Kukla's Korner

Talk'n Hawks

Nightmare On Madison Avenue

Actually, when you wake up after a nightmare, you realize that it didn’t happen. This did. The Hawks were trounced by Nashville on Sunday by a score of 6 - 1. The game was so ridiculous that I’m not even going to waste time by breaking it down into periods. Let’s put it this way. It was Eddie Belfour Heritage Night at the United Center. The new Hall of Famer and former ex Blackhawk was honored before the game started. After the festivities and the National Anthem, it was all downhill form there. Crawford started and Emery finished. Bollig got into a fight and Stalberg scored. There’s your highlights. One of the Preds goal was pretty unique. A Weber slap shot form the blue line, broke Hossa’s stick, went off not one, bot TWO different players skates, and still had enough behind it to go in. Pekka Rinne was his usual self. The now 41 game winner continued to make save after save.This leads me to the point of this writing.

There are 3 major differences between Chicago and Nashville that put the Preds ahead of the Hawks, and not ONLY in the standings. Here they are:

GOALTENDING

The Preds have a 2.55 goals against average as a team, which ranks them 9th in the league. The Hawks are 23rd, with a 2.84.GAA. Rinne has proven many times that he can steal a game. This can’t be said for neither Emery or Crawford. The Hawks still have not even shut a team out this season. Poor goaltending will kill any team in the playoffs. The season is almost over and to me there is not a clear starting goalie on this team.

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Winning Ways Continue

The Hawks 8-1-1 record over the last 10 games is the best in the West right now. Two more points were added to the team total on Wednesday, when the Hawks beat the Canucks, in Overtime at the United Center. It was the type of physical game that you have come to expect whenever these two teams meet. Unfortunately, for Chicago, Mayers was out sick for the contest. He was replaced by the “haven’t done a thing since being acquired via trade” Morrison, who centered the 4th line. It was Crawford again (26-16-5) against Bobby Lou, as the kids say, (27-14-7). Both goaltenders players exceptionally well in the game, keeping the score knotted at 1 - 1. As a side note, Bickell / Bolland / Shaw, the Hawks 3rd (checking) line entered the game having 13 points in the last 3 contests, and scoring the first goal in each of the last 3 also.

Just 27 seconds into the 1st period, Hansen put Vancouver on top 1 - 0—the Canucks lead the NHL in first period goals with 72. Not the start the usual sell out crowd at the U.C. was looking for. A couple minutes later, the Hawks went on the Penalty Kill. They are at 78.8%, in 26th place for the season. However as of late, 1 for 13 in the last 9 games (93%), giving some hope to the dismal performance so far. The PK was a success, as well as the next one which occurred a few minutes later. Bollig (who seems to be willing to replace Carcillo in the STUPID penalty department) got a unnecessary 2 minute roughing penalty, with a shot to the face, after the whistle. Later, Kane to Hossa was thwarted by Luongo. Sharp also failed to connect on an open left side. Another PK went un-scored upon and the period ended 1 - 0 Vancouver. Hawks out shot the visitors 12 - 6.

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Hawks Sweep Blue Jackets

The Hawks and Blue Jackets played their 6th and final match up (of the regular seasons…...) in Columbus on Tuesday. 5 - 1, Hawks was the final, as Chicago completed the 6 game sweep. (Hawks outscored the Jackets 31-10)  The Hawks have also taken 17 out of the last 20 available points, closing the gap on Detroit & Nashville.  Their 90 points puts them 2 behind the Wings & Preds and gives them a little more breathing room from the teams trailing them. The Hawks currently reside in the 6th seed in the West.

It was Crawford - the number 2 Star of the NHL last week, 3 - 0, with a .948 save percentage and a 1.09 goals against average - in the net. Crow, who is 25-16-5 for the season, has appeared to secure the #1 goaltender position…... for now. It was Mason (13-23-3) between the pipes for the Blue Jackets,  The lines were the same as they have been lately with Frolik seeing action for the second consecutive game. 

The action in the 1st period began with Bollig & Boll dropping the gloves around 2 minutes in. If there was a point to this altercation, it is beyond me.The Hawks then scored 3 times in the next 6 minutes. A centering pass from Bickell went off of Shaw to make it 1 - 0. Then, Sharp with a tough angle shot, beat Mason between body and post, 2 - 0. Seabrook, with the Hawks 6th shot on goal made it 3 - 0. Crawford made some nice saves during the period. A Kane break away nearly made it 5 hole, but the score remained the same.

