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We’ve Moved!

April 21, 2010
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Blackhawks Down Low has moved from WordPress onto the Bloguin network.  Head on over to the new site by going to BlackhawksDL.com.

Backs to the Walls, Underdogs Once More? Predators take Series Lead 2-1

April 20, 2010

The tragedy of a weeknight loss is that I can’t actually drink myself to a stupor following tonight’s game. There will be recaps and there will be recaps, but I don’t really feel like recounting all 4 Nashville goals, and I’m pretty sure none of you feel like reading about them either, so let’s move on, shall we?

Here’s What You Should Know:

  • The Predators played their game tonight, and then some. Not a lot of the trap, but they backchecked aggressively and that smothered the Hawks’ puck possession game, almost putting it out entirely. Hawks couldn’t get anything going long enough in the Preds’ zone, and when they did, either the shooting lanes were clogged or Rinne had an answer.
  • The Predators have also seemed to key in on Patrick Kane. He only had 1 shot on goal in tonight’s game and the Preds seemed to collapse on him whenever he entered the zone. He’ll need support to generate chances there.
  • The power play converted on 1 chance tonight, but didn’t look all that impressive in the next chances.
  • The penalty kill, however, continues to be solid. In fact, I’d estimate (roughly) that 70% of the Hawks’ dominant play tonight came off of shorthanded opportunities. I can’t figure out why.
  • Quite honestly, I don’t know what I would have done, but I can’t think of very many good things to say about Quenneville’s line-juggling in the third period. Watching a grainy feed has its disadvantages, and one of them is that I couldn’t tell who was out for certain periods of time–I could almost swear, however, that towards the end of the 3rd Byfuglien was thrown back out as a forward. Um, what? Kopecky also started skating with Sharp and Hossa, and Versteeg was thrown in with Toews and Kane. They got a couple of chances going, but mostly one-and-dones. Nothing too substantive to warrant a second look.

So About those Keys to the Game…

  • Score Two Early. Tie It Up and then Fall Back By Three. If there’s any team that knows how to play with a lead, it’s Nashville. They didn’t play as conservatively with the lead as I expected they would, either, and Erat had that penalty shot that converted into goal #4 as well.
  • Shoot Low and Crash the Net. One and Done. Rinse. Repeat. Let Rinne Stand on His Head. Still not enough net presence for my liking, and too many missed chances as well. It’ll take a quality player to beat Rinne flat-out, so those breakaway opportunities and odd-man rushes, which the Hawks had quite a few of, won’t be very easy to get past him. Unfortunately.
  • Simplify and Stay Safe. Well, We Never Got a Lead, so This Point is Kind of Moot. But the Hawks failed to do the little things, the simple things–they didn’t win board battles, they couldn’t get the puck out of their zone, and it just felt like they forgot the basics. They were at times careless with the puck and slow to react when the Predators pounced on those mistakes. This loss is still, at heart, a case of being outworked, not outskilled. The Blackhawks can’t make any excuses–they need to show up and play, because that’s the only way they can win any more games.

Down to a Best of Five: Blackhawks @ Predators Game 3 Preview

April 20, 2010

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Game Time: 8:00 pm CT
TV/Radio: VERSUS, RIS, TSN / WIND-AM 560
Don’t, It’s a Trap! On the Forecheck

The thing with playoff series is that when you’re facing the same team day in and day out for a best of seven round, there won’t be much more left to say after a while–and we’re just in game 3. But the series is now a best-of-5, with the Predators earning home ice advantage.

Here’s What You Need to Know:

  • Hornqvist, the Predators’ leading goal scorer, is a game-time decision. He didn’t play in the second game of the series either though he was hardly a factor in the first. Patrick Kane has factored in all 3 Blackhawks goals so far this series.
  • The Blackhawks have converted 1 of 7 (14.28%) power play chances.
  • The Predators have converted 0 of 7.
  • Antti Niemi has a 1.01 GAA and a SV% of 0.957
  • Pekka Rinne isn’t far behind with a 1.53 GAA and a 0.949 SV%

Keys to the Game:

