Kukla's Korner

Talk'n Hawks

Wait ‘til Next Year

Being a recovering Cubs fan for many, many years now, I am ALL too familiar with the phrase, “Wait ‘til next year.” Chicago folks have heard that far too many times in every sport, and I in particular, am sick of hearing it.  BEFORE we get to next year, I’d like to address some things the Hawks need to do…..

GOALTENDING

The Hawks have 2 very capable back up goaltenders. Crawford, although he played well in regulation during the series, and did win 30 games in the season, is not the shut down type of goalie required to take you into the finals. Sophomore slump? I say no. The Blues have 2 of those “next level” net minders. I know that trades within a division are rare and tough, so where else. Ryan Miller? He did show signs of not being what he once was, at times this year. The unproven kid at Rockford Carter Hutton? Long shot at best. Carey Price? I don’t know, but something has to be done. This city has a very short memory, and those nightly sell outs at the United center could end very quickly, following 2 “one and done” Play Off series.

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Hawks Eliminated

Over the last 3 seasons my son & I have a United Center game attendance record of 9 - 1. The one loss was to the Phoenix Coyotes a couple seasons ago. The Yotes, with yesterday’s victory, came in this season & post season and won 5 games straight at the U. C. That’s all you need to know. If you can’t beat a team on your home ice, you ain’t going anywhere. 

Andrew Shaw returned from his suspension, and with the rest of his teammates, were part of every different line combination that you can think of. From the drop of the puck, the Hawks came out and controlled things. For the first 7 minutes, the puck was barley out of the Phoenix zone. Pucks were ringing off the post, just missing wide, and MOSTLY being gobbled up by opposing goal tender Mike Smith. However, that changed when the Hawks went on the Power Play, and then most of the action was spent trying to organize at neutral ice. The Hawks ended up 1 for 19 for the series on the P.P.—P.P. should stand for Pathetic Performance. I cannot fault the effort during the first period, they did every thing right but put the puck in the net. And that, my friends, is how you win a game. They out shot the visitors 16 -2 that period, but the score was 0 - 0.

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Just Hav’n Fun

Ok, here’s my theory on why the Hawks will win their series against Phoenix.

NASHVILLE won their series. As you know NASHVILLE is known as music city. When you think of AMERICAN music (teams in America have won the Cup going back several years) you thinks of the BLUES. The BLUES have won their series also. When you think of the BLUES, you think of B.B. King. B.B. stands for BLUES Boy. Plus, the KINGS won their series. When you think of the BLUES, CHICAGO, the home of the BLUES comes to mind. Many BLUES songs have been written about the HAWK, the cold wind that blows through CHICAGO. Therefore, without a doubt, the HAWKS form CHICAGO should win….. then again, the Phoenix logo does look like a HOWL’N WOLF, so what do I know.

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5th Straight OT!  Hawks Still Alive

It hasn’t happened since the 1951 (Hey, a record BEFORE I was born) Stanley Cup Final between Toronto and Montreal, that 2 teams have played 5 straight overtime games. No surprise here, the overtime that is, as the Hawks won this match up 2- 1. This time it was Toews who scored 2:44 seconds in. The Captain, along with Sharp and Kane have been under scrutiny for lack of Play Off production in this series. Even Coach Q, when asked about the team’s play, stated, “I’m happy with the 3rd line”. He left it at that, just short of criticizing his stars. It should also be noted that the Coyotes had only the 16th best record at home this year. The Hawks have both of their wins in Arizona.

The lines weren’t anything like I’ve seen this year. With Hossa out, and Shaw still suspended, and being on the brink of elimination, changes were inevitable. They consisted of,  1) Bickell / Toews / Stalberg (more on him in a minute)  2) Kane / Sharp / Saad 3) Morrison / Bolland / Frolik   4) Hayes / Kruger / Brunette.. Lepisto was the 6th D-man, a position that has seen very little ice time this series. Crawford was in net, although you got the feeling that one or definitely two “soft” goals and he would be gone.

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4th Staight Overtime / 2nd Straight Result

Mike Smith is better than Corey Crawford. Period. That’s it. You can break down board battles, hits, Penalty Kills, Power Plays, turnovers, or whatever all you want.  What it comes down to in this series, OT in particular, is the goaltending. Crawford has let in back to back DUMB goals to end the game with a loss. Last night’s game winning shot cannot even be classified as a shot the way I see it. With all four of the games going to OT, this series could be anywhere from over to 2 - 2.  As it stands, it is 3 - 1 Phoenix. The Hawks must now win all 3 remaining games, two of them on the road, not impossible, but pretty unlikely.

The lines last night saw 1) Saad / Toews / Brunette. 2) Sharp / Kane / Kruger.  3) Bickell / Bolland / Frolik 4) Bollig / Morison / Stalberg. With Hossa out, the lack of depth on this team is very evident.  O’Donnell was the 6th D-man in the revolving d-door in this game.

The first period featured another unsuccessful Power Play by the Hawks (1 for 10 going into the game). Their was also a fight between Bollig and Bissonnette, 5 each plus a game misconduct for the Yote. (Not have the fight srtap secured is what was announced) Crawford wasn’t really tested until halfway through the period. A late shot off the post by Phoenix was really their only threat. I actually felt pretty good about the Hawks energy at this point. They out shot Phoenix 11 - 5 , in a scoreless period.

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Saad To Return ??

