Chicago Blackhawks – Another long summer


Chicago, IL — For the second straight year the Chicago Blackhawks will have a long summer to think about a great many things that went wrong and how to fix them.

Twenty four hours after the team cleaned out their lockers and met with the local media, the entire organization used words like unacceptable, disappointed, shocked, mad, frustrated and embarrassed. None of these words are positives in any way.

What is concerning as a fan is that from the management down to the players they all seemed lost and confused and uncertain as to what had happened and that is a bit worrisome as a fan.

One can only hope after initial feelings and they review what took place what happened to them will be realized and addressed appropriately.

Now I am not a sports psychologist but I didn’t like what I was hearing before, during and yes even after the series from the entire team. To me their heads were not in the right place at all both on or off the ice.

I won’t single out comments other than to say I actually didn’t like anything any of them had to say which to me is huge warning signs that Stan Bowman and Joel Quenneville will have to sort through.

I previously blogged that the Hawks needed to forget their championship pedigrees and approach these playoffs as if they were new and the first time they had ever been in the playoff but I guess that is easier said than done.

Stan Bowman was asked if the team lacked hunger? His response was essentially if there is any player that thinks that, he will not be here long, I’m paraphrasing. I’m not sure hunger is the correct word as much as maybe the Hawks are victims of their own successes.

It’s human nature to think what worked for you before will work for you again. Except the game has changed from even 2015 so those same things may not work any longer. I think from top to bottom and maybe even us spoiled fans got a huge wake up call.

There was a comment made by several players that they did not reach the level or gear you needed for the playoffs. If not why not? that is either effort or being unprepared/misjudging your opponent .

Or perhaps maybe they could not reach that gear which is something Stan Bowman will need to address with a tight cap. Either scenario is not good.

Here is my amateur observations made out of love for this team as a fan.

The game is different now. I watch a lot of IIHF junior hockey when I can. The NHL network thankfully has started to broadcast these events in the States and team USA just won Gold in the under 18 tourney. How?  With speed, speed, speed and skill. As Craig Button said pressure and attack. Hmmm sounds like what the Predators did.

Also if you look the young teams like the Oilers and Maple Leafs are doing really well which is scary for the rest of the league.

The game has gotten faster, younger and stronger. It is a more North/South game and inside the dots game and you have to have net front presence especially in the playoffs which the Hawks really didn’t do.

Crisp passing is essential and speed makes up for a lot of defensive mistakes if you can track opponents down from behind. Personnel is something Stan Bowman will need to assess and address.

The faster team usually wins now a days. That includes mobile fast defensemen which is something the Hawks may need to address or maybe the wrong Dmen were played and younger D was warranted against the Predators.

Jonathan Toews alluded to this when he stated he would look more at his off- season training and maybe add more speed and skill to his game which is the right track. Ryan Johansen owned him with more speed and power.

Jonny you are not the only one.  More team skating speed and skill is needed across the board and passing tape to tape would help with this as well. What is that legs feed the wolf?

Jonathan Toews wasn’t the only player to get beat by speed and strength or no space was given.

I’m beginning to think Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin smell like fresh meat to wild dogs because they attract everyone and get no space any more. 

I think they all need to as Stan Bowman said look at the mirror and make changes individually.

What is the Hawks game anyway puck possession right?  But how can you be a puck possession team when you are not good at face-offs, one on one board battles or puck management. That is a recipe for disaster in my opinion.

The Blackhawks Corsi numbers were actually worse when you consider how many shots they blocked. They give up way too many shots against and that happened in the regular season too. There were tons of games their goalies bailed them out but that is unsustainable as we see.

I’m not saying the Hawks should or have to be a puck possession team in fact the NHL teams that had great Corsi either didn’t make the playoffs or were also booted quickly. Just throwing that out there.

I do think though they need to take a look at their overall game and how it fares or translates to today’s game against younger, faster teams and make player or game plan adjustments if need be.

The Neutral zone Trap ah yes “Red Rover” as Coach Quenneville called it as reported by the local sports media. I’m shocked adjustments were not made to deal with this.

I don’t need to tell the Hawks how to adjust to this they know what to do. Why they were reluctant to do it or were they not good at the adjustments I’m not sure.

You better practice how to overcome all traps 1-3-1, 1-4 ect because now every team knows this is not what you like to do and it frustrates you. Until you can beat this it will continue to be thrown at you.

The other team in the playoffs using this the Ottawa Senators are also having success with it against the Bruins and are on the verge of knocking them out in the first round, so this will be a thing now teams try to employ.

Personally as a fan I hate it. It is boring to watch so I can only imagine playing against it. Some how some way you need to figure out how to beat this if you want to go far next year and make it a fun offensive challenge not something to dread. Coaches I look to you to address this.

