, and Hossa got hurt, Toews and Kane put the team on their backs and just kept plugging along. He has shown to be one of, if not, THE most complete players in the entire league. While Kane grabbed much of the spotlight with his scoring totals, Toews just continued to plug along. It's a pleasure to have him in this city and a "lifetime" contract would not be a mistake, once this one is up.
GRADE - A plus

65 - Andrew Shaw - This kid just keeps surprising. Just when you thought he was a flash in the pan, and he spent the majority of the lockout running around like a complete lunatic in the AHL, he shows up centering the Hawks 3rd line and plays excellent. Part of the reason this team has done as well as it has. is because of the solid play of it's secondary cast of characters. Shaw is right at the head of that class, too. He was moved to Center late in his AHL campaign partly because Jimmy Hayes just wasn't progressing like the Hawks brass liked. Once Shaw was moved there, he never left, and Quenneville plugged him right in on the third line from game one. I was one of the people that was critical of this move because I felt that Marcus Kruger fit there better, but Shaw has shut me up. He might only last 4 or 5 seasons in the NHL because he has no regard for his own safety or health, but it sure will be an entertaining 4 or 5 seasons. He's almost like a poor man's Dino Ciccarelli, because every opponent, no doubt, loathes him. For that reason, Hawks fans love him, and they should. Between his production and that of Marcus Kruger, I wouldn't be surprised to see Dave Bolland playing somewhere else in the fall. You heard it here first.

36 - Dave Bolland - This has been a rough year for The Rat. Whether he came in healthy or not is unknown, but he certainly didn't end the regular season healthy. He played 35 games, but at least 10 of those were at 75%. He had 14 points and a -7 playing on the second line, next to one of the top playmakers in the entire NHL. This doesn't add up. He should have feasted on the opportunity, but instead dragged Kane down like a baby grand piano on his back. In his defense, there were far too many time when his other wing was Dan Carcillo, which is about as pointless as you can get, but there were also time when he was playing between Sharp and Kane. Two NHL Allstars. As I said above, with his salary, history of back and concussion problems, this may shift him to the "undesirable" category. This is a cutthroat league and he is no longer the Dave Bolland of 2010. $3.375 million a year can go a long way, in a year where the cap is dropping.

16 - Marcus Kruger - This has been sort of a coming out year for Dream Warrior. He had a pretty solid year going in Rockford when the lockout ended, and there was no doubt he'd be playing for the big club. The question is WHERE? I figured that the 3rd line was perfect for him, IF Bolland was even serviceable on the second line. Shaw was never even in the picture, and I have to give Quenneville credit for that one. Kruger was plugged into the forth line with Frolik, to drag Bollig, Mayers, or whatever other cement head they dressed for the night around the ice. And he has done it well. Nothing that you're going to see the Hockey Night guys analyzing, but he's played well, also filling in on other lines when needed. Frolik and Kruger have pretty much served the same function, which could be invaluable in the playoffs. If he can learn the art of winning faceoffs, he'll turn out to be a very solid player for this team. Hell, it's not like Bolland has done much better.
GRADE - B minus

26 - Michal Handzus - If all things go right, this may become the "under the radar" move of the trade deadline. Handzus was an aging, hardly used bottom 6 player in San Jose, whom Stan Bowman stole for a middle round draft pick. Even though he's been shifted around, Zus has had 6 points in 11 Blackhawks games, which is 4 more points than he had in over twice as many Sharks games. Can you say "reinvigorated"? Quenneville now has the option of sending Handzus out there late in a game to win a big faceoff, and not have to worry about a defensive or offensive chemistry. Graded on his 11 games as a Blackhawk only.

The Wingers

20 - Brandon Saad - Saad may be one of the bigger surprises this season. He didn't really set the world ablaze in his time at Rockford, but then again, who did? He just fit in with everyone else in Rockford, but once the lockout ended, he flipped a switch. Lets call it the "go time" button. He started a little slow, but has picked up to have been thrown into the Calder discussion. He won't win, but to be considered is a nice perk. Even with the slow start he was on pace for a 20 goal, 50 point season. Of course, this is with two of the premier players in the game, in Toews and Hossa, but that doesn't automatically net you 20 goals. He has played on the powerplay and penalty kill, as well. It was announced by the league, Monday, that Saad was one of the three Calder Trophy finalists. I think that was a little generous, but not a huge shock.

