Blackhawks 3, Predators 1

Outside of a few minutes to begin the game and a needless third period, the Blackhawks dominated their division foes, the Nashville Predators, in Nashville on Thursday evening, and stretched their record to 5-1-1 on the young, but promising campaign.

As luck would have it, the Hawks would turn to their embattled goaltender early. Just minutes into the game, Predator forwards went post-to-post with the puck, but the outstretched left leg of Cristobal Huet was waiting on the other side, keeping the young contest scoreless. From there, the Hawks dominated play, out-shooting the Preds 12-5 during the first frame.

Importantly, the Hawk defensemen were forcing Predator forwards to make plays before, or at the top of, the zone. This pressed Nashville into a dump-and-chase game, only the Preds’ “chase” was ineffective. Among the Hawk defensemen who squashed any Predator hopes to produce offense was Ham Sandwich, who continually used his body artfully to shield away forecheckers while finding an outlet pass out of the zone.

The Hawks didn’t waste much time in the second, as Dustin Byfuglien potted a rebound for his fourth of the year, making the most of a clean face-off win by Dave Bolland and a Brent Seabrook shot that hit the post behind Predators netminder Pekka Rinne. Shortly thereafter, Rockford IceHawk Jack Skille forced a turnover behind the Predator net, and Colin Fraser beautifully scooped a loose puck over to Tomas Kopecky for his first goal as a Blackhawk.

Not to be completely outdone, though, the Predators forced the play deep into the Blackhawk zone, where a loose puck hit the skate of Ham Sandwich and deflected by Huet to cut the Hawk lead in half.

That all happened within the first four minutes of the second period.

The only scoring during the neutral third was Duncan Keith’s deflected blast from the top of the circles, which came courtesy of Jonathan Toews following a Brent Seabook keep-in on the other side of the ice. It gave the Hawks their two-goal lead back and a usually difficult two points in Tennessee.

Yo, Listen Up to These Words

— The 5-1-1 mark gives the Hawks the franchise’s best start since 1982-83.

— Amidst all the Cristbal Huet hoopla that has been the last week in newbie douchenozzle land, I couldn’t help but feel like we’ve been here before.

And, when Dustin Byfuglien’s fourth goal of the young season hit the back of the twine during yesterday evening’s second period, so too did my revelation: Huet is this year’s Byfuglien.

Don’t you remember it? (Of course, you remember it. It was like four months ago.) Big Buff was nearly run out town for his significantly sized, yet market-value contract and his lack of tangible contributions. Sure, we tried to calm the masses, but it did no good. Just weeks into the season, presumably the same guy who unfurled the “One Goal: Trade Huet” banner at Wednesday night’s game pleaded with Dale Tallon to trade the emerging winger for … wait for it … Michael Nylander. Well, wouldn’t that have been a coo for the Washington Capitals.

See? Now my blood pressure’s up, and rather than risk inflicting damaging blunt trauma on my keyboard, I’ll let that little, fuzzy memory sink in and speak for itself.

Just the thought of trying to quiet these idiots for the rest of the season makes me tired already.

UPDATE: The other obvious comparison is Brian Campbell, who drew the wrath of the hockey stupid last season.  Campbell was brought in two offseasons ago to jumpstart the power play and add points from the back, but was a target from day one for a perceived lack of defensive prowess – nevermind most naysayers were merely parroting other, more senior idiots.  He struggled through the “boos” and harsh criticism, which must be tough for any player, regardless of stature, pay or experience.  Fastforward: Campbell was an absolute pillar come playoff time, and he’s currently second in the league in scoring among defensemen.

Brent Seabrook had two assists and played absolutely fabulously in his own zone. It took me a while, but, yes, I’m ready to proclaim him and Keith a top-five NHL pairing.

— For as good as Seabrook’s been, Cam Barker’s been just as bad.

— Five wins in seven games hasn’t provided ample opportunities for Joel Quenneville to make adjustments, but his decision to swap Kris Versteeg and Andrew Ladd has seemingly hit the spot for the young Hawks. Ladd has played a much needed role for Toews and Patrick Sharp, while the Versteeg/Brouwer/Madden line … gulp … reminded me of the Havlat/Ladd/Bolland marriage from last season yesterday night. The subtle change gives the Hawks three offensively dangerous lines even before Marian Hossa makes his Hawk debut in about six weeks, and oddly enough, seems to bring out the best in Versteeg.

