Chicago Blackhawks – “Goodness gracious great balls of Fire”


Chicago, IL –

“You shake my nerves and your rattle my brain

Too much love drives a man insane

You broke my will oh what a thrill

Goodness gracious great balls of fire”1

When Jerry Lee Lewis wrote these lyrics he was writing about passion, specifically the passion a man has when he is in love but there are all kinds of passion. Passion is a part of the human condition that none of us can seem to get enough of. It’s what we all live for.  All sports thrive on passion, passion by players for their game, passion of fans for their team and passion of coaches for their teams.

There is no team sport more passionate than hockey and especially playoff NHL hockey. As the temperatures heat up with spring so does the fire of players, fans and yes even professional coaches at the highest level of hockey.

On Thursday Chicago Blackhawks beloved coach Joel Quenneville displayed his passion maybe a little too animatedly for the NHL. The NHL fined him $25,000 for what they termed was “inappropriate conduct”.  Coach Quenneville apologized for his lower body gesture “I was definitely excited,” he said. “Disappointed [in] the call, but I’ll apologize for my behavior. It wasn’t appropriate at all. It was a bush-league move on my part.”.

Now I am a fan and I am a fan of the Chicago Blackhawks so you could say I may be a little biased but I’ve got to say the league should be thanking coach Q for displaying a part of the human condition that we all can relate to especially fans and let’s be frank who didn’t find it entertaining as all hell?

The NHL has to gain more fans and generate more interest and until the casual sports fan finds and realizes what a great game hockey is the one thing that does pull people in is people with personality and fire. People who display emotions that we as fans can relate to because they are feeling the same thing we are watching the game brings a connection to the team and sport.

Now I know that children go to the games and you may not want you’re young son or daughter to see a coach grab his manly parts but then again if your offended by this I suggest you put your children in bubbles because they will see much worse than this. It is also a little hypocritical for a league that condones grown men to fight in front of these same children patrons to be offended by cursing or gestures well I find that ludicrous.

Was the gesture inappropriate maybe but was it accurate for how all of us Blackhawks fans felt at the time as the referees blew a crucial missed call that could have determined the outcome of the game? Yes.

Coach Quenneville is human and let his emotions get the better of him in that moment but isn’t that what sports is supposed to be all about? Spontaneous emotional responses like joy when your team wins and disappointment and sometimes anger when your team losses and that is during normal regular season games is the usual responses. Everything is more intensified when your team is in pursuit of the most treasured trophy in all of sports. So one can understand how emotions can get the better of us all.

Chicago is a town that loves it’s coaches full of fire and brimstone. One of the most beloved coaches in the city was Mike Ditka who I’m sure if cameras were lock scoped on him during games I can almost guarantee had gestures and language that would be considered inappropriate but we love the guy for it and for well just being his unbridled self.

Coach Joel Quenneville may have done an inappropriate gesture but the $25,000 fee is well worth it for him, his team and the NHL as well, whether they know it or not. This passionate “inappropriate” gesture spoke to and for an entire fan base and for that we love you coach Q. The dedication and blood, sweat and tears the coach was feeling well we as fans were right there with you grabbing ourselves if not physically emotionally we were.

In a sometimes dull hum drum world a little fire is refreshing and sometimes much needed. It may fire his team and for that the gesture may in the long run be priceless.

To think this was just the first game in the first series, we all can’t wait for more and to see what else will happen. I ask you NHL isn’t that what you want, a captive audience waiting to tune in to see our skilled heros being driven and guided by a spitfire with high hockey IQ that demonstrates his passion that we all share for the wonderful game of hockey and his team? Now that is what I call must see.

1 Great Balls of Fire – composed by Jerry Lee Lewis 1957

 

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Chicago Blackhawks – defending the crown, Chelsea Chelsea I believe!


Chicago, IL — Rocky Wirtz needs to send some deep dish pizzas to the Minnesota Wild. For the second time in three years they helped the Chicago Blackhawks enter into the playoffs. Thank you Minny!  The difference however is this time it was inevitable the Hawks would be in the post season back in 2011 it was not that sure.

As temperatures warm in Chicago so does the race once again for playoff positioning now that a birth has been clinched. The Blackhawks will be in a dog fight til the end, not for who they will play but for who will have home ice advantage. Their opponent a new one, new to the division and new to the playoffs the Colorado Avalanche will most likely draw the defending Stanley Cup Champs.

