Patrick Kane will return back to wing in tonight’s game against the New York Islanders. United Center, puck hits the ice at 7:30 pm, local time. Kane will join the first line, centered by Toews. Viktor Stalberg will be on the other side. I don’t get it with Stalberg. Sure he has speed, but in my book he’s a 3rd line winger at best. I don’t know what they see in him. It’s certainly not point production. Marcus Kruger, speaking of lack of points, will center the 2nd line.
In response to the changes, Coach Q said,“Kane at center has been a good option for us. Kruger is playing well. It gives us a different look. We just wanted to try something else.”
On the switch, Toews commented, “I think we’ll just go back to our old ways and just go out there and make plays. Both guys want the puck more than the other. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. The good thing about playing with Kane is sometimes you can just kind of shy away from the puck and get away from all the attention and kind of sneak back door and hide sometimes.”
It will be nice to see the two reunited on the same line.
It was the classic “how will the home team do after returning from a long road trip” game. The Hawks (14 wins) were back at the United Center for the first time in weeks. They faced the Phoenix Coyotes (12 wins) on Tuesday night. Corey Crawford was back in net (for awhile) against the 11-4-3, mike Mike Smith. There were several line changes to start, and by the 3rd period even more. The most noticeable was both Marcus Kruger and Dave Bolland on the same line. Bolland played a wing, although both of then did take face offs. The key to this game was seeing who would score first. The Hawks 9-0-1 when striking first, or the Coyotes 10-1-3. Also, Power Plays and Penalty Kills would be far and few between with the Coyotes 1st in the league with 8.4 minutes, per game, and the Blackhawks at 9.5 minutes per game, tied for 3rd.
In the 1st period, I thought that the Hawks came out from the start with really good energy. The game was very fast paced and fast moving. There were one, maybe two whistles in the first 11 minutes. Those 11 minutes of clock time barely ate up 15 minutes of real time. Bad news for anyone who arrived late and stood in line at the concession counter. Phoenix’s Langkow scored first. The Hawks were attempting a line change on a puck that barely cleared center ice. This resulted in a 3 on 2 and as a result, 1-0 ‘Yotes. Phoenix led the shots on goal 8-7.
Since we’re a little more than a quarter of the way through the season, I thought it might be fun to review some of this years statistics. I have looked up (on both chicagoblackhawks.com and nhl.com) individual as well as team numbers. If any of the Hawks individual stats are in the top 10 of the NHL, that will also be noted. Let’s start with the team first.
The Hawks are dead center in the league (15) with a 17% effectiveness. This number has slowly been rising, week to week. They hovered around 8-9% the first month or so of the season. I still think they play down too low -behind the net and goal line corner- rather than moving the goalie from post to post up near the blue line.
This was real easy to look up. I started at the bottom and found them right away. 73%, dead last. The Hawks unlike the P.P. were actually on top the league at the beginning of the season, right around 92%. After the 5 of 6 P.P. performance by Vancouver a few weeks back, it all went down hill.
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..
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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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