25 - Viktor Stalberg - Vik, Vik, Vik.....Pick to Click Vik. I wanted to love the guy. His speed is maddening, along with his tendency to miss the net 60% of the time. Stalberg has talent, but he has also made a living as a bum slayer. Just ask last year's Columbus Blue Jackets. He's going to be a free agent come July 5th, and the Hawks probably won't be able to keep him. some team will give him the Ville Leino treatment, and he'll, in return, give them Ville Leino. That's all fine and well, because there are kids like Jimmy Hayes, Ben Smith and Jeremy Morin ready to fill his spot. It was good while it lasted, but barring a hometown discount, we're seeing our final days of the Swedish Flash.
GRADE - B minus

29 - Bryan Bickell - The other member of the third line that is probably playing his last games as a Chicago Blackhawk. For years, One Trick Bick has tried to crowbar in his wrist shot any chance he could. Lets be honest, it's a great wrist shot, but a man with his size should be plowing opponents through the boards. This year he has found a place with the rest of the misfits (Shaw/Stalberg) on the third line, and they have worked very well together. Oddly enough, Bickell and Stalberg have identical goal/assist/point/PIM totals. Again, the Blackhawks have guys like Hayes, Morin, and Smith waiting. Unless he signs another colossally stupid deal for the league minimum, he'll be gone, too.
GRADE - B minus

67 - Michael Frolik - Frodo is another guy I want to love. He is young, and has some skill, but he's never had the success he had in Florida. This is probably because he wasn't playing behind some of the most talented players in the entire league, in sunny Florida. This year he has had spot duty in the top six, but has been mainly a 4th line player. If Quenneville, and Frolik are ok with that, then so am I. He has played well, with no pressure on, and has also proven to be a valuable penalty killer. of course, we would all like to see more scoring out of him, but 10 points for a 4th liner is nothing terrible. His other talents are really more important than his goal scoring.
GRADE - C plus

13 - Daniel Carcillo - My dislike of Gorilla Salad has been well documented. This is not because I hate him as a human being, but because he was known as a colossal dickhead who tried to maim people. There is no room for a dirty scumbag on this team. This year was another story. He seem like he has tried to go the route of Matt Cooke, but an injury in the first game he played saw his spot go to a rookie you might have heard of named Brandon Saad. In Gorilla Salad's defense, he was put in a position that he was destined to fail at. He is not a top line player. He should have been no higher than the 3rd line. Anyone with half a wit to them knows that Saad is much better suited for the position. After Saad stepped in, Carcillo was a rare participant in the Hawks plans. Their success would support that, as well. Mind you, I'm not saying that the Hawks only did well because Carcillo was out, but it's a small piece to the puzzle. I cannot see a reason for Mr. Salad to be around next season, but he's going to be here. A $800K mistake by Bowman, which is much better than a $2 million mistake, I suppose.

52 - Brandon Bollig - Ah, my dear Brandon Dull-ig. I kind of feel bad for this guy, in a way. He's a marginal AHL player, brought up to compete at a level that is above his head. Sure, you're not going to have the liability that John Scott was, but why have a liability at all? The Blackhawks are built around speed and puck possession, not clowns running around trying to get noticed by staging fights. If you really need that, pick a guy that has some redeeming value, like for instance, Zenon Konopka. He's a big slobbering cementhead, but he can win faceoffs. See? Redeeming quality. And before you say, "but he's such a nice guy, he signed 55 autographs after sitting in the press box for three straight games, or after mucking it up with the best that Peoria had to offer", being a swell guy is not a redeeming quality the Blackhawks need. In his defense, he tries. It's not his fault they throw him into the fire. He's just a marginal fighter, with average fighter's skills, and a good beard. Take that for what it's worth.

