Hawk Talk: 'I Don't Really Like Country Music'

Hawk Talk: 'I Don't Really Like Country Music'

Sunday, April 11, 2010
11:37 P.M.
By Chris Boden

The Blackhawks entered the final day of the regular season with the potential to face the Avalanche, Kings, or Predators.

Turns out, they drew the opponent I was least comfortable with them facing. And that equation had nothing to do with travel destinations. That actually plays into the Hawks hands same time zone, fairly short trip.

Nashvilles top two scorers (breakout boy Patric Hornqvist and now-healthy ex-Hawk Steve Sullivan) have all of 51 points. The Blackhawks have two players with that many assists.

Their team stats pale by comparison: 18th in Goals Per Game. 14th in Goals-Against Average. 24th on the Power Play. 28th on the Penalty Kill. Theyve also been knocked out in the first round of all four of their previous playoff appearances (which came consecutively before missing out last spring) twice by Detroit, twice by San Jose. They lost four of six in the season series to the Hawks.

And yet, this was one of three Central Division teams to hit the century mark in points, and the fact theyre quite familiar with the Hawks personnel doesnt hurt, even though they havent played since December 27th. Behind the braintrust of G.M. David Poile and the only Head Coach theyve ever had Barry Trotz a systems been put in place thats kept the small-market Preds competitive year in and year out. They build from within, make quiet, effective roster moves, and dont dish out free agent money, especially to those outside their existing family. Sure, the Kings have more firepower. The Avs have a no one expected us to be here youth movement and a Park Ridge native in net the Hawks cast off a few years ago, whos played out of his mind this season. No matter whom the high-profile Hawks faced, that opponent would take the old Were David, youre Goliath mindset once the post-season puck dropped. It may not be any more prevalent that this matchup. While Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook have deservedly received plenty of attention for their growth into young, All-Star-caliber defensemen who were also both Olympians, the Preds pair of gold medalist Shea Weber and silver medalist Ryan Suter havent received quite the hype. Matter of fact, when I sat down with Keith and Seabrook earlier in the season and asked if they could think of a comparable shutdown tandem, the first they thought of were the 24-year-old Weber and 25-year-old Suter, moreso than Detroits upper 30s-something Olympic tag team of Lidstrom and Rafalski.

Then theres the matchup in net. Only one of these Finns teams wont be fini after playing in their first-ever post-season series. 26-year-old Antti Niemi going out and winning the crease down the stretch cannot be underestimated, but thats exactly what 27-year-old Pekka Rinne did in his battle with Dan Ellis. Rinne (65) has gone 12-4-1 with a Goals-Against of about 2 since the Olympics. He has the same number of shutouts as Niemi (7), but four have come in his last 14 starts. The Hawks went 2-1 when they opposed Rinne this season (just as they did against Ellis), scoring seven goals in those two wins, while he shut them out in the defeat. While Cristobal Huet was as good against the Preds as he was against any opponent this season back in the 2009 portion of the schedule, Niemis lone appearance wound up being in the unlikeliest of matchups in the season series. The Hawks trailed 2-1 after two periods, scored three goals in a seven-minute span for a 4-2 lead, only to have Nashville score twice in less than a minute to tie. Patrick Kane then rescued the two points, and a 4-2 season series triumph, with 44 seconds left. The nine combined goals in that finale represent one-third of the offense compiled between the clubs in their head-to-heads.

Lets salute the Hawks for setting single-season franchise records for points, wins, and road wins. Theyve answered every challenge, most recently coming out of a 2-5-&-2 funk to win six of their final seven. But it says here falling one win shy of matching the franchise single-season record of 30 home victories may have made their first-round road a little tougher. The Blackhawks should win this series. But the past 6-12 months is now just part of the record books, and memories. Now its about creating the ultimate memory for the first time since 61. Weve been waiting. Its finally here.
Be sure to join Steve Konroyd and me for our 30-minute Blackhawks playoff special Tuesday night at 10:30, following SportsNite. Well take an in-depth look at this matchup and hear plenty from both the Hawks and Predators.

Five Things from Blackhawks-Maple Leafs: Richard Panik stays hot

Five Things from Blackhawks-Maple Leafs: Richard Panik stays hot

This Five Things was headed for a lot of negativity before the final three minutes of regulation. But thanks to the Blackhawks’ third-period comeback, this one won’t sting as much as Friday’s installment.

