Posts Tagged ‘Duncan Keith’

Well, the Hawks bowed out quite meekly in the first round of the playoffs this week. With Mike Smith stealing the two wins that Corey Crawford didn’t gift-wrap coupled with some key players (Patrick Sharp, I’m looking at you) last being seen on a milk carton and losing one of the game’s best two-way players in Marian Hossa, it all added up to a big wet fart that smelled worse than it felt. As disappointing as things turned out, it’s a damn sight better than what we saw before the resurgence of 5 years ago. To paraphrase some old Roman dude, “I’ve come to bury the Hawks, not to praise them.” Here’s my end-of-season/playoff report card. No punches pulled, no gilding the lily, no tarting it up.

FORWARDS

Jonathan Toews…Until a concussion cost Captain Serious 23 games, he was showing the hockey world again what a special player he continues to be. Averaging basically a point-per-game (for you hockey noobs, that’s a great rate of scoring), winning over 60% of his faceoffs (this is a FANTASTIC percentage), continuing to be a dynamic defensive player and cementing his place as an elite player and leader, Johnny was in the conversation for the Hart Trophy, awarded to the league’s MVP. Even though he likely wasn’t 100% upon his return, he was a factor in the series vs. Phoenix. Hopefully, his noggin is okay and his career isn’t affected by the concussion. GRADE….A

Patrick Kane
…Coming off wrist surgery in the off-season, there was some question about his being ready for the season. All he did was play all 82 games, one of only two Hawks to suit up every night. Shuttling between wing and center all year, he had a down year, points-wise, but if his wingers could have buried half the chances he served them, his point total would be much higher. He’s a work-in-progress defensively, but did show lots of improvement in that area and stepped up in Toews’s absence into a leadership role. Only 23, he’s a key player in our future. GRADE….B

Marian Hossa…Big Hoss led the Hawks in scoring with 77 points this year and played his usual excellent two-way game. One of the game’s best defensive forwards (he only had 20 penalty minutes this year, remarkable for such an active player in his defensive end), he did have some stretches where he wasn’t very visible, but over the 81 games he played, he was a serious plus. We can only hope he’s fully recovered from Raffi Torres’s dirty playoff hit. A true core player, we need him to come back healthy. GRADE….A

Patrick Sharp….Until a playoff vanishing act that would make Houdini ask “How did you do that?” Sharpie led the team in goals with 33 and was his usual dynamic sniping self. I wish I had an answer for his playoff no-show, but I don’t. Chalk it up to being a new dad and not getting any sleep. That’s what I’m going with. GRADE…B-

Viktor Stalberg
…Quite possibly the handsomest guy on the Hawks, the incredibly skilled Swede had a career season with 22 goals and 43 points and did it for under a million bucks. He looked better as the season wore on and he gained confidence. At times, he was the best player on the ice on either team. His elite speed created numerous scoring chances all season and we can only hope he continues to trend upward in 2012-13. He could be a real difference maker for us. GRADE…C+

Dave Bolland…Why is it that we all expect more from this guy? Only 25, it seems like he’s been a Hawk forever. He played 76 games and scored 19 goals, but after the job he did in the 2010 playoffs, I think anything he ever does might be a disappointment. It may not be fair, but I don’t make the rules. If we can deal him and his $3M+ cap hit, so be it. We can replace a guy who probably will never be that 2nd line center we desire. GRADE…C-

Andrew Brunette…Brought in to provide a big body in front of the net and leadership presence, he did one admirably and failed at the other. He proved too slow to keep up with the speedy Hawk forwards and never really found a place to call his own on any line. We all had hoped to squeeze whatever last drops of hockey goodness he had out of him, but that well proved to be dry. He shan’t return. GRADE…D-

Marcus Kruger….While he may never gain enough size to be a great player, he showed he can be pretty damned good on the 4th line as a defensive center. Smart, quick and always in the right spot, he has proved to be pretty durable and has a nice head for the game. We certainly can do worse than him and at only 22 years old, his future is with the Hawks. GRADE….C

Bryan Bickell….Easily the most frustrating Hawks player this season. Big, tough, fast with a great wrist shot, he pulled a Claude Rains for most of the season before coming to life against Phoenix. Every Hawks fan wanted this guy gone before the trade deadline and if they say they didn’t, they’re lying to you. He has too much talent to give up on so quickly and will be back next year, hopefully finally seeing what hard work all year can do. GRADE…D

Andrew Shaw….Easily the best story of the year. Signed to an entry-level deal during the season after being a 5th round draft choice after being undrafted in THREE previous drafts, Shaw blasted into Chicago like a breath of fresh air with an attitude and instantly became a fan favorite. His hustle won fans. His grit won fans. His determination won fans. Everything this kid did won us over more and more. Andrew Shaw proved that there is more to playing the game than measurable talent. Heart and desire, while cliché, matter. Pluswhise, #shawfacts ruled Twitter for a time, which speaks volumes about his impact. GRADE…A+

