Posts Tagged ‘Powerplay’

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.

by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

This week, the Hawks have dropped the two games they’ve played so far. They got their asses waxed at home by a damn good Nashville team on Sunday, then salvaged a road point in New Jersey on Tuesday in a shootout loss. With 5 games to go, including the game against St Louis that I’ll be doing the ol’ running diary thing tonight, we are within striking distance of clinching a playoff spot. A win tonight would not only help immensely, but it would certainly show the rest of the league we’re a legit threat come playoff time. Jonathan Toews has been skating with the team and says he’s close to being ready for some contact. Let’s hope he continues to improve like he has in the past 10 days.

Puck Drop, 20:00 left in the first period… I’ll never like Jim Cornelison’s version of the National Anthem as much as Wayne Messmer’s, but I bet Jim isn’t half the greedy dick Wayne turned out to be. At a Cubs Convention once, Wayne wasn’t interested in hearing me express how much his version had moved me over the years. He only cared about trying to sucker me out of $20 for a CD of his version. Blow me, pal.

18:26…Tremendous save by Jaroslav Halak in close. That would have gotten the crowd in a tizzy right away. The quick-strikes we’ve gotten lately really get the team off on the right foot. Too bad we didn’t cash that in.

17:52….Hawks going to the power play. I’ll never get the following empty two minutes of my life back. Over/Under on shots we get on net here….0.5. Yeah, it’s been that bad. I wish they could figure this out sometime this century, but you simply can’t polish a turd.

17:08…The Blues penalty kill isn’t what we need to see here. They’ve killed more penalties than neighborhood watch guys have killed kids with hoodies lately. Send the indignant hate mail about that comment to my buddy Lou. He’ll appreciate the chance to spread his wings and answer you in kind….

15:52…The over came in there…one shot on that power play. Pay the winners!!

15:08….Great save by Crawford. That’s what he needed to keep his confidence level up. Brandon “One Punch” Bollig planted Kent Huskins like a springtime daisy after the shot. Pluswhise, Huskins caught a stick from Crawford in his face right before he got hammered. It’s double-dutch action at the UC!!

12:08….So far, both teams look pretty physical. We expect that from St. Louis, and it’s nice to see the Hawks respond in kind. Shaw and Bollig both seem to relish this aspect of the game. Tracey Myers, the CSN in-game microphone jockey, must be good at her job because she is one tough lady to get an eyeful of. Eeeesshh.

9:55…How about a goal by the 4th line tonight? It seems like forever since they’ve potted one.

9:22….HAWKS SCORE!! Bryan Bickell buries his bitchin’ wrister from above the dot to make it 1-0!! When this guy is motivated, he’s deadly. Nick Leddy and Dave Bolland get the assists. Nice to see Leddy continuing to play well. With his wheels, he can be a real weapon.

9:13….Blues score 9 seconds later to tie it up at 1. Jesus, that was unacceptable. Losing the ensuing faceoff after our goal set the whole thing up. No letdowns like that, asspipes!! Leddy played the rush well and turned Steen wide there, but he still got that shot away with some steam on it. Sphincter tightness….returning.

5:30…Hawks have responded to the Blues goal with some nice energy. You hate to see a letdown like that, but when the team responds with even more energy and speed, it’s a good sign. They need to keep this up and sustain some pressure.

3:53
…Wicked glove save by Crawford on Jason Arnott. Sphincter tightness…relaxing.

3:38
…Patrick Sharp with a sick wrister on goal and a better save by Halak. What a luxury for the Blues to have two killer netminders like Halak and Brian Elliott to choose from each game. Quite the nice problem to have….it’s like wondering which sports car to drive over to your supermodel girlfriend’s house…the Porsche or the Ferrari.

2:33….Scrum in front of the Hawks net. Vlad Sobotka of St. Louis touched it off with a post-whistle hack on Crawford. Nice to see Crawford reach up and take a swipe at him in response. Don’t take any shit from a guy with a last name like a bargain-bin vodka.

0:25….Dumb penalty by Shaw. You gotta be smarter than hitting a guy from behind like that. Go after the puck, kid. Even though St Louis isn’t the best team out there on the power play, giving a team this good a freebie isn’t how you win hockey games. I’m sure Q will let him hear about it at the break.

End of the first period
…Hawks outshoot the Blues 14-8 and both teams had some nice chances….I think I’ll get a slice of my wife’s birthday cake from yesterday…it’s chocolate frosted with peanut butter filling inside…..off-topic a bit, but I can’t wait for baseball to start next week; I don’t count the two games played in Japan….