88 - Patrick Kane - Going from one end of the spectrum to the other, we have Party Boy Patrick Kane. Someone in the organ-I-zation probably had a talk with young Patrick following last year's Cinco De Drunko incident in Madison, and told him to find a little focus, and a little less brewskis. That is exactly what he did. When he could have sat around until January doing 12 oz curls and picking off the plethora of low hanging Wrigleyville trixies but, instead, he took the lockout to go over to the Swiss A league and play for Biel, with some kid named Tyler from Baaaaahston. That did him a world of good, and might have boosted his career. I don't think anyone could have imagined the boost it gave him. He was the most dominant Blackhawks player, by far, and arguably the most dominant player in the league (if not for a guy named Sidney). All this focus and dominant play has earned him some consideration for the Hart trophy. This is the Patrick Kane us fans have been waiting for. All this while dragging around the rotting carcass of David Bolland and, at times, the empty lifeless shell of Daniel Carcillo. Any other player would have had the life methodically sucked out of them, but Kane battled on. I really don't need to say any more.
GRADE - A plus

81 - Marian Hossa - Another player that came into this season with enormous question marks next to his name. No one really knew what would come of the Hoss, after Raffi Torres tried to decapitate him, thus helping dig the grave for the 2012 Blackhawks. He was probably the player with the most to gain from the lockout. He was able to spend a plethora of time in the quiet room, with his shades on. When the season DID begin, he looked rested and back to form. Had the season begun in September, Hoss would not have been ready, and they may have rushed him to return a little premature. Instead he was forced to sit and healed properly. Yay, Lockout.

10 - Patrick Sharp - Mr. Handsome had a rough year. He missed almost half of the games because of a freak shoulder injury, but still managed 20 points in 28 games. He's consistant, in that he's very up and down, but he still produces. He floats off into oblivion for periods of time, and then other times he's like a rabid dog on the trail of his next meal. He's streaky, and we've come to expect this. When he's played, it's been well. Lets leave it at that, but the injury lost games take some points off.
GRADE - C plus

22 - Jamal Mayers - Megamayers has been virtually invisible this season. Nineteen out of forty eight games, isn't good. Somewhere between the end of last season, and the beginning of this one, he was forgotten about. Unless things go drastically wrong in the playoffs, Megamayers will be going the way of Andrew Brunette and Sean O'Donnell.
GRADE - D minus

I left out Drew Leblanc, Jeremy Morin, Jimmy Hayes, Ryan Stanton, Shawn Lalonde, Brandon Pirri, and Carter Hutton because anything less than 5 games isn't worth talking about. Maybe next year, gents.

The Defensemen

2 - Duncan Keith - Deuce had sort of a re-awakening. Early on in the year, Keith and his bossom buddy looked like the 2 and 7 of 2010, but the need to shuffle the deck split them up. Keith has still played much better than the Labrador puppy we've seen the last couple of years. I'm sure that has something to do with Oduya and Hjalmarsson taking some of the load off his ice time. Whatever it is, I like it. Now if we could just find a way to keep him from blasting shots into the nearest defenders shin pads, we might be onto something.
GRADE - B plus

7 - Brent Seabrook - Lucky Number Sleven started off like an All-Star with Keith, but also slowed down a bit, once the pairings were split up. Even with the slow down, he is one of, if not, the most most steady Hawks defenseman. I've always been a huge fan of his play, so it should be no surprise that I feel he is the MVP on the back end. Keith gets all the glory, while guys like Seabrook and Hjalmarsson do the grunt work. Eight goals in a 48 game season is pretty damn good.
GRADE - A minus

8 - Nick Leddy - This was sort of a breakout year for Nick Leddy. He started in the AHL slaying bums, but he never really slayed any. He played down to their level and struggled most of the year. Once the lockout was over, he did what players like Kruger and Saad did, which was shift from neutral to third gear. When Leddy seriously skates up the rink, no matter how fast everyone else is literally standing still. If he ever figures out how to finish, he's going to be scary dangerous. I don't even think the Hawks have scratched the surface of what he can be, and that should make the rest of the division, especially Minnesota, very nervous.

32 - Michal Rozsival - When Bowman signed Roszival in the off season, most people just overlooked it. He's a big, older defenseman that some might mistake for Sean O'Donnell part two. Well, this move might be one of the moves of the year, especially when it comes to "under the radar" ones. He has fit in perfect to solidify a defensive corp that looked very shaky the last two seasons. He makes mistakes, and is slower than most of the other guys, but he makes up for it with positioning, aggressiveness, and most importantly his penalty killing. He's stayed healthy and help stabilize the back end. So much so that he has led the team in ice time a few times. Not bad for a throw in.

