Stars 4, Blackhawks 2

Did John Madden, Kris Versteeg, and Brent Sopel make that big of a difference that in one year the Hawks penalty kill could turn from one of the league’s best into one of the league’s worst?  Last year, Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews were a force unleashed on the penalty kill.  They’re still here.  So are Patrick Sharp, Dave Bolland, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.  If those departed three were so good, maybe the Hawks kept the wrong guys.  (That’s meant tongue-in-cheek by the way.  And before anyone tries to claim otherwise, Andrew Ladd was not a regular penalty killer last year.  The Hawks rotated the aforementioned 6 forwards with those 4 defensemen.)

And just like so many other nights this year, the bounces went against the Hawks when they were down a man.  Maybe last year, Mike Ribeiro’s shot hits Niklas Hjalmarsson and goes careening off the glass rather than past the goalie’s trapper.  Or maybe Brendan Morrow’s deflection hits off his face and bounces into the corner rather than dropping to his feet.

My point is that often times the difference between a great penalty kill and an awful one are a few bounces through the course of a season.  Unfortunately, the Hawks have got none of them this year but perhaps it’s just making things even for getting all the bounces last year.

So for the umpteenth time this year, the Hawks battled back after trailing and then pissed away at least a point by surrending a third period goal.  San Jose, New Jersey, Dallas, and I can’t even remember who else right now.

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33 Responses to Stars 4, Blackhawks 2

  1. Cam says:

    The Hawks gave up a ton of fluke and bad goals last year, more than this season I’d dare say. They just had the talent to overcome.

    12th game this year that Chicago has has lost in regulation when tied in the 3rd period.

    Last year was all about one goal, this year is all about finding ways to lose.

  2. ArlingtonRob says:

    I agree Cam,

    The Hawks are a flawed team that is apparently unable to overcome mistakes. Last years version of the Hawks was very good at finding ways to win close games, this years team finds ways to lose. It feels like a rebuilding year, not a cup defense.

    The decisions made by management before next year will be interesting to watch. Overreacting to this years struggles is a possibility I fear. But big decisions need to be made that will affect the Hawks for many years to come. Cross your fingers everyone that they don’t screw the pooch.

  3. LMS says:

    Well Said ROb and Cam

    What would be interesting is who goes. Yes, everyone will talk Bolland and of course Campbell. But an interesting wild card will be Kane. Will he play the Bowman Game. I am NOT saying trade Kane. I am just throwing it out there for speculative purposes. That is the kind of major shake up that could screw the Hawks

  4. bobby b says:

    bad puck luck? this type of conversation happened last year after the olympics. for three weeks the hawks made opposing goalies look magical and our debate focused upon chance. (granted stalberg’s triple post shot had me scratching my head)

    i ask you…how does duncan keith lose a race for a puck to adam burish when keith was in the better position? e f f o r t f o c u s h u n g e r

    it is not the loss of any one particular player. it is simply the delta between the new players and the past group. stalberg has not scored in 18 games? how is that possible with his ice melting speed? this team is less physical than last season, which was not a physical team.

    a shake up is necessary to wake up this team. i am not sure moving kane out is a good idea, but a new strategy is required.

  5. Otter says:

    Considering that Kane and Toews are the faces of the franchise, I don’t see this happening unless Kaner wants out and starts beating the crap out of every cab driver in the city.

    If Campbell made two million less… if… if… if…

    Still a lot of hockey to play and if the Hawks start playing an entire 60 minutes, they can make a run, and then rearm for next year.

  6. Patrick says:

    My predictions – the core of this team (including Bolland, Seabrook and Kane, and even Crawford) will be back next year, along with one or more of the retreads that were picked up (I like Pisani and Dowell, and Bickell is priced cheap). Everyone else is expendable, and the Hawks will have a fair amount of cap room to pick up a true, responsible 2nd line center (FA or trade), a better 5th D-man (I want Sopel back, and I think his wife wants him to be home), and Morin sticks for the whole year next year in the top 6.