There has been much hand ringing of late among fans and the Chicago media with just cause, myself included. The Hawks have not been playing their best hockey by any stretch of the imagination since the calendar flipped to 2014. Then again, did they have to? The answer is obviously not.

The concerns are many. The Hawks have not played well against the Avalanche in the regular season with the Avs taking 4 out of 5 games. The Avalanche are coming in riding a hot goaltender Semyon Varlamov and we all know what happened a couple of years ago in the post season when the Hawks faced a hot goalie and were exited in round one by the Phoenix Coyotes and Mike Smith.

The Avalanche fans are jumping up and down to face the Blackhawks since they handled them so easily in the regular season. The obsession with the Hawks does not stop and with just the fans, their media and even head coach Patrick Roy are lock scoped on the Hawks. Before yesterday’s game against San Jose the media asked Roy was he watching an earlier Bruins vs Capitals game. His response was no we are only focused on the Blackhawks.

The Avalanche wants to pattern and see themselves as the next Blackhawks team. A group of young, skilled hockey players ready to make the next step, I guess the Hawks should be flattered isn’t imitation the sincerest form of flattery or something like that. There is an air of confidence coming from the mile high state is it unwarranted?

No, the Blackhawks by not being able to dispense with their pesky little brothers from the Rocky Mountain state have opened up a door for this belief and fueled their confidence. I remember hearing somewhere half of being is belief, meaning if you think you can compete and beat the best your half way there. What the Avalanche have no experience with yet is how much different the game is at the NHL playoff levels. It remains to be seen if they can make the adjustments.

The Hawks do want to gain home ice advantage not because the Pepsi Centers is an intimidating place to play, I think Blackhawks’ fans can challenge the Avs’ fans but  because of the altitude. The Hawks are in good shape but if you are not used to that thin air it could make an impact and take a toll in a seven game series.

The theory also swings both ways except the Blackhawks have history to back up their beliefs that they can win a Stanley Cup because they have twice in the last four years. Where history goes against them is their quest to repeat in back to back years as the Stanley Cup Champs and here is where the challenges lye for our Hawks. The Hawks also need to remember they have been given first round exits in two of the last four years as well.

It’s not just the Avalanche that are totally focused on the Hawks it is every team that will be in the playoffs including the Boston Bruins who will no doubt be the Eastern Conference Champions again unless somehow Pittsburgh can figure out the wall of Chara. Also you can never discount the feisty Flyers.

Having such a huge target on your back maybe it’s a good thing that the Hawks are not playing their best, maybe just maybe it will give confidence to teams falsely. History is a great indicator of how things may unfold. It is not unfaultable but it is a good indicator.

The year that the Hawks went to the Stanley Cup in a full 82 game regular season their record was actually worse than the Hawks record is now. Hard to believe but true, as of today the Hawks 2014 record in March is 7-6-1 and in 2010 it was 6-7-2 yes a losing record. Regardless of the outcome of the Penguins game today the Hawks will end up no worse than .500.

Have I calmed some fears yet? No well chew on this, in the playoffs NOT the regular season these same Hawks for the most part were able to come back from facing elimination and overcame refereeing error in game 7 when Nik Hjalmarsson’s seemingly scored the winning goal and was disallowed for what we in Chicago are still not sure for. The team was able to gather themselves and come back and knock out their Original Six division foe mentors the Detroit Red Wings.

Not enough for you ok remember that 17 second thing that happened in Boston against probably the best defensive hockey team on the planet? If the Blackhawks could do that to the Bruins don’t you think they can do it again to any team?

Let’s not forget also in 2010 the 13 .6 seconds against the Nashville Predators, remember that game when Patrick Kane forced overtime and then Marian Hossa scored the OT GWG and turned the tide of the series and the Hawks never looked back as they went on to win the Cup.

Some fans think that this year feels a little like 2011 when the Hawks fell in the first round to the Vancouver Canucks sorry to bring up the bad memories. The difference is that the coaching staff and these Hawks or at least the core of the Hawks knows what they did wrong in 2011 and can correct that so it does not happen now.

Are the Hawks playing poorly now?  Yes without question they need to find consistency to their game. Do you for one second believe that this team forgot how to close gaps, take away passing lanes and block shots because I don’t. This team has been through too much together and knows what it takes to win at the highest levels.

