Chicago Blackhawks – Counterpunching with Ducks


Chicago, IL — Finally tomorrow the Chicago Blackhawks will take the ice in Anaheim in the Western Conference Final in what seems forever to begin. The much awaiting and anticipated meeting could go down as being one for the ages with two teams of contrasting styles and characteristics.

The Anaheim Ducks are what I would term a counterpuncher or a rope a dope type of team. For those that don’t know what rope a dope is it is usually referred to in boxing terms.

It is when a boxer takes his opponents hits to let him wear himself out and then when his opponent is tired you deliver blows but they are so exhausted they can not muster the strength to fit back.

The Anaheim Ducks do not necessarily come out in the first two periods giving their best in fact it is the third period where the Ducks have poured it on. Just ask the Winnipeg Jets. Just when you think you have them that is when they fight.

They lead the playoffs in third period goals with 16 which is more than half of what the Hawks have in the third period which is 7. The Hawks start fast but tend to have problems closing and the Ducks are the opposite.

In that regards the Ducks are similar to the Kings, no matter how many goal leads you have they always seem to find a way to come back. Maybe there is something in the Santa Ana winds that make these teams play this style or they are used to playing each other.

So how does one deal with a counterpunching type of style?

Well there are a couple of different ways to offset or negate this. One would be typically counterpunchers don’t like constant pressure and that is one way to overcome them. Just keep attacking and scoring goals.

This accomplishes a couple of things 1) it keeps the puck out of your end of the ice and 2) if you get them running around in their own end they will tire out.

This will require the Hawks to get into the series from the start. The one thing they have had trouble with the past couple of playoff years is slow starts in series i.e. Detroit and Los Angeles. One they dug themselves into such a hole they did not get out of.

The Hawks need to take a game in Anaheim or as the captain says maybe two if they can go that they will win this series. It will put all the pressure on Anaheim on their home ice.

Keeping constant pressure on will require maintaining control of the puck which, the Hawks are good at but the Ducks are slightly better at faceoffs. This is the series the Hawks centers need to take control and dictate the dots as much as possible. If they win this battle they will control the pace of the game.

The other way to defeat a counterpuncher is to be counterpunching yourself. In other words let them believe you are throwing everything at them when in actuality you are conserving your best for the end.

Vary the rhythm and pace of games and occasionally throw them junk meaning lob, loft puck into their zone and see how they bounce, it will get them skating. Use odd bounces off the boards in their zone to get them skating and running around. This is key make them skate around, they will get tired. Now the Hawks need to manage this depending on the score of the games.

The Ducks will try to physically wear the Hawks out because of their size so have your heads on swivels and make sure to move the puck out of your own end quickly as this team loves to forecheck and bang you along the boards.

The top two lines may in fact negate each other so the bottom six of Chicago has to be better than Anaheim in all phases of the game. This could be the series that Vermette, Desjardins and Shaw are key in.

All the forwards may also need to backcheck more in this series to help the defense out but positioning is key as this team loves to get big bodies to the slot area and from the point with their work from behind your net.

The Hawks have been giving up a lot of shots against try to get these down with plugging up lanes and blocks this will be interesting to monitor as the games get played out. Also giveaways need to be as non-existent as possible.

The good thing the Hawks already had to exercise patience when they played the Wild. They may need more patience in playing the Ducks and remember just because your up two or three goals it means nothing until the final whistle blows.

Here is to a series that KO’s all hockey fans and GO HAWKS!

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Chicago Blackhawks – Found themselves in Minnesota and now head to WCF


Chicago, IL — Recapping the series against the Minnesota Wild, who were the hottest team coming into the playoffs, is also the series that you could say the Chicago Blackhawks also found themselves and their game. For the first time in awhile the Hawks played hockey like the Hawks we know. They played like champions.

This is the series that saw the team step up defensively and Corey Crawford return to the form that we saw him at during most of the regular season. The entire team played at their Jennings Trophy form and the results were resounding with a sweep of a very talented good team in the Minnesota Wild.

The Blackhawks found themselves at just the right time and now for the 5th time in 7 years have punched their ticket to the Western Conference Finals. If there was any doubt if the Hawks lost their killer instincts or focus on closing that was dispelled in resounding fashion in the final two games in Minnesota where the Hawks really put a stranglehold on the Wild. The Wild never led the entire series, now that is total domination by one team over another.

