With the subtractions of Dave Bolland, Viktor Stalberg, Ray Emery, Jamal Mayers and Michael Frolik due to trade or free agency the 2013-2014 Chicago Blackhawks lines may look something like the following.

 

Bickell/Toews/Kane

Sharp/Handzus/Hossa

Saad/Shaw/Pirri

Carcillo/Kruger/Bollig

Outside looking in: Smith, Hayes, Morin, Leblanc and Beach

As we know, Quenneville’s lines are never set in stone but this is an early forecast of what they may look like to start the 2013 NHL season. Marcus Kruger (RFA) is yet to be signed but very early in the off-season Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman said he will be signing Kruger to a new contract. However, we have all seen this before where Bowman has stated similar (Niemi) and the Hawks ended up losing him.

Could a team offer sheet Kruger? Possibly, the minimum that would need to be offered to Kruger would be a 105% raise of last year’s salary which I believe was 900k. That would put him close to the 2 million mark and not unreasonable for a player like Kruger. There would be no compensation for losing Kruger from the team using an offer sheet on him if that was the case.

I believe Kruger is looking for 2.2-2.5 million per season and if he does end up receiving that the Blackhawks will be completely out of cap space although they can go over the salary cap (up to 10%) until the start of the season.

Bowman could try to do something with Carcillo and Bollig who have a combines 2013-14 salary of $1,400,000 but still does not leave a ton of room, cap wise. Also, I’m not too sure what teams would have interest in either player.

As you can see in the lines I have Pirri slotted in on the 3rd line, however, with the cap situation it may be tough to add a young player in due to the cap hit. Pirri (2-way contract) has a hit of $870,000.

Kruger would need to sign a deal by December 1, 2013 or he will not be eligible to play the rest of the season.

How else could the Blackhawks make room if they want to sign Kruger?

Well, one can’t imagine any of the forwards being moved besides Carcillo or Bollig so one has to look below at the defenseman.

Keith/Seabrook

Hjalmarsson/Oduya

Leddy/Rozsival

Brookbank

Outside looking in: Olsen, Clendening and Stanton

Chicago has a solid top 6 defense group but they also have a ton of money invested in them. Bowman could free up some cap space by moving Niklas Hjalmarsson or Johnny Oduya. I personally believe it would be much easier to move Hammer due to him being an unrestricted free agent next season.

The issue with moving one of our defenseman is that the Blackhawks are not as deep on the back end as they are up front. Sheldon Brookbank would step in to fill a spot but after that is a huge question for depth.

Crawford/ Khabibulin

Outside looking in: Raanta

The goaltending situation is interesting. Corey Crawford is the clear number one goalie in Chicago after proving to many critics that he’s one of the best “tenders” in the game today. The back-up situation was figured at one point to be freshly signed Antti Raanta’s job but Stan Bowman went and spent 2 million on 40 year old ex- Blackhawk goaltender and Stanley Cup winner (with Tampa Bay) Nikolai Khabibulin.

Raanta initially signed the contract expecting to be in Chicago for the 2013-14 season and earlier Stan Bowman did an online interview saying he expects Raanta to fill that role. This was only a few days prior to the signing of Khabibulin. In a recent interview, Raanta was questioned about where he was going to be playing next season and has mentioned that he is prepared to go to the Blackhawks AHL affiliate, the Rockford Icehogs.

It should be an interesting and possibly shocking off-season for Chicago with the reduced salary cap but Bowman has done an extraordinary job in the past managing players and contracts.

Thanks for reading,

 

TK0N

 

 

Since TSN, Sportsnet and many other media types seem to be putting out their predictions on the rosters for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi for Team Canada. We little folk over at Crash the Net felt like we should do our own considering we disagree with most prognosticators out there, in some areas.

 

Please take a look at what we’ve put together for not just one Team Canada but two teams just for bits and giggles.

 

Please feel free to comment.

 

FORWARDS Team 1

 

James Neal -Sidney Crosby-Steven Stamkos

Rick Nash-Jonathan Toews – Eric Staal

Claude Giroux –Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry

Patrick Sharp-Patrice Bergeron-Jordan Eberle

John Tavares

For these forward lines you have a nice mix of offensive players and a 2-way player on each line. Perhaps a little less on Crosby’s line and you could flip flop Eric Staal with James Neal on the wing. Needless to say there are centers that will need to play on the wing due to the overabundance of talent down the middle.

DEFENCE Team 1

 

Duncan Keith-Drew Doughty

Kris Letang-Shea Weber

Brent Seabrook-Alex Pietrangelo

Marc Staal

Now that Ryan Suter and Shea Weber are split up, there’s no doubt who the best D tandem in the NHL is and that is, once again, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. However, we all remember how good Keith and Doughty were in the last Olympics so it wouldn’t hurt to start them out together. If Doughty has not improved his play by that time, there would be little hesitation moving Seabrook up with Keith.

GOALTENDERS Team 1

 

Roberto Luongo, Carey Price, Cam Ward,

As much hate as there is out there for Roberto Luongo, there is no doubt what he brings to the table plus he is a past Olympic gold champion. He’s arguably playing better than he ever has in his career right now and if he keeps it up there should be no doubt who is the starter for Team Canada.