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Hawks Down Caps

I was one of the 21,550 + fans at the United Center on Sunday, as the Hawks beat Washington 5 - 2. The game was obviously another sell out.  My son & I decided to get “standing room only” tickets, since they were only $27 each. A bargain right? BUT, that is before a $6.25 X 2 convenience charge (?), a .57 X2 additional tax fee, a $5.50 order processing fee, and finally a $2.50 ticket fast delivery fee. The last charge is for me to use my printer, paper, and ink to get the tickets. THEY are charging ME to do their job. All in all, the total was almost $76. Not quite the original cost. It’s a good thing that they won.

Back to the game. It was Crawford (the hot goalie for this week) against Neuvirth for the Caps. The lines were, again, about the same as they have been. Frolik, however did play in this game. He has been a healthy scratch for a couple of weeks now (along with Morrison). Jimmy Hayes sat out this time. Frolik joined the Mayers (4th) line.

In the 1st period, Shaw scored 3 1/2 minutes in (Keith / Bickell).. That first goal has been crucial for the Hawks as of late. Stalberg (Sharp / Leddy) lit the lamp 4 minutes later. There wasn’t a lot of action for a while Caps wise.  Crawford faced only 3 shots in this frame. A Hawks Power Play came up empty. The Hawks did end up with 12 shots on goal. Throughout the game however, there were too many shots that were passed up on only to give away the puck. I can remember Hossa once, and another Hawk right in between the face off dots. 2 - 0 Hawks into the locker room.

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Hawks Beat Stars

If the Playoffs started today…... The number 6 Hawks beat the number 3 Stars in Dallas at the American Airlines Center on Friday night, 4 - 1. Of course, with around a dozen games left, things could change. This would be the Hawks best, first round match up. (Hawks & Stars split the 4 game series this season) But, we shall see. Crawford, after the perfect outing in relief of Emery last game, got the start. (23-16-5) He was matched up against Kari Lehtonen (29-15-4). Lehtonen was coming off of consecutive shut out victories. (That would end rather quickly) Emery (under the weather??) stayed in Chicago and Carter Hutton, #38, was the back up. See my blog from 3/9 “Goalie of the Future for information on him.  The lines and D pairings again were pretty much they have been in the last couple of weeks. It was, by the way, the largest crowd in the history of the arena for a Stars game, 19,099. There were as usual, many Chicago sweaters in the stands.

10 seconds into the game, Bolland ended Lehtonen’s save streak to put the Hawks up 1 - 0.The fastest goal to start a game in Hawks history, was Bruce Sutter, who scored in 8 seconds against the Canucks in 1995. The Hawks were 20-7-2 in the all important scoring first category. Then around a minute later, Sharp made it 2 - 0.  Make that 2 goals in the first minute and a half.Crawford had some very good saves only facing 5 shots on goal in the period. It seemed like every shot they took was a scoring chance. Bolland just missed goal number 2 catching the inside of the crossbar, as well as Seabrook ringing the iron later. A 4 minute high stick Power Play was negated by a Keith penalty halfway through. This was due to some really poor puck handling. Neither team scored, still 2 - 0. Shots on goal, 12-5 in favor of Chicago.

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Hawks Come Back & Win Shootout

This game had it all. An early lead, fights, goalie changes, a come back, overtime, a shootout…... The Hawks beat the NHL point leading Blues 4 - 3 at the United Center. It started off with Emery (15-9-3) against Halak (24-10-5) with his 1.84 goals against average and .928 save percentage. St. Louis was 9 -1 in their was 10 games and came in with a streak of 47 consecutive Penalty Kills. (53 is the NHL record). A mini Hawks streak was Bollig’s 3 straight games with fighting majors. When it’s Hawks / Blues, you knew that would continue.  The lines and D pairings were pretty close to what they have been in the last couple of weeks.

In the 1st period, Brunette put the Hawks up 1 - 0 just three minutes in, going high glove on Halak. The play featured nice passing between him, Hossa and Kane.  But, just as quickly, the Blues tied it 1 - 1, on a 45 foot slap shot that I thought Emery should have handled fairly routinely.  Mayers and Crombeen dropped the gloves and went the distance. McDonald then increased the Blues lead to 3 - 1, after ANOTHER bad give away from the Hawks in the neutral zone. The Hawks first unsuccessful Power Play (15.7%, 23rd) kept the score the same. Bollig & Reaves fought again (Last game also) putting him at 4 games in a row. All this does is get around the league and make him a prime target for automatic Instigator penalties. The Hawks had a Penalty Kill that would carry over into the next period. Shots on goal 13 - 6 Hawks. Yes, the Blues scored 3 times on 6 shots. Warm up, Crawford.

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Hawks Sweep Rangers

Sure, they only played 2 games this season, but still it’s a sweep. The Hawks took the second of the two meetings, this time at the United Center and beat New York, 4 - 3. It was Emery again, (14-9-2) against Vezina hopeful Lundqvist (31-13-5). This marks the 7th straight season of 30 or more wins for the King. His 8 shoutouts leads the league. He also has a .937 save percentage and a 1.84 goals against average. Quite the year.