  7. Patrick says:

    Oh, and that loss sucked last night. Can’t believe Stals hit both posts and the cross bar on that penalty shot. He’d never be able to do that again in a million years (practice or game)…

  8. LMS says:

    I think Crawford is your goalie. I think Brouwer and Seabs are back. Kane will be here and should be. He is a face of the franchise but not the FACE of the Franchise. That is not always easy to accept.

    I think Bolland will be gone along with some of the other placeholders including Kopecky, Stahlberg and Skille.

    Leddy and Morin will be full time NHLers next year.

  9. Francis Roberts says:

    Good comments by all above. The Hawks have had some bad breaks lately, but I agree that over the course of a season these tend to even out, and good teams find a way to overcome them. I think Q and Stan are in a tough spot here. The high quality of the Western conference this year is making them play for every point in order to secure a playoff spot. Yet the majority of the top 9-10 guys are playing inconsistent, mentally tired hockey. This team has trouble stringing 3 straight periods of good hockey together, let alone 3 straight games. One of the results is that the newer guys (Skille, Dowell, Stalberg, even Hendry) are not getting the minutes critical to their development. Toews played 25 minutes last night with a probably still iffy shoulder. Hossa played 24 minutes. My hope is that Stan and Q will manage for the long term, and not make any silly moves just to salvage what is rapidly becoming a rebuilding year.

  10. Otter says:

    I know the Hawks had a few unlucky bounces last night, but Pisani’s goal was one of the worst goals you’ll see all year. Yeah it sucked when Stalberg hit ever inch of lead, but it sort of made up for Pisani’s total garbage goal. Things even out.

    I don’t hate Kopecky as much as everyone else, but he’s been misused right now by Q which is unfair to Kopecky, fans and the rest of the Hawks. I know he’s one of two or three guys on the Hawks that will go to the net… but he can’t be out there on a 6 on 4 power play at the end of the game. He’s not one of the six best players on the Hawks. Campbell should have been out there on the point.

    And speaking of going to the net, is it me or is this the second biggest difference with the Hawks this year? (#1 of course is the total suckfest Keith and to a certain extent Seabrook and Hamsandwich have at times displayed). It seems like other than Kopecky, Toews, and Brouwer no one on this team goes to the net. Well Skille when he’s skating like his pants are on fire… but he’s not crashing like we saw Ladd or Steerger or Buff.

  11. feyer says:

    Stallberg was auditioning for a commercial. Sure Toews and Kan can hit one pipe, but only Stallberg and Lemonhead can hit all 3 on one shot.

  12. alpo says:

    @ feyer, Bravo

  13. Paul the Fossil says:

    It’s really looking now like the biggest mistake this past off-season was not selling high on Seabrook — he’s regressed even more than Kane and that’s saying a lot.

    I do understand why any head coach would stubbornly stick to Keith and Seabrook as the top “shutdown” pair, but the facts just don’t support it anymore. The best D on the team by actual results on the ice this season is clearly Campbell, and also Hammer is a better player right now than Seabrook. So time to switch those two pairs in ice time including on penalty kills — couldn’t make things any worse quite frankly, and I predict it would make things better.

    And they need to make a trade now, seeing last night’s game in person convinced me that this squad has to be shaken up. If landing a decent center isn’t possible, then at least pay some bad team a draft pick to accept some of the current deadwood so that Leddy and Morin can be brought up and put in the lineup.

  14. John says:

    I’m not ready to declare Seabrook a lost cause. The guy was their best d-men the first 30 or so games of the season. He’s going through a bit of a rough patch. Who can forget how truly awful he was for the majority of the regular season last year? Then was pretty dynamic in the playoffs.

    Campbell has been the Hawks leading ice-getter for quite some time now. So I’m not sure how Q is stubbornly sticking with Keith and Seabrook as his shutdown pair.

