Blackhawks Confidential

Blackhawks face Armageddon, but find it's better than living in anonymity

ducks.jpgHow long do we have to put up with this miserable, unremitting skid?

Forget the two-game losing streak. I'm not talking about that travesty. I want answers about how the Hawks can lose for just the second time this year when allowing a power-play goal at the United Center.

Circle the beer wagons, boys, you have the populace in a fine froth and refreshments will be required to mask their chagrin.

Of course, we have seen power plays scored against the Blackhawks so infrequently this great season on home ice, I somewhat suspect the latest untenable, unacceptable, unfathomable and un-un-un-unbelievable tragedy, not to mention unquestionable perfidy Sunday night against Anaheim in a 3-1 loss, was an ice-sculpture allusion.

The fates tacked it on like a foreclosure notice the day after the Hawks went bankrupt and were charged with delinquency in Minnesota for abandoning a four-goal lead.

Either that, or momentary drop-in Jack Skille infected his teammates Sunday with his own special disease of skating very well in circles and just getting nowhere quite quickly and looking like he's making a valiant effort doing it. The next time the Hawks have to replace Marian Hossa, please make it with a NHL player who knows where he's going and plans to make something happen.

Am I asking too much? If Skille is the future, I'm going to stay in the present and refuse to budge from 2010.

But I infect myself with my own disease of digressive diarrhea. I hope I didn't spray too much prattle on you, so that you might have to miss the biggest, most important, critical, do-or-die game of the season Thursday night against Columbus.

The propsect of a three-game slippage, right here in Chicago, threatens to blow our world and what we perceive as our God-given right to a Stanley Cup to kingdom come and gone. We must conduct an exorcism before the devil starts tipping the scales to his own preference with his homeboys in New Jersey.

Permit me to return to what I see here in black-and-white: this Ducks snort Sunday on the man advantage was the first power-play goal against the Hawks on home ice from the last 13 games, the second permitted over the last 18 home games, the seventh this season, and only time other than the Oct. 21 loss to Vancouver that Chicago has actually been defeated when allowing the other guys to score on the power play in the UC.

The Canucks even managed two goals in that effort, the only time all year an opponent has mustered more than one power-play score at the UC.

This madness must stop. How else are we going to win the Stanley Cup in January? How else will goalie Cristobal Huet continue to be the seventh best goalie in the NHL with his 2.17 goals-against average?

I mean, the man needs some help if he is going to keep NHL leader Andy Niemi and his 1.84 goals-against average out of his hair and out of his net?

The Blue Jackets have one of the league's more effective road power plays at 22.1 per cent (19-for-86) and you also have to factor in that the Hawks have one of the NHL's worst home power plays at 17.2 per cent (17-for-99). Trouble just ahead?

Break down those numbers and you see again it's a thin line between decent and subpar in a game where it's hard to absorb all the angles.

Dustin Byfuglien has five points in his last five games and Kris Versteeg has six points in his last five games, and yet you can easily find an irritated fan or 50 ready to pound them on their heads with disappointment over their vacillating performances.

Some wish Versteeg would remember the porn star's mantra: get it deep and quit teasing us with your superficial kisses. Although personally, I thought Versteeg showed some strong play against the Ducks.

Huet even took a worse drubbing from some fans the day after than he did facing the few Anaheim shots sent his way. Really, folks, Huet was beside the point in this outcome, a passenger rather than a pilot who had no control in the crash.

We have ourselves a two-edged sword here. The better the Blackhawks play, the more fans are expecting them to be flawless and the more edgily critiquing their slightest failures.

Really, that's a good thing and the team should see it that way. Fans used to be discouraged by how bad the Hawks were when the highest expectation was that they might qualify for the last spot in the playoffs.

And let's be honest, quite a few paying attention now didn't even have the Hawks on a radar screen when they teetered from mediocre to ridiculous to not worth mentioning.

Showing angst over a two-game losing streak shows how far the fans and the Hawks have come. The demand, however, is for a turnaround right now before we really get concerned.

I'd have to say the most worrisome trend this season is injury. Hossa hasn't turned into Marty Havlat or Nikolai Khabibulin quite yet, but the rash of injuries--starting with the Hossa news last summer that he needed shoulder surgery--could be the only obstacle between the Hawks and a championship.

The injury list is the only number constantly working against the Hawks in major doses. I mean, how the hell can we trade Cam Barker when he refuses to cooperate and stay healthy?

