Hawks-Ducks, Beach Benched, TTMI Radio, Comparing the Hawks to other recent Cup winners, Colin Campbell emails

First off a few notes on Rockford from the weekend.  The IceHogs dropped both games in San Antonio against the Coyotes’ farm team Thursday and Friday.  I’ll have more details later today after I have a chance to watch Thursday’s game.

Thursday was reported to be a lackluster affair.  Rockford lost 1-0.  Alec Richards stopped 37 shots in the loss.

Friday, which I have seen, wasn’t much different until the final twenty minutes.  The IceHogs entered the third period down 3-1 after giving up three even-strength goals (though one effectively was a power play tally – more on that in a moment) but were unable to overcome the whole they dug in the middle frame.

The story of Friday’s game was head coach Bill Peters‘ decision to bench Kyle Beach for the entire third period.  Beach took two penalties in the second period.  The first, a roughing minor after a whistle aside the San Antonio goal.  Beach had tried a wrap-around attempt but was thwarted by Chicago product Al Montoya.  With Beach whacking away for a potential rebound, he was aggressively shoved away by a Rampage defender.  Beach, unhappy with this, came back swinging and punched (glove on) the San Antonio player twice in the mouth.   Later in the period Beach was given an unsportsmanlike minor for saying too much as it appeared.  Just as that penalty expired and Beach was stepping out of the box, Mathieu Beaudoin scored to give his team a 2-1 lead.  Beach did not see the ice after that.

Whatever the motivation, Rockford came out for the third period a newly inspired bunch and carried the play for the most part.  Nick Leddy fired a slap shot through traffic and past a Hugh Jessiman screen to trim the deficit to 3-2 three minutes and twenty seconds into the period.  But the Hogs couldn’t solve Montoya again despite 14 third period shots and a late 6 on 4 power play with Alec Richards pulled from his net.

A Jessiman deflection (appeared to either be off his leg or stick shaft) on another Leddy blast from the left circle represented the only other Rockford goal on the night, and the two-game trip for that matter.

Rockford is now off until Thursday when they begin a two-day back-to-back set in Winnipeg against the Manitoba Moose.  Manitoba has soundly beaten Rockford twice this season, most recently the late 3-goal 1:27 rally on Hannu Toivonen on November 6th.  The IceHogs (6-8-0-1) are now second-from the bottom in their division, sitting a smidge above last-place Chicago Wolves (6-9-1-0).  Those two rivals won’t meet again until December 15th and 17th, both at MetroCentre in Rockford.  The IceHogs are in the midst of a five-game road trip that ends in Peoria on Sunday.

– TTMI~Radio tomorrow night @ 8pm at BlogTalkRadio.com/TheThirdManIn and afterwards archived here on this site and ITunes - I’ll be joined by Dieter Kurtenbach, who will be stepping in this week as co-host.  We’re scheduled to have a Rockford guest as well.

– Hockeenight‘s 100th PuckCast takes place late tonight.  I’ll be a guest, joining CT and the “Forklift” along with Dave Morris of Hockey Independent.  If you’re not doing anything around 8:15 central, you can listen and chat live by creating an account at TalkShoe.com and then going here.

Blackhawks 3 – Anaheim Ducks 2 – OT

While it wasn’t the three wins or even the bare-minimum 5 out of 6 points we were looking for, last night 3-2 overtime win at home against the Ducks is a start.

1-1-1 is still mediocre, but the truth is, the Hawks put forth three pretty good efforts this past week.  At times they were sloppy.  For stretches they showed glimpses of what you hope they can be (a playoff team); but it seemed every time they made a mistake, the puck found its way to the back of their net.

Duncan Keith is still a shadow in the shadow of something resembling his former self.  Dave Bolland still has yet to make a poignant contribution to the 2010-11 Blackhawks.  Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa aren’t having the impact you expect of them right now.  So, conventional wisdom would suggest these players will eventually become themselves again and luck will stack more favorably in terms of success and place in the standings for Chicago.

With games against league doormats like Edmonton, New Jersey and at the time struggling Rangers, Predators and Thrashers, the Hawks should have stockpiled points the past two weeks before heading out on the annual 6-game ‘Circus’ jaunt.  Instead the Hawks “rewarded” themselves with 5 of a possible 14 points against those teams and squandered some fine goaltending and offensive support from the likes of Stalberg, Skille and Pisani.