    By the way, Kane is just a tick below a point per game. He has a couple good weeks and he’s probably back on pace for last year’s output. Don’t see how that’s a significant regression.

  15. AC says:

    This team just looks tired to me. They played a great 2nd period, but looked bad in the first and seemed to be trying to hang in to a tie to start the 3rd. I don’t know if the number of games they’ve played the last couple of years (with the olympics and the stupid NHL schedule they were given this year) is catching up to them, but now is the time you need to be able to roll 4 lines, but instead Q sits Skille and Dowell for Scott and Johnson, necessitating more ice time for real players on the top 3 lines.

    The only player I really miss from last year is Ladd. I know they are trying to make Kopecky into this year’s version of him on the forecheck, but Ladd was all energy, all heart for 60 minutes. Kop makes a play or two a game due to effort, then seems to fall behind again.

    It will be interesting to see how they play Leddy now that he is back. This team seems to have a really good set of 5 d-men and some more on the way over the next few years, so I don’t get the demand for Sopel to come back, but if you want a part time, veteran 6th d-man for the league min, that would be fine (as long as he plays like the Sopel from the playoffs, not the middle part of last season).

    On the plus side, I really like how Crawford continues to play and think he has more room to grow. I’d like to see a trade for centerman and I realize we will probably have to hit our blue line depth to do that.

  16. Patrick says:

    Leddy won’t play much more with the Hawks this year. He could use some AHL seasoning and he’s under the same constraint as Morin (the 10 game/burn a year on your EL contract rule). My thinking is that we may see Dylan Olson for a few games in a month or two.

  17. Ban says:

    Wow, we’re actually blaming Seabrook? He’s been the best D-man this year after Campbell. In terms of points, I believe he’s on pace to beat his season-high.

    The blame rests on Q. That is it. Why you dress Scott over Dowell or Skille, why you pull the goalie with 2 minutes left in the 3rd while on the PP (best PP in the league might I add), why you have Kop on the said PP, why you have Kop take the last draw in the Sharks game, why you dress Boynton and sit Hendry…these questions need to be answered. I understand in hindsight it’s easy to say what he should and shouldn’t have done, but all of these are really poor decisions and it’s really easy to tell they’re not going to work. When he put Kop on that last draw a few games back, I knew it wouldn’t end well, much as I knew pulling Crawford was a terrible idea before the puck even dropped for the faceoff.

    Q has been terrible this year. Absolute garbage and Stan and Scotty and the rest of the management crew has been no better. Look to the demotion of Cullimore to the AHL (and the purported bringing up of Leddy) as further proof.

  18. Otter says:

    I totally disagree about Kane regressing. He’s pretty much the same guy he was last year, maybe not as explosive, but he’s also been hurt. I think a lot of us (myself included) expected Kane to get to the 100 point club this year… and he’s clearly not going to do that. Disappointing that he didn’t make “the jump” sure. Regressing? No.

    The Seabrook hate is also misplaced. At his best he’s not Keith, but I’ve also sort of felt that Seabrook allowed Keith to shine as much as he did. But since Keith is playing like a guy who thinks he’s better than he is and hasn’t had a good game… it hurts Seabrook.

    Keith has been, without a doubt, the biggest regressor on the Hawks this season (would he even make the Canadian team at this point?) He’s lucky he got voted to the All-Star team because there is no way he makes it any other way. I think that’s the Hawks biggest issue, how do you fix Duncan Keith if there aren’t personal issues in his life right now?

  19. John says:

    Yeah Q hasn’t had his best season so far, but I think laying all the blame at the feet of one person seems awfully similar to the old “BLAME THE GOALIE!!” adage. It’s simple, neat, and something the masses can get behind.

  20. Lee says:

    Cullimore just sent down to Rockford!!

  21. Paul the Fossil says:

    “Campbell has been the Hawks leading ice-getter for quite some time now. ”

    Well he _should_ be, but no: he’s only led the team in minutes five times this whole season and the last time was six games ago. (The Hawks are 5-0-0 in those five cases.) Keith continues to lead the team in minutes almost every night with Seabrook usually second.

