Another Bad Ending…. and an XM Interview

If the Hawks can capture a regulation victory tonight the sting of another bad third period performance will be lessened. But let’s face it, playoff teams don’t consistently get outscored in the final frame. This is a whacky year, so maybe it won’t matter.  But until proven otherwise a post season berth will be a long shot in my  book.

The Hawks are tied with the Thrashers with 53 third period goals against. Atlanta has played one extra game but neither club can be proud of their ominous distinction. 

Possibly it is a question of poor conditioning which causes errors late in the game by the Hawks. Tired players do make more mistakes. Or maybe there isn’t enough desire put forth throughout 60 minutes of play. Whatever the reason, a two goal third period lead can’t be squandered, especially against a team which has trouble scoring. The Hawks did some good things but bad the finishes must stop. 

The Nashville first goal came as a result of a weak effort from Jonathan Toews and others. But at least Toews was near the play although his late stick waving was futile. Patrick Kane appeared as if he was trying to tow a boat while skating behind the play. Mr. Kane was almost completely out of the picture when the Nashville goal went by Corey Crawford. Kane was only on the ice for 33 seconds but it looked as if he was out there for at least 1:33. 

Toews hasn’t looked very good since Chris Neil pounded him shortly after his return to action. Maybe Toews rushed back and still is nursing a sore shoulder.

Kane’s sluggish play at times??….You can draw your own conclusions.

The tying goal may have come about by a poor decision from a linesman. The preceding faceoff before the goal maybe should have been outside of the Hawks’ zone. But that wasn’t the real problem. 

Shea Weber accounts for much of the Predator offense and he scored on a set play which should have been better defended. 

The Preds notched their second tally because Toews didn’t cleanly win the faceoff, although that was not the biggest issue. Duncan Keith being outbattled for a 50-50 puck was a bigger problem. As a result the Preds were able to get the puck to the point and then the pass from Ryan Suter to Weber wasn’t sealed off. Troy Brouwer made a half hearted effort to block the Weber shot. That’s not a shock as Weber is an ankle breaker. Jake Dowell was caught flat footed as well, as the Hawks finish held true to form. 

There wasn’t enough determination and desperation shown on that play and throughout the third period. 

Nothing short of a regulation win tonight should be acceptable. Nashville will be playing their fourth game in six nights. The Predators have a weak offense when everyone is playing and now they have a depleted lineup. No excuses for the Blackhawks.

I’m not sure what Joel Quenneville will decide. My choice would be to come right back with Crawford. He was sharp again and gives the Hawks the best chance of winning.

We will find out soon if the Hawks can muster up a sufficient response. 

Al’s Shots 

Below is an audio link from a Blackhawk discussion with Jamie Shalley and Terry Mercury. Jack Skille and the Preds were discussed as well as other Hawk issues. Terry’ s concerns were similar to Hawk fans.

Cimaglia11-01-13 part 1

Cimaglia11-01-13 part 2

Predator fans should be pumped up with the come from behind shootout victory. I’m not sold on the Preds being a playoff team and my feelings are similar on the Hawks.

There is a lot of hockey left and it has been a strange season….Time will tell.

Nashville has shown more desire when facing the Blackhawks this season. The same can be said about other teams and that is a major concern for the Hawks.

One final note…

Viktor Stalberg made a couple of bad turnovers in the opening period.

Another repeat performance and Stalberg could be looking at some time off.

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  1. Dave Morris says:

    Al, this shootout loss was certainly disappointing, but I see it a little differently.

    I watched the NSH FoxSports TV feed with the excellent Terry Crisp (multiple Cup winner) doing the color work.

    Crisp summed it pretty well I think…he said the Hawks played a Preds-like game through the first two periods. He also said in the second intermission he expected the coaches would rip the Preds a new one and that NSH would come out in the third with a vengeance in front of a soldout home crowd.

    Which they did.