The Lines for Chicago reamined close to the same, with Coach Q loading up Sharp, Kane & Hossa on the first line several times through out the game. Hjalmarsson returned (hopefully to stay this time) to the line up. It was Keith / Seabrook. Oduya / Leddy, and Hjalmarsson / Olsen, for the “D” pairings.

The 1st period began like the last time the Hawks played the Rangers (4 goals in the first 10 minutes) but with out the scoring. 15 seconds in Hossa had a breakaway and was stopped by Lundqvist.  Unfortunately, the Hawks reverted to their “pass up an open shot to try & squeeze in the ‘perfect pass’” mode. They managed only 4 shots on goal in the first 15 minutes. The NHL leading Rangers in the hits department (over 700 more than the Hawks this season), played their usual physical game. A successful Hawks Penalty Kill (78%, tied for 26th) ensued Then, you guessed it, the thing that has been a HUGE problem with this team, the Rangers scored with 46 seconds left to go. New York was 30-2-3 when having the lead after 1 period.

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Ben Smith Out For Season

Those of you who read me on any kind of regular basis, know what a fan I am of Ben Smith (#28). A quick refresher, or for you first timers, Ben came up at the end of last season (from Rockford)  with about 4 or 5 games left. He did such a great job that he stayed on the roster for the 7 game playoff series against Vancouver, spending quite a bit of time on the first line. When the preseason started, things were going well for him until another B. Smith (Detroit) knocked out with a concussion on a head hit. In my opinion, he never really fully recovered. He was up and down a couple of times this season. Well now there’s this news form a Rockford Ice Hogs press release.

The following statement was issued today (Thursday) by Chicago Blackhawks Head Team Physician Dr. Michael Terry:

“Ben Smith has suffered a right hip labral tear and a hernia. He will undergo endoscopic surgery next Thursday (March 15) to repair both issues. We anticipate a full recovery in approximately 16 weeks.”

Smith, 23, has recorded two goals in 13 games with Chicago this season. Additionally, the Avon, Connecticut, native ranks third on the American Hockey League’s Rockford IceHogs with 15 goals, including a team-high eight power-play markers, and ranks fourth with 31 points in 38 AHL tilts.

Good luck kid!! I wish the best for you.

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Injury Updates

Here’s some updates on injured Hawks players that I greceived from chicagoblackhawks.com.

I you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I only write on information, injury wise, that I get form the official site. I will never spread information just because someone else, blogged, over heard, or speculated. The injured in question are, Toews -who has missed the last 8 games (upper body), Hjalmarsson (upper body), who was out for 7, came back for 1, and was out again for 6 games, Montador, who has missed several weeks, and Lepisto ,who left during The Blues game.

First, the Captain. Toews skated before practice, while working out with Goodman (Strength & conditioning coach). He will still be listed as day to day.

Coach Q said, “He felt good. That’s….a big first step, seeing him out there.”

Duncan Keith added, ” It was good to see his face all red and sweating… Hadn’t seen that in a while, so it was nice to see.

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Blues Out-Everything Hawks

Yes, to be sure. Shots, hits, hustle, special teams, you name it.Ok, in fights, perhaps a split decision.  It was a surprisingly, very flat effort put out by the Hawks yesterday as they played the Blues in St. Louis.  5 - 1 was the final as the Blues took over the number one spot in the West. Vancouver, Detroit, and Phoenix also lost, by the way.

In net, it was the #3 NHL Star of the Week, Ray Emery (14-8-2) against Halak (21-10-5) - who, with Elliot, are the best combo in the league. The lines remained pretty close to the same as the last couple of games, with Morrison & Frolik being the Scratch Brothers. No word on Toews, but Montador & Hjalmarsson are skating. This is going to be needed if Lepisto’s leg injury was as serious as it looked. He left during the second period and never returned.

In the first period, new call-up Brandon Bollig and Ryan Reaves threw down the gloves at center ice with the puck deep in the zone. About a two and a half minute slug fest occurred until they both called it quits.  Less than 2 minutes later a TJ Oshie redirect made it 1 - 0 Blues.  The only real run of the game came with around 7 minutes left in the period.  An organized attack, featuring Sharp going of the post was about it. There was an unsuccessful Power Play (16%, tied for 22nd), the first of MANY.  There was also a Penalty Kill (78%, 26th) that kept the score the same. Then, with 27 seconds left—how often have we seen this—a shot off of Olsen’s skate made it 2 - 0 going into the locker room. The Hawks managed only 4 shots on goal to the Blues 14.

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