While the finish product in the first seven games of November 2010 will go down in the books as a missed opportunity, recent history tells us the Blackhawks current 9-9-2 record in itself is no bad omen.

If you project today’s standings out over 82 games, the Hawks would finish with a record of 37-37-8 (82pts), good for 13th in the Western Conference and 11 points behind the 8th seed.  The first round matchups would be (1) LA vs (8) NSH – (2) DET vs (7) ANA – (3) VAN vs (6) SJS – (4) STL vs (5) CBJ.

That stated, four Stanley Cup winners in the past ten seasons have started their following season with similar records as this year’s Hawks, and all went on to win their division, or exceed 100 points.  And all earned a spot in the postseason.  (We’re excluding the 2005-06 Lightning in this comparison due to the lost season and league changes in between, but they started the season following their Cup 8-9-3 and still went on to earn 92 points and 2nd place in the Southeast, and even that was good enough to make the 8th playoff spot).

Season  –  Team — 1st-20gms — Final Record — Tot Pts — Finish

2007-08 –  ANA  …  9-8-3 …  47-27-8 … 102pts … 2nd Pacific
2001-02 — AVS  …  9-10-1 … 45-28-8-1 … 99pts … 1st Northwest
2000-01 — NJD  …  9-8-3  …. 48-19-12-3 … 111pts … 1st Atlantic
1999-00 — DAL  … 8-9-3  … 43-23-10-6 …  102pts … 1st Pacific

Last night’s win snapped the Hawks’ four-game home losing streak.  It’s also just their second win in the last seven games at the UC.  This, against the likes of Phoenix, Columbus, New Jersey and Edmonton (2x).

While there’s a lot to like about last night’s victory, praise for this team should be measured carefully until they show some consistency.  The Hawks have not earned a win inside regulation since October 30th at Minnesota, and at home since Oct 27th, a 3-1 win over the Kings. 

In 12 home games, the Hawks have allowed their opponents 17 of a possible 24 points.  So while last night’s win was encouraging, they still surrendered a point to a conference opponent.  This season, the opposition’s “winning” percentage is an astounding .708 visiting the United Center.  Just twice so far, Oct 16 vs Buffalo and Oct 27 vs Los Angeles, have the Blackhawks won a game on their home ice in regulation.

Joel Quenneville made the right move resisting the notion to dress heavyweight John Scott with George Parros and Aaron Voros in Randy Carlyle’s lineup.  Parros is a regular but Voros was appearing in just his 6th game of the season, subbing in for Todd Marchant who missed the game with an upper-body injury.  Anaheim was reverted to a three-line front in the third period and were grew noticeably tired as the period wore along versus the Hawks who were still utilizing all four lines.  Had Scott dressed and skated on the fourth line (at this point, I don’t know where else Quenneville would put him?), he most-certainly would not have seen the ice for at least the last fifteen minutes of regulation and perhaps we’d seen a different outcome with the sides evened a bit in terms of forward rotation.

Post-game notes:

- Sunday was Marian Hossa’s 15th game of the season.  In Hossa’s first 7 games, he posted 7 goals and 4 assists.  In his next 7 games (four before sitting out of the lineup for ten days), Hossa was held off the scoresheet entirely.  A goal and an assist against the Ducks notwithstanding, Hossa still doesn’t seem himself and appears to be favoring his shoulder as he’s again having trouble getting air under his shot
Tomas Kopecky‘s 11:21 of ice time last night was his low-mark of the season and a full six minutes (and seventeen seconds) below his season average.  Kopecky’s ice time, aligned with his recent performances, have declined steadily each game since the loss to New Jersey on Nov 3rd.
- The assist on the OT winner snapped Keith’s 5-game pointless streak
- Keith is a minus-7 at home this season.  Plus-1 on the road.
Patrick Sharp has now gone 8 games without a goal, registering 31 shots in the process
- Toews doesn’t have a point since that tremendous performance in Atlanta
Viktor Stalberg has 3 goals in 5 games and 6 points in the same span
- Stalberg’s ice time nearly doubled from Saturday; 8:41 to 15:58
- Despite his 2-goal performance vs. Preds, Jack Skille saw his time reduced, cut back one shift from Saturday from 15 to 14 and 11:46 to 10:50.
Dave Bolland was bad at the dot again vs ANA (7 for 24).  He was 6 for 12 in Nashville.  Over his last 10 games, Bolland won 39.9% of draws taken (59 for 148).  Against the Ducks, he lost 10 of 13 draws inside the offensive zone.  Getzlaf owned Bolland down the stretch.  If he’s going to stay on the line with Sharp and Hossa, perhaps Quenneville should consider splitting the draws at least in the attacking zones.
- Did you notice Cam Fowler on the ice for the power play in the final minute of regulation after the senseless Kopecky boarding penalty?  I’m still shocked Dale Tallon passed on the slick puck-moving Fowler after what he learned here in Chicago.  To be fair though, so did eight other teams after Florida’s pick at three.  The Rangers will be the franchise kicking themselves the most years down the line most likely.  But perhaps Tallon had mobile giants like Tyler Myers on the mind when projecting the league three and four years down the road.  From what we’ve seen so far, the top half of the 2010 Draft 1st round is loaded with solid to very good pros.  Jaden Schwartz, a center who the Blues took at 14, is going to be a superstar.  Schwartz in his freshman year at Colorado College and skates on a line with his older brother Rylan.  Jaden leads the 5-6-1 Tigers with 9 goals and 18 points in 12 games played.  Reminds me of a young Paul Kariya.  If you have a chance to check out a CC game, don’t skip it.

