The 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs was an absolute doozy to witness. Although my beloved Chicago Blackhawks were eliminated in a mere six total games, my eyes never ceased to deviate from the rest of the competition that was going on. Thus far, there have been a total of 23 games that have gone into sudden death overtime, the most since 2003, which also had 23 overtime games. The NHL record for overtimes in a playoff is 28, set in 1993. The record could be broken if the extraordinary happens in this year’s final, which would have to result in, at least, a six game series in which every game extends beyond 60 minutes. A side note to those unfamiliar: Nothing is more nerve-wracking than observing your team sacrifice body after body in order to keep that tiny, disk-shaped piece of vulcanized rubber from crossing the goal line. Nothing. A great number of fans from Chicago and Phoenix, as well as myself, had to endure five consecutive cardiac-arrest-inducing wars between the Blackhawks and Coyotes. Even though the Yotes came out on top, it’s safe to say I loved every minute of it (this is easier to say a few weeks afterwards). No sport conveys suspense and sense of urgency like hockey. It’s simply unparalleled.
What makes hockey so great is that, no matter what happens at the end of the regular season, all sixteen teams have an equivalent shot at hoisting the most majestic trophy in all of sports. This year’s playoffs further attest that statement, as we are set to watch the eight-seeded Los Angeles Kings face-off against the six-seeded New Jersey Devils. The Kings have been wiping up the floor with everyone they’ve played so far, losing only two games in the entire playoffs. This includes the top three Western Conference teams, the pesky Vancouver Canucks, the St. Louis Blues, and the Phoenix Coyotes. The Devils, on the other hand, have had scares against the Florida Panthers, who took them to seven games, as well as the number one-seed New York Rangers, who took them to six.
I’m going to compose this preview in a more abnormal way than I usually go about by just giving five thoughts about the matchup, instead of breaking down every facet of each team and comparing the two. I’d like to imagine these opinions will enlighten those new to the sport as well as the hardened veterans that have watched the game for the past 20 years. Enjoy. Continue reading →
I read this interesting piece on the value of Jonathan Toews to the Blackhawks powerplay this year, so I thought it was good enough to be on the blog. Take a read. Story by Puck Daddy’s Harrison Mooney.
The Chicago Blackhawks currently sit atop the NHL with 27 points. They’ve been excellent in nearly every area through the first quarter of the 2011-12 season.
But, if there’s been a concern thus far, it’s been the inconsistency and, at times, the downright absence of their powerplay.
This was no more apparent than two weeks ago, when the Blackhawks suffered an embarrassing home ice loss to their rival Vancouver Canucks, largely due to losing the special teams battle: the Canucks scored 5 powerplay goals in 6 tries. The Blackhawks went 0-for-5.
Since then, however, the powerplay has begun to turn around. After scoring only 5 times in 53 man advantages through the season’s first 14 games — worse than all other NHL teams except the St. Louis Blues and the Columbus Blue Jackets — the Blackhawks are 7 for their last 22.
It’s not surprising. It was really only a matter of time before that group began to click, especially when you consider that, with Jonathan Toews on the ice, they start with the puck nearly 3/4 of the time.
This is nuts, by the way. Toews’s faceoff prowess is well-known, but when it comes to 5-on-4 situations, you wonder if the opposition’s fifth guy was supposed to take the draw.
Toews has always been a been a handful in the circle. In his rookie season in 2007-08, he won 53.2% of his faceoffs, good for 23rd in the NHL, and he’s finished no lower than 11th in the three seasons since.
This year, Toews has reached another level entirely. His current 61.6% win rate is well above his career-best. It’s also the second-best percentage in the league, and not by much — David Steckel leads the category at 61.7%.
When it comes to power play faceoffs, however, Toews stands completely alone. (Heck, maybe that’s why he wins so many.)
With the man advantage, Toews is 62-for-85 in the faceoff circle, good for an obscene win percentage of 72.9. On the powerplay, Jonathan Toews starts with the puck.
