Kukla's Korner

Talk'n Hawks

Saad should make you Happy

My son was just asking me the other day about what ever happened to Brandon Saad. Saad was the 43rd overall pick in last years Draft The 2nd rounder, ^ foot, 180 pounds has been playing in Saginaw. The left winger was one of the last couple of players cut in the pre-season.  Here’s an update on him via the Hawks’ website.

Blackhawks prospect Brandon Saad has been burning up the Ontario Hockey League as of late. In 16 games through January and part of February, Saad has put up 32 points (11G, 21A), contributing to his lofty total of 54 (21G, 33A) in 30 appearances. He is currently working on a 12-game point streak, the last 11 after he was named Saginaw captain on Jan. 17, and is averaging a team-best 1.8 points per game, good for the second highest scoring rate in the OHL behind Sarnia’s Nail Yakupov, who is likely to be taken first overall in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft.

After Saad’s two-game stint with the Blackhawks at the start of this season, he was sent back to the Saginaw Spirit and made it clear from the outset that he had benefited from his time in Chicago. Three games into his OHL season, Saad recorded five points (4G, 1A) against the Brampton Battalion, marking the beginning of an offensive surge that would produce 18 points in eight October appearances

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Goalie Interference???

The other night, during a Hawks game, there was a goalie interference penalty. Crawford was well out of the crease, but hey, the Hawks need all the help they can get these days. In all seriousness, I thought it was a bad call. Then tonight, while watching the Bruins / Canadiens game, there were 4 goalie interference calls in the first 2 periods alone!

This is really getting out of control. Granted, when you netminder is in the blue paint, he should be protected, no question. But, why should the goaltender have rights to any areas outside the crease. What is the crease for then? I don’t understand why any other skater should have to yield the “right of way” outside the paint.

If anything, the goalie should be hit with an interference call,  not the other way around. The crease was meant to protect the goalie. Keep it that way. Outside of it, he should be treated like any other skater. Hell, in the old days you left the crease at your own risk. I’m not suggesting that but just saying that the pendulum has swung out to far and needs to swing back.

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0 - 8 - 1

The title says it all. The Hawks have now only taken 1 of the last available 18 points. This is beyond “skid”, “bump in the road”, or whatever else you want to call it. The most frustrating and aggravating thing about watching it, is that they are actually trying. If it’s from lack of hustle, or taking shifts off, that’s one thing. But this is just plain old getting beat, mixed in with giving games away.

This time it was Nashville, who were 14-4-2 in their last 20 games (again) beating the Hawks 3-2. Emery (11-6-2) got the start against the always tough Rinne (30-12-6). Problem area. The Hawks STILL are the only NHL team to not shut some one out. It appears that we have 2 back ups, and not a #1 who is going to steal a game. Emery played well, but we NEED above well right now. If the defense was up to par and we were scoring the 4 goals a game that we were close to averaging for a while, the goal tending would not stick out as much.

The lines saw Sharp, Toews & Kane on the first unit. The rest were juggled, also. There is a different healthy scratch or two every game these days. Last night, Scott in, Frolik out. Bickell in, Morrison out. There is not a lot of movement D-wise, with Montador placed on the I.R and Hjalmarsson out due to injury.

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These games are really frustrating to watch, and even more difficult to write about. The Hawks lose again, on the road, 5 - 3 to San Jose, Friday night. The fact that it was more of the same thing that I have been talking about for the last 4 weeks (or more) makes me dread writing this. Defense, goaltending, lack of Penalty Kill, missed opportunities. I have run out of ways to say the same thing.

As if there weren’t enough problems defensively, both Montador & Hjalmarsson were sent home due to injuries. Sammy Lepisto (remember him) and Rockford call up Dylan Olsen were the replacements. They were the 3rd pairing.
Line wise, it was 1) Hossa, Toews, Frolik 2) Kane, Sharp, Kruger 3) Shaw, Bolland, Bickell 4) Mayers, Brunette, Stalberg.  Crawford (18-13-5) was in net against former Hawk Cup hoister, Niemi (22-12-5).