Play 60 – no this is not the NFL program for kids but a call out to the team not only in the playoffs but the regular season to play a full game. Honestly in the playoffs I don’t think there was one game they played a full sixty minutes a bad habit that carried over from the regular season. This needs to change quick.

Scorched Earth – or maybe it is sloppy ice if you skate over a team too many times. Blackhawks I’ve got news for you other teams particularly in the West hate you and revenge and vengeance is a very powerful motivator.

The Wild, Blues, Predators, Ducks, Sharks, Kings have all had their seasons and Stanley Cup hopes dashed by you not just once either by some of these teams, so now they are looking for payback big time.

The media even doesn’t want you to succeed as people call it “Hawks fatigue”. You have no idea how much all the other fan bases hate you.

I see it all the time when you win on my twitter feed “I hate the Blackhawks”. Not sure what that says except why do people hate on success or excellence? I guess envy. I usually laugh. So know you are hated by other teams, their fans and media.

The one good thing going out early is why get all the way to the final to lose. Maybe this is the slap in the face the entire organization and fan base needed and now there is plenty of time to adapt to changes.

I have no doubt changes will be made and rightfully so when you don’t meet your goal.

As Stan Bowman said to keep repeating the same thing over and over and expect different results isn’t going to happened and well isn’t that the definition of crazy?

Look you were right there for two years now you just have to address the Central teams first and then the West as a whole.

Remember also they adjusted their teams specifically to play the Hawks. You’ve been studied more than probably any other team.

Even I know how to beat you and I’m not a professional coach or player.

As a Blackhawks fan I still love you guys, thank you for a great regular season I was highly entertained. I have faith the necessary adjustments will be made and next year at this time the story will be entirely different.

In the meantime the next few months should be telling as to the future direction of this team.

I’m only writing this because I know you guys have more Cups in you. Enjoy Summer and GO HAWKS!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NHL – foregoing the Olympics maybe a good thing for hockey


Chicago, IL — I’ve said for years the NHL is the NHL’s own worse enemy and in this past week they made the announcement that NHL players would not participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Now anyone that follows this blog knows I was a big proponent for the NHL to go for a lot of reasons.

I think they are doing a huge disservice to their fans and players.

I only hope this does not come back to bite them in contract negotiations in 2020 with the NHLPA but one has to think that it will but I’m praying I am wrong.

I still believe the NHL has just missed out on a huge opportunity to market their sport internationally to new fans. I still do not understand how you can pass this up with the majority of the planet watching.

Yes it is inconvenient that your sport has to stop for 2-3 weeks but for this time hockey and the NHL would have a captive audience which now they can not say will be the case as some of us will be watching the Olympics.

But so be it NHL you have made your rink now go skate on it.

I being a positive person look to the big picture and just maybe this will be the best thing for hockey on a global scale.

There is no question the Olympic hockey will not be as good without the NHL players, but that is not to say it won’t be as emotional and compelling to watch or even more so.

On a macro level by the NHL not participating maybe it will give the world and particularly North America a spotlight on some overlooked hockey like the AHL, NCAA, CHL, Women’s hockey, European leagues and yes even the KHL.

Coincidentally this week the NCAA Frozen Four championship was held in Chicago at the United Center and by the way Congratulations to the Denver Pioneers for capturing the NCAA title and the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs for making it to the finals.

Watching these young men compete and their skill gives me hope for USA hockey and I have no doubt that if the USA is represented by these young men we will be repped very well.

As I have said hockey in the USA at a grass-roots level has never been better.

Would they be at a huge disadvantage if they were to play a Russian National team comprised of professional KHL players yes but the USA has been there before.

It could also be debated that what actually helped hockey’s popularity in the US was not due to the NHL but in fact due to some American college kids who knew nothing but to listen to their coach and just give until they dropped and were fearless.

It’s arguable but there probably is no more compelling hockey story than the 1980 Miracle on Ice team USA and no team may have advanced the sport of hockey as much as that team in the USA.

It’s also notable this weekend was the start of the KHL’s Gagarin Cup Final. I happened to catch game 1 with St. Petersburg SKA representing the west versus east Metallurg Magnitogorsk based in Magnitogorsk, Chelyabinsk Oblast, Russia.

Game one saw SKA take it 5-4 and let me say I was highly entertained watching this game.

The game saw two players ejected one for Metallurg-  Oskar Osala and one for SKA, a very familiar name to NHL fans the SKA captain Ilya Kovalchuk. The game saw Evgenii Dadonov score two markers for SKA that led the charge for SKA to victory.

Perhaps though as an American sports fan the most riveting event was the IIHF Women’s World Championship that took place Saturday night in Plymouth, MI that saw team USA defeat their bitter rival Team Canada.