They also have a chance at making history for the first time since the Detroit Red Wings were able to go back to back in 1996-97 & 1997-98 and cement their legacy as perhaps the greatest hockey team in the modern cap era. Now that is a challenge that does not come along every day and one they have positioned themselves to possibly achieve.

If the Hawks need extra motivation they need look no further than the statue outside their own stadium. When in the United Center and you look to the rafters you see all the championship banners from a team wearing Red, Black and White –  the Bulls. There are six championship banners hanging from 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997 & 1998.

The Blackhawks have a ways to catch the Jordan lead Bulls team but they are a quarter of the way there already. This team is young enough to do it or at least make a good run. The Blackhawks also have similarities to those Bulls teams the greatest of which is the ability to close and ratchet up the killer instincts.

The only thing that can stop the Blackhawks is the Blackhawks. If they don’t play their best can they be  beaten of course that is their greatest foe. Do I believe the Hawks can repeat with odds and every NHL team against them?  Yes barring injuries. Why?  Because this is a great team that is still only getting better with it’s young prospects, unwavering team leaders and crafty coaches. Will the road be easy? No but would you want it to be?

I once wrote in regards to the Detroit Red Wings when the Hawks were trying to catch them that one day the apprentice (Hawks) would best the masters (Wings) one day it is inevitable. Now that the Blackhawks are the masters will they one day be bested by an apprentice? Yes, but that day has not come yet as long as the Hawks play to their abilities and believe in themselves and each other and who are any of us to doubt them?

Cue the Dagger –  Chelsea, Chelsea I believe.

 

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Chicago Blackhawks prepare for Miller Time


Chicago, IL – Last night the Chicago Blackhawks’ divisional foe the St. Louis Blues made a serious push towards Lord Stanley’s cup when they acquired both goaltender Ryan Miller and antagonistic forward Steve Ott from the Buffalo Sabres. The Blues sent goalie Jaroslav Halak and forward Chris Stewart to Buffalo in exchange along with draft pick. What every Blackhawks and Blues fan wants to know is how this will affect their respective teams.

With the NHL realignment of the league it seems the Blackhawks and the Blues have been on a collision course all year long. They are destined to face each other in the playoffs with the new structure of inner divisional play in the first rounds of the playoffs. The likelihood of these teams facing each other in the first round are minimal as they are currently 1 & 2 in the division but probably will need to face each other to get to the conference finals.

Ryan Miller will no doubt help the Blues and the thought of such a top notch goalie behind a top notch defense had twitter buzzing yesterday with some practically handing the Blues the Stanley Cup. Before we all go handing them any silverware the games still must be played.

The St. Louis Blues are definitely going all in for the Cup this year but then again this should not be a surprise. In all honesty if they don’t make a push now they are destined to see their window close soon and suffer the same fate as the Vancouver Canucks, Philadelphia Flyers and Nashville Predators. They could become a pretty good team that is irrelevant if they don’t push now as the Blackhawks are only getting better with skilled youth coming up through the ranks.

The Blues have been chasing the Blackhawks for some time and while they have closed the gap it remains to be seen if they in fact have elevated themselves to the next level. Ryan Miller has never won a Stanley Cup and really has not faced playoff action with his being on such an abysmal Sabres team. For how good Miller is we all know playoff hockey is a different animal and one you cannot prepare for until you are there. We are all about to find out in the next couple of months if Miller and Ott were indeed enough.

The Blues will win the regular season series against the Hawks but two of their three wins have been in shoot –outs which won’t be there in the playoffs. Thanks to the Olympics we all know T. J. Oshie is lights out in shoot outs but he will have less of an impact in the playoffs unless he along with the rest of the Blues elevate their 5 on 5 play which is not to say they can’t  the Blues are a talented hockey team.

The Blackhawks player’s reaction to the Miller trade was that they still have to focus on what they’re doing and not worry about other teams and truer words have never been spoken.

The Hawks prior to the Olympic break have not looked that good and since the break against the NY Rangers looked like they were jet lagged.  They need to get back to winning fine tune their games and just stay focused and stay the course. They also can’t overlook the Colorado Avalanche who as it stands today would be who they would face in the first round of the playoffs and are significantly better than the Minnesota Wild were last year.