Michael Frolik….Works his ass off, battles in the corner, fills lanes with an active stick, couldn’t buy a goal if he had a bag of gold dust for a nutsack. All that is well and good, but for $3M per year, we need him to find his 20 goal-a-year form he showed early in his career. GRADE….D++

Jamal Mayers
….One of the “grit guys” Bowman brought in for a one-year deal, he provided what he was signed for. His character and work ethic were solid all season. Not sure if he’ll be back, but he was a solid player for us. GRADE….C+

Daniel Carcillo
….Carbomb, brought in as another “grit guy”, but one with actual hockey skills showed he can really play the game well. Of course, the fact that he’s a tremendous turd, a reckless player and a target for refs every time he’s on the ice proved costly and ended up costing him the season with a wrecked knee he did to himself with a dirty hit on another player. Re-signed for 2 years while in rehab, I’m not sure where he’s going to fit next season. GRADE…Incomplete

Jimmy Hayes….Did fairly well in limited time, he’s another youngster with a nice future here. You can’t teach size and Big Jimmy has it in spades. I look forward to his big ass in front of the net for a long time. GRADE….C

DEFENSEMEN

Duncan Keith….Brilliant at times, pedestrian at others, looked like a clueless fuck at others. If Bickell is the most frustrating Hawk player, Duncs is easily #2, simply because we KNOW how good he can be. Remember when he was the best defenseman in the world? Of course you do, because it was only two years ago when he won Olympic gold and was a stalwart for Team Canada, won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman and had his name engraved on the Stanley Cup. There isn’t anything he can’t do on the ice, but he has struggled with consistency. He needs to become at least 85% of that player again. GRADE….B-

Brent Seabrook….This season, Seabs became the undisputed best d-man on the team. Big, fast and a bruising hitter, he blossomed into the player we hoped he’d become. He finally started to unleash that bomb of a shot of his more often and piled up the ice time without any significant reduction in effectiveness. A true blueline stalwart, Seabs would thrive in any era. GRADE…A

Nick Leddy….At an age where his peers are still playing college hockey (Leddy turned 21 late in the season), he was thrust into a role that was too big for him. Even so, he played in all 82 games and scored 37 points, a solid season in those respects. What he needs is about 15 lbs of muscle and plenty of ice time and experience to become the player he can be. Fans really shit on him all season, deservedly so at times, but those same people will be cheering wildly for him once he improves on those rough areas. GRADE….C

Niklas Hjalmarsson
….He’s regressed since his first two seasons, when he looked every bit the next mainstay on the blueline. When we matched San Jose’s offer sheet, it was seen by most as a necessary move to keep a building block. Since then, he’s done nothing to warrant the move, giving the second-guessers plenty of ammo. For the money he makes…over $3M per year….we need more than ONE goal and a buttload of shotblocks. Simply put, if he’s moved this off-season, it won’t make many Hawks fans sad unless he blossoms elsewhere. Then, the third-guessers will go hog wild. GRADE….D-

Sean O’Donnell….Brought in to be a depth defenseman, he only played 51 games and looked to have almost nothing left. He did have some solid games, but simply couldn’t sustain any sort of solid play. He won’t return. GRADE….F

Johnny Oduya…..A fantastic addition at the trade deadline, he was a disaster in the playoffs and it’s up in the air as to whether he’ll return. I like the guy, but we have other d-men that have a similar skill-set….fast, agile, not very big or physical. If he stays, someone else has to go and vice-versa. At least he was sort of cheap in that trade. GRADE….C

Steve Montador….A concussion wrecked his season and he never looked comfortable before that. Hopefully, he’s healthy and can find a groove with us because we need him to be the player we signed him to be. He was actually more effective as a forward on the power play. That’s as surprising as the fact that one of my daughters puts ketchup on her hot dogs. *throws up in my own mouth* GRADE….D-

Dylan Olsen
….Another young guy who didn’t get a whole lot of consistent playing time, he should get a long look in camp to take one of the bottom pairing spots. He’s gotta be better than O’Donnell, right? GRADE….Incomplete, but with promise

Sami Lepisto
….Spent much of the season in Q’s doghouse. Not sure why, since he was better than O’Donnell who got into 51 games. He must have made fun of Q’s coachstache. GRADE….D-

GOALTENDING

Corey Crawford….I’m not sure where to start with this guy. When he’s on, he’s dynamite and impregnable. Like he was in games 3 and 4, he kept us in the games and looked as confident as a cow a vegan convention. Of course, he could turn on a dime and shit the bed like he did in those same two games. For a team to win the Cup, the goalie needs to be able to steal a game here and there. Antti Niemi did it in 2010….game 1 against San Jose comes to mind….and Crawford needs to be able to do the same. A summer of busting his ass with a goalie coach should help greatly, but how dedicated he is remains to be seen. GRADE….C+

