Happy Throwback Thursday Feather Faithful!
What better way to start "week 5’s around the dots" than with a throwback close to our own hearts here in the WINdy city. Last evening the Chicago Blackhawks unveiled their sweaters for the upcoming Bridgestone Winter Classic against the Washington Capitals on New Year’s Day. It will be the second Winter Classic the Hawks have played in five years and the third outdoor game in the same span. This year’s sweater is a throwback to the 1957 visitor sweater with only subtle differences to the present day colors. The coolest attribute is the laced collar up the front with the numbers slightly thinner and longer, the tomahawks are near the elbow and not the shoulders - and finally the stripes are slightly different - in my opinion, a solid choice. To sweeten the deal, 1957 was Bobby Hull’s rookie year – so there’s that.
To the league…
It's only necessary that we stay up to date with what’s happening around the league, not only because it’s good to stay informed, but it also helps our stress levels and delusions later in the season when we’re off getting our hopes up again – so let’s get into it.
Last night… Montreal righted their ship, sort of, beating Buffalo 2-1 in a shootout. The New York Islanders took the less than 100% Anaheim Ducks to Overtime and prevailed 3-2 after John Tavares converted on a power play awarded after a Sami Vatanen elbowing call at 2:18. Finally, much to our delight here in Chicago, the New York Rangers hung around and defeated the Detroit Red Wings 4-3 in OT.
The Chicago Blackhawks have recalled C Peter Regin from Rockford (ahl) to help with the hole left due to the Patrick Sharp injury. Regin has played in 239 career games with 23 goals, 43 assists and 66 points. He joined the Blackhawks on February 6th of this year in a trade with the New York Islanders. There were hopes he'd make the team straight out of training camp but he remains to be optimistic. He has recorded 10 points (4goals, 6 assists) for the IceHogs so far this season. Regin played well for the Hawks late last year. He has a lot of heart, is smart on and off the puck and can make things happen - look for him to try and stick around the madhouse as long as possible, if not gain a permanent role.
On a quick note, one I failed to mention yesterday with all the stories swirling – Tuesday night was bigger than it seemed for the Hawks. While they were beating up on the Habs, the rest of the league was helping the Hawks make an averaged four point swing on most in the division. Dallas lost to Los Angeles 3-1; Pittsburgh took care of Minnesota handedly 4-1; Vancouver continued to confirm the issues in Colorado to the tune of 5-2; a personal favorite, the Predators lost to the Jets 3-1. Though the Blues, Flames and Jets picked up a hypothetical 4 points, so did the Hawks, log jamming the top five teams in the Central division between 1 game and 3 points. Not that the standings matter at this moment in the season, but those moments help later in the year. Especially when the Hawks will have to deal with Colorado, Minnesota and Saint Louis twice in their last four games of the year. Hopefully, those games won’t mean a thing – nights like Tuesday help make that a reality.
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury signs a 4-year/$23 Million contract extension with the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he has played all 11 years of his career and won a Stanley Cup in 2009. He has a 295-171-2-46 record on his career, with a 2.61 Goals Against Average, a .911% Save Percentage and has accrued 31 shutouts. Many things have been said about Fleury’s ability to stay consistent and to play well in the post season - but after last season, Penguins GM Jim Rutherford is optimistic of the Penguins future with Fleury. “It was just the consistency that he had last year and continued to be consistent through the playoffs. I believe it’s because of the adjustments he’s made for his preparation. This is a goalie that’s won a cup, and he’ll win again. And he’s capable. I’m very, very confident and obviously it’s why I signed him to his extension.” Rutherford said during a phone interview with the NHL Network Wednesday.
Corey Perry & Ryan Getzlaf sat out last evenings Overtime loss to the New York Islanders 3-2 with flu symptoms worsening the already bad situation of John Gibson who's out 6 weeks with a groin injury - starting the rumors and talks as to whether the Ducks will bring in a veteran goalie.
The Minnesota Wilds Zach Parise didn’t travel with the team this week, he's recovering from a concussion.
There’s still no timetable on Boston Bruins defensemen Zdeno Chara and his knee injury.
Philadelphia Flyers co-leading scorer and Left Wing Michael Raffl is out six weeks with a lower body injury – he was tied for the lead with Wayne Simmonds.
