The Chicago Blackhawks get blanked in the tank.

The Chicago Blackhawks get blanked in the tank.

I really love how every time someone is playing against Niemi you hear all about how easy it is to beat him. All you have to do is this, or this, or that. Well, not even his old team had any answers last night as Niemi was the sole reason for the Hawks being defeated. I have a warm spot in my heart for Niemi, so I have to sort of grin at the outcome. Sometimes Karma can be a bitch. The only reason I am able to grin at the play of Niemi though, is because the Hawks played well. I said in the pre-game post that I just wanted to see team play come out of the Hawks, and they sure as heck delivered on that.

Now, mentioning the talk around how to beat Niemi is one thing, and yes annoying, but watching Bickell go low corner on a breakaway is sure madness. I do recognize that Niemi has weaker spots, but low corners is far from one of them. And since it was Bickell, it pisses me off just a little bit more. I get it, Niemi takes up a lot of the net and makes the holes seem non-existent, but the Hawks also helped him with the shutout. Namely, by not having enough traffic in front. Give SJ's defense credit for that one though. They now where Niemi is weaker, and they support him where he needs it. The Hawks should be taking notes.

Hossa had a few of his own, but at least I liked his thinking. Worth mentioning is that Hossa was a madman out there, creating some of the best offensive opportunities, and that Havlat might have saved the game against a Hossa chance (again that karma thing). Also, worth mentioning is that many of Hossa's great chances came off the stick of Stalberg. I see chemistry brewing here. So riddle me this, why sit Stalberg in the 3rd and double shift Brunette? Stal's might be the first player to actually show real chemistry with Hossa since Kopecky. If we can even call that chemistry. It was more like Kopecky just looked for Hossa every time he had the puck. He knew what his skills were, and he tried to use them to help Hossa. This is kinda what I mean when I talk about players filling specific roled on specific lines, and why consistently changing them hurts production. Anyway, I am rambling now.

But while we are on the subject, just what is Sharp's role these days, or better yet, when is he going to show up for a game? He doesn't look terrible by any means, how could a guy with all of that skill. He hasn't really lived up to that skill though, or that contract for the matter.

Okay, thats enough rambling for real this time. The good should be mentioned, as there was plenty of it. So without further ado, here is your game points on this day of thanks:

  • The Hawks responded exactly how we wanted them too. Time to feel good about something. They came out hard in the first, played brilliantly, were the better team through 2 periods, supported each other like a team, were physical in perspective to their standards, and should have had a huge lead by the end of 2. Really, enough said. They lost, but they played well. Good things ahead if it continues.
  • Bolland missed an empty netter in the 2nd, Stal's had a close wrap-around, Kaner had 7 shots on net, a few rebounds were extremely close to being cashed in on. This game was very close to being a Hawk's win. If they only had a better net presence and SJ wasn't so good at clearing them out.
  • Even though Bickell blew his giant breakaway, I saw better from him tonight. Not enough to get him out of the dog-house, but an improvement nonetheless.
  • Kruger continues to impress me, and especially on the PK. I can't say that I have ever seen a player improve so much in such a short time.
  • The Hawks were great in the middle of the ice, exposing the issues SJ is currently having there. The Hawks were also better in their own end, with the exception of the 3rd when they seemed to have no answer for the Shark's cycle.
  • Keith played half of the game. Obviously, Seab's inability to return last night played a factor and in all fairness could have easily been the difference between the win. However, I still must point to patterns in Keith's play. The lengthy ice-time is not a good idea. He played great last night, after having time to rest from games when he played long minutes and started stinking up the ice. Which brings me to the ever annoying complaint of playing Scott.
  • How do you think it feels to a guy like Lepisto who is a pretty good puck-mover, has speed, is physical and aggressive, to watch Scott play games over and over while he watches from a box? Or even O'Donnell for that matter. The level of frustration must be pretty high. How does Lepisto respond when he gets his chance to finally play? My point, is the same as it has always been. There are choices that Q makes which affect the frustration level of this team. Scott has no right playing over Lepisto or O'Donnell in any way, shape or form. As a result, Keith plays more and this increases his level of frustration and fatigue. Quick question, can O'Donnell and Scott ever be on the ice at the same time? You are killing your own options in a road game Q.
  • By the time the 3rd rolled around, SJ was pretty comfortable changing up their game to better suit a defensive mentality, and it payed off. Thanks to a lucky bounce of a goal in the 2nd. They stopped forcing offensive chances and just played keep away with a one goal lead. The Hawks had no answer and the period was the worst of the 3. Still, a late 4 on 4 followed by a one minute PP offered some hope. Unfortunately, Q missed on his lines, had Bolland and Kruger out during a 4 on 4, and couldn't get his guns out for the ensuing PP in time. Although Toews did make a drive to the net in a last ditch effort and managed to get the puck across the crease awaiting an empty net slam from the back-door, but no one was there.

Eventually, Crawford was pulled for the extra attacker, and again Q was unable to get the right guys on the ice until the final 15 minutes. The game ended with some shame, but I still feel more positive energy around the performance put up by the Hawks. I thought Leddy played great in his own zone. O'Donnell was shaky at times, but made some great plays during other moments. Overall, a much better defensive effort. Let us now enjoy some family time, give thanks for a much more watchable game last night, and remember the history of how some white people from Europe screwed over a bunch of Native Americans. I bid you good day, now lets get fat.