The women first had to fight USA hockey for equitable terms and almost boycotted the event, but luckily an agreement was met and the women then had to put politics behind them and put hockey to the forefront and go win a championship.

I’ve got to say the women did the USA proud not only on the ice but maybe more importantly off the ice for the future of not only women’s hockey but the game as a whole.

Women’s sporting events do not get much coverage on major networks. I remember really the only women’s sporting events you saw in the US were women’s tennis and golf.

Now I am not a golf person but tennis I do like. I can always remember it being said of the women’s game that the “ladies” played a nice game of tennis but it was not comparable to the men’s.

Hello have you watched Billi Jean King or Chris Evert or Martina Navratilova play and today the Williams sisters.

Anyone who thinks these athletes are not every bit as competitive as their male counterparts you have not been paying attention.

You think Serena doesn’t have killer instinct to battle her sister one on one? Please spare me she may have more than any sports male athletes.

The same holds true for women’s hockey these are competitive athletes that hate to lose no matter who the opponent is.

I for one can’t wait to see the USA vs Canada again for a rematch it should be epic.

The IIHF championship was full of pace skill and it was only fitting it went to OT. You may never have heard the names Hillary Knight, Amanda Kessel, Kacey Bellamy, Meghan Duggan or Nicole Hensley but maybe you will soon.

I guarantee if you watch these athletes you’ll be better for it.

I want to thank the NHL Network for airing these games in the US even though it was TSN Canadian coverage you have to start somewhere. I think you need more programming to include the women’s games people are interested and if hockey is truly for everyone then show the women’s games too.

As a side note why is there not a professional women’s hockey team in Chicago? I think we need one.

So to grow the game of hockey you don’t need the NHL maybe it will be better served and more relatable to everyone if the NHL is not involved at the Olympics.

It would be ironic if it was the CHL, NCAA that reached the youth in North America or the Women Professional hockey players that reached little girls everywhere to play hockey and maybe it will be the European leagues and the KHL that advances hockey worldwide.

It’s just a shame that the NHL players won’t be a part of something that is happening that could be great for their sport but putting the light on these other lesser known athletes may just be what the world and hockey needs.

Most professional male sports leagues are driven by money as they are businesses but that is not inspiring.

It seems the owners and the league simply can’t put aside their businessmen hats and just be fans or love the game on its own terms.

It could be a good thing because maybe just maybe, the Olympics should remain pure and done simply for the love of the games not with any agendas except to win for one’s country.

As a hockey fan and writer I can find a story in almost anything.

The absence of the NHL players who we are already familiar with will give the world stories on extraordinary athletes and people we might never get the chance to know but now thanks to the NHL not going we will.

Hockey is too great a game to be kept back or held down even by the NHL.  So whoever is donning that team USA jersey for both the men and the women this hockey fan will be all in cheering GO USA!

 

 

 

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Chicago Blackhawks – Know nothing


Chicago, IL — Last week I posted a blog how spectacular that week was for the Hawks so this week while meh and trends that could be concerning was still good all things considered.

The Hawks picked up 5 points out of a possible 8 all coming from the friendly comforts of the United Center.

The last game in Florida was about as horrendous a game as I’ve seen the Hawks play in a long while and possibly the most important out of all the games .

The Blackhawks have been treading some bad waters and were getting away with it until last night when things caught up to them. They were in a bad habit of not playing or being in games until desperation set in the end,

The dangerous thing was they still were able to pull out points but that is not how you want to win or get in the habit of thinking you can win like that all the time.

So while the last 10 – 15 minutes of the games against the Avs, Stars and Canucks were thrilling it is good that they lost in such an embarrassing fashion to the Panthers because this way of playing had to stop before the playoffs.

I’m a big television series fan and while this last week has made the Hawks look like they were in their own versions of the Walking Dead it is another series I look to for them going forward.

As I have said before on this blog I am a huge Game of Thrones fan for several reasons. Spoiler alert****

It’s unconventional in its storytelling as heroes get killed, honorable men are not safer than dishonorable ones and in fact maybe more at risk of death.

Women for their time are way ahead of themselves and are as strong, vital and as flawed/corrupt as their male counterparts.

Perhaps though what intrigues me the most is of course Jon Snow’s storyline. While it is the typical hero story arc the character development and surrounding cast are complex and profound.

The bastard to the world, the outsider with no lands, titles or inheritance, who unbeknownst to him and this same world, is the true King of the realm by birth rights.

There is a common saying people say time and again to Jon Snow “you know nothing” and this could be referencing his lack of understanding of his heritage it could also mean he is wise enough to know he needs to learn more about a lot of things.