Now here is a look at who would be Team Canada’s second unit from Crash The Net’s point of view. Obviously, several of these players could make a push for Team 1.

FORWARDS Team 2

 

Jamie Benn- Joe Thornton – Patrick Marleau

Jeff Skinner – Mike Richards – Tyler Seguin

Logan Couture – Vincent Lecavalier – Martin St. Louis

Jarome Iginla – Brad Richards- Jordan Staal

Taylor Hall

Again, nice spreading out of offensive and 2-way players on each line with the possible exception of the Lecavalier line but there are options with these lineups where you can interchange some players.

Other notable forwards: Milan Lucic, Matt Duchene. Jason Pominville, Scott Hartnell, Dan Briere, , Andrew Ladd, Evander Kane

 

DEFENCE Team 2

 

Michael Del Zotto – Dion Phaneuf

Justin Schultz – Tyler Myers

P.K. Subban – Brent Burns

Daniel Girardi

Other defencemen notables: Dan Hamhuis, Dan Boyle, Brayden Coburn, Kevin Bieksa,

Very young D corps here plus the future of Team Canada’s Olympic defencemen. How fun would it be to watch this group play together?

GOALTENDERS Team 2

Marc- Andre Fleury- Martin Brodeur –Corey Crawford

 

Other goaltender notables Mike Smith, Brian Elliott

The goaltending in the NHL is American/European heavy for elite goalies but there are some top notch ones left. Many will argue Fleury could start for team 1 but let us not forget about cagey veteran Martin Brodeur who is still playing at an extremely high level and just coming off a Stanley Cup final appearance with New Jersey. Brodeur just played his 1200th NHL game the other night.

Are you in full agreement with these two teams? Would you like to see some changes? Please discuss and let us know.

Hat tip to Zimbio.com for the photos

Thanks for reading,

TK0N

 

 

 

It was a great game played by the Chicago Blackhawks today in the first game of the NHL regular season, defeating the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings 5-2.

Patrick Kane scored the first goal of the year and added an assist later in the game. Jonathan Toews, coming off a bout with the flu, was arguably the best player on the ice which is incredible considering the lingering after effects having the flu. Toews also added a goal and an assist. Marian Hossa, in his first game back from his concussion, had a great game adding two goals and one assist. The highly criticized Michael Frolik got off to a good start by scoring for the Hawks, too.

Another often criticized player is goaltender Corey Crawford. Crawford played extremely well. Goals scored against him were basically unstoppable, the first goal he was screened on and the second goal he was pushed over in his crease. Crawford was always in position, square to the puck at all times and his movement was very fast. This is what we want to see from Corey from now on and with it only being one game after his sub-par season, he’s definitely on the right track.

There was some bad news with the Blackhawks victory tonight. Dan Carcillo was caught in a “collision” as a lot are saying with Kings star D-man Drew Doughty and ended up injuring his leg in the process. Head coach Joel Quenneville expects Carcillo to be out for a lengthy period of time.

How do the Hawks replace Carcillo? It’ll be tough as Carcillo was out there as a player who could protect superstars Toews and Hossa. With “Carbomb’s” presence it allows Toews and Hossa to do more freewheeling on the ice, as seen in today’s game, plus he can actually play not too bad compared to a lot of so-called “goons” out there.

It sounds like rookie Brandon Saad will replace Carcillo on a line with Toews and Hossa. Saad is an unproven rookie with big upside (which we’ve seen with many young Hawk players); he notched eight goals and twenty one assists in Rockford and has played two games with the Blackhawks last season before being sent down. One can understand the excitement for Saad to play but people need to remember he’s just a rookie and he may not blow people away like Andrew Shaw did last season. Saad also doesn’t add much of a “toughness” factor so we could very well see “open game” on Toews and Hossa as early as tomorrow night against the Phoenix Coyotes.

All in all it was a great start for the Chicago Blackhawks and it’ll be a tough test tomorrow night against the chippy and defensive Phoenix Coyotes.

Thanks to Zimbio.com for the photos.

 

 

 

 

The lockout is finally over and we can now concentrate on the love of the game, statistics, rivalries, players and whatever else floats your boat about the greatest sport in the world.

I’m going to pass on any lockout talk as I’m sure you’re just as sick of all that as I am but I will offer you a personal point of view on a shortened NHL season.

Do I like the shortened season? Not really, however, its hockey and it’ll be something to watch on TV. Will I get right into the games?  Probably, how can I not get into the games? It’s a million times better than watching Honey Boo-boo or getting involved in a Twitter spat against some low life making fun of horrific world tragedies. I could delve right into my feelings on it but I will spare you the reading and do a short break down of something much better, the Chicago Blackhawks.

Projected line-ups:

Forwards

Sharp-Toews-Stalberg

Carcillo-Kane-Hossa

Bickell-Bolland-Shaw

Frolik-Kruger-Mayers

Bollig will be in and out of the lineup and very well could do a shuffle with Frolik, Kruger and Mayers depending on the team the Hawks are playing. Example: Hawks vs Blues expect Bollig in.

Ben Smith, Brandon Saad and Brandon Pirri will get a good look and there is an outside possibility one of those three may start the season with the big club.

As you can see there isn’t a lot of change up front for Chicago.

