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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Playoffs: Blackhawks vs Blues
Game 6 Series Win

"The Crusade"

Sunday afternoon the Blackhawks had their first chance to eliminate the St. Louis Blues after coming back from a 0-2 deficit to go up in the series 3-2. I threw a prediction out there that the Blackhawks would win in 6 games, and they were right on track to do that. With all the games in this series, that was not going to be easy.

The Blackhawks took an early lead that the Blues matched late in the first period, Sunday. The second period saw the Hawks dominated for the entire twenty minutes, but giving up no ground on the scoreboard. The third period was all Blackhawks as they came out and took a lead and followed up with 3 more goals, sending the Blues back home series losers.

The Good
  • The Blues had the early pressure out shooting the Blackhawks 5-1 early, but the Hawks used a defensive faceoff win to take an early lead. Keith's work to keep the puck in the zone, eventually ended up on the stick of Seabrook, who let a long wrist shot go. He was looking for a Bickell tip, and that is exactly what Seabrook got when Bickell redirected the puck just enough to beat Miller.
  • After the abortion of a second period, the Blackhawks show the Blue how to work a powerplay just 44 seconds into the third period. Keith found Toews across the ice and Toews drove to the slot, beating Miller.
  • 1:16 after the Toews goal, Sharpie blocked a shot attempt at the point and the puck ended up on the stick of Kane. Sharp had taken off behind the defenders and Kane hit him on the tape for a breakaway. Sharp shielded the puck and fought off a high sticking penalty from Shattenkirk to direct the puck towards the net. Weak goal that Miller needed to stop. That opened up the flood gates.
  • Five minutes after the Sharp goal, Andrew Shaw tipped a long Keith shot up and over Miller for a 4-1 Blackhawks lead. The Hawks had their boots on the throats of the Blues at this point.
  • The icing on the cake was a Shaw/Keith 2-on-1 rush that resulted in Keith hitting a gaping net for a 5-1 Blackhawks lead.
  • Seabrook came back to a 2 assist and a plus 3 performance.
  • Crawford haters can, once again, eat a bag of bull balls. He was stellar on the second period that saw the Hawks get out shot 17-3. Overall he made 35 saves, and out dueled Mr "Big Game Goaltender", who only stopped 22 of 27 shots.
  • We all finally got our wishes to see Kris Versteeg sit, but Quenneville dresses Nordstrom instead of the player we expected, Jeremy Morin.
The Bad
  • Right after a late first period TV timeout the Blues caught the Hawks running around in their zone a little. Steen found a wide open Oshie right in front of the net. Oshie was SO wide open and he was able to pound the puck past Crawford so hard that no one but the official realized it went into the net. I went in and out so fast, that even Oshie himself didn't know.
The Ugly
  • The Hawks started the game killing 4 straight penalties, including a Hossa double minor, until Steen was called for a slash about half way through the second period. Luckily the Steen call cut the Hossa double in half. The calls against the Hawks continued throughout the second period after that. The
  • Again, the Hawks were out shot 17-3 on the second period alone, and the Hawks didn't yield a goal. How that happened is beyond me, because every Hawks fan was just waiting for the goal to come. Total shitshow of a period, and the penalties didn't help.
  • Berglund, Ott, and Jackman were all minus 3. I can't laugh hard enough at that.
  • You would like to see Bollig and Nordstrom play more than a total of 8 shifts for 3:57, but I guess we can attribute that to the penalty discrepancy.
Here are the video highlights:

2014 Playoff song via HockeeNight:

Friday, April 25, 2014

Playoffs: Blackhawks at St. Louis
Game 5 OT Win


The Blackhawks headed back to St. Louis Friday night to face the Blues in game 5 of the series. The Blackhawks had 1-0 and 2-1 leads but lost both before heading to overtime for the 4th time in 5 games. The Hawks took their 3rd game in a row with a break-a-way goal midway through the first OT.

