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Meet the Enemy: Predator Goalies

April 15, 2010

They say knowledge is power. I don’t know quite how true that holds in a series where what we the fans know won’t hold nearly as much weight as what our team knows, but it couldn’t hurt, could it? Yesterday, Andrew gave you a look into the Predators’ defense, Nashville’s strength coming into the postseason. As part of our “Meet the Enemy” series, today we will tackle the Nashville goalies.

Pekka Rinne first made waves last year when he came, seemingly out of nowhere to take over as the Predators’ starting goalie. He hasn’t really disappointed, either, doing a stellar job although the Preds failed to make postseason last year.

This year, Pekka Rinne has continued to perform admirably, and though his career stats have dipped slightly, a 2.36 GAA and 0.911 SV% on the season isn’t bad. In three games against the Blackhawks he has posted a a 1-2 W-L record, a 2.33 GAA and a 0.923 SV%. Of course, 3 games is hardly a suitable sample size, and all of those games occured in the first half of the season–a long, long time ago in a place far, far away or something, so let’s look at his more recent record.

In the 17 games that he started since the Olympic break, Rinne has a 1.94 GAA and a 0.932 SV%. He also posted 4 of 7 shutouts in this stretch, and with a 12-4-1 record it definitely seems as though he’s benefited from the 2-week break.

Then again, separating his records against playoff teams versus non-playoff teams and it appears that he (and the team) struggles against tougher competition. Against non-playoff teams Rinne has 3 shutouts and a 7-1-0 record, but against teams destined for a postseason run, his record falls to 5-3-1 and a 2.44 GAA.

That doesn’t make Rinne any less dangerous a goalie in the playoffs, of course. The Finn plays to his size and can take out a lot of space for attackers. He can play out of his mind and steal a game, as well, and starting out strong may be enough to frustrate the Blackhawks and force them to play more desperately instead of more smartly.

Should Rinne falter in between the pipes, the Predators have Dan Ellis to turn to. He puts up decent numbers for a back-up, but has only played 4 games since the Olympic break. That isn’t very rare, considering most teams try to buckle down with one starting goalie towards the end of the season.

Against Chicago, Ellis also holds a 1-2 W-L record, with a 2.67 GAA and a 0.918 SV%. As with Rinne, the SV% is a little bit inflated given how much Chicago tends to shoot towards the net. And as with Rinne, these games came early in the year–it’s hard to predict how either will play against the Hawks this time around.

What is evident in his last 10 games, however, is that Ellis’ record against playoff (1-4) and non-playoff (4-1) teams isn’t that much different from Rinne’s.

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Let’s Get This Rivalry Started: Blackhawks and Predators

April 15, 2010

They say the playoffs are where the real rivalries are started.  Hopefully that’s true about the Blackhawks first round matchup against the Nashville Predators.  These two teams seem to have more of a moderate dislike of each other.  Well here’s my reasoning why you should develop a passionate hate against the Preds. (Note: This was written Sunday night and ran in this week’s issue of the Loyola Phoenix.)

It’s never fun to lose to the Red Wings.  I have an extreme dislike for that team, to put it mildly.  The loss on Sunday stings for a different reason though.  You see, the Hawks were only playing for playoff position, but losing sends the team somewhere very, very terrible: Nashville.

Oh, how I loathe everything about the city of Nashville! Let me count the ways:  First, I hate country music.  I know that has nothing to do with hockey, but the place is the home of country music.  After every Predators goal, the first thing you hear is “I like it, I love it, I want some more of it.” If it wasn’t enough to see the Blackhawks get scored on, my ears are now screaming in pain from listening to that shrieking.

Next up on the list is the power play.  I’m not talking about the players on the ice during the power play.  I can’t hate on those guys because I feel sorry for them. They’re 24th in power play goals, scoring on just 16.4 percent of their chances. The real menace is the Predators PA announcer.  Just listen after the first Blackhawks penalty in Nashville and you’ll hear him lead the crowd in yelling, “The Predators are ON … THE … POWERRRRPLAAYYYYYY.”  How about we get back to watching the game instead of yelling about what’s happening, OK cowboy?

Make sure to keep your eye on number 22, Jordin Tootoo.  I don’t say keep your eye on him because he’s a great player.  It’s a warning. If you don’t, he’ll probably take a cheap shot at you while you aren’t paying attention because that’s what Jordin Tootoo does.  This guy is up there along with guys like Matt Cooke and Sean Avery in the “Guys who I really don’t like because they’re dirty players” category.  If you have time, find his fight against James Wisniewski from two years ago, and watch him get punched in the head repeatedly.