Ray Emery….His return from a possible career-ending hip injury was rewarded by a roster spot with the Hawks and was our team’s nominee for the Masterson Trophy, given to the NHL player that “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey.” Having a guy that respected on the roster is always a good thing and when he stepped in during a Crawford slump that lasted forever, he played well enough to steal a game or two for us when we were desperate for some wins. His overall numbers weren’t outstanding, but he did his job as a backup…be a pro, be ready to play, don’t bitch about not playing, and mentor the kid who you’re backing up. He is a credit to the game of hockey. GRADE…B

I’m not sure what the off-season will bring, but in the meantime, I’ll be enjoying another 6 weeks or so of the NHL playoffs. All we can hope for is a solid off-season for Bowman and the regained health of out walking wounded. Things are never as bad as they seem when you’re at your lowest and the playoff loss certainly applies here. Getting 101 points in the beastly-tough Western conference isn’t like we were terrible all over the ice and up and down the roster. A few key additions and subtractions will help our chances this time next season. Onward!!

Tonight, the Blackhawks begin their quest for their second Stanley Cup championship in three years. For the team that wins it all sometime in June, they will complete a two-month grind that tests the limits of endurance, the quality of the team’s character and the sheer incompetence of NBC analysts Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury. These guys are so bad they make Ken Harrelson seem almost listenable and anyone who has ever heard that douchenozzle knows what a feat that is. Seriously, how anyone can listen to that whining, cloying homer is beyond me. I guess some people enjoy having their ears raped by a talentless hack.


Please, kill me before he speaks again.

Speaking of talentless hacks, let me kick off my 1st round preview of the Hawks/Coyotes series.

Offense

On paper, the Hawks are the dominant offensive team in the series. Led by Patrick Sharp’s 33 goals, the Hawks boast 4 other players with 20+ goals and Dave Bolland came close with 19. In contrast, the Coyotes have only 3 players with 20 or more goals, led by Radim Vrbata’s career high of 35. However, they spread their scoring around a bit better than the Hawks do, with 6 players between 11 and 17 goals. But for sheer firepower, the Coyotes can’t match the top two lines the Hawks can roll out there, especially if Toews returns (we’ll cover that later in the preview). The Hawks high-powered offense scored 248 goals as opposed to only 216 for Phoenix. At nearly half a goal more per game, the Hawks filled the net better all year than the Coyotes did. Good luck to the Coyotes in shutting down all that offense the Hawks have. The Hawks don’t need to worry about much more than the top line of the Coyotes.


Sharpie is a key offensive player and a helluva handsome dude. Guys like us are rarities!!

EDGE…Blackhawks

Defense

Since the Johnny Oduya trade, the Hawks overall defense improved greatly. Oduya was a stabilizing influence on the blue line and was the slick puck-moving defenseman we hope Nick Leddy can become. His presence allowed Leddy and others to play less minutes, including Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, which will help greatly in the long run. The addition of youngster Dylan Olson and the return of Sami Lepisto give the Hawks tremendous depth on the back end, which is incredibly important during a long playoff run. (As an aside, the 21 year old Leddy finished 2nd among Hawks d-men in scoring with 37 points, behind only Duncan Keith’s 40 points, a lofty accomplishment for someone who became a whipping boy for the short-sighted idiot faction out there. You know, the same jerkoffs who screamed for Kane to be traded at less-than-peak value). We have a solid 8-man rotation going right now. The Coyotes may not be as deep here, but any team with Keith Yandle and youngster Oliver Ekman-Larsson has a top pair that is as good as anyone’s. The rest of their defense is fair at best, with former Hawks suckwad Adrian Aucoin heading up the less-than-fantastic Coyote defense. They better get some seriously effective minutes from Yandle/Ekman-Larsson if they want to take this series. EDGE….Blackhawks

Goaltending

The old adage says a hot goalie can win a playoff series all by himself. While that may be a slight exaggeration, the way Mike Smith has been playing for Phoenix, it may hold about as true as it gets. He had a breakout year at age 29, not a huge surprise for a goalie. He set career bests in every category and has looked very bit the type of guy who can carry a team for stretches all by himself. On the flipside, Corey Crawford has been up and down like a $10 crack whore in the hood on the day public aid checks arrive.


Yes, Crawford has been about this scary at times. Not pretty, I know….

Even with his second consecutive 30 win season, his problems are pretty evident. When he’s confident, he’s amazing. When he lets a bad goal in, you can almost see him shrink in size and his confidence evaporate. Smith has been on his game far more often this season, but he will have to step it up yet another level for Phoenix to beat the Hawks.

EDGE….Coyotes

Coaching

Dave Tippett has been fantastic at guiding the broke-ass Coyotes to their first-ever division title and the 3 seed in the Western Conference. Somehow, he guided them to 97 points with extremely limited resources. In his 8 seasons as a head coach, he’s made 7 playoff appearances but has never won the Cup, but did get to the Western finals in 2008 with Dallas. Joel Quenneville has been the right guy for the Hawks job since his hiring early in the 2008-09 season, making the playoffs each season and winning the 2010 Stanley Cup. Both are head coaches any team would be fortunate to have in their employ. Whichever teams loses the series won’t do so because the coach is at fault. EDGE….Even

Special Teams

When it comes to the phrase “Power play”, both team are full of shit on that count. The Hawks ranked 26th and the Coyotes ranked even worse at 29th out of 30 NHL teams. These respective units are about as scary as the Charlie Brown Halloween special.