— The defensemen must have a bet among themselves, with the winner being the player with the most shots on goal at the end of the year. Shots from the point are coming fast and furious, and there are no complaints here.

Patrick Sharp’s historic point streak – the one where he played comparatively poorly but pocketed points in six straight games – is over.

Martin Erat has a career because of the Blackhawks. He didn’t have a point until yesterday evening.

*On the Farm*

Shawn Lalonde had two assists in Belleville’s game on Wednesday against Oshawa.  That gives the defenseman five goals and eight assists in nine games.

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29 Responses to Blackhawks 3, Predators 1

  1. Dave Morris says:

    FifthFeathermen, I believe you will agree that simply winning games they should and can win is something the Blackhawks appear to be doing at the moment.

    As opposed to last year, where they developed an annoying habit of losing games they should and could have won.

    Regarding Monsieur Huet, he did make that exceptional stop early in the match, and even though he looked nervous at times–hey, who wouldn’t when your job is on the line–he made the saves when necessary.

    Now, about the Hawkey Flock who still want to trade half this team…
    😉

  2. Lou says:

    Dave, ultimately there will be a trade. Hate to see it but business is business and if we want to win the cup it may take a strategic move. If we want to keep the big three some $ will have to go. The actual timing is another story. I do think some may hinge around Hossa’s return and him getting up to speed. I think it will be a a move for a blueliner. We need someone to offset the Barker/Sopel tandem.

    IMHO Barker’s D is a trunover a game leading to a key scoring chance. That has got to stop. We need more than a rocket from the blue line on the PP from him. For a third overal pick, he is not at a level equivalent to that pick.

    Bolland needs to stop the penalties, especially the dumb one’s late in the game. Last night’s was just stupid.

    On a different front, Huet did exactly what he needed to do. Make a few quality saves and get some confidence back. Hopefully, another good strat Saturday and he is heading in the right direction. According to Foley he is in the midst of some style change. At least that’s what I got out of Foley’s diatribe. It also helps when your team plays a very solid defensive effort.

    How about John Madden, the more and more I watch of him, the more impressed I am. Great piece to the puzzle we have there.

    Edzo – Tremdously Tremendous? Where did you come up with that one?

  3. AC says:

    Great effort again. Through 7 games, 13 different Hawks have scored a goal, and Hossa still hasn’t played yet. Wow.

  4. blackhawkbob says:

    Absolutely agree, AC. Don’t forget that Toews hasn’t scored yet either.

    All the more reason I absolutely cannot stand the Huet debate.

  5. CT says:

    BUT HUET IS FRENCH!

    Thus, he cannot be any good.

    Sadly, that’s probably the most coherent argument I’ve heard against him in the last two weeks.

  6. Dave Morris says:

    @Lou> of course ‘everyone’ believes the Blackhawks will make a trade at some point, to (a) provide cap relief (b) address an area needing improvement.

    Or maybe (b) should be (a).

    Barker seems to be latest recipient of the ‘trade him now’ barking. This when the young man has 2 goals and 2 assists already, and has become a potent weapon from the point, per Q’s own endorsement. See:
    http://www.dailyherald.com/story/?id=329352
    …for further info.

    And is he such a defensive liability? A minus 1 is far from panic button time, and this is after all, the first season that Barker has been up with the big club since Day One. A comparison of his statistics from the last few years, would suggest Cameron is starting to become the player that was hoped for.

    Trades are fun to speculate about, but knowing precisely when to make a trade and what value can be obtained in return for a player is why NHL GMs are paid mucho dinero…and why their jobs are not one for those with itchy trigger fingers.

    It’s a long way from now until March. Giving the current collection of Hawkmen a chance to build some cohesion based on their early success might not be a bad idea.

    Just sayin’.

  7. blackhawkbob says:

    Oh, God, Dave, you’re right.

