Blackhawks Confidential

I like this holiday movie: Blackhawks Slumpless In Chicago (Or Anywhere Else)

Watching hockey in a bar is a tricky position. Start talking to people and you can miss two Nashville goals quicker than you can recite the Gettysburg Address.

I was still talking about the two-goal lead when I saw it had become 4-4 within two sips of a martini, which was suddenly shaken and not stirred.

You miss some of the finer points of play, but that's always good for Dustin Byfuglien. And bars with hockey on TV and the sound off are made for Patrick Kane and John Madden, who couldn't be missed in this helter/skelter 5-4 win.

They come barging through the screen no matter what. So while I freely admit I didn't pay much undivided attention Sunday night to all the small pictures that this game of hockey provides, right now the big picture is good enough to carry us through the holidays.

The Blackhawks are Slumpless In Chicago. Or anywhere else for that matter. They should keep this movie in re-runs forever.

Good teams usually hit a wall sooner or later and the Hawks might yet. But from here it appears this club might be Slump-free from start to finish.

Why? Lots of reasons, but here's the bank book and how it translates based on goals by period.

The Hawks are a shapely 29-46-34 in scoring by period, while holding opponents to a more comely 18-36-22. Those are some dimensions. Even prettier when you figure in a 4-0 edge during overtimes.

To out score opponents by 12 goals in the final period is a mark of rising to the occasion. To restrict teams to 18 first-period goals shows the Hawks are controlling play from the outset.

And 46 midsection goals are the best bulging belly I've seen in years.

Like a lot of us this holiday season, the penalty killing is getting fatter and fatter, swelling to 87.5 per cent success.

And don't look now, but we might have a league leader soon. Jonathan Toews is third in the NHL in plus/minus at plus-18.

Steadiness is the name of the game for the Hawks. That shines through with Kane, who has 26 points in 22 home games and 16 points in 16 away games.

The kid has learned to be a calming presence on the ice. At his age, that's unheard of.

Here's his stat I like best. Unlike seven other leading scorers around him near the top of the league, Kane is a plus-seven in those road games. That's better than everyone else.

The only top scorer near him in plus/minus is Alex Ovechkin at a plus-six. Quite a few top scorers are minus players on the road.

But the Hawks just keep on keeping on. The Fifth Feather is at least raising an argument that coach Joel Quenneville has made some mediocre to poor in-game decisions.

I like the fact it gives us something to debate, since this whole affair is turning into a love story with no end, but a broken heart if the Stanley Cup isn't awaiting us.

I'll try to pay more attention Tuesday to the small picture. Then again, the big picture might be all that matters.

Anyone who wants to help me flesh out the picture I didn't see, feel free to dive in and help.

My therapist tells me I need all the help I can get. Or maybe that was John McDonough. I get so confused at this advanced age.

Recommended

[?]

Recent Posts

Subscribe

Leave a comment

33 Comments

mikeyo said:

default userpic local-auth auth-type-mt

Really exciting game. I wasn't at a bar, but it seemed to me that Sopel was off his game. And no comment about Niemi? He almost seemed human...

SDSTAN said:

default userpic local-auth auth-type-mt

I agree that Niemi appeared to be a little off tonight but he also made a key save on that 2 on 1 in the third, would have been a 3-1 game at that point and probably a different result. The Hawks were a little shaky with the puck in their own end last night, but like elite teams do, they found a way..

FearlessFreep said:

user-pic

Sopes did not have his best game - really, the Hawks in general did not play very well in the first two periods.

Niemi was up and down. He made some very tough saves late. The third Preds goal was screened by Ward. The fourth I'm not so sure about. But let's put this into perspective...I'm not going to complain about the goaltending from either guy because I'm sure there are more than a few teams who would be happy with either one on their team. We are really spoiled in that regard. The Hawks have two very good options in the net every night - by stats, Huet is in the top five in GAA and has three whitewashes; Niemi, if he qualified, would be a top five goaltender in the league. The system in place obviously is getting results.

To those who are looking to find a way to trade Huet and his salary - and thereby promote Niemi now, allow me to point out that the more time Huet gets, and assuming he continues to play as well as he has, the better a return he would get in a trade in the off-season. Early in the season, I read on many blogs that nobody in the league would trade for Huet. I'm not so sure that is the case now. The best scenario to result out of this would be for Huet to continue his solid play, win a Stanley Cup, and then have him shipped off to a team that covets a solid goaltender with Cup credentials. In the meantime you hope that Niemi continues to improve and hand the reins over to him next year.

