The Blackhawks have scored 155 goals so far this season. Patick Kane leads the way with 52 points, followed by Defensemen Duncan Keith, with 43 points — my, how great would it be to have a Blue Jacket blueliner to register 43 points, for a season, let alone barely at the halfway point, in the season? Nine Blackhawk players have 20 or more points. This is known in the NHL lexicon as secondary scoring. Did you hear that, CBJ brass, in Year NINE? The Jackets? They now struggle, offensively, since they've decided to buy in — 35 games into the season, mind you — to the tight checking, disciplined... otherwise known as Yawnfest 2010. Memo to CBJ Brass: Hey, it's post-lockout, the rest of the league — wait, the successful teams don't employ this system.
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Of course, I'll hear the following: Well, the NJ Devils employ this system, and look how well they're doing. Here's the difference: NJ actually has much more skill than the CBJ— it's a novel concept: They spend money to acquire talent. NJ has also struggled to advance into the Stanley Cup Playoffs the last several (post-lockout) years. Sorry to digress: Thanks for allowing me to get that off of my chest.
In short, CBJ-nation, THIS is what "built for the playoffs" really means. They lead the NHL in goals against average, a 2. 05 GAA/game. They lead the league in blocked shots, also. The CBJ aren't exactly drawing comparisons to the Philly Flyer's defense of the 70s, nor the NJ Devil's defense of the 90s. They're ranked 26th overall, giving up 3. 06 goals per game. The CBJ can try to shut down the 'Hawks top line — Kane, Toews and Hossa — but, the 'Hawks talent, and their remaining three lines, come at you in waves.
I feel so much better. Ken Hitchcock has made (yet) another shakeup in the CBJ's lines: This one has Rick Nash at Right Wing (RW), vs. his usual LW position. They will also have Antoine Vermette at Center and RJ Umberger at LW. Oh, and Juice (Kristian Huselius) has been demoted to the 3rd line — 30 games too late, but hey, aren't you glad it finally happened now that it's too late to salvage the season? Those shakeups must have the 'Hawks shaking in their skates right now, don't you think? Edge: Blackhawks (Huge)DEFENSE The following statistic, more so than the 'Hawks prolific offense, might be why they lead the NHL in total points, not to mention being primed for playoff success.
the Red Wings, in Detroit) to Northwest Canada, then, to the East Coast. Gotta love that Olympic year compressed schedule, eh? The hope is that, with the 'Hawks embarking on a brutal road swing, that the CBJ can catch them at the inception of it, not to mention the hope that the 'Hawks might be looking ahead to tomorrow's battle with the Red Wings.
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Then again, this might be the 'Hawks signal, much like the rest of the league, that they are playing their backup goalie (Huet) today, and resting Niemi for a tougher opponent, against the CBJ. In a word, Ouch! Steve Mason returns in net for the CBJ. Mason's done generally well against the 'Hawks, most recently, that 11-round epic battle, that resulted in a shootout loss for the CBJ, though no fault of Mason's. It will be interesting to see which Mason shows up — the rookie year, and, in minor spurts, 'Stonewall' Steve Mason, or the inconsistent, sophomore jinx-riddled Steve Mason. Then again, the same can be said about Huet — he might be the ultimate "Dow Jones-er".
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The only hope then is that the rest of the 'Hawks don't beat them. The other key factor, to give the CBJ a chance, will be to try to dictate the pace and flow of this game. Stated another way: "Avoid the track meet". Edge: Blackhawks (Huge)GOALTENDING If the Blackhawks have an Achilles heel, then goaltending, and specifically Cristobal Huet, is it. Personally, it's a bit of a surprise, with tomorrow nationally-televised game against the Red Wings, that Huet, rather than backup goaltender Antti Niemi, is scheduled to start against the CBJ.
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The difference here, though, will be the defenses which play in front of each respective goalie. For that reason... Edge: BlackhawksSPECIAL TEAMS The Blackhawks are simply stellar in this area. Forget special, the operative word is stellar, when describing their special teams. (Another) memo to CBJ Brass: Get some video on this team as to how it's really done. Then again, get some talent similar to this team's. The "Hawks rank fifth in both the Power Play (PP) and Penalty Kill (PK).
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