Blackhawks 5, Bruins 2

First, let us apologize for the late re-cap.  A combination of snow, dental work, an early start and general sexiness forced our hand.  (I take full responsibility for the dental work and the sexiness.  The snow and early start were out of my control.)  I hope you don’t mind.

As for the Blackhawks, they’re really starting to make our lives difficult.  After all, there are only so many ways I can say ‘The Hawks are pretty damn good.’ 

They’ve now scored at least four goals in eight straight; they’ve won five in a row and eight of their last nine; they’re alone at the top of the league with 65 points in 44 games; and with 40 points and a boatload of recent media attention, you better believe Duncan Keith is a serious, serious Norris Trophy candidate.

So, yeah, the Hawks are pretty damn good.

But, don’t let yesterday’s semi-blow out be the evidence.  Bruins’ regulars Patrice Bergeron, Andrew Ference, Mark Stuart and Byron Bitz all missed the game, and Marc Savard was injured very early and didn’t return. 

What was worse for Boston was they were unable to sustain a two-goal first period lead, gained on goals by Blake Wheeler and Miroslav Satan.  Before the first was over, goals from Duncan Keith and Thomas Kopecky evened the score.

The second and third periods belonged to the Hawks, adding three more goals, including another tally from Keith and goals from Andrew Ladd and Patrick Kane.  For Kane, the goal extended his point streak to ten games; he also has at least a point in 16 of his last 17 contests.  Pretty darn good for the “underachieving” 20-year old many complained about last season, eh?

The story of the night, though, was the Bruins’ handling of the puck in their own zone.  The Hawks forechecked them to death, resulting in a large handful of good chances and a few goals. 

Are You Not Entertained?

– This is fun, isn’t it?  As fun as it is for some, Patrick Kane appeared to be disinterested at points yesterday, including his slow attempt to enter the zone and lazy offensive zone penalty that followed during the third. 

And, that’s just an observation.

– Don’t look now, but the fourth line is officially back, with each ending the game at +2.

– Keith and Brent Seabrook were +4 on the night.  Of course, Keith had two goals.

– Antti Niemi’s now 11-2-1 with a .925 save percentage.  It certainly looks like he’s on his way to becoming a starting goaltender in this league. 

– Patrick Sharp and Zdeno Chara had an epic coming-together in the first after Chara took out Sharp in the neutral zone.  As the two chased the puck in the Bruin zone, each focused on hitting the other, rather than the puck.  Chara hit the deck hard.

– Pat Foley told the story yesterday about how Joel Quenneville was on his way to becoming a stock broker of some sort before being asked to become an assistant coach in the AHL.  Eddie Olcyzk responded by saying that it was likely Coach Q “touted steel stock” and other “hard” investments.

– Bruins’ back-up netminder, Tuuka Rask, has fantastic numbers this year.  He played well last night, too, stopping Marian Hossa on a breakaway shortly after entering the game.  He only gave up the fifth Hawk goal on 12 shots.

– Is Colin Fraser aware he can throw punches when the gloves come off?  By rule, absorbing them isn’t his only option.

– Did anyone notice Cam Barker didn’t play yesterday evening?  With Ham Sandwich back in the line-up and Jordan Hendry playing well, it’s not too difficult to spot the d-man who may not belong when it comes time to dump salary.  And, that’s too bad after Barker took significant steps forward last season.

I think he’ll end up being a very solid defenseman, but it likely won’t be here.  Too bad.

– One very, very important question regarding PS3’s NHL ’10: When I – I mean, my little cousin – starts the the game, I – I mean, he – always comes to this skills-type challenge, rather than being able to begin to play a game.  I – he – becomes very frustrated that he has to enter this challenge mode, rather than being able to advance right to gameplay.  It wastes time, and it’s a pain in the rear.  Is there any advice out there for me – to, ya know, pass on to my little cousin – regarding how to bypass this annoying level?