The Good

  • The Blackhawks struck first when Bryan Bickell squeezed past a Roman Polak and led a 2-on-1 with Hossa. Bickell's pass to Hoss was a terrible one that Hossa struggled to control. Hossa stuck with the play long enough to find it on his stick with a wide open net. Backes was in his typical asshole mode, checking Hossa into his own goaltender and eventually into the net.
  • The Hawks almost went up 2-0 on an early powerplay as Duncan Keith's shot squirted by Miller, but Miller was able to reach back and cover the trickling puck before Andrew Shaw was able to jump on it.
  • Late in the second period, Ben Smith finally capitalized on his strong play. He picked up a rebound in front of the net and backhanded it over Miller's blocker for a 2-1 Blackhawks lead.
  • Just when everyone was holding their breath and Backes was pressuring the Blackhawks in their own zone, Crawford made a big save and Keith chipped the puck to a wide open Jonny Toews for a break-a-way the other way. El Capitan does what he does, and finished the game for a huge Blackhawks win in St. Louis.
  • Hjalmarsson was a stud, once again, blocking 6 shots, which was double any other player.
The Bad

  • TJ Oshie tied the game just over halfway through the second period. The play started off with Bickell making a big hit on Steen. The puck was still able to make its way across to the streaking Oshie, who originally mishandled the puck. That led to Crawford committing early and taking himself out of the pay. Oshie stayed with the puck and pushed it past Crawford.
  • Eary in the third period Nick Leddy decided that a 1 goal lead was enough to take an end to end rush. His shot missed the net and rang around to lead a Blues 2-on-1 the other way. No one covered for Leddy and puck ended up on the stick of Pietrangelo who beat Crawford to tie the game.
  • For the first time this series, the Blackhawks were beaten at the dots
The Ugly

  • Barret Jackman winning the Calder trophy is the equivalent of Jim Carey winning the Vezina in 96. Fucking piece of smoldering garbage.
  • David Backes finally came and skated to the tune of minus 2 and 35% at the dots. El poopoo.
  • How bout that Brandon Bollig? The right response is "who?".

Here are the video highlights:

2014 Playoff song via HockeeNight:


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Playoffs: Blackhawks vs Blues
Game 4 OT Win

"Ember to Inferno"

The Blackhawks carried the momentum of their game three shutout win into game four Wednesday night. The Blackhawks jumped out to a 2-0 lead and it looked like the game was over, but the Blues had other plans, scoring three straight goals at the end of the second and beginning of the third periods. The Blackhawks woke up long enough to tie the game back up and eventually send the game to overtime. It was a see-saw overtime and the Blackhawks ended it just over halfway through, and the Hawks headed back to St. Louis all tied up.

The Good

  • If you were writing the first goal of this game as a story, you would have to have your hero with the tragic flaw, like Andrew Shaw taking dumb penalties. And then you would have that hero score a hard working goal to redeem himself. That is exactly what happened. Shaw batted a puck out of the air and into the net with his back to the net, on the powerplay no less. You want to condemn him for his stupid play, but he ALWAYS bails himself out. He was the only Hawk that was a minus 2, but he had the goal that made you forget all about that.
  • Late in the second period, Johnny Oduya rushed the puck up to Miller's right. When he was absolutely out of room, he sent a perfect pass rink wide to a breaking Patrick Kane, who was able to cleanly beat Miller for a 2-0 Hawks lead. If that pass was 6 inches either way, the play was a bust. Oduya as perfect on that one.
  • Bryan Bickell decided to add to his playoff legend with just under 4 minutes left in the game. He station his big ass in front of Ryan Miller and tipped a long Rozsival shot just inside the post to tie the game up. They didn't deserve to be tied at this point, but they were.
  • In overtime, The Lineblender was in full effect. Ben Smith was centering Kane and Sharp, which is not a terrible option. Just makes one wonder what took so long.
  • About halfway through the overtime, the Blues got caught very similar to what happened to the Hawks on the Blues third goal. The result was very similar. When Patrick Kane is leading the rush in overtime, opposing goalies should be terrified. Game, Set, Match.
  • Hey not so bad without Seabrook, eh?
The Bad

