Boden: Inconsistency plagues NHLs Dept. of Player Safety

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Boden: Inconsistency plagues NHLs Dept. of Player Safety

A bad call. And its a bad call because of the inconsistencies that have suddenly plagued the NHLs Department of Player Safety.

Blackhawks fans (and Im guessing the Blackhawks themselves) could live with this three-game suspension to Andrew Shaw if Shea Weber had gotten, say, five or more for grabbing Henrik Zetterbergs head and smashing it into the glass.

They couldve lived with it if Ottawas Matt Carkner had gotten more than three for racing across the ice to repeatedly pummel the Rangers Brian Boyle in the head while Boyle covered up and took it like a turtle disappearing into its shell.

They probably couldve lived with it a little better if Daniel Sedin had gotten something -- at least a fine -- for the elbow that forced Duncan Keiths head into the glass before Keith got his five games. All of us would understand this a little more.

I wont even start to get into the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia mess the department has on its hands. And theres much more beyond these instances in this first week of the post-season thats been full of Shanahan-igans. But part of the reason he has this mess is he took his foot off the brake he was applying to trying to remove or limit head shots from the NHL.

I loved what Brendan Shanahan was doing with the first five months of the season in order to crack down on dangerous hits. Concussions were starting to make more news than the great game he played and all of us enjoy, and that wasnt a good thing. So he was taking such positive, no-nonsense steps in doing his best job to eliminate that. Steve Konroyd and I praised him often during our coverage. This opinion now isnt simply because its suddenly hitting home. Hawks fans can deal with that. Its the perception hes ignoring or minimizing certain things that seem so obvious (Weber), and then continuing to put the hammer down on other hits. Its like a traffic cop suddenly writing tickets for going five miles an hour over the speed limit, and letting someone going fifty over the limit drive away with a warning.

On top of that, he put an unnecessary extra day into the process. Were only left to assume that was to make sure Mike Smith was OK. If hes concussed, symptoms dont always show up right away. Smith said he was 100 percent after the game. The team didnt practice Sunday. He was held out yesterday but head coach Dave Tippett indicated he was fine. Smith went through his normal morning skate routine this morning, but was made unavailable to reporters with the leagues blessing, while Tippett later suddenly called him a game-time decision as the Blackhawks continued to wait to hear about Shaws availability.

Make no mistake, Smith will be in the net tonight after winning Best Actor in a Drama. But playing that card (and maybe the Hawks wouldve done the same if the tables were turned), leaves many wondering how much Shanahan got played by the uncertain Smith status the Coyotes sold Shanahan -- apparently to the hilt. Successfully.

Shaw deserved a penalty because goalies are protected that way by the rulebook. The game misconduct he got was a tough break. Jonathan Toews said yesterday that should be it -- the Hawks lost him for half the game while Smith stayed in. But Shanahan thought what Shaw did was worse than an additional fine. Was worse than one additional game. Or two games. So Toews must now make sure his team doesnt get knocked off the tracks by all this, and do the things it needs to do to win, despite the anger and frustration they probably feel right now. Just execute, and play the best possible way they know to beat the Coyotes, without a guy whos made huge contributions for them in getting to this point. Or tell Corey Crawford to play a puck behind the net and hope a Coyotes player bumps into him.

Phoenix won this one. But the series is still tied, and needs to be won now that this over-dramatization by one team, and the league office, is over.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' shutout win over Bruins

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' shutout win over Bruins

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 1-0 victory over the Boston Bruins on Friday night:

1. A sluggish start.

The Blackhawks have gotten off to some solid starts lately, scoring the game's first goal in the opening frame in five of their last six contests heading into Friday. But they were lucky to get out of the first in a 0-0 tie this time.

They had 15 shot attempts (six on goal) through the first 20 minutes while the Bruins had 30 attempts (17 on goal). Fortunately for the Blackhawks, Scott Darling stopped all of them that came his way.

Boston's third line of Ryan Spooner, Riley Nash and David Backes dominated possession, leading all skaters with a plus-12 Corsi in the period.  

2. Scott Darling steals two points.

Joel Quenneville decided to go with Darling in an effort to give a slumping Corey Crawford a chance to reset, and the Lemont native an opportunity to play in front of his father away from home, where he's used to watching him shine. It's safe to say he made his papa proud by putting on a great show.

Darling turned aside all 30 shots he faced, including 17 in the first period, for his second shutout of the season and fourth of his career. He has now allowed two or fewer goals in eight of his last 12 starts. 

Asked after the game whether he will earn a second straight start Sunday when the Blackhawks host the Vancouver Canucks, Quenneville responded, "We'll see."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

3. Special teams not a factor.

In a game that featured only one goal, you'd think the way to crack the scoresheet would be on the man advantage. That didn't happen.

