Blackhawks 2, Blues 1

Major League Baseball managers love to trot out their “ace” pitcher every fifth day for a few different reasons; chief among them is the idea that, with a true ace, the team won’t lose five games in a row – not with the “ace” pitching in one of them.

And, while Antti Niemi may not be the Hawks’ “ace,” he certainly played the role last night in St. Louis during the Hawks’ first win in four games, stopping 34 of 35 Blues’ shots and “pitching a shut out” through the first 58 minutes of the game.

The game started out as most other games including the St. Louis Blues.  Even after defeating the Hawks three evenings prior in a game that was noteworthy for what didn’t happen – the Blues toned down the physical play and beat the Hawks for the first time since last season – Scotty Bowman Davis Payne went back to the same old strategy, looking to physically pound a superior Hawks’ team into submission.

Case in point: Barrett Jackman, who turned down an invitation from fighter Ben Eager on Wednesday, grabbed Cam Barker – he of the one 2009-2010 fight – within the game’s first ten minutes.  Steve Winchester and Cam Jannsen were doing their best UFC impressions, and late in the first, Eric Brewer challenged Andrew Ladd just before the two traded single hay-makers.

When the dust settled after the first period, it was Hawks – 2, Blues – nothing.  The two Hawk goals came from the old classic Toews-Kane-Sharp line, with a Sharp special preceeding a Toews tally by ten minutes.

It wasn’t until the tenor of the game changed that St. Louis began flexing its hockey muscles, outshooting the Hawks during the second.  After the Hawks were unable to take advantage of a couple dumb second period Blues’ penalties, St. Louis found itself on a two-man advantage late in the frame.  On the power play, a loose puck bounced to Brad Boyes on the doorstep, but just before Boyes smashed it home, the whistle sounded, indicating that the near referee either lost sight of the puck or believed Niemi was on top of it.  Alas, the Hawks maintained their two-goal lead entering the final frame, avoiding the late-period tallies that have haunted them throughout the past couple weeks.

The Blues notched a handful of good scoring chances during a frantic third, but were only able to register one – this one again coming in the same fashion as the disallowed goal during the second: after killer Brent Sopel took a penalty to make it a two-man advantage.  This time Sopel received a late-game unsportsmanlike conduct. 

He must’ve offered to give the referee’s mom a Canada’s History.

You Down for This?

– “For all you young hockey players out there,” we’ve seen the right way and the wrong way to hand a teammate a stick during the Hawks’ last two games.  On Friday evening against the ‘Yotes, Phoenix defenseman Sami Lapisto – I believe – was retreating into his own zone without a stick when about four teammates reached their sticks out onto the ice from the bench for Lapisto to take.  Problem was they handed out the butt-end of the stick rather than the blade.

Last night, on a penalty kill, Jonathan Toews handed the blade end of his stick to a defenseman who was without one – Sopel, maybe.  The d-man cleanly grabbed the stick.

So, to recap: pass the blade end of the stick.  It’s bigger and much easier to grab hold of.

– One has to assume Niemi will get the start on Tuesday against the Stars.  We’ve seen this movie before, though, so don’t get too excited. 

– Is Kris Versteeg’s recent poor play connected to the looming trade deadline?  It doesn’t sound too far-fetched to me.

– Ben Eager was apparently a healthy scratch last night.  Unfortunately for Ben, he’s likely cost himself some money this year.  Last season, he played like the straw that stirred the fourth-line drink, and boy, was it yummy.  This season, it seems like concussion concerns get the better of him most nights.  But, with a possible $1 million price tag, it certainly seems that he won’t be back next year.

– I may have said it here before, but among the many great things about hockey is the fact that most players don’t call their coach “Coach.”  Some of my co-viewers were surprised to hear Patrick Sharp refer to Q as “Joel” last night, and I explained to them my hatred with grown men calling other grown men “Coach,” most notably in college basketball and football, where guys like Steve Lavin get all horny talking about other “coaches.” 