Even a rock is more than what these power plays have provided.

Neither one should make much of an impact in the series. As for the penalty kill units, Phoenix ranked a solid 8th overall while the Hawks were 27th. The Hawks were pretty solid for some long stretches at times, but they really shit the bed for other periods. This could be a strength for Phoenix, but overall it looks like a wash. EDGE….Even

Intangibles

The single biggest intangible in the series, and possibly the entire NHL playoffs, is the health of Hawks team captain Jonathan Toews. An elite player like Toews can make a difference in any series, as evidenced by the Conn Smythe trophy residing in his trophy case alongside his World Junior championship, Olympic gold medal and Stanley Cup title. He excels in every facet of the game and is even better as a leader. If he’s back at full strength, Phoenix doesn’t stand much of a chance. The whole of the NHL should be wary of us if Toews is 100%. If he can’t play, then this series just became a dogfight. The biggest intangible Phoenix may have is the home-ice advantage, but one road win by the Hawks will erase that.


This is very tangible. And with Johnny, it’s attainable.

EDGE….Blackhawks

Prediction

In my column last week, I predicted the Hawks to win this possible series in 5 games. (I didn’t sacrifice a live chicken like I said I would last week, but I did demolish a bigass steak on Easter, so I’m hoping that’s close enough) I honestly didn’t think Phoenix would win the Pacific as they needed two huge wins and some help from other teams to do so, but they pulled it off with some very solid clutch hockey. Now that it’s come down to it, I’m going to stick with my prediction, especially since it’s looking like Toews is going to return to the lineup. I just can’t see Phoenix winning 4 of 7 with the Hawks at full-strength.


VICTORY STEAK FOR EVERYONE!!!

THE PICK….Hawks in five games.

In Wednesday night’s game at the UC, the Vancouver Canucks lived down to their well-deserved reputation as the dirtiest and most gutless band of candyasses the NHL has seen in quite some time. When Duncan Keith, one of the cleanest and mildest-mannered players in the game today fired his elbow at the ginger-haired noggin of All-World Pussy Daniel Sedin (hereafter referred to as AWPDS) it was a retaliatory blow for the just-as-dirty head shot AWPDS laid on Keith minutes beforehand. If this had been a one-time cheap shot against us, the story would be over and we’d be moving on. But it is just another brick in the wall. Just for shits and giggles, let’s do a bit of reminiscing. I won’t cover the litany of atrocities these clowns have perpetrated on us, but will simply illustrate the point…..

March 29, 2009…Alex Burrows pulls Duncan Keith’s hair at the UC. I was at that game and saw it clearly, as did everyone. Who pulls hair besides little girls fighting over Justin Bieber posters or whatever little girls fight over these days? Have a look for yourself and tell me if Burrows would ever be suspected of having a pair of testicles.

Yeah, no balls whatsoever. In last year’s Cup final, Burrows pulled this garbage….

Yep….he BIT an opposing player. Again, does this guy have a pair of balls or lips in his pants? In keeping with his M.O. of being a punk, in last night’s tilt, he decided to knee Keith right in the groin while they were tangled up on the ice. Sorry there’s no video of this, but this column can only handle so much raging vagina action without getting a XXX rating. To recap….he pulls hair, bites and kicks guys in the balls. Do I need to go on? I didn’t think so. Suffice to say, Burrows is the leading jerkoff on a team packed with, and coached by, jerkoffs. Speaking of their jerkoff coach, here’s another video for your consumption. This is Alain Vignault in his playing days….

That’s him, jumping into a fight he wasn’t a part of, and trying to sucker punch Al Secord, who then thrashed him like the punk bitch he was. Is it surprising a team this pudwhack coaches pulls shit like this? Of course it isn’t. What is surprising is that this “tough” team cries foul every time they get a taste of their own medicine. Vignault did nothing but whine after the game about the shot AWPDS took from Keith but conveniently ignored the initial cheapshot. No wonder nobody outside Vancouver likes this club. But back to the game…..

After the Canucks opened the scoring at the 27 second mark of the 1st period, the Hawks responded by shutting them out for the remainder of regulation and overtime. The streaking Patrick Kane tied it up for the Hawks just over 3 minutes into the second period. With the score tied, it seemed both teams were more concerned at times with dishing out the physical play, both before, during and after play had stopped. It wouldn’t have shocked me if a player from either team tried to boobytrap the other team’s bus or airplane. Nothing would surprise me at this point. Seriously…if Kevin Bieksa (another paper tough guy who talks an awful lot for a guy skating backwards away from a fight) snuck into the Hawks dressing room and took a dump on the post-game buffet, would anyone be surprised? The only shock would be if that neanderthal actually wiped his ass afterwards. But I digress.

