Blackhawks Confidential

Blackhawks stop the bleeding and losing, crowning Kings 3-0

kings.jpgAfter losing a key defenseman in each of their last two games, the bleeding stopped for the Blackhawks in a 3-0 victory Thursday night in Los Angeles.

After losing their previous three games, experiencing the slightest of slumps (maybe just a slipup would be the better term), the freefall stopped just past midnight Chicago time with a lot of the city asleep and unaware the Hawks had righted the ship and should be under sail soon again with a stiff breeze at their backs as one of the main Stanley Cup favorites.

Well, Chicagoans weren't the only ones snoozing. So were the slumbering Kings, who were held to minimal shots. Between Los Angeles' last shot in the first period and their first shot in the second period, 16 minutes, 39 seconds ticked away with the Hawks' usual strong puck possession on cruise control and the Kings looking more lackluster the longer the game dragged on.

If the Hawks can finish the trip west with a solid win Saturday night in Phoenix, where those Coyotes are howling like seldom before, it will have ended with plenty of controversy and lots of wounds to heal, but an upbeat return to Chicago to get ready for the final push toward the playoffs.

Antti Niemi wasn't sorely tested at any point with the shot difference a stark 37-17 in this game, but he came away with his fifth shutout of the season. That's good enough to have him retain his status as the current No. 1 goalie until we see something completely different out of Cristobal Huet, who may not have enough time left to go on a roll in the regular season.

Tomas Kopecky will finally get some positive attention after scoring two goals in the third period. He has been a healthy scratch quite a bit of late, and maybe that motivated his good night.

But the Hawks need everybody to step up with Campbell and Seabrook ailing, so it was nice to see impressive contributions from the third and fourth lines against the Kings.

Also of note was defenseman Jordan Hendry. He may get more consistent work and being a main man in engineering a drive that resulted in Troy Brouwer's first goal of the game in the second period was an important confidence booster for him.

Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews assisted Brouwer, who did a good job lifting the puck in tight quarters because goalie Jonathan Quick couldn't cover and stop the rebound chance.

The Hawks looked slightly tentative in a sporadic first period that was scoreless and often sleep-inducing. Quite a few fans might have nodded off.

But I was brought fully awake in the third people when Hawks announcer Pat Foley rightly wondered why the Kings got the short end of a nothing fight between Ben Eager and Raitis Ivanans. The officials ushered the Hawks to another power play, although that might not be such big help since they were 0-for-5 in that category and are slumping again on the power play.

Here's the rub. Since the officiating crew was the same one that was criticized by the Hawks so much for their work Wednesday night in Anaheim, Foley pointed out obliquely that these officials may be leaning the Hawks' way in the Kings' game to make up for that. "I'm just saying," Foley basically claimed, trying to back away from an obvious accusation.

Since the Kings didn't get a power play, the argument can be made. However, it's a pretty damning indictment in any league when you infer the offciating isn't calling it the way they see it, but calling it one particular way to make up for previous errors, such as giving the Ducks' James Wisniewski a minor rather than a major Wednesday and then seeing the league raise questions about that by dropping an 8-game suspension on Wiz Thursday.

I'm sure referees Paul Devorski and Ian Walsh will not be pleased to have anyone imply they were on the Hawks' side Thursday to make up for Wednesday. But when that implication is made, it almost deserves a response from the league. Such charges should not be allowed to go unheeded and swept under the rug because few people were awake to hear them.

But I know none of that will happen. It's the NHL. I do know Foley did the NHL no favors with that statement. It constantly has to prove it's a major sport. You don't do it by suggesting the refs might be in the tank here and there when it suits their purposes to save face.

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18 Comments

falkin3 said:

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Foley called it exactly how anyone watching would have seen it. Make up calls aren't a big secret. How Eager got away with the first punch in front of what looked like 2 or possibly 3 officials is beyond me. But those guys looked a little shell shocked to be honest. I think the NHL told them how they saw yesterdays game and those guys wondered what officiating the OHL would be like.

Mike Kiley said:

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Maybe I'm being overly sensitive. It's been known to happen. I only had one eye opened until Foley decided to say the refs might be taking a pass on this game as far as cracking down on the Hawks after getting chewed out by NHL/re: Blackhawks (the smartest guys in the room). But if you and others believe this is just the natural course of events, with refs swayed so easily by the prospects of job loss and league/team retribution, I gotta tell ya I think it's a pretty big story. Maybe not quite in the league of the NBA guy taking the dough up front to control games, but how is this different if indeed they want to stay in the NHL at current salary rather than be demoted and not lose their pay scale? If such accusations can be made casually, while everybody laughs and says yeah I was thinking the same thing, what kind of league do we have here? Signed--Mr. Sensitive.

Dean Youngblood said:

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This is not just the natural course of events, it is the natural course of life. There is corruption everywhere. If there was no corruption, there would be no life.

Kopecky played great. The coach should have rewarded him by putting him in at the end of the game, especially during the power play.

iplagitr said:

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I was watching the LA feed, so I didn't hear Foley's comments, but I was definitely thinking the same thing throughout the game. There were several occasions besides the Eager fight where I was surprised the refs didn't whistle the Hawks down for a minor.