The Predators are one of those teams that are pretty tough to watch play.  Head Coach Barry Trotz has his players committed to playing a strict defensive system.  Unfortunately, it’s extremely boring to watch.  Get ready for a series full of dump and chase (except for Versteeg, who will inevitably try to skate through three defenders all day).
And last on my list of loathing, I’d like to draw your attention to the worst tradition in all of sports.  Instead of creating their own traditions, Nashville decided to modify the stupid tradition of throwing an octopus onto the ice like Red Wings fans love to do.

Preds fans put their little Nashville spin on it so now you’ll probably see a catfish or two hit the ice this series.  That’s right. They carry a big, dead, stinky catfish into the arena.  When I was at a Hawks game a few years back, some guy threw one on the ice toward the end of a Hawks win over the Preds. That guy had to sit there with that smelly fish all game.  Good job man, you certainly got us that time.

Thankfully the playoffs are finally here.  I may not be happy about the matchup, but I sure am happy to see playoff hockey return.  Buckle up. Hopefully it will be a long ride toward the Stanley Cup Finals.

Playoff Beards: A Grizzly (Adams) Situation

April 15, 2010

If I were to claim to be a very manly man, it’d be a flat out lie.  Far be it from me to tell you how to grow a great playoff beard.  So with that in mind, I’d like to refer you to two posts on the rules of the playoff beard from people with more manly authority than I have.

Look how intelligent this guy looks with a beard

First up is the trio of alcoholic Hawks fans at SecondCityHockey.com bring you the guide to growing a beard.  It has their 4 rules on growing what will almost certainly be an ugly pile of face scruff.

1. Become completely clean shaven before the first game. Give yourself a nice baselilne to work with, tabula rasa, if you want to get all academic. This is metaphorical for the team as well, as everything from the regular season is wiped away with the start of the “real” season. Personally, I will be shaving this evening for what will hopefully be the the last time until June.

For the rest of the rules, check out the full article.  And don’t forget to go back daily to see the beard of the day.

So now you might be whining about the stupid reasons that you can’t/won’t grow a playoff beard.  Well, suck it up Nancy.  Rock The Red has a rebuttal for every weak ass excuse that you can possibly come up with.

My job doesn’t allow beards.
If it’s not in the handbook as an officially written rule, and you get grief for this, have your boss call me so I can give him a talking to like the whiner that he is. Then proceed as normal. If it is in the handbook, then that’s a pretty messed up place to work. You might be able to win a lawsuit if they terminate you. Then, you’ll have corporate sponsorship and can grow all the beard you want while you sit home spending those free paychecks on ebay.

Finally, if you’re having trouble growing a beard, learn how from The Art of Manliness.

If you are ready to step up to the challenge of growing a beard, it is time to start growing. The key to a successful beard-growing effort is commitment. Just make a decision to grow a beard and stick with it. Do not be swayed by naysayers or lapses in your own confidence.

So unless your name is Patrick Kane and you’re growing what is going to turn into the best mullet that hockey has ever seen (you’re on notice, Melrose), go out and get some miracle grow.  My beard will be a hideous Kyle Orton style neck beard by next week.  Its awful and patchy, but its no excuse for not growing one.  If anything, it shows people your commitment and passion for a great cause, which will definitely help you pick up all the chicks you can imagine.

Meet the Enemy: Predator Defense Corps

April 14, 2010

It has been said many times so far: the Predators are a very underrated team.  A lot of that has to do with the fact that they lack a true “superstar” that NBC can force feed to us.  Other contributors include the team first system and market location.  But Hawks fans need to be educated on the players they’ll be seeing line up against the Hawks this series.  The Preds defense corps is the strongest point of the team and can cause real problems for the Blackhawks scorers, so its important to understand what our boys are up against (with the strategic use of terrible created pictures I made in MS Paint).