After a high-speed 3rd period for both teams that somehow didn’t see a manslaughter attempt, overtime loomed. With AWPDS out of the lineup after the shot from Keith we had an advantage in manpower. The Hawks got the big break they needed with an odd-man rush in extra time. Dave Bolland, the Canuck-killer, grabbed a rebound of a Vancouver shot and flew up the left wing boards with uber-energy rookie Andrew Shaw filling the middle of the ice with his spry frame and Campbell Lite/Johnny Oduya trailing the play. Crossing into the offensive zone, Bolland pulled up and found Oduya in the deep slot with a feed, which he quickly settled and blasted towards the net, where it deflected off Shaw for the game-winner.

As the crowd ripped into a frenzy and the Canucks looked like someone pissed in their Cheerios, Shaw jumped against the boards and up against the glass in a release of youthful emotion and joy. Yeah, the goal was from a fortunate deflection, but the #shawfact is that he was in front of the net where great things are bound to happen.

The aftermath of the game included Vignault whining about Keith’s elbow while ignoring AWPDS’s hit and likely will see a suspension for Keith and possibly AWPDS (I am getting into typing that) for their deliberate head shots. I have no issue with the possible punishments. It was worth it to see a guy stand up for himself against a band of thugs and sissies. How about one more video clip? Here’s the AWPDS’s twin sister Henrik taking a dive in last season’s Cup finals. Now, this is THE event that EVERY kid who ever laced up a pair of blades would die to play in and this asswhistle playacts this crap…

Yep. He dove like he was Greg Fucking Louganis going for Gold. How can anyone respect a team with players like these? Thank God the Hawks don’t act this way. I’d hate to have to unleash my sarcastic asshole side on them. My powers should only be used for good and instigating the criminally stupid. Shitting on the Canucks and their fans fits into that category. Thanks for small miracles I guess.

We’re down to 7 games left in the season and we’re on the type of roll you dream of as the playoffs approach. I seriously hope we draw these punks in the playoffs so we can have the pleasure of knocking their asses out again and making them cry like the bitches they are. Enjoy one last video clip, this one of the Canucks hoisting the Stanley Cup last year. Wait….what? MY BAD!!!

With 11 games left to go in the season, the Hawks are solidly in control of their own playoff destiny. When the Hawks lost all-star and team captain Jonathan Toews for an indeterminate amount of time with post-concussion symptoms, many thought it was going to be the backbreaking straw to a wobbling team. Since that time, however, they’ve gone 7-3-3, good for 17 points. Since the trade deadline, when many fans decided to verbally murder Stan Bowman, the team is a ripping good 5-1-1, including wins against Detroit (at the Joe, no less) St Louis and the Rangers.

The game Tuesday against St Louis hearkened back to what we saw in 2010. Down 3-1 after one period to the NHL points leader, the Hawks came back to win in a shootout. They flew up and down the ice and played hard along the boards and in the corners. Active sticks broke up passes. The body was taken, as each team had 29 hits, a great sign for us. A whopping 46 shots were rained upon Jaroslav Halak and the top defensive team in the league. There were even two fights for good measure. For a team fighting for position in the tough-as-nails Western conference, it was about as clutch a win as you could ask for.

Coming down the stretch, we still can’t count on getting Captain Serious back at any point. But even without him, we still should make the playoffs and anything can happen during the quest for Lord Stanley. Wouldn’t that be a story….Hawks get Toews back, get hotter than hell and make a run? That would be storybook stuff, but I digress. So what’s been going right for us since Toews has been out?

  1. The stars are being stars. In our current 5-1-1 stretch, players like Patrick Kane (4 goals, 3 assists), Patrick Sharp (2g, 6a) and Marian Hossa (3g, 6a) have all averaged at least a point per game, which is pretty bitching. Brent Seabrook has been a physical monster, blocking shots and taking the body. Even Duncan Keith has shown flashes of his peak. When you get that kind of production from 5 all-star players, you should be racking up wins and points. These guys all have the big ring and have accepted the added burden. That’s big time, baby.
  2. The role players have been about as solid as you can expect. Jamal Mayers, Bowman’s best off-season pick-up, has been a leader and a physical presence all year and has been even better since Toews has been out. Bowman’s only trade deadline pick-up Johnny Oduya, or as I call him, Campbell Lite, has been a wonderful fit and a stabilizing influence on the blue line. Young Brandon Bollig has been a nice addition to the team while replacing John Scott’s physical presence while actually being able to, you know, skate. Yeah, he gets his ass whupped when he fights, but winning the fight isn’t always the objective. Good thing for him.
  3. The rookies and young players have contributed. Andrew Shaw (20) is a little spitfire with a 350 cubic inch engine up his hindparts and been a sorely needed sparkplug. Jimmy Hayes (22) is a 6′ 6″ 230 lb man-child with a big ol’ hockey butt who has fit in nicely on whatever line he plays on. Marcus Kruger (21), only one year removed from, Elitserien, the Swedish Elite League, has become a demon defensive center and doesn’t mind scrapping in front of the net, even though he’s a bit light in the ass at 180 lbs. He seems to be mature for such a young kid as well. Nick Leddy (20) has improved his game since the Oduya trade and Dylan Olson (21) has looked good enough to play the 3rd pairing minutes he’s been getting. It’s nice when your farm system is stocked and can produce players who can contribute at such a tender age.
  4. The Walking Dead has really been sensational lately. The second season was kinda slow-paced at first, but I didn’t bitch like people did on message boards and such. I figured they were working up to something and haven’t been disappointed. When Shane re-animated and Carl blew his zombie ass straight back to zombie Hell, I about shit myself in sheer bliss. This season has had two legit GASP! moments in zombie-blasting….the barn massacre that ended with Sophia getting dusted and now Shane getting waxed by a kid. Throw in that moralizing windbag Dale being ripped into by a zombie like a fat kid rips into the pizza on Italian Night at Old Country Buffet and you’ve some gooood TV to watch and enjoy. It doesn’t have anything to do with the Hawks, but it’s been pretty fucking badass. I can’t wait to see how the virus has been spreading too. October is too damned far away for season 3.