So while you all celebrate the Cubs going to a World Series, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 5-4 shootout victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

1. Waking up just in time. The Maple Leafs haven’t played their best hockey in third periods – entering Saturday’s game, they’d been outscored 6-1 in that frame. But for 17-plus minutes of the third it didn’t look like the Blackhawks were going to take advantage of that stat. But they would, salvaging a point out of nowhere with two goals within a minute (Artem Anisimov at 17:32 and Richard Panik at 18:32). Better late than never.

2. The Richard Panik show continues. The forward said he doesn’t think about Toronto anymore, that it’s all about the team he’s with now. But looking at his celebration on his game-tying goal late in the third period, there had to be a little motivation to score against the Leafs, right? The Blackhawks don’t care who the opponent is, and Panik now has six goals to start the season.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

3. Power play fizzles. Ah, thought we were going to talk about the other special teams? In a second. The bigger problem on Saturday was the Blackhawks’ advantage, on which they went 0-for-6. It took until overtime, when their fifth power play was a 4-on-3 for them to really generate anything against the Leafs.

4. Late-period goals hurt. The Blackhawks looked set to enter first intermission with a 1-0 lead but Tyler Bozak scored with just 14 seconds remaining. They could’ve had a 2-2 tie entering the second intermission but James van Riemsdyk scored with 1:44 remaining in the second. Again, the Blackhawks overcame that. But coach Joel Quenneville talked about the loss of momentum in games, and here are two examples of it.

5. The Auston Matthews show. The Leafs phenom didn’t score a goal on Saturday but there’s no doubt he had his effect. His speed was especially on display on William Nylander’s goal; Matthews drew several Blackhawks and Nylander had a rather open net on the rebound.

Blackhawks rally to beat Maple Leafs in shootout

Blackhawks rally to beat Maple Leafs in shootout

As the clock ticked down to under three minutes remaining in regulation, the Blackhawks were looking at more negatives than positives.

Their power play wasn’t working. Their penalty kill was 1-for-2 and they were trailing 4-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs. But just when it looked like the Blackhawks were headed for their second consecutive loss, they pulled out a comeback.

Richard Panik scored the game-tying goal against his former team and Artemi Panarin scored the shootout winner as the Blackhawks came back to beat the Leafs 5-4 on Saturday night.

Tyler Motte scored his second goal in as many nights and Artem Anisimov had two goals. Scott Darling stopped 30 of 34 shots through regulation and overtime. The victory didn’t erase some of the issues the Blackhawks still have, some of which showed in this one, too. But it brought some needed relief.

“It was a big win in a lot of different ways,” said Duncan Keith, who had two assists, including the primary one on Panik’s goal. “I know it’s still early but I think we were able to put some pressure on there. And anytime you get big goals like that late in the game when they’re needed, it’s a confidence boost and something we can build off.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The end looked like it was going to be frustrating, especially after William Nylander’s second goal of the night gave the Leafs a 4-2 lead about five minutes into the third. But Anisimov scored his second goal of the evening with 2:28 remaining to pull the Blackhawks to within 4-3. Just one minute later, Panik scored his sixth of the season to tie it 4-4.

Panarin’s shot in round three of the shootout, coupled with Darling stopping Mitchell Marner’s wrist shot, sealed it.

“Obviously we were down 4-2 and came back against a great team. That helps our confidence,” Panik said. “Everybody’s pumped about a win so that’s a good sign.”

The Blackhawks will take it but they know they had their problems in this one. Their power play went 0-for-6. That included two 4-on-3 opportunities in overtime. They allowed another goal on their penalty kill, although they did snuff out another Toronto power-play opportunity in the third period.

“It’s one,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We need several, several, several to get excited. But certainly that was, we’ll say, timely.”

The Blackhawks still have a long way to go this season. That penalty kill still needs work. They want more consistent play. But considering how this was looking with about three minutes remaining in regulation, they’ll take it.

“We’re certainly fortunate to come back in a game like that,” Quenneville said. “There have been a lot of comebacks in the league this year and we’ve given up some leads ourselves. That was a little different way of going about it. There are some positives but more so how we played in the third period. But we still lose a lot of momentum in the game. That’s what we’ve got to shore up.”