What was brilliant on the Hawks part was to place doubt in the oppositions mind right off the start and never let up and show any weakness. Even when the Wild tied the Hawks they quickly re-established who was in charge and control and that probably broke the Wild in the end.

How frustrating it must be to see Patrick Kane, who by the way, is not fully back to himself turn back into the Patrick Kane we are all used to. He had 2 GWG in the series in games 2 and 3. He had 5 goals and 1 assist in the Minnesota series. If that is not him at 100% it is really scary for whoever they have next.

But it wasn’t just Kane. Teuvo Teravainen tapped a bit of what he can become in this league. The kid makes plays on both sides of the puck and always is defensively sound. He only has 1G & 1A in the series but I think it is arguable that it was the Teravainen goal that turned the series for a couple of reasons.

One it established that coming back on the Hawks will not rattle them and they will keep coming at you and 2. Since it was such an ugly goal it showed that Devan Dubnyk was not the same as he was coming into the series and he was vulnerable as was the team.

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Antoine Vermette it is no secret has struggled since the Hawks acquired him but there is more to Vermette than scoring, in fact he is dominating at the dot with 64% FOW %.The Hawks will need this to continue if the Hawks face the Anaheim Ducks. Vermette also is contributing on the defensive side as well with 6 blocked shots.

Speaking of the defensive side of the puck for forwards it is no surprise Marian “beast” Hossa is leading the forwards with 12 take aways but what is a little surprising is who is next Patrick Kane.

Jonathan Toews line was constantly drawing the attention of the Wild which was probably a good thing as it freed up the other lines for some offense. Toews again was 50% on FOW and shouldered most of the dot work.

Patrick Sharp also had a hell of a series with 1G & 3A and Duncan Keith Offensively had 3A and all the time on ice that he logged in the series was more than impressive. Andrew Shaw also has stepped up at the face off circle with a 53.2% FOW which again will be needed in the next round. He also contributed in this series with 1G & 2A. A shout out also to Andrew Desjardins who has really been stellar since the Hawks picked him up at the trade deadline for steady, straight ahead play.

While the Hawks are not known for hitting Bryan Bickell led the way with 64 hits followed by Rozy with 23 and he will be missed here for sure but it was Shaw and Vermette yes not the biggest guys next with 20 hits apiece. So it does take an entire team to win a series.

The defenseman led the way in blocked shots with Oduya, Hjalmarsson, Seabrook, Keith, Timonen leading the way.

Keith

If Teuvo Teravainen grew up in this series I would be remiss not to mention Marcus Kruger who was phenomenal as usual in his defensive dominance and checking and backchecking. Kruger had 7 blocked shots in the series and also managed a goal in the first game. The other forwards blocking shots in this series Bickell, Richards and Vermette with 6 apiece.

Corey Crawford stole game three which may have been another turning point in the series as it was the first game in Minnesota and a game that really one had to think the Wild played their best. They say it is not a series til you lose on your own ice and Crawford made sure with a shut-out that the straws that Teravainen’s goal but on the Wild’s back got broken with him denying them any goals on their own ice.

Craaaawwwwfordddddd – Note to opposing fan bases this just fires him up so, if smart you will not do goalie chants mockingly. Corey in this series let in just 7 goals on 131 shots on goal now that is rebounding in a big time way.

Crawford at ease

The Hawks now wait to see who their next opponent will be but does it really matter? When the Hawks play the way they are capable of and are lock scoped on the tasks at hand I’m not sure it really does matter. Will losing Rozsival hurt yes, but this team knows how to put the lock down on when it needs to defensively.

Next round will be a challenge for sure but going into the Western Conference Finals the Blackhawks are looking and playing the best they have as a team all of this year. They have time to rest up, study film and I’m sure the coaches are devising plans for line match-ups as the job is only half way done but in the first half the boys are looking good.

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Chicago Blackhawks – moving and shaking off the ice


Chicago, IL — I once wrote that Stan Bowman made as many fancy stickhandling moves as Patrick Kane only with a pen rather than a hockey stick. Lately this could not be truer with the cap situation being what it is.

Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane’s new contracts kicking in next year coupled with several players needing to be resigned has forced GM Stan Bowman and his team into some creative maneuvers to keep the Hawks a viable Stanley Cup competitive team.