But after all the frustration they've been through lately, it was nice to see the Hawks rewarded with a win by playing the game the right way. I thought Hendry and Buff had noticeably strong games. I haven't been a big fan of Buff at the point on the PP, but I thought he played a much better, more confident game there tonight. It would have been nice to see at least one PP goal out of the team though - especially in the first.

As usual, it would also be nice to see one or two more of the Hawks excellent scoring chances actually go in the net. They need to get more rebound shots up off the ice. I know, easier said than done, but that was the difference in the Brouwer goal. How many great chances ended up just being stuffed into Quick's pads down low?

SharpKane said:

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My take on that PP, Ivanans wouldn't let go of him after Eager dropped down. He tried to pick him back up and refused to let go even after both officials got their hands around em. I have a feeling they gave Ivanans a chance in leaving it even because they were saying something to him but he kept pulling Eager up, which Ivanans was obviously doing to show Eager how badly he could of mashed his face in. As for the rest of the officiating, I didn't think it was too one sided.

Jerry Kayne said:

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The entire game was a snoozefest. But I slept better after the win.

The Hawks skated as if they were a beaten dog waiting for his next beating until the middle of the 2nd period. Then they took control of the puck. The Kings could have taken the game away early but they had an even worse time passing and being in any kind of position. The Hawks weren't even good but the Kings were terrible.

I thought the Hawks were in trouble at the start of the 1st when Sopel took a stick in the face and left for stitches.

Kopetsky seems to have very little control over himself on the ice, but luckily he was moving toward Quick and hit the net this game. Hossa is magic with the puck and I give Hendry my #1 star. A very good game by Buff. There, I said it.

Alex said:

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Mike - longtime reader, first time poster, 50+ year Hawks fan. Finally decided to register and got psyched up enough to post with all of the posters that know far more about the technical aspects of the game than me.

@Jerry Kane - "Snoozefest" - that's the word I was looking for. Was expecting a much more interesting game. The Kings had been off since Sunday and were well-rested. I was really surprised they didn't show up.

I was also wondering late in the Ducks game if the NHL, for cost-saving purposes, would have Walsh and Devorski officiating the Kings game. I was a little concerned when that proved to be correct, but then relaxed when I saw the way they were calling it as a make-up game for the Hawks.

And I, too, slept a lot better last night than Wednesday night.


I was a little surprised at the same officiating crew, but even before the Ducks game ended

VegasHawksFan said:

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Watched the game at a casino in vegas, and it was interesting to get the Kings feed. I was falling asleep myself in the first period but it struck me during the intermission that despite being boring, they weren't making a bunch of mistakes and taking exceptionally stupid penalties. Undoubtedly, they were getting some breaks from the refs, but I didn't see LA looking particularly pissed that they weren't getting calls.

They certainly looked better as the game went on, but I still look at LA as kinda like the frumpy slump buster. They needed this one in more ways than one and basically shut the Queens down cold. I find it interesting that while there was much hand wringing, the Sharks went on a real shit slide and have dropped five straight with tonight's loss to the flamers. For the Hawks to really get back on track, they need to rack up a win against the Yotes who have a better record than third place Vancouver. Despite the Hawks woes, they have gone to the top of the conference. How weird is that shit?

iplagitr said:

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Weird continued... the Wings just barely got a point from the last-in-the-league Oilers tonight. They had to score with one second left just to tie the game, and then they lost in the SO to a goalie who had never won a game in the NHL. Crazy.

Dave Morris said:

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Mike, Stan Fischler, Dick Beddoes and Ira Gitler examined the case of an NHL referee who admitted that games were 'altered' by calls/non-calls, in their excellent 1969 book "Hockey! The Story of the World's Fastest Sport".

The chapter on that referee (a transcript of a investigative television report by Canadian network CTV) was strangely deleted in the following edition. Both editions are still available from online booksellers Alibris.

The subject is one that tickles and titillates the public.

I say take the two points, and move on.

BTW if the teams in the West continue at their recent pace, the standings could change and Hawks might just see the Kings in the first round.

borg said:

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The Kings are 4 points up on Detroit and Calgary and have 2 games in hand on Nashville with whom they are tied. They'd have to suffer a pretty large collapse to finish lower than 6th.

Dave Morris said:

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Borg, the Kings have 10 points in their last 10, the Preds have 14 and the Wings 15. If each of these teams maintain the same pace for the next ten games, the Wings and Preds can pass the Kings. For that matter, so might the Flames, who also have 14 points.

borg said:

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If all those things happen. But the Kings have been incredibly streaky all year. They're bound to win some here and the Preds are bound to lose a few.

borg said:

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Dave, if you really want to go by recent play, Phoenix may get the top seed.

Blackhawks trying to set a record for blown leads.

beaverwarrior said:

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Any word on who's starting between the pipes tonight?

iplagitr said:

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Q said Niemi would play after yesterday's practice. Cristo's still recovering from the flu.

beaverwarrior said:

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Thank you for the information.

Alex said:

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If the Kings are as invisible in their remaining games as they were Thursday night, that large collapse might not be far away. Great chance to start pulling away from the Sharks tonight. Tough game tonight. Bryzgalov is one of the hottest goalies in the league right now, and the Coyotes are the hottest team.

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