Looks like Patrick Sharp will be missing at least a month, still no official word regarding what exactly is wrong.
Just for kicks Feather Faithful, Sports Center put out a Top 10 “solo missions” video - individual plays up and down the ice in the history of hockey. You should look up the video; in case you don’t, here’s a spoiler… the top 2 plays are Blackhawks (No.2 is Toews and No.1 is Savard) Need I say more?
The Ottawa Senators have announced via their twitter account that they will be keeping their rookie forward Curtis Lazar in the NHL past his 9 game trial this season, the NHL Network is reporting. Ottawa just might end up hanging around and making some noise late in the year. Something to keep an eye on – their goaltending certainly doesn’t hurt.
Gordie Howe continues to improve in his recovery from a stroke suffered last week.
Columbus Blue Jackets defensemen Jack Johnson faced a player safety hearing for an illegal check to the head of Carolina Hurricanes Jiri Tlusty (left game, didn’t return) and has now been suspended for 3 games.
Washington Capitals Forward Alex Ovechkin became the franchise all time career points leader Tuesday in their loss to the Calgary Flames. His record setting feat comes in his 691st NHL game on an assist to Nicklas Backstrom giving Ovechkin his 826th point - all of which come as a Capital. He was previously tied with Peter Bondra, who took 961 games to get to 825.
3 teams in the West the faithful should keep an eye on this weekend.
VANCOUVER CANUCKS:Vancouver has put their less than stellar start behind them and has started playing a smooth, precise style of hockey under new head coach Willie Desjardins. Ryan Miller hasn’t been amazing in net, but with help in front of him has compiled a 9-1-0 record with a 2.21 GAA. The Sedin twins have found a new line mate and are rolling. With a trip to San Jose looming Thursday, followed by a trip to LA Saturday and wrapping up in Anaheim on Sunday, look for this three game California swing to be a decent indicator as to whether the Canucks have officially returned to the gauntlet with the rest of us after a two year hiatus.
SAINT LOUIS BLUES: As always this club continues to baffle in the regular season, coming up with ways to annoy the rest of the central division. Currently they’re still battling injury, including Statsny(shoulder), Backes(concussion) and Oshie(concussion). They’re also rolling with rookie goaltending after parting ways with Ryan Miller after last years failed cup run – yet they’re still finding ways to get the job done and currently sit at the top, again, in the central division. The next 72 hours might stand to be stressful though when New Jersey and Nashville come to town. New Jersey can prove to be just as annoying as the Blues at times, not unlike any Eastern Conference team may be to a high flying West team like Saint Louis - But the more telling matchup of the three days comes Saturday with the Nashville Predators. The top two teams in the division seem to be the only two that can’t get past the opening round of the payoffs. Something’s going to have to give, maybe not this weekend, but we’ll get a great insight into whether we Feather Faithful should be more worried about James Neal, Shea Weber and Pekke Rinne or the emerging Vladimir Tarasenko and Hitchcock’s chess games. Only time will tell.
CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS: I know, we’ll already be paying attention, but this is a big weekend for the Hawks with everything going on - with the floodgates opened and the first real injury of the year being suffered this weekend, it poses a fantastic opportunity for the Hawks to solidify their confidence and demeanor in Championship form. The Hawks will be on a 3 game stay at the Madhouse, hosting two teams from the East (Washington and Tampa Bay)of which the Hawks are 5-1 against so far this year. One Western Conference team comes in, and that’s the San Jose Sharks. The last time Washington was in the building the Hawks were hoisting banners and scoring goals. The San Jose Sharks seem to hate playing in Chicago in years past, as I’d expect with the lack of Salt Water on the West side. Tampa sure has some pure scoring capabilities and will prove tough but the Hawks have been more than solid on defense this year and the emphasis will still be on scoring goals – should be a high scoring game. Regardless, this game could be the first of two Stanley cup previews between the Lightning and the Hawks this season.
Bottom line, with all the action this weekend in the Western Conference and especially the Central Division, if the Hawks can roll off three wins in Chicago and stand pat while everyone else battles it out, they could find themselves sitting pretty near or at the top of the division by the time they leave the ice Tuesday night.
Keep the faith Chicago!!