    Is it possible to critique someone without calling for his hide in this city? Has everyone gone mad?

  8. Dave Morris says:

    @blackhawkbob> Madness, I tell you. Madness.
    😉

  9. Lou says:

    @Dave, I think I said the same things as you there will be a trade but it will come down to timing. I strongly feel Hossa’s return coupled with how certain guys may be playing will establish an anchor point. I think Barker is one of those marketable guys that they may trade. But stranger things have happened and maybe they move Soup instead. And chemistry is something that this team looks at probably more so than others.

    On the Barker subject, gonna put out some food for thought and healthy debate…have at it.

    Absolutely no question Barker has a lethal point shot and can be a PP stud. As the #3 overall pick is that good enough? I don’t think anyone is calling for his head just yet but he is getting some serious scruitny on the defensive end. Sure he has nice numbers and that is good but he may be only even (through las night on NHL.com) due to his ability to score goals which is great. Does Cam have to be able to consistently do more than hit outside? Is he? 13:40 TOI/G is an interesting stat to look at. And how much of that is pure PP time? It’s not time in the box.

    You have to wonder why that number is so low given that shot. Is it his continued propensity pinch and get caught going back to last year still remains (and he is not the fleetest of defensman) as well as he has turned the puck over several times this year already leading to scoring chances many resulting in goals.

    And yes, defensman take time to develop so we need to be patient but you should see progress in his total game. Three great examples of that are Ham Sandwich, Buff and Kane. They are getting better in each phase. Is Cam or is his offense improving and his defense flat or regressing? As a #3 pick is he progressing at a rate commensurate with that pick or other defensman drafted in similar years/slots?

    We have to be able to roll 3 pairs of defensman and 4 lines to win it all.
    I think there is opportunity to do that with our current team and/or some minor changes to it. We don’t have three solid defensive pairs. Barker and Campbell proved not to be a good combo. Barker and Sopel is exploitable and will be exploited until they prove they are not. Remember great goal scorers score against any pair just to eliminate that issue. Percentages go up against weaker pairs especially whne you have the last change.

  10. Tom says:

    Am I the only one who thinks that every defenseman should do the “Soup Spin?”

    Is it too early to speculate which line Hossa will be on?

  11. Tom says:

    Ignore the Hossa question.

  12. CT says:

    Which is better, the Soup Spin or the Sopel Dance?

  13. blackhawkbob says:

    1) Yes.

    2) It’s never too early, but I’m not sure my system can handle the thought of Marian Hossa being included in this Hawk line-up without overheating.

    I suppose he’d slot nicley into Ladd’s current spot with Toews and Sharp. That leaves a third line of Versteeg/Ladd/Madden and an ultimate fourth of Brouwer/Eager/Kopecky. Yes please.

  14. Tom says:

    @CT – is that a trick question?

  15. Dave Morris says:

    @CT> is the ‘Sopel Dance’ like the Hully Gully or the Mashed Potato?

    @Lou> THREE pairs of top 4 defensemen? Hold on here. Which NHL team has three pairs of Top 4 defensemen?

    (BTW Les Canadiens at their multi-Cup winning peak, only had three or four.)

    Barker plays the minutes he does because he’s still developing. If you trade him, better get something pretty damn good in return.

    In the next few years when Shawn Lalonde, Simon Danis Pepin and Dylan Olsen come up to the big club, you’ll probably have your wish.

    Whay say you?

  16. Dave Morris says:

    Geez, I wish y’all had an ‘edit’ feature.

  17. Patrick says:

    Dave is right on point – or should I saw write on?

  18. Lou says:

    @ Dave, good points as usual but I think you missed something. I never said three top 4 defenseman for each of the pairs. I said “We have to be able to roll 3 pairs of defensman and 4 lines to win it all.” I don’t feel we have three solid pairs in the current set-up. The minutes are showing that.

    I am not saying Barker needs to go. I think we need more from him but I also know he is highly marketable. I disagree with the he’s developing rationale as the only thing going on with him. He’s a top three pick in the ’04 draft. Seabrook is still developing and he was picked just a year before Cam and at #14.