The Blackhawks are not leaving any stone unturned. Credit should be given to Stan Bowman and his team of Mark Kelley – Director of amateur scouting and Ryan Stewart director Pro scouting and Matts Hallin European scouting and I’m sure there are tons more that I’m leaving off, my apologies, that have put in countless hours going from the smallest of towns no one has heard of to the farthest corners of the earth looking for untapped, unsigned hockey gems. It truly takes a village to mold a hockey team.

Hats also must be tipped to Barry Smith and his team, who are in charge of player development and the coaches in Rockford as well for taking raw talents and preparing them for the NHL and the Chicago Blackhawks systems and style of play.

It is no secret that next year some high paid salaries will need to be moved it is just a matter of economics. Bowman and his team are trying to make the transition as painless as possible while still building around a core that is still in it’s prime. It remains to be seen if this mission will be accomplished but you have to applaud the bold moves the Hawks are taking.

Stan Bowman made some signings this year with Patrick Kane’s injury that afforded him the rare luxury of extra cap money. Kimmo Timonen, Andrew Desjardins & Antoine Vermette were all brought on board whether or not they stay will remain to be seen but credit Bowman with attempting to put his team in the best possible position to make the playoffs.

Starting at home and looking to the college ranks the Hawks made several signings with RW Kyle Baun, C Tanner Kero and D Michael Paliotta. If you have not been able to catch these players’s games in school the scouting reports on them can be found on Hockey Futures or Elite Prospects.

Kyle Baun if you caught some of the last regular season Hawks games you got a glimpse of this kid and he fit right in and was not out of place. The book on him is he is a big kid that uses his size to his advantage and is very hard to knock off the puck. He also has good speed for his size and attended training camps with the Red Wings and Bruins. Hockey Futures has him ranked in the top 10 free agents and the Hawks were able to land him with a 2yr ELC. It was reported several clubs were interested in Baun like the Wings, Oilers, Jets and Flames and probably more. Credit Stan Bowman with landing this much sought after prospect.

Tanner Kero if you caught any of Michigan Tech’s games you saw a very skilled high hockey IQ forward. He finds open space and makes plays. Kero is also a solid two way player. The Blackhawks laid out their development plan for this prospect and apparently it was to his liking and was able to snatch the free agent. He was lighting it up offensively in the AHL with the Rockford IceHogs upon joining the team. You can catch Tanner with the Rockford IceHogs helping them in their playoff quest for the Calder Cup.

Michael Paliotta is a stay at home big defenseman that came from Vermont University that the Hawks recently signed. The Hawks drafted him in 2011 in the 3rd round. Paliotta played with the Blackhawks in the last regular season game and did not look out of place. Paliotta brings size and good skating speed for a big man coupled with being responsible defensively. Stan Bowman and his team needed to sign Pailiotta to avoid another Kevin Hayes situation and having him hit the free agency market. Good on Stan for getting the job done. All of these NCAA prospects were give 2 year entry level contracts.

Now from Europe the Blackhawks have signed on two very interesting players. The Hawks first signed Erkan Gustafsson who is a big Swedish defenseman coming from Frolunda in the SHL. The Edmonton Oilers held his rights, but became a FA when he didn’t sign with the Oilers. His scouting report says he has high offensive abilities particularly his shot from the point. He has a quick release and accurate shot. Hmm sounds like a point man on the power play to me.

Perhaps the biggest excitement of the past week, justifiably so, was had when twitter got word that Russian forward sensation Artemi Panarin LW signed with the Blackhawks as a Free Agent to a 2 year ELC. Panarin brings a dynamic offensive presence ala Patrick Kane. There were several teams wanting Panarin ‘s skills like the Penguins, Flames, Canadiens & Maple Leafs were all rumored to have had interest.

Panarin is an offensive virtuoso and you can tell from Stan Bowman’s speaking it is a huge coo that Panarin choose Chicago. Go to Chicago Blackhawks website to listen to Stan speaking about the recent signings. He will fit perfectly with all the skilled talent on this team. Bowman said that with Panarin having accomplished a lot in the KHL he was looking for new challenges and to take the logical next step to the NHL.

Selecting the Blackhawks is big for a team with cap limitations like the Blackhawks. The Hawks it is rumored gave an out clause, if Panarin does not make the Hawks, which if you You Tube him is highly unlikely, he could go back and play in the KHL. This clause probably sealed the deal. It actually is a very low risk for both sides and you have to click your pens to Bowman for coming up with creative solutions and being able to close deals for the Blackhawks.

If you want to catch a glimpse of Panarin tune in to the IIHF Worlds where he is playing for team Russia and you will see the adeptness of his hands and good shot and overall offensive talent.

