Blood In the Streets, The Town of Chicago

As we all search for some hidden reason as to why the Blackhawks have lost their last six games, the answer is actually pretty obvious.

Nothing rips out a team’s will to compete quite like a bad goal at a critical juncture and unlike most things during this streak, the Hawks have had no shortage of those.  Conversely, nothing gives life to a team quite like a gift goal.  Cases in point:

-In a 1-1 game against Nashville early in the second period, Corey Crawford let in a 110-foot bounce shot from the red line.  Once the floodgates closed, it was 4-1 Nashville after two periods and effectively over.

-The Hawks held a 2-0 lead in the second period in Edmonton, lost the lead, then battled back to tie it at 3 heading into the third period.  Then within the first four minutes of the third, Crawford was swimming in his crease to leave a wide-open tap-in for Sam Gagner and then hopelessly whiffed on a Cam Barker flip shot from the point.  When it was over, it was..no need to relive this.

-The next night in Calgary, the Hawks were tied with Calgary 1-1 heading into the final minute of the second period.  A late goal by the Flames gave them the lead and then a 120 foot miracle pass somehow got through Duncan Keith and right on to Jarome Iginla’s stick to seal it.

-Tuesday night in Colorado, the Hawks were tied with the Avalanche to open the third.  The Hawks coughed up the puck at the Avalanche blue line, Brent Seabrook was caught wondering who is defensive partner in the 2014 Olympic games will be, and Gabriel Landeskog had enough to time to get a 60 foot slap shot over Ray Emery’s shoulder.  Renowned sniper David Jones sealed the game a few minutes later with an off-angle short-side wrist shot over Emery’s glove.

That’s not to say it’s all on the goalie’s shoulders, but at the same time, 4 of these 6 games during this losing streak were either tied heading into the final frame or were a back-and-forth affair late in the second.  And each game, the Hawks goalies were unable to make the critical save.  So instead of hanging on for a point or even (gasp) letting the team take control of the third period of a tied game, they were left scrambling to score a tying goal or as has been more often the case, multiple goals.

And that’s how they have put themselves in this situation where a win seems as likely as Greece figuring out their economy.  Unfortunately, the two guys who can pull this team out of their losing streak the easiest are the two guys most responsible for putting them in this quagmire.

I see a team that is desperately asking its goalies to help shoulder the load.  And instead of doing their part, they drop it like a Cam Barker point shot.

I also see a general manager being lambasted for reasons that are not correct.  If he deserves any kind of criticism, it should be for opening up all that cap space and then saving it for a trading deadline where it appears no one of value will be moved (as of now, at least).  Brendan Morrison would have been a much better acquisition in say, July, when he was an unrestricted free agent and he could have had all of training camp and the pre-season to get accustomed to his new teammates.  As opposed to the middle of the longest road trip of the season where he has to learn how to play with Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp in Vancouver matched up against the Canucks 3rd line and play the point on the second power play unit.

I see a head coach that is out to prove to the world just how smart he really is.  The Hawks penalty kill is about as bad it’s ever been in Joel Quenneville’s tenure.  Yet Steve Montador has never played a regular shift on it.  Nevermind he led the Sabres in blocked shots last year and has been a penalty killer for the majority of his career.  Here’s what Stan Bowman said about him when he signed Montador before free agency opened:

“He’s a style of defenseman we’ve been lacking here,” Bowman said. “He’s got a lot of skill for a guy who has some physicality to his game. He’s actually pretty offensive even though people don’t paint him in that light. He had almost 27 points with no power-play time. He’s got the ability to move the puck.”

It doesn’t take much of an imagination to see Bowman envisioned him to be not only on the power play but also a key cog of the penalty kill from this one quote.  Yet against Edmonton while the Hawks spent the majority of the second period shorthanded, John Scott was asked to kill a penalty before him.  John Scott.  In just one season, Steve Montador has gone from being a regular on the 13th best penalty killing unit to being passed over for John Scott on the 3rd worst penalty killing unit in the league.

It doesn’t stop there.

Michael Frolik and Bryan Bickell have been scratched, demoted, promoted, kicked, punched so many times by the Quenneville line juggler that they seem to be unreachable.  Frolik looks like the little robot girl from “Small Wonder” after a system overload every time he touches the puck.

On Saturday against Calgary, Frolik had a full-blown shorthanded 2-on-1 from his own blue line.  He was so busy stick-handling that the Flames back-checkers caught him before the other blue line.  Instead of just putting his head down and skating as hard as he could to open up space for he and Jamal Mayers, Frolik looked like a guy playing with zero confidence.