– Finally, from yesterday’s recap, it’s so important, I’ve printed it twice:

I said it a couple weeks ago, and I stand by it: There’s not a whole lot that I could see between now and playoff time that will change my opinion about this Hawk team.

Remember last March, when hundreds of people were threatening to launch themselves off a roof during the Hawks’ early spring struggles?  Remember all the things people said were wrong with the Hawks at the time?  From sloppy defensive play to a lack of offense to inconsistent goaltending, it was all well forgotten before the Hawks advanced to the Conference Finals.

Listen, this isn’t the early ’70s Bruins here, but the Hawks are really, really good by today’s NHL standards.  What’s more, it’s a group that has proven it can adjust its game come playoff time.

So, until then, just trust me and relax.  This is just a small bump in the road that even sports’ greatest teams hit.

This entry was posted in 2009-2010 Game Recaps. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Blackhawks 2, Blues 1

  1. Lou says:

    I think you are right on Steeg and I think he may go. He is flashy but he is also the most replaceable. Lots of flashy players come up and many are similar in stature to him. He is just not porgressing consistently. Maybe the Niedermayer rumor or the the Rinne rumor from ESPN insider have some credence…

    What does Koopecky actual do? He was on a line with Hossa and did what? Hossa impresses me and he took some decent hits.

    And I will say it again Jackman is a an A-hole. Reg Dunlap is upping the ante to 1K for a molar from a fight.

  2. Lee says:

    I totally agree with Lou on Kopecky. For the life of me I cannot see what he brings to this team. Hopefully if Burish comes back full speed we might see the end of the slovakian bust. He was absolutly awful last night and to hear Foley saying he was great in finishing his checks blows my mind because i never saw him check anyone! By the way , reading Theoron fleury’s book and it really is interesting reading

  3. Dave Morris says:

    “Canada’s History”? It’s a good thing this site is certified ‘Adults Only’.

    Yeah, the Hawks are really, really good. They can also be really, really sloppy on D…and too stuck on finesse rather than just getting the job done.

    And you’ll remember those flaws cost them the WCF last year.

    If StanBow has a fix between now and the trade deadline, so be it.

    BTW it appears this morning that some fans are once again ready to crown Niemi the Number Uno.

    Funny how these things work.

    Huet allows one goal against the Yotes, has an outstanding game and the Hawks lose in SO. Niemi allows one goal against the Blues, has an outstanding game, and the Hawks win by the hair on their chinny chin chin.

    This team still leads the league in GAA and shutouts.

    Clearly, goaltending is NOT an issue in Chicago. Except in the minds of certain observers.

    Regarding surplus personnel, giving Q the luxury of sitting guys means everyone has to work harder to keep their jobs. Not a bad thing, especially heading into the home stretch.


    You never know if the player you scratched in one game comes off the bench in the next game to score that critical, even series-winning goal. It’s happened more than once.

  4. CT says:

    I agree with you on the overuse of the word “Coach”. I have to say that the context that bothers me the most is the use of the word to address anybody who has ever coached. The worst example being when some washout ex-coach is spouting cliches on a pre-game show. Mike Ditka’s not a coach anymore guys, you don’t have to call him that. In fact, he was barely a coach when he held the job.

  5. Patrick says:

    Good win for the Hawks. Bring on the needless Meatheads…

  6. blackhawkbob says:

    Ha, perfect example, CT. He’ll be “Coach Ditka” until the day he dies.

    Dave, I hope you know the backstory to “Canada’s History.” It came from a recent Cobert Report, and deals with the re-naming of The Beaver, a (pretty large?) Canadian magazine. Didn’t mean to be crude just to be crude.