What makes this fascinating is again the premise that it’s not who we think we are  or where we come from or our heritage that defines us. It is our actions in the here and now that determines who we are and what we will become in the future and our legacy to the world.

Jon Snow manages against everything to still become King of the North as a bastard because of his actions and earning his way to being a good leader, not who his parents were. Would Jon Snow be Jon Snow if he knew of his heritage?

Of course not. He would be an entirely different person with different experiences or he might already be dead killed by his enemies if they only knew who he really was.

What am I getting at? Well the Blackhawks must forget their heritage and pedigree of former Stanley Cup Champions and go into the playoffs with hunger, energy and the desire to go the distance as if this were the first time.

You have to work for what you want and it will not be easy as there are no short cuts. No one will give you anything.

They must forget who they are and what they accomplished in the past because that is where it is – in the past. The here and now must be their focus and the tasks at hand they need to do to obtain their goal.

Respect your opponents because they certainly respect you enough to want to knock your heads off. The targets are still on your back remember that. Every team looks at you as the gold standard in the modern era.

Know that you are not perfect and in these last games use it as an opportunity to work on faceoffs, special teams, establishing net front presence working on shot selection and please for the love of God do not keep hanging your goalies out to dry.

Play better defense as a team and work on your defensive positioning without the puck as well as puck management. Remember core the youth on this team is looking to you for leadership.

Listen to the coaches. Coach Q said I believe it was after the Avs game that you could not play like this and keep getting away with it. Whether its complacency or fatigue or lack of practice no one is sure but get it together and focus there is only seven games left. Close it out strong.

Learn from the Wild, Sharks ect and your own selves with the mistakes that are being made.

We all know the refs have been getting a lot of calls wrong lately in all the games and know this there will be wrong calls made in the playoffs too. Move on and don’t get frustrated. You want to get the refs back score a goal – channel the frustrations.

So forget who you are and what you accomplished in the past those days are gone however, there is an opportunity to further cement your legacy.  Play hard, clean and remember what a very wise man said a long long time ago:

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”  – – Socrates

But what do I know. I know I know nothing. GO HAWKS!

 

 

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Chicago Blackhawks – Sweep Canada & put hold on Central


Chicago, IL — What a week for the Chicago Blackhawks. They started the week one point behind the Central Division leading Minnesota Wild.

The Hawks then hit the road to Canada to face the three current playoff bound teams in the Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators & the Toronto Maple Leafs.

By the end of this Canadian excursion they find themselves not only picking up 6 valuable points out of 6 but they are now five points ahead of the Wild and sitting in first in the Central. Now that is a successful road trip.

Minnesota during that time picked up no points so the Hawks now find themselves in what I thought was a possible position.

I have to admit, I really didn’t think they would catch the Wild or the Central this soon especially given that Anisimov, Hossa, Crawford & Darling have been in and out of the line up with injuries.

There is only 11 or 12 games left for the Hawks and Wild so time is running out. I still contend it is not imperative the Hawks win the Central but it would still be nice to have home ice throughout the playoffs facing the West.

There is an outside chance now they are only 3 points behind NHL leader the Washington Capitals to catch them based on the strength of opponents each team faces. The Hawks have the far easier schedule on paper.

The Hawks also face Pittsburgh and Columbus who stand in between so they can dictate a lot yet even in the East of how the teams finish in that conference.

Again the Penguins and the Blue Jackets face in theory a tougher schedule than the Blackhawks. If they get that they would secure home ice throughout the playoffs regardless of opponent.

Then again we all know the President Trophy winners don’t usually fair well in the playoffs. Who was the last President Trophy winner to win a Stanley Cup?  Oh yeah it was the Chicago Blackhawks scratch that notion.

The Hawks have now put themselves comfortably in the game tonight against the Colorado Avalanche with the opportunity to clinch a playoff berth and we all know that is their ultimate goal.

I believe they just need to win in any fashion (regulation, OT, SO),  to get in or a couple of other scenarios if the Flames win over the Kings.

Good on the Hawks you always seem to amaze and impress me. Nothing is out of their reach now.

What is really impressive is how the Hawks have gained ground and swept Canada. It was with eight different goal scorers and some of them are in their first NHL year coupled with outstanding defensive structure and goaltending.

The Hawks who scored goals in those three Canadian games – Kane, Oduya, Panarin, Toews, Keith, Panik, Hayden & Hartman. Now that is a balanced attack. If they can sustain this it will make them very hard to match up against.

Plus you have to keep in mind this is without Anisimov in the last two games and without Hossa in the last game.

Nick Schmaltz is growing up before our eyes as has Ryan Hartman and Richard Panik. I loved seeing the tears of the Maple Leafs fans bemoaning losing Panik. I was amused.