Bryan Bickell, for all his shortcomings, is still one of the more defensively responsible forwards on the Hawks.  With all that’s been going wrong with them lately, you would think someone like that would be coveted in the Hawks lineup.  Too bad for Bickell, there was never a Twitter trend named in his honor.

These are two, still very young players who have a track record of success at the highest level and yet here they are, bouncing between the 4th line and press box on a weekly basis.  Joel Quenneville has to share in part of that blame.

When the Hawks acquired Brendan Morrison, Stan Bowman gave Joel Quenneville the four centers he’s needed since opening night.  However Marcus Kruger, Morrison and Dave Bolland are situated within the lineup, they should be the only four guys playing center along with Jonathan Toews.

For reasons that remain unclear, Jamal Mayers has continued to play center while Marcus Kruger has been moved to the wing.  Yes, Kruger is less than stellar at the face-off dot, but so is Dave Bolland.  It’s also pretty obvious that Kruger is significantly less effective along the wing than he is at center.  It’s counter intuitive to keep Mayers in the middle while Kruger regresses on the wing, for the present and the future.

All this said, the Hawks are just two weeks removed from being at the top of the Western Conference.  I don’t think they were able to get that high just because they beat a bunch of second-rate teams they should have; their divison and conference is far too talented for something like that.

So I’ll leave you with a lesson in Hawks history to try to make you feel better.  In the strike-shortened ’94-95 season, the Hawks went 0-10-3 in the final month of the season.  Without any one getting fired or any ‘core’ players getting traded, they won their last five games of the season and then went on to the Western Conference Finals before losing to the Red Wings.  So it can get worse, but it will more than likely get better too.

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29 Responses to Blood In the Streets, The Town of Chicago

  1. Bobby B says:

    7+ odd man rushes last night were not emery’s fault… there is a much bigger problem. Entrance to the zone on PK continues to be laughable…

    I do agree with you that Q is quick to mix things up…but slow to give up on some obviously poor play (Scott).

  2. John says:

    And yet despite all those odd man rushes, the score was still 2-2.

  3. Patrick says:

    John – stop making sense. And please write more often too.

    One more thing – why is it that every goalie the Hawks play against is a friggin’ Vezina winner? Make it stop…

  4. bogiedoc says:

    9 odd man rushes last nite and 3 on the Hawks PP.

    And I have had it with Q and his spin the bottle style of lines and d pairings. None of the bottom 6 forwards have a clue of what their roles are. They have been poorly managed by Q. The most eggregious case is what they have done to 20 year old Nick Leddy. My god they screwed this kid this year. He had no business after 1 year of college with 1 year combined AHL/NHL exp to have the kind of expectations and TOI heaped on him this year. Kid is a great talent….develop him and let him grow….he looks completely lost out there now.

    On those points I agree with you. The softies and bad goals have been there all year but the Hawks had the fire power to overcome. Now when the offense goes on strike this team is badly exposed.

  5. Blackhawk Up says:

    “All this said, the Hawks are just two weeks removed from being at the top of the Western Conference. I don’t think they were able to get that high just because they beat a bunch of second-rate teams they should have; their divison and conference is far too talented for something like that.”

    I have a problem with this line of reasoning. Take a look at the Blackhawks’ schedule in the first few months. The majority of their games have been against non-playoff teams in their conference. They’ve finished their season series’ with Calgary, Edmonton and Colorado; they’ve already played Dallas twice; they’ve played Columbus 4 times and they’ve played the Ducks 3 times.

    On the flip side, they still have 3 matches with Detroit and Nashville, 4 with St. Louis and 2 with LA and Minnesota. They’ve been through their easy part of the schedule.

    I would argue that their position in the standings had more to do with luck and circumstance.

  6. BobbyJet says:

    I’ll go with the cup is half filled version but my thoughts are:

    There is no magical one fix here. Acquisitions, including a goalie, before the TD should help, and help a lot but nothing is guaranteed. Stan must make some wise choices in the next few weeks, coaching has to improve as much as the players and every player and coach alike need to be on the same page going forward. A lot to ask, but I think it is doable, and we should be okay going into the playoffs.

  7. John says:

    I didn’t realize the NHL ran on a BCS system where strength of schedule was taken into account when determining the standings.

  8. rich says:

    Welcome back – I’ve missed your analysis.