27 - Johnny Oduya - Based on last years playoff performance, not many people were keen on bringing Johnny O back. The fact of the matter is that he was an affordable bottom 4 defense. This year he has been solid, if not, unspectacular. When the season began, Oduya and Hjalmarsson looked like the dynamic shutdown duo, but once the rest of the Western Conference caught up, they needed to be split up. Johnny has his place and, as we've seen, he can pot the occasional goal. For a bottom 3 defenseman, there are much worse out there. This is a team that was playing with Lurch O'Donnell and Dylan Olsen last season. Three goals, twelve points, and a plus twelve out of a guy that spend a good majority of the season as part of the shutdown pair gets no complaints out of me. He is signed for 2 more years at declining salaries of $3.3 mil next season and $2.8 mil the following which is chewy, but still edible. I'm not going to jump on the meatball bandwagon and blame Oduya for everything that goes wrong in Blackhawk Land, because you know what you get with him. When he finishes his Hawks career as a number six guy only making $2.8 million, Bowman will look like a shrewd deal man once again.
GRADE - B minus

4 - Niklas Hjalmarsson - Hammer might be one of the most interesting players on the list. First of all, finding out that one of his favorite bands is In Flames completely won my heart. Second, Hjalmarsson finally secured his place on the team. Before this season he was a man without a defined place. He could be shuffled up and down the defensive pairings, but never claimed one for his own. All that is over. His now slightly inflated salary is also edible considering the shutdown defense he has played. I was on the "trade hammer" bandwagon for two seasons and this is the first season since the cup that I'm leaning more towards the "keep Hammer" fan club. He absorbs an ungodly amount of pain blocking shots and doing the dirty work on the back end. Not the sexy pick for defensive MVP, but should not be left out of the talk. The way he has been blocking shots, he has to have all his meals paid for by the 50/30 boys. The only reason I gave him what I did is because a couple more goals would be nice. I know, beggars can't be choosers but I run this joint, so sue me!

17 - Sheldon Brookbank - This is a pickup I really never understood. I guess Brookbank's penalty kill ability was worth the shot, but Roszival has proven to be a much more valuable defender. He played twenty six games, had one goal, and I can't really recall anything else he did. I'm giving him an average grade because if I can't recall much about his play, that means he didn't screw things up enough for me to notice.

The Netminders

50 - Corey Crawford - You would think that with the way the Blackhawks Meatballdom is going on and on, Corey Crawford was in the bottom quarter of goalies, league wide. His goals against must be over 3, right? He must have a save percentage under .900, right? He finished the regular season with stats in the top five, or better, in all important goaltending categories. I'm not going to blow smoke up your skirt and tell you that he's one of the top five goalies in the league, because he is NOT. He, along with his counterpart, are an average to slightly above average goaltending tandem that benefitted from some solid defense in front of them. This is not a bad thing, ladies and gents. There was a certain goalie in 2010 that was an average goalie that benefitted the same way, named Antti Niemi. He has blossomed into an upper tier goalie, but was still raw and wet behind the ears in 2010. Chris Osgood made a career off this kind of scenario. Crawford certainly has his share of face palming incidents, but he has his moments in the spotlight too. Right now Corey Crawford is the best option the Chicago Blackhawks have, PERIOD! He has done enough this year to gather a little Vezina talk around the league, which should tell you all that you need to know, but the Bears "backup quarterback syndrome" has crept it's way to West Madison. Everybody loves the next guy in line. There was a time when the fans were clamoring for Jeff Hackett over Ed Belfour. Belfour only went on to win the Cup in Dallas, and Hackett, well....

30 - Ray Emery - Now we have the ying to Crawford's yang. The backup goalie made of spare parts, with glass hips. The Jeff Hackett of his day. Again, I say that both goalies played excellent. Both have great records. Emery deserves the playing time he got. What he does NOT deserve is the starting spot. He is an older, guy coming off some major hip problems that require him to take extra time to heal and even just prepare. He's a disaster waiting to happen. The Blackhawks have used him to, what I would say, is his maximum potential. To prove this theory, as I type this, Emery is hurt with a top secret lower body injury that some have speculated is a hip issue. Enjoy Ray for what he is. An excellent backup, or 1B Goalie, but Crawford has done nothing to lose his job, and Emery has done nothing to take it. Sit down and take a breath with all that mouth breathing.