Defence

Keith-Seabrook

Oduya-Hjalmarsson

Rozsival-Leddy

If Montador is healthy it could mean a game in game out type of situation with Rosie, Leddy and Monty. The real interesting issue is when the Hawks signed Sheldon Brookbank to a deal they informed Sheldon and his agent that Brookbank would be a full-time roster player. Expect some movement by the Hawks this season. Likely man out would be Hjalmarsson as he would be the most sought after especially considering Montador’s health, overpaid Oduya and an aging Rozsival.

Goaltenders

Crawford

Emery

Expect a bounce back season by Crawford after a horrific sophomore season. A lot of goalies have poor second seasons which is usually their first year as a starting goalie; the added pressure is a lot on these guys. We’ve seen Crawford’s ability in his first season so we know he has the capability to be a number one goalie. With an improved defence in front of Corey that will also help him out.

With the cap going down next season I expect Chicago to be making moves; actually, I expect a lot of teams to be making moves. The Blackhawks may look at moving Marian Hossa who has a contract until he’s 80 years of age but still he’s one of the best 2-way players in the game. Hossa will be 34 this Saturday so if the Hawks can move him this season I’m sure they will. Of course the recent concussion he had may make teams shy away which may force Chicago to look at moving other pieces.

Predictions

I will take a shot at some predictions for the final standings but really it’s a crapshoot in a shortened season.

 

Western Conference

  1. St. Louis Blues – Hitchcock will have these guys playing their defensive game again and with their ever improving abundance of skilled forwards this team will be tough to beat.
  2. Los Angeles Kings – The champs will be tough again especially with stud goalie Jonathan Quick and their nice crop of forwards. Expect Doughty to be better.
  3. Vancouver Canucks – Without Kesler it’s going to hurt but considering the division they’re in it shouldn’t be tough for them to capture another Northwest crown.
  4. Chicago Blackhawks – I expect Chicago to be right there with St. Louis especially if Toews stays healthy. Toews was on pace for an MVP type year before getting hurt. Improved D will vastly improve this team and could easily flip-flop with the Blues for 1st in the Central
  5. Nashville Predators – The same old stingy defensive team will be there again but will they change something up so they can move to the next level?
  6. Detroit Redwings – An aging team with big questions on the back end. Their skilled forwards will be enough to get them into the show, again.
  7. Edmonton Oilers – Yep, I’m going there. I feel that a shortened season will help these young gunners and if the team can stay healthy (especially Taylor Hall) they could make some noise this year. Dubnyk is a HUGE question mark and I wouldn’t count out Khabibulin just yet.
  8. Minnesota Wild – The additions of Suter and Parise will help this team out immensely, however, the Wilds forwards are fairly deep but the defence is still a big question mark.
  9. Anaheim Ducks – Bounce back years for Getzlaf and Perry are in order but are really not too deep at the forward positions. Defence are big and slow with the exception of Fowler.
  10. San Jose Sharks – Perhaps I’m not giving the sharks enough credit because on paper their forward lines are pretty darn good but the old legged Sharks might need 20 games to get going and in a shortened season that’ll be too late.
  11. Phoenix Coyotes – This is a massive team up front, big slow behemoths and the back end is decent at best. I expect Mike Smith to be holding them in a lot of games.
  12. Dallas Stars – I seem to underestimate this team year after year, skilled forwards with some real tough guys but the defence is always what worries me for these guys. When Aaron Rome is fourth on your depth chart you have issues.
  13. Colorado Avalanche – Stastny going to show up? The additions of Downie and Parenteau will help this team quite a bit but really I only see maybe 2 and a half decent lines here with an average at best defensive core. Goaltending is questionable.
  14. Calgary Flames – I’m guessing these guys are going to officially try to rebuild now? Who knows with Feaster. They do have some nice prospects and Baertschi should step right in but they have a ways to go. Kiprusoff may play all 48 games.
  15. Columbus Blue Jackets – Their best forward is R.J. Umberger and their starting goalie is Steve Mason. Sorry but this team is in for a world of hurt for a few years to come. Brian Burke maybe?

