Kukla's Korner

Talk'n Hawks

Niemi Says No

Before I even get into anything, I’d like to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving. May we all avoid any “5 minute majors” with our families today. I am writing this, by the way, while baking my T-Day apple pies.

Before game 3 of the annual circus trip versus San Jose (the circus is at the United center, hence the name) the Hawks stopped off in Las Vegas. After getting annihilated by both Calgary and Edmonton, this was the perfect time for Coach Q’s one on one player meetings. The Hawks do this 4 times a year, every 20 games or so through out the season. I’m sure that there was PLENTY to talk about during the conferences. Defense probably a common theme. Both Power Play (9/24 in the previous 6 games -38%) and the Penalty Kill I’m sure were also addressed. The Hawks have failed to be consistent in these areas, going up and down in both aspects.

It was Crawford vs, the RED HOT Niemi, who was 4-0, 1.5 GAA, in his last 4 starts.. No Seabrook, lower body for the game, although he did participate in the skate around. Keith and Hjalmarsson were matched up at the start of the game. I can’t recall that happening before. Ben smith was a healthy scratch, with Bickell getting another opportunity to redeem himself after a very disappointing start..

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It’s About Time!!!

The two moves that I have been anticipating have finally panned out. This is part one of what I had hoped the Hawks would do, more on the rest later.

Move #1

The Blackhawks placed Rostislav Olesz on waivers Wednesday. I saw this coming for a couple of weeks now. Olesz was acquired from the Florida Panthers in exchange for defense man Brian Campbell. He had no points and was a -1 in six games with the Hawks this season. The former first-round draft pick was a scratch for 12 games this year, so far. Teams have 24 hours to claim Olesz and if he isn’t picked up by another team could be headed to the Rockford Ice Hog Olesz was part of the deal that dumped the big salary of great, but over paid, Brian Campbell . If Olesz heads to Rockford, the Hawks would still be on the hook for his salary of $3.4 million, but would gain $3,125,000 of cap room.

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Q’s 1100th is a W

It was the 1100th game behind the bench for Coach Q and he & the Hawks were victorious. After getting trounced by the Vancouver Canucks at the United Center 10 days ago, 6-3, the Hawks returned the favor by beating Vancouver at their arena 5-1. This was the first game of the annual circus trip. (I can’t believe that the circus still does a good business during these times, but that’s another story) The Hawks and Canucks lead the West in goals scored, so big totals by either team should not have been a surprise. It was a battle of the Corey’s, with Crawford against Schneider, between the pipes.

With the absence of Seabrook (lower body) the defense looked like this. Keith and Leddy—great, Hjalmarsson and Montador—very good, and Lepisto and Scott—YIKES!!!. Dave Bolland returned for the game after missing the last couple of starts. The lines on offense were pretty much the same to start, but as we all know, when Coach Q sees something he doesn’t like on a march up, things change in a hurry.

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What’s Wrong With People?

Sunday, my son and I attended the Hawks game at the United Center. The Blackhawks beat the Oilers 6-3. As a side note, the last game we attended was Game 4 of the Playoffs against Vancouver last season, when the Hawks won 7-2. 13 goals in 2 games for the Hawks. If the boys get shut out the next couple of times that I go there, I have nothing to complain about, but that’s not the point of this.

We arrived early for the 6:00 start, to see and take some photo’s of the new Bobby Hull & Stan Mikita statues that are outside of the U.C. There are even more remarkable, in person than the pictures and videos that I saw of them. The artist(s) did a truly fantastic job catching both the likeness and the essence of both of the athletes. After taking about 100 pictures, we got in line for the game. This is where the fun begins.

We got in line, on the inside of the first set of doors, around 15 minutes before the gates opened. The was a guy, military hair cut, maybe 5 foot 7 inches, inside with around 25 of us. Being a early evening Sunday game, they were mostly families of 2 or 3 kids, predominately in grade school. This guy started pulling on the doors, swearing loudly, and speaking mostly gibberish. He began to talk to the children in a very uncomfortable way. Before I could find a security guard, 2 of them came out and asked the lunatic to come with them into the parking lot. We never saw him again. Nice job guys. It’s pretty amazing when security has the presence of mind to locate a potential problem before it occurs.

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Back (to back) On Track

After the Hawks recent 3 game skid, (1 out of 6 points) things seem to be back on track, picking up another win at the United Center.The Blackhawks have now taken 14 out of 18 points at home this year, a much better record so far from last years woes. It was the 6-7-1 (win one, lose one this season) Calgary Flames who lost tho the Hawks 4-1. Mikka Kiprusoff was in the net against the Hawks, Ray Emery. More on them in a moment.

The National Anthem is always special at the United Center, but on this Veteran’s Day, as in the past, it was even more electric. The Hawks, btw, wore their camouflage jersey’s during the pregame skate. They will be signed and auctioned off, again this year. Proceeds to go to the Vet’s, as expected.