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  • Thanks for the wrap HH. One sentence describes the entirety of why the Sharks won last night, "They know where Niemi is weaker, and they support him where he needs it." It's not that Niemi is easy to score on, but he still gives up a LOT of fat rebounds. Like the cup year Hawks though, the Sharks have surrounded him with a D that can usually clear the puck away quickly.

    The Hawks defense, IMO, was better because the forwards were better in the forecheck and backcheck. The worst thing about this game though is that you will only see this level of intensity after really bad losses and at playoff time. If this was the first game of a seven game series against the Sharks, it's a great game and if you tweak your net presence strategy, you likely win the series. Instead, it's a great effort coming on the heels of two humiliations.

    Any team in the league can beat the Hawks if they protect the house. Last night they showed some jam with a few good runs to the net, but by the third, they looked a little tired to me. We said this before, but I'll state it another way; there is no established minimum level of compete you will see from the Hawks. Even if the minimum level was slightly below last nights game, it would give them the foundation to tweak each game to match the other team's style. When embarrassed and pissed off, they can come back and play some great hockey. When they aren't pissed, they seem to be primarily waiting for the playoffs to start.

  • Food for thought about John Scott. I don't know why I am so drawn to be a devil's advocate against consensus, but it seems to be my lot in life. When Q continues to play guys like Scott or one of last years favorite whipping boys, Kopecky, you have to ask yourself why. I've read all the arguments which run the gamut from Q is a fucking idiot, to it's a wasted roster spot, to a lesser skilled player should never ever play ahead of a better skilled player. Each has their merits in an absolutist kind of way. I don't want to fight those arguments head on, but my strange outlook on life has made me consider this slightly differently today.

    From everything I have read, John Scott has worked enormously hard since he came to this team. He has worked on skating, he has worked on positioning and he has been rewarded for that work, unfairly so in the eyes of most primarily because in their eyes he still sucks. On the flip side, there have been more then a few Hawks players we have called out in the last couple years, perhaps none more harshly then Keith last year for not seeming to work hard. If we say John Scott does not deserve to play while working his ass off while saying it's okay for more skilled players to not work their ass off, what message does that send?

    Of course, the counter argument to this is, "Yeah, but he still sucks." Much to the anger of the fan base, Lepisto and O'Donnell were not brought here just to bench John Scott. When the Hawks sent him to that camp in Sweden over the summer, I think it sent the message that hard work will be rewarded. Perhaps Q needs to keep guys like Scott around and keep playing them because his best players are not working as hard as they should? Angrily, I could spew a bunch of stuff to defeat my own argument, but that's just it, it's anger leveled at a guy who is a third D pair guy and the coach who plays him. On a team that is frequently accused of not working hard every night, I'm hard pressed to really lay into Q for playing a hard working third pair D man who is basically doing what is being asked of him.

    Just food for thought.

  • In reply to VegasHawksFan:

    That argument might hold some merit if he followed the pattern with other players. And yet, Bickell played last night instead of Smith. Kane has never been sat for not showing up, and we saw a bunch of players who worked their butts of last year never see the ice-time they earned.

    I hold nothing against Scott, and he has improved (my hat is off to him), but does that mean anyone who works hard belongs in the NHL? And again, what has Lepisto done to deserve sitting?

    On another note, anyone have a take on the Lucic hit to Miller? Just curious.

  • In reply to Hostile Hawk:

    Well, that has been my argument lately. Q did sit Bickell and it has bothered me he doesn't hold his best players as accountable is his least talented. A couple years ago, I was listening to the afternoon saloon and one of the guys said that Savvy had told them he felt pressured to play the talent guys even when they weren't his hardest working players. I will agree that it's not consistent to let Scott play for hard work while not cutting ice time of players not working as hard, but considering his lack of willingness to challenge anyone named Toews, Keith, Kane or Sharp, I have to wonder if there if is micro management to "not sit the ticket sellers". Early on, Q benched both Kane and Toews, and then never again. As for Bickell, I don't expect it will last, but he did play a better game last night.

    As for Lucic, his attitude is why the Bruins won the cup last year. The team in general is adopting an attitude that goes like this, "If you don't like it, beat me up and make me stop." Problem is, Lucic is a pretty tough guy and can kick the ass of most guys in his weight class as the Sabres found out last night. The Bruins are not all ass kick and no substance, but on a night when their substance isn't good enough, they are more then content to use ass kick to make up for it. It's intimidation, but until, they get whipped employing it, I think it's probably going to get worse.

  • Funny you mention Lucic and the Bruins. Living in New England, I see a lot of the Bruins broadcasts. They're an awesome team to watch these days. Being in a lazy mood last night, I watched some of both the Sabres/Bruins and the Sharks/Hawks games. To me there's such a glaring difference between Chicago and Boston right now. Even though the Hawks played well last night, there's no reckless abandon to their game. It's all perimeter, and when they do attack, it's timid, with little desperation. Boston is fairly relentless with physical force mixed with speed, skilled passing and shooting. You can see why they won the Cup, and I'm glad the Hawks didn't have to face that team in 2010. In contrast, the Hawks' shooting was pathetic last night. Gotta give credit to Niemi, but with all those great chances the Hawks had, I didn't see Niemi make many really dazzling saves -- I saw him making mostly standard positional saves on bad shots.

    As to the Lucic hit. I'm surprised he only got a minor penalty, and more surprised Shanahan didn't take further action. To me there was no effort to stop or avoid a collision. If anything, I saw intent to continue on his same course to hit Miller. The rules are very clear that goalies are not fair game at any point. Then again, Miller's such a twerp that any contact with a guy like Lucic is gonna look like a train hitting a shopping cart.

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