I rarely am excited for next season when my team is going for a Stanley Cup. That being said this past week has me very excited for next year and all the moves the Hawks have made I can’t wait til prospects camp and training camp. We also should remember that there are boatloads of talent in Rockford that the Hawks have drafted like Danault, McNeill, Ross, Hartman, Johns ect… the list is endless which, should have Hawks fans excited.

The Chicago Blackhawks are exciting on the ice but the Hawks are becoming exciting off the ice as well with all their moves with free agents. When you have all the other fan bases cursing you, you are doing something right.

Good Luck to all of the recently signed and here is hoping we see you all at the United Center soon.

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Chicago Blackhawks – Close Predators out as stars deliver final blow


Chicago, IL – Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville always says “no one loves winning more than I do”, but I’m not so sure that the entire team is not comprised of individuals that share this same sentiment. Last night the Blackhawks had a second chance at putting away their competition and they did not miss the opportunity.

The “core” of this team stepped up as we have all seen them do in the past and maybe that is what separates this team from others and makes them special. It doesn’t matter if it’s Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Brent Seabrook, Nik Hjalmarsson or Patrick Sharp they all share a unique quality in that when moments are the most crucial they know how to respond and give their best.

We forget sometimes as fans, but this team is really an all star team. It is a team comprised of such unique talents that complement each other so well. This is a team of Olympic medalists, Stanley Cups winners and maybe most importantly team players.

Experience plays a big part as well. This team knows it doesn’t matter if your down 3-0 they still have the tools to get the job done and the know how to do it. In this first round series they reminded everyone again who the Chicago Blackhawks still are and the hockey talent this team still possess.

After the first game of the series which Duncan Keith won in overtime, Predators coach Peter Laviolette said “that’s a dangerous, dangerous team” and he is not wrong. I almost felt sorry for Laviolette when Patrick Kane scored the game tying goal. Laviolette looked like he just ate some bad tuna and was sick.

This is not the first time a Laviolette coached team’s dreams were squelched by Mr. Patrick Kane remember 2010. I wonder how many sleepless nights coach Laviolette has had because of Patrick Kane but I digress.

The problem is it’s not just Patrick Kane for coaches, but an entire team of players that are difference makers. Three of this series game winning goals came from defenseman Keith 2, Seabrook 1. The other big impact on this series in subtle but effective ways was Brandon Saad who scored the other gwg and also by legal contact knocked out Predators captain Shea Weber.

Duncan Keith was huge in this series not only for the game winning goals but the time on ice he logged and his being a threat every time he is on the ice forces other teams to cover him like you would a forward. On the goal to clinch the series he showed moves I have never seen him use and I have been watching the Hawks for a while. His instincts and savvy are top shelf to say the least. Seth Jones got schooled by a master.

There is also no question that Brent Seabrook’s marathon game winning goal probably turned the tide of the entire series had the Hawks lost that game not only would they have been tied but it has to take something out of you to lose a game like that. We all know how clutch Seabrook is, talk about stepping up in big moments this guy could give tutorials when he is done with his playing career on facing up to challenges.

Jonathan Toews there simply isn’t any words for other than this guy just does not accept defeat and leads the way in so many little ways. At the end of the series the best indicator of Toews being a leader was when he put his arms around both Crawford and Darling equally.

The other thing to come out of this series was the camaraderie between the team and their goalies and between the goalies themselves. This could teach us all about being a team player and taking one for the team. Both of the goalies while disappointed I’m sure never let ego get in their ways. That I believe they call character.

Neither Corey Crawford nor Scott Darling can really be blamed by the play of the team in front of them and the Blackhawks know this but maybe it was good it happened when it did as the team knows it has two outstanding net minders if it needs it. I don’t believe there has ever been a playoff series with two different starting net minders other than injury. Leave it to the Blackhawks to continue to break new ground.

Is the team perfect? No they are human and they have a lot to clean up before the next round regarding overall team defense and giving up too many turnovers in their own end. I mean Chicago is known for its pizzas but please let’s not serve up any on the ice. Also there is too many shots against given, which is leaving all the goalies out to dry. That really needs to be cleaned up but the Hawks know all this.

Listen they got through the first round not playing their best, they have time now to rest, work on cleaning things up, oh yeah, special teams could use a jolt too, but every series will be different and maybe what will win games will need to be different. This series it was well timed offense by your stars, maybe next series it will be special teams or defense or secondary scoring.