    Seabrook this season has one of the worst plus-minus figures on the team whereas last season he had one of the best. That’s serious regression. And since you’re right that his personal points pace is similar, the drastic change in plus-minus means he is on the ice for a _ton_ more goals-against this season than last. Which is, um, not what you typically look for in a DEFENSEman is it.

    Ditto Kane: last season fourth-best in plus-minus among Hawk forwards, this season second-worst. Again since the personal points pace is not much changed, the difference in plus-minus is all related to goals-against. Last season Kane was backchecking like an actual two-way player without sacrificing any of his offensive effectiveness. This season he’s reverted to drifting in two of the three zones like he did as a rookie.

    (Though no argument that Keith has regressed at least as much as those two have.)

  22. Patrick says:

    The core of this team is good, but they’re having an off year (and it’s not really just one big thing, just a shitload of little things). I’d take a year like this in return for winning the Cup anytime.

    And yes, Seabrook is core…

  23. John says:

    Kane’s plus +/- as him being a solid two-way player is one of the biggest myths perpetrated by Hawk fans this year. Last year, he played the majority of the year with Jonathan Toews, not to mention the Hawks were also the best even-strength team, by far, in the entire league. Of course his +/- is going to look sparkling. He’s backchecking the same way he did last year; it’s just the Hawks aren’t scoring nearly as much at even-strength and who knows how many empty net goals he’s been out on the ice for as the Hawks have given up a considerable amount.

    He’s the same player he has been in that department. Anything else is b.s.

    Same thing goes for Seabrook and his +/-. If you’re going to compare every player’s +/- to last year’s, of course it’s going to look lopsided. That’s the majority of the reason why I loathe +/- as a hard stat. It’s nice to look at for reference but to draw any kind of serious conclusion from it is just incredibly short-sighted.

    Campbell led the team in ice-team against L.A., fyi. So two games ago.

  24. Ban says:

    Well, um, Paul the, um, Fossil, um, +/- is reliant on, um, several factors.

    Sure a player’s +/- depends on their individual performance, but it’s also reliant on the performance of the other 5 guys out on the ice with you. Seabrook’s +/- has taken a beating due to the whole team’s seeming inability to play defense (the players on average have a lower +/- this year than the past) and the horrendous play of his D-partner/turn-over machine, Duncan Keith. There are only a handful of times this year that Seabrook has been responsible for a goal against. He’s been solid otherwise.

    Kane on the other hand…his +/- was an anomaly last year. He doesn’t have a defensive bone in his body and cherry picks like no other. Expecting him to have a great +/- is silly unless his play style changes. I do agree with you that he has regressed however. Points he’s on pace to a total similar to last year, but he’s playing terribly at the moment, so whether it’s a rough patch of playing through injury, he just doesn’t seem like the same player. Becoming predictable with his rush through the neutral zone only to stop and wait to make a pass isn’t helping either.

  25. Cam says:

    Let’s not leave Hossa out of this. He has 2 goals over his last, what, 19 games?

    In fact, is there one Blackhawk who anyone can say is having a good season? And I don’t mean someone like Crawford who has no past experience to compare to.

  26. Paul the Fossil says:

    No against LA Seabrook led in ice time, Campbell was second. And then last night they resumed the usual pattern of Keith leading in ice time by a good margin followed by Seabrook. (There’s a reason Keith is a close second in the entire _league_ in minutes per game after all. Seabrook is 15th, Campbell is 39th.)

    Note that I made no reference to any specific plus-minus numbers, precisely because of all the factors just mentioned. They can’t be compared as numbers across teams or across seasons. However where a given player _ranks_ on his own team in that category _is_ meaningful. And it’s not like Q hasn’t constantly suffled the forward lines throughout his Hawk tenure (he is far more consistent with the D pairings and the PP sets, but of course PP goals have nothing to do with plus-minus).

