Tragedy in Russia

Posted: September 7, 2011 in Uncategorized

Yaroslavl Lokomotiv

Today, Wednesday, September 7th, 2011 will go down as the worst day in the history of the great sport of hockey. Seconds after takeoff, Yaroslavl Lokomotiv’s team plane lost power and crashed near the Volga River in Yaroslavl, Russia. Earlier reports stated that there were at least 2 survivors, a flight crew member, and 26 year-old forward Alexander Galimov. As of 1:40 PM Eastern Time, it is being reported that Alexander Galimov has succumbed to his injuries. There has been no further word on the status of the flight crew member. Also on-board the aircraft and confirmed dead were former NHL players Pavol Demitra, Brad McCrimmon, Alexander Karpovtsev, Igor Korolev, Ruslan Salei, Karel Rachunek, Karlis Skrastins, and Josef Vasicek.

One fact cannot be overlooked in this tragedy. The team plane was a Soviet-era Yak-42, which was by all accounts, not up to current standards. The Russian government had previously announced that all Soviet-era aircraft would be forced out of service by the end of 2012. One would think that a tragedy of this magnitude would hasten the retirement process. With that said, I will let the investigation take place before casting judgement, and that isn’t the point behind this post.

This summer has been terrible for the entire hockey community. On a global scale, hockey is a relatively small community. I never had a chance to play with any of the players mentioned, but I do have memories of watching most of them play. I can remember Pavol Demitra breaking my heart in the 2002 playoffs when his Blues eliminated my Blackhawks in 5 games, largely due to his goal scoring. I can remember Igor Korolev skating as a member of the Blackhawks in the early 90′s, and going on to have a good career in Toronto and St. Louis after that. I can remember Alex Karpovtsev being the best shot-blocking defenseman in the game as a member of the Canadiens and Blackhawks. I remember Ruslan Salei kicking his alcohol problem and coming back to resurrect his career. I can remember Brad McCrimmon playing for a very long time in the NHL, and even as an associate coach in Detroit just last season. The list goes on. Even though I may not have played with these guys or knew them on a personal level, this touches me just the same.

Take a moment to look at the names of the Yaroslavl Lokomotiv team roster. Look at each name…they’re gone, but won’t be forgotten. Rest in Peace.

Vitaly Anikeyenko

Mikhail Balandin

Alexander Vasyunov

Josef Vasicek

Alexander Vyukhin

Alexander Galimov

Pavol Demitra

Robert Ditrih

Marat Kalimulin

Alexander Kalinin

Andrei Kirykhin

Nikita Klyukin

Stefan Liv

Jan Marek

Sergei Ostapchuk

Karel Rachunek

Ruslan Salei

Karlis Skrastins

Pavel Snurnitsyn

Danill Sobchenko

Ivan Tkachenko

Pavel Trakhanov

Gennady Churilov

Maksim Shuvalov

Artyom Yarchuk

Yuri Yarchuk

Head Coach: Brad McCrimmon

Associate Coach: Igor Korolev

Associate Coach: Alexander Karpovtsev

Fire Up The Wagon!

Posted: February 25, 2011 in Uncategorized
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Tomas Kopecky celebrates with teammates after his first period goal

The Blackhawks went into Nashville, Tennessee last night and put on an outstanding performance on the way to a much-needed win. Despite a somewhat sluggish first period, the Hawks seemed to settle in, thanks to the brilliant work (again) of goaltender Corey Crawford. Tomas Kopecky fired the first goal of the game with just a couple of minutes left in the 1st period, a shot from the high slot that evaded Pekka Renne’s blocker hand. Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews assisted on the goal, extending their respective point streaks to 4 games.

The game hung in the balance for the entire duration of the second period, as the Hawks clung to a 1-goal lead. Corey Crawford was amazing, keeping the Predators off of the scoreboard. If this kid isn’t in serious consideration for the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year, the system needs to be completely overhauled. He looks brilliant with his confidence, and looks very good technically. That combination is deadly, especially when the games matter most.

The third period saw the Hawks outclass the Predators and ice the victory on an outstanding scoring play by Marian Hossa. Hossa has been ridiculed this season for being too inconsistent, but hopefully last night is the start of something big for ‘Hoss. The Blackhawks will need their best players to play as such down the stretch, and Hossa definitely fits into the ‘best players’ category. Let’s hope we see more of what we got last night from big #81.

Patrick Sharp added the empty-net goal, twisting the dagger in Nashville’s heart. As of this morning, the Blackhawks are in 7th place…which means we’re in the playoffs if the season ended today. Despite their rocky patches at points over the season, no one wants to play the Blackhawks in the playoffs.

Time to get ready for Phoenix. The Coyotes come to Chicago on Saturday night in what is sure to be an outstanding game. Ilya Bryzgalov and Corey Crawford are two of the hottest goalies in the league and both teams have a lot at stake.

