Archive for April 2009

Bring on Vancouver!

April 28, 2009

hawks1

Well, the Hawks made it past Calgary in my predicted 6 games by capitalizing on Calgary mistakes and not making too many of their own.

Now, it’s Vancouver.  A team that the Hawks had trouble with all year; a team I was hoping they wouldn’t play first round because they’d get bumped before they could get experience.

As I’ve said before, the second round will be the Hawks’ end of the line.  I’d love it if it wouldn’t be, but I don’t think the Hawks have the ability to beat the Canucks.

Now, it IS playoffs, and anything can happen, but Calgary was tougher than alot of people imagined; Vancouver will be tougher.

The Hawks will get some great experience in this round, but veteran leadership and a better team will prevail. Vancouver in 5.  (It is possible the series could go 6, but I’ll stick with 5.) A great assessment of the series here.

Nevertheless…

GO HAWKS!!!!

 

 

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Is the Series Really up to the Goalies?

April 25, 2009
Nikolai Khabibulin and Mikka Kiprusoff have seen their share of rubber, but are they the reason the series is tied?

Nikolai Khabibulin and Mikka Kiprusoff have seen their share of rubber, but are they the reason the series is tied?

There’s been alot of talk around the quality of goaltending in this series. Here are my observations:

This Calgary post seems to say that the series thus far, and the future of it, has been and will be decided by Calgary goaltending.  While I agree that goaltending looms huge in the playoffs, I wouldn’t say that either goalie has been overly lax in their duties thus far.  Yes, both have let in less than stellar goals, but the Calgary writer points the finger at Kiprusoff for not holding a three goal lead. 

I can’t do the same.  Calgary’s work ethic is at fault, not the goaltending.  I watched the game and saw a change in the Calgary toughness and execution right after they took the 4-1 lead.  I was travelling and watching the game on the East Coast so I had hoped I could get to sleep early when Calgary took the aforementioned lead.  But, after Calgary made it 4-1, I sensed a shift in work ethic and I thought, “I think the Hawks will make a game of this.”  They did.

On the Chicago side we have this and this that talk about Khabby’s greatness and professionalism, etc.  Again, I think it’s wrong to hang everything on the goalie here as well.  However, ever since I saw the Bulin Wall get dismantled by the Chicago Wolves in the IHL playoffs (1998) when he was playing for the Long Beach Ice Dogs, one thing is clear: As the team goes, so goes Khabibulin. 

Yes, he’s got the ability to singlehandedly save a game but is he a goalie that will do that all the time even when the team around him is rattled and crumbling?

No.  Just because Khabibulin is signed for an outrageous sum of money does not make him equal to, or better than, Martin Brodeur.  Sorry.

However, Khabibulin is smart enough to know the score and what it will take to win.  He didn’t say, “If I step up my game we’ll win this.”  That may have been an accurate statement but he’d have to become supergoalie and that’s not a realistic recipe for wining the series.  Instead he simply said: “We execute, we win.”

BINGO!

Execution.  That’s what the series comes down to. 

On the one hand you’ve got the Calgary Flames, a team that will win this series if it throws its weight around, plays with focus and passion, and keeps the young Hawk team on its heels.

On the other you’ve got a passionate,  inexperienced, young team (“Young Sticks”-like “Young Guns” as my cousin calls them) that more often than not though, looks like they’re in over their heads when Calgary takes the game to them. 

I think you can see where this is leading.  The common denominator in both scenarios is Calgary, not the goalies.  Thus far both netminders have played well enough for wins; not phenomenal but good enough. What will determine this series is Calgary’s ability to play 60 minutes of solid, body crunching hockey. 

If there are times Calgary doesn’t, it’s up to Marty Havlat and the rest of the Hawks to blow through the breach and make Calgary pay.

As Khabibulin said, “We execute, we win.”

One Down, Fifteen to Go

April 16, 2009
Havlat Wins it in OT! (NHL Network)

Havlat Wins it in OT! (NHL Network)

I jumped out of the car as I had returned from the pharmacy.

Just in time to catch the OT…

It wasn’t!

By the time I walked in and turned the TV on, Marty Havlat had scored the winning goal at the 00:12 mark, giving the Hawks a 1-0 series lead over the Calgary Flames.

Great game and the Hawks battled the entire way which was a good sign.  However,  for a the Flames (a team the Hawks dominated in the regular season) to challenge the Hawks as they did makes one realize the caliber of playoff hockey.

While I don’t think Calgary will win this series, I think that it will be a tough go for the Hawks and an indication that the next round will not be pretty.

As I’ve said all along, I don’t think the Hawks will survive the second round.

The good news is they are getting some great, intense playoff experience – this young team needs it sorely.  It’s no coincidence that Havlat stepped up scoring today.

Go Hawks!

Will Wolves be Affiliated with the Blackhawks Next Year?

April 9, 2009
A New Affiliation?

A New Affiliation?

Tonight, while watching the Wolves in an entertaining but meaningless win (in the standings anyway), a friend came over between periods and said,

“He’ll be gone next year.”

“Who? Granato?” I asked excitedly.

“Yes, um no, Yes.”

“What do you mean.”

“Atlanta won’t be here next year.  The Blackhawks and Wolves will be together.”

“How do you know?”

“They’re talking about it…”

I couldn’t get a direct confirmation of who “They” is, but it’s intriguing and in some ways it makes sense.

The new Wolves President Mike Poliskyand Blackhawks President John McDonough seem to have similar approaches to marketing their products and both organizations are 100% committed to winning.

Beyond the obvious advantage of having the Wolves closer to the Blackhawks, the other positives are:

  • Common fan base energizes both clubs
  • Newly energized Hawk fanbase provides cashflow to help Wolves (and then vice-versa)
  • Unites those fans (which I think are in a minority) who claim that one can’t be a Hawks fan and Wolves fan because the Wolves support Atlanta(?! – Yes I’ve heard that argument)
  • Good AHL players who are unaffiliated will prefer coming to (or staying with) the Wolves as they now have a crack at being called up by a contending team and have a shot at a Stanley Cup and Calder Cup.  No offense to the Thrashers. (Though I think next season the Thrashers will make the playoffs.) 

Downsides?

  • Still don’t think Hawks GM Dale Tallon really knows what he’s doing, but then, maybe he could learn something from Wolves GM Kevin Cheveldayoff.

A few years back I would think such a move would be stupid as the Hawks were dragging down everything they touched. 

Now, I kinda like the idea.

Remember, you heard it here first!

Wolves Run Aground Against Admirals -Out of Playoff Hunt

April 5, 2009
The Man Behind the Helm of the Wolves

The Man Behind the Helm of the Wolves

With the calmness and coolness of the Captain of the Titanic, Coach Don Granato let his team drift into oblivion for the ’08-’09 season after never getting control of the ship all year.

With the loss to the Milwaukee Admirals today, the Wolves have failed to make the playoffs for only the second time in their illustrious history.  As I sat in Milwaukee watching today, I found it hard to believe that the team I was watching took 57 minutes to finally  play with something resembling desperation. 

The fans of the Wolves, and the AHL, deserve better.