Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Hawks Begin 9 Game Trip Against Hated Canucks

The Chicago Blackhawks will begin a 9 game road trip against the hated Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night in British Columbia.  The heart and soul of the team, Jonathan Toews, will make his return to the lineup after missing a game and a half plus the All-Star game with a wrist injury suffered when he was slashed in a game against the Florida Panthers.  Patrick Sharp will also make his return after missing the last 3 weeks with a broken bone in his left wrist.  Center Brendan Morrison is expected to make his Hawks debut after being acquired in a trade over the break from the Calgary Flames.  Morrison could move into the second line center slot moving Marcus Kruger down to the fourth line.  Corey Crawford will get the start in net for the Hawks.  Corey Schneider will start for the Canucks as Roberto Luongo will hide on the bench again with the Hawks in town.  The Hawks need to pick it up on the road during this trip as they come in just 10-9-2 away from United Center.  The Canucks come in 14-6-3 on home ice.  This is the third meeting of the year for the bitter rivals with both teams winning a game in the other team’s building.  Marian Hossa leads the Hawks with 53 points and Jonathan Toews has a team high 27 goals.  For the Canucks it’s the Sedin’s leading the way Henrik with 52 points, and brother Daniel with 21 goals.  Both teams come in with 64 points just 3 points  behind The Red Wings for the Western Conference lead so needless to say it is a big game tonight.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Hawks Acquire Center Brendan Morrison

The Chicago Blackhawks have acquired center Brendan Morrison from the Calgary Flames in exchange for Rockford Ice Hogs defenseman Brian Connelly.  Morrison has 4 goals, 7 assists, and is a -1 in 28 games this season for Calgary.  Morrison has 200 goals and 401 assists in 923 career regular season games with the New Jersey Devils, Vancouver Canucks, Dallas Stars, Anaheim Ducks, Washington Capitals, and Calgary Flames.  He has also added 446 career penalty minutes.  Morrison has 8 goals and 21 assists in 58 career playoff games.  Morrison was the 39th overall pick in the 1993 entry draft.  He attended Michigan for four years before breaking into the NHL in 1997 with the New Jersey Devils.  Morrison helps at center which is the Hawks biggest concern aside from defense.  Morrison will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. 

Brian Connelly had 5 goals and 31 assists in 44 games for Rockford of the American Hockey League this season.  Connelly was named to the AHL All-Star game this season.  Connelly is currently playing in his 3rd season in the AHL following three years at Colorado College of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.  


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Hawks Need to Be Better Defensively At the All-Star Break

I have been seriously under the weather for the past week so I have missed a few posts but here is my Blackhawks assessment at the break:  The Chicago Blackhawks hit the All-Star break with a 29-15-6 record and 64 points.  The record is respectable but is good for only 4th place in the wicked Central Division following two straight losses to Nashville.  The good news is the Hawks trail division, Western Conference, and NHL leader Detroit by just 3 points.  The Hawks will begin a 9 game road trip in Vancouver on Tuesday night following the All-Star weekend which interestingly enough will pit all of the Canucks on Team Alfie and all of the Hawks on Team Chara.  Maybe the bad blood will start a little early, although not likely in a game of this caliber.  The Hawks biggest issue this season has been turnovers in their own end that are ending up in the back of their net way too often.  Chicago has allowed 144 goals this season and only 5 other teams have allowed more.  The 3-1 loss to the Predators on Tuesday night was another glaring example.  On the first goal, Sean O’Donnell made the cardinal sin of hockey and through the puck up the middle which was promptly stolen and put behind Corey Crawford who was also being screened on the play by you guessed it the guy O’Donnell should have been covering.  On the second Predators goal Nick Leddy had the puck stolen behind the net when he failed to move the puck and a wide open Mike Fisher was fed the puck and scored another easy goal.  Just one game but I could give at least 50 more examples through the first half of the season just like it.  The defense needs to be better if this team is going to take the Central Division and make a deep run in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.  The more and more I see the more I believe a trade deadline deal for a top 4 defenseman is a necessity to shore up the defense.  The Hawks need a physical presence that can clear the puck out of the zone with regularity.  This could possibly be the toughest year in history to make it out of the Western Conference and the Hawks need to position themselves now.   