Until then, there is a lot of hockey yet to be played, so who the heck really knows what will happen - well, with the possible exception of expert prognosticators like "Martini" Mike Kiley or poetic Dave Morris.

SDSTAN said:

default userpic local-auth auth-type-mt

Agreed Fearless, let's ride this goaltending tandem the rest of the way. Definitely a lot of hockey to be played. January is a brutal month with 11 of 15 on the road including 8 in a row. What is up with Sharp? Offensively he seems off, can't believe he missed that wide open net in the third.

iplagitr said:

user-pic

Sharp's been off for a while. Meanwhile, Campbell continues his resurgence!

Anyone notice the Hawks are on top of the ESPN power rankings for the 2nd week in a row?

Hostile Hawk said:

user-pic

Yeah, what is up Campbell's ass that has him playing so well lately? I am beginning to feel bad about some of my critiques on his play. It is nice to see him taking hits and playing sound defense. Maybe the fact that Hammer has been out helped him step up.

VegasHawksFan said:

user-pic

I've been a bigger fan than most of Sopel. He moves like a Charles Barkley golf swing, but up until the last couple of games, I thought he was playing overall smart D and he blocks a lot of shots. I think he would be missed more than people think.

Following up what you said from yesterday's thread, if you look at the stats of a guy like Sharp, you would think he's having a Kane like year. Most SOG of anyone on the team and just a couple of goals behind Kane. What is maddening about him to me is that he has incredible hockey smarts and is constantly in a GOOD position to score. He is positioning himself as a finisher and not capitalizing. It's one thing to ding posts, but a lot of shots seem to miss the net entirely lately.

If I'm Stan Bowman, I don't think I'm out there right now trying to force a trade, but I'm certainly listening to what other teams have to say. Overall, the team has moved remarkably forward since the start of the year and it is probably a little too early to start making hard decisions. By the end of January, barring injuries, you probably start to have a better idea of who works and who doesn't. Undoubtedly, they are going to trade someone who goes and tears it up somewhere else. I'm okay with that provided we get what we need in return and they fit in with the system being built.

FearlessFreep said:

user-pic

Charles Barkley...that's a good comparison.

Yeah I think Sopel is a valuable player for the reasons you mention. He is a grinder-type defenseman. He won't get on any highlight reels and he isn't noticed unless he makes a mistake. There hasn't been a whole lot of times his name is mentioned, and for the role he plays, that's a good thing.

Also some props for Troy Brouwer. He's been playing exceptionally well of late, although I do have to laugh when Patrick and Eddie-O harp about how many times his contributions don't show up on the scoresheet.

Guys like Sopes, Ladd and Brouwer are like the O-Line in football - doing the dirty work so guys like Toews, Kane and Hossa can shine.

Mike Kiley said:

user-pic

Damn Freep, what did I do to you to get thrown into the same lifeboat with Morris and cast adrift?

Dave Morris said:

user-pic

Did I hear somebody say something about a party on a boat?

And don't worry Mike, Freep's buying.

@Freep>I can get you a helluva deal on a PuckLuck Hockey Prognosticator ($49.95, Made In China, batteries not included). Wal-Mart sells out the minute they come in, but I have a 'source'.

FearlessFreep said:

user-pic

I got plenty of Stoli and ZingZang for bloodys and martinis that I couldn't use over the holidays.

Count me in.

Hostile Hawk said:

user-pic

I agree.
In fact I think one of the reasons that Huet is seeing so much more ice time than Niemi is to build his stats in front of an elite defense, for future trades.

iplagitr said:

user-pic

One thing the Hawks can learn from this weekend: use the wrist shot or short snap shot from the point more often. Buff scored on a sweet, deceiving wrister from the blue-line on Saturday, and the Preds used quick long shots very effectively at the end of the game last night. The lack of a big wind-up doesn't give the opposing goalie time to come out and get set, and also doesn't allow the opponents time to slide in to block or get their stick out to deflect. Pucks tend to bounce around more crazily on the way to the net on the slower shots too. Try mixing it up back there. Marty Havlat used to be very effective with the long wrist shot when he played the point on PPs.

Dave Morris said:

user-pic

Doctor Kiley, good to hear that you are following your Liquid Diet For Life.

"A Martini A Day" is definitely a maxim to live by.

And while we're at it, let's make it two-a-day. You can never get enough of Vitamin V. Vodka, not time, heals all wounds.

While some will get out their fine tooth combs, pick through the peaks and valleys of last night's tilt looking for dandruff and draw conclusions based on the size and shape of the flakes, you have cut to the chase.