Considering that a lost faceoff can trim as much as 45 seconds off a two-minute man advantage, this is incredibly helpful. Expect the Blackhawks’ powerplay to continue to improve, especially considering how often Jonathan Toews lets them practice.
Apologies to the five or six people that read the blog (hi mom!). We should be back and running after a busy weekend where me and Bojda went on a date (just kidding) to see the legendary Talib Kweli (video will be posted) and I saw Girl Talk. Now let’s get down to business.
Did you know: that Hawks’ goalie Corey Crawford has more points (two assists) than over half of the Vancouver Canucks leading into Game 6. If we keep winning by 5+ he’ll probably end up with more points than Kesler.
Keys to victory:
Keep up the hot goaltending – Goaltending is everything in the playoffs. If Crawford can keep the puck from going in under two or three times tonight, we should get the W.
Shoot the puck often – We all saw what happened in the last two games when we shot the puck. It would be nice to have another Cory Schneider appearance for the Canucks.
Stay out of the box, get them in it – Last two games we’ve had 11 power plays to their eight. Even if we don’t convert on them, it’s not likely they’ll be putting up any shorthanded goals either.
Hustle – Step 1: Beat them to loose pucks. Step 2: ??? Step 3: Profit (Scoring chances).
Don’t let John Scott play – Seriously, Quenneville, if this guy isn’t beating the crap out of Bieksa or Burrows I don’t want to see him on the ice. A rock is more useful.
After yesterday’s disappointing 3-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks in Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals, there are more things on the mind of the Blackhawks than just the loss.
In the video above, Canucks’ foward Raffi Torres, in his first game back from a four game suspension for illegal head contact on the Oilers’ Jordan Eberle, can be seen barreling shoulder-to-head into Blackhawks’ defenseman Brent Seabrook behind the Hawks’ net, causing the defensemen to “helicopter” in the air. The hit garnered Torres a two minute minor for interference. The hit has cultivated much debate over whether Torres violated the NHL’s Rule 48, which states:
48.1 Illegal Check to the Head – A lateral or blind side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact is not permitted.
48.2 Minor Penalty – There is no provision for a minor penaltyfor this rule.
48.3 Major Penalty – For a violation of this rule, a major penalty shall be assessed (see 48.4).
48.4 Game Misconduct – An automatic game misconduct penalty shall be assessed whenever a major penalty is assessed under this rule.
Obviously the referees believed that this was a “hockey play”, and assessed what they thought was the correct call. As a hockey player myself, I can definitely see both sides of the story. Fans who have never played the game before (or at a checking level, at least) may not understand how fast the pace of the game moves. Torres was doing what he is being paid to do, and that is separate man from puck in order for his team to regain possession and score a goal. Also, this is the playoffs, so the physicality is amped up to its highest levels. Seabrook was put into the unfortunate position of having to chase the puck in “Death Valley” (as TSN’s Darren Dreger explains: the area behind the net where “…an unsuspecting defenceman or puck carrying forward hoping to make a play while cutting around the net – they can be vulnerable to the attacking player who’s approaching at full speed.”) and received the hit. What I saw was a player without his head up (which is the worst thing you can do if you play hockey) and an opposing player doing what he does best: taking the man off the puck. Torres did not have his elbow up, which deems it, in most people’s books, clean. TSN analyst Bob McKenzie explained via Twitter that there is more leeway for hits behind the net. According to McKenzie, when NHL general managers created Rule 48, the area behind the net was designated at as a “hitting zone”, and does not have to abide by the “north-south” style of hitting. Video of what are legal hits and illegal hits can be seen below in the NHL’s Official 2010-11 Rule Enforcement video.
