I got home a little after 1:00 am from work and went straight to the DVR. (Everyone, by now, that I work with knows not to say a word on the outcome of my DVR’d Hawks games). I planned on watching the 1st period only, and then watching the rest when I woke up today. Yeah, right, who was I kidding. I stayed up and watched the whole game.
The Hawks and Wings met for the 715th time (the most of any 2 NHL teams) with the game being played at the United Center. There were many line changes for Coach Q, as follows. Line 1) Carcillo, Toews, Hossa. 2) Sharp, Kane, Stalberg 3) Bickell, Bolland, Frolik 4) Brunette, Mayers, Hayes. Yes, that’s right, it was the NHL debut for “Big” Jimmy Hayes (6 foot 6 ins). We say the American born youngster all through the pre season. He has been down in Rockford and got his first call up last night. What a thrill it must of been for him, to early on, get into a collision with “for sure” 1st ballot HOF, Lidstrom! Jiimy Howard (22-8-1) was in net against Crawford (14-8-2) Also as a side note, it looks more and more like Montador and O’Donnel appear to be the 3rd defensive tandem. Both Scott and Lepisto have been in the 3 spot as well this season.
Hello everyone! I am back from my Holiday break. I hope that everyone that reads this blog has had a happy, and safe week. While I’m at it, I’ll take the time to also wish everyone a safe and Happy New Year! I will be working (as always) on New Year’s Eve, but I always have a good time doing it.
Now on to hockey. As a side note, I will be doing a couple of blogs solely on the subjects of a “half way” evaluation, and what holes need to be filled to have a successful Cup drive for the rest of this season.The Hawks played 2 games since we’ve talked last, so let’s talk Hawks.
On Monday, the Blue Jackets came to the United Center. I got tickets for this game back in September, on the day that single game tickets were released. It was my Christmas present to me, and the boys did not disappoint. It was funny, the 2 previous games at the U.C. that my son & I attended, the Hawks had scored a combined 13 goals. On the way to the game I remarked that if we were shut out it would be hard to complain (turns out I was off by one game). Corey Crawford was in net against Steve Mason for the contest.
I don’t even know where to begin on the game between the Hawks & Penguins (in Pittsburgh) on Tuesday night. OK, the score, Pens won 3-2. This however does not even begin to tell the story. I cannot remember the last time, or if even ever for that matter, that I came away from a loss feeling so good. You know you’re watching a special game when the national announcer (Doc) says, “Wow, this is fun!” The energy that the Hawks showed during the 3rd period made the time just fly by.Not to mention the great saves by Fleury, the near misses and the shots off the post! The last couple of minutes saw the Hawks on the Power Play and an extra attacker for the pulled goalie. However, in the end, the Hawks did come up a goal short for the loss.
Within the game, and especially during the 3rd period there were different line combinations. (To note Carcillo is still out with an injury, Kruger left the game, and Jeremy Morin has been brought up from Rockford, while Ben Smith was sent back down) We saw Kane back at center again for a while with Hossa and Stalberg. Also Toews centered Sharp and Brunette for a while. Both of these are interesting lines. It was Emery, 6th straight start against the 16-7-2, Marc-Andre Fleury.
A slightly embarrassed (by all the attention), Coach Q, stuck around after the game for an extra minute while his milestone was announced. The crowd cheered as the single spotlight zeroed in on the coach, behind the bench. Congratulations coach, quite a feat. This, of course, was made possible by the 4-2 victory over Calgary at the United center, Sunday night. The Hawks made it 5 straight wins and have taken 15 out of the last 16 points. Ray Emery (8-1-2) again was in net against Kiprusoff (!4-10-2). As as side note, Jeremy Morin was brought up from Rockford for the game. He was placed on the first line with Toews and Kane. The Hawks are having a hard time solidifying that wing spot. They have used Stalberg, Carcillo, Ben Smith, and Brunette (off the top of my head) so far this year. There was also a bit of line juggling, as always, through the game.
Ray Emery continued being the hot goalie that he has been of late. With the Hawks win over the Ducks on Friday (4-1), he now moves to 5-0-1 in his last 6 games. He entered the game with a 1.84 goals against average, and a .934 save percentage in his previous 5 appearances. Now, for those who like to stir up problems, there is no goalie controversy. Coach Q has, and always will play the goalie who is getting it done. Should Emery start to falter, we will see Crawford again. End of discussion. Jonas Hiller (8-12-5) was between the pipes for Anaheim.
The first period began with an early Hawks Penalty Kill. The Hawks P.K, slowly starting to get better, 27th in the league @ 78%, got out unscathed. John Scott played wing on the fourth line, replacing the ailing Carcillo, with Mayers and Brunette. It would be that line that would strike first. Mayers, on a nifty little back hand, wrap around flip shot, put it in off Hiller. Both Brunette and Scott were credited with an assist. As a side note, that goal equaled the entire 4th line goal production of the Ducks all year long! The Hawks, by the way, entered the game at 11-0-1 when scoring first. The Hawks Power Play (19.5%, 7th in the league) got a chance with 1:14 left. It would carry over into the second frame, still 1-0. Hawks out shot the Ducks 8-6 in the period.