The Hawks are schedule to play the Blues two more times both at the United Center with the first being on 3/19 which will no doubt be their first introduction to Miller time Blues style. It is imperative that the final two games against the Blues the Hawks do well in regulation and also take the opportunity to take notes on Miller. Miller most certainly will be taking notes on the Blackhawks as well.

The onus is still on Miller and the Blues to prove they do indeed belong with the NHL elite and even if the Blues can get past the Hawks they will need to get past either their playoff nemeses the LA Kings who have a pretty good goalie of their own in Jonathan Quick or San Jose or Anaheim. And then face in most likelihood either the Penguins or the Bruins in the east.  If they can accomplish this they will deserve to wear the crown.

The Blues have improved but is it enough? Ryan Miller is betting it is while most hockey fans like Ryan Miller and want him to get a Stanley Cup he will face the biggest challenges of his career to date in the tough Western Conference. It has become a whole lot more interesting in the west that is for sure and as a hockey fan you have to love the stretch to the playoff run and how it is shaping up. The NHL has to be pleased with this.

As for the defending Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks, this is probably the best thing that could have happened to them. If you want to be the best you have to beat the best as they did last year when they won their 2nd Cup in four years and had to face former Cup Champs Detroit, Los Angeles and Boston. The Hawks have yet to beat the Blues this year and will need to before entering the playoffs. Now they will have to go through Ryan Miller as well.

For those saying that the Blackhawks need to make their own big move that is not necessarily the case they are already Stanley Cup contenders without any moves being made. If Stan Bowman can make a trade that makes sense he will be it really is not needed.

The Blackhawks have never backed away from any challenge and there is nothing to indicate that they will now either. The Hawks play their best against the best and if St. Louis has upped their game that will only improve the Hawks and really every team in the Central Division. The Hawks love to challenge themselves and be challenged they will be as the defending champs have been facing other teams best game all year long.The playoffs will only amp up the compete level for all including the Hawks.

Who’s ready for Miller time? Who isn’t?

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To Russia with Love


Chicago, IL – Cheering for Patrick Kane is nothing new for Blackhawks fans but cheering for St. Louis Blues’ T. J. Oshie and David Backes is. For the next two weeks however every American will be cheering for the same team, Team USA whether you are a hockey fan or not.

What we are cheering them on for is a medal preferably gold since the last Olympics in Vancouver, BC in 2010 they came oh so close but lost in overtime to team Canada but brought home the silver medal. Who is Team USA? Well let’s take a look.

On big ice the most important position will be the goalies. The angles and bounces are different than NHL arenas and could come into play. If the goaltending is solid it gives a team that may not be as fast or talented a chance.

Goaltenders

No. Name Birthdate Hometown Current Team
35 Jimmy Howard 3/26/1984 Ogdensburg, N.Y. Detroit Red Wings
39 Ryan Miller 7/17/1980 East Lansing, Mich. Buffalo Sabres
32 Jonathan Quick 1/21/1986 Milford, Conn. Los Angeles Kings

In 2010 Buffalo Sabres’ goalie Ryan Miller got Team USA so close and figures to start in goal for America again. Goaltending is the strength of Team USA. Don’t be surprised even with how good Miller is if LA Kings’ netminder Jonathan Quick does not end up ultimately being Team USA’s net minder. Unconventional, quirky, solid, lightening quick and just plain brilliant is Jonathan Quick.

Both he and Miller backstop teams in the NHL that are not known for their offensive prowess which makes them very used to having to stand on their heads and defend til the end and will make it very difficult for other teams to score on them. Jimmy Howard is no slouch either so Team USA will be in good gloves and blockers in their nets.

The most telling position for how Team USA will go might just be the back line. If the USA has a weak  link you would have to say that it is on the blue line. The USA defense is very young but if there is any country that can pull off putting pressure on it’s youth it is Team USA. With only one player over age 30 this is a very inexperienced group. How they will respond on the biggest international stage and on big ice will be key to how Team USA goes.

Minnesota Wild’s Ryan Suter who is an alternate captain will be the anchor and leader on the USA backend. Suter and Orpik are the only returning defensemen from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Like Miller and Quick, Ryan Suter is used to logging a lot of minutes for his NHL team and very used to having a tremendous amount of pressure put on him so this will be nothing new. Look for Suter to be paired with Kevin Shattenkirk from the defensive minded St. Louis Blues. Look for this pair to carry the load on penalty kill and against opposing teams number one lines. The defense of Team USA will have pressure sure but with the stingy goalies they have behind them that should ease the pressure somewhat.