Now we can add John Hayden to the list as well. The guy just got here two games ago and I already see a huge step from game one to game two.

Even Mike Babcock said after the OT win over the Maple Leafs yesterday that he was surprised how good “some of their kids are.” He said he saw some of them in Juniors but didn’t think they would be this good.

So young rookies just keep doing what you do and listen to your coaches and just shine.

Coaches I’ve got to say Coach Quenneville, Kitchen, Dineen you guys have been really exceptional this year bringing these young guys along into the fold and just putting them in positions to their strengths and to succeed.

In the Ottawa game Hayden was eased into the NHL game with limited minutes and he still had 5 hits. A couple of games ago Schmaltz made a defensive error that cost a goal so he sat to contemplate his error.

Yet the coaches put him in at the end of the game to give the kid confidence now that is coaching. I bet Schmaltz won’t make that error ever again and it’s ok to make errors as long as you learn from them.

The best example was probably the last game against the Leafs. My Lord John Hayden has stepped in like he has played with Toews and Panik his whole life not just two games.

I know the kid is smart graduating from Yale but still give him credit and the entire leadership of the team both players and coaches because there is a learning curve yet you really don’t see that curve they fit in so well right away.

Also who would’ve put Hartman and Panarin out together in OT? They rarely if ever play together yet they get the GWG in OT together. Now that is blending & putting in some Tabasco to boot. Well done.

I really think the coaches should at least be up there and possibly win the Jack Adams. This year more than any in recent history the coaching has brought these kids along and developed them quickly.

I also give huge props to the leadership on this team. Post game Hayden said he’s learned more in two games just being around these guys and a winning culture, I’m paraphrasing here.

Ryan Hartman you are a Chicago treasure to be sure. Just keep being you. He represents what Chicago is so well.

The other thing individually is Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin are closing in on their individual goals.

Kane I believe at the time of this post is just two points out of the scoring lead and has a chance to go back to back years with the title which that has not been done in a long time and I’m not sure possibly never by an American.

Artemi Panarin I believe is one point off of getting his schedule B bonus and something tells me both Kane and Panarin are not going to be this close and not close the deals. Keep it rolling boys.

I would also like to, insert emoji of girl/boy with hands raised to the sky Person Gesturing OK: Light Skin Tone on Apple iOS 10.2       Man Gesturing OK: Medium-Light Skin Tone on Apple iOS 10.2, Johnny Oduya is back with the Hawks!

Before the trade deadline that was the one thing I said I would be ecstatic over if the Hawks got Oduya back. Stan you never cease to make me happy thank you.

I am so glad he is back with this team and already we see the improvement. The Hawks defense was good before now it is excellent with Oduya back. Welcome home Johnny O.

Are the Hawks perfect? No they still need to work on face-offs, special teams and shots against are a little too high. Clean these items up and keep working on them and get healthy.

Close out the last eleven games strong and Spring is coming!

 

 

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Chicago Blackhawks – Closing in on the Central title and getting a new face


Chicago, IL — We are definitely in the home stretch now so every point is huge but to get points against your divisional foe that you are chasing and coming out victorious can only be described is sweeeeetttttt.

My last blog was about chasing down the Wild for the division title and I said if the Hawks wanted a chance at the division they needed to beat the Wild in their remaining games in regulation. At that time there was two games left and mission accomplished.

The Hawks are still a force to be dealt with. What is really amazing is this last game was probably not the Hawks best game overall as a team but they still won against a very good opponent.

Corey Crawford is starting to look like the pre-appendix Crawford and that should make Hawks fans happy.

Not five minutes into the game and Devon Dubnyk got pulled due to a quick strike by the second line. First Kane struck from a great Oduya to Panarin to Kane pass in the slot that got past Dubnyk.

Not sure why they pulled Dubnyk and how it effects the team going forward as you could see he was not happy being pulled. I can’t say as I blame him. Now it may have been to shake up the entire team which it did temporarily but you have to wonder in the third period if they shouldn’t have had their best goalie in.

In post game presser Bruce Boudreau said Dubnyk was pulled based on his play not the teams play alrighty then this will be a situation to watch. All I know is Scott Darling now lead the league in save % ahead of Dubnyk.

Then Kane returned the favor to the Breadman with a perfect pass to the Breadman in the slot where he did a beauty of a one timer. Not that Panarin needs my feedback but lil muffin start firing up those biscuits from all over the ice it will make you less predictable.

This duo and that line is so much fun to watch. Boys you are a thrill to be sure.

I also love how Patrick Kane who admittedly did not have good puck management in the Detroit Red Wings game came out and you could tell he wanted to make a difference and he did. You know what that is right?