    Terry Crisp was a fierce competitor as a player and as a coach, and he *knows* what goes on in a locker room.

    Another indication was the interview with one of the Preds’ assistant coaches, Pete Horachek, before that final period. He was livid and looked like he was ready to put a few players through a wall. He said the Preds were being outworked and outbattled in every way, and that was going to change. Horachek is a big guy and he looks like he means what he says.

    In any case, the result speaks for itself.

    Sometimes fans think their team loses a game because it plays badly, when it is more that the opponent played well, and better when it mattered.

    The Predators are perhaps the best coached team in the NHL, considering what they make of the talent they have to work with.

    Jerred Smithson, who scored the first NSH goal, is the kind of big two-way centerman (6’3″, 206 lbs) the Hawks don’t have, and need.

    Shea Weber probably has the hardest and fastest shot in the NHL. Stopping one of his point blasts has to be like trying to stop a rocket propelled grenade.

    And Rinne can be very tough to solve in critical situations, which he was.

    The Hawks getting a point is a positive.

    IMHO Toews is most certainly playing through pain, and his difficulty on faceoffs and in the shootout would suggest his shoulder is in bad shape.

    Kane does not look 100%. If his ankle sprain is not healed, which it is probably not, that would explain his inconsistent play.

    Same situation with Hossa, who is, again, probably not fully recovered.

    That said, there are no excuses or crying towels handed out in the Western Conference, and the Blackhawks have to play in gut-check mode.

    They managed to gain a little ground on the pursuers, and hoisted themselves up into the 7th seed…for now.

    Today’s game is as big as it gets.

    PS terrific XM podcast by you, Jamie Shalley (and Terry Mercury), as usual.

  2. Dave Morris says:

    PPS excellent points during the podcast by you about “the right *type* of effort”…especially concerning Skille and Stalberg.

    BTW is Tomas Kopecky finally ‘finding his game’ again? (He was a mirror image of Jerred Smithson last night)…

  3. Al Cimaglia says:

    I think Kopecky is best from arund the net….facing the net.

    He needs to find some space and release the puck quickly.

    The long back swing and taking forever to shoot doesn’t work.

    The Preds should be credited but…….

    To lose a 2 goal lead team against a team which has trouble scoring, is short handed, and is the midst of a heavy schedule…

    Well there really is no excuse and if the Hawks don’t bounce back with a regulation win…Trouble.

    This will be the 4th game in six days for Nashville, who will again be without a leading scorer and a top four dman….

    It will be difficult to paint a rosy picture.

    But with a win tonight the Hawks make some progress.

    • David Singleton says:

      Al, O’Brien plays on Nashville’s third defensive pair at EV and top PK unit.

      I think you’re selling Nashville a little short Al regarding their ability to make the playoffs.

      Consider…

      Nashville consistently makes the playoffs playing their style. They are on a better than 100 point pace with a depleted roster.

      While it’s certainly possible that Nashville slows dramatically as the season goes on, I think it more likely that they finish even stronger given if they start getting healthy. I doubt their effort or the coaching will degrade over time.

      • Al Cimaglia says:

        I made a mistake about O’Brien…I’m not a big fan anyway..

        But the point remains…Nash was without players on Sat. and again Sun….the Hawks were healthy and had a favorable schedule…ADVANTAGE HAWKS.

        As far as selling Nashville short….Over the years I have done the opposite of selling them short.

        And I didn’t say that won’t make the playoffs this year..

        I feel the same about your chances as the Hawks….Not sure.

        I think it will depend on injuries and goal keeping.

        If there was of ever a year for a team which doesn’t score a lot to make the playoffs this is it.

        Both clubs need to keep their best players healthy.

        I think you didn’t mention an important point concerning the Preds playoffs chances…

        Nash has played a lot of road games….the opposite is true for the Hawks.

        • David Singleton says:

          Yeah, we all hope that having that many home games down the stretch will pay major dividends.

          Health will definitely be a key too.