Whatever it takes for the Hawks to win is all that matters, but I suspect everyone in the Blackhawks locker room including the coaches would be the first to tell you that.

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Chicago Blackhawks – Becoming the Dragon


Chicago, IL — In Asian cultures dragons are mystical creatures that symbolize powers over waters like rainfalls, flood etcetera. They are a symbol of power, strength and good fortune. It is not uncommon to hear “may your child become a dragon.” meaning may they become exceptional.

It is that time of year that the Chicago Blackhawks need to turn into dragons, the time they have been waiting for, the second season, the run to the most storied trophy in all of sports The Stanley Cup.

The Hawks have been been here before, but this year has been a different year. The defending champs are out and Canada’s teams are the darlings whether it is in the east or the west. So there have been some unusual occurrences in the regular season to say the least.

This second season is completely different than the grinding regular season in that you only have 28 chances at most so there is no time for delay or room for error. There are four separate and different opponents that a team will face and defeat if they are to hoist the Cup. Each will present their own obstacles and challenges.

In facing an opponent and learning how to gain the upper hand in a fight, I could not think of anyone better to take advise from than the late Martial Arts Master Bruce Lee.

I remembered one of his quotes “ Empty your mind. You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can flow or creep or drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.” 1

I know as westerners this all sounds so, well Zen, but Bruce Lee studied philosophies and believed in not having a style but being open and using and learning all styles and incorporating them into your own when he founded his own type of Martial Art Jeet Kune Do. You have to know when to act and when not to, when to expand and contract or when to flow or crash.

What does this have to do with the Hawks? In other words, the Hawks need to be flexible and take what the opponent gives them. If the situation calls for the puck to be carried in do so, if it can be passed in do so and if you have to dump and chase do so. Be flexible and adjust on the fly.

The Hawks have experience, they know what needs to be done on the ice, now is the time to just let the instincts that you have prepared for all your lives take over and trust those instincts. It is time for muscle memory and remain calm no matter what is going on around you or out of your control.

In looking back over the past two play off runs the Hawks have had there is also sometimes things that are out of your control, like officiating. Stay calm! We all remember what happened in the Red Wings series game 7 almost cost the Hawks a Cup but because the Hawks remained calm and did not get flustered they overcame.

Last year in the series against the Kings the same thing happened, there were two calls in game 7 that resulted in two goals by the Kings that should not have been allowed. One of the goals was an obvious off sides and the other was a goal that was high sticked in. The Hawks were almost but not quit able to over come two officiating fiascoes.

My point is officials are human with human error, you must stay strong mentally and persevere through. Be ready for these mishaps by the officials because they often happen. If you are ready they will be less likely to effect your on ice performances.

Also there will be injuries it is unavoidable. The good thing for the Hawks is they are well aware of this since the Patrick Kane injury. If there are injuries be prepared and the coaches have done this already in shuffling the lines so players can play with different line mates, positions or partners.

Also get those black aces whoever they may be ready as well. If the Blackhawks have to go through the Predators, Blues, Jets or Ducks you know injuries will occur so get the back-ups ready now.

Have respect for your opponent don’t take them lightly and know they have studied you. Especially the Hawks, other than the Kings I can not think of another teams that others have watched, patterned and targeted.

Even Ken Hitchcock admitted in one of the Blues/Hawks games on a power play goal that when they had studied the Hawks tendencies that play was not in their films anywhere.

Don’t make the mistake the LA Kings did in the regular season. They looked at their schedule and misjudged their opponents that they had at the end of the season as being weaker. There is no weak opponent do they have weaknesses yes, but so do you.

In closing I will leave with another quote by perhaps the greatest and oldest on war tactics, theoretician Sun Tzu –

“If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected .” 2

So here is to the Hawks knowing when to flow and when to crash and to becoming dragons that are comfortable in all waters, but can also breath fire when need be.

1. Bruce Lee – Bruce Lee: Artist of Life book Tuttle publishing 4/1/2001
2. Sun Tzu from the book The Art of War

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Chicago Blackhawks – emerging from the phone booth


Chicago, IL — Led by their captain Jonathan Toews, the Chicago Blackhawks had a week that saw them literally emerging from the phone booth like mild mannered Clark Kent and turn into a team of supermen. The per verbal switch you could say was definitely switched to the full blast on position and it all started with the captain.