Defense
Suter – Weber
Hamhuis – Franson
Bouillon – Klein
You may remember Shea Weber from his appearance in the Olympics with Team Canada, but then again you may not remember that because it was a pretty brief appearance.  His play in the Olympics wasn’t great, but unfortunately for us, that doesn’t count for anything now.  Weber is one of the top defensemen in the league.  He is a key to the Nashville power play and has a big shot from the point (that has been know to rip a net).  His big problem has been hitting the net with that shot.  It’ll take some brass balls from Sopel on the PK to step in front of one of those bombs when they’re on net.
Ryan Suter is another guy you might remember from the Olympics.  Suter was a staple on the blueline for the US.  Ryan’s dad Gary is a former Blackhawk.  Be prepared to see a lot of this Madison native. He leads the Preds Dmen in ice time per game and Suter and Weber will definitely be on the ice just about any time the first line is out there.
Also worth noting, Suter and Hossa fought last season.  Not something you should expect to see, but something to think about.
Dan Hamhuis will be the most physical of the group.  He’s going to hit, block shots, and break up rushes.  He’s a great #3 that could probably crack the top pairing on some teams.
Franson’s best years are definitely ahead of him.  Franson is pretty highly rated by Hockey’s Future and is currently ranked 3rd out of all Preds prospects.  He only averaged 14:11 of ice time this year.  He’s a big boy and has some skating and offensive ability.  Don’t sleep on this kid.
Bouillon stands in at only 5’8″ but don’t let that fool you.  This guy isn’t going to shy away from the physical game.  He can hit and fight, but there’s only so much you can do to make up for size.  If he was bigger, he’d make for a great #3/#4 defenseman, but as it stands he’s a serviceable #5/#6 guy.  Don’t expect to see a lot of offense out of him.
Klein is a guy who the Hawks should look to exploit.  He’ll probably end up facing the second line, which could end up looking something like Versteeg-Bolland-Hossa.  A -13 and getting almost 20 minutes per game, this guy will have a target on his back.  Here’s the chink in the armor of the defense corps.

NHL Awards Picks Part 2

April 13, 2010
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Now that the regular season has come to a close, its time for us to make our picks on the NHL Awards.  We here at Blackhawks Down Low don’t get votes like the guys who write for the newspapers, but if we could, these would be our picks. We’ve included our predictions on which player will win based on the actual votes and who we think should win. Here’s part 2 of 2.

Vezina Trophy

ChiBlackhawks: Will go to and should go to Ryan Miller. He’s been stellar all season. Not 100% of the season, but as close as we can get to that.

Andrew: Will go to Ryan Miller.  Olympics might not officially count for the award, but go ahead and try to tell me that people won’t have that in the back of their minds when voting.

I think Miller should get it, but I just want to give an honorable mention to Ilya Bryzgalov and Craig Anderson.  Both of those guys essentially played way above their expected levels and put their teams into the playoffs.

Selke Trophy

ChiBlackhawks: Will go to Pavel Datsyuk. See the Ovechkin rationale. Also, he had 160-something takeaways. The man’s a pickpocket of the highest degree.

Should go to Jonathan Toews, because I can’t think of anybody else who isn’t named Ryan Kesler.

Andrew: Will go to Pavel Datsyuk because his name is perpetually engraved into the trophy for a reason. This goal probably clinched it for him if the entire season wasn’t enough. (Click here for video since I refuse to post it in here).

Kane would probably win it if he wasn’t so damn lazy.  Should have spent the summer lifting weights instead of punching cab drivers. (THIS IS A JOKE)

Norris Memorial Trophy

ChiBlackhawks: Will go to Duncan Keith because Mike Green is made for snubbing. Sorry, Caps fans.
Should go to Duncan Keith, despite the dip in performance, because I’m biased. Also, maybe Mike Green’s good enough to be a shutdown kind of guy too, but his coach doesn’t seem to think so, or he’d be playing more PK minutes, amirite?
Andrew: Will go to Duncan Keith.  Even though he had a bit of a hard time towards the end of the year, he was the best defenseman throughout the year.  Mike Green can score, but he doesn’t have anything on Dunc in his own zone.
Honorable mention goes to Drew Doughty because this kid is like 3 months younger than me and makes me feel like I’ve wasted my entire life because he’s already a candidate for best defenseman in the NHL. BRB gotta go drop out of school to start playing hockey real quick.

Pick a Winner: The NHL Awards

April 12, 2010
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Now that the regular season has come to a close, its time for us to make our picks on the NHL Awards.  We here at Blackhawks Down Low don’t get votes like the guys who write for the newspapers, but if we could, these would be our picks. We’ve included our predictions on which player will win based on the actual votes and who we think should win.  This is the first of two parts. The last 3 awards will be posted tomorrow.