Leadership and Ownership. Good on you Kaner that is why he is a 3X Stanley Cup Champion.

As a team the Hawks just need to watch your puck management in the neutral zones and definetly in your end and play 60 minutes and you’ll keep racking up points.

During the game the Hawks on the ice weren’t the only ones working early Sunday, Stan Bowman signed Yale graduate John Hayden to a two year ELC. One year of which will be burned if he plays with the Hawks this year.

It sounds like he will be coming straight to the Hawks. Now I have seen Hayden personally in prospect camps and the kid is big, powerful and skilled. He has some really good hands for a big guy.

In any event the Hawks just got what could be a young power forward for the wing and they are starting to look loaded both up front and on the back end.

Will the Hawks win the division? Who knows but I really like their chances and again it won’t be a disaster if they don’t.

The Hawks still have not seen a complete Wild team as Hanzel was out not sure why and again the Hawks basically faced their back-up goalie so if these two teams do meet in the playoffs the Hawks need to keep that in the memory banks.

Also in the Wilds post game presser you could tell Boudreau was visibly frustrated and not pleased. Don’t feel bad Coach a lot of teams, coaches and fans feel that way after playing the Chicago Blackhawks.

I always crack up on twitter how many profanities are slung at the Hawks like that would slow them down. I find it all amusing HA.

Right now the Hawks are going on a game every other day pace and a lot on the road which is a great tune up before the playoffs. Just keep grinding boys, stay healthy and have fun.

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Chicago Blackhawks – Wild Hunting


Chicago, IL — As the weather is spring like in February in Chicago it reminds us all of what is undoubtedly our favorite time of year and what’s ahead –  the sprint to the NHL playoffs.

The Chicago Blackhawks are pretty much secured barring a major meltdown they will be seeing a second season come April which again is a testament to this organization and coaching and players.

The Hawks were playing some really good hockey before heading into their bye week. They were playing 60 minutes and solid positional defense and racking up 4 + goals a game with the San Jose exception.

Play like that and you win which they did 5 out of 6 times including one against the Wild.

Coming out of the bye there was a a blip where they ran into a hot goalie and maybe their decisions of shot selection and over passing may have been due to a little rust but other than that they have come out of the bye looking good. The big test will be on Tuesday in Minnesota.

Their goal we all know what that is for the post season but for the regular season it will be trying to catch the Minnesota Wild for division lead and working on some things in their own game.

Currently the Hawks sit 7 points back with Minnesota having a game in hand but the Hawks may hold their own destiny and that of the Wilds in their hands with two games left against them. Win both those games in regulation and you’ve cut the points down to 3 and who knows what can happen.

Will it be a disaster if the Hawks finish second no, but it would mean starting the playoffs probably against a team outside the Central if they win the division.

At the moment it would be Calgary but it could be a number of teams like the Kings, Canucks & possibly the Jets.

Staying second the Hawks probably will have revisit of last years first round against the Blues. So pick your poison and is it realistic to think the Hawks can even catch the Wild?

The answer Yes for several reasons.

The Wild have yet to have their bye and if they suffer the same fate as other teams coming out of the bye there is almost a loss or two certain to happen.

Now there are no guarantees but the Wild also come out of their bye with a back to back against the LA Kings and the Winnipeg Jets.

While the Wild have split against the Kings and seem to have the Jets number you have to remember both the Kings and Jets are now fighting to even make the playoffs so their battle levels should be at playoff levels. This will be interesting to see how this first back to back after the bye pans out.

The Wild have 24 games left with 10 of those against playoff bound teams.

They will face Chicago, San Jose & Washington twice each that’s a tall order to win all those games. They will also face Columbus, St. Louis, Ottawa and the Rangers once from now til the end of the year.

The Hawks also play 10 playoff bound teams Minnesota, Pittsburgh & Anaheim twice each with Montreal, Ottawa, St. Louis & Columbus once.

So we see the biggest impact is that the Hawks face the Wild twice so their destiny is within their control.

You also have to think that both teams will be very prepared for these games and yes it is even one is in Chicago and the other in MN

Additionally, if both teams split these series against good opponents then the difference could be in how Chicago plays the Wild.

If they split this series they probably will not catch the Wild they need to win both games in regulation to have a shot at the division.

The other advantage the Hawks could have is that the Wild have five remaining back to backs whereas Chicago only has three. That is big when you talk compressed schedules.

The only road back to back the Wild have though is versus Florida teams. The others are as I said earlier coming out of the bye which could be key LA/Jets and then they have Rangers/Jets, Vancouver/Detroit & Nashville/Colorado with one game at home and the other on the road.

This is where conditioning, experience and  focus come into play so this will be interesting to see heading down the stretch how they do.