Eastern  Conference

  1. New York Rangers – On paper this team is pretty sick and with the best goalie in the world in Henrik Lundqvist this team would be my early Stanley Cup favorites. Will Gaborik stay healthy? Will the team gel?
  2. Boston Bruins – Seguin is going to have an enormous year and the rough and tough Bruins will be tough to beat. Is it Tuukka time?
  3. Washington Capitals – They say Ovie is a new man, funny, they said that last year, too. Nevertheless, the addition of Ribeiro and a pretty decent 4 lines should be enough to take down the Southeast division. Holtby should take the reigns as the number 1 goalie in D.C.
  4. Pittsburgh Penguins – They really did very little to bolster their team but if they stay healthy they’ll be a very good team through the regular season.
  5. Philadelphia Flyers – Claude Giroux will have another MVP type season and if Briere gets healthy this team could make some noise. No Pronger is going to hurt big time. Perhaps Bryzgalov can concentrate on playing goal rather than trying to entertain fans with his bizarre beliefs.
  6. Buffalo Sabres – They have a good mix of size and skill with a pretty deep defensive squad. If Ryan Miller can play like he can this team should be damn good.
  7. New Jersey Devils – How much does Brodeur have left in the tank? Going back to last year he’s still go it, wouldn’t you say? The Devils should be a good team this year especially if stud Henrique is healthy and Clarkson has a similar type year to last season. Solid Defensive group.
  8. Winnipeg Jets – It took me forever to slot someone into this final playoff spot. This hulking team should be able to pound their way through to nab the 8th spot. Travel shouldn’t be too bad for these guys this season.
  9. Ottawa Senators – A step back for these guys this season and is Alfredsson even playing? They need help on the back end.
  10. Tampa Bay Lightning – This team will score a lot of goals but keeping them out of the net is going to be their biggest problem. Stands should be full with $200 season tickets!
  11. Florida Panthers – Not too much change for them, Weiss may have a good half year so watch out for him. Probably a step back for the Cats this season.
  12. New York Islanders – I really like the forwards on this team minus Marty Reasoner and these guys should be an exciting team to watch. Defence is suspect and with Visnovsky staying overseas certainly doesn’t help.
  13. Toronto Maple Leafs – Firing of Brian Burke before the season starts, Toronto is already a mess and weak goaltending. Forwards are pretty decent but if they want a goalie they’re going to have to give up one of them.  If their defence can play like they should these guys might have a legit shot of making the playoffs but I suspect little confidence in Reimer no matter what the players/coaches say in their interviews.
  14. Montreal Canadiens – They’ve added Brandon Prust and…is that it? Same team, not sure about Markov as usual, d-men are still improving. Lucky they have one of the best goalies in the league in Carey Price. I don’t see this being the year of the Habs.
  15. Carolina Hurricanes – Team should score some goals but you never know what you’re going to get with Semin and staying healthy will be a question mark. Pretty decent forward crop but their defence stinks.

Stanley Cup Final: Chicago Blackhawks vs New York Rangers

Well there you have it, my fearless predictions that could be a complete fail like most peoples predictions are but they’re fun to do. Agree or disagree on any or all of these? Am I way off? Let me know.

Thanks for reading,

TK0N

 

 

 

 

On the final day of the NHL regular season the Chicago Blackhawks first round playoff opponent has ended up being the Phoenix Coyotes. The Blackhawks needed a regulation victory over the Detroit Redwings earlier Sunday to have any chance of locking up the fourth seed in the Western Conference but failed to do so and ended up winning in overtime.

Many of the Blackhawks fans were hoping for exactly what happened in that game as they didn’t want to face either Detroit or Nashville in the first round of the playoffs even if they did have home ice advantage. Did the Blackhawks think that way? Not a chance, they wanted that chance to get home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs and actually pulled the goalie while they were tied with Detroit in regulation to try to get that win. Chicago failed in doing so and will now face the third overall seed, the Phoenix Coyotes.

The statement the Hawks’ showed their fans in this game is that they really don’t have a preference in who they play in the playoffs and that’s how it should be. The top eight teams in the Western Conference is really a crapshoot on who comes out of there to go to the Stanley Cup final. Sure, odds makers will probably consider Chicago, Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Jose as the least likely to come out of the West but each of those teams have intangibles that could propel them to the final.

Who wins this series? Well, the health of Jonathan Toews and Dave Bolland is critical for the Blackhawks future success in these upcoming playoffs, obviously. On paper, the skill level is heavily in favor of Chicago even without Toews and Bolland but one can’t deny the work effort of the Coyotes which propelled them to first in the Pacific Division.

Keys for Chicago to win:

  • Must improve special teams play dramatically.

Special teams have been borderline disgusting for a team that is highly skilled as Chicago is and if they don’t improve vastly then their playoff run could be short.

  • Crawford needs to play as well as he did in last year’s playoffs

Corey has had his ups and downs this season but of late he has been playing incredibly well, Chicago fans are generally worried about the goaltending but we feel he will be just fine.

  • Need to improve their ability to hold on to a lead in any game

In many games this season, the Hawks’ have squandered leads late in games or even large leads early in games. Shut down defence is needed.

Keys for Phoenix to win:

  • Mike Smith will need to keep up his stellar play in goal

With only 3 playoff games under his belt, Mike is somewhat of a rookie and will need to carry his great regular season play into the playoffs.

  • Yotes star players will have to score at a solid pace

With the 14th ranked offence in the NHL it is not one of their strong points.

  • Defence will have to shut down star power of the Hawks’

Chicago has a ton of speed so the Coyotes defence will have to neutralize that to limit scoring chances

Yes the playoffs are considered a “new season” but season long issues with teams such as special teams don’t just turn around in a few days but one would be surprised what the intensity of the playoffs bring.

All in all we have the Blackhawks winning this series in five games with or without Toews. We feel the Coyotes will not be able to keep up to speed with Chicago and if Crawford can match Smith in goaltending, which we think he will, this shouldn’t be a long series.

Of course, we all know anything can happen in the playoffs. Who do you think wins this series and in how many games?

Here is a look at the lineups for Chicago and Phoenix below. Please note, these lineups are in no particular order especially in the Hawks’ case where their lines are usually juggled every ten minutes during a game. Blackhawks Brandon Bollig could also see some ice time this upcoming playoffs as well and he is not on the charts below.