Here’s some info that I got off chicagoblackhawks.com. concerning the possible return of Brandon Saad. Saad was the then 18 year old (now 19) former 2012 Draft Pick—second round, 43rd overall player..  Saad who also wears number 43, (coincidence?) was the youngest player kept on the team through out the preseason. He played the first 2 games until Carcillo returned from his suspension. He the went to the OHL for the rest of the time since then. Here’s more form the Hawks site.

With Marian Hossa out of commission following the collision with Phoenix’s Raffi Torres and Andrew Shaw serving a suspension, the Blackhawks coaching staff called the 19-year-old winger to Chicago Tuesday night after Game 3. He practiced on United Center ice Wednesday morning and will likely be in the lineup for Game 4 against the Coyotes on Thursday night.

“We know what he can do,” said Head Coach Joel Quenneville Wednesday. “Offensively, he gives us some nice assets and a nice opportunity to have some skill, and he can complement some guys with skill as well. The puck seems to follow him around; he protects it pretty well.”

After his two-game stint with the Blackhawks to begin the regular season, Saad returned to the Ontario Hockey League’s Saginaw Spirit and became a dominating force. In 44 games with Saginaw, Saad recorded 76 points (34G, 42A), tied for second-best on the Spirit and among the top-20 in the league. His 1.73 points-per-game average was the highest in the league.”

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3rd Straight OT / Hawks Lose Game - Hossa?

If you’ve read me at all before, you know that a couple of things have been consistent in all 125 + blogs. One, I have never complained about the officiating or questioned the lack of a penalty. That’s over.

How 4 men on the ice could not see the puck carrier get hit the way he did is beyond me. Yes, I know only 2 of them call penalties, but I have seen conferences in the past.

Torres, for those who don’t know what I’m talking about, came in on Hossa, left his skates, and delivered a head blow just feet away from a referee. He was knocked to the ice and lay motionless at first. The doctor and 2 EMT’s removed him from the ice on a neck stabilizing stretcher board. Unbelievably, no penalty was given out.

Ok, now on to the game itself…...

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Shaw - 3 Game Suspension

So the NHL finally made up it’s mind, hours before game time, and handed Andrew Shaw a 3 game suspension.

This came after the collision with Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith. Smith remained in the game, and finished it.  It’s as simple as this with with NHL, they want to make a statement as long as it is not a marquee player. The inconsistencies through out the last couple of weeks are mind boggling.

Shaw did not target or go after the goalie. Could he have done more to avoid contact, probably. The head to head contact came when Smith turned his head, behind the net, with the puck. Shaw was going BETWEEN the goalie and the boards when this occurred. This to me is NOT intent to injure.

Weber grabs a guy by the back of the head and smashes his head TWICE into the glass and gets a $2500 slap on the wrist. How much more INTENT to injure do you need? The difference is an All Star vs. a checking line winger. Enough said. Just show some consistency here, NHL, to every one. I know that stars of game get preferential treatment. It’s like that in every sport but this is ridiculous. 

Paul posted the Shanahan video for those who have not seen it yet.

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Last Second Tie Forces OT Win!

This series certainly has shown a flair for the dramatic. If tying the game with 15 seconds left and an empty net wasn’t exciting enough in Game 1, the Hawks repeated the feat, with 5 seconds left in Game 2!  Seabrook played a part in both, scoring and then assisting, respectively. That Overtime win in the first meeting, for Phoenix, really looms larger now. Had the Hawks won, not only would they be up 2 - 0 in the series, but losing back to back games in such fashion would certainly have a demoralizing effect on both the fans and the team. Oh well, IF ......

It was Crawford vs. Smith, as it will be baring any type of injury or COMPLETE melt down by either. Both again showed Play Off net minding skills. The only change in the Hawks line up was Sammy Lepisto as the 6th D-man (replacing O’Donnell). The lines were the same, for the start any way. After the ejection of Shaw, things were shuffled. However, with Coach Q, if he doesn’t see what he likes, things change.

In the 1st period, the Hawks had an early Power Play. It was by far the best looking one that I have seen in a long time. They controlled the puck in the Yotes zone for almost the entire time. Bickell scored with just a few seconds left to go up 1 - 0. He took a rebound out of the air and knocked it passed Smith.

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Hawks Fall in OT

Defensive zone turnovers, they’ll give you every time….  It was Game One, Hawks vs. Coyotes at the Jobing.com Arena outside of Phoenix. It was a “White - Out” night with all the fans receiving white t-shirts at the beginning of the game. I don’t get that, let’s all wear the color of the visiting team’s jersey. Oh well.  Both teams went into this game with the Coyotes having had taken 3 out of the 4 regular season contests. The last 3 in a row (1 shoot out win). The Hawks would need 3 solid periods to win. They had 2. Crawford (30-17-7) was up against Smith (38-18-10) who had all 3 of the Yotes victories. Both goalies played very well, I thought, coming up with huge saves at critical times. Toews finally returned after missing the last 22 regular season games (concussion) and centered the first line with Hossa & Kane.  The rest of the lines were pretty much the way that they have been lately, except a player here or there.

The first period opened up, and I mean OPENED UP with an extremely fast pace. 4 minutes in, Toews shoveled a back hander form a tough angle that beat Smith. Welcome back, Captain. Bickell had an unbelievable opportunity to go up 2 -0, but was stopped by Smith.  The game was, as expected, very physical and there were some big hits. Vrbata (Yotes 35 goal scorer) left after a big collision very early, and would not return. The official word, was that there was no official word. I love the NHL… The Hawks Power Play looked better with Toews back on the first unit, but did not score on the Hawks man advantage, around 13 minutes in. There would later be coincidental roughing penalties to close out he period. With 2 seconds left, Crawford had a huge save. Hawks out shot, 11 - 8.

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