MY 3-STARS OF THE GAME:

3- Marian Hossa
2- Patrick Sharp
1- Corey Crawford

Thanks for reading!
DW

Nashville, Tennessee

Blackhawks invade Nashville

 

The road to a playoff berth for the Blackhawks (31-23-6; 68 points) rolls through Nashville tonight as the Hawks prepare to do battle with the Predators (31-21-8; 70 points). Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp hope to add to their current 3-game point streak against a team that has given the Blackhawks fits over the past couple of seasons. It can be argued that the Predators were the biggest speed bump on the way to the Stanley Cup for the Blackhawks in last year’s playoffs, and that includes the finals against a good Philadelphia team. 

The Blackhawks come into this game 2 points behind the Predators in what can only be considered a must-win game. At this stage in the season, every game is a must-win, especially those against divisional opponnents vying for the same playoff spot. After two days off, expect Corey Crawford (20-12-3; 2.17, .921) to be back in the net tonight for the Hawks. Pekka Rinne (21-16-6; 2.14, .928) should go tonight for the Predators. A pretty even goaltending matchup. The Blackhawks play their best when they come out flying with high intensity. They cannot be lulled into a defensive battle against a quality Predators team, as teams who are fighting for something often do. 

Another interesting note is that tonight marks the return of head coach Joel Quenneville. Coach Q had missed the previous 3 games, being hospitalized with an ulcer. It will be exciting to see how the Blackhawks respond to the return of their leader.

BLACKHAWKS NOTES:

Last game – Monday @ St. Louis (5-3 Win); Next game after Nashville – Sunday vs Phoenix

Road record: 13-9-6

Last 10 games: 5-3-2

Scoring first: 21-8-4

Opponent Scoring First: 10-15-2

AROUND THE LEAGUE (2-24-11):

New York Islanders @ Philadelphia Flyers 7pm Eastern

St. Louis Blues @ Vancouver Canucks: 10:00pm Eastern

Dallas Stars @ Detroit Red Wings: 7:30pm Eastern

Toronto Maple Leafs @ Montreal Canadiens: 7:30pm Eastern

Minnesota Wild @ Los Angeles Kings: 10pm Eastern

Tough Decisions

Posted: February 23, 2011 in Uncategorized
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Stan Bowman will once again have his hands full in managing the Salary Cap next season.

The Blackhawks’ well-publicized salary cap woes have been talked about all season, and with good reason. Unfortunately, Hawk fans, next season likely won’t be any better. Barry Rozner of the Daily Herald wrote an excellent piece this morning regarding the Blackhawks’ cap concerns heading into next season. You can have a look at it here: http://dailyherald.com/article/20110221/sports/702219836/

So, to review. Going into next season, the Blackhawks will have $49 Million on the books. That includes 7 forwards, 4 defensemen, and no goaltenders. Of course, that doesn’t include soon-to-be RFA Brent Seabrook, who will be looking to get paid (and rightfully so). Troy Brouwer is also a restricted free-agent at the conclusion of the season, and he will also be looking to get a healthy raise.

In Rozner’s article, he mentions four players as “untouchable”. He and I differ on who we consider ‘untouchable’, but it’s a good starting point. The players that I would consider ‘untouchable’ on this team are Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Patrick Sharp, and possibly Brouwer. While I don’t like the thought of losing many of these guys, anyone and everyone else is expendable.

Troubling is also the fact that there are no goaltenders aside from Cristobal Huet under contract for next season. This is a weak spot in a diluted system, and Crawford is going to have to be retained. Add another to the ‘untouchable’ list.

As you can see, this is a sticky situation for the Blackhawks. This season has been a test of patience, and next season will offer no reprieve.

Corey Crawford comes up huge in a 31 save performance against the Blues

As the finish line creeps into view on the horizon, every game becomes a must-win for the 11th place Blackhawks. Coming off of a good performance against an injury-riddled Penguins team on Sunday afternoon, the Blackhawks took the show to the Gateway city to face the rival Blues. The Blues and Hawks’ rivalry runs deep, and it’s just as evident now as it’s ever been as both teams scratch and claw their way back into the Western Conference playoff picture.

The Blues took it to the Hawks early, jumping out to a quick 2-0 lead. A lead which would have surely been larger if not for Corey Crawford’s work in the net. According to reports after the game, Captain Jonathan Toews let the team have it during the intermission, making no bones about the team’s perceived lack of effort in the opening frame. Apparently his words were heard. In the second period, the Hawks scored 3 goals within the first 7 minutes, adding a fourth before the end of the period.

In the third, the Blues tightened the gap when Alex Pietrangelo scored, making the score 4-3. In the end, the Hawks were able to ride the momentum of the 2nd period and gain a huge road win. The defeat was crushing for the Blues, and may be one that they look back on as a season-turning loss.

After some lackluster appearances all season, it was great to see the team come out firing when the chips were down. 2 points in October is the same as 2 points in February, but the wins come harder this time of year. Watching this team all season has been a painful lesson in frustration. Let’s hope they can keep up the tempo…it isn’t going to be any easier on Thursday against Nashville, a team that has given the Hawks fits over the last couple of seasons.

Hello world!

Posted: February 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

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