Honestly the home/road games left for each team isn’t really a factor as both teams play evenly on the road as they do at home which actually bodes well for both in the playoffs.

So how are the Hawks going to beat the Wild twice when the current record against them is 1-1 with the win coming in OT thanks to some questionable goal call.

That is in the past now going forward what do we know about the Wild.

Well then they have balanced scoring through out their line-up more so than even the Hawks.

This makes them a threat regardless of who is on the ice to score and tough to defend but not impossible if positioning is done right and the offensive players think sound defense first.

The Wild are also hard to score on as they all collapse down in front of their goalie and make getting through the neutral zone very hard.

This means the Hawks may have to chip and retrieve which is not their strong suit. If they can get on the forecheck and get pucks back and keep the Wild pinned in their own end they are bound to make a mistake.

Getting shots through to the goalie is not easy so it will take a full team effort and taking shots from everywhere and especially if there is a shot inside the dots or high slot take the shot don’t pass.

I love Ryan Suter but he is getting older and slower attack him in numbers or speed and like any Dman he will make a mistake. Same can be said of Dumba, Spurgeon or any D men but know they will be trying to do this to your Dmen as well forwards so get back and help.

The Wild give up a lot of shots against but their goal differential is impressive meaning that their shots are from short ranges as they crash the net somehow you have to box out or block shots with bodies or sticks.

The Wild are very similar to the Hawks they are not a physical team but they will beat you with their speed, solid defense and goaltending.

The Wild next year will face the same cap problems the Blackhawks have in the past, so you have to think they are truly going all in this year with everything they have.

Given too their new coach’s playoff record well I don’t need to tell you his motivations.

At this point it is unknown who the Hawks or the Wild will be getting at the trade deadline.

Personally I would be ecstatic if the Hawks were to pick up Johnny Oduya again.

That in my opinion would really cement the defense for the playoffs. He is familiar with the Hawks system and worked well with Hjalmarsson before. You can never have enough D.

I’d like to see the Hawks shore up both sides of their special teams and work on forechecking, backchecking and shot selections just tie these areas up and keep playing 60 minutes.

I now understand Coach Q’s “play with a purpose” statement. Every time you are on the ice have a plan and execute it as best as you can.

The Wild are too good to just be skating around without a purpose and let them roam free. Tie them up and make their skating shifts miserable for them.

So to hunt the Wild be mindful defensively at all times, be direct in offense take shots any where and every where and try and get to the net or put shots in places where rebounds can be gotten by team mates.

The last couple time they played the Hawks they were all over Patrick Kane so other lines may need to take the charge which goes with Coach Q’s rolling of 4 lines.

Do those things and believe me no one will want to face the Chicago Blackhawks in the playoffs.

 

 

 

 

 

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2017 IIHF World Juniors -NHL’s future and International Hockey


Chicago, IL — I am still recovering and digesting all of what I saw in what can only be called a spectacular 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Congratulations Team USA you played some extraordinary hockey and it was a thrill watching you.

A lot of people were concerned about USA hockey after the NHL World Cup. I was not one of those people.

Yes I did and still think that team USA for the World Cup was not constructed right but I had no doubts about the grass-roots levels of USA Hockey and that proved to be true.

I have to admit though when Alex Debrincat and Logan Brown were not selected for Team USA I was a bit skeptical again about the construction of this team following the fiasco at the World Cup.

Could Debrincat and Brown have helped Team USA? We will never know but what we do know is team chemistry is everything and we do know this Team USA was constructed well enough to win.

The one thing about USA Hockey I never worry about is the goaltending or defensive structure. It seems no matter who dons that mask for USA be it John Gibson or Tyler Parsons that net is rock solid.

To all the players I have no doubts no matter what NHL teams you play for you will be fun to watch going forward. Being a Chicago Blackhawks fan I’ve got my eyes on you Minnesota Wild.

The Minnesota Wild are getting the top scorer in this tourney Russian Forward Kirill Kaprizov who was just dynamic and a threat every time he was on the ice. He was selected by the Wild in the 5th round in 2015 yes 5th round. So you see there are hidden gems everywhere.

In addition to Kaprizov the Wild are getting Sweden’s forward Joel Erisson EK who had a good tourney himself and from the USA Captain Luke Kunin and Jordan Greenway who could don a Wild jersey now as physically he is fully developed.

The Wild’s future is extremely bright and has got me as a Hawks fan a bit concerned but that said, the Chicago Blackhawks have some gems of their own coming up.

It will be fun to watch this rivalry going forward. Minnesota, you maybe getting players to push you over the hump. Stay tuned.

For all those that do not watch the World Juniors why not?  These players regardless of country are the future of the NHL playing on one of the highest international stages.