  • Good for the Blackhawks but bad for the Blues, David Backes didn't dress for this one.
  • Max LuckyPierre started up where he left off in game 3 by tripping Brookbank and forcing him awkwardly into the board, just moments into the game.
  • The Blackhawks took a litany of stupid, sloppy penalties in the second period.
  • With the Tarasenko goal, the Blues found their stride, and just a minute later the Blackhawks were caught chasing a bouncing puck around like a puppy with a superball. The biggest douche on the ice, Lapierre, ended up with the goal with just 3 seconds remaining in the period.
  • The way the Blackhawks were playing in the third period, it was just a matter of time before the Blues struck. Vlad Tarasenko was the guy that made them pay, again. Four Hawks players were caught late in a shift and deep in the Blues zone. The Blues came out 2-on-1 and Tarasenko beat Crawford to take the lead, with about 8 minutes left in the game.
  • Schwartz and Berglund were each minus 3. Woofaroo!
  • Not Crawford's best game but the Hawks survived. Neither goalie was really that exceptional, but Crawford was slightly better than Mr. Allstar Miller.
The Ugly

  • Steve Ott really said a lot about himself, trying to start a fight with the 100 year old Michael Handzus. What a total scumbag.
  • Tarasenko was able to finally break the Blues scoreless streak late in the second period. Kane was sent off for one of those stupid delay of game penalties and Tarasenko score just a few seconds into the kill.

Here are the video highlights:

I forgot this after game 3, but here we go:


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Puckin Hostile proudly presents
The Inaugural Shoutcast

Gatekeeper and Patrick Stankus talk about everything from the Blackhawks playoffs, to prospects, and the Brent Seabrook suspension.

For all your custom jersey needs visit Black and Tan Sports at: http://www.facebook.com/BlackAndTanSports

You can find the episode on iTunes by following this link: iTunes

Puckin Hostile Inaugural Shoutcast MP3 Download

You can listen below on the Talkshoe player:

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Playoffs: Blackhawks vs Blues
Game 3 Shutout Win

"Back With A Vengeance"

The Blackhawks "welcomed" the Blues in the United Center Monday night after a very Saturday night tilt in St. Luiz which saw Brent Seabrook get kicked out and eventually suspended for three games. AS fast s the festivities began, the Blackhawks took an early 1-0 lead on a gift goal, and held that lead for the rest of the game. A late empty net goal iced the victory and gave the Blackhawks the momentum they needed to possibly tie the series up Wednesday.

As bad as the Blackhawks have looked, the games they lost were in overtime away from home. It could have very easily been 3-0 Hawks after this game, so the Blues can chirp and cheer all they want, but they have NOT dominated at all. On to the highlights:

The Good

  • El Capitan put the Hawks up early in the first and they never lost the lead again. Toews just easily threw the puck at the net and it ended up beating Miller through the 5-hole. WEAK WEAK goal.
  • It's been said that Corey Crawford needed to steal some games for the Blackhawks, well here was that game. The Hawks were out shot 34-25 and Crawford allowed none of them by, including 7 powerplay shots.
  • For the third game in a row, the Hawks centers were over 50% at the dots, basically, because Toews was at an insane 79%.
  • Sheldon Brookbank dressed for Seabrook and played about 14 and a half minutes. He played the "just don't screw up" position, and didn't screw up.
  • For all the bad things I have said about Handzus, the guy has been a warrior so fan in this series. It should also be pointed out that Hjalmarsson, and Kruger have been huge as well, especially on the penalty kill
  • Quenneville has apparently decided that Marcus Kruger will only take faceoffs in the neutral zone with Ben Smith taking any offensive or defensive zone faceoffs. Smith has done pretty well with it too.
  • A late Kruger empty netter on a feed from Saad iced the game for the Blackhawks.
The Bad

  • The great Chicago hero, Brandon Bollig, played a grand total of 8 shifts for 5:05, while noted slid mark Ryan Reaves played 8 shifts as well.
  • Blues phenom Alexander Steen was a minus 2 with a penalty and lost 9 of the 10 faceoffs he took. WOOF!!
  • The Hawks powerplay has gone back to Clown Shoe-ish proportions. They are now 1 for 14. They have to do better than that. Conversely, they are 15 of 16 on the penalty kill.
The Ugly

  • Watching Roman Polak run around in his first shift kidney punching Bollig and hitting people from behind makes you wonder just what all this talk about throwing down the gauntlet was all about, because he was allowed free reign to act like a cheap shot artist.
  • Speaking of Blues noted shit stains, Max Lucky Pierre railed Brookbank from behind really nicely in the second period.

Here are the video highlights:


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Playoffs: Blackhawks at St.Louis
Game 2 OT loss

"I Still Hate You"

The Blackhawks took it to the the Blues in St. Luiz Saturday afternoon. They opened up looking like a team not even worthy of a playoff appearance, but came back and even took a 3-2 lead.