 

Goalies
Corey Crawford
Ray Emery

 

Defensemen
Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya
Duncan Keith
Niklas Hjalmarsson
Nick Leddy
Sean O’Donnell

 

Left Wings
Viktor Stalberg
Bryan Bickell
Andrew Shaw
Andrew Brunette

 

Goalies
Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera

 

Defensemen
Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Derek Morris
Keith Yandle
Michal Rozsival
Adrian Aucoin
Rostislav Klesla

 

Left Wings
Ray Whitney
Lauri Korpikoski
Mikkel Boedker
Raffi Torres
 

Crash the Net has compiled what we feel are the top 25 players at each position in the NHL. The rankings seen below are not necessarily based on the 2011/2012 season statistics and performances but were considered, of course.

Centers

It’s understood with the 2, 3 and 4 positions will be argued by many fans but there is no doubt who is the number one player in the NHL with that being Sidney Crosby. Toews brings the complete package with scoring, defensive play and the best face off player in the league. Malkin is an elite offensive weapon who is pretty decent in his own end as well and the similarities to retired superstar Mario Lemieux are uncanny. Stamkos is a pure sniper and no one comes close to having the shot or goal scoring prowess that he has. The final spot at the center position was between Mikhail Grabovski and Jeff Carter but we gave Grabovski a slight edge.

1)      Sidney Crosby

2)      Jonathan Toews

3)      Evgeni Malkin

4)      Steven Stamkos

5)      Pavel Datsyuk

6)      Henrik Sedin

7)      Jason Spezza

8)      John Tavares

9)      Eric Staal

10)   Nicklas Backstrom

11)   Anze Kopitar

12)   Patrice Bergeron

13)   David Backes

14)   Brad Richards

15)   Tyler Seguin

16)   Patrick Elias

17)   Ryan Getzlaf

18)   Mike Richards

19)   Ryan Kesler

20)   Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

21)   Jordan Staal

22)   Vincent Lecavalier

23)   Logan Couture

24)   Joe Thornton

25)   Mikhail Grabovski

Right Wingers

This was a tough one to choose for the top 3 in this category. Giroux has incredible offensive skill and is very good defensively as well; we believe Claude’s best is yet to come. Hossa is a great scorer and is often considered a top 3 two-way player in the league and the reigning MVP Corey Perry has turned his season around and is proving once again as one of the top players in the NHL. The Oilers Jordan Eberle edged out a tough field for fourth position, Jordan may be challenging Steven Stamkos for the Rocket Richard Trophy sooner than later.

1)      Claude Giroux

2)      Marian Hossa

3)      Corey Perry

4)      Jordan Eberle

5)      Patrick Kane

6)      Phil Kessel

7)      Marian Gaborik

8)      Jarome Iginla

9)      Teemu Selanne

10)   Ryan Callahan

11)   Jason Pominville

12)   Martin St. Louis

13)   Rick Nash

14)   Bobby Ryan

15)   Shane Doan

16)   Kris Versteeg

17)   Daniel Briere

18)   PA Parenteau

19)   Blake Wheeler

20)   Jaromir Jagr

21)   Dustin Brown

22)   Radim Vrbata

23)   Michael Ryder

24)   Teddy Purcell

25)   Joe Pavelski

Left Wingers

There’s no denying the skill of Ilya Kovalchuk but we won’t deny that we almost put Boston Bruins winger Milan Lucic in the top spot. Lucic has all the tools and not one NHL team would deny that they would love a player like Lucic on their respective team. Alexander Ovechkin usually would take top spot here but after saying in the pre-season that he was in the best shape of his life and currently having a lowly season by his standards, we have “The Great 8” ranked number 10 in the left winger top 25.

1)      Ilya Kovalchuk

2)      Milan Lucic

3)      Daniel Sedin

4)      Zach Parise

5)      Scott Hartnell

6)      Patrick Sharp

7)      James Neal

8)      Jamie Benn

9)      Thomas Vanek

10)   Alexander Ovechkin

11)   Gabriel Landeskog

12)   Taylor Hall

13)   Matt Moulson

14)   Loui Eriksson

15)   Ray Whitney

16)   Henrik Zetterberg

17)   Joffrey Lupul

18)   Evander Kane

19)   Max Pacioretty

20)   Brad Marchand

21)   Alexandre Burrows

22)   Dany Heatley

23)   Milan Michalek

24)   Andrew Ladd

25)   Erik Cole

Defenseman

This was an extremely tough top 25 to compile because many wonder if players like Weber/Suter and Keith/Seabrook would be as good as they are without their partner. Perhaps next year we will see if Nashville is unable to sign pending free agent Ryan Suter. For now, how can you not put Karlsson as the number 1 choice? Erik is on a torrid scoring pace and has the ability to change the game flow on his own, his skills are incredible and one can’t be happier for the Ottawa Senators having a player like this to build their team around.