  7. josh says:

    Yea, and on the seventh day idiots across the blogosphere declaimed Huet and serenaded Niemi with hymns about leading the team to a Cup. Is anyone else a little sick of the huge outpouring of confidence in Niemi’s ability to overtake Huet as our starting netminder just because he wins a game after Huet loses one? I’m of the inclination that the past few games have shown Huet to be gaining a little more mental strength, as he played very well in the Phoenix game and definitely wasn’t to blame in the homecoming game against the Blues. All of a sudden Niemi’s being heralded as the clear-cut No. 1 after a paltry 19 games, albeit 19 games that have shown him to be a very gifted young goalkeeper. If I’m Q I’m playing Huet in Dallas just based on his strong performance against the Coyotes, and the fact that he might want some revenge for his lackluster games against them earlier this year. Maybe I should just give up on sane reporting (obvious exclusions being Fifth Feather and Second City Hockey) and start sipping the Kool Aid?

    Sidenote: One of the huge differences between this year’s squad and last year’s is the ability of the 09-10 Hawks to still show a fighting spirit in most of the games they lose. With a few exceptions the Hawks haven’t displayed a lack of confidence or effort in the games that they’ve lost. Last year’s team was very Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, meaning that when they were on they were one of the best teams in the league but when they were off they were one of the worst teams in the league. This year we’ve utilized the experience gained by going through a lengthy playoff run and turned into a team that is downright unbeatable when we’re focused, while still being a pretty dangerous team when we’re blowing it.

  8. Nick says:

    Well said, Josh. I think Niemi is well on his way to be the Hawks goaltender of the future, and as it stands he is pretty solid in the present.

    That said, Huet has done nothing but go out and compete, face constant ridicule from meatball nation, and still come back for more. He does drive me nuts when he plays the puck, but overall I have no reason to feel like the Hawks can’t win the cup with Huet. Personally, Huet earned my trust with his heroic performance in game 5 of the WCF.

    People get too hung up on the fact that the Hawks allow so few shots, but nobody mentions that the shots they do give up happen to be of the prime scoring variety. They should keep stats like that for goalies. There should be a running shot count as is, but also a prime scoring tracker as well. Something to tell me when there was an odd man chance or a redirect.

    As for Versteeg, I really wouldn’t mind seeing him shipped out. I don’t hate him, but he is so frustrating to watch at times, seeing him stickhandle his way into submission consistently. Maybe he gets shipped out for Ray Whitney? Just saying…

  9. blackhawkbob says:

    All very true, Josh.

    Rest easy knowing that Q agrees with you. He’s not about to put the hopes and dreams of Chicago hockey on the shoulders of Antti Niemi. He may, however, give Niemi a chance to continue to play a bit more than a traditional back-up.

    That’s about it.

  10. Dave Morris says:

    @Bob> no worries. More than a few Canadians are pretty crude. Just go for a stroll on a Canadian hockey board sometime.

    The whole Huet-Niemi debate is a non-starter.

    Scotty Bowman likes Niemi’s potential, and has for some time, but the questions about Antti’s readiness to be a Number One are legitimate.

    The plan, as far as I can determine from what’s been said and what’s being done, is to transition Niemi into the starting job…eventually.

    Frankly, the combo works right now, and there’s no reason to deviate from that plan.

  11. Brian Clark says:

    Don’t mean to read too much into it but when you guys ran into the guy who helped you or your kid learn to play a sport you didn’t give him respect by calling him “coach”?

  12. John says:

    Brian–As someone who still keeps in somewhat frequent contact with former coaches of mine, we’re on a strictly first name basis. Now that I think of it, I don’t really remember calling any of my coaches ‘coach’ once I hit the age of 14. That wasn’t due to a lack of respect; it was their wishes.

  13. coach says:

    The way I see it, its about respect. I don’t think its proper for a younger player to call an adult by thier first name.(unless the coach chooses to be called by his first name) My comeback to any player to call me by my first name is to say back, ” When you can buy me a beer you can call me by my first name”.

  14. blackhawkbob says:

    Totally agree, Coach. Young players should call their coaches “Coach” – in all sports. But, hearing grown men calling other grown men “Coach” – like ex-coach Steve Lavin speaking about Bobby Knight – makes me cringe.

  15. Otter says:

    Wait, Versteeg is still on the Hawks and playing? I thought his no goals and one assist in the last 11 games was because he was scratched all that time.

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