  4. Norm Bailey says:

    Hey Dave
    What other cups did Crispy win. I remember he got one coaching the flames but dont remeber any others.

  5. Living the Cup says:

    Tonight is a almost a must win. 3 out of 4 points from NSH is very good, 1 out of 4 ouch!

    With a win they would have captured 5 out of 6 points this week- the right prescription for making the playoffs anything less and the pressure starts building again.

    Interesting again that it’s the core guys not delivering that makes me shake my head- I’ll cut them some slack based on recent injuries and the probability that they’re not fully healed.

    I expect a full on effort tonight and CC in net. They’ll need both to get 2 points.

  6. Dave Morris says:

    Al, I agree with David Singleton in many respects. NSH has given the Hawks trouble for some time, and their games are always fiercely competitive.

    The Preds are not a high-scoring team but their trap and transition game are strong.

    To my earlier point, Jerred Smithson, by the way, 8th best in the NHL on faceoffs, 58%, better than Ryan Kesler and right behind Toews. Smithson is the kind of veteran center that Chicago could use, and very difficult to find. WSH’s Dave Steckel has a similar profile, (FWIW also one of the league’s best faceoff guys), though Steckel is more physical.

    Nashville is an opportunistic team. Getting a two goal lead on them is far from safe, especially in their building. As Q said, “bang-bang play, shot by the wrong guy” meaning Weber…it only takes a moment.

    So for the Blackhawks to get a point there is IMHO well earned.

    They do, of course, need to get two this evening.

    • David Singleton says:

      Thanks Dave.

      I do want to make this point however. Nashville does NOT employ a trap as a primary strategy unless they are defending a lead late in the game.

      Their primary strategy is very strong forechecking and transition.

      Thanks again.

      • Dave Morris says:

        David, just for the record, I do not consider ‘the trap’ a bad thing. Jacques Lemaire, one of the smartest players and coaches in the last half century, developed it to a extensive degree and was accused of creating ‘dull hockey’. But as a number of NHL coaches will tell you, most teams play a modified version of the trap as part of their strategy.

        Nashville’s use of ‘the trap’ is usually very good. So that comment is meant as a compliment.

        That said, it was especially enjoyable to see the Blackhawks put 6 past Mr. Lindback tonight.

        • Brian says:

          I think Nashville should change their name to the WE DON’T TRAP’s. They’re always hard to play against and Sat’s game was tough because Chicago almost had that 3rd goal to put it away but didn’t, then a goal and Nashville’s in it looking for a lucky one, Oh well. I’m more optimistic than Al about the Hawks playoff hopes, I see improvement. Sundays game was HUGE down a goal 3 times, down in the 3rd. Then a glorious barrage. The week off should help the injuries. I’m looking forward to seiing it play out. I nominate the RAT for goal of the year.

          • Al Cimaglia says:

            I wouldn’t bet against the Hawks making the playoffs but I’m not so sure they will.

            As I have said there aren’t many teams which look like playoff locks….that’s the best news for the Hawks.

        • David Singleton says:

          I don’t think the trap’s a bad strategy necessarily, but for accuracy sake it’s not Nashville’s primary strategy. I agree that they use it like every team, but they stake their success on aggressive forechecking first and foremost.

          Lindback definitely had a bad period Sunday night.

          The whole team just collapsed after the Chicago goal on a delayed penalty to Nashville caused by Kane’s illegal pick (for which Trotz is still perturbed).

          I think that goal put Chicago up 2 in the third and the wheels just fell off for Nashville. Certainly didn’t help losing #4 dman Francis Bouillon early on either.

          With Nashville playing Tuesday and Thursday, games played will be even between the two teams (although Chicago will pull back ahead by 1 on Sunday).

          • Al Cimaglia says:

            Also had Preds had a reason to be tired…4th game in 6 days. That didn’t help their cause.

