Kukla's Korner

Talk'n Hawks

Season In Review, Part 2

In the last blog, I dealt with the negatives of the regular season. In a nutshell, goal tending, power play & penalty kill. In this writing, I would like to focus on the positive aspects, mostly individually. It’s pretty amazing, when you think about it, that the Hawks managed to collect 101 point and end up fourth in their division. Tough division, and I still say the the Western Conference Champ will emerge from it. Vancouver was the only other team in the Western Conference with over 100 points. Any way, here we go, the positives…..

The first item would be the Hawks Captain. Toews would be both a good and bad. The good, his performance when he was healthy. In 59 games he had 29 goals, and 28 assists for 57 points. The bad, of course, having to sit out for the remainder of the season with a concussion. Even with missing the last twenty some games, he ranks 4th on the team in points. His face off skills (leading the NHL for most of the time that he was playing) and leadership was truly missed. Hopefully, he will return for the Phoenix series. It was reported that Toews / Kane / Hossa skated today as the first line. That sounds sooo sweet.

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Season In Review—Part One

Although you can’t really judge a team until the Play Offs are over, when it comes to achievements, this is my take on the regular season. I am going to chop this up into at least 2 blogs. This first blog (part One) will focus on the negative or disappointing aspects of the team and individuals, performance wise. The second blog will end on a high note, looking at the positives.

GOALTENDING

There is no telling where this team would have ended up in the standings had they have received consistent play between the pipes. We went into the season with Crawford as the #1, and Ray Emery, after his preseason PTO emerging as the #2. I’ll be honest, I felt pretty good about that. I was wrong. The Hawks ended up with a 22nd ranked, 2.62 goals against average. Not good by any means. The statistic which is truly amazing was the inability to not even record a single shut out during the course of an entire season. Could you imagine if Elliot & Halak (St. Louis)  were on this team….Hey, it’s fun to pretend. Crawford, who did end up with 30 victories, give him credit there, must continue to CONSISTENTLY perform at the level that he has shown himself to be capable of, through out the Play Offs.  Emery played very well at the United Center, compiling a 10 - 0 - 3 record.  I don’t care who it is come Play Off time, somebody needs to find the zone.

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Hawks / Yotes Schedule

Happy Easter, Passover, or just plain Sunday. Here’s the Chicago / Phoenix first round schedule for those who need it. Before the series starts, I will do a “Year in Review” blog. Enjoy the rest of the day.

Game Date Time (CT)                  Venue         Local TV Local Radio
Game 1 Thursday, April 12 9 p.m. Jobing.com Arena CSN     WGN Radio
Game 2 Saturday, April 14 9 p.m. Jobing.com Arena CSN       WGN Radio
Game 3 Tuesday, April 17 8 p.m. United Center       CSN       TBD
Game 4 Thursday, April 19 7 p.m. United Center     CSN       WGN Radio
Game 5* Saturday, April 21 9 p.m. Jobing.com Arena CSN   WGN Radio
Game 6* Monday, April 23 TBD United Center       CSN       TBD
Game 7* Wednesday, April 25 TBD     Jobing.com Arena CSN WGN Radio

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Hawks Down Wings, Take 6th Seed

When the Hawks play the Wings, no matter what time of year it is, there is going to be a Play Off atmosphere. The games are always hard fought, exciting, physical, and usually decided by one goal. And so it was. With 48 seconds left in the game, the Hawks were on their way to the 5th seed, to play Nashville (be careful what you wish for) in the opening round. A second later, Datsyuk changed that. The Hawks did go on to win in a Shoot Out, but the 5th (Either Nashville or Detroit) & 6th seeds were already sown at the end of regulation. The Hawks will play either Phoenix, San Jose, or L.A. in the first round. We will know that result later on tonight.

It was Crawford (29-17-7) vs. Howard (35-17-3). both goal tenders played solid between the pipes in this one. The first advantage in the opening period went to Chicago with an early 4 minute Power Play off a high stick. The Hawks showed why they are 27th in the league (77%) by doing what they’ve been doing for the last 80% of the season. For the last time in the regular season, it was failure to win the opening draw, followed by failure to get the puck in deep & get set up, and then too many passes. Needless to say, no score. The period moved on in a fast paced manner, with very few whistles. Stalberg, on a rebound, put the Hawks up 1 - 0.  A successful Penalty Kill was had later on. Crawford was very solid in this peiod, although both goalies faced only 9 shots each.

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Hawks Fail To Hold Lead

The Hawks WERE 30-1-2, when leading after 2 periods, add one to the loss column, as they fell to the Wild,  2 - 1 in a shoot out loss. This time the game was in Minnesota, but the results were the same (5 - 4 shoot out loss Sunday in Chicago.)

The Hawks were again without Toews (21 games now - concussion) along with Brunette, Bolland, Montador, Lepisto, and of course Carcillo.  To lessen the effects of changing every line, Hayes replaced Brunette on Line #1, Morrison replaced Bolland on Line #3, Frolik related Hayes on the 4th line. As Coach Q said in a pregame radio interview, “We’ll be rolling all four lines tonight. ” He did.

Crawford (29-17-6) went up against Harding (12-12-4).  Both goalies played well, with neither facing a lot of shots on goal.

The Hawks once again squandered power play opportunities in the game, getting little, to some times NO shots on goal. Again, lost opening face offs played a role. The Hawks had a 2 minute PP in the first, a 5 minute Major (more in a minute on that) at the end of the 1st & into the second, and another THREE more in the third.—The Major was a head butt on Mayers form Prosser which led to a game misconduct and most likely a suspension next season.