Hart Trophy
ChiBlackhawks: Will go to Alex Ovechkin because there’s really very few other clear contenders for the trophy and since his name’s always in the mix it will be natural for most to vote for him, or at least put his name in as 2nd or 3rd. Those votes can add up.
Should go to Craig Anderson. My personal opinion, of course, but this man came very, very close to carrying his team all the way to the playoffs. I know Ryan Miller’s name was also thrown around but the Sabres were at least closer to making the playoffs last year than Colorado was. Nobody saw Craig Anderson coming.
Andrew: Will go to and should go to Alexander Ovechkin.  He got beat out in the Richard and Art Ross trophy races, but when we’re talking MVP, winning the President’s Trophy goes a long way.  Being the best player on the best team in the NHL pretty much ends the argument.  He’s a dominant player that is always a threat when on the ice.  His style of play is absolutely reckless, but he makes up for the suspensions with a whole lot of points and hits.
Calder Memorial Trophy
ChiBlackhawks: Will go to Tyler Myers because I’ve seen his name mentioned a lot. Unfortunately I haven’t really watched many Eastern games so I haven’t noticed him.
Should go to Jimmy Howard. I hate to say it, but he’s a huge factor in why the Red Wings aren’t going golfing early for–what, the 18th consecutive year? Damn wankers.
Andrew: Will go to Tyler Myers. A lot of this has to do with the Sabres lack of defensive depth and having Ryan Miller behind him.
Should go to Drew Doughty. Damn I wish Doughty was still considered a rookie. He’s only 20 and has been a Norris candidate all season.  Should probably go to Jimmy Howard too since he’s been so great for the Wings.
Masterson Memorial Trophy
ChiBlackhawks: Will go to–Christ, I have no idea. I want to say Jose Theodore, because his career has been all but dismissed, but lo and behold, he’s stepped up when Varlamov went down with injury.
Should go to Chris Chelios, because nothing says dedication more than going back to live with your parents. (Yeah, yeah, he’s in the AHL, so I guess technically he’s not qualified for the award, unless there’s no minimum number of games played. That’s why I used the subjunctive form.)
Andrew: Its a crapshoot on who this will go to, but I say it should be Jonas Gustavsson.  To give you an idea of what this guy has gone through this year, he lost his mom, who he was very close with since he was an only child and his dad died a few years ago, just before signing with the Leafs.  He then moves to North America to play for the 2nd worst team in the NHL.  He has two cardiac ablations thanks to a heart condition.  I had the same procedure done a few years ago and I’m shocked he could preform at a high level before the problem was fixed.  At one point he was laying in pain on the floor of the Leafs locker room during an intermission.  He then goes on to post a 16-15-9 record for the worst team in the East.  The man deserves it.
Jack Adams Award
ChiBlackhawks: Will go to Dave Tippett, because holy cow did you see what he did to clean up Gretzky’s mess?
Should go to Dave Tippett, because no way am I going to admit on this blog that the Red Wings should have more than 1 award this season.
Andrew: Will go to and should go to Dave Tippett because he took a train wreck in Phoenix and got them to buy into his system without using a lot of the young talent like Turris, who got to develop in the minors.  Plus, there’s no better way to give a big middle finger to the Stars for firing him, than to win coach of the year.

A Look Inside: Blackhawks vs Predators

April 11, 2010

At the expense of being redundant, allow me to make a new post now that we know the whens and the wheres.

Here’s the full schedule (All times Central):

Friday, April 16 at Chicago, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, April 18 at Chicago, 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, April 20 at Nashville, 8:00 p.m.
Thursday, April 22 at Nashville, 7:30 p.m.
*Saturday, April 24 at Chicago, 2:00 p.m.
*Monday, April 26 at Nashville, TBD
*Wednesday, April 28 at Chicago, TBD

So I guess this gives us plenty of time for trash talk.  I’m hoping that this series makes for a bit more passion in the rivalry between the Hawks and Preds.  Right now there’s more of a minor annoyance between a majority of the fans.  The playoffs can change all of that in 4 to 7 games.  This is where hatred is bred.

Honestly, I’m a bit pissed that the series doesn’t start until Friday.  I was hoping it would start Wednesday, which would give us two days of rest before gameday.  But now we have to go all the way till Friday?  I can feel the anticipation building as I type (Actually that might be my blood pressure).

There are 3 series starting Wednesday, 4 on Thursday, and this is the only one starting Friday.  The layoff gives a bit of an edge to the Preds, since they’re waiting for Patric Hornqvist and Denis Grebeshkov to rest up from their bumps and bruises.  Hopefully in that time we can get some word on Brouwer, Johnsson, and anyone else who has some aches and pains.

In case you forgot how awesome the playoffs were last year, check out this video.

(Song: Sleeping Sickness by City and Colour)

Get excited Hawks fans.  We’ve waited all year for this.  We’re 16 wins away from the Cup.  For being so close, it still feels so far away.  Its going to be a fun ride.