The Hawks had that 3-2 lead until the final seconds of the game when the Blues took advantage of a tired Hawks PK group and tied the game up. Once again the Blackhawks were headed to overtime and gave up a goal about 5 minutes into the frame giving the Blues a 2-0 series lead. Game three will be Monday night at the UC.

The Good

  • It took the Blackhawks almost two full periods to do anything positive. A deflected Duncan Keith shot ended up getting past a helpless Ryan Miller and brought the Hawks back within one on the final minutes of the second period.
  • The two remaining goals by Seabrook and Rozsival were basically garbage goals as well. Both were deflected off Blues defenders. Lucky for the Blackhawks but nothing to really write home about.
  • For a second game in a row, Corey Crawford kept the Blackhawks in the game. The first goal as a bad angle, but the shot block in front threw him off, and the OT goal was a bit of a squeaker. If it weren't for Crawford, the Hawks would have been down 3 or 4 after 20 minutes.
  • The Hawks centers were good at the dots, to the tune of 51%. On the road in the playoffs, that should help keep you in the game.
  • Shattenkirk had 3 points and was one of the top players for TOI. That guy is pretty good. I'd take him and Pietrangelo in a heartbeat. They are a solid duo. Just too bad they play in the crotch of America.
The Bad

  • The first Blues goal was a marginal one, that was as a result of a shot block that had the puck ricochet to the right circle. Crawford had over committed to the original shot and ended up out of position.
  • Brandon Bollig played 3:33 which equates to SEVEN shifts. No need to roll 4 full lines after a 5 period game two nights ago and then another OT game today; because sandpaper.
  • When you are at a powerplay deficit of 9 to 4, you're not going to win many games. Especially when one of those is a 5 minute major.
  • While Hossa had some great defensive plays, he also had 8 shots that equated to no points.
The Ugly

  • The second Blues goal was a complete shitshow. The Blackhawks were running around in their own zone and Crawford had to bail them out once, when Sobotka drove through the crease. Unfortunately, he slid out of position. The puck made it's way out to the point and into the net. At this point the Hawks looked terrible. Just terrible.
  • The Blackhawks comeback will forever be overshadowed by the Brent Seabrook hit on David Backes. Let me be clear, the hit was suspension worthy. Backes was slouched, and Seabrook came in high. This is exactly what the league is trying to rule out. The Hawks will be without Seabrook for a minimum 2 games. This said, let this be some Karma for all the ass hattery that goes on with the Blues. Here is said hit:

  • After the Seabrook major kill, the Hawks were gassed. Even though there was a feeling that all that fire the Hawks were playing with was going to work out, but it was not to be. With 6.4 seconds and the goalie pulled the Blues were able to finally get the tying goal past Crawford.
  • Under the radar was Bryan Bickell's knee to knee hit on Sobotka. I realize that Sobotka tried to duck the hit a little bit, but it's not a very good play by Bickell.

Here are the video highlights:


Friday, April 18, 2014

Playoffs: Blackhawks at St.Louis
Game 1 3OT Loss Recap

"All Nightmare Long"

The Blackhawks opened the 2014 NHL playoffs last night in St. Luiz against the Blues. No one though this was going to be an easy series and by the results of game one, it's going to be an extremely long painful. The Blues jumped out to a pretty quick 1-0 lead in the first period, but the Blackhawks answered with 2 goals of their own. The Blues were not to be denied when they scored to tie up the game just 29 seconds later. The score remained tied until the final few minutes of the third period, when a fortunate breakaway change put the Blackhawks up 3-2.

The score remained 3-2 until the final few minutes of the third period when the Blues pressure finally resulted in a lame game tying goal. This sent the game to not one, not two but THREE overtimes. The Blues struck quickly in the 3rd overtime to take a 1-0 series lead. Game two will be Saturday afternoon in St. Luiz