Playoffs: Blackhawks at Minnesota
Game 4 Shutout Win Recap

"Better Than You"

The Blackhawks returned to the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul Minnesota, Tuesday night to face the Wild following their overtime loss Sunday. This result was not a surprise, as I had picked the Blackhawks to win the series in 5 games, which would require them to lose one. The Hawks would have Duncan Keith returning from a hectic day off. He flew to Chicago to be there for the birth of his son Monday, and turned right back around to come back to Minnesota for game 4. The Blackhawks had the Gorilla Salad joining the lineup and the Wild were dressing their prized trade deadline acquisition Jason Pominville. I'll give the Wild the edge on that trade off. Live from the Cel in Minnyhaha, it's the Blackhawks and Wild.

Minnesota seemed to have a majority of the early play but only out shot the Hawks 7-6 in the period, and the Hawks scored the only goal of the period. The Hawks seemed to gain momentum as the period went on and carried it into the second.

Even though they had to kill some penalties, the second period was still pretty much won by the Hawks. They out shot the home team 11-6 and scored a quick goal to go up 2-0. Time to swoop in for the kill.

The Hawks added a third period goal, and even though the Wild out shot them, there was never a threat. The Hawks left the Xcel Center for the last time this season with a 3-0 win. On to the UC for the clincher!

The Good

  • The duo of Kruger and Frolik have turned into the Batman and Robin of penalty killing. Watching them put pressure on, while down a player, is so entertaining.
  • Patrick Sharp, with the help of Michal Handzus, opened the scoring about halfway through the first period. Hossa stole the puck along the boards and gave it to a streaking Handzus. Zus snapped a shot off Sharp and past Harding's glove. 1-0 Hawks.
  • Patrick Sharp made it 2-0, a minute into the second period, after Mr. American Hero Zach Parise turned the puck over in the neutral zone with a stupid, lazy backhand pass. The puck ended up on the stick of Shooter, who just carried it over the blue line and snapped the shot past Kuemper. The first playoff shot Darcy Kuemper ever faces goes 5 hole and in. Welcome to the show, Kid.
  • Just after the midway point of the third period, Bryan Bickell iced the game for the Blackhawks. He controlled a puck in the Wild corner long enough to skate it out over the goal line. He turned and fired it from a terrible angle, but it was deflected and went off Keumper's purse, somehow making it into the net.
  • The Blackhawks blocked an amazing 26 shots, with the duo of Oduya and Roszival tallying a clownish 9 total.
  • As good as El Capitan was at the dots (76%), Shaw was that bad (22%). Overall the Hawks led with 56%.
  • The penalty kill was 6 for 6. No need to explain how colossally important that is.
  • After getting no sleep, Duncan Keith showed back up in Minnesota, and played 23:57.
The Bad

  • Josh Harding was hurt late in the first period on a pretty innocent play, when Toews was knocked down on top of Harding. He finished the first period but it was a struggle. Darcy Kuemper came out for the second period, and really never stood a chance.
  • The Hawks opened up the third period taking two pretty pointless penalties, which resulted in four straight minutes of penalty kill time. That's the bad news. The good news is that the Wild couldn't manage much on either chance.
The Ugly

  • Gorilla Salad welcomed himself back into the lineup by getting a very sketchy penalty just a minute or so after the Hawks goal. As Sleazy P. Martini once said, "Elbows and knuckles, all you know how".
  • How does Gorilla Salad get rewarded for taking a dumb ass penalty? He gets put out on the ice with Kane and Toews in the second period. I throw my hands in the air on this one. The one HEALTHY player that sucks the life out everyone around him gets put on the ice with two of the best players in the league. He played 8 shifts for a total of 3:55, and a stupid penalty. What is the fucking point?
  • Parise, Suter, and Pominville each had 3 missed shots. There is clutch for some lettermen and their prized deadline acquisition.
  • The power play is still the Air Jordans of clown shoes.
  • After the Hawks took a 3-1 lead in the series, the Canucks followed that up by getting swept. Oh sweet irony.

Here are the video highlights:

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Playoffs: Blackhawks at Minnesota
Game 3 OT Loss Recap

"Caught in a Mosh"

The Blackhawks carried a 2-0 series lead back to Minnesota, Sunday afternoon, with an opportunity to take a commanding lead in their first round series. After a shaky first game, the Hawks won convincingly Friday night. The Blackhawks didn't have any lineup changes, nor did they need to. They were playing their game, and taking it to the Wild. Something tells me that the Wild were going to ramp up the effort for this one. Live from usually chilly Minnyhaha, it's the Blackhawks and the Wild.