Another win. Take the two points, and let's move on.

iplagitr said:

user-pic

I thought you were done talking about the goalie situation, Freep? ;-)

I actually haven't read anyone suggesting to trade Huet immediately (including my own posts). It's all speculation on what to do for next year when we will be forced to trade some big names. I'm all for keeping the winning tandem going for now. I don't think you could trade Huet and his salary now anyway. I think your point - as well as puckpowwow's a while ago - is valid about letting Huet gain some value this season if they ever do want to trade him.

Bottom line, both goalies are allowing the team to keep winning. I don't see the difference in either goalie playing on any given night. The team is playing great in front of them and obviously Q and the players are confident in whatever goalie is behind them.

FearlessFreep said:

user-pic

Yeah, that lasted a whole 14 hours, didn't it.

SDSTAN said:

default userpic local-auth auth-type-mt

Campbell has been excellent, I also like how Hendry is playing, he has good quickness and usually makes good decisions with the puck. Kudos to Brouwer for getting to the dirty areas to set up goals, a great screen on the Campbell goal and he also tapped a loose puck back to Kane with a defenseman all over him to set up the winner.

fattybeef said:

default userpic local-auth auth-type-mt

The Hawks are the best team in the NHL... I dont think its constructive to break up something that works so well. Let the bowman work his magic after the season is over and were all praising him as the hockey savior. Until that time the Hawks are the best team in the NHL and thats pretty freakin cool considering hocky didnt exist in this town less than 3 years ago.

Does steeger have the flu or is that a Q-Stache smack down for playing like an idiot?

Dave Morris said:

user-pic

@Fatty> to answer your question, the Tribune's Chris Kuc offers this: "Things were even more upbeat at Monday's practice at the United Center as winger Kris Versteeg and defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson were back on the ice after missing the last two games with the flu.

'It should be good to get back in the lineup and really sweat it out a bit,' Versteeg said. 'It was a bit of a tough little few days there. Now I'm starting to come back and feel better. That goes with (Hjalmarsson) too. He was a little bit under the weather.'"

Thank goodness it was only these two...a lot of teams have been hit much harder by the flu virus this year.

fattybeef said:

default userpic local-auth auth-type-mt

That makes sense. Q at least has a nice problem when he has to figure out who to sit.

TB has been playing well. Finally seeing some of that potential his 40 goal years in the minors highlighted.

Sharp has missed a lot of open chances but also carries several more responsibilities on the ice playing center. He is playing fine just not scoring consistantly. Everyone else is putting in goals so he can save his for when they hit a wall.

iplagitr said:

user-pic

I was wondering the same about Steeger, but apparently he has the flu. Strangely, I didn't really miss him out there.... maybe the break will do him well.

I agree with comments about Brouwer too. He's been huge in front of the net lately.

Alligator Derski said:

user-pic

The Hawks are playing great obviously and you can see that they control the puck and outskate everyone even from a dimly lit bar.

The superstars are earning their money; Kane seems to be doing everything and Toews' +/- speaks volumes. As well as they are playing right now it'd be great to see Burish ruffle a few feathers on the ice with this group.

Hostile Hawk said:

user-pic

Brouwer has been huge all year, I can't say enough nice things about him. Versteeg has definitely been slumping as of late, hopefully he can come back strong. I would hate, really hate to see him traded next year. I am of the hope that this team will be the same team in the playoffs. I actually like hearing some questions brought up about Q's choices in the games. I think he is coaching an amazing team and has made a couple of bad decisions throughout the season, but I am not complaining about it, just saying he is fallible.
The goalie debate, though a really good one, probably will be better explained later into the season. Niemi has been (finally) getting more starts resently, so his true character will certainly be better exposed as the season goes on. True, any goalie could win in front of these Hawks, but playoffs are a different monster and having the stronger goalie in net might be the difference between winning a cup and not even making it to the finals. Though Niemi let in 4 last night, he still made some quick, reactive saves that out shine Huet's abilities on most nights. Niemi has, however shown some immaturity issues in net. I really don't know what to say about his performance last night. He let some in that were surely savable, but were also deflected quite a bit. Pucks that would have favored Huet's technique of staying low.
That save that Niemi made late where he made the first save low, jumped back up and somehow ended up making a save on the far side that put him into the splits was unbelievable and beyond Huet's abilities.
What a game that was. Go Madden!

Dave Morris said:

user-pic

Well, PuckPowPow, you'll have to make do with Huey tonight...he's only 3-1 with a 1.00 GAA in his last four starts.