The Good

  • The first Blackhawks goal was set up by a pretty nice Brandon Saad play to get the puck deep in the St. Luiz zone and then circle back and control the puck long enough to find the late guy, Oduya. Oduya was patient and picked his spot on Miller.
  • While it's well documented that I stronging dislike Kris Versteeg, he made a nice play on the Seabrook power play goal that put the Blackhawks up for the first time 2-1. He took the puck at the left dot and skated backwards behind the net looking for an open Hawks stick. When he cleared the net, Seabrook was his guy, and Seabrook buried it.
  • Late in the first period Toews found Kane in behind the Blues defense and hit his tape for a breakaway. I'll take Kane on a breakaway against any goalie in the league. He beat Miller and the Blackhawks held that 3-2 lead until late in the third period.
  • Crawford had a pretty damn good night. The Hawks were out shot 52-42 and Crow made several great saves and held the team in the game. If you mention Crawford had any responsibility in this loss, you need to dip in the lake with lead boots on, because you are a moron.
  • Keith and Hammer each had over 40 minutes of ice time, but Pietrangelo had over 44. That is a lot of time on the rink. A LOT.
  • The Hawks were pretty good at the faceoff dot. They were at 57% overall, and the Hawks centers were all at or over 50% in the defensive zone. Ben Smith whipped Derek Roy's ass at the dot all night, winning 5 of 6. No complaints here.
The Bad

  • The first goal was as a result of a Crawford rebound and Rozsival not boxing out his guy. If you haven't put it together, Cracknell was his guy.
  • Oduya and Hjalmarsson dicked the dog on the late Blues tying goal. Oduya half assed a backhanded a pass from behind the net to Hammer. Schwartz read the pass and intercepted. The puck ended up on the stick of Roy who pushed it back to Schwartz, who slung it past Crawford.
  • Oduya and Hammer had a rough night. It's not often they do, so I'm not worried, but it needed to be pointed out.
The Ugly

  • The Hawks were absolutely schooled by the Blues on the first period Tarasenko goal. It looked like tic-tac-toe as the Blues made 3 quick passes and Tarasenko was left with a wide open net.
  • The OT winner was a lazy play in the Hawks end. Hammer, Oduya and Versteeg watch Ott and Steen control the loose puck to Crawford's left and Steen just snapped it past Crawford.
  • Ryan Reaves only played 18 total shifts and took 2 penalties, because he is a terrible hockey player. Fuck that guy.

Here are the video highlights:


Thursday, April 17, 2014

2013-14 Blackhawks
Regular Season Report Card

With the conclusion of the 2013-14 regular season, it's customary to give my end of season report card. The Blackhawks will open up the playoffs on tonight in St. Louis as they attempt to defend their Stanley Cup championship.

On to parent/teacher conference:

The Center Icemen

19 - Jonathan Toews - No denying that Jonny is the heart and soul of this team, and it might be a blessing in disguise that he went down with an injury that forced him to take a few weeks off. The way this team jumps on the back of their captain, the only way he was getting significant rest was an injury. Even missing 8 games, he has 68 points. If you don't know what he does or what he is worth, you are way late to the game. Future hall of famer and retired number.
GRADE - A plus

65 - Andrew Shaw - This kid just keeps producing. 20 goals and 39 points while being moved up and down the lineup is sufficient for me. He has played all of the top 3 center position, and didn't look completely out of place doing so. He has played on the powerplay as well and, again, has not looked out of place. The chaos he causes in front of the net has helped to keep the Blackhawks powerplay in the top third of the league. This kid was a diamond in the rough when Bowman selected him in the 5th round of the 2011 draft.

12 - Peter Regin - No one knew what to expect from this guy when he was acquired from the Islanders on February 6th. He has decent size and can give the Blackhawks a little more depth up the middle that they didn't have. I don't think you'll ever get more than 25 points out of Regin, but he can fill in where needed, without getting his ass kicked up and down the rink. As of late, he has shown some chemistry with some of the younger players, which is promising. He is a UFA in July and might not be back.

16 - Marcus Kruger - Kruger has slid into the Blackhawks 4th line center and primary penalty killer roles very nicely. I would still like to see him make his way to 3rd line shutdown slot, but Quenneville is hesitant to break up anything successful, and the 4th line was his most consistent this season. Smith, Bollig and Kruger could possibly even be called the Blackhawks 3rd line, because the real "3rd line" of Bickell, Shaw and Versteeg has been dogshit on the wing.