  7. CBH1619 says:

    “broad sword calling danny boy. this is father mcree… all sins forgiven”

  8. Dave Morris says:

    Gentlemen, all things being equal, the Blackhawks go into their one week break in vastly better shape, courtesy of their productive weekend.

    Their win percentage has improved to .575, which projects to 94 points.

    They are now occupying the 6th seed (however momentarily), but more important, a little bit of a gap has opened up between the Top 8 in the West and the Bottom 8.

    5 points separate the Hawks from the 9th place Kings, and LA is trending down, having won just 3 of their last 10.

    COL has played .500 hockey in the last ten games; LAK, STL, SJS, CLB all less than that, and not looking like they are bound to improve soon. MIN is moving up, but they are still five points behind CHI.

    The Hawks *have* to keep playing their best. I would say the good news is, that they have started to show they can.

    • Al Cimaglia says:

      Well I don’t feel any more confident or less confident about the playoffs than before the weekend.

      94 points is the absolute minimum that has been required on average over the past four seasons…

      So don’t blink.

      It is close …Nash is on pace for about 99 pts…but they have a lot of home games left.

      But this is a different season…a lot of strange going on…Maybe it doesn’t take 94 points to get in??

      • Living the Cup says:

        I hear your uncertainty Al but the trend has been upwards for quite some time now going back to the NSH game before the circus (even though they lost in a shootout).

        Remember I suggested giving the Hawks 10 games after Toews returned.

        That 10 stretch is not over yet but so far so good at 5-1-1.

        Let’s see where we are after next weekend but I have been optimistic despite often poor play that the Hawks will get it figured out and I continue to be.

        Last night being the latest example of the team coming together.

        • Al Cimaglia says:

          Yep….But all the road games are coming…That has tempered my optimism.

          • Living the Cup says:

            Good point Al but the Hawks have been a pretty good road team (last year and this) and as the games become more important I think home ice advantage is somewhat lessened.

  9. Al Cimaglia says:

    I heard there was a sellout on Saturday night in Nash.

    How have the crowds been this year…A few sellouts, or quite a few ??

    I know there was a good contingent of Hawk fans who made th trip for the Sat. game.

    • shruew says:

      Looks like they are averaging 93.5% capacity

      http://espn.go.com/nhl/attendance/_/year/2011

      • Al Cimaglia says:

        Thanks..

        Not bad …not great.

        • David Singleton says:

          Al, the Predators have increased their paid attendance by about 2000 a game to this point in the year from all of last year.

          That’s actually pretty amazing considering that Nashville has traditionally had relatively poor attendance until after the NFL season has concluded.

          They’ve already had as many sellouts this year as all of last year. Now the NFL season is over and Nashville has all those home games left.

          I believe that they are showing the highest % increase in attendance this year and it should get even better provided they don’t sink in the standings.

          • Al Cimaglia says:

            I would like to see them sellout often…So money is there to sign Weber….He needs to be re-signed and will want/get big money.

            Someday I am going to get to Nash…seems like a fun place to watch a game.

          • David Singleton says:

            I will say that was definitely the most “opposing fans” as I’ve ever seen in Bridgestone Arena for a hockey game.

            Nashville is a “walk-up” city for tickets and Predators fans were burnt if they chose to go that route.

            Made for a pretty good atmosphere.

          • David Singleton says:

            Can’t seem to reply to you directly below Al.

            Financially, they can re-sign Weber and trade for Iginla’s salary if they wanted to and still not cross the midpoint of the cap (roughly Nashville’s budget).

            I detailed most of it in the blog about Iglina, but this will be Sullivan’s last year. O’Brien’s too most likely. The cap will be going up, meaning the midpoint and revenue sharing will go up as well.

            I’ve seen no credible source that Weber wants to go anywhere else. Bill Watters is not a credible source. His entire basis is that Nashville doesn’t have the money and the FACT is that they do. Enough to bring in Iginla if they wanted AND still sign Suter to a Weber-like extension (with Dumont’s salary coming off the books after next year).