  • Score Two Early. With games as tight as this series is turning out to be, the Blackhawks can’t afford to give the Predators room to play their game, and they’re very good at playing tied, up 1, or down 1. In those cases they are more than comfortable in sitting back and allowing the Blackhawks to make mistakes that they can capitalize on. Take those scenarios away from them and they’ll be forced to play the up-tempo game that the Hawks are so skilled at. Plus, scoring early takes the Bridgestone Arena crowd out of the game fast.
  • Shoot Low and Crash the Net. Pekka Rinne is the Preds’ MVP in this series. He absorbs rebounds like nobody’s business. Scrums need to happen in front of him. Someone’s ass needs to be blocking his view. Tip-ins, deflections, dirty rebounds are the way to go. Anything fancy won’t go in if he can see it, unless you’re Patrick Kane’s 6th shot on goal.
  • Simplify and Stay Safe. Niemi’s rebound control still sometimes borders on the line of juicy, so the Hawks need to be ready to clear the puck out of the zone and collapse in front of the net if need be. They’ve done a great job covering shooting lanes and making it hard for the Preds to do anything against Niemi–more of that, please. But at the same time, when they’re down by a few the Preds can become pretty aggressive on the forecheck and when they’re pressuring in the Hawks’ zone, the safe play (icing the puck or dumping it) could be the right one.

UPDATE: Looks like Horqvist is out tonight. Good news for the Hawks.

Hawks 2 – Preds 0 Recap

April 19, 2010

Ahhh that’s more like what we were expecting.  A lot of people were worried after the first period, but the Hawks righted the ship in the second.  Going into the third, the Preds were down one goal and one can only assume Barry Trotz was in the locker room doing his best Mr. Burns impression.

Exxxxxcellennttttt

It was actually a little funny to sit here and watch as everyone freaked out about having a one goal lead like it signaled our impending doom.  But instead of getting dominated like they did on Friday, the Hawks came out like bats out of hell.  Kane summoned his mullet powers and beat Rinne with a wicked wrister.

I honestly can’t even decide who I want to call player of the game.  Let’s look at the candidates:

  • Niemi – Nothing to complain about here. Niemi was perfect.  He benefited from some tight defensive play, but was key in bailing out the D a few times.  Nemo looked strong and was challenging shots including some big saves that put the kibosh on any comeback hopes the Preds were mounting late in the 3rd.
  • Kane – 3 words: Fear The Mullet.  Kane picked up a goal and an assist last night as he continues to pile up playoff points.  If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the last two years, its that Kane steps up his game in the big situations (see: Canucks, Vancouver).
  • Bolland – Bolly has had a down season mostly thanks to back surgery which hasn’t had a chance to rest enough.  Yesterday he picked up the GWG by going to the front of the net on the PP.  It’ll be great to see if he can keep up the play throughout the rest of the postseason. His play can make or break this postseason.
  • Sopel – I LOVE SOPEL. There. I said it.  The man is a warrior. Sacrifices the body and does everything that we can expect from our 6th Dman and he’s stepped it up since the loss of Soupy and Johnsson.

So let’s hear what you think. Who was the Player of the Game?

Edit: Ahh I can’t believe I forgot to mention Hossa.  That man is on a mission to prove that curses don’t exist.  He’s getting tons of scoring chances and its only a matter of time before he converts.  Watch for him to leave a trail of bodies behind him because he is intent on carrying this team far.

Reboot: Game 2

April 18, 2010

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I have no idea why I can't just put these next to each other. Damnit wordpress.

In game one, we saw a team that stopped playing in the third period.  It was a complete lack of effort.  Maybe it was rust from the layoff, maybe they had some tired legs at the end.  Whatever it was should be fixed by now.

If you really think about it though, the Hawks were one flukey bounce of a goal away from a tie game with 10 minutes to play.  Would the game have played out the same if not for the one lucky bounce? Its hard to say.  But at least there would have been a better shot at winning.

Tonight is the night it has to be turned around.  A lot of people have been calling this a must-win.  I hesitate to say that.  Its very important that they win, but I wouldn’t count this team out if they were down 2-0.