Maybe the fast approaching 8-game trip to hither and yon, including playing on a national stage on NBC next Sunday in Detroit, won't be as challenging as many predict. The Hawks are a much more successful power play in opposing rinks, clicking there at a highly respectable 26.9 per cent.

This group has shown an ability to respond to adversity for some time now. That makes their present plight nothing more serious than a hangnail in the big picture.

Even with the guys who are sporting false teeth, that should be easily bitten off.

Why shouldn't you be worried? Simple.

The Hawks didn't look like losers Sunday against Anaheim, hard as they tried to right their listing ship all night. They were a lucky bounce away from salvation, like most of us.

After years of being able to easily spot a loser right away on West Madison St. when we saw one, it's a welcome uproar over a two-game collapse. Makes us feel important.

Put the Hawks on this penalty kill, swatting away the pressure of expectation, and I think we will see what we have all year. A team that knows how to extinguish any power play that is brought against them, verbal or physical.

I'm not too sure how awake they will be having to play Saturday afternoon at 1 in Columbus. I might think coach Q might want a few of the boys to pull an all-nighter, going from that pleasant tinkle of bar glasses right into to the brash trumpet of steel impacting ice, but I'll leave the regimen to more disciplined types.

If the Blue Jackets strike paydirt twice against the Blackhawks this week and manage to win the double header, it will be the most unexpected discovery for us since Columbus wandered into the new world by mistake.

We'll have discovered the Hawks are mortal. That should drive church attendance to all-time highs Sunday with Armageddon upon us.



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FearlessFreep said:


I think that we've all become quite spoiled with the Hawks success this year - thinking that even when they play a below average game they can still pull a win out of their ass. It just doesn't happen that way, as we have been reminded. Any team can come in and just play that much better for that night and come out on top.

I can't say how the players and coaches feel, but I am guilty of being a Hawks fan on autopilot lately - even when they are down I simply expect them to come back. Or, as in the case Saturday night, how surprised and shocking it is that an opposing team can come back from four down in a twenty minute time span.

I woke up this morning, and the losses of the past two nights felt like a hangover from an otherwise euphoric party of dynamic scoring, stifling defense and expected victories. Time to gulp down a few Advils and just enjoy the ride.

Blackhawk Up said:

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While this is definitely not "Armageddon," you have to admit they looked defeated coming off Saturday's collapse. The fact is that this is now a team in Chicago with expectations like the rest of them. Losing two games the way they did isn't necessarily cause for immediate concern, but it has to be noted they have mainly been coasting this season. There's no harm in asking questions about whether or not they can respond to a letdown like this past weekend. Aside from Saturday driving me to drink heavily, I'm not panicking. But this is something new to this team, and if Sunday they came out playing like the team that scored 4 goals in 9 straight games, no questions needed to be asked at all.

Speaking of drinking, Whirlaway in Logan Square 1/23 vs. Vancouver. Us bloggers will be out in full force. You should join.

Mike Kiley said:


Maybe your computer crashed on purpose so as not to be a party to the weekend's shenanigans. Every season has a valley, but as long as it's not a Big Valley with Barbara Stanwyck in goal everything should be just dandy. Alas, on Jan. 23, I have commitments to meet, but I promise we'll all meet up soon and get whirled away. I'll even bring my pretty little Secretariat. OK, so maybe you don't want me to come, after all.

Mike Kiley said:


Oh, and one more thing, dare to ask questions will you. John McDonough will have the Hawks' Gestapo at your door, asking for more than your United Center seat number. They'll want your ass, too, for such brashness.

Blackhawk Up said:

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For $660 plus having to take out a loan to buy playoff tickets then having to deal with the raised prices next season, he can EAT my ass.

Dave Morris said:


Mike, sometimes you're just too darn sensible.

On the other hand, this IS the beginning of The Mean Season.

If the Hawks slash the Jackets, smash the Wings, and crush the Sens, then go on to snuff the Flames and nuke the Nucks, I'd say we can lean back in the Lay-Z-Boy...for a minute or two.

Until then, keep the vodka within arm's reach.

Isn't hockey fun?

fattybeef said:

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I cant stand McDonough, hes one arrogant dude. However Im sure he makes more dollars when he sleeps than I'll see awake. And doesnt live in his parents basement falling prey to suburban cugars...