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30 Responses to Blackhawks 5, Bruins 2

  1. Lee says:

    Fraser’s fight record thru junior then AHL now NHL is O Wins-thousands of losses. He is never hesident to drop his gloves which I guess is good sometimes, but he never wins. But I love his spirit!!!

  2. Zootsuitzombie says:

    Those challenges are supposed to pop up if its your first time playing so you learn all the controls and everything. I’m guessing your game isn’t saving when you quit playing. Try turning autosave on. The menus on the game can be a bit confusing should be in the options somewhere though. That game is really great for people like me who are too poor/don’t have a car/don’t have health insurance and therefore can’t play hockey in real life.

    In other news, the hawks are ridiculous. 3 years ago if they got down two goals in the first period I probably would have just changed the channel. It seems more people are voicing concern about them peaking too early and being one of those teams who get the first seed and stink it up in the playoffs. I think they’re too well rounded to fall into that trap. If their offense dries up they can rely on their defense so they’ll only need 2 goals to pull out the win. Alternately if they fall behind early or give up some soft goals their offense can bail them out.

  3. blackhawkbob says:

    I’ll try that, Zoot. Thanks.

    Now, go get yourself some health insurance!

  4. Lou says:

    I would like to see a little better defensive end puck control by Keith and Seabrook at the start of a game. The last two games they have been a little sloppy early. Come Playoff time, wr have to have that buttoned up. Yes, I said Playoff time.

    This team has heart, you pointed it out. Chara knocks Sharp down and Sharp comes back on the same shift and knocked Chara down. Same with Keith’s second goal, he got hit and came right in and ripped a long shot.

    The scary thing about our 4th line is that one of our bettter grinders in Burish is not playing yet!!!!!

    Finally, we have 7/9 top forwards with 10+ goals, one with 9 and one with 8 and 3 defenseman above 20 points. This team is scary deep and very balanced.

    As I have been saying one day at a time and the 16 spring wins are the one’s that count the most

  5. David says:

    The NHL games get me through the summer hockeylessness. Plus living in Arizona there isn’t much hockey available anyway, unless you live in Phoenix.

  6. cb says:

    An interesting project for a stat-head would be to look at historical numbers for unknown backup goalies playing very well on dominant teams, then seeing how those numbers compare to later years when they’re on less dominant teams. Of course it will always be difficult to find direct correlation, but it would be worth speculating, at least. There is no denying that Niemi has played extremely well this year and I don’t mean to take anything away from him. I would argue that the quality of the shots he’s seeing playing for the Blackhawks is significantly lower than what he’d see playing for the Leafs or Isles.

    Still, I have to admit that one of Boston’s goals last night was unstoppable and the other would have been a highlight reel save, whether it showcased a heroic Niemi or a blundering Satan.

  7. John says:

    Cb, it will be interesting to see what Niemi’s value will be come this summer. If he keeps getting the same results, some team may believe he’s their franchise savior.

  8. John says:

    By the way, the easy comparison to make on Niemi and one that I absolutely hate to use is Dominik Hasek. Both were relatively unknown back-ups. Both didn’t start playing in the NHL until they were 26. Hasek played on the stacked Hawk teams of the early 90’s.

    His numbers from those two years don’t jump off the page. His GAA was very good but his save percentage was below 90%. Not until he played on a less talented team in Buffalo and played 50 or more games a year did he become The Dominator.

    Of course, I’m sure with a deeper look, there’s a laundry list of unknown Eurotrash goalies who played one good season and then disappeared forever. That’s why I hate comparing him to Hasek.

  9. Dave Morris says:

    Gentlemen (and Ladies, if they happen to stop by) I hope you also watched the Wings-Kings game last night.

    Because the D-Troits will probably be the Hawks’ first round opponents.

    A game to study very closely, as an example of what ‘compete’ means.