Regardless, I don’t see that happening.  Take away the two empty nets and the bad hop, and you have a team that’s even with the Preds despite a complete lack of focus.  Once that focus kicks in and everyone starts playing with the heart that Hossa was showing, look out because the offensive explosion is coming.  And we saw glimpses of that when the Hawks were dominating the puck possession for most of the 2nd period.

So get ready for game 2.  Let’s move one win closer.

Clean Slate, Take 2: Predators Grab Series Lead 1-0

April 17, 2010

In the recap yesterday, Andrew said nothing from the regular season mattered anymore, and the Blackhawks have earned nothing.

Well, let’s clean the slate for yesterday’s game and throw it out the window, because the Hawks are still in the same place they were before the puck dropped yesterday, only now they have to win 4 games and the Preds have to win 3. Perspective.

The Blackhawks didn’t come out with much jump at the beginning of the game, and there were some instances when it was noticeable that they were a little shaky, maybe nervous, but for the first 40 minutes it is safe to say that they dominated the Predators. They weren’t able to convert on as many chances as they should have, considering how very rarely a Blackhawks player positioned himself in front of the net, and Pekka Rinne did whatever he could to foil their shots from the point and absorb the puck the rest of the time.

But sometime in the 3rd period the Predators found themselves on the receiving end of a fortuitous, fluky bounce that got the puck in the back of Niemi’s net, and somehow that deflated the Hawks, even if it only evened the score. Not long after, a scrum in front of the net–the result of a Troy Brouwer turnover–put the Preds up by 2. The game may very well have been over then. The Hawks only managed 4 measly shots on goal in the 3rd while the Predators put up thrice more, adding salt to the wound with 2 empty net goals to put the final score to 4-1. Predators take the series lead 1-0.

Notes:

  • So at the end of the day, the 5 of 8 series ended in upsets after game 1. That number would be 6 of 8 if you consider the 4th-seeded Coyotes an underdog against the 5th-seeded Red Wings, which you should. But game 1 isn’t nearly as important as game 2, so don’t jump off the ledge just yet (though if you do decide to, can you please bequeath your season tickets to me?). All four teams that were down 0-1 after game 1 evened their series last night, and now it’s a best-of-5 game. A Hawks win on Sunday will do the same thing.
  • The Hawks clearly took the 3rd period off, but if they match Nashville in work ethic they should be fine. I’ve always been of the “if you don’t earn it then you don’t deserve it” school of thought, and personally I think it’s easier to adjust attitude than it is to adjust skill.
  • The Hawks are also due a long video review session–there were many glaring errors in the third period alone, and they would do well to note those mistakes and learn from them. Brouwer should have just iced that puck instead of allowing for that turnover to convert to a goal, for instance; his line had been on the ice for a very long time and they were clearly tired by that point. Versteeg shouldn’t have overplayed on that chance that he had. Keith made a couple of silly mistakes that found the puck on the Predators’ stick. No one parked themselves in front of the net, despite their first goal being off a crashing-the-net play. But these mistakes, brought on maybe by nerves, some rustiness, or even overthinking, should be easily remedied.

Clean Slate: Predators @ Blackhawks Game 1

April 16, 2010

Game Time: 7:30 PM CST
TV/Radio: VERSUS(HD), TSN2, CSN-CH(HD) / WIND-AM 560
The Enemy: On the Forecheck

Welcome to the first day of your life.  Today is the first day of the playoffs for the Blackhawks.  There’s no stat pack for this game.  None of the stuff that happened in the regular season matters anymore.  Clean slate.  The Blackhawks have earned nothing.

But tonight, we go out there and earn every inch of the ice.  Every loose puck, every battle along the boards, its ours.  Why? Because we want it.  We have the skill, the heart, the desire.  Expectations are high for a reason.  This is a great team, one that’s capable of going far in the playoffs, and it all starts here.  This has been what the whole season has led up to.  From training camp in August all the way up to this point 8 months later.  This is why we are fans.  This is what we live for.

There will be over 22,000 people in the United Center tonight.  That’s 22,000 perfectly good voice boxes going in.  Your goal is to leave it all behind and support the team.  Blow the roof off during the anthem and don’t stop till the final horn sounds.

A journey starts today. Let’s Go Hawks.

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