1)      Erik Karlsson

2)      Zdeno Chara

3)      Shea Weber

4)      Ryan Suter

5)      Nicklas Lidstrom

6)      Kris Letang

7)      Keith Yandle

8)      Duncan Keith

9)      Drew Doughty

10)   Alexander Edler

11)   Alex Pietrangelo

12)   Dion Phaneuf

13)   Brent Seabrook

14)   Brent Burns

15)   Dustin Byfuglien

16)   Brian Campbell

17)   Dan Boyle

18)   Dennis Wideman

19)   Niklas Kronwall

20)   Mark Streit

21)   Matt Carle

22)   Kevin Bieksa

23)   Kimmo Timonen

24)   Kevin Shattenkirk

25)   Christian Ehrhoff

Goaltenders

“King Henrik” got the edge here but to be honest it really was a toss-up between Lundqvist and Rinne, both of their respective clubs are very good defensively and both goaltenders are absolutely above the rest of the pack. It would be fair for this to be a 1A and 1B ranking or even better yet, a tie for the first overall ranking. Many will wonder why we have a goalie like Brian Elliott ranked low when he has been arguably one of the best goaltenders this season and our reason is because prior to this year, he’s hardly been a legit NHL goaltender and he now plays for the number 1 ranked defensive team in the NHL. Not taking anything away from him because he has been fantastic but we’d like to see another season with him as a starter and not on a split squad goaltending duo like he is now.

1)      Henrik Lundqvist

2)      Pekka Rinne

3)      Marc-Andre Fleury

4)      Jonathan Quick

5)      Carey Price

6)      Mikka Kiprusoff

7)      Tim Thomas

8)      Jimmy Howard

9)      Ryan Miller

10)   Mike Smith

11)   Ilya Bryzgalov

12)   Jaroslav Halak

13)   Cam Ward

14)   Corey Schneider

15)   Roberto Luongo

16)   Kari Lehtonen

17)   Jonas Hiller

18)   Antti Niemi

19)   Brian Elliott

20)   Corey Crawford

21)   Martin Brodeur

22)   Semyon Varlamov

23)   Craig Anderson

24)   Evgeni Nabokov

25)   Jose Theodore

That is our list, we hope you enjoyed our rankings and would like to know if you agree or disagree and why?

Kudos to zimbio.com for the use of the photos

Thanks for reading,

TK0N

 

  Chicago Blackhawks fans are getting anxious with the NHL trade deadline only two days away and rightly so. The Blackhawks have a big game in which the entire NHL will be tuning in to watch and more so for the debut of newly acquired Jeff Carter by the Los Angeles Kings who is reunited with center Mike Richards from their days playing together with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Chicago currently sits sixth in the Western Conference with 73 points and a plus 10 goals for and goals against differential. Last season, at this time, the Blackhawks sat in 9th position in the Western Conference with 72 points and a plus 32 goal differential. What does this tell you? Well, it tells you that in comparison to last season the Blackhawks have not improved and if anything they’ve regressed, to some extent.

The Blackhawks are sitting three spots higher in the standings in comparison to last year; however, a lot has to do with eight teams not having 70 points in comparison to last season when there were only four after 62 games. There are additional teams this year that are weaker; there are teams this year that are much stronger; for example, the St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators. What does this mean for Chicago? It means that they’re once again fighting for a playoff spot and if they want to get home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, well, they will have to go on quite a sick winning streak. Blackhawks nation are hoping they don’t lose their way in to the playoffs like they did last year when they were sitting and hoping that the Dallas Stars would lose their final game of the year, luckily for them, they did.

Looking at the trade front, it’s no doubt that the Blackhawks fans, media and undoubtedly some of the players are hoping that something gets done to bolster this team into a true Stanley Cup contender because at this point they are not a legit contender. General manager Stan Bowman has to be feeling the heat, unlike last season, he has the cap space, prospects, draft picks and players to make some significant moves so basically there are no excuses. Sure, there are not a ton of pieces that seem to be available but there are some noteworthy candidates that would make an immediate impact for Chicago that are available such as a Derek Roy or Paul Gaustad from the Buffalo Sabres.

The pressure on Bowman to make a move has increased immensely considering that Steve Montador is more than likely gone for the season, Niklas Hjalmarsson has concussion like symptoms, Jonathan Toews injury is being downplayed but many feel it is also concussion related, and agitator Dan Carcillo is also done for the season. Brendan Morrison is not going to do the trick especially being a healthy scratch many times since he was acquired from the Calgary Flames.

It’s no secret that the Blackhawks have had holes since the beginning of the season and little has been done to help find a solution to adjust those holes. Just recently, the Blackhawks coaching staff finally implemented a better defensive system along with a new penalty kill structure. The Blackhawks management’s lackadaisical and seemingly non urgent attitude to strengthen the team’s weaknesses are frustrating a lot of people.

It has only been two years since the dismantling of the Stanley Cup team and it’s understandable that it takes time to rebuild, however, with the Blackhawks core and many pieces to use as trade bait plus a plethora of cap space there are no excuses for Stan Bowman. It’s now or never for Mr. Bowman, he’d better improve the team or he will most certainly be on the NHL unemployment line sooner than later.

Let’s see if he does something to impress…. then perhaps we will take a look at this again.

I’m sure most don’t want to hear “we were unable to do anything by or at the trade deadline, teams were just not willing to deal”

Thanks for reading as always,

TK0N

 

To answer the above question; one would think so. With impressive victories over the New York Rangers, Columbus Blue Jackets and the St. Louis Blues respectively, Chicago seems to have turned the page on a ghastly nine game losing streak. The Blackhawks outscored the aforementioned opponents by a combined score of 13-5 and have quieted the critics plus Chicago fans bellowing of a certain downfall on their way to missing the NHL playoffs.