The first period was a fast a furious one. The Wild came out with something to prove, and out shot the Blackhawks 15-9. Both teams scored to make a game of it. The Blackhawks would need to step up their intensity because the Wild weren't going down without a fight.

The second period was actually worse than the first for the Blackhawks. They were out shot 14 to 8 in the period, partly due to some stupid penalties. There were no goals in the middle frame, but there easily could have been. The Blackhawks were going to have to dig down and find some heart to win this one.

The Blackhawks came out in the third period and surrendered the lead with some lethargic play. That woke them up enugh to out shoot the Wild for the first time in the game, and eventually tie the game. This baby was going to extra time, and it didn't take long for the Wild to pull this one out 3-2 at home. Next game, Tuesday.

The Good

  • Crazy 8s set up Oduya for the first goal of the game, with about seven minutes remaining in the first period. Kane pulled his usual curl in the zone, and the Wild defense all turned into hungry zombies, just blindly drifting towards him. Oduya snuck in from the point and Kane hit him on the tape. Johnny waited about 4 days, and picked Harding apart.
  • The Blackhawks caught the Wild in a bad change with just over 2 minutes to go in the third period and tied up the game. Sharp noticed the change and rushed the puck into the zone. He dumped the puck off to Kane who waited for Deuce to catch the play, and fed him with a beautiful pass. Deuce just sized Harding up and blazed a shot through him. Keith was wide open because Cal Clusterfuck tried to take a cheap shot at El Capitan as they were both going for changes. That timing delayed Clusterfuck's replacement long enough to leave Keith wide open. There is what your ass hattery gets you.
  • Outside of a questionable overtime goal, Crawford bailed out the Blackhawks several times. The loss should not overshadow his effort.
  • Kane was on fire all game, but how much can you do all by yourself?
The Bad

  • With a minute to go in the first period, the Hawks failed to control a Cal Clutterbuck rebound and Pierre-Marc Bouchard scooped it up. He backhanded the puck off the crossbar and in. THe Hawks defense was a little too passive cleaning up the mess in front of the net, and it cost them.
  • The Wild clearly had an agenda in the first, and that was to agitate the Blackhawks. They were hitting and jawing all period. This was a surprise, considering head cementhead, Zenon Konopka, as scratched.
  • The Hawks got caught running around deep in their own zone just a couple of minutes into over time and the Wild's Zucker picked a spot over Crawford's shoulder to win the game. Oduya was floundering around, Stalberg got caught not giving a fuck, and Crawford was down and out early. Sloppy for sure, but the Wild still have a long way to go in this series.
  • The Hawks got their dicks kicked in at the faceoff dots. El Capitan was the only center to win more than he lost, and Handzus was a team low 31%. That has to get better.
  • Brandon Saad had a minus 2 hung on him. He wasn't directly responsible for the goals, but so be it.
The Ugly

  • In an effort to control a game that was getting out of control, the refs called some chintzy calls in the second, especially one on El Capitan.
  • A Roszival double turnover with about 4 minutes gone in the third turned into the go ahead goal for the Wild. Roszival got beat and Toews over pursued the play. The puck squirted out to the one guy you DON'T want to be one on one with your goalie, Zach Parise. Parise put a shot over Crawford's glove, similar to the one on the first period Bouchard goal, and we had ourselves a game.

Here are the video highlights:

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Playoffs: Blackhawks vs Wild
Game 2 Win Recap

"Blood Red"

Just want to first pass on my condolences to the friends and family of a guy I had the pleasure of hanging out with on a number of occasions, Jeff Hanneman of Slayer. Great guy, and it was very sad to learn of his passing.

Luckily for us Bloggers, the Blackhawks were able to pull out a tight 2-1 win against the Wild, Tuesday. The crap that the meatballs would have been spewing would have been homicide inducing, with a 3 day break in between games. The Wild used Josh Harding in net again Friday night, because of the injury to Backstrom. The Blackhawks, on the other hand, would be dressing the game lineup from Game 1. A two game lead in the series would be huge head start for them. Live from the United Center in Chicago, it's the Blackhawks and the Wild!

