The Blackhawks Blob eats opposing offenses and spits 'em out--just like a champion

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Marian Hossa was the face of the Blackhawks Sunday. He looked not unlike Errol Flynn at his Robin Hood finest, snatching a puck from mid-flight, treating it like a yo-yo as it dropped on a string with suspended animation and finishing the cartoon flickers by scoring without puck kissing ice for the slickest swordplay this season in Chicago.

Wile E. Coyote couldn't have done it better. But as much as the Blackhawks are re-imagined characters from the golden age of TV with their Hoss resurrecting the days of Bonanza when brothers bled like Patrick Kane did one moment and rode high the next as Hossa did, I have to contend these Blackhawks should be best known as a faceless conglomeration.

To give you a precise definition, they are a sum total of many heterogenous things, just a mass of miscellany. If you prefer a less hi-falutin' breakdown, they are The Blob, growing ever larger as they devour the NHL one scary piece at a time and assume proportions seldom seen in these parts from your hockey heroes.

The Blob is nothing if not faceless. It's unstoppable. It's cancerous. It's a good-looking tumor of terror.

Individual Hawks are succeeding, but no one has stood out singly more than others. The mug shot has been replaced by the mass hysteria of team harmony, where the monster lumbers and looms ominously as one.

If that's a cliche, so be it. But the Hawks are a collective nightmare with a very diverse group of stars coalescing rather than being a star-driven team that needs a few guys to be at their best or else fail day after day.

That's why there should be no goalie controversy now or ever this season. It matters not whether it's Cristobal Huet or Antti Niemi in goal, because the team defense rules. It matters not that Dave Bolland and Adam Burish are healing, the defense is driving the momentum game-in, game-out.

Do we miss Bolland and Burish? Hell, yeah. But the tumor of terror waits for no man.

Put them together and Cris and Andy spell C-Andy in net, but they aren't as sweet as Tony Esposito or even the demented Ed Belfour by themselves. They don't have to be. They have help unlike previous Blackhawks' clubs where it was every man for himself.

And these two C-Andy strippers are better than Nikolai Khabibulin alone as a result.

The Blob can eat and spit out numbers like a glutton. But one supercedes the rest. And the statistic that tells you all you need to know about the Blackhawks is 2.06. If they can be dialin' that number the rest of the season, greatness awaits and Bobby Hull will fill that Jumbotron endlessly with blissful smiles of elation.

Defense is the hallmark of this group as much as the defense that allowed the Bears to win the 1985 Super Bowl. Limiting opponents to just over two goals a game is nothing short of sensational.

Jim McMahon was just an OK quarterback, remember, in 1985. His defense allowed him to be star material. The media got sidetracked by McMahon distractions, but it was the defense that allowed him to be a prima donna and moon helicopters trying to take his picture.

That shot was ass backwards, as usual. McMahon was just part of the machine.

The Blackhawks have some superior talent such as Hossa and Kane, but the defense is what directs the nightly flow forevermore, not Hossa or Kane or whatever else the media finds with their off-ice actions to amuse itself.

And we aren't talking just defensemen Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Nik Hjalmarsson, Brian Campbell, Cam Barker, Brent Sopel. Defense is a team responsibility and the forwards throw their bodies into this fray as well, even offensive geniuses such as Hossa and Kane.

Defense has allowed the Blackhawks to succeed without a consistent power play. That's why fans at United Center have witnessed only 6 power play goals this season, compared to the meager 10 scored by the Hawks. It's a tightrope from which a team could fall over time if there is the least slip-up, but so far these acts of daring are going Chicago's way based strictly on their defensive determination.

Imagine if the Hawks' power play ever connects as it should. The wins would be easier when that day comes.

Washington has scored 59 road goals, but it has given up 51. San Jose has scored 61 road goals, but allowed 52. Pittsburgh has scored 46 road goals, but permitted 48. These are major variations from Chicago. More offense, but not as good on defense.

The Hawks have scored just 37 goals on the road this season. Normally, that would show us why they might not be doing well. Instead, they have allowed just 24 road goals, allowing their defense to offset the tepid attack and be a major force on enemy ground as well.

The New Jersey Devils, a rather strong historical standard, statistically are the most similar to the Hawks. The Devils are 37-26 in goals for/against on the road. If the Hawks can continue to be compared to these Devils, talk of a Stanley Cup becomes reality and not fantasy.

John Madden will be happy to tell you all about that. It's no accident the Devils are the closest to the Hawks in goal-against at 2.16.