I will literally cry if prices go up next year or at least go on a similar rant. Though I get all my tickets second hand so it doesnt really matter I suppose. Is that confirmed? I went from not really caring about the latest speed bump to just being upset with life now. I mean seriously, what does the average ticket cost? $75.00? Or 1.5 million in attendence revenue per game. And doesnt Wirtz own most of that building? So you got roughly 60mil which covers the players. I assume the boxes and food sales and parking breaks even with the UC staff. Plus the TV and advertising deals which become pure profit. Im all about America and making money but you dont have to be a huge douche about it. Youll turn the place into a bunch of swank drunks instead of old time hockey fans... Were going from Dollar bill to Rack-em Rock (you can use that in another thread if you want its catchy) but at least well have a solid team? Maybe? Thank god I have a nice TV, so long as the game isnt on VS...

Id love to see an irishmen with a gestapo by the way. Seems kind of oxymoranic.

But all I really wanted to say was that the Hawks need to get through the next few weeks with out dropping serious points becuase similar to Han Solo regarding the olympics -- Ive got a bad feeling about this.

VegasHawksFan said:


Ever since the trip to the WCF, it's been pretty all or nothing with this fan base. With the talent they have, their record and the way they have performed against the other truly top teams, there isn't any reason to not legitimately consider this team cup worthy. By the same token, based on how they have played weaker teams, it shouldn't be a surprise when they are shut down by a strong forecheck.

Right now, I don't see any deeper meaning than that. Few teams have their depth of talent and ability to dominate when they are on their game and no matter what happens this week, that isn't going to change.

Hostile Hawk said:


It is not technically two loses in a row, it is two games without a win, if that lessens the blow a bit. Whatever.
I am glad that the Hawks blew the game against the Wild, it will teach them character and how to never give up. If Im one of them with a 5-1 lead over a suffering team, I take a breather too in the third period, but not anymore after that loss.
Plus, even though we lost to the Ducks, we out shot them 43-11, allowing only one shot on Niemi in the third. Thats is not a loss in my book. Im actually a bit confused about your comments about Huet in this post Mike, its seems your mentioning it as if he played last night. The worst thing about that loss for me was Niemi letting in 2 on 11 shots, even though he had no chance on one of them and the other was a weird one. The first goal was a result of a rookie goalie making a rookie mistake which actually calls for him to get more starts so he can get better at his game. As far as I am concerned, Huet shot himself against the Wild and his starting spot should be gone.
Anyhow, the Ducks got a couple of early breaks and then sat back to play a zoned defense that was surprisingly efficient. Hiller was really good, but the defense kept the Hawks shots form the perimeter lowering any prime scoring chances, his greatest aspect was not allowing any rebounds (Huet should have had his note pad out). The Hawks needed to plant Brouwer, Buf and Ladd in front of that net and allow the Ducks to watch them create a shooting frenzy, which happened, but without set up and screens.
Ultimately I feel these two games mean little and still show a far superior Hawks team. However, they are great learning experiences. What to do when a team gives everything to defensive strategy.

If people are shitting on Versteeg then they are missing the toilet by a mile and will be cleaning it up off the floor themselves. Sure, Versteeg is crazy and sometimes hard to watch, he obviously has ADHD, but man, the guy gives all he has and more, and makes for some great highlight films from time to time. He sets people up, tries to do it himself and takes hits from the biggest guys night after night. In time, he will be extremely deadly and highly sought after. Buf is Buf and sure, we could spend a day picking at his game, finding many concerns, but overall I want him on this team.

I find it interesting that Barker was suspended for one game, hasn't returned and is now said to be "injured" when the Hawks are being questioned on cap issues. With Hendry getting the job done me thinkist that Barker might be traded soon. Though I would understand the move, I would be sad to see him leave. Don't mess with this fine defense I say, unless its Campbell leaving for cap space. But, please tell me how Hossa is injured?
enough said, Go Hawks!

SharpKane said:


All they are saying is lower body for the Hoss.

These two losses ARE a let down. I just hope the men of four feathers see it like it is.

They got beat by two inferior teams. That's all it boils down to. They keep getting the other teams best, night in, night out, and it finally has caught up to them, two times in a row. Nothing should be more inspiring to them than the realization that they need to keep bringing it. Frustration can lead to focus, when handled properly. Let's hope this adversity results in a big ol' can of whoop ass.

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