Hopefully Getting Serious: Blackhawks Visit Slumping Stars


Wednesday was a busy day for the Blackhawks in a couple of ways. The ‘Hawks traded under-performing winger Jack Skille and two forward prospects to Florida for C/W Michael Frolik and what some say is an outstanding young goaltender now playing in Europe. Following that news, the team then took the ice and beat last-place Edmonton in convincing (but by no means impressive) fashion, stopping their losing skid at two games and pulling even on their 6-game road trip.

Hopefully these two events represent a turning point for everyone in the organ-eye-zation. The playoffs are 28 games away, and right now we’re not in them. It appears that Stan Bowman is getting serious, hopefully the team will follow his lead as they head south to take on the Stars.

My friends in Dallas say they only expect a high temperature of 50 degrees today, but with luck the Blackhawks are starting to get hot without any help from mother nature. They are going to need a pretty serious winning streak in the late part of this season to have a realistic shot at securing the #8 spot in the Western Conference by April 10th.

Dallas continues their streaky ways, following a late-January 5-game winning streak with a slump that saw them lose 6 out of 7, the latest to Phoenix in OT. Their home page is so desperate for good news they are profiling the radio color announcer, one of their silicone-enhanced skates-and-shovel bimbos, and the equipment staff (I shit you not). All this distraction doesn’t take away from the fact that if the playoffs started today, Dallas has the 3rd place spot in the West due to their lead atop the Pacific Division.

Yes, we’ve been through this, Dallas is closer to Miami than any point on the Pacific Ocean. Once Adolf Bettman is gone we’ll contract the league and realign the teams to their old divisions. But for now, we’re stuck with this idiocy.

In the Phoenix loss the Stars blew a 3rd-period lead, allowed two power-play goals against, and were out-shot 35-18. Bloggers for the Stars are getting twitchy: they see the statistical underpinnings of this latest swoon as a strong indicator that a late-season implosion similar to those during the past two years is nigh.

The defensive corps is reportedly a big part of the problem, as stalwarts such as Stephane Robidas and Trevor Daley are not delivering the goods the team expects for their $3+ million salaries. Goaltending is no longer a mixed bag, it’s a bag of marmoset doo-doo. Starter Kari Lehtonen has notched four of the last six losses, and backup Andrew Raycroft followed up a seven-goals-against performance in Calgary by letting in two goals on two shots and being yanked 80 seconds into the first period against Boston. I haven’t looked into it, but that may be an NHL record.

So while the Stars have the potential to beat the Blackhawks, it’s safe to say that the game will be Chicago’s to lose. This won’t be an easy game to win, but it can be done.

Help in the form of the newly-acquired Frolik will be in uniform tonight wearing the same #67 that he wore for the Panthers. Speculation that he will center a line with Marian Hossa and Tomas Kopecky will have to wait: Hossa is out of tonight’s game, allegedly with the flu.

Kind of surprising how many guys are coming down with the flu, isn’t it? Especially after Coach Joel Quenneville’s post-game interview in which he indicated Hossa had an upper-body injury, the same thing that the official game preview on the Blackhawks.com web site says. Makes you wonder if any of the reports we are getting about any injuries on any team bear any resemblance to the truth. Flu? Upper-body injury? Scurvy? Concussion? Rocky Mountain spotted fever? Tularemia? Bubonic plague? Menstrual cramps? Well, I guess if it’s Sidney Crosby we’re talking about…

The Blackhawks’ power play seemed to be perking up somewhat on this road trip, but then they converted on only one of six opportunities during the game in Edmonton. The penalty-kill on this road trip has been reasonable, but not impressive. Both of these things will have to improve significantly if the ‘Hawks are to make a late-season push.

The who’s-hot department: Jonathan Toews continues to show why the ‘C’ is on his jersey: 2 G and 8 assists in his last 5 games. Patrick Kane is only slightly behind, being the recipient of so many passes from The Captain — 4G/2A in his last 5. And Troy Brouwer is giving hints that his late-season push is underway: 4G/4A in his last 8 games. On the who’s not list, Tomas Kopecky has 1 (count it, one) point in his last 8 games, and that trend threatens to get worse now that his muse is out with human pappiloma virus. We could also use an offensive push from the defensive corps. Duncan Keith and Nick Leddy have chipped in recently: getting a goal a game from the blueline might just be the difference in a game or two down the stretch.

More from the administrative nonsense department: John Scott is still recovering from his bout with the flu, which appears to be legitimate. Marty Turco is the announced starter, making his first appearance against his former team back in Big D.

7:30pm puck drop, back to a reasonable start time for a change. Comcast SportsNet has your TV coverage, broadcast radio is WGN AM-720, and XM subscribers should spin the dial to channel 237.

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