26 - Michal Handzus - Where do I begin and end with Handzus? He was old and Quenneville bled just about anything he had left in the tank last spring. So what do the Blackhawks do? Re-sign him for another year. I understand that he is one of the trusted Quenneville boys club members, but he's old, slow and goes against everything this team is built around. Now that the team faceoff percentage has been rectified, Handzus is really a non factor. There is no way he is back next year because there are kids like Teravainen waiting for a spot. Thanks for the spot duty, Zus.

The Wingers

20 - Brandon Saad - It has been an up and down year for young Saad. If you look purely at the numbers, he had a great year. Unfortunately, he tailed off and was even a healthy scratch late in the season. 47 points in 78 games is nothing to thumb your nose at, but he didn't score a goal in his last 12 games, and only had three assists in that time period. This is a kid that the Blackhawks are expecting big things from. Maybe he's getting adjusted to a full NHL season, or maybe he'll just be a streaky player. Based on his size and length of presence we can easily forget that Brandon Saad is still only 21 years old. He has one year left on his entry level deal, and we should probably expect a moderate bridge deal coming soon. Saad is on the cusp of that long term range, but he needs to fully define just who Brandon Saad is and has to prove he can be consistent. He could have been sitting at roughly 55 points had he not disappeared for extended stretches. The potential is there, and he has show flashes of dominance.
GRADE - B minus

23 - Kris Versteeg - This guy! This! Fucking! Guy! I was a fan, his rookie year, but he was hidden behind such talent that allowed him to sneak in under the radar. Fast forward 4 years, and the rest of the league has realized what I had been saying all along. Versteeg is a peripheral player that is best in a 3rd line role, if on a good team. He hangs on to the puck far too damn long, and turns it over far too damn much. People seemed to forget these facts when Bowman made his "big deal" to bring "Dammit Versteeg" back. 29 points in 63 games is "OK", but Versteeg isn't some 23 year old kid anymore. He is 27 years old and makes $2.2 million a year. If the Blackhawks hang onto him, it'll be for 2 more seasons, which will test my patience. If they want to keep him around in the bottom 6 for a few seasons, I can handle it, but if they keep playing him with the top 6 and on the powerplay, I'm going to have and embolism. I suppose that for just $2.2 million, his salary isn't the issue. His play certainly is, though.

29 - Bryan Bickell - People will run around saying that, based on the signings of other players of his size last summer, Bickell is a bargain. With that line of reasoning, I'll agree, but if you compare the rest of the league, they are all ridiculous albatrosses. Bickell just happens to be the least ridiculous of the group. I'm not of the thinking that just because Clarkson, Horton, and Clowe have more asinine contracts, Bickell is absolved. He needs to produce more. Produce SOMETHING. Sure, there are rumors that he has been injured, and has been wearing knee braces. You know who else will be doing alright wearing a knee brace? Patrick Kane. In a few years his contract will be in the Versteeg "Well he's sucking but he only makes..." range, but for the moment it tends to be a bit of a pain in the ass. If he shows up in the playoffs, then his grade goes up to a B minus.
GRADE - C Minus

28 - Ben Smith - Agent Smith was slotted into a perfect position for him. He was put into the no pressure 4th line, grind winger spot. Sprinkle in a little penalty killing and some spot duty at center, and that encapsulates Smith's first full NHL season. 26 points is pretty admirable for a guy that far down the depth chart, that only plays 12:44 a game. One would think that his role would expand some next season.

11 - Jeremy Morin - This kid got the run-a-round that Pirri started. The times he was brought up, he wasn't given any chance to settle into a regular spot. When the time came to fill in for Kane and Toews, Morin jumped up and grabbed the opportunity by the ball bag. It's a crying shame that Quenneville will default to the "old trusties" in the playoffs, and Morin will have to watch players like Kris Versteeg under perform. If I was grading him on his late season call-up, exclusively, I would have given him at least a B plus.

52 - Brandon Bollig -Two things about Brandon Bollig. He played every single game for the Blackhawks, this year, and he scored the first Blackhawks goal of the season. Everything else was just filler. He has done what is asked of him, even though he is certainly good for the occasional idiotic penalty, or momentum killing "fight". He hasn't blatantly hurt the team, even though there are players more talented and probably more deserving on the outside looking in. It is exhausting to fight this fight. Wasting my time hating his 10 minutes of playing time per night is pointless. Based on the extension he signed, he is obviously here to stay, so I'll focus more hate on Kris Versteeg. Seven goals and 14 points is more than anyone could have expected from the sculpted beard.