The Devils have a 49-41 goal differential on home ice, a close match to the Hawks being 52-40 in that category at United Center. To draw out comparisons, Washington is 56-41, Pittsburgh 55-43 and San Jose 47-35.

This is a nice neighborhood the Blackhawks are living in at long last. It's nice to look next door at what the other guys have and compare it to what we have.

St. Louis and Boston are the next two UC opponents, coming up Wednesday and Friday, and low-scoring affairs can be predicted. The Blues have scored just 35 times in road games, while the Bruins have done so 28 times.

Sounds like Chicago defense should carry the night.

But these club's road differentials tell a different story. It's 35-31 for the Blues and 28-34 for the Bruins, two of the lower goals-against averages on the road. So don't sell either one short.

The Hawks could have a battle on their hands this week. With the defense, though, there's every reason to expect a positive outcome.

The stars will change week-to-week. The defense hasn't so far.

And what do they say wins championships? Yeah, the Hawks can make you fall in love with cliches all over again.

Comments

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  • Doctor Kiley, I concur wholeheartedly with your diagnosis.

    Your Blog About The Blob should be prescribed to scribes who still suffer from PWS (Permanent Whine Syndrome) as well those fans who may have been thus infected.

    Cheers, and hoping that bar stool with your name on it has been reserved--along with the establishment's most buxom hostess--at Savvy's new steak and martini joint.

  • I've had to laugh at how some in the blogosphere have discounted the Hawks because they don't have a stand-out scorer - I've even read that Toews is not elite-caliber (whatever that is) because he's only scored nine goals thus far.

    Whatever.

    The fact is, this team is as deep as any other team in the league as far as scoring potential is concerned. But as you put it Mike, the guys earn their pay by playing both ends of the ice. Opponents can put their best checking line out to negate a Blackhawk line, but what about the others? For example, if you don't pay attention to Ben Eager, this guy can score a goal or two while playing the tough guy too. Hossa plays both ends of the ice very well - I think his backchecking impresses me more than his offensive prowess. This will only help guys like Toews and Kane in their development.

    Yeah, I think I like things as they are - a lot of guys who play very well together and grind out wins. When Bolland and Burish come back, just consider it adding a little more kick to the mix.

  • I'll have what you're smoking! Seriously though, really enjoy the blob analogy. This team doen't have a single player who ranks within the top 40 in the NHL in goal scoring, the goals are just too spread out. Meanwhile the goaltending is great and the D is flat out incredible. This is a Team with a capital T.

  • In reply to jdudhead:

    I never share. But I will share this team praise with coach Joel Quenneville and his staff, who obviously have a system and have gotten the players to buy into it.

  • In reply to jdudhead:

    As a Hawks fan who never really watched Hossa's prehawks days, I can say with confidence he is every bit as good as advertised. Niemi as nothing short of amazing and this team keeps on winning. Mike you said perfectly, this is a team with everyone chipping in equally. I was checking the standing this teams sits 3rd with 43 pts. Only 2 points behind LA Kings of all teams and LA has 3 more games, Go Hawks!!!

  • In reply to jdudhead:

    I am very concerned about the powerplay, which at this point seems like this teams glaring weakness

  • In reply to jdudhead:

    It could not have been stated better. The Hawks abilities run extremely deep, anyone can be the star of the game and a defense lead by the dominating Keith and his almost as equally strong mate, Seabrook is the backbone to this team. My only wish is that coach Q could find and stay with lines. The Hawks passing could be better on a daily basis and playing with different players every game could be a reason.
    Having read back through some posts, I see some talk about Huet and Campbell as probably the only places to have any negative words. But, there really isn't too much horrible things to say.
    I would like to say something about Huet. Though he has been playing better than his start, how could he not, he is still shaky in net. He is often clumsy with the puck and many pucks have found holes because his stick is not where it is supposed to be. He is slow side to side, going down and getting up and his glove is nothing to smile about. Having said that, I think he is a good backup, but lacks the consistency to be a starter. There is a reason he was #2 for us last season.
    To me, not even looking at stats, Niemi shows a lot of strengths and has much more promise in net. It will be interesting to see what happens with that situation, but either way, our defense is outstanding.

  • In reply to puckpowwow:

    Wow! A Huet criticism. Welcome back to the party or you're just trying to get ahead of the curve.