Second Period

18:25…Hawks kill the bad Shaw penalty. Way to pick up the kid.

17:48.
..Pat Foley gives best wishes to Daily Herald hockey writer Tim Sassone. He’s had some sort of health issue and hasn’t been working in the past month or so. I didn’t get a call from those pricks to fill in, either. Their loss.

15:42…Beautiful 3-way passing play results in a great chance for Sharp. Halak was better there, making the save, but Stalberg really has been great so far tonight. He has some elite gifts, for sure, but consistency isn’t among them. Oh, for 82 games of how he’s playing tonight.

14:04….The CBOE seat auction is funny. You bid an outrageous sum to sit in some of the worst seats for a hockey game…right on the glass. I’ve sat right on the glass before and if you don’t mind not seeing the entire ice surface, they’re fantastic. Personally, I like being able to see the corners and stuff. Must be nice to be rich enough that you don’t care where you sit.

12:36….Stalberg AGAIN with some serious wheels and another excellent chance.

10:10
…Hawks are noticeably faster than the Blues. The Blues seem to be having trouble getting anything going thru the neutral zone and when we break out of our zone, we are getting some nice chances. Speed kills.

8:30
…Hawks can clinch a playoff spot with a win and a Phoenix loss in regulation against San Jose. I wasn’t sure before the game on what the exact circumstances were to clinch. Nice to see it’s close enough to touch.

7:40
….Blues head to the power play as we get caught with too many men on the ice. If there’s one penalty that pisses a coach off every time, it’s this one.

5:40
….Hawks kill their second penalty of the night. It’s little things like not giving up power play goals that bring a smile to my face.

4:41
….Sharp robbed by Halak. That’s been a rarity this period…a great scoring chance. Both teams have really tightened up defensively and are as watertight as a frog’s butthole. I’m assuming they’re watertight, or those frogs would fill up and sink. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

3:28
….Great sustained pressure by the Hawks there. The Kruger/Sharp/Stalberg line has been fantastic so far tonight. I hope Kruger puts 10-15 lbs of muscle this summer and takes his game up a level or two next fall.

3:07
…Dylan Olson with a bomb from the point. I’d love to see him unleash that beast on the power play. God knows we need something on that unit.

2:52
…GOALPOST!! Kane bulls-eyed the iron there. So close and yet so far…..

2:15
….Hawks head back to the power play (ugh) as Kane got taken down. He also got robbed by Halak on the delayed penalty. Christ, let’s cash one on guys….

1:03
…How hard is it to dump the puck in, then chase it and gain possession? YOU HAVE THE EXTRA MAN!! UTILIZE HIM!!

0:19….Text from Lou at the UC….the shitty in-house band has been named Taint Nugget. I think it’s perfection. Well done, section 333!!

End of the second period
…Hawks outshoot the Blues 10-3 in the second and are outshooting them 24-11 for the game….we seem to be clogging the lanes quite well tonight and breaking up plenty of rushes at the blue line….apparently, Mrs Illinois is doing the Shoot the Puck contest in the next few minutes!!….gotta love a promo where a hot chick is integral to the entire function…the hottie buries one!!…..hard to believe Mrs Illinois is gorgeous, right?….as much as I love Tony Esposito, he looks AWFUL in those Binny’s commercials

Third Period

18:45…GREAT early save by Crawford!! Alex Steen couldn’t believe that didn’t go in. Either could I, as that looked like money.

17:52…Kruger/Sharp/Stalberg start the period the way they’ve been playing all night. Just terrific.

15:45…HAWKS SCORE TO MAKE IT 2-1!!!! Another great rush by the Hawks and some hard work pays off as Andrew Brunette buries the loose change!!! About time we were rewarded for our hustle and hard work. Now, let’s hold this lead longer than 9 seconds.

15:35…Woo hoo!! More than 9 seconds!!

13:46….Jesus, Sharp AGAIN with a fantastic chance! And it was set up by our superior speed. This is becoming a clinic on how to skate.

11:43….Hawks have held the Blues to a meager 2 shots on goal so far here in the 3rd. They obviously can’t deal with our speed and are having a tough time getting any sort of sustained pressure. We need to stay out of the box and not give them any chances for momentum. We need to score again and keep all the pressure on them.

11:20…THERE IT IS!!! 3-1 HAWKS!!! AND IT’S SHARP AND STALBERG ON A TWO ON NONE RUSH!! These guys have been fucking AWESOME together tonight. That was a great strip by Sharp to set that rush up!! Suck it, Blows!!