            Rumors about Weber leaving Nashville are complete hogwash right now. That said, David Poile would have done his fans a good service had he worked hard to get Weber signed in training camp like he’d “advertised”.

  10. pricey says:

    Al, with rumours coming out from Bob Mckenzie and others about Matt Moulson being shopped by the Islanders, do you think there would be any interest from Bowman?

    IMO, he would be the type of gritty goal scorer that would fit in great with either top line.

    With Q usually adding in the “flavour of the week” with Toews-Kane and Sharp-Hossa, I think having Moulson and Brouwer would really solidfy the top 6 overall

  11. Al Cimaglia says:

    Pricey…

    The intent would be to then replace Kopecky with Moulson…?

  12. shruew says:

    Eager traded to SJ for nothing. He must have worn out his welcome there.

  13. Dave Morris says:

    Shreuw>per Bobby Mac:
    ATL receives a fifth-round pick from SJ in exchange for Ben Eager.
    14 minutes ago via web

    –>

    Plus, Ben brought a bucket of fried chicken with him to SJ. Wait ’til he finds out they prefer fish tacos out there. BTW there’s a terrific bar that serves really good fish tacos within walking distance of the Shark Tank.

  14. Al Cimaglia says:

    Eager is going to be a UFA…supposedly in Ramsay’s doghouse.

    Might work for Sharks…would have been better if he didn’t get the last 4 game suspension..

    Eager is on Campbell’s radar he has to walk fine line.

    SJ doesn’t have much minor league depth.

    Atl….might be a bit soft…pointed out last night on VS.

    Evander Kane is getting tossed around like he’s a rag doll.

  15. Dave Morris says:

    Al, while the Hawks have the week off, time of course for more trade rumors to fly.

    One of the sources I track says Feaster is now in ‘sell’ mode.

    A few affordable (500K-1.2MM hit) pending UFA guys in CGY who could help the Blackhawks…Conroy, Babchuk (especially with his point shot, also playing very well this year), maybe Glencross…

    What are your thoughts on a deal with the Flames?

  16. Living the Cup says:

    Looks like Dudley would have done better to take my deal of Skille for Eager. I’m surprised Eager went for so little – I guess the 4 game suspension as you suggest Al brought his price down and maybe made him not so interesting to the Hawks.

    Nevertheless it’s encouraging that he went so cheaply – maybe there is cheap help out there for the Hawks.

    If the Hawks pick up someone for a draft pick they will need to not only make room on the NHL roster but also make room on the 50 man roster.

    Anyone know how that is done? A buy out I presume of the 50th guy?

    Obviously they’d still have to honour the rules of the contract to release a player.

    • shruew says:

      To get under the 50 reserve list they have to dump a contract in a legal way – contract buy-out, put someone on waivers and get them claimed, or trade away a contract.

      More likely they throw in a body in the deal as part of the trade with the draft picks. There are 6 players in the AHL who make $105k AHL money that don’t figure into the Hawks future that another team could eat for rest of the season.

  17. Al Cimaglia says:

    Dave,

    I couldn’t reply direectly below your post.

    I remember the Iginla piece…you and I disagreed about spending $7 mill on him.

    From I can see, as well as what you pointed out….The Preds have the cap space…My contention is..

    Will the ownership pony up about $40 mill for Weber?

    My thinking is …It would be easier to swallow with more ticket revenue.

    I agree with you…Weber has to be re-signed….He is the cornerstone of the team and worth the money.

    Someone will write an offer sheet…So it would be best to get Weber signed before the end of June.

    No rumors…. or blogosphere gossip….But I do believe a good team will write an offer sheet on a stud defenseman like Weber.

    Weber like Seabrook, still hasn’t hit his prime.

    The Hawks are in a similar position with Seabrook….He will be the next dman sought after.

    Teams will sacrifice late 1st round pick etc…to get a top pairing dman,who can play at a high level for another 6-8 years….or longer.