    Barker is not good defensively that is a very plausible reason why he is not playing more minutes. This year, they are doing exactly what they did last year to him and pressuring him and taking away his time. It is all over the films. Until he can handle it, it is not going to stop and he is not going to get the minutes.

    Yes, his shot is magnificent but that is the best aspect of his game. He is capable of more time but isn’t gonna be on the ice until he gets it together defensively, especially late in games. We need more minutes from him or the big two are gonna wear out. They may play OLY hockey and we have like 17 more back to back sets.

    As for trade, any one of the guys that are speculated to be moved, Steeg, Sharp, Barker all better fetch a pretty penny or the missing piece to the cup this year. Otherwise, wait until after the season and get picks.

    @ Patrick, touche and nice.

  19. Dave Morris says:

    @Lou> OK, you’re the GM. You want to trade Barker? Tell me who you trade with, who you get in return, and who replaces Cameron. And no cheating–this has to be a realistic deal.

    BTW gang…I am watching the Stars-Bruins game right now. The Hawks better be ready for these fellers from Dallas. They are looking much, much better under Crawford.

  20. Lou says:

    Sure Dave, give me the tough one.

    Give me a little time to think on that one. I’m not saying trade him but I am saying that he is marketable and that we need more from him especially in the d zone if we are gonna win the cup. Damn, I can’t say Larry Robinson???

    FYI – Havlat is out with a groin pull. Let the angst begin for Minnesota.

  21. Lou says:

    All Right

    Shot for Shot Shea Weber is the closest but we know that’s not happening.

    I looked at potential partners that I think would trade with us.

    Volchenkov from Ottawa with some pick from them
    Matt Gilroy from NYR is an up and comer
    Matt Carle of Philadelphia is interesting too

    Just a first pass an I’ll throw it back at you? Who would you get for Barker?

  22. Dave Morris says:

    @Lou>I know Volchenkov’s play very well, being here in Ottawa, and he is a d-man who would serve the Hawks appropriately. However, while he adds a quality physical presence, his offensive contribution is zero. He’s a UFA in June, so strictly a rental player.

    Forget Gilroy or any young d-man from the Rangers. Too valuable to NYR.

    Matt Carle from Philly: same price as Barker. Why does Paul Holmgren swap him for Cam? Especially with his own cap issues?

    BTW in all the *kerfuffle* over the T/K/K re-signings, none of the hockey media hacks ever mention these guys will be RFAs. So The Bow Man only has to make a qualifying offer. If other teams made a pitch for them, the draft picks they would have to give up could become significant.

    In the discussions regarding the Hawks’ salary situation going forward, one should also remember that Madden and Burish come off the books next summer; Hjalmarsson, Fraser, Skille, Ladd and Niemi are RFAs as well.

    So…StanBow has 10-14MM in upcoming cap space to play with–maybe more if the cap goes up, which it very well could.
    http://nhlnumbers.com/overview.php?team=CHI&season=0910

    No easy task by any means, but seeing him look to save every penny by every means at his disposal (witness the Skille moves), contrary to Tallon’s free-spending philosophy, should give Blackhawks fans some comfort.

    T/K/K, assuming they are signed, will probably get long term deals that reduce their cap hit as much as allowed by law.

    You may, by the way, want to look at how Ray Shero has managed the Penguins’ so-called ‘cap woes’. I see Shero and Bowman as being similar in their mindset.

    Don’t let yourself get brainwashed by the BS of so-called ‘experts’–especially the ‘Hawk Haters’–in the hockey media. Most of them just fill the space between the ads, and they have to come up with something to agitate the masses.

    My bottom line is…I don’t see a realistic trade opportunity at this point.

  23. Lou says:

    Again Good points Dave. I didn’t look at the cap hits so you have added some nice insight there alond with the other rationale.

    In my trade propsals it comes down to win now or try to win now with some upside. Vol vs. Gilroy in my names. I agree that Gilroy isn’t coming here but he looks to be a nice d-man for them. Utlimately, I think there will be a move and maybe it is a forward for a D. Any way you shake it, we are in a real nice position with some talent to move if we so choose.