Over these past three games, Chicago has improved greatly on the penalty kill, scoring, goaltending and overall team defence. These are four of the five issues that needed to be vastly improved for Chicago to turn their impending free fall in the Western Conference around. The last matter to be rectified was the power play; however, improving four of the five issues over the duration of a three game winning streak is most certainly a great start and has surely given these Blackhawks a ton of confidence going into their next game against their number one rival, the Detroit Redwings.

Blackhawks Positives

  • Corey Crawford is 3-0 with a 1.33 goals against average and a 0.954 save percentage in his last three games.
  • Blackhawks all-star forwards Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp are firing on all cylinders and playing extremely well at both ends of the ice.
  • The newly employed penalty kill system has worked perfectly thus far
  • Rookie defenseman Dylan Olsen is showing signs that he is ready for the NHL. Excellent skater, good size and makes smart and safe decisions.

  • John Scott has been surprisingly good for Chicago even if his minutes are limited. When he plays, he’s making the most of them playing a good physical game and like Olsen, making smart plays with the puck in both ends of the ice. He has also been filling in at forward and on defence in all three games.
  • Sami Lepisto who has hardly seen the ice this year has been playing remarkably well. He did get benched against Columbus because of a wayward pass that led to the Blue Jackets only goal but recovered nicely by scoring that same game, Sami was also solid against St. Louis on Sunday afternoon.
  • With the improved play of defenseman not named Duncan Keith or Brent Seabrook; the ice time for both Keith and Seabrook have been cut back marginally which is huge for both of those guys to have anything left in the tank for a playoff run.

With the trade deadline now just a week away, one would expect the Blackhawks to attempt to make a couple deals to help solidify their team to keep them into the playoffs and hopefully make a good run at Lord Stanley.

If we were to predict who would be coming to the Blackhawks via trade?

  • Paul Gaustad
  • Bryan Allen

Of course everyone knows how predicting NHL trades turns out but we’re taking a stab at it anyways.

On a final note:

Don’t buy into any Patrick Kane trade rumours, they’re false and are only racking your brain up of something that will not be happening.

Your starting goaltender for the upcoming NHL playoffs will be Corey Crawford. The Blackhawks may look at adding a back-up goaltender, not a starter. More than likely what you see is what you get for Chicago’s goalies this year.

Thank you for reading,

TK0N

 

The Chicago Blackhawks are in somewhat of a down fall currently and it raises the question of how good are these Hawks especially compared to last season.

The Blackhawks comparable records from last year and this year are:

  • 2010/2011 27 wins 22 losses 4 OT for 58 points
  • 2011/2012 29 wins 17 losses 7 OT for 65 points

A 7 point improvement compared to last year’s squad at this time last year clearly indicates improvement, obviously.

  • In 2010 the Blackhawks were sitting in 11th position in the Western Conference and 18th in the NHL.
  • In 2011 the Blackhawk are sitting in 6th position in the Western Conference and 8th in the NHL.

Let’s take a look at their goal differential:

  • In 2010 the Blackhawks had 170 goals for, 145 goals against and a +25 goal differential
  • In 2011 the Blackhawks have 169 goals for, 158 goals against and a +11 goal differential

It’s a mystery isn’t it? While the goal output is virtually identical, the Blackhawks goals against is up by 13 goals from last season and the goal differential is up 14 goals. Just by looking at the 2010 statistics one would think Chicago would be near the top of the standings yet they were in 11th position in 2010 after 53 games and in regards to the playoff race the Hawks were on the outside looking in.

So does this mean team statistics are misleading to say the least? Well, according to the above statistics they most certainly are.

Perhaps the competition in 2010/2011 was a lot stronger than it is in 2011/2012?

  • In 2010 there were 6 teams that did not have 60 points at this point (Hawks were one of them)
  • In 2011 there are 8 teams that do not have 60 points after 53 games.

Keep in mind we’re not comparing the exact same Chicago Blackhawks team as they have currently.

So have the Blackhawks improved a lot compared to last year? Still tough to say at this point and ” a lot” maybe a stretch but many fans feel they have improved immensely.

It seems they’re playing in a weaker Conference compared to 2010 and sitting much higher in the standings yet their team statistics are not nearly as good this year.

Chicago‘s removed players from 2010:

  • Tomas Kopecky
  • Troy Brouwer
  • Brian Campbell
  • Jake Dowell
  • Jack Skille
  • Fernando Pisani
  • Jassen Cullimore
  • Nick Boynton
  • Chris Campoli
  • Ryan Johnson
  • Jordan Hendry
  • Marty Turco

Chicago’s additions in 2011

  • Andrew Brunette
  • Steve Montador
  • Marcus Kruger
  • Jamal Mayers
  • Daniel Carcillo
  • Andrew Shaw
  • Jimmy Hayes
  • Brendan Morrison
  • Rostislav Olesz
  • Sami Lepisto
  • Ray Emery

Intangibles to think about comparing last year’s team to this year’s team.

  • Corey Crawford was lights out last season; in 2011 he’s been sub-par. Outstanding at times yet in other games he’s been mediocre at best.
  • Rookies Shaw, Kruger, and Hayes (now in Rockford) have been a pleasant surprise.
  • Ray Emery has been very good this year; last year Marty Turco was not.
  • It’s tough to replace what Brian Campbell brought to the team with youngster Nick Leddy and veteran Steve Montador along with John Scott, Sami Lepisto and Sean O’Donnell.
  • This year’s Blackhawks team has the top four defenseman playing heavy minutes while the bottom defensive pairing hardly get any playing time at all.
  • The team defence has taken a big step back compared to last season and a huge step back from the 2009/2010 season.