The sad part was not even registering a point, with what was a determined team effort all game. But no matter how hard you try, you are not going to get any where by shooting yourself in the foot and giving away goals.

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NHL Sweaters,—Past & Current

Here’s just a thought that I had. Hearing the GREAT news of the Winter Classic Game being played at “The Big House”, in Ann Arbor—Leafs / Wings, I told my son about it. “We should try and go”, he said. Living in Chicago, the trip is of course, about 4 1/2 hours. This is depending on the weather and how you drive. “We’ll have to get some Leafs jersey’s first”, I said kidding him. “Leafs SUCK”, he said, repeating the chant, from Ottawa, at the All Star Game this year. So it made me think. Every NHL city has at least ONE hated rival, some multiple. Here’s my question to all that read this. Name your city, and the team that you would LEAST wear a jersey of. Then, tell me, both past and present, if you ABSOLUTELY had to, whose jersey would you wear?

I’ll start it off. I live in Chicago, Wearing a WINGS sweater would be torture, to say the least. But, without a doubt, a would wear the # 9, Gordie Howe sweater, in a heart beat. For the current WINGS, no question, Lidstrom. Tell me yours. This is just for fun. I don’t need to hear how you’d rather die than participate. Keep it to yourself, tough guy.

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Hawks Skid Continues

I don’t even know where to start? I have a lot of notes, but none of them are good. Oh well, the title says it all…. The Hawks fell to Colorado at the Pepsi center on Tuesday night, 5-2. Both teams entered the contest with a 0-4-1 record in their last 5 games. During that stretch, the Hawks had 10 goals for, and 22 goals against. That should tell you something right there. The team (except, of course Carcillo) is in tact, so injuries cannot be used as an excuse. I do, however, doubt that Toews is anywhere near 100%. He just doesn’t seem right.

It looks like it’s Ray Emery’s job to lose in the net. Emery (11-4-2) got his second straight start. He faced Giguere (12-9-2).  It is easy to blame the goalies - Hawks with 163 goals against, second worst in the West. Only Columbus is worse. But, last night’s game featured at least 7 odd man rushes for the Av’s with 5 or 6 of them being 2 on 1’s!  I don’t recall the Hawks having any.

The line ups were announced as 1) Shaw, Toews, Kane (which I liked but rarely saw).  2) Sharp, Bolland, Hossa 3) Kruger, Morrison, Stalberg 4) Brunette, Mayers, Frolik. For once, I was surprised NOT to see Bickell. I thought he had a pretty good previous game. Leddy continues to be paired up with Montador on the 3rd D-line.

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Gagner, Oilers Slam Hawks

In 2 games at the Rexall Center, in Edmonton, the Hawks have given up 17 goals. No, this is NOT a misprint, for anyone reading this and thinking, “Well that can’t be right.” It isn’t right, but it IS correct. The last time the boys went out there (November 19) they fell 9-2. This time it was 8-4, so I guess things are improving….. In all seriousness the first one was a true blow out, with the Oilers leading 5 - 1 after the first period. In last nights game it was the opposite. The Hawks basically dominated the action in the first half of the game. They scored first, 17-3-2 this year while doing so and led after the 1st period, 15-1-2 this year in that category. That is what is so aggravating about this game. They had a 2 - 0 lead (look back and see how many times I have blogged that 2-0 always worries me) and then fell apart.

Some roster notes before we start. Frolik was bumped for Bickell (2 penalties, his contribution) and Scott again replaced Montador. Crawford (18-12-5) went up against Dubnyk (8-11-1). I will really be surprised if Cro gets the start tonight, but what do I know. He let in one of the softest goals I have seen in a while. It was a pretty routine glove save that went passed him. Immediately I wrote down “enter Emery” on my notes with out even looking at the TV.