I can’t really complain about much recently and Toews’s concussion seems to be a big factor in the 9 game skid, which was the only bad stretch we’ve had all season for the most part. All we can hope for is good health the rest of the way. It’s not always the best team that wins a title….many times, it’s the healthiest or the team that gets hottest at the right time. If we get that health, I like our chances of being that hot team. Tonight’s game versus a red-hot Dallas team ripe for some payback should be a tough one in a place we don’t always play well. Let’s hope they keep it up.

Heading into the stretch run, we’ve figured out quite a bit about the 2011-12 edition of the Hawks.  It’s a bit of a mix of good, bad, tasteless and stupid.  Sounds like the Oscars.  At least I didn’t hire Billy Crystal or a very stoned James Franco to write this.

We Know….enough about concussions to know that there can be no target date for Jonathan Toews’s return.   Hopefully, he progresses quickly and we get him back before much longer.  I like good old-fashioned injuries where a reasonable estimate for return was possible.  The fact that he’s an elite player and our Captain makes the uncertainty even more excruciating.  We Don’t Know.…how badly we needed him until he’s been out of the lineup.  It sucks without him.

We Don’t Know…which Corey Crawford will show up on any given night.    His confidence level is either sky-high or in the crapper and it doesn’t help when he lets in a softie.    Even when the defense is limiting quality chances against him, your sphincter is tight when there’s action in our end.    We Know….we can’t put up with this type of stuff if he’s the future in goal for us.

We Know….Patrick Kane can give us more than what we’ve gotten this year.   It’s been a down year for him, but everyone has them in their career.  Even Babe Ruth and Ted Williams had off-years.  I’m not ready to scream that “TRADE KANE!!” crap with the rest of the meatballs.  He’s 23, has a cap-friendly deal and steps his production up in the playoffs.  You don’t deal a guy like that when his value isn’t as high as it should be.  We Don’t Know….who the clown was who originally started that rumor, but he should be de-balled immediately.

We Know…Stan could have done more at the deadline.  With that cap space and young talent to deal, I felt we’d do more.  We did get Johnny Oduya, who was solid against Toronto, but we sure could have used that 2nd line center.  I realize the cost of making deal was exorbitant this season, with only 9 or 10 legit sellers out there, so I’m also glad he didn’t get trade-raped.    We Don’t Know.….the last time we heard a particular team’s fandom go so absolutely batshit crazy at the trade deadline and crucify the guy so thoroughly in every available media outlet.  My God….he didn’t get a center (we have other options, like Sharp), he didn’t cause cancer.   Christ, look at the long-term scenario, not just the next two months.

We Know…Andrew Shaw can bring some serious energy to the rink.  He’s a whirlwind out there, and that’s been a commodity we’ve been sorely lacking at times this season.   We Don’t Know…if he’ll hold up physically, since he’s so damned small.  He is responsible for a sweet little fad, however.  #shawfacts

We Know…John Scott sucked and getting a 5th rounder from the Rangers was a good thing.  We’re better, skill-wise, without him.  Pluswhise, his so-called physical presence has been replaced by Brandon Bollig, who can actually play more than 4 minutes a night 4 times per month.  We Don’t Know….what NY sees in Scott, but I hope they get it.  Even though he sucked, he was a good teammate and a funny guy.  His appearance in the Hawks’ Xmas album was glorious.

We Know…Duncan Keith can play at an all-world level and control the ice when he’s out there.  We Don’t Know….if that guy is ever coming back.  I don’t like what I see from him on too many occasions.  His bad decisions have been ending up in the back our our net far too often.

We Know…the power play sucks.  An 85 year old paraplegic man with no testosterone is more potent than our power play.  I mean, if they haven’t figured out that pucks on the net with traffic on front is the way to go, then I’m at a loss.  Fancy perimeter passing is nice, but not when that’s all you accomplish.  We Don’t Know….why it had to be Davy Jones passing on while Snooki and the cast of Jersey Shore continue to draw breath.