88 - Patrick Kane - Kid is money in the bank and that will equal money in the bank, for him, some time after July 1st. Kane was right up in the top scorers in the league for a healthy portion of the season, all while towing the festering carcass of Michael Handzus behind him. Even after missing 13 games, Kane still ended up with 69 points. Not much to complain about there.
GRADE - A plus

81 - Marian Hossa -Another guy on this team that just "does". Maybe one of the best free agent signings ever for this franchise, Hossa has lived up to every cent of his contract. He is solid on both ends of the ice and doesn't crave the spotlight. Hossa has the perfect personality and skillset to settle in behind the flashier players like Toews and Kane, yet still put up big numbers and carry the team from time to time. Anyone that has a bad word to say about Marian Hossa should be stripped, tarred and feathered right next to the Hull/Mikita statues. Thirty more goals, and thirty more assists. Another consistent season.

10 - Patrick Sharp -After Hossa, comes Sharp. As far as stats go, he led the team in scoring. As far as the spotlight goes, he's probably 4th or 5th on the team. This suits Sharpie well. No pressure for him as he just does what he does. Quarterback the power play, solidify the top 6, play for Team Canada in the Olympics, and lead the Blackhawks in scoring. All this while playing every regular season game. He has his streaks, but at the end of the day, he is vital to this team. Another great year.
GRADE - A plus

42 - Joakim Nordstrom -Nordstrom came out of training camp as a surprise. He made the team and it was quickly made clear that he was overmatched. He's a tall slim 4th liner, and while he may end up a serviceable NHLer some day, that day is not now. He got some seasoning in the AHL and came back a little stronger late in the season. Not much to love or to hate about him just yet. At this point he is just a player.

I left out Matt Carey, Teuvo Teravainen and Brad Mills. 8 games total isn't worth recognizing yet, but Teravainen will be a subject next year.

The Defensemen

2 - Duncan Keith -After a few rough seasons following the Gold Medal, Cup Run, Conn Smythe and Norris Trophy, in 2010, Keith had a few rough seasons. Last year he bounced back a little and then up even one more notch this season. He has been probably the most mentioned player in the Norris trophy race, all season long. He finished with 61 points and the most ice time on the team. He was ranked 15th in TOI in the entire league which is a pretty good sweet spot to be in for Keith. No need to burn him out if they don't need to. There are still chapters to write in this book, and we'll see how the playoffs go, but his regular season was pretty exceptional.

7 - Brent Seabrook -Good ol lucky number sleven. Carter Seven, even. Seabs has had a bit of a down year by his standards, but I'm not aboard that hate train. I am partial the Seabrook, so I generally cut him some slack. His numbers (7G-43A-41P) are a bit inflated because he plays with maybe the best defenseman in the league, but I still maintain that he could be a #1 on a good portion of the teams in the NHL. It is not time to take ol yeller out back and shoot him yet, but I would understand if they could get an asset for him this summer. I won't like it, but I would understand. There are players like Johns, Clendening and Dahlbeck in Rockford that are probably ready for a chance. Johns looks like he may be a BETTER version of Seabrook, someday, but those are some huge skates to fill. Hjalmarsson could move up and fill Seabrook's spot if needed. All this said, I hope he is around for quite a while. He has some things that very few other defensemen on this team have. Strength and intimidating physical play.
GRADE - B minus

8 - Nick Leddy -If I asked you to name which Hawks defenseman played every regular season game for the team the last three years, would you have said Leddy? It's true. Nick Leddy has been the most durable Blackhawks defender. In the playoffs, it's been a bit of a roller coaster, because he barely played down the stretch last spring because Quenneville had some bug up his tuchus. It's really time for Nick Leddy to shit or get off the pot, though. He might be the fastest player on the team, and he has been the one mainstay on the 3rd pair for 3 years now. He quite simply needs to move up the depth chart. Maybe he slides in and takes Oduya's spot so the Blackhawks can get some fresh faces in the lineup. Maybe Seabrook is sent packing and Leddy takes Hjalmarsson's spot. Never can tell what Bowman will do, but he needs to be bumped up to the next level. The kid is a player and was probably considered for a spot on Team USA, this winter. For him to be considered as one of the top US defensemen and be stuck as a 3rd pair player is pretty silly. That said, he had another pretty solid season. Leddy needs to be on the ice, with the puck on his stick, heading north. He may never be Duncan Keith, but his play is very similar.