– This has potential to become a hot topic of unwanted attention for the league office.  Did Colin Campbell refer to Marc Savard as “a little fake artist” in February 2007 email exchange with then Director of Officials Stephen Walkom?

This story is a must read for serious hockey fans interested in how the NHL operates.

If Tyler Dellow of MC79Hockey.com is correct in his research, the email exchange in question stems from a February 24, 2007 game between the Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers in Sunrise, Florida.  What makes the story interesting, if Dellow’s research is on point, is a subsequent email exchange between Campbell and Walkom and how Colin Campbell’s “little fake artist” outburst pertains to an on-ice incident involving Campbell’s son Gregory and Savard.  Colin Campbell was upset with referee Dean Warren for issuing (3) hi-sticking minors to his son Gregory during that game.

Now, whenever the topic has come up, Colin Campbell (Senior VP and Director of Hockey Operations for NHL) has said that in the event an incident involving his son Gregory were to arise and warrant action or investigation by the league, Colin would abstain from any proceedings in the interest of non-bias.

These emails arise from testimony and legal documents filed in the alleged wrongful dismissal case of Dean Warren, former NHL referee, from the NHLOA in 2007.

Why would this become an issue now?  Last March, Colin Campbell chose not to suspend Pittsburgh Penguins winger Matt Cooke following his violent hit on Bruins’ center Marc Savard, who is still sidelined with post-concussion issues stemming from that hit today.  Savard did return for seven games during post season, he admitted in later he concealed lingering symptoms from team trainers and could not work out this past off season.  The questions become; Did a past grudge towards Savard enter into Campbell’s ruling on the March 2010 hit?  And in 2007, why was Campbell pro-active in a behind the scenes officiating that directly involved his own son?  For those who routinely mock Colin Campbell and the NHL disciplinary process, this news will add fuel to their fire.

– For those wondering or you mask aficionados who noticed the headgear Phoenix Coyotes netminder Jason Labarbera was wearing last Wednesday in his 35-save victory over the Hawks, it’s the same mask he’s been wearing since March of last season.  Labarbera had a special customized WWE “Wrestlemania” mask painted to commemorate WWE holding the company’s biggest annual event in Glendale, Arizona, just down the street from Jobing.com Arena.  That mask features main eventers from that card including Bret Hart, Vince McMahon, The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels.  Earlier last season, Labarbera wore a mask that featured Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, Metallica frontman James Hetfield and a depiction of a wrestler that is supposed to be the Ultimate Warrior (James Hellwig – who is a Phoenix resident).  Metallica has been a recurring theme in Labarbera’s designs that have also featured Slash of Guns N’ Roses, Angus Young of AC/DC as well as Hulk Hogan.  Labarbera’s artist of choice is David Arrigo and you can see more of his work here, including masks he’s done for Carey Price, Rockford IceHogs prospect Joe PalmerAlec Richards, two new Jaroslav Halak designs and Antti Niemi’s Hawks and new Sharks mask as well.

– Non-hockey related audio: Our very own “Superstar” was a guest last night on BlogTalkRadio podcast Radio Exposed.  Surprise!  He had audio issues.  I’ll be a guest on this show on the 28th talking fun topics like pop culture, tv shows and my personal life, which with my shoddy filter could mean big trouble for all those involved in it.

ChrisBlock@TheThirdManIn.com

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