However, what many fans and analysts did witness was a player who was coming off of a suspension for a similar situation, reciprocating exactly what the league disciplined him for. If Colin Campbell, the NHL’s principal disciplinarian, could throw the book at Matt Cooke and give him 10 games and the first round of the playoffs for a headshot, then he could do it for Torres, right? Apparently not. The NHL, in my opinion, has blurred the rules so much that no player really knows what’s legal and what isn’t. Was Torres supposed to carry a blow horn onto the ice and alert Seabrook of his presence, wait for Seabrook to notice he’s coming, and then hit him? Absolutely not. This is why every single controversial hit that happens seems to range from no disciplinary action to potentially 10-20 game suspensions. Campbell might as well be throwing darts at a board with random numbers assigned to it for all we care. The unfortunate timing of the hit is what caused so much outrage. Had the hit been given by a player like Mason Raymond, who is completely clean when it comes to discipline, would there be as much outrage? Not at all.
“And the Dallas Stars’ season will end in Minnesota…”
Who thought that this would be a Hawks’ fans’ favorite sentence at the end of the season? The defending Stanley Cup champions rejoiced today after suffering a vital 4-3 loss to the rival Detroit Red Wings, only to see their playoff lives wake up from the dead as the Minnesota Wild ousted the Dallas Stars with a 5-3 victory. The Hawks have now claimed the number eight seed in the wild Western conference and are set to face off against the number one seed Vancouver Canucks. Can the Hockey Gods will us to our third playoff defeat of the Canucks in as many years? Only time will tell. Look for a preview soon.
First column: Games played, then wins, losses, OT losses, points (in bold), and ROW
As of right now, the Blackhawks are in a tight race coming down to the last game of the season with both the Anaheim Duck and Dallas Stars. The Ducks hold the 7th seed while the Hawks hold the 8th seed. Both teams have 97 points. The Stars are sitting just behind the Hawks and Ducks with 95 points. All three teams have a game remaining. The Ducks take on the Los Angeles Kings tonight at 9:30 central, all eyes should be on this game. However, if all three teams somehow end up with 97 points (which would mean a Ducks’ loss tonight and a Blackhawks’ loss tomorrow followed by a Stars’ win), the 7th and 8th seeds will end up going to the teams who meet the sufficient tiebreaker procedures. Here’s how they work:
The first tiebreaker is basically the greatest amount of games won, called ROW (wins in regulation plus overtime; shootout victories are excluded). As of right now, the Ducks have the most ROW with 42 compared to the Hawks 38 and the Stars 37, clinching them a playoff spot no matter what. They’re going to finish either 6th, 7th, or 8th no matter what happens tonight.
Can the captain lead us to the promised land once more?
A Dallas win and a Hawks loss would put both teams at 97 points and 38 ROW, therefore resorting to the second tiebreaker, head-to-head points. Therefore, the Hawks would need at least to get to overtime against Detroit in their final game of the season to put them ahead of Dallas by one point. Dallas holds the second tiebreaker against the Hawks, as they have six points (three wins head-to-head) while we have only three points (one win and an overtime loss).
A final observation: If the Hawks do in fact lose to Detroit in game 82, Dallas would have to win in either regulation or overtime. If their game with the Minnesota Wild goes to a shootout and they win, they would have the same amount of points as the Hawks (97), but would still have 37 ROW to our 38. Good lord, this is going to be an epic regular season conclusion!
It was a fantastic wins-day evening to watch the Hawks defeat yet another opponent on the ice. Red hot Jonathan Toews notched his tenth multi-point night in the last 15 games after scoring two goals en route to the Hawks 6-4 win over the Calgary Flames. Newcomer Michael Frolik notched his first points as a Hawk (one goal, two assists) after going five straight games without a point.
The streaking Hawks hold a 7-1-2 record over the last ten games and have garnered the fourth most points in the Western Conference as of today. Captain Jonathan Toews has snared 27 points in the last 17 games and has been playing out of his mind as of late. Let’s hope the Hawks have regained their Stanley Cup form for the remainder of the season.
Michael Frolik’s goal snapped a 32 game skid and hopefully will open the floodgates for him. If he can regain his form in past seasons (42 goals in his first two seasons combined), the Hawks will likely be winning even more. One of his better plays during the game happened when Frolik sacrificed the body to pass the puck to Toews which eventually led to his second goal.