  10. John says:

    After learning from my mistake from last year, I’m not going to start worrying about first-round opponents until after the trade deadline and I advise you to do the same. The standings shift like crazy in the last month and I expect nothing less this year.

  11. Dave Morris says:

    @John> Never worry, just study. You can never study your opponents too much.

    Chicago-Detroit first round, or at least second. It’s Hawkey Karma.

  12. John says:

    No argument there. I’m just saying if you look hard enough, there’s a playoff preview I wrote up last year in February breaking down a first round match between the Hawks and Canucks. How’d that work out for everybody?

  13. Sabremom15 says:

    Yes, John – ladies to stop by, and thoroughly enjoy these recaps.

  14. John says:

    You don’t have to tell me, Sabremom. Dave is the one who was wondering.

  15. josh says:

    I have to ask; am I the only one developing a slight man-crush on Hendry? The kid comes up and fits into what is perhaps the NHL’s best well-oiled machine without missing a beat. What really impresses me is his ability to anticipate the play, a quality we applaud Toews, Hossa, Kane, and just about any other premier player for having. Hendry is one of the keenest young players I’ve seen in quite a while in the NHL, and his ability to distribute the puck is phenomenal. I know I’m not the only one who regards him highly because I’ve heard of people comparing him to my other favorite young D-man: Niklas Hjalmarsson. Some say Hendry lacks the physicality of the young Swede, but more than makes up for it in his ability to skate. At any rate, both of these guys have fantastic skill sets and should be patrolling the blueline for years to come.

  16. blackhawkbob says:

    You’re certainly not alone, Josh. John and I talked about this yesterday evening.

    Most impressive, Hendry seems to have added an extra layer or two to his game during the past season-and-a-half. During his extended streak with the big club at the end of the ’07-’08 season, I don’t remember him joining the rush or skating like he has this time around.

  17. Dave Morris says:

    @Sabremom> thank goodness you’re here. We need some yin to offset the yang.

  18. Dave Morris says:

    @John> in any playoff preview involving the Hawks and Wings, factor in Dan Cleary. AND his T2 version, Darren Helm.

    In a best case scenario, Vancouver (or Calgary) meets Detroit in Round One.

  19. cb says:

    John- Interesting comparison. Your reluctance to compare Niemi to Hasek is in order, but then again there’s nothing wrong with simply comparing stats. I’m sure someone with the time and ambition could find some additional worthwhile comparisons.

    I really have no interest in talking about next year’s roster at this point in the season, but I thought it interesting that you speculated about Niemi’s value to some other team. He’s a RFA after this season and if he keeps up this play won’t the Hawks look to give him a new contract? Or in that scenario would he have already played himself out of town, with Huet’s and the others’ salaries precluding even signing Niemi as a RFA?

  20. John says:

    Niemi’s stats are actually far superior than Hasek’s from their first full year in the pros. To me, his numbers scream “FLUKE!!!” but if it keeps up, then he’ll have played himself out of town. The Hawks cannot lock up more than $6.5 of cap space on their goalies.

  21. cb says:

    What kind of contract would we be talking about if Niemi keeps his save percentage above .91 and he doesn’t turn out to be the guy who single-handedly wins the Hawks the cup? I’m really not obsessing over this, I just have no idea what to expect and am curious.

    I also meant to ask – were you suggesting that Barker is healthy and Hendry is getting ice time over him?

  22. Dave Morris says:

    @cb> the Boston TV commentators opined, as have others, that “Niemi can be beaten high glove”…whether this is true or not, remains to be seen as the season progresses, and teams get a ‘video book’ on him.

    If Antti does play himself into consideration as a credible number one, it’s a win-win for management.

    As an RFA, the Hawks only have to make a qualifying offer to Niemi. I tend to think Huet will be shopped again post-season, purely for economic reasons.

    Bowman might decide he wants significantly less money invested in goaltending…so Niemi and a value priced veteran backup could make sense. Or he could try what Nashville does, get two affordable young talents who push each other.