Saying that I am very optimistic about the state of International affairs of hockey.

We all knew Teams USA, Canada, Russia and Sweden would be forces to contend with and be Gold medal candidates. What we didn’t know was how other lesser thought of hockey countries have advanced in their programs as well.

Teams Denmark, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Latvia & Slovakia you were a surprise and a thrill as well. Denmark and Czech Republic ended up second and third placing is group B just behind Sweden.

I’m not sure anyone saw that coming with Finland in that group but it just goes to show why you should watch these events as the world is getting smaller and closer together in talent and that is a great thing for the game of hockey.

This year the NHL draft will be in my great city of Chicago and I can’t wait to see some of the players from these teams get drafted. There are a ton on these teams that scouts may want to take a second look at.

Teams Czech Republic, Denmark, Latvia, Slovakia, Switzerland has a ton of undrafted players available and yes even Team Russia has undrafted prospects.

The question has always been could players from those countries that play on big ice translate to the NHL.  Well now those players are playing either in the CHL or in USA college programs NCAA so that is no longer a big concern.

One name that won’t be missed and will go early is Swiss’ Nico Hischier currently playing with the Halifax Mooseheads. That kid is a dynamic stud.

For you Blackhawks fans you might want to keep an eye open for Mathias From of Denmark which the Chicago Blackhawks already drafted. This kid has the potential to become a power forward and I can’t wait to see his development.

Also Alexandre Polunin from Russia reminded me of a junior Artemi Panarin not as dynamic or polished but the skill and will is there for development if he wants to come to North America.

Alexander True who was the captain of team Denmark is another one who is waiting in the bushes for someone. Renars Krastenbergs of Latvia and the list goes on and on. Personally I can’t wait til the 2017 NHL draft.

Also I would like to say thanks to the NHL Network for showing the majority of the games and not just Team USA and Team Canada as every NHL team has prospects from all countries I think it is good to show all the games.

My only suggestions for improving this would be you got to stream games because of time differences and not everyone is by a television. Remember this is watched worldwide or at least you want it to be and honestly you could do more analysis of all of the countries and the NHL’s prospects.

I’d like to see instead of rerunning on The Fly a million times you need more comprehensive programming not just about the NHL but about the prospects of the NHL teams and even the undrafted players to watch, other leagues where prospects are playing,KHL,AHL, CHL, NCAA Etc.

Also why not show Women’s hockey? There are a lot of women’s hockey fans I’d tune in.

The NHL is getting younger and lets not forget your league is the only one of the majors that has a diversity of countries that players come from. I could go on and on about this.

As we saw in both the World Cup with teams Europe and North America and in the IIHF World Juniors with the surprise of Denmark, Swiss and others the hockey world is getting smaller and the entire world is now watching and the interest is there and can grow if nurtured properly.

The World Juniors is only one of these international events viewed by global hockey fans. I can’t think of another one coming up except the 2018 World Juniors.

Oh yeah there is that small event being hosted by South Korea in 2018 that only the entire planet will be watching.

Yes I have an agenda that is to see the NHL players go to the Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. Why?

Because as a hockey fan I want to see the best players each country has competing in the game I love on a worldwide stage at the highest level.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said during an interview at the Winter Classic he thought it was a tough sell to the owners and board of governers to shut down the NHL hence making no money for three weeks and he needed a silver bullet to push an approval through.

Well Mr. Bettman I have no silver bullet other than what will the owners do if players decide to go anyway?

Is Pittsburgh or Chicago going to say no to Sidney Crosby or Evegni Malkin or Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane? Alex Olvechkin already stated he is going regardless and can you blame or deny him playing for Russia?

How can you tell players to not play for their countries? I remember when T. J. Oshie kept going in the shoot out with Team USA against Russia at The Sochi Olympics.

I remember seeing all of the USA military stationed abroad watching and cheering? They got a brief welcomed reprieve from the stresses of their duties.

Now perhaps it will be Troy Terry or Oshie again but can you really say no?

Yes you will lose money for three weeks the players are gone and no other professional sports leagues have to endure this, but in the larger picture you maybe gaining so much more.

As the fourth pro sports league in the United States you need to take chances & try harder.

Hockey really does not have a very big foot print in Asia like they do in Europe and North America nor does any other North American professional sports leagues. Now is the perfect time to take that step.

I’m not an idiot and realize financial impacts are a huge consideration but if that can be worked out then NHL the world is your stage. It’s just up to you to take ahold of it and introduce the world to the greatest game and team athletes on the planet.

So Thanks for a great IIHF World Juniors all countries teams and Team USA you made us proud.

NHL I’ll leave you with the following words from a great man who sums up if you should go to the Olympics in South Korea.

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Winston S. Churchill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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