Moreover, the Blackhawks are marginally better. Stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are more seasoned and Marian Hossa is having an outstanding year plus with the emergence of Viktor Stalberg along with the impressive rookies it is helping to carry the keep these Blackhawks in contention for 1st overall in the Western Conference.

Is Chicago a true Stanley Cup contender? Sure, but the chances of going all the way with this current team are slim to none. Changes need to be made and not only on the personnel side of things.

Kudos to Zimbio.com for the photos.

Thanks for reading as always,

TK0N

 

Crash the Net has compiled a list of current Chicago Blackhawk MVP candidates thus far this season along with who would be the Studs and Duds. Do you, the reader, agree with these selections or disagree?

Blackhawks MVP candidates

Marian Hossa

Marian is on pace to having his best year as a Chicago Blackhawk and has amassed 20 goals and 33 assists in 52 games thus far. While producing at a high rate offensively, his two-way play is still proving to be amongst the best in the NHL as he often has in his career. Marian has not lost a step since arriving on the NHL scene back in 1997-98.

Jonathan Toews

Toews is almost a carbon copy of Hossa except for the difference that Toews plays center and Hossa plays the wing. Both players are excellent at both ends of the ice scoring at a rapid pace while still being the first forwards back, on most occasions, when the opposition attempts to bring the puck back into the Blackhawks end. Toews is an excellent penalty killer, like Marian, and while this is not an excerpt of comparing the two players, well, the similarities can’t be ignored. Jonathan has 27 goals and 25 assists in 52 games. Toews domination at winning face-offs has been quite remarkable as well.

Brent Seabrook

This was a close battle between Seabrook and playing partner Duncan Keith. Both are fairly close in point production and Seabrook seems to be turning it up on the offensive side of late along with being a solid defender at the same time. Duncan Keith has better offensive numbers, albeit marginally, Seabrook has been slightly more consistent in the overall game than Keith has.

CTN’s MVP pick: Jonathan Toews.

Honourable mentions: Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane

Blackhawks Studs

Patrick Sharp

On a point per game basis all year and has come up with timely goals game in and game out and is as pure a sniper as any in the league. If it were not for Patrick missing several games due to an injury, Sharp could easily be leading the Blackhawks in scoring.

Viktor Stalberg

He’s been on the first line and he’s been on the fourth line, yet Viktor continues to produce and now has 15 goals and 15 assists in 50 games. Stalberg continues to keep his positive attitude even if Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville’s continues his abomination of line juggling.  Not only is he scoring but he’s using his incredible speed to drive the net more often rather than just skating up the ice and taking a shot from the side boards as most Blackhawks fans remember from last year.

Patrick Kane

11 goals and 33 assists are still very good numbers for a player who had to adjust to the center position for a large part of the season only to find him adjusting back to the wing again. While most Blackhawks fans feel that Patrick should be a sniper, well, he really has never been one in his hockey career and has never scored more goals than assists. Patrick Kane is a play maker with the ability to score 20 plus goals a year and that’s the bottom line. What he also brings is second to none puck handling skills and the ability to create open ice for the rest of his line mates while defenders flock towards him as Kane mesmerizes them with his stick handling skills. While many disagree, CTN feels Kane has had a very good year.

CTN’s Stud pick: Patrick Sharp

Honourable mentions: Dave Bolland and Duncan Keith

Blackhawks Duds

Michael Frolik

Unfortunately the Blackhawks list of duds may outweigh the studs this year which is not a good sign. Frolik is the first dud on the list and was brought to Chicago to add a spark of offence to a team that was fishing for some more offensive depth, well, he has failed. Michael has played 49 games and currently has 5 goals and 8 assists on the year while being a healthy scratch more frequently of late. While many Blackhawks fans were excited for the past years of Frolik’s 20 plus goal seasons, well, this proves that being a top scorer for a lesser team really means very little coming to a championship caliber team.

Bryan Bickell

Coming off an impressive first full season with Chicago last year netting 17 goals and his hit numbers were very high, Bickell has diminished in with his scoring capabilities and with his physical willing. While still possessing a lethal snap shot, they seem to all come from about 40 feet away and Bryan no longer drives to the net using his hulking size to his advantage.

Steve Montador

After signing a 4 year deal worth $2, 750, 00 per year, Blackhawks fans probably had thought they finally had a solid 5th defenseman on the team that they’ve been searching for since their dismantling of the club after their Stanley Cup victory in 2009/2010. Montador was signed in hopes of him bringing a nasty hard hitting defensive style while still producing offensively occasionally. Steve has shown signs of what the Blackhawks originally wanted from him but it has been sparse at best.

CTN’s Dud pick: Michael Frolik

Honourable mentions: John Scott and Sami Lepisto

We hope you enjoyed this compilation of MVP candidates and studs and duds, if you agree or disagree please let us know. Would enjoy hearing from you!

Thanks to zimbio.com for the use of the photos

Thank you for reading as always,

TK

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