10:25….Next time I get cocky, tell me to shut it. 3-2 now on a terrible goal off a Kane turnover. Crawford needs to get his ass down on that stuff. No reason for something like that to sneak in under him. Just terrible to let in such a weak goal like that. You don’t win the Cup by doing shit like that.

9:30….Got to keep up the pressure and not lay back and try to hold on. Stay with what’s been working so far tonight. Keep skating, boys.

8:15…Frolik high-sticked in the face right in full view of the official, no call. So glad the NHL has the highest quality refs. That was as blatant as can be and it got ignored.

6:13…Finally, we come back with some speed and get a good chance. Time to let it all hang out and close these guys down.

4:40
…Almost a fluke goal by the Blues there. Bad bounce almost somehow sneaks over Crawford, who made a tougher save than he thought he’d need to make. Whew!

3:01…Getting a bit chippy there in front of Crawford. I’d be doing the same thing if I were St. Louis. If they manage to tie this, it’s going to be on a dirty goal…it sure won’t be on a glorious chance.

1:32…Well, fuck me. Tied at 3 on a shitty, dirty crap goal. I called that bullshit. Total garbage. Hawks let St. Louis dictate the tempo and did indeed lay back and hoped time would just run out. You can’t do that against a top team and hope it works.

1:00…No excuse to blow a late two goal lead at home to a team that simply can’t keep up with our speed, no matter where they are in the standings. St. Louis has no business being in position to get at least one point tonight. Shame on us for not finishing the job. They have 18 shots and 3 goals, none of which were solid scoring chances.

End of regulation, heading to overtime….With a possible clinching in sight tonight, we need to win this one. While this OT should never have happened, it’s time to rise above that crappy final ten minutes and get that third point.

OT

3:45…Glorious 3 on 2 chance for us, but Halak made a nice save after the St. Louis d-man altered Hossa’s shot by going down, forcing a high shot. Taking away half the net sure helps the goaltender.

2:19…FANTASTIC save by Crawford!! That’s what I’m talking about!!

1:56…Michael Frolik, Mr. Snakebitten, denied twice in close. He couldn’t hit water if he fell out of the proverbial boat. He works so hard in all areas of the ice and just can’t get the payoff. I bet he’s forgotten what a red light looks like.

0:32…Kane gets robbed by Halak. That had game-winner written all over it. Those are the kinds of saves that Stanley Cup winners get from their goalies. Halak is the only reason I’m still writing and swearing at my TV. Dirty cocklunch.

End of OT, heading to the shootout…This is where we miss Toews a whole bunch. Our shootout crew without him is, how do I put this delicately….as shitty as 3 day old diapers. Come on guys, make me eat them words.

1st round
…Kane leads off for us. He beat Halak with a backhander a couple weeks ago in the shootout, let’s see what he does here. Great save by Halak on the backhand attempt. Grrrr….but it might have worked if he didn’t get in too tight. David Perron leads off for the Blues and gets blanked by Crawford!! Scoreless after one round.

2nd round
…Sharp gets denied by Halak’s glove hand. He’s a sniper, not a slick move guy, but our choices are sort of slim without Toews. TJ Oshie is next up for St. Loo and his dumb Ohio State ass gets stoned!! Scoreless after two rounds.

3rd round…Stalberg with a hugely weak attempt. Another guy without much of a shootout resume. If the Blows score here, it’s all over. Alex Steen with a fake slapper/quick move and gets denied by Crawford!! Still scoreless after 3 rounds!! We go to extra extra time!!

4th round….BOLLAND SCORES ON A SWEET MOVE TO HIS FOREHAND!!! Finally, the dike is broken!! (No, I’m not making a lesbian joke) 1-0 Hawks!! Ok, let’s see one more big save!!!! Patrick Berglund needs to score to keep St. Louis alive….he hits the GOALPOST!!! HAWKS WIN IN THE SHOOTOUT!!!

Some good, some bad tonight. We should have won that game in regulation, but after blowing what should have been an easy two points after dominating the best defensive team in the NHL again, we managed to scratch the win column. Our top two lines…Kane/Hossa/Brunette and Kruger/Sharp/Stalberg were easily the best players on the ice all night. That’s good. Even better…we moved to 95 points and are basically in the playoffs. 4 games left in the season, 3 of which are very winnable. We get Nashville next on Saturday and I don’t expect them to do anything different than they’ve done to us all season. But with two games against a bad Minnesota team and the finale against a suddenly struggling Detroit squad, we have a good chance of keeping some momentum going. And if we get Toews back, look out.