    On TKK, The RFA price tag for them is high and given no one put out an offer sheet this year, is anyone going to give that for next? You’re right, a lot of people will overlook the Madden $. Couple those with one of the contracts and you are already close on one guy. I’d like to see them keep Burish, he is a real energy guy that fits in here. I’d bet there will be no question on getting qualifying offers in place on time if they even are needed. They will be long term deals. I think Kane will be the interesting one in the sense does he want to stay here or we he be lured back east.

    WOnder what every had to that cotnract review the league was doing on Hossa, Pronger, and Luongo?

    Let the media haters do their thing. Our local guys are priceless. I think everything will hinge upon team health and Hossa’s return. But the trade speculation is fun business.

  24. josh says:

    whenever campbell does his little turn on the catwalk, on the catwalk, yeah, i can’t help but say “wheel-of-fortune!” under my breath.

  25. Dave Morris says:

    @Lou> hey, I love to speculate about trades as much as the next Hawkey fan…but when Dale Tallon spent the big bucks to get the Blackhawks back on track, the team also had to know they would need to be VERY careful about how they managed their budget and their talent pipeline looking ahead.

    The Hawks have already made dramatic moves. Campbell, Huet, Hossa are rich deals, no two ways about it. The naysayers aside, the rapid rise of the Blackhawks has been, and will be, fueled by those acquisitions.

    Huet takes deserved heat when he doesn’t play well; he simply has to live up to his part of the bargain. That’s business. If he shows himself to be a winner, all will be forgiven. And if you think Huet gets a lot of grief, you should hear what they still say about Hasek in Ottawa.

    It’s no fun being a goalie. Just ask Roberto Luongo after he got Flamed again tonight…chased after five goals on 19 shots in two periods.

    Campbell’s a key component in the Hawk attack. Say what you want about his contract, he was purchased in an overheated marketplace. With the Hawks going from 88 to 104 points in one year, the dollars became a wash because the team was once again generating playoff revenue.

    Hockey is, after all, entertainment. You want fans? Get a winning team. You want a winning team? You HAVE to spend.

    The Hawks are in a very good position right now…and let’s be honest, it’s been a long time since Chicago fans could say that.

    This doesn’t get much press, but having Madden around is good for guys like Versteeg and Bolland, because being similar in stature and in style–and obviously being a Champion–he challenges them to be better.

    Guys like Burish and Eager are on the bubble. If the Hawks win without them, they may become trade bait. There are kids in the system who can replace them…Aliu and Beach just to name two.

    Don’t always assume it’s your high profile guys who are going to be moved…big name swaps really don’t happen very often.

    But no one is immune to being traded…and that can serve as motivation sometimes for players to stay on their toes.

    When Hossa comes back (late November/early December) , I expect management will have a fairly good idea what they need to do next.

    And come March, there are always interesting deals to be had.

  26. Lou says:

    @Dave you are on the money. I like many of the Hawk fans suffered through endless years of Dollar Bill’s piss poor on-ice product.

    Campbell is an important part but he does not seem as critical as he was last year. Maybe it is me but he is not on the PP like he used to be. Not sure if I like Sharp on the point instead of him on the first unit.

    Like I said, I’d like to see Burish signed but it is a business. I think character guys that know and play their role are always going to be part of any good team as long as they can contribute more than just character. And with some good depth in the system, that gives us options. Our depth puts us in a viable position. But I am not sure that our guys floating about on the rumor mill are our big names. They are very solid names and that is a nice problem to have. Especially if you want to build a talent pipeline acquiring picks.

    Keep winning and see where it takes us. Hockey in late June is fun.

  27. CT says:

    For the record the Sopel Dance can be witnessed just about anytime Sope is left back to defend an odd man break.

    Step 1: place stick in right hand and extend out as far as you can.

    Step 2: Extend left leg out as straight as possible, keeping right leg bent.

    Step 3: Wildly shift your weight back and forth so as to extend the leg then the stick then the leg, etc.

    Step 4: Profit.

  28. Dave Morris says:

    @CT> who knows, maybe Brent has a career after hockey on “So You Think You Can Dance”. The hair helps.
    😉

  29. Joe says:

    Why have you not posted commentary about the new Hawks mascot?

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