Big weekend coming up with road games in Ottawa tonight and Detroit on Sunday, and a third roadie in St Loo on Tuesday.  A mere 17 games remain and every damned one of them looms large.    A nice run of inspired play would be a welcome sight down the stretch.

Pre-Game to Puck Drop….

The Toews/car accident story broke early today, with the Captain coming out of the accident okay.  Thank God for that $100K Mercedes’ crash-resistant features, huh? If texting and driving was the cause of the crash, I’ll be uber-pissed as that’s my current #1 thing that bothers me lately.  He should know better.

Tonight, the Hawks go for five wins in a row with the Stars visiting the UC.  With Toews still out, we need everyone else to pick it up like they did against Detroit.  The red-hot Corey Crawford gets the start between the pipes and hopes to continue his strong play as of late.   For a guy who looks like a monkey humping a football at times, he sure can look like a top-flight goalie for stretches.  My thanks to the late Herb Brooks for the preceding monkey line.  I’ll be doing the “running diary” thing tonight during the game.  Let’s hope we have 2 points to show for ourselves when we’re done.

On a side note, I miss hating the shit out of the Minnesota North Stars.  I wish I could go chant “DINO SUCKS!!  DINO SUCKS!!” just one more time, but I digress.

Puck drop, 20:00 left in the first period.…I miss seeing Toews already, nothing against Kruger for taking the opening draw.  You sure get used to seeing a guy like #19.

19:52….Icing in 8 seconds….sounds like a low-quality how-to cake decorating video.

19:06….Stephen King’s pen name Steven Bachman is tending net for Dallas tonight.  If he employs a huge, possessed St Bernard, I call bullshit on it.

17:14…Great chance for Kaner from Sharp.  Would have been nice to cash that in.  Hossa and Kane have jump so far.

17:00….Uh-oh…Hawks to the power play.  This unit is due like a cell phone bill in the ghetto.

16:3something…Good play by Leddy to deny the shorty chance.  Christ, we can’t score ourselves, don’t give up a goal…

15:07…CRAWFORD!!!  Gotta love big early saves.  #weneededthat

14:16…Goalmouth scramble with Big Jimmy Hayes right in the middle of it.  Stay there for about 15 years, kid.  You look good.

13:50…..Cool little video coming out of commercial showing how the hoops court is converted to the rink at the UC.  I could see grabbing a dozen beers and sitting in the stands and watching that for a while.

9:37…Another good save by Crawford, who saw it all the way.  Decent pace so far, should pick up as the game goes on.  Kane looks pretty active again….damn good sign.

6:55….A quick score before the end of the first would be a welcome sight.  I hate how this Dallas team hangs around.

5:29…LEDDY ROBBED!!  BASTARD BACHMAN!!  I HATE YOUR SELF-INDULGENT BOOKS!!

4:24….I didn’t mean that.  I like King’s stuff.  I just wanted Leddy to bury that chance.

1:20….I think Stalberg misses Toews more than anyone.

End of the first….Shots were 6 to 5 in favor of the Hawks.  Both teams had a couple solid chances, but Crawford and Steven King have been up to the task……Anybody throws me against the boards I’m gonna piss all over myself…….I love Lemonheads, and the commercial with Toews/Kane still makes me laugh…..

Second period….

18:12…Nice flurry for the Hawks there.  Hossa just missed connecting there.  He’s been all over the ice so far.  I love beastly Marian.

17:28…GOALPOST!!!  THEN THE CROSSBAR!!  Crawford with double best-friend action there.  *cues 70’s porn music*

17:17…Hayes robbed by King.  Damn, what a chance.  Jimmy is playing his ass off again tonight.  Glad to see he “gets it” already.

16:14…Near-turnover to Frolik in the slot.  I got excited about the scoring chance, then remembered Frodo couldn’t score in a whorehouse with a fistful of hundreds.

13:55….Hayes with yet another good chance.  It looks like the kid lives for playing hard and going to the front of the net.  #39 is going to be a popular sweater here for years to come if he keeps it up……Edzo and Foley talking up the food at the UC.  I guess they missed the stuff on the news  about the health code violations down there.  I’ll pass on the diarrhea with a side of dry heaves, thanks.

13:21…GOALPOST!!  for Sharp.

10:28….HOSSA MAKES IT 1-0!!!  What a play by Frodo to make it possible!!  Hard works pays off!!!

5:42…Crawford with two great saves to keep it 1-0.  Those are the saves he needs to make on a nightly basis.

5:20….My other favorite young Hawk, Dylan Olsen, with a quality chance.  He looks right at home next to Keith on the back end.

1:00…..Hawks have pretty much owned the 2nd, due in large part to Hossa.  He’s been the best player on the ice tonight, stepping up into a void left by Toews being out.  It’s nice when your best players play like it.

0:03….Another damned goalpost for the Hawks.  We’re burying these guys in the 3rd.