    Or who the heck knows.

    PS I don’t get too excited about this win over the Bruins, who seem to be strangely inconsistent this year.

    The upcoming road trip is the real test.

  23. cb says:

    The common refrain with regard to Huet’s contract is that it could never be moved, though I’m not entirely sure that’s true this year given that he’s played so well and there will be only two years remaining on the deal after this season. His save percentage should be better than it is for the money he’s getting, but I think his current numbers compare favorably to other #1’s making that kind of dough. Would a potential suitor see things that way, too, or would they have doubts due to the strength of the team Huet has in front of him? I have no idea.

    I’m guessing it’s an irrelevant question in any case. What would it take for them to go with Niemi as their starter next year? Basically I think Huet would have to get injured and Niemi would have to lead them to a cup victory or at least to game 6 or 7. Would anything else be enough for them to invest so fully in Niemi? Organizations often stick with the “safe” choice or the “can’t miss prospect” because to do otherwise might be perceived as excessively risky or wasteful. In this case I think the truth is that Huet is both the safe and rational choice. Barring a stunning collapse or the laying of an excruciating playoff series loss at his feet, Huet will be here next year and probably for the duration of his contract.

  24. cb says:

    2010/11 goalie cap numbers:

    http://nhlnumbers.com/sort.php?pos=G&type=nextcapnumber

    Which of the goalies getting paid less than Huet would you rather have? Excluding of course the ones who are so young that they will have hugely below market contracts for the foreseeable future. For all the booing, I don’t think we’re in such bad shape. Not if Huet can maintain or improve his numbers this season.

  25. Dave Morris says:

    @CB> I like Huet’s game, don’t get me wrong…but if Bowman has number crunching in mind, he might look at other options.

    Detroit has elevated Jim Howard to top spot with Osgood as backup, in the interests of good fiscal policy. Nashville’s budget priced Rinne-Ellis combo works.

    Should Niemi prove worthy of starter status, there are backups/1a goalies who could be available and worth looking at come June: Halak, Pavelec, Hedberg, Ellis, being a few of them.

  26. cb says:

    Dave: Is playing Howard over Osgood about money, or is it about trying to determine if Howard is going to take over the reins from the aging and declining Osgood? Something tells me it’s the latter scenario. Unless you’re suggesting they went with Howard this year instead of going for, say, Khabibulin or Roloson.

    The free agent market for goalies gets a lot more interesting next off season and this would also affect Bowman if he were interested in moving Huet (and I don’t think he will be). Additional UFA’s include: Turco, Nabokov, Toskala, Mason the Elder, Hiller, Nittymaki.

  27. Dave Morris says:

    @CB>the Howard situation answers both questions for the Wings…

    You are right about the goalie UFA market looking interesting going forward. A number of teams will seek to solidify their needs in net.

    Which is why I think Huet would offer excellent value and return IF he were on the market.

    Again, that’s way on down the road at this point.

    My feeling is that Bowman might look to pick up a veteran d-man with an expiring contract to bolster the blueline for the playoffs (and maybe clear some cap space at the same time). Seidenberg, Brookbank, Boynton- types…maybe even Grebeshkov or Volchenkov.

  28. Lou says:

    Best wake up call in the world for us!

    Yes I said that.

    Talent and Effort for 60 minutes every game. We were making poker plans for the plane ride. We sure didn’t have that effort for 60 tonight

    Great opportunity for Q to coach all the way home!!!!

  29. Dave Morris says:

    Lou>if you’re talking about tonight’s debacle against the Wild…I have one word.

    Disgusting.

  30. Lou says:

    It was. Absolutely disgusting and a least we got a point.

    This is an absolute awesome coaching opportunity for Q and I would bet my jersey collection that he is doing some of that now!

    Team lost it and Huet needed to make a big save or too and he didn’t

    Learn from it and annihilate Anaheim

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