Righting the ship?


Look what I found on the clearance rack!

After stumbling in the season opener in Dallas, the Blackhawks have gone 3-0-1, squandering a single point in the third period against the defending champion  Bruins. All things considered, the Blackhawks have successfully launched the 2011-12 campaign. The win last night, a 5-2 mauling of the Phoenix Coyotes, was by far the best performance of the young season.

How it went down

The Hawks dominated play in the first period, but managed only a single goal, a Marian Hossa “hesitation” one-timer from the left circle on a feed from Patrick Sharp during a 5-on-3.

The second period brought more Hawks domination, but they surrendered the lead twice, only to move back in front each time in short order. Taylor Pyatt put in a rebound in the opening minute of the period, but Jonathan Toews returned the favor three minutes later, after Jason LaBarbera coughed up a bad rebound off a shot from Andrew Brunette.

Five minutes on, Duncan Keith suffered a blow-out in his own end. Daymond Langkow collected the loose puck and fed Ray Whitney, who inserted a “hesitation” shot over Corey Crawford’s left shoulder. (It looked like Whitney was sticking a letter in a mailbox.) Keith atoned immediately, hitting Jamal Mayers on a 100-foot ricochet pass to set the Hawks up. Viktor Stalberg collected Mayers miss and worked the puck back to Keith, whose shot from the point was redirected in by Mayers. Hawks up, 3-2. Hooray for rolling four lines!

The first four minutes of the third period were reminiscent of the 2009-10 Cup champions at their most dominant. Really satisfying hockey. As the curtain went up, Hossa found himself in the box for a ticky-tack retaliation penalty at the end of the second period. But the Coyote power play didn’t get a sniff. The Hawks completed the kill only to have Sharp sent off directly after for tripping.

Keith Yandle left a drop pass inside his own blue line for Radim Vrbata, unaware that Dave Bolland lurked, Datsyuk-like, behind a shrubbery at center ice. Bolland jumped out, picked Vrbata’s pocket, and delivered a backbreaker shortie “hesitation” slapper from between the circles. Toews and Hossa killed most of the rest of the penalty in the offensive end of the ice, with Toews getting off a couple decent chances. Just a great four-minute span with the game in the balance.

Rather than protect the lead, the Hawks continued to take it to the Coyotes. Bryan Bickell capped the scoring with his trademark laser-wrister on a gorgeous pass from Michael Frolik.

Next stop is Thursday in Colorado, against a surprising 5-1 Avalanche squad. The Avs play an up-tempo game and the Hawks owe these guys a couple from last year. Should be fun.

Randomly

  • The power play continues to struggle (should Brent Seabrook take Keith’s spot on the 1st PP like last year?) but the penalty kill is a net zero, with Bolland’s shortie neutralizing the one power play goal the Hawks have surrendered this season. Pretty impressive, even if it’s only five games. This is the opposite of last year, but very much like the pattern of the 2009-10 Cup champs.
  • What was the deal with all those successful hesitation shots from Hossa, Whitney, and Bolland? All at the same end and from similar spots on the ice (ok, Hossa was left circle.) Weird.
  • Look Ma- no John Scott! (c/f “Hooray for rolling four lines!”)
  • Obligatory Keith paragraph. He was on the ice for every Hawk goal, along with the Coyote goal when he fell down. Two assists, +3 in 25 minutes. Yeah, he sucks.
  • Mayers and Sean O’Donnell are looking like nice pick-ups from the bargain bin. O’Donnell is averaging 16:45 a night, including important PK minutes. He’s +2 with two assists on the year and, from what I’ve seen, he can get his shot on net from the point. Yeah, he’s slow and will get pylon’d from time to time, and we’re looking at a small sample size, but if he keeps it up, I don’t see him spending too many nights in the press box.
  • Paired with Steve Montador, the Hawks look to have a third pairing that, at long last, will be considered safe for viewing by fans with heart conditions.
  • And whoulda thunk Daniel Carcillo, alongisde Patrick Kane and Hossa, might be a thing? Again, small sample size and prolly just a stopgap measure, but Carbomb did seem to open up more space for 81 and 88.

  • wardrums

    Great, accurate, and funny post – nice job.

    You got me with the “Clearance rack” photo.

    • cliffkoroll

      @wardrums thanks drum!

      • wardrums

        @cliffkoroll question, who would you play tonight in a Fantasy League; Miller vs. the Panthers or Crawford?

        • http://BlackhawkUp.com/ ChicagoNativeSon

          @wardrums@cliffkoroll Although you asked cliff, I’d personally take Miller tonight.

        • cliffkoroll

          @ChicagoNativeSon@wardrums At first, I’m like: “Ryan Miller, American hero, no brainer, every night.” Never played fantasy hockey, but as I think on it, Miller may not be the obvious choice a lot of nights. After 5 games, the Hawks puck possession and zone dominance has been better than last year (right?), despite no Campbell. Funny, that. What I’m trying to say is Huey and Nemo had a pretty sweet set-up two years ago. Last year, the Hawks allowed 290 more shots than the year before. If Crawford’s task this year is closer to two years ago, he could put up some sparkly numbers. For tonight, though, I still take Miller cuz of the match-up.

        • http://BlackhawkUp.com/ ChicagoNativeSon

          @cliffkoroll@wardrums Crow 1G, but American Hero Miller bests him with a shutout. I hope you followed our sage advice wardrums!

          Hey Brian, what time does our flight leave for Vegas?

  • http://BlackhawkUp.com/ ChicagoNativeSon

    “Hooray for rolling four lines!” And Hooray for rolling 3 defensive pairs! The 3rd pairing had the most EV of any line Tuesday night. This isn’t the 2010 Blackhawks.

    Yeah, that Keith sucks. Notice I put Keith looked “bad” in quotes in my previous article? I guess all is relative, but I can’t believe some people blamed Keith’s wipe out on his “poor play” (Leddy!) and not the bad ice.

    That Hjalmarsson can play some hockey too, eh? Who knew??

    • cliffkoroll

      @ChicagoNativeSon Anyone who watches a game where Scott suits up and “does no harm” and compares that with a game like last night should see the damage Scott does just by being in the line-up.

  • e.kim

    brunette was nice on the puck. and i love how on the bolland goal you could just see him literally think faster than the guy who made the drop pass.

    • wardrums

      @e.kim Epimetheus vs, prometheus. Often what separates the greats from the also rans. Three of the best examples I can think of that trait are Gretzky, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. they all played anti-beehive soccer.