Defensemen

No. Name Birthdate Hometown Current Team
4 John Carlson 1/10/1990 Colonia, N.J. Washington Capitals
72 Justin Faulk 3/20/1992 South St. Paul, Minn. Carolina Hurricanes
3 Cam Fowler 12/5/1991 Farmington Hills, Mich. Anaheim Ducks
7 Paul Martin 3/5/1981 Elk River, Minn. Pittsburgh Penguins
27 Ryan McDonagh 6/13/1989 St. Paul, Minn. New York Rangers
44 Brooks Orpik 9/26/1980 Amherst, N.Y. Pittsburgh Penguins
22 Kevin Shattenkirk 1/29/1989 New Rochelle, N.Y. St. Louis Blues
20 Ryan Suter 1/21/1985 Madison, Wis. Minnesota Wild

Team USA is a good mix up front of skill, speed and physicality. Dustin Brown, David Backes & T. J. Oshie should provide the grit on this team. Phil Kessel, Patrick Kane and Zach Parise world class skill that can keep up with anyone. Both Kessel and Kane are currently three and four respectively in point in the NHL. If a team pays too much attention to these players however San Jose Sharks’ Joe Pavelski or Vancouver Canucks Ryan Kessler or Toronto Maple Leafs JVR will burn you. Make no mistake these players are physical but with skill as well.

All that being said up front I think will be determined by how good a tournament Chicago Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane has. Yes I am a fan but this year Kane has elevated his game and it will be interesting to see how that translates on big ice where he is very, very comfortable having played during the lockout last year in Switzerland. His game is well suited for this type of venue and game. Even though he does not wear a letter don’t let that fool you this guy is highly competitive and having won two Stanley Cups in four years hates to lose and knows what it takes to win. He may just be the most exciting player on the ice of all the countries teams.

Zach Parise will be captaining this group and look for him to lead the charges with a lot of support. This maybe the most diverse forward group of all the Olympic teams in that they can play a skill game or a physical grind game which should serve Team USA good and keep other teams guessing. Nine of Team USA’s forwards are returning from 2010 and when you hear them talk whether it’s Parise, Kane, Brown, Kessler or Backes there is a determination and a hunger in their eyes that should provide the fire to drive this team.

Forwards

No. Name Birthdate Hometown Current Team
42 David Backes 5/1/1984 Minneapolis, Minn. St. Louis Blues
23 Dustin Brown 11/04/1984 Ithaca, N.Y. Los Angeles Kings
24 Ryan Callahan 3/21/1985 Rochester, N.Y. New York Rangers
88 Patrick Kane 11/19/1988 Buffalo, N.Y. Chicago Blackhawks
17 Ryan Kesler 8/31/1984 Livonia, Mich. Vancouver Canucks
81 Phil Kessel 10/2/1987 Madison, Wis. Toronto Maple Leafs
74 T.J. Oshie 12/23/1986 Warroad, Minn. St. Louis Blues
67 Max Pacioretty 11/20/1988 New Canaan, Conn. Montreal Canadiens
9 Zach Parise 7/28/1984 Minneapolis, Minn. Minnesota Wild
8 Joe Pavelski 7/11/1984 Plover, Wis. San Jose Sharks
26 Paul Stastny 12/27/1985 St. Louis, Mo. Colorado Avalanche
12 Derek Stepan 6/18/1990 Hastings, Minn. New York Rangers
21 James van Riemsdyk 5/4/1989 Middletown, N.J. Toronto Maple Leafs
28 Blake Wheeler 8/31/1986 Robbinsdale, Minn. Winnipeg Jets

Team USA is in the highly competitive group A with host country Team Russia and the very competitive Team Slovakia which most Chicago Blackhawks and Bruins fans know will be load to play against. Being in such a competitive group could wear your team down or could be just the competitive tune up that will be needed to medal. Only time will tell which it is.

The Women’s Team USA already defeated a very good Finnish team and looked rock solid. Their main competition will be Team Canada as these two teams will battle for the gold. Team USA had incredible speed in their game against Finland. Their team speed looked faster than some AHL teams. I would consider Team USA the favorite for gold in women’s hockey.

Also don’t think these ladies play a nice little game of hockey some of these girls have wicked shots that some men would envy. These women can skate too make no mistakes about it. Plus what is not to like ponytails, lipstick and hockey sticks.