Ray Emery, who as a back up goalie, has now led the Hawks to get 7 out of 8 points, was outstanding from the start. In the first 3 minutes he was tested several times and came up with big saves. Duncan Keith led off the scoring in the first period with a rebound blast off a Sharp shot. Keith was plying in his 500th NHL game. Later in the period, Stalberg missed a wide open net (AGAIN). I thought for sure that this would come back to haunt us. There were a couple of failed Power Plays for the boys in the period (Hey, we moved all the way up to double digits @ 11.7%!!!). and the period ended at 1-0.

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Hawks Beat Blue Jackets

6 Blackhawks were put on the NHL All Star ballot. No real surprises here in the list that included Keith and Seabrook on defense, as well as Kane, Toews, Sharp and Hossa as forwards. The one omissions was Corey Crawford not being listed as one of the 18 goalies.

Crawford (6-4-2,  2.6 GAA) started in net on Thursday against what was once, the reliable, Steve Mason (2-10 3.7 GAA). The Hawks skated in Columbus against the 2-11-1 Blue Jackets.

The lines were shaken up again with the following;

!st line: Stalberg, Toews, Hossa
2nd line: Carcillo, Kane, Sharp
3rd line: Bickell. Kruger, Frolik
4th line: Brunette, Mayers, Olesz

Bolland was out with a lower body injury from the last game. The Defense match ups remained the same.

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That’s NOT Hockey

I realize that the name of this blog is Talk’n Hawks, and normally that is all that I do. However, while just watching the Tampa Bay Lightening against the Philadelphia Flyers, (on Versus) I saw something that made me sick.

Tampa Bay went into a VERY passive 1-3-1 defense. By passive, I mean that the closest player was almost at center ice. To combat this, the Flyers defensemen, would keep playing catch, from board to board, in their own zone, This would go on for a minute or more every time.

Fans come out to see a a game, not to see a BORING chess match. Back in the early 1980’s, I would attend DePaul basketball games and this is back when they were nationally ranked in the top 10 in the NCAA. To counter act their superior teams, lesser teams would cross half court and hold the ball for the majority of the half. The thought process was, we can’t beat them, but maybe we can if the final score is 8-6. This then led to the shot clock in college basketball. I hope and pray that we are not going to need a rule change to enforce good, hard playing hockey.

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Sing’n the BLUES

“This is stupid, I’m going to sleep”, were the words uttered by my son during the 3rd period of the Hawks / Blues game Tuesday night. For once, I couldn’t argue with him. The Blues, with new head coach Ken Hitchcock (Stars, Flyers, and Blue Jackets 1996-2010) beat (up) the Hawks 3-0. Oddly enough, this was the third time in a row that the Blues changed head coaches and played the Hawks for their first game. “He’s a good coach who runs a tight ship.” said Hawks standout Patrick Sharp, prior to the contest. Both Hitchcock and Coach Q have over 500 wins each, as a side note.

The Hawks, who after that debacle against the Canucks, with Vancouver scoring on 5 of 6 Power Plays, dropped from 4th to 22nd in the league on the Penalty Kill.  They have, unfortunately, remained consistent on their own Power Play hanging around at 9% all season. Corey Crawford started in goal against Halak. The Blues net minder entered the game with a dismal 1-6 record, with a 3.4 goals against average.

The lines were changed as expected (see my previous blog). Defensively, Keith & Seabrook were reunited, Leddy paired up with Hjalmarsson, and Scott & Montador (that pairing makes me nervous) rounded out the match ups.

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Before Game Notes

As the title suggest, here’s just a couple of brief notes prior to tonight’s game. The Hawks will skate in St. Louis against the Blues tonight. Puck hits the ice at 7:00 pm (DST).

Duncan Keith is expected to return to the line up tonight. Keith had missed the last 3 games after getting hit in the hand with the puck, early during the game against Nashville, a little over a week ago. I can only think that the injury could have been avoided if he was wearing my old Cooper gloves from the early 70’s (which I still have and my son makes fun of) with the “Armadillo thumb”. Seriously, his presence certainly has been missed.

Before the game, Pavol Demitra will be remembered. He and dozens of others were killed in that horrific plane crash back in September with the Lokomtiv hockey team. Among his many Hawks ties, past and present. (Marian Hossa), also includes Coach Q. Joel coached Pavol back when he was the Head Coach of the Blues.

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The Hawks (DVR….failed to record)

Last season I watched every minute, of every preseason, regular season, and playoff game except for one. I went to the Rockford Ice Hogs game, and due to a power failure in my neighborhood, missed that event. On Sunday, my son and I attended the Ice Hogs game (vs. the Charlotte Checkers, Carolina’s affiliate) and I guess for old times sake, history repeated itself. This time however, there is no explanation. Oh well, whattaya gonna do? More on the Hogs in a minute.

Looking up the recap of the Hawks game, it was a pretty good one to miss. The Canucks beat the Hawks at the United Center 6-2. Vancouver converted five of six power plays, enough said. The Hawks had been hanging around the 90+% rate in the P.K. for the last couple of weeks up until then. Michael Frolik and Marcus Kruger scored the Hawks 2 goals.Chicago, conversely, went 0 for 5 on it’s Power Play, a new team record. This has been a major problem all of this early season, and can no longer be overlooked! As a side note, Duncan Keith missed his third straight game (hand injury - day to day). It was also the first time this season that the Hawks failed to pick up at least a point at home.

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