The Blackhawks went 0-for-3 on the power play, while the Bruins failed to cash in on their only two opportunities. Boston entered the contest by going 7-for-17 on the power play in their previous five games, good for a 41.2 success rate.

It was a nice bounce-back game for the Blackhawks' penalty kill unit, which allowed a goal on the man advantage in their previous two games.

4. Third line steps up at crucial moment.

The Blackhawks' third line of Vinnie Hinostroza, Marian Hossa and Tanner Kero had the worst possession numbers among all skaters, each registering a 24 percent Corsi or below. But when their team needed them the most, they stepped up.

With 1:26 left in regulation, Hossa ended his 10-game goal drought by burying home a terrific feed from Kero to snap a 0-0 tie and give the Blackhawks their second consecutive win. It's Hossa's 17th goal of the campaign, which ties Artemi Panarin for second on the team, and his fifth game-winning goal of the year. His 83 career game-winning goals now ranks 24th in NHL history, surpassing Mike Bossy, and remains fifth among active players.

Hossa's goal also moved him within a tie of Pierre Turgeon for 37th on the all-time goals list with 516.

Kero has six points in his last six games, while Hinostroza has two goals and one assist in his past two.

5. Despite recent struggles, Bruins in good hands with Claude Julien.

It seems like this is a discussion every year, but firing Julien would be a huge mistake for a Bruins team that fell to 3-5-2 in their last 10 games. They're still the No. 1 possession team in the NHL, controlling 55.42 percent of the even-strength shot attempts, and give up the fifth-fewest high danger scoring chances with 326, according the naturalstattrick.com. They average the second-most shots on goal per game at 33.9, and allow the second-fewest at 26.5.

To back it up, their PDO is 97.5 percent, the sum of a team's even-strength save percentage and shooting percentage that usually works it way toward 100, which indicates they're due for a fairly large correction. They're not getting bounces right now, but they're playing the right way and a change behind the bench would be a step in the wrong direction, considering Julien is easily a top-five coach in the NHL.

Bulls lifeless in Atlanta despite fourth quarter rally

Bulls lifeless in Atlanta despite fourth quarter rally

The bus was warm before the game started, as the Bulls looked like they wanted no parts of the Atlanta Hawks.

It was evident from the jump that playing with a full and healthy squad for one of the few times this season wasn’t enough to arouse their competitive juices, as they put together arguably their worst 48-minute showing in a 102-93 loss at Philips Arena, dropping them to 21-23.

Fred Hoiberg, fed up with the starters, ran with the reserves for the fourth quarter and outscored the Hawks by nearly 25 points, bringing the lead to 95-90 with a minute left before a Dennis Schroeder jumper restored order with 52.6 seconds left.

Four Hawks scored in double figures led by Schroeder’s 25 points and six assists and Paul Millsap scored 14 while making all four of his shots in just 22 minutes of run.

Perhaps it’s the Hawks being the same kryptonite to the Bulls that the Bulls are to the Toronto Raptors — except the Bulls simply frustrate the Raptors, not embarrass them.

The Hawks shot over 60 percent for most of the night until the game devolved into what amounted to a pickup game late. After all, the Hawks seemed to be battling boredom by half, leading 65-36 and shooting 68 percent from the field and hitting 67 percent from three.

The Bulls weren’t about to make it any more suspenseful than it had to be, as they started off missing their first 11 3-pointers, often missing multiple open looks on the same possession.

It wasn’t relegated to just shooting as the Bulls squandered easy opportunities in easy situations, like Denzel Valentine turning a three-on-one fast break into an airballed finger-roll attempt that he caught himself — a violation, of course.

This one was over a few minutes into it, as the Bulls looked like a lifeless squad with no direction and very little fight, short of a minor dustup between Dwight Howard and Robin Lopez in the third quarter.

At that point, though, all Howard had to do is point at the scoreboard, where a 30-point lead did all the necessary talking.

The Bulls trailed by 20 even before Tim Hardaway Jr. hit a 35-footer to end the first quarter, sending the Hawks off on a high and seemingly demoralizing the Bulls.

Even Jimmy Butler’s 19-point night, hitting six of his eight shots in 29 minutes, rang hollow. The Bulls could’ve trotted out a D-League team for the second half to gear up for Saturday’s game against the Sacramento Kings and been better off than how they performed Friday night.

And for the Bulls, they can’t simply just go back to the drawing board. There looks to be something fundamentally wrong with this bunch — either that, or the Atlanta night got the best of them Thursday.