As a side note one of the women’s Team USA players Kendall Coyne,an Illinois native, after the Olympics will join the Chicago Blackhawks team. No not on the ice we don’t have a co-gendered league yet although the Blackhawks I’m sure would love to use her at times on the ice, instead she will be interning and helping with stats and imparting her hockey experiences to help with press conferences and I’m sure other things. Applauds to the Chicago Blackhawks for recognizing the wisdom this girl can bring and a fresh look to the game. Maybe one day we will see a women behind an NHL bench in some capacity.

For the next couple of weeks though my team may look a lot different than my usual team in the Indianhead sweater. There is one thing I hope my new team has that carries over from my NHL team a never say die attitude and just keep skating and grinding even if things don’t always go your way in games.

My neighbors won’t be hearing me say Let’s go Hawks for a couple of weeks but they will hear me say GO USA for both the men’s and women’s hockey teams. I have a feeling gold will be coming home with at least one of these teams maybe two.  Good Luck to Team USA, know that you have an entire nation wanting only the best for you.

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Chicago Blackhawks – How the West will be won


Chicago, IL – Anybody that has followed the NHL in the 2013-2014 season knows there is a glaring difference between the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference. The Blackhawks are in the highly competitive Western Conference and if they are to get to the final party call the Stanley Cup Playoffs there are certain teams they no doubt will face.

Those teams – LA Kings, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues & Minnesota Wild all have several things in common and it is no coincidence that they are atop the west and the league for that matter. The only team that does not fit the mold is the Blackhawks.

All of these teams including the Hawks are similar in that they all have come from behind capabilities and you can never count them out. What this shows is that they never give up and playing a 60 minute game is essential. When playing these teams one should never feel too great with a one, two or even three goal lead going into the third period.

Where the Hawks differ from the other teams is defensively. These teams are very stingy with their goals against and are all excellent with their positioning and gap controls which can stymie & frustrate an offensive team.  Currently the LA Kings are #1 in GAG 1.91 now that is stingy and they have been doing it without Jonathan Quick in goal yikes.

Minnesota is 5th with a 2.20 in between is Colorado Avs, St. Louis, San Jose and in 11th place in the league is Anaheim with a 2.44 GAG. Each of these teams only gives up 2-2.5 goals per game. The Hawks on the other hand are way down at 19th with 2.77. This is something they will need to shore up when facing these teams.

The Hawks like to play a fast paced run and gun style yet last year when they won the Cup that isn’t really the game they played. They played more like the defensive style we are seeing from the Western Conference leading teams and that is the style that will probably be needed to once again make it through the western teams to the Finals but first you have to get to the show.

The Blackhawks I’m sure prefer the run and gun style. Let’s face it its more fun to watch so it probably is more fun to play as well. The Hawks don’t want to get into bad habits however and as boring as it is to lock it down team wise defensively and wait for the other team to make a mistake I’m afraid that is what it will take to beat these teams in the west.

The Hawks have to cut down on giveaways in their own zone and not beat themselves if they do this I guarantee they will be in games til the end. The Hawks need to focus on getting their GAG down. Let me put this in perspective the Philadelphia Flyers are better currently than the Hawks in GAG, ok enough said.  The Hawks cannot afford to play like they are the Eastern Conference it will not work in the west.

The other thing these teams all have in common they are very good at the faceoff circle and with the Hawks wanting to possess the puck they need to keep working on their faceoff skills and study these team’s centers. Mikko Koivu, Anze Kopitar and Ryan Getzlaf are all excellent at the dot. Now Jonathan Toews is no slouch but on the road the Hawks don’t have final say as to who will face these experts so all of the Hawks need to be prepared.

The other area which has gotten enough pub is special teams in particular the penalty kill. Last year it was the power play this year it’s the PK why the Hawks can’t get both going at the same time I’m not sure. Almost everybody is better than the Hawks in penalty kill if the Hawks can’t fix this then stay out of the penalty box. Discipline will then have to be the order.

The penalty kill is largely about keeping things to the perimeter and giving your goalie a good line of sight and blocking. This year it seems there are not as many block shots if that is going to be the case the D-men must clear out the front of the net period.

There’s no doubt Michael Frolik is missed but what is missed is someone who will take ownership and pride in stopping shots from getting to the net. I’m not sure who can fill this but I know it must be a young player with solid positioning skills and a hunger to step up and make a name for himself specializing.