    And to be clear I certainly have no illusions about Kane ever being a “great defensive player”, my point is simply that he is playing distinctly worse defensively than he did last season. Maybe call it a regression from “sometimes acceptable” back down to “regularly brutal” as a backchecker.

    We probably just have to agree to disagree about Seabrook being generally solid in his own end this season. Better than Keith there, but not much. I’m seeing far more bad giveaways from both of them this season than last, and Seabrook has this season often looked downright sluggish as he did last night.

  27. John says:

    I cannot stand the ‘Kane doesn’t back-check hard’ crap. It reminds a lot of the ‘Dustin Byfuglien is lazy’ we heard a lot about. It’s a lot of half-truths and perceptions that people have and never really know why they believe it. Patrick Kane is generally the lowest in the offensive zone, therefore it takes him twice as long to get back into the defensive zone. His responsibility as the third forward back is the trailing defenseman or player in the high slot. How many times this season has the opposing team scored and we looked back at the play and said, “Boy, if Kane was back-checking harder, he would’ve prevented that goal?”

    Is it anymore so then someone like Troy Brouwer or Patrick Sharp? Probably not by much, if at all.

    I promise you that if you watched a regular season game from last year, you wouldn’t see a distinct difference in Kane’s defensive game. He’d probably look just about the same.

  28. Paul the Fossil says:

    Hmm, well…honestly it does seem this season exactly like that with Kane. And while certainly no one argues that one stat says it all, the sharp downward change in his plus-minus results this season can’t be simply waved off — it *is* one piece of actual hard evidence, is not meaningless.

    But with all that said you do make a fair point, John. Starting tonight I plan to more systematically watch/compare the backchecking of the Hawks’ top forwards.

  29. John says:

    It’s not so much watching effort exerted or how hard they come back; it’s watching how they cover their assignments. The defense are responsible for the first two guys in the zone. First forward back has the trailer and then the other two guys have the two defenseman.

    Basically, what you can’t have is attacking defensemen getting in the zone before the back-checking forwards or those back-checking forwards getting sucked down too low in the defensive zone (which is generally what happens if the last two back-checkers are over-aggressive. That’s not always a good thing). Both plays usually result in a high-quality scoring attempt for the opposition.

  30. SouthSideHawkMan says:

    It is extremely disappointing that this years Hawks team has not been able to put anything together. This team has talent, of course not as much talent as last years team but at this point in the season something needs to be done. Its ashame that the team is in this position but they are,…. so SOMETHING needs to be done, because this roster isn’t working right now. I felt this team would be battling for home ice not fighting for a bottom playoff spot!

  31. Cam says:

    For complete entertainment purposes, I thought I’d mention that committed a 5-minute match penalty tonite that cost the Thrashers 4 PP goals.

    Wonder if Buff saw any time on the PK.

  32. Cam says:

    Shit.

    That was Ben Eager who committed the match penalty.

  33. Marts says:

    We’ve been beating the Hawks faults to death in this forum so I’m not going to speak on specific players here. There are 2 stats that I find very bothersome and, what I believe, are the primary reason we’re sitting on 47 points after the Sens game.

    1 – 42 PPG against (39 last year)
    2 – 51 3rd period goals allowed (most in NHL, and in many beer leagues)

    I could add the 12 losses after leading (or tied) in the 3rd but that really piggybacks on point #2. A 4th “stat”, albeit a biased qualitative one, are the preposterous personnel decisions Quenville makes game in, game out. I suspect that by improving by a mere 5% in both #1 and #2 (call it 5 goals to make it a round argument) we’d be somewhere between 3 and 5 wins better. With 6 to 10 additional points we would be in the race for the #1 seed. No question I’d still be bitching about the overall lack of focus and execution but still…

    We’re in the mix and, in my mind, playing pretty awful. I’m not going to go all chicken little on our guys.

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