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Ben Smith, Rockford Honors

If you’ve read enough of my blogs, then you know what a big fan of this kid I am. I always liked his approach to the game, and when I got to talk to him after an Ice Hog’s Sunday skate around, I liked him on a personal level also. Congrats kid & heal up!! 

Ben Smith winner of the IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year award.

Read the press release below.

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Hawks Clinch Playoff Spot

The Hawks clinched a playoff spot Saturday night, beating the Predators in Nashville,  by a score of 5 - 4. It is now the fourth consecutive year that the franchise has done such. Not a spectacular feat, but considering what this organization was prior to this, impressive none the less. The Hawks are currently in a tie, points wise, with Detroit. The first tie breaker, Regulation / Overtime Wins, is well preserved by the Wings, so don’t get your hopes up. This game was equally exciting as it was aggravating. I’‘m not sure if I cheered or yelled at the screen more (at 2:00 AM, after getting home from work). If this game was Chinese food, it would definitely be sweet & sour.

Let’s start with the goal tending. It was Crawford (28-17-6) against the ALWAYS tough, and NHL leading victory leader (42-17-6) Riine. To try and convince any one, that in a 9 goal game, that the goalies were amazing, is going to be difficult. You had to be there, as the saying goes. Both made some truly spectacular, point blank saves. Crawford, by far, showed athletic ability, going from post to post, and a quick glove that I have not seen all year, if ever. You come to expect this from Rinne and he didn’t disappoint.

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2 Points, The Hard Way

The Hawks finished their 6 game, regular season meetings with a shoot out win over the St. Louis Blues. The Hawks took the series 4 - 2. It was Crawford (27-17-6) against Halak (25-11-6) and his NHL second best 1.90 goals against average. Halak started despite Elliot having 3 shut outs in a row. The two goalies have 15 between them. If that isn’t the quintessential embarrassment of riches, I don’t know what is! It was the usual hard hitting, physical game between Chicago and the best defensive team in the league, St. Louis. 

The Hawks and their MISERABLE Power Play (ZERO shots on goal in their last 8 chances!!) managed to at least get one shot off, 2 minutes into the game. They were down to 15%, 25th in the league to start the game. The Blues had a 96% Penalty Kill in the last 23 games. No surprise that they are fighting for the President’s Trophy. Bickell put the Hawks on the board first with a hard snap shot. Just 9 seconds later, the Blues tied it at 1 - 1. The shot went off the post, hit the back of Crawford & trickled in. With 25 seconds left in the period, Shaw had a dumb roughing penalty that would carry over into the second period. The Hawks Penalty Kill is tied for 26th in the league at 78%./ When you look at the PP & PK, it’s nothing short of AMAZING that this team is about to clinch a play off spot! The Hawks out shot the Blues 14 - 8.

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Hawks Fall in Shoot Out

It was 20 years ago yesterday, that a 19 year old Martin Brodeur played in his first NHL game. Since then (pre game stats) he has notched 651 victories while playing in 1,186 games. Add 118 (wow!) shut outs, all 3 of these NHL records, and you have a solid, Hall of Fame, career. He was the difference in this game, stopping some where around 38 shots, as the Hawks lost in a shoot out, in New Jersey, 2 - 1. Brodeur (26-21-4) went up against Crawford (27-17-5) at the Prudential center on Tuesday night. Crawford played well for the Hawks, Brodeur was just better.

The game marked the return of Steve Montador, out since Feb. 7 (concussion). The usual D man was played on the wing, as the Hawks dressed 7 defense men for the game. (Hjalmarsson, Seabrook, Leddy, Olsen, Oduya, & O’Donnell)  The rest of the lines were, as have been, lately. Hutton was the back up goalie (second time in as many weeks).  Emery was out (upper body?)

In the first period, it was all Devils. I mean really all. The Hawks could barely get the puck across center ice for the first 8 minutes and had NO scring chances at all. !0 minutes in, Mayers tested Brodeur and it was all Brodeur from then on. The Hawks had a failed Power Play—New Jersey #1 in the PK at almost 90%. The Devils also lead the NHL in short handed goals, proving that an aggressive Penalty Kill is the way to go. The Hawks went on the PK next and Sykora scored on a nice redirect in front. The period ended with the score 1 - 0 Devils. The Hawks surprisingly out shot them 13 - 11.

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Goalie Hutton Recalled

Back on March 6, I wrote a blog called “Goalie Of The Future?” . It was in reference to the Rockford Ice Hogs (AHL affiliate) goaltender Carter Hutton. A couple of games ago—March 16th, against Dallas, Hutton was brought up as the back up to Crawford. Ray Emery was listed as “under the weather”.

I didn’t buy it then (refer to that recap) and I don’t buy it now. I believe it was a “here’s what the big leagues are like” walk through for the kid. Coach Q has NEVER been afraid to try kids (Shaw, Smith, Morin, Hayes, Pirri, Saad, etc). He also has never shied away from switching goalies (Huet / Niemi, Turco / Crawford, etc.) I would not be surprised to see this kid between the pipes soon. Neither Crawford or Emery has shown the want or ability to take over the # 1 spot. Hutton is 21 - 10 - 3, with a .919 save percentage as an Ice Hog. Since signing hie 1 year deal with the Hawks, he has been 11 - 2 - 1 in his last 15 AHL games. He was the AHL Player of the Week back on March 4th, and signed the contract with Chicago a couple of days later.

Give the kid a shot, I say. See what he does. I can’t cross my fingers and hope that Crow or Razor gets hot in the playoffs. Plus what a great story it would be if this kid comes from out of no where to give the Hawks their first shutout of the year. (You heard it here first, ha ha!!)

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