Right now the Hawks are leading in goals scored per game but the St. Louis Blues and the San Jose Sharks are right behind them. Counting on outscoring teams is probably not the way you want to go. I don’t want the Hawks to get in bad habits and depend solely on scoring goals to bail them out.

The Western Conference will be won by the team that is willing to grind it out and play down low and occasionally score greasy goals but always be focused on not letting the opposition behind you and having active sticks and solid gap controls and not beating themselves. Is it sexy? No but it is effective and the formula for winning in the west.

The Hawks have young goaltenders that they need to help out while Corey Crawford is on the mend. Solid positioning will assist these young goalies. Besides the Kings, Blues & Ducks are not going to just let the Hawks fly through the neutral zone so best get used to grinding out one goal games against these teams.

Also need to tighten up against divisional foes as well. The Hawks have a terrible divisional record which could come into play at the end of the year if things get even tighter this record could make the difference especially against the Blues who right now have a win and shoot out win over the Hawks.

The Hawks will get a good test tonight against the very hot LA Kings. This will be a good test for both teams and a good indicator of who really is the heavy weight in the Western Conference. If the Hawks want to win the game they must pay attention to defensive details.

The Hawks schedule does not get any easier to close out the year they play Vancouver, Colorado, LA & St. Louis. Sounds like a perfect stretch to get that Western Conference defensive team game going. The Hawks can still fly just not against these teams.

It’s time for the Sheriff to lay down the law west of the Mississippi and re-establish order because if they don’t the Hawks maybe losing their star to a new Sheriff in the West.

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Corey Crawford – making the critics eat Crow


Photo by Maggie Avila

Photo by Maggie Avila

Chicago, IL — It was not that long ago when there was a camp of critic of Corey Crawford. He couldn’t bring a Cup to Chicago, he was not mentally tough enough to handle the Chicago net, maybe we should let Ray Emery start over Crawford as he could not steal games blah blah blah.

Well less than a year later everyone is hoping/praying it is Corey that is in the Chicago net and the tune is much different today than it was. What changed? The critics perceptions, Corey Crawford, his goalie style, maybe a little bit of all of the above.

The Crawford critics have to admit the Crow is developing into a solid goaltender that can keep his team in games until they find their stride and really isn’t that all you can ask a goaltender to do. Corey did stand up to the pressures of Stanley Cup playoff games and it is this writers opinion that he in fact was the most consistent element throughout the playoffs and probably should have won the Conn Smyth trophy.

Even as the national media during the playoffs dissected his play – one game he was weak on the glove side and one game he was vulnerable on the blocker side or maybe he could be beat five hole Crawford played with dignity in the Chicago nets. To hear them tell it the poor Hawks stood no chance in the nets when facing Detroit, Los Angeles and Boston although some of us knew better. Yet somehow it was the unassuming every man’s goalie Crawford that skated away a Stanley Cup Champion.

While the Blackhawks had a record-breaking year in 2012-2013 so did Crawford. Along with Ray Emery winning the William M. Jennings trophy which goes to the goalie tandem that allows the least amount of goals during the regular season is no easy task

Corey Crawford has changed too. Yes his goalie style has changed a bit but it his mental makeup that has really grown. Corey no longer gets rattled when a goal or two or three goes in. He has learned to put it behind him and move on and stay in the moments of games which has paid huge dividends.

The goalie position more than any other on a hockey team demands mental fortitude and Corey Crawford has become on of the staunchest and stingiest goalies in the league. Corey is currently sitting at sixth overall in the NHL for GAA. He is ahead of goalies that are much heralded like Niemi, Quick and Lundqvist. Yet no one is praising him for his net work.

In the all important category of wins he is sitting third in the NHL behind only Ben Bishop of Tampa and Marc Andre Fleury of Pittsburgh for wins for his team and isn’t this the most important thing to get your team a win.

There is now talk that Crawford could be one of the goalies for Team Canada for the Olympics as an American I’m hoping Team USA does not have to face him because he could make the difference of what color medals teams get. Pressure sure but out of all the names that have bandied about if I was to pick which one would stand up to the mental pressures I would take Crawford yes even over Luongo, Smith or Price.

The other thing that is noticeable in Blackhawks’ games is his communication with the defenseman in front of him. There is a trust level that has developed and a camaraderie. How can you not like a goalie that comes to your captains defense when in trouble.