The Hawks first period was the opposite of the game 1 first period, as they came out and dominated the Wild. Not only did the Hawks out shot their opponents 17-7 after 20 minutes, but they were up 1-0 on the score board. The key was to keep this up.

The second period wasn't as good as the first but the Hawks were able to extend their lead, before the Wild scored their goal. Minny actually out shot the Hawks 15-14, which had to concern the Hawks coach. One more solid period, and the Hawks would be heading to Minny for game 3 up 2-0.

The Blackhawks put the game away in the third with 3 goals on 17 shots. The Wild were able to somewhat keep it close but that wasn't nearly enough. The Blackhawks pretty easily walked away and headed to Minnesota up 2-0. Next game Sunday.

The Good

  • Nice to see Dullig actually do something positive, as he rag dolled Tom Gilbert early in the first period.
  • After the negated goal, the Hawks took a 1-0 lead a few minutes later with the 4th line on the ice. Shaw drove into the zone and fired a long slapshot that was blocked. Harding had committed to the original shot and the block made it's way through Tom Gilbert's legs to Frolik's stick. Open net, and 1-0 Blackhawks lead.
  • Fifteen seconds after an El Capitan high sticking penalty the Hawks had a 3-on-3 rush and Frolik was the fortunate recipient of another lucky bounce off a Wild defender. He was able to slide it between Harding's legs for a 2-0 Blackhawks lead, shorthanded no less.
  • The Hawks showed a part of their game they hadn't shown in years, when they started throwing some heavy body checks, especially in the second period.
  • Shooter threw his hat in hat ring with less than 5 minutes into the third frame. After a failed chance by Zus, Kane got the puck to Sharp, who was just to Harding's left. Sharp pulled the puck in front of the net and over Harding's shoulder for a 3-1 Hawks lead.
  • Shooter struck again on an amazing Crazy 8s spinning pass. Sharp was left wide open with the entire net in front of him. Kane's pass was pretty much a blind spin-o-rama pass
  • Bickell was able to out race the Wild's Brodin, to flip the puck into a open net with the goalie pulled to ice the game.
  • Forty eight shots on net is huge. you're not going to lose many games with totals like that.
  • Hjalmarsson was a very quiet plus 3 on the night.
  • Michael Roszival led the Hawks with 17:51 toi again and had a +2.
  • The Hawks beat the Wild in face offs, 54% to 46%. Toews led and the three other centers were right at 50%. Sharp chipped in winning all 4 face offs he took.
The Bad

  • The Hawks looked to have take a lead 5 minutes into the game, but it was clear that Kane tried to kick the puck to his stick and actually kicked the puck into the net. Not much complaint there.
  • Matt Cullen found Devin Setoguchi in behind the napping Hawks defense of Seabrook and Keith to put him in 1-on-1 with Crawford. Setoguchi did what an NHL sniper should, which is beat Crawford with a perfect snipe over his glove that went off the crossbar and in. The Hawks defense was looking far too cocky, which led to them getting sloppy. After the goal, the Wild had an almost identical chance that seemed to have sent Quenneville's crew to the doghouse.
  • Marco Scandella brought the Wild back in within 2 goals, just two minutes after the second Sharp goal. The Hawks had a lot of trouble getting the puck out of the zone and Crawford was able to save several shots, but one of the rebound made it out to the point, and Scandella beat Crawford.
The Ugly

  • Minus 8 total for Koivu, Parise and Suter. That's clutch for the letter wearers, there.

Here are the video highlights:

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Playoffs: Blackhawks vs Wild
Game 1 Win Recap

"First Strike Is Deadly"

Finally, the Blackhawks have come BACK...to the NHL Playoffs. The Blackhawks opened their 1 vs 8 playoff series with a team they have had pretty decent success against, the Minnyhaha Wild, Tuesday night. We are all familiar with the plight of the great cash grab of Parise and Suter, but this team has some good secondary scorers, as well. Their big problem, though, has been the youth and lack of experience behind Suter with their defense, and the Hawks would look to feast on this. In a late pregame development, Wild Goalie Niklas Backstrom was injured in warmups, bad enough to be replaced by Josh Harding. This, in theory, was a good thing for the Hawks, but how would they respond? Live from the United Center, it's playoff hockey with the Blackhawks and Wild.