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Hawks Lay Egg in Music City

The Chicago Blackhawks fell to the Nashville Predators 5-2 Saturday night in the music city.  After a long night getting out of snowy Chicago and circling the Nashville airport for over an hour a letdown was the worry heading in.  The Hawks got off to a good start when Marian Hossa gave the Hawks a 1-0 lead 15:05 into the first.  The lead would only last just over two minutes as Craig Smith tied the game on the power play.  At 5:15 of the second period the game began to slip away as Corey Crawford allowed and atrocious center ice goal from Kevin Klein that gave the Predators a 2-1 lead.  Colin Wilson and Sergei Kostitsyn would add second period goals and that was the end of Corey Crawford.  Crawford had an awful night allowing 4 goals on 17 shots including the center ice goal.  Marian Hossa would cut the lead to 4-2 48 seconds into the third period but the Predators would get it back.  Patric Hornqvist deflected a point blast past Ray Emery to give the Predators a 5-2 lead.  The Predators would hang on as Peka Rinne stopped 20 of 22 Hawks shot for the win.  Nashville had 23 shots for the game.  The Hawks will look to regroup Tuesday night on home ice in the second of the home and home.  It will be the last game before the all-star break and will be a huge 2 points for Chicago as Nashville is within 4 points in the Central Division with the win tonight.  The Hawks fell to 29-14-6 with the loss and are now just 10-9-2 on the road.  With Detroit and St. Louis winning tonight the Hawks were leapfrogged again in the Central and now sit in 3rd place one point behind Detroit for first.   

Friday, January 20, 2012

Hawks Beat Panthers 3-1

The Chicago Blackhawks took on the Florida Panthers in snowy Chicago on Friday night.  After the game was delayed by weather and a late arriving Panthers bus both teams got off to a bit of a shaky start.  After both teams failed to score on shortened power play chances it was the Captain giving the Hawks a late first period lead.  Patrick Kane found Jonathan Toews on a stretch pass and sent the Captain in alone forehand backhand 1-0 at 17:40.  Two minutes later with Keaton Ellerby off for boarding Andrew Shaw, Duncan Keith unloaded a missile from the left point that beat Jose Theodore clean for a 2-0 lead and a power play goal at 19:43.  The Hawks outshot the Panthers 8-5 in the opening twenty minutes of play.      
The Kane, Toews, Stalberg line took over in the middle frame and Patrick Kane broke out of his mini goal scoring slump beating Theodore for a 3-0 Hawks lead.  Andrew Brunette had a goal disallowed when the zebra ruled he made contact with a high stick.  Toronto agreed despite the fact it was clear his stick was below the cross bar when he made contact.  It was the second time in two games the Hawks had a disallowed goal that should have counted and Toronto failed to overturn the call.  Shots were 10 apiece in the middle frame.  Jonathan Toews appeared to injure his left hand or wrist in the period but stayed on the bench and was on ice for the Kane goal.

Jonathan Toews went off for tripping right away and it took Florida just 5 seconds to cash in on the power play 43 seconds into the third period.  Jason Garrison scored his 13th of the season on a blast from the point to make the game 3-1.  But that would be all Florida would get as the third period finished scoreless the rest of the way.  Shots were 4 apiece in the third period. 

The Hawks will brave the weather to get to Nashville for a huge Central Division matchup with the Predators on Saturday night.  The Preds are suddenly just 6 behind Chicago in the 4 horse race.  The Hawks improved to 29-13-6 on the year and leapfrogged the Red Wings and Blues for the Central Division lead with the win. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Panthers @ Blackhawks 01/20/12 Preview

The Chicago Blackhawks (28-13-6) will take on the Florida Panthers (21-14-10) at United Center on Friday night.  The Hawks will be looking to move back into first place in the Central after Detroit won on Thursday to move 1 point ahead in the dog fight that is the Central and Western Conference.  Chicago comes in winners of two straight and are 4-0-2 in their last six games.  The Hawks are 18-5-4 on home ice and will be looking to take another 2 points against a struggling Panther’s team that is just 3-4-3 in their last ten contests. 