Chicago is a working city that appreciates the working man and hard labor there is arguably no one on the Blackhawks that has paid his dues and gone through tribulations than Corey Crawford. He spent five long years in the AHL and probably didn’t think he would ever get a chance at the NHL but now that he is here he is not resting on his laurels and you have to appreciate that about him. Corey just comes in and does his job without excuses or complaints and you have to respect that.

If not measuring up to elite goalie status, is winning a Jennings trophy, Stanley Cup ring, potential Conn Smyth candidate and possibly representing his hockey powerhouse country in the Olympics well then I’m not sure what constitutes an elite goalie to the critics because I would say all of these accomplishments are elite.

When people say silly things about Crawford and his skills or mental toughness you have to laugh and he should too because not only do they know not of what they speak, you know it will only be a matter of time before he will make them look silly and have them eating crow. For us believers, Crow never tasted so good.

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Hey LA Kings fans get off my goalie – QUICK


Chicago, IL — Now let me make this clear, I am a Chicago Blackhawks fan through and through. I loved nothing more than seeing the Chicago Blackhawks last year oust the defending Stanley Cup Champions in five games to move onto the Stanley Cup Finals against Boston. I am also a hockey fan and love good hockey and hockey players. So why am I blogging about the LA Kings phenom goaltender Jonathan Quick you ask?

Earlier this week the LA Kings were playing against the New York Rangers at the Staples Center in LA and the most unusual hockey mishap happened on the ice but what was more shocking was the LA King fans reaction to their superstar goalie’s miscue.

Jonathan Quick misplayed a puck that was dumped into the LA Kings zone when he unfortunately lost his goalie stick and the puck bounced off of his blocker into his own net. It was unfortunate to say the least but it also illustrates that even weird quirky things happen to arguably the best goaltender in the world. From that perspective us mere mortals can take heart when we have mishaps or just plain old bad days.

For those that missed it below is the link to the NHL site of the gaffe and the crowd reactions.

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/?id=454030

What was more shocking was how the LA Kings fans reacted by giving their  Vezina candidate, Conn Smyth trophy winning, Stanley Cup Champion goaltender, the Bronx cheer or maybe it is should be called the Hollywood and Vine cheer. Now I hate fans that tell fans how to be fans usually but this really irked me to no end.

LA you do realize that it was Quick who helped bring the Stanley Cup to your city after a 41 year drought?  Remember that? It was not that long ago. Do you recall the 2011 -2012 season?  He was named Conn Smyth trophy winner for a reason he was this teams MVP not only in the playoff but all season long,

Jonathan Quick has a very unorthodox goalie style. Why do I bring this up because he is fun to watch. As a hockey fan, I love seeing  the odd positions he can get himself in and out of. Short of Bruce Lee and maybe Gabby Douglas can anyone get into the splits easier without hurting themselves permanently? Is there a goalie anywhere in the universe with as much flexibility and lightening fast lateral movement?

The man has earned a little leeway in my book and show the guy some respect please. He will be most certainly representing the USA as our goaltender in the Olympics next year in Sochi, Russia. This makes him all of the USA’s netminder and I have to say as an American get off my Goalie’s case. He will be fine and your sarcasm is not needed or appreciated by the rest of us Americans.

Now Chicago is no better we have had our share of media and uneducated fans getting on our own goalie’s case. Corey Crawford not only rose to the occasion he has proved to be one of the most mentally tough goalies in the NHL & could very well face Jonathan Quick at the other end of the ice. A re-match I have to say I am thoroughly looking forward to in Sochi. This time sorry Corey, I will be rooting for Quick.

As a fan to other fans I would ask you, ask yourself these questions before giving the Hollywood cheer in the future to Jonathan Quick or any other hockey player.

1)  What exactly have you sacrificed and dedicated yourself to?

2) Do you never make any mistakes?

3) Is there anything constructive that is being achieved by your actions?

For the meatballs who think that he is a professional athlete that gets paid a lot of money to get treated anyway that fans so choose, I offer this he is also human with feelings. He will make horrible mistakes and bad decisions but he will also make unbelievable saves with game winning results for your team.

I will step down now from my soap box but please LA leave my compatriot alone. Unless you are going to offer something helpful let the professionals do their jobs on the ice and act like a professional fan base with a little bit of class.

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