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NHL Officials

Last night I watched the game between the New York Rangers and the Buffalo Sabres at the Niagara Center. First of all, any one who thinks that a scoreless hockey game is not exciting, should watch the tape of this one. This one was as exciting as any regular season (non Hawks) game as I have seen in quite a while. By the way, (and I will always type out this phrase and not type in btw, I’m not texting) Since my AT&T U-verse yanked the NHL Network right before the start of the season, I really appreciate the schedule, of almost nightly games, that the new NBC Sports Network shows.

But I digress, here’s the point of this blog. Around 5 minutes into the game, referee Kelly Sutherland, took a wicked redirect into the face (video). He left the game and did not return.The crew went with 3 for the remainder of the game.

What is amazing to me is that this doesn’t happen more often. 100 mph shots, that are are bouncing off of sticks and skates, zone clearing shots around the boards and huge bodies are what NHL officials have to endure night in, night out. In the 80-90 blogs I have written, I have never faulted the officiating for anything. I may have used the term “a tightly called contest” or “a questionable call” once or twice, but that’s it. I respect what these guys do. If you don’t, I’d like to see you officiate a game making every call, all while getting the hell out of the way! I also like the way they huddle up from time to time to make sure that the right call has been made.

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Canucks Beat Hawks in OT

The Hawks lost in overtime, in Vancouver, to the Canucks on Tuesday night. It was the first, in what I predict, will be many 3 point games for the top 8 western Division teams. The good news, however, was the return of Toews & Sharp. Sharpie had missed the previous 8 games with a wrist injury. Toews, only one. The All Star break could not have come at a better time for both of them. With the two stars back in the line up, plus the addition of center Brendan Morrison, the lines looked like this. 1) Kane, Toews, Stalberg.  2) Hossa, Morrison, Sharp 3) Kruger, Bolland, Shaw   4) Brunette, Mayers, Frolik. On defense, Scott returned for the first time in a while & was paired up with Montador. As the game progressed however, we saw less and less of Big John. Bickell, Lepisto, & O’Donnell were “healthy scratches” as they say. I would still like to see either Bickell, Frolik, Lepisto, and or Kruger traded for another D-man. I want to see Jimmy Hayes (assigned to Rockford) remain up with the club. Crawford (18-12-4) matched up against Schneider (10-5-0). Crawford is now 4-5-3 in his last 12 games. Not good.

In the first period, the Hawks went on the Power Play four and a half minutes in. A clipping call (the crowd strongly disagreed)  on a low hit to Shaw. The Hawks 8th in the P.P. at 19%, could not convert. Vancouver went up 1 -0 after a Kesler shot was inadvertently re directed by Keith. Mayers answered to make it 1 - 1,  at 11:11. The period ended that way. Both goal tenders played well as the pace was very quick moving. The Canucks won the face off battle, a ridiculous 19-4.

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Toews, Sharp, Return Against Canucks

Both Toews & Sharp will return to the line up tonight as the Hawks kick off their long road trip in Vancouver. The Hawks will play 9 straight road games, and will not return back to the United Center until February 19. With the two Hawks stars returning to the line up, and the addition of center Brendan Morrison, roster moves must be made. (Morrison was acquired from Calgary in a trade which sent AHL All Star defense man Brain Connolly to the Flames organization.) From what they have updated so far on their website, it looks like Jimmy Hayes & Ben Smith will remain in Rockford - a move made during the NHL All Star break. Either player would be more welcome than Bickell, but I guess we’re stuck with him for now. Andrew Shaw will remain in Chicago. It will be interesting to see how Coach Q lines them up. Crawford is slated to go up against Cory Schneider. Personally, I’d RATHER see Luongo. The Hawks seem to be able to break him down easier than Schneider, especially in the mental game.

These next 3 weeks, should we remain healthy, should say a lot about where this team is headed. I still think we need on more D-man, with an offensive mind set. Loosing both Brain Campbell, and his mini clone, Chris Campoli, has made a difference. Keith and Seabrook continue to log many game minutes. Hjalmarsson is solid, but Nick Leddy has become far too inconsistent. Montador & O’Donnell are OK, for a 3rd pairing.

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