Glenn Hall is, apparently, not available.

SDSTAN said:

default userpic local-auth auth-type-mt

How about Murray Baaannerman!! I am sure he is available and ready to put the pads on again. Foley would love to call another great save by him for old time sake.

Dave Morris said:

user-pic

@SDSTAN> Darren Pang is just itching to suit up...and he's been seen lurking around the UC. Once a Hawk, always a Hawk.

fattybeef said:

default userpic local-auth auth-type-mt

Hahaha wow. I actually got in a fight with the old man the other day about Glen Hall. Crazy guy tried to tell me he only played for detroit(sucks).

Lets get real crazy, Huet has played significantly fewer seasons/games (502 in a row really?) but in terms of career numbers his are pretty similar to Huet. For example, Huet's GAA is a few points lower (2.49 vs 2.45) and thats with the "new NHL" Looking at save% at least according to wikipedia (reliable source for sure) they are again not that far from eachother if you check career numbers: Hall typically floated a little above .920 while huet is more like .917 --- I dont get the complaining even the great Martin Brodeur has only .914 save%. We have a historically pretty good first string keeper and an awesome D. Its an 82 game season, people are gonna play like crap every now and then and be average for several more. But I think the guy is a winner, gives a great interview and you gotta love how he beats on people in his crease.

Hostile Hawk said:

user-pic

As I said, I willing to put this debate to the side for the moment. Niemi is getting more starts as he should and time will hopefully reveal the better man for the job. As I have also said, I am not looking at statistics for my reasoning on the matter, though Niemi has better numbers than Huet this year, I am looking at style, strength and quality. The night the Hawks lost to the Sharks, Darren Mcarthy even commented on Huet's lack of abilities and how he is predictable. During the break between periods he said, "Huet goes down early and it is easy for a player to read this and shoot high," he said this before the Sharks did just that. This means that any team with higher quality players who have some patience will just wait and shelf the puck.
While Huet's career numbers might look decent, I am sort of pained to see him compared to Hall.
Huet became hot with a good team in front of him for a couple of weeks, but lost in the first round of the playoffs with that team. He was traded the next year, to a team where he would become the starting goalie but soon lost that title to another goalie, when he was traded to the Hawks to be the replacement for Khabbi and also lost that position. Statistics aside, what has made him worthy of being a starting goalie in the NHL?
Eddie O', has made many comments about Niemi's strength, athleticism, vision and size, stating his promise as a goaltender and already brilliant abilities. He has also often makes note of Huet's poor decision making, lack of speed and weak glove. He knows who the better goalie is.
But as I said, I am also not completely sure of Niemi, he is young and lacks experience right now.
This year will be a good building block for the young man.
If we were to trade him next year, I am sure we would come to regret that choice.

iplagitr said:

user-pic

I agree with powwow that's it's just been cool to see a little more of Niemi so we can better evaluate his game. I don't agree with some who contend that playing Niemi more often will ruin Huet's self-confidnce. Any goalie with potential confidence problems doesn't belong in the NHL -- and if they have those issues, they would have never made it this far in professional hockey to begin with.

No matter who plays, numbers can be deceiving. A goalie can play great and still give up multiple goals because of unlucky bounces or poor team play... or visa-versa, a goalie can post a shut-out but not face a single really difficult chance if the team is playing well in front of them. The make-up of every game is different, so micro-analyzing each goalie's play on a per-game basis is fairly pointless.

I see no problems with a more frequent goalie rotation. They're both playing well, and it will keep them fresh and motivated in the January schedule grind.

Dave Morris said:

user-pic

PuckPowPow, did Darren McCarty also comment on his own lack of ability?

fattybeef said:

default userpic local-auth auth-type-mt

Well all Im saying is that its crazy to question Huet's NHL credentials or his position as the starter and toss him under the buss. If he makes several stupid mistakes then we can talk about making a switch but until then it seems kind of absurd. Im not one of those who believes in breaking in some kid when your hot on a playoff run, better to go with the steady veteran and live with his faults then flip a coin. But thats just me.

Dave Morris said:

user-pic

@Fatty> fans love to throw Cristo under the Zamboni just because he's French. If the Hawks win the Cup with Huet in goal some people will *still* be complaining.

fossilhippie said:

user-pic

I don't think they'll have a real slump either (barring injuries) because of what they say in every sport: Speed never slumps.

Leave a Comment?

Some HTML is permitted: a, strong, em

What your comment will look like:

said:

what will you say?

Most Active Pages Right Now

ChicagoNow.com on Facebook