End of the second….Hawks outshot Dallas 16-5 in the 2nd.  That’s called turning your shit up a notch…..Bears LB Lance Briggs is doing the Shoot-the-Puck segment in a minute.  I hope he doesn’t start bitching about his contract when Sarah Kustok blathers at him after he misses…..The girl shooting the puck tonight is less than a 9.  Must be a sparse crowd tonight……Oh, but the 2nd girl was….yeaow!!!……Briggs missed all three shots.  I think he was distracted by the 2nd girl.

Third period….

19:08….Hossa busting in hard along the boards is a nice thing to see.

17:20…Stalberg with a wonderful chance.  I think one goal may break this game open for us.

14:38….Dallas with their first shot of the 3rd. The defense has been fantastic at shutting off the passing lanes all night.

14:07….Ok, who buries the first glorious chance?  I’m saying Sharp will.

10:35….Fuck.  Dallas scores after being dominated and ties it at 1.  There is no way we’re letting Steven King beat us in the UC tonight.

9:35…..Foley sounds like Peter Brady when his voice cracks.  All we need is for him to put on a sweet poncho, some puka shells and find a terrible 70’s song for him to warble.  When it’s time to change, you’ve got to re-arrange!!!!

7:15….Uh-oh…off goes Hossa.  Not good.

6:06….Hossa back on the bench.  My balls can come back out of my stomach cavity now.  Whew.

5:02…You gotta be shitting me.  We’re really going to let Dallas take this game over after owning the ice for over 40 minutes?  This is inexcusable.  2-1 Dallas and I’m pissed.

4:20…..The last thing I want right now is a Hawks power play.  Talk about a momentum killer…..

3:48.….Suck a big fat one, Hawks.  You simply stopped playing hard after dominating for 48 minutes and are now down 3-1.  What a shame you’re going to let a winning streak end on such a poor effort at such a crucial time.

2:05….BOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

1:12…..BOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

0:00……Bite me.  Take a big, wet bite out of my ass.  Terrible way to end the night.

Post-game…

Well, the Hawks played great for about 48 minutes, then decided to slack off and let an inferior Dallas team steal 2 points on our home ice.  With or without Jonathan Toews, there was no reason to lose this game.  In a conference as hellaciously tough as the NHL’s Western conference is, these are the types of games and points we simply can’t afford not to win.  Hopefully, these 2 points won’t be a factor in the end, but it’s maddening to watch  games like this.  I mean, seriously…every scout in the NHL was out there tonight, with contracts in their pockets, and they’re looking for talent. For winners. OOOOOOOOOH. All my years of publicity. All the fashion shows and radiothons for nothing… They come here tonight… to scout the Chiefs… the toughest team in the Federal League! Not this! Buncha… pussies.”

That about sums it up.

Mercy!! Can't wait for the Ice Crew to get back to work!

What was once a comfortable lead in the Central division has quickly vanished.  What’s left is a ton of question marks.  In the last 10 games the Hawks are 3-5-2 while the rest of the North, minus Columbus, has played exceptionally well.  What you thought the all-star break was going to help this lifeless team?

You should have seen this coming.  The defense has been awful, in fact what happened to Duncan Keith?  He certainly is not the same since winning the Norris Trophy in 2010.  However, Keith is not the only problem, Niklas Hjalmarsson Brent Seabrook and Nick Leddy have continually made poor choices on the ice.  One can argue that every member of the blue line has played poorly this year and have caused the Mercy!! Can’t wait for the Ice Crew to get back to work!goaltending to look downright brutal.

Corey Crawford has channeled his inner Marty Turco, letting so many easy pucks passed him.  Coming into the season many Blackhawk fans, myself included, thought Crawford would be a stone wall in between the pipes for the Hawks.  What we have instead is a goaltender who has lost his confidence and a goalie controversy has emerged.

Ray Emery has played much better then Crawford in his limited time but head coach Joel Quenneville continues to stick with Crawford in goal.  Maybe that’s about to change as Emery started in the Blackhawks recent loss to the Colorado Avalanche.  Both goalies haven’t been helped by the constant turnovers in the neutral zone.  Emery however, has done the best when facing the continuous 2-1 rushes by other teams as of late.

If you’ve been watching as of late you probably know that Patrick Kane is not playing the same type of hockey he did over his previous 4 seasons.  After being shifted over to the faceoff circle this year he started to embrace the playmaker roll.  Now to start the season that worked really well, but his scoring has fallen way off.  If Tuesday’s game is any indication maybe Kane is back on track.  He took more shots then were used to seeing and played more aggressively than in prior games.  Kane even scored a goal which is something were not used to since in his last 27 games he has a total of 5 goals.

Chicago, A Drinking Town with a Sports Problem is not ready to panic.  We’d rather drink our sorrows away with a six’er and a few shots of Jamison.  So hang in there Blackhawk fans, we have plenty to be happy about.  Jonathan Toews and “Lord” Marian Hossa have been outstanding and the young kids are getting a ton of experience.  Heck besides Daniel Carcillo this team is finally getting healthy.  Stay strong Blackhawk fans, this team is better then what were watching.

Or so I hope so!