The Hawks won the only United Center meeting with Florida last year 4-0.  This will be the second and final meeting between the teams who met in November in Miami.  The Hawks won that meeting 3-2 in the shoot out.  Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa scored for the Hawks in regulation, and Patrick Kane scored the lone goal in the shoot out for the win.  Florida had goals from Stephen Weiss and Ed Jovanovski in the loss.  Ray Emery will get the start in goal for the Hawks. 

Marian Hossa continues to lead the Hawks with 49 points and Jonathan Toews, fresh off his 2 goal night on Wednesday, leads Chicago with 26 goals.  Former 2010 Stanley Cup Winner Kris Versteeg will be making his first trip back to United Center since Game 5 of the Finals.  Versteeg leads the Panthers with 17 goals and 39 points.  Versteeg was traded to Toronto that summer in a deal that brought Viktor Stalberg to Chicago.  Florida has been decimated by injuries with five players on injured reserve and will likely add Jovanovski after he broke his hand in Colorado Wednesday night. 

Hawks Pound Sabres 6-2 Behind Rookies

The Chicago Blackhawks poured on 4 unanswered goals on Wednesday night to defeat the Buffalo Sabres 6-2 at United Center and hand Buffalo their 10th straight road loss.  The rookie coming out party was at it again as Andrew Shaw and Jimmy Hayes both had a goal and an assist and Hayes had another assist wiped away when a Marcus Kruger goal was disallowed.  Shaw now has 5 goals in 8 NHL games.  Hayes has 4 goals and 3 assists in 10 games.  Corey Crawford stopped 25 of 27 shots to earn the victory.  Chicago outshot Buffalo 35-27 in the game.  The Hawks were 2-4 on the power play and 3-4 on the penalty kill. 

Buffalo’s Jason Pominville got the Sabres off to an early 1-0 lead when the puck was turned over at the Sabre’s Blue line and Pominville was sprung the other way and beat Crawford with a wrister at 9:30 of the first period.  Andrew Shaw would answer cleaning up the garbage on a juicy rebound to tie the game at 1-1.  It was yet another case of the rookie being in the right place at the right time and being rewarded.  At 15:54 of the first Captain Serious Jonathan Toews cashed in on the power play cleaning up a rebound off a Brent Seabrook point blast with Mike Weber off for shooting the puck into the crowd.  The Hawks led 2-1 after one period of play outshooting the Sabres 14-10 in the opening 20 minutes.

In the second period Buffalo would draw even on another Jason Pominville goal this time on the power play with Jimmy Hayes off for roughing.  With the score tied 2-2 the Hawks would take control from there.  Just over 2 minutes after the Pominville goal, Marian Hossa would get a breakaway and made the Sabres pay with his 18th goal of the game off a stretch pass from Duncan Keith.  The Hawks would make it 4-2 in the second when Andrew Brunette found a streaking Jimmy Hayes who tipped it home.  It was another prime example of good things happening when you go to the scoring area on the ice.  Chicago outshot Buffalo 10-8 in the middle frame.

At 4:11 of the third, Dave Bolland gave the Hawks a commanding 5-2 advantage off a feed from Hayes.  Jonathan Toews and the Hawks power play unit would cash in for the second time of the night to give the Hawks a 6-2 lead at 6:48.  It was the 26th goal of the season for the Captain.  Chicago outshot Buffalo 11-9 in the third.

Chicago improved to 28-13-6 overall with the victory and moved back atop the Central Division, Western Conference, and NHL standings with 62 points.  The Hawks will host the Florida Panthers on Friday night.  Chicago beat the Panthers 3-2 in the shootout in November in Miami.  The Hawks are 18-5-4 on home ice.  The Panthers will bring a 10-9-4 road record to United Center and are just 3-4-3 in their last 10 games.