  • In reply to puckpowwow:

    I have been to a few other Hawks' sites and have had my head cut off for not supporting Huet. Since I have never felt comfortable with his abilities, I started the criticism the second it was stated that he would be our starter. If I am beating a dead horse, it is because I'm confused about the administrations views on the situation. Why hasn't Niemi seen more starts (he has the best #s in the league)? Are they trying to groom him slowly our hoping that the better Huet looks, the easier it is to trade him? Even my girlfriend who has never watched hockey can see the difference in each of their play and skills. I can remember when the Hawks traded Hasek and stayed with Belfour and asking myself, doesn't anyone else see that Hasek is far better.
    I have a bag full of Campbell criticism too, but for now I am just happy to be a Hawks fan, it has been a while.
    I like what you have to say here. You stick to the things that matter and see what counts, love the site.

  • In reply to puckpowwow:

    Brother or sister, if you like beating a dead horse, you have come to the right stable. Sit down and stay a while.

  • In reply to puckpowwow:

    I just noticed that the hawks fell to #6 in ESPN's power rankings (from #1 last week...and I know, power rankings mean nothing but...) Their rationale was that the team isn't scoring enough and that they win too many games in OT, the fact that they continue to win most of their games was moot. Seems like some media outlets have trouble covering the hawks because they don't have 1 superstar player to rally around.

  • In reply to jdudhead:

    Jdudhead, you are spot on. Not only is it hockey, but we have a fierce offense without a stand out star. If Kane hadn't had the mishap over the summer, and had a few more goals on his point total, then there would be a whole lot more press coverage.

    Personally though, I think it is better this way. However, it all boils down to the fact that the other teams recognize our skill level regardless of anything else.

  • In reply to jdudhead:

    Not only is ESPN not giving credit where it is due, but has anyone watched a game from another cities programming? Other announcers out there are, in many cases, bashing the Hawks. Sometimes, they laugh at situations when Hawks players are injured, such as Kane last night and when Malkin elbowed a much smaller Fraser in the face in the Pens' game. Not seeing any issue with that, they go on to verbally thrash Keith for his questionable hit that game. It is pretty shameful, but we shall have the last laugh.

  • In reply to puckpowwow:

    I think it's becoming obvious that some teams, especially bad ones like Tampa Bay, are going to try to bring down Kane and/or Toews. That will resurrect all the stories about the Hawks needing an enforcer. I hate to make this prediction, but I see more clubs trying to make their bones by being the one that hammers Kane/Toews. Remember you heard it here first. I hope it's nothing serious, just bluster and blood. But keep both eyes out.

  • In reply to puckpowwow:

    Spot on! Not only on the original story (which I of course linked to everyone I know due to the fact it's the best summation of why the Hawks are great "T"eam) but also the commentary. Yes, the running at our guys started with that a** sucker Tocchet sending guys with the sole responsibility of working players over, but watch... The rest of the league will take notice, and think that since it's been done before, what's wrong with doing it some more... Kudos to Q for taking the high road. As far as the Nitti/Huet thing, it works. Plain and simple. I play goalie, and I couldn't agree more with Puck regarding Huey's lackadaisical recovery time. But if the guy's in front of him believe he'll come up big when they make a mistake, THAT is what matters for the "W". Nitti is much, much better than I initially thought, even for having high expectations, but at this point, why change the make up? He's winning games when the team needs him too, and the team is winning games in front of Huey. As far as ESPN's power rankings... I gotta go check that myself as soon as I'm done typing. After shoving a seven goal game up their previous #1's kiester they have the gall to drop the Hawks to 6??? I wonder how many other teams have a combined 46 goals from their top 5?

  • In reply to puckpowwow:

    The primary difference I see is our "stars" are team-first thinkers. It's role players and team players that win cups. Just look back through history. Even the hated Wings didn't really have a single star player. Just a (large) group of highly skilled, both ends of the ice, team players. That's where the Hawks are today. And when Burrish and Bolland come back?

    As important as the goalie is to every team's success, our are doing fine. Huet feels the kid breathing on his neck and the kid is hungry to show his talent but isn't ready to be #1 yet. Sounds like a good system as long as the D is there to clean up the 1st rebound.

    As far as the power play is concerned Coach Jerry says it's time to change the entire strategy around. Let's go with the reverse umbrella. Position the "high" player behind the net, or flood one side and leave Hossa/Kane open on the opposite wing when they other team collapses to the puck. Put Eager in front of the net and Toews to roam. Keith and Sharp at the point to keep the puck moving around the perimeter. Good luck with that.

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