Yes the Canadian dream initiated a Chicago yearning. For much of this 2015 year most Hawks fans have been clamoring for the Hawks to play, well like the Hawks and separate themselves from the rest of the pack and starting in Winnipeg that is exactly what they have done. They went into that game as Wild cards and came out putting the competition in the rear and now have a chance to even win their division.
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Jonathan Toews in a matter of a week scored three game winning goals and assisted on another one. In the game against the Winnipeg Jets he crushed the hopes of his hometown with a deflected shot from the point with .30 seconds left in regulation to seal the win and a very valuable two points for the Blackhawks.

He then went on to assist on Duncan Keith’s game winning goal against the defending Stanley Cup Champ LA Kings in the following game. Was he through? No against the Vancouver Canucks, a team who also is needing of points to stay afloat in the Pacific scored the game winning goal to again seal a Hawks victory in regulation.

Perhaps though the most dramatic was the two goals he scored against the Buffalo Sabres in the closing minutes of the game to again gather valuable points and he has now positioned this team to make a legitimate run at the division title. Even his coach said that he is driven by something other players are not.

It always seems that Jonathan Toews knows exactly what is needed by his team and when but he’ll be the first to tell you it isn’t all him. With the absence of Patrick Kane alot of things have happened to put the Hawks where they currently are. Make no mistake though it is Toews that is leading this. It is only fitting he is a Bauer representative because he and the Hawks truly know what “owning the moment” is all about.

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So what else has gotten the Hawks here? Let’s take a look.

Andrew Shaw has consistently found the front of the oppositions nets and has established permanent residence there. Now he is taking a beating but Shaw knows that is where you get dirty goals, provide distractions, get in the opponents heads and provide screens for your team mates. If Shaw continues this and picks and chooses his spots the Hawks will be in good shape.

Corey Crawford what can you say about this guy. My Lord he has been spectacular and probably the most consistently good player on the ice. He has literally kept this team in the running since returning from injury. Many nights when the Hawks defensive game was floundering he stood on his head and kept the team in games.

Marian Hossa – another guy what can you say, even if the goals are not going in the net he plays a solid 200 ft. game that can in fact dictate a game. The game against the Kings he and Jonathan Toews were stifling on the back check even the Kings had to give them props.

Brandon Saad – His speed is a game changer for sure and he has and is learning from the best being on a line with Toews and Hossa. He is just now beginning to put everything together in his young career. Lately on a line with Shaw and Bickell, this kid is a monster.

Bryan Bickell – It is getting to that point in the year when Bicks shines. If he gets to the net like line mate Andrew Shaw with his big frame his goals will pick up. Look for Bicks to turn it up.

Patrick Sharp – is finding the back of nets and his mojo which is bad news for the opposition. When Sharp gets going he is like a goal scoring express train that can not be stopped

Scott Darling – talk about rise from the ashes like a Phoenix. The guy never seems to get rattled and just quietly comes in and takes care of business for the team. It’s nice to know you have that kind of reliability in net.

The Defensive core – Johnny Oduya since coming back from injury seems like a new man. Not sure what happened in his time off but Johnny please share with the rest of us because we’d all like to be rejuvenated like that.

Duncan Keith – is finding his offensive touch and has been scoring goals of late which will be needed from the defenseman to make up for the loss of Kane.

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Brent Seabrook paired with Kimmo Timonen has been the ultimate team guy and always is. He has stepped up big time to allow Timonen the time to get his legs and game back. Seabrook as usual just goes about his business in solid as a rock fashion. Kimmo Timonen is starting to get his legs and rhythm back and the man is solid positionally and everyone can learn about the art of the pinch from him.

Nik Hjalmarsson the warrior, continues to do what he does. I still think they need to check to make sure that his body is not made of steel like the terminator’s endoskeleton. He also has been jumping in on plays.

Brad Richards, Antoine Vermette and Kris Versteeg line – are getting close to a break out. Richards and Vermette are still getting comfortable with the Hawks system but seem more comfortable every game and playing with each other.

The fourth line of Marcus Kruger, Teuvo Teravainen and Andrew Desjardins seem to be providing offensive punch to go along with the stellar defensive play which will be key to keeping other teams guessing and honest. This line seems to have hit it off quickly with a combination of grit, skill and solid 2 way play.

