The Blackhawks held a team meeting on Monday, likely to discuss the three game losing streak and the most recent loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday night. We will never know exactly what was said at the gathering, though we will get the usual barrage of cliches and platitudes: “Our best players have to be our best players,” and other meaningless Yogi Berra-isms.
But what *should* they be saying? Is it time for a Come To Jesus Meeting about defensive responsibility? Should Coach Joel Quenneville start separating the men from the boys, call out the kids to start stepping things up and show them one-way tickets on the Rockford Shuttle? Should Captain Jonathan Toews start naming names of vets who aren’t pulling their weight and reaming them a new sphincter?
Or, should the team just invite their mothers to the meeting?
During this road trip the Blackhawks have taken their mothers for the west coast swing, including Coach Q himself and even the matriarch of the Pat Foley clan. Viewers of the WGN broadcast last night were fortunate enough to hear Eddie Olczyk turn into Eddie Haskell with a “Thanks, Mrs. Foley.” So all the players’ moms are right there: why not bring them into the locker room before practice and open up a can of beef stroganoff-flavored whoop-ass?
But alas, the moms were, no doubt, shopping on Rodeo Drive today while the ‘Hawks were trying to make sense of their latest downturn. Los Angeles is the opponent this evening, and the job tonight is no easier than yesterday. The ‘Hawks may, however, have an additional tool in the toolbox. More on that in a minute.
Los Angeles has four scoring threats up front: Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams, Dustin Brown, and Ryan Smith. All four have 14 or more goals, and will need to be kept under wraps tonight. Complicating matters is that the Kings have scoring threats on defense as well, in the form of Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson.
There is some good news in a couple of areas. Early-season powerhouse Jarret Stoll is without a goal in the last 30 days, and has only five assists during that span also. Additionally, the Blackhawks have handed Los Angeles three losses in the two teams’ meetings so far this year, mainly because it appears we have figured out both of their goaltenders. So has much of the league apparently, as the Kings allowed a combined 13 goals in two games just last week.
The Kings rank middle-of-the-pack in most team statistics, so there is no acute weakness to exploit, nor strength to be aware of. There are no injuries to speak of, and having lost to us the last two outings with Jonathan Quick in net, it would not surprise me if Jonathan Bernier started in goal this evening. LA has lost their last three, same as the Blackhawks, so either way somebody’s losing streak is going to end tonight.
On the Blackhawks side, a pleasant turn of events. Injured center and team Captain Jonathan Toews has been skating with the team the last four straight practices, and he has been cleared to play this evening. That would put a spark back in the lineup that, frankly, wasn’t there during his absence. The original prognosis was for him to be sidelined for two weeks, which he managed to cut in half.
I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. I don’t have any insider information about his injury either, but I think this could be a mistake. With a player so integral to your roster and your success, you err on the side of caution. I say, let him rest another two days and get back in uniform on Wednesday. There’s very little up-side to having him play this evening, and the risk of further injury far outweighs those meager benefits.
Hopefully we’ll never know if I’m right.
Random ramblings: Corey Crawford took the loss against Anaheim, but he will get the second start in the two back-to-back games tonight anyhow. Last game we were fortunate to see a Blackhawks’ lineup without either Nick Boynton or John Scott for the first time in a long time. Here’s hoping that’s a permanent change. I also think that Ryan Johnson is showing a lot of hustle out there, and he was our best man in the face-off circle against Anaheim. I hope we see more of him.
8:00pm puck drop for tonight’s tilt (that’s Chicago time) and Versus has the exclusive TV rights to this one. Broadcast radio is WGN AM-720, and XM subscribers should turn to channel 208.