The Blackhawks came out and gave the Wild an enormous break in the first. There were bouncing pucks, a bad goal, and general all around disarray. Even though shots were even at 6, a majority of the scoring chances went to Minny. The Hawks looked like they were still resting their stars, even though they were present. Lethargic was too kind a word for the Blackhawks first period play, and they were lucky that the only hole they were in was a 1-0 hole.

The second period opened up much better for the Blackhawks, as they tied the game up early on a powerplay. They were also able to outshoot the Wild 10-7 and control enough play to resemble the Blackhawks we are familiar with. In fact, the whole period was pretty solid for the Hawks. Nice to see them settle down and finally find their game.

The Hawks continued their improved play out shooting the Wild 12-7 in the third period, but neither team could take the lead. Tight defense and good goaltending sent this game 1 into overtime, where it would take almost a full overtime period for the Blackhawks to score the winner.

The Good

  • After the terrible first goal that Crawford gave up, he ended the first period with a big glove save on Kyle Brodziak. Of course this was after Deuce let the Wild forwards in behind him, leaving Seabrook and Crawford all alone against a 2-on-1. I'd call them even after that bail out by Crawford.
  • Crazy 8s and Hoss hooked up on a powerplay to tie the game up, just a couple of minutes into the second period. The Hawks rushed 4 players hard into the Wild zone led by Kane. Kane then saucered a perfect backhand pass to Hossa, who had gotten behind the Wild defense. Hossa then picked his spot and beat Harding, tying the game at 1. Hossa caught Harding moving across which opened up his 5 hole. Nice to see the powerplay do something of substance.
  • Bryan Bickell actually hit someone; HARD! Alert the authorities! He actually laid Zenon Konopka out the hell out, late in the second period. We've only waited 4 years for that kind of physicality from Bickell. That'll look great on your free agent highlight reel.
  • A perfect Oduya pass off the glass from deep in the Hawks zone, Stalberg's speed, and finally a lumbering Bickell resulted in a 2-on-1 late in OT. Stalberg waited for Bickell to catch the play and dished to him leaving him 1-on-1 with shifting Harding. Bick made a nice move around Harding, and flicked the puck into the open net for the win.
  • According to the official scoring, the Blackhawks actually out hit the Wild 40 to 36. MEH! I don't buy that bullshit for a second, and if any of you do, I have some beachfront property I'd like to offer you, CHEAP!
  • The Hawks held the Wild to 0-4 on the powerplay while scoring on one of their three powerplays. That's the tale of the game there, folks.
  • Crawford settled in and played an excellent 71 minutes of hockey after the initial pisspoor goal. Way to puke and rally, kid. PUKE AND RALLY!
  • Credit where credit it is due. Josh Harding stepped in with little notice after playing very little this season and made 35 saves. Hats off to you, Mr. Harding.
  • Hearing "Where the Dead Ships Dwell" from In Flames over the United Center sound system made my night. GREAT, GREAT choice!
The Bad

  • As I said above, the Blackhawks first period was basically terrible. Keith, specifically, let the Wild forwards get behind him more than once. Wake the hell up, Deuce. BECAUSE IT'S THE CUP!
  • Aside from Toews completely BEASTING at the dots, the rest of the Blackhawks centers were deplorable at the faceoff dots. Thanks to El Capitan, who was almost 70% in the 26 draws he took, the team broke even. This must get better, especially with Handzus in the lineup. That IS why he's here, right?
  • Check out Mike Rupp's "Bambi on Ice" impression:
The Ugly

  • Crawford gave up a horrible first goal. Cal Clusterfuck skated up the right side pretty innocently holding hands with two of this teammates and snapped a shot on net that Crawford just...missed. I have no explanation for the goal, because it was as soft as baby shit. Not even five minutes into the game, and the haters were prairie dogging it, just looking for fuel. After the game, he said he lost the puck, which based on the set up of an arena, could happen. The puck rises above the boards level and you lose it in a spectators black shirt. I've had it happen, so I sympathize, but it was bad timing. I'm not making excuses, but those things do happen.
  • The Hawks were actually robbed of a goal halfway through the third period, when a loose puck was poked into the net by either Toes or Kane but the refs claimed they lost sight. Glad that one didn't bite them in the ass, because the puck was pretty clearly loose.

Here are the video highlights:

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