    I agree with everything but the goalies, Q, Montador, and Bickell Frolik. (JK)
    totally agree Kruger is a center

    Is it possible the Hawk skid coincided with your lack of posting recently?

    I liked something Keith said yesterday, “When your on a losing streak, it seems like every mistake ends up in the back of the net.” Our last line of defense doesn’t deserve all the blame, they’ve certainly bailed us out a few times, but they’ve been less than we’d hoped for.

    One last thing – for all the fans who think we have a soft schedule. There are no easy games in the NHL – it’s called parity.

  9. rich says:

    There’s blood in the streets, it’s up to my knees

    Ghosts crown the young child’s fragile egg shell mind

  10. ChicagoNativeSon says:

    I still don’t believe it, but there it is in writing. (scrolls up, checks again. Yep, it’s still there)
    “Bryan Bickell, for all his shortcomings, is still one of the more defensively responsible forwards on the Hawks.” And no, I didn’t hack John’s account. I think.

    (checks again)

    I agree Frolik and Bickell at this point appear to be beyond repair. Bicks actually had a relatively decent game against the Flames, but was scratched against the Avs. Yet the defensively AWFUL Shaw continues to see time on the checking line.

    Q seems to be fighting against his own philosophy of icing a defensively strong 3rd line to free up the top lines. The chasm between the zone starts of the top 2 and bottom 2 lines is far greater than it’s ever been since Q took over, yet he still expects the same rate of scoring from the “have nots.” That’s unrealistic and his indecisiveness is personified by the players on the ice. Frolik has the best giveway/takeaway ratio in the league. Surely that would be someone you’d want planted on the 3rd line, Q? I guess not.

    I too find the majority of the criticisms of Stan and Q to be unfounded. My issue is with what seems to be an organizational disconnect regarding personnel. If the organization was willing to be patient with Leddy and give him every chance to succeed even while he struggled, how come acquisitions like Montador, Brunette and now Morrison have been repeated thrown onto the scrap heap after the briefest of auditions (or none at all, in Monty’s case)?

    And Greece is actually on the verge of solving its debt crisis, so maybe there’s hope.

  11. John says:

    Hey, you can’t argue with stats. At least not these.

    And we are lock-step in the confusion among personnel decisions. I mean, I understand certain players won’t see their ice time diminished because of mistakes or ineffectiveness, but for guys like Montador or Morrison to (seemingly) have one game to prove their worth just seems bizarre. It almost seems like every player who doesn’t make an immediate positive first impression sucks in Q’s eyes and there’s nothing they can do to change that.

  12. Blackhawk Up says:

    Not saying the strength of the schedule determines the standings, I’m just saying there’s a problem with your reasoning. You claim that the Hawks’ acension to the top of the Western Conference isn’t a fluke because of the competitiveness of Central and the Western Conference. My rebuttal is that the Hawks have had the majority of their games against lesser Western Conference opponents and the majority of their remaining games are against their tougher divisional opponens. So actually, the claim that they didn’t get to the top because they beat a bunch of second rate teams isn’t an entirely untrue statement, considering the majority of their opponents thus far have been second rate. While every Western conference team is good, relatively, the Hawks have faced the worst of the West. That’s all I’m pointing out.

  13. ChicagoNativeSon says:

    Ha! The only stats ANYONE argues with are the ones they disagree with.

  14. BobbyJet says:

    I don’t know John. It seems to me that some are in denial here. It’s not so much that the team is losing at the moment but rather how poorly they have played in doing so. Earlier it was okay in some people’s books because we were still getting points despite the obvious inconsistencies. Well that too has run dry lately and the intensity will only rise as the stretch drive approaches. Comparing this team to anything that went down 15+ years ago seems a bit of a stretch but let’s hope Stan can find a few of the missing pieces by Feb 27, starting with a legit starter in the nets.

    As far as what the future holds, the way I see it, Stan, the coaching staff and of course the players are all on trial for the remainder of the season. And we all know who will be the first to go, if that is what it comes down to, and it may.

  15. John says:

    Not sure who you’re referring to….Like I pointed out above, 4 of the 6 games of this losing streak were within grasp of at least getting a point and the team was let down by the goalie unable to come up with a big save (or in the Edmonton case, a normal save) when they absolutely needed it. If you were to go back and watch those four games, I promise you, you’d see a different Hawks team as soon as the soft goals went in. It’s like they all simultaneously took a punch to the stomach and could never recover.