32 - Michal Rozsival -I will never understand this Bowman signing. one year, sure, but two? Fail. I realize Rozsival was a solid player in last year's ABBREVIATED SEASON, but signing him for 2 more years just makes zero sense to me. He is a leader and a decent 3rd line defender in spot duty, but he can't play every day. If they want to pay him $2.2 million to be a 7th defender and mentor young players...I guess that is a plan. A bad plan, but it is a plan. This season he played in 42 games and had 8 points. They can't buy him out, so the Hawks are stuck with him for another season, unless he retires.

27 - Johnny Oduya -I don't have much issue with Johnny Oduya, or his play, as a whole. He logs some serious time against opposing teams most talented players. You're going to have hiccups. Hjalmarsson and Oduya did a pretty damn good job of shutting down some of the best talent in the world. To show just how important that was, both players were chosen to pay together for Team Sweden. This is nothing to thumb your nose at. Oduya is not Seabrook, and he isn't as talented as Leddy, but he has plenty of upside. His $3.375 million salary isn't all that bad, if you look at the other players out there doing his job. This said, I can see the Hawks dangling him on the market because of the affordable contract and his resume. I can't see the Blackhawks keeping these 5 top defenders going into training camp, but for the last 3 years I though Hjalmarsson was a goner. So, what do I know?

4 - Niklas Hjalmarsson -I've definitely been hard on Hammer, but I can't argue with success. Hjalmarsson has become maybe the most unsung and under the radar player on the Blackhawks. He is a defensive machine on the Hawks end of the ice. He finished in the top 20 of shot blockers in the NHL while still managing a nice plus/minus and 26 points to boot. You're not going to hear about him making the all-star team, but he is a vital member of the core of this Blackhawks team.

17 - Sheldon Brookbank -I really have no use for Brookbank. He is a cheap 7th defender that can throw hooks when needed. He was shuffled all over the lineup except where he needed to be, which is Rockford. Just a depth guy and Quenneville squeezed every ounce of production out of Brookbank. The only reason his grade is so high is that the team didn't spontaneously explode when he was on the ice, which was always a possibility.
GRADE - B Minus

David Rundblad came in late, but didn't play enough to illicit a review.

The Netminders

50 - Corey Crawford - Poor Crawford. He has taken on so much irrational hate. I'm certainly not blind, folks. He can give up some softies, and he does certainly look awkward out there, sometimes. The fact of the matter is that he carried this team to the Cup last year. He fully deserved the Conn Smythe and even Patrick Kane himself admitted that Crawford was snubbed. Crawford is good enough for the Blackhawks. Plain and simple. He's not Cristobal Huet, so people need to relax. I'm not going to say he deserves the Vezina trophy, but there is nothing to support any theory that he should be replaced. There are better goalies out there, but none in the Hawks system. He may very well be the Cam Ward of the Blackhawks, and never win anything again, but until he is the single reason the Blackhawks fail, he is not going anywhere. The Hawks would have to dump his salary to a team that had cap room and is in dire need of a decent goalie, and that's not happening for a while.
GRADE - B minus

31 - Antti Raanta - When the Blackhawks signed Raanta, everyone was kind of surprised. They had Crawford and Khabby, plus some young goalies in the system like Carruth, Simpson, and Whitney. It certainly doesn't hurt to have too much of a good thing, though. The chance that Raanta was going to start as Crawford's backup was slim to none. They weren't going to bury Khabby in the minors at $2 million. The only way Raanta was going to play was if Khabby got hurt, and that is exactly what happened. BUT, this was another Ray Emery theory. Just because he has a nice run when Crawford and Emery were hurt, doesn't mean he deserved or was ready to be an NHL #1. Antti Raanta isn't ready. They could have compensated for his deficiencies if they needed to, but AT THIS POINT Crawford is still a better goalie overall. This doesn't mean that next year Raanta won't light the place on fire. He very well could. Right now let us all enjoy the fact that the Blackhawks have two pretty good goalies.
GRADE - B plus

39 - Nikolai Khabibulin - Huge mistake that cost the Blackhawks $2 million. No one can get everything right, and Bowman had a huge whiff on this one.

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