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Friday, January 29, 2010

Chicago, Chicago...and Other Thoughts

Those of you who didn't stay up late last night missed one heck of a game. The Blackhawks-Sharks tilt was my personal selection for Game To Watch this week, and I was not disappointed. Chicago was clearly the only team ready to play when the puck dropped, and skated easily to a 3-0 lead just 8:23 into the game. With the 'Hawks just one goal away from an early bedtime for Yours Truly, the Sharks rallied: Joe Pavelski scored at 11:52 to make it a two goal game. Pavelski's second goal of the night came on the power play, late in a San Jose-dominated second period, and left me wondering why I hadn't claimed him off the fantasy waiver wire when I had the chance. 4:56 into the final frame, Manny Malhotra completed the Sharks' rally, making the remaining fifteen minutes an exciting, see-saw battle. 1:37 into Bonus Hockey, Troy Brouwer (whom I DID claim off the fantasy waiver wire a few weeks ago) won it for Chicago with his second strike of the night. Four thoughts/impressions from the game:

1. On the rush, Chicago uses their (quite impressive) speed to carry the puck into the offensive zone, quickly backing the defense down below the faceoff circles, then hits the brakes and either passes or carries the puck into a wide-open mid-slot for a premium scoring chance. They're dangerously close to elevating this play to an art form.

2. The Blackhawks' ability to exert sustained pressure - at one point, keeping the puck in the Sharks' zone for over a minute at even strength - was (I have to use the phrase again) quite impressive. Almost as impressive was the Sharks' ability to weather these storms and (eventually) clear the puck without taking any penalties.

3. Duncan Keith is worth every penny of his contract.

4. While Ross McKeon isn't happy with Chicago's netminders, last night went a long way toward convincing me that the Blackhawks can win it all with their current goalie tandem. Huet made big saves when they were required, and the d-men in front of him were quite good at clearing the rebounds. Thus, McKeon's proposal of a trade for Dallas' Marty Turco only makes sense if the 'Hawks believe Antti Niemi will be ready to carry the load full-time next season, and the Stars are willing to take on Huet's contract.

And now for something completely different...

Caught the third period of the Thrashers-Flyers game last night. If the fans are booing a timeout, the game must be in Philly.

All the talk of late regarding the Patrice Cormier incident and the Auger/Burrows affair has led me to the following conclusion: WHAT IF referees, rather than targeting players for "making them look bad" or allowing opposing teams to take liberties with players they (the officials) don't particularly care for (coughSean Averycoughcough), said to players who were guilty of dangerous play/deliberate attempts to injure (like Cormier), "Kid, your actions have crossed the line, so you'd better watch your back tonight, because I won't be watching it for you." In other words, if referees let the guilty party know that they were going to allow the opposing team a great deal of retaliatory leeway, I believe the Patrice Cormiers of the (hockey) world would think twice before throwing that elbow or hitting from behind. BOTTOM LINE: If the refs are going to "target" players, they should be targeting those who attempt to injure, rather than those who simply attempt to aggravate.

That's my two cents (keep the change). Bonus Item: As my esteemed colleague, Frozen Pill, pointed out, it's Hockey Weekend Across America. Today, wear your favorite jersey/sweater. Personally, I'll be rocking my blue Rangers Mark Messier and dreaming of 1994. Good times...

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.

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