  16. Adam F says:

    First things first- Great Doors reference. my brother and I often get into a Morrison Hotel- L.A. Woman debate for best album. Peace Frog is usually Morrison Hotel exhibit A as evidence. Well done sir.

    So nice to see some logic written about this. I’ve always seen this team as deeply talented yet deeply flawed. And so I really just wnt the talent to cover up the flaws. It has for most of the season. I can’t see Bryan Allen, Andy Sutton (Gag!), Hall Gill or any of the Sean O’donnell wannabe parade keyig a turnaround. The turn around comes when Toews wins 65% of his draws and starts putting up 3 and 4 point nights.

    This is a Need-to-lead team and while I’d love to see Corey cut this out, I think it’s more realistic to see Corey swing at a puck with his Jai alai cesta-like glove and miss and make it just 4-1 Hawks.

    Still loving the Doors reference.

  17. Cam says:

    I talked about the warning signs early in the season and was told my comments were idiotic. It was obvious even in games they were winning.

    Stranger things have happened than slightly above-average teams making playoff runs, so anything’s possible, but right now this team is worse than St. Louis, Detroit and Vancouver at a minimum. I just pray Bowman doesn’t move any of the top 10 prospects for some middling player who makes no difference now or in the future.

  18. John says:

    Your comments were still idiotic.

  19. Cam says:

    Wow, I am shocked, shocked! that that is your response. Never saw it coming.

    Amazing that the idiot was more correct about the team than the genius.

  20. John says:

    If it helps you sleep better, I’m happy for you. Sorry for not making grandiose, sweeping statements after a mere 12 games, then wait until the team’s worst stretch to pop back up and remind everyone how right I am. Guess you’re the better fan.

  21. Cam says:

    Too bad that’s not what actually happened.

    Claiming I made these statements 12 games in yet also waited for this bad stretch is completely contradictory. I noted these things when they were winning despite showing noticeable warning signs. Remember? You thought that was so awful. Now you think it’s underhanded or something to bring it back up now. I suppose I should’ve somehow “popped in” during the three weeks there were no posts here. Strange that I would’ve waited for a post to comment, and one that dealt with the topic at hand no less.

  22. BobbyJet says:

    I made the same observations Cam. It was quite obvious that this team’s record flattered them throughout the Fall. I was dismissed as well .. something to the effect that the Hawks had no control of the team’s schedule and all was well. Well it wasn’t and not all of us had our heads buried in the sand! Reality is upon us and we need to dig ourselves out. Stan has decent cap room to try and do something. It’s time for him to show what he is made of.

  23. Mick says:

    I think this team will turn itself around when Bill Curtis narrates this blog post.

  24. CT says:

    Well, it ain’t gonna get any easier. Montador and Hjalmarsson are both flying home today with Lepisto and Olsen penciled into the lineup against the Sharks.

    Even better? Hammer apparently had a concussion that was misdiagnosed as the flu. Oy.

  25. Mick says:

    John: do you see this club being as bad as they are with #51 still in the fold…even with the below average net-minding?

  26. John says:

    As bad? I still think they’re pretty good despite what this streak has been. I don’t think Campbell would be some magical cure-all for this team, certainly not with the way the goaltending has been playing as you said. The biggest problem with this team, other than the goalies, has been the special teams and Campbell really wasn’t a significant part of that his last two years with the team.

  27. Mick says:

    Yeah I tend to see a team that loses eight in a row as being a shit team, bad goalies or not. But they are where they should be in the standings, based on win %.

  28. southsidehawkman says:

    For my money the Hawks lack two key positions. 2nd pair d-man, but not just any guy a big physical guy. With the exception of Seabrook and to a lesser extend Hammer all the Hawks d-man are about the same guy 5’10-6’1 and about 2 hundred pounds. I would like a some more size on the roster. Also the 2nd line center position needds to be address. Bolland and Kruger and pretty much the same guy and Morrison is a fringe roll player at best. The goaltender needs to be better if this team is going to be a serious cup contender. 1-5 in the west all have better goaltending then the Hawks even the team whose starter helped the Hawks hosit the mug! FYI nice to see the website up and running again.

  29. bobby b says:

    simple stats offer a harsh truth. defensive play AND goal tending are miserable. (while i do not buy john’s softie let down theory) here is the truth…

    GOALS PER GAME
    3.0
    5th
    Overall
    GOALS AGAINST
    3.0
    26th
    Overall
    POWER PLAY PCT
    17.4
    16th
    Overall
    PENALTY KILL PCT
    77.5
    28th

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