What a good call by Versus (becoming NBC Sports on January 2nd, if you haven’t seen that a MILLION times, ha ha) matching up the number one (Wild) and two (Hawks) Western Conference teams. The Wild also led the NHL in total points prior to the game. It would be Ray Emery (6-1-2) to make his 3rd consecutive start in the net against Nik Backstrom (11-6-2). Two solid goalies, two teams playing well this year. For the Hawks, to note, Ben Smith was sent back to Rockford and Brian Bickell dressed. Big John Scott played 3rd shift “D” alongside Montador, in the ever evolving and revolving # 3 match ups. Viktor Stalberg again (I don’t get it) started with Toews and Kane on the first line.
In the 1st period, the Hawks could have pulled Emery for the first 17 minutes for the extra attacker. The Wild did not have a shot on goal until the 2:59 mark, much to the sarcastic cheers of the Minnesota faithful. Both teams played very tentative for the entire period. There were no Power Plays for either side in a pretty fast moving (time wise) opening frame. The Hawks out shot the Wild 11-2.
The Hawks again picked up 2 points the dramatic way with a 3-2 overtime win against the San Jose Sharks. This now puts Coach Q only 3 wins away from the 600th victory mark. Ray Emery (5-1-2) got the nod. This was his first back to back starts as a Blackhawk, and probably not his last. Niemi (11-5-1) was between the pipes for the Sharks.
In the first period, Niemi came up early with a big save on Stalberg who AGAIN (remember that capitalizes word from last blog) could not connect in front. A couple of minutes later A Hawks Power Play netted nothing. The Hawks then on a Penalty Kill—76%, now in 27th place—cue the Jefferson’s cuz “We’re mov’n on up!” was successful. Another Hawks Penalty Kill, which looked more like a Power Play, was also very effective. Both Emery and Niemi played big in this period. However, McGinn, left alone in front (starting to really be a problem with our D-men) put in his own rebound. !-0 Sharks, and that’s how the period would end. The Hawks were out shot 17-8.
It was kind of weird playing the same Eastern Conference opponent twice in 7 days. This time, the Hawks traveled to New York to face off against the Islanders. Entering the contest, a couple of things stood out. Toews was on top of the leader board in the NHL in goals. Kane, who recently rejoined the Hawks Captain on the first line, was in the top spot in assists. (Again, I like when they are both on the first line together. Finding the other winger seems to be the challenge) For New York, Matt Moulson, the NHL player of the week has been on fire lately. He had at least 1 goal in 5 straight games, including a 4 goal effort against the Stars. In this game, Montoya, 5-3-2, (the Chicago area native) was matched up against Ray Emery (4-1-2). Emery has played well in both his starts and relief appearances the last couple of weeks. Crawford, let’s say, has not fared so well. This is exactly why a solid, experienced back up is a must for a team.
In the 1st period, Dave Bolland got sandwiched in the first 30 seconds of the game and was slow to get up. He did return, but has had a hard time this season recovering from one ailment only to have another one heaped on him. But, as they say, that’s hockey in the NHL. Stalberg started on the first line at the beginning, but was soon sent back down to the 4th, with Carcillo moving up to line one. The Hawks had a Penalty Kill situation (Yay, 29th place @ 75%, no longer in last—small victories) and came up successful. Later in the period, on a Blackhawks Power Play, Hossa became the 85th player to reach the 400 goal plateau! It was a weird centering/passing/bank it in of the goalie from behind the goal line, play. In his own words between the periods, “Not a pretty one.”
It looked like I was going to use the same title from a week ago (‘Yotes, YIKES!!) the way this thing started out on Monday night. As sharp and energetic as the Hawks looked on Saturday in St. Louis (5-2 win) they were equally as flat at the beginning of this one. Losing almost every board battle, getting physically outplayed, making horrible pass choices, and all around having a hard time staying up on their skates, was the early theme.The lines began, they way that they had evolved during the Blues game.. Most notably, Carcillo with Toews & Kane (I like that) on the first line, and Stalberg on the fourth line, where he deserves to be. The game began with Crawford in net against the “stick handling” Mike Smith.
In the 1st period, you wanted the Hawks to strike first this game. Phoenix has a great record (11-1-3) when scoring first. Unfortunately after a Montador blow out, a 2 on 1 resulted. Torres scored, 1-0 Coyotes. The Hawks had a Power Play opportunity (18.6%, 11th in the league and slowly improving as the season goes on) but failed to cash in. Vrbata made it 2-0 later on in the period. The Coyotes out shot the Hawks 15-11 during the period. As they went into the locker room, you felt fortunate to only be down by 2.
The Hawks beat the Islanders in a shootout on Friday night, 5-4. Yes, the 2 points are welcome and needed. However, ROW (regulation, overtime wins) took another hit. The game itself skated a fine line between exciting and frustrating. New York, with the WORST goals for average in the game at 1.95 scored twice in the first period. Again, it was not all Crawford’s fault. Cro did come up with some pretty big saves. The defense, however still needs to get tougher around the net.There have been too many uncontested, tap-in goals so far this season.
As for the lines, they went like this; 1) Stalberg-Toews-Kane. 2) Sharp-Kruger-Hossa. 3) Frolik-Bolland- Ben Smith (my man). 4) Carcillo-Mayers-Brunette. Defense wise, we seem to be settling in with Keith & Seabrook, and, Hlalmarsson & Leddy, first and second. In the revolving 3rd match up, last night it was Montador & O’Donnel.
In the net for New York was the Chicago are kid, Al Montoya (4-3-1). I had, by the way, another “Geez. Am I getting old” moment when they showed his family. I thought, wow his wife is pretty good looking and it turned out to be his mom…...
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