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.

 

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

 

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

 

    This is my first piece on Crash the Net, so I’ll take a moment to introduce myself. My name is John and I am an avid follower of the Chicago Blackhawks, but I love to watch all of hockey in general. I’ve been playing fantasy hockey for quite a few years now and in most leagues I like to think that I fare well and sit in the upper echelon throughout each and every season. The draft is always a very tough part of fantasy hockey but if you don’t do well, as I have occasionally in the past, through a little research you can make trades, pick up waiver wires, and create a formidable team.

Now we are reaching the tail end of the season for fantasy, most leagues with 5 weeks left, leaving only a few weeks for trades. If you are part of a keeper league, it’s time to make that decision; do you toss in the towel, or do you make one last push for the playoffs where anything can happen?

Choosing which one can be tricky and ultimately depends on the structure of your team and if your struggling team is seemingly out of the race, try to make some trades while you can. Decide which players you are going to keep until next year and then unload the rest. Attempt to get draft picks, which is something that I look forward to every year, as this is something to help you out into the future. Even if you are just outside of the playoff picture and you never give up, think about the possibilities of making a number of trades to secure upgrades in all of your picks. Some might not part with the top 1-3 picks, but you should be able to maneuver your way into a few top 4 through 8 picks. This year, such picks included Quick, Giroux, Sharp, Letang, Kessel, Hossa etc. If you were able to grab one of the aforementioned guys, you could form a solid looking team through them alone.

If you are part of the “never surrender” crowd, then the next 5 to hopefully 8 weeks will include nervously debating which members of your bench to get rid of and which players, who are starting to heat up, to add. Wisniewski came back onto the ice with a bang, making his debut since the injury with a goal and an assist, and a couple blocked shots as well. He is only owned in 39% of leagues, so if you need extra help on defense, he along with Hamhuis(60%) could help in a pinch on D. As for your forwards, there are a few more to choose from including David Perron(18%) Wayne Simmonds (29%) and David Clarkson (33%). These guys, along with a few more, are streaking right now, so for a little extra help, grab those guys. Simmonds and Clarkson also chip in those PIMs.

Inside the crease is a different story. If you are weak there, you are going to have to just wait it out, because goalies are all taken up pretty much in every league. Think you can be lucky? Pick up Nabokov(49%) who is playing very well right now. There is also always that possibility that they trade him away, which immediately improves his value.

Last thing, if you are part of a rotisserie league, keep an eye on your max games played per position, take the time and do a little bit of math. Figure out how many games left you have, and play your stars accordingly.

Please feel free to ask any questions here. I also can be contacted via my Twitter handle, swabs5030 I’ll entertain any Fantasy questions and do my best to help you out.

 

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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