FeddyJPG

The Hawks had an outstanding week and will probably need another one facing the St. Louis Blues twice and the Minnesota Wild. Is it necessary they win these games? No but it is a good tune up for the playoffs and fine tuning and executing your team game. The Hawks still need to work on turn overs in their own zone and giving up too many shots on their net minders but when the big moments need them to rise and stand tall if last week showed the Hawks fans anything it is that this team still can.

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Chicago Blackhawks – Slapping destiny and raising the stakes


Chicago, IL – The Chicago Blackhawks had a tough week last week when they lost arguably the league’s MVP – Patrick Kane. This reminded me of Humphrey Bogart’s character Rick Blaine in the cinema masterpiece Casablanca. A turn of events that was out of everyone’s control has Blaine stating “It seems destiny has taken a hand” 1

I’ve always said when destiny takes a hand slap it back with your free hand by taking control of the things that you can. That is exactly what the Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman did prior to the trade deadline.

The good thing is if there is one, is the timing of the Kane injury. Had Kane been injured a week later Stan Bowman and the Blackhawks would have been destiny’s victims rather than being in a position to take control and make statements.

As the trade deadline approached it was the LA Kings that actually set the market with their pickup of Carolina Hurricane’s Dman Sekera for a 1st round pick and a prospect.

Stan Bowman and the Blackhawks were supposedly in on Sekera yet listening to Bowman’s interview with the Chicago media he seemed almost giddy and sort of like the cat that ate all the cream which, is so unStan Bowman like it had me wondering what exactly was up his sleeves. You can see this interview on BHTV – http://video.blackhawks.nhl.com/videocenter/console?id=764316

Now I am a poker player. I fully appreciate the art of the bluff, gamesmanship, slow rolling, check raising and controlled aggressive play. In poker you try to sell your opponents a story, whether it is true or false it is in how you sell the story that makes or breaks winning a hand and negotiations is much like this.

Stan Bowman pulled up a chair and first stepped up to the poker table with a slow roll and check raise when he snagged seemingly out of nowhere Philadelphia defenseman Kimmo Timonen. Is it a gamble to bet on a 39 year old with previous health issues? Maybe, but if Timonen can stay healthy this maybe the biggest coo of the trade deadline. As I said I’m a poker player so I love a gamble and controlled aggressive play.

If you don’t know what slow rolling or check raising is watch the below YouTube final hand scene from the 1998 movie Rounders that illustrates this tactic when Matt Damon slow rolls and check raises John Malkovich’s character Russian mafia king Teddy KGB for all the nuts including Damon’s character’s life.

 

It has been said that this deal with the Flyers has been in the works for weeks before the trade deadline. Bravo Stan for slow rolling my respect for you which was always there just increased even more. Now I don’t know for certain that’s what Stan did but if so the man is brill.  The Blackhawks pick up a proven defenseman who is not only solid but hungry which is what the Hawks need. Kudos go to Stan Bowman for not only filling a roster spot, but bringing in a respected, intelligent player who just may spark the teams hunger as well.

Timonen only came back to the NHL to try and win a Stanley Cup and everyone should be pulling for him to get that dream realized.

Stan Bowman was not done however, 24 hours or so later he snagged the big fish of this deadline Arizone Coyotes’ Antoine Vermette. Like Timonen, Vermette should fit in with the Hawks pretty well and give them a solid center which you can never have enough of come playoff time. Both Arizona and the Hawks got what they wanted with the Coyotes getting Klas Dahlbeck and a first round draft pick.

It seems the Boston Bruins were in on Vermette but did not want to give up as much which is similar to a re-raise in poker which the Bruins were not willing to call. So Vermette is now a Hawk.

For those worried about the draft picks given up there is something in the summer called free agency and more trades are likely where the Hawks can recoup some of these picks so settle down folks.

Most importantly these moves illustrate the Chicago Blackhawks demise is far from reality even with the loss of Patrick Kane. Stan Bowman showed to his team, coaches, fan base and the league in a matter of 48 hours that the Chicago Blackhawks are indeed trying to win another Stanley Cup and will go down swinging.

If the team stays focused, garners points and puts all the distractions aside they have an opportunity now to really make a good playoff run. If they can make it until Patrick Kane can come back, which I believe they can,  there is no question that they will be a better team than before the Kane injury barring destiny taking a hand again.

 

1. 1942 film Casablanca release through Warner Brothers Studios based on the 1940s play Everyone comes to Rick’s written by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison

2. 1998 film Rounders released through Miramax studios written by David Levien and Brian Koppelman

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