Blackhawks Confidential

Blackhawks primed to go 6-2 on United Center ice in October

homeice2.jpgI think everyone agrees the Blackhawks are a really good, really injury-deprived team still in search of themselves. They have occasionally chased their own tails like a new puppy and gone round and round looking for some glue that will goose their fans higher and higher.

And yet with all the probings and missed possibilities, they are 2-1-1. Nothing wrong in that, especially having the added burden of traveling to Finland to open the season. Some needed glue sniffing should make things better, though.

By the end of October, I predict they will be sticking together better and farther ahead on their voyage of discovery than a year ago. And that should have Stanley Cup dreams alive and well in Chicago.

With seven games being played in the friendly igloo of United Center from their next nine affairs scheduled this month, beginning Monday night against Calgary, the Hawks should be waving around an imposing record of 8-4-1 when the calendar turns from those goblins of October to the gobblers of November.

Play along with me here as I outline my path to 6-3 in the next nine games. I have been wrong once before (maybe twice) in my life, so perhaps you can set me straight with your view of the future. Although I should warn you that many have tried to get me on a clear path and failed.

I would offer a cash prize if you are more astute than me, which means you are smarter than a pre-schooler, but until Tribune Co. emerges from bankruptcy proceedings unscathed and unblemished, my hands are tied. And we don't decide ties here based on shootouts.

Here's my dart-throwing premonitions: Flames, a loss; Edmonton Oilers Wednesday, a win; at Nashville Thursday, a loss; Dallas Stars Saturday, a win; Vancouver Canucks Oct. 21, a loss; Predators Oct. 24, a win; Minnesota Wild Oct. 26, a win; at Nashville again Oct. 29, a win; Montreal Canadiens Oct. 30, a win.

Overtimes and shootouts aren't factored into my equation, because I'm far too much of a traditionalist (or old fogie if you prefer) to like either one. So I try to ignore what I can't change.

My predictions have one worrisome trend. Losses to the Flames and Canucks, teams that the Hawks vanquished in last season's playoffs, would raise concerns.

To me, such setbacks should be expected since those teams are going to come hard based off last season's disappointing finish. I could be completely wrong and the Hawks rise to the occasion for both big opponents.

But I see them beating the teams they should, such as the Oilers, Stars, Canadiens and Predators. To me, taking care of business would be more of a consolation right now than defeating Calgary and Vancouver and winning style points for whom they have overcome.

I also have them on a four-game winning streak heading into November, when we expect the debut of Marian Hossa late in the month.

The Wild and Oilers, of course, come with a special angle. Minnesota's Martin Havlat and Edmonton's Nikolai Khabibulin will be especially motivated to beat their former teammates.

But their presence on the ice should also serve as a wakeup for the Hawks, wanting to spoil their returns to Chicago. Friends can easily turn into enemies in a different uniform. What Havlat did against them in preseason should have the Hawks ready to be all over him.

The Hawks are already way ahead of their home shootout pace from last season.

They didn't win a shootout at the UC until March, 11, 2009 last season against Carolina. So Andrew Ladd's well-timed game winner in round nine of Saturday night's neverending showdown with Colorado was a welcome ice breaker.

With so many home games in October, the Hawks can't let this opportunity slip without being greedy. The Hawks were 4-0-2 at the UC last October, losing a pair of shootouts.

I have them 6-2-0 this month in front of the Chicago home crowd, which should keep the fans entertained and flipping the turnstiles in record fashion.

Anything less than 6-2 at the UC before November will be discouraging. Teams know they have to be primed to play in Chicago with all the noise and excitement.

That makes it more necessary than ever that the Hawks be ready to meet that challenge and at least match last season's home record of 24-9-8.

They should seek to surpass it really. Getting to the Cup will require greater feats than a year ago. And it all comes down to what happens at home.

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10 Comments

Dave Morris said:

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Wow Mike, you're an inveterate optimist. I had the Blackhawks forecast at 6-4-3 for the same stretch. Of course I didn't do the cogent analysis you did...I just guessed.

Our friend and infallible gypsy hockey forecaster, Madame Zara, born in Transylvania and who traces her lineage all the way to Prince Vlad 'Drakul' Cepes, he of wine-drinking fame, confirms your prognostication.

Who are we, mere mortals, to dissent?

FearlessFreep said:

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Well Mike, judging by that first period, you really went out on a limb predicting a loss to Calgary. As a DirecTV subscriber I have no way to watch this game, and boy do I feel lucky. I'm really curious to know if Huet's goaltending was the problem or was it poor defensive coverage? Oh, I notice Niemi let in a couple as well.

Coach Q will NOT be a happy camper during that first intermission.

Mike Kiley said:

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It was Huet. It was his defense. It was his Niemi. It was his inexperience. It was a knockdown that should have been called a TKO in the first. But they fight on and Kane just scored to put the Hawks down three. Problem is, somebody has to play goal the rest of the year. Are you free?

FearlessFreep said:

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2nd intermission - down by a goal! If the Hawks pull this one out I swear the Sutters will be passing around a pistol.

Mike Kiley said:

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I have some bullets I'm willing to share.

FearlessFreep said:

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Start loading it...and spin it! Ya feel lucky?

Unbelievable. What did I say about being fortunate to not see this game? At least they are showing highlights on NHL network.

Mike Kiley said:

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I have some bullets I'm willing to share.

FearlessFreep said:

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Who owns Calgary?

Dave Morris said:

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Freep, now it can be told. This was all part of a devious strategy concocted by Kiley and Denis Savard.

WOTTA GAME!!!!!!!

Hope you had plenty of adult beverages on hand tonight. That was thirsty work.

Mike's fave Handy Andy has probably won the starting job.

Mike Kiley said:

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Morris. You know me too well. The Sutters hate me so much I had to sabotage them with the win prediction. They now will be sitting at their lockers until 5 a. m. pouting. Hope they don't miss the charter flight.

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