Monday, April 25, 2011

Knocked For A 'LU' 'LU'

Welcome to the NHL Big Ben Smith!!
      He claims he's not rattled, he claims the Chicago Blackhawks are not inside his head. He says game 7 is a 'great opportunity' and being part of it is 'fun'. (As much 'fun' as a postman has fending off a pitbull) He is saying all the right things that a starting goalie should say, but inside you know he is crumbling. The echoes of the UC crowd catcalling "Lu" "Lu" and Chelsea Dagger playing after the deciding OT goal are bouncing off the walls of his psyche. The 'He' I am referring to is Vancouver Canucks starting goalie, Roberto Luongo, in case you were wondering. The very same Luongo the Hoxx have knocked out of the playoffs 2 years running and now, remarkably, have a chance to run the total to 3. He has to be thinking, "NOT AGAIN!!"

Aw Crap!!!
     Roberto Luongo has been one of the top NHL goalies over the past several seasons, especially this year, having guided his team to the best record in the league and the President's trophy while being touted as a finalist for the Vezina trophy (league's top goaltender) His save percentage of .928 was 4th best in the league this year, while his lifetime save tally of .919 may end up be hall of fame worthy. But and there is a massive 'BUT' standing in his way of further career success and validation. That 'But' happens to be your beloved Chicago Blackhawks. Having been one of the elite teams in the league the last 3 years running, the Vancouver Canucks have been unable to advance past the Blackhawks no matter when they run up against them in the playoffs!!   In 2009 and 2010 the Blackhawks quickly made up early series deficits to soundly win both years 4-2. After last season, the Canucks, as well as Luongo, dedicated themselves to getting markedly better as a team and knock off anyone who crossed their paths come playoff time. Following the blueprint of hardwork and several veteran acquisitions, the 2010-11 season panned out as they'd hoped, bagging the best record in the NHL and looking decisively lethal for the upcoming playoffs. Just a week ago after a stellar season and a red hot start to the playoffs, the Canucks were on cruise control up 3-0 on Chicago and looking  like a shoe in to advance not only to the 2nd round but without a doubt to the Stanley Cup Finals.  Then they hit a speedbump. Dave Bolland rejoined the Hoxx off of the IR and the defending Stanley Cup Champs were suddenly a different squad. Game 4 was a pride salvaging effort for Chicago with the Hoxx winning 7-2. Luongo gave up 6 goals before being benched early in the 3rd period. Bolland netted a goal and 3 assists. Game 5, back to Rogers Place, surely composure would return and the Canucks would advance. The Blackhawks errupted for 5 goals over 2 periods chasing Luongo again!! I wrote after game 5 that Luongo was sliding and had to feel 'It' was happening again. Game 6 we headed back to the UC. If the Blackhawks could find a way to chase Luongo again and force a game 7 the series could possibly be theirs.......Then a new wrinkle; Having announced Luongo as starter in goal earlier in the day, game time saw Canuck rookie Corey Schneider in net. Canuck Head Coach, Alain Vigneault, took a bad gamble; he chose to bench his snakebit goalie Luongo in favor of a rookie.  The gamble backfired when on a penalty shot by Blackhawk Michael Frolik, Schneider hyperextended his right leg injuring his groin while letting in the tying goal. Schneider lay on the ice afterward roiling in pain. Now Luongo, who wasn't even afforded room on the bench to watch the game was pressed into action on short notice.....Another shot at redemption?? Yes. Did it pan out?? NO!!! Blackhawks rookie Ben Smith saw to that backhanding a wild rebound from his knees for the winning OT goal sending an already crazed UC crowd to rapture!! 

Not Zat one, Zat one!!!
        Vigneault's gamble made a tenuous situation even worse while creating even more unneeded drama for an already reeling Canucks team. Now a snakebit goalie, Luongo, benched 2 games in a row, and all but abandoned for game 6, only let into the game out of dire need, came up short in the clutch once again. Luongo was forced to do the skate of shame in front of a jubilant UC crowd.
      Roberto Luongo will get one more chance Tuesday night to get over the career hump that is the Blackhawks.  But, with all that's happened in the last 3 games (not to mention the 3 years cumulative)  plus the talk of Luongo possibly having an injured back, you have to like the Blackhawks odds. The Canuck coaches, players and fans can feel it all slipping away...again...The Chicago Blackhawks need only extend their stay in Luongo's brain through Tuesday then they can pull up stakes and move onto the second round!!  It won't take much Tuesday night to rattle Luongo and get his teammates to fold. If the Hoxx mass a 2 goal lead early the Canucks will dissolve like Alka Seltzer in water. The only difference is it won't cure the playoff hangover!!!   Chelsea, Chelsea I believe.......LET'S GO HOXX!!!!!!    Puck drops after 9 p.m.CDST in Vancouver Tuesday night.   Dave Kuhlman bullsbearscubssoxhoxx    dave@onyerleft.com

Friday, April 22, 2011

Why Such The Luongo Face???

Welcome Back Dave!!!
     NOW it's a series!!!!!  Just 4 short days ago after the Hoxx fell into an 0 and 3 hole in the opening round of the playoffs, I posted on facebook that the they would go on a miraculous tear and win 4 games in a row to shock the Canucks and win the series....I posted this partly out of hope, partly out of pride, and partly because I, just as legions of other Chicago Blackhawks fans, were left scratching our collective heads wondering 'where the hell' our defending Stanley Cup Champions had gone....?? I later posted before game 4 that if this was to be the last game of the Chicago hockey season than so be it...I would be thankful for the season and would look forward to a better one next year....That quiet resignation has been tossed out the window!! The hell with opening it first, I chucked it straight through the glass!!  The team that had been struggling to find itself all year has finally done so...The Hoxx had seemed to do so back  in February when they  gelled and went on an astounding 8 game win streak to put themselves back into playoff contention. But then injuries to Dave Bolland and Patrick Sharp derailed the run and the Hoxx found themselves praying for Minnesota to beat Dallas just to squeak into the playoffs..(Hey the Green Bay Packers barely made the playoffs and look what happened!!)

     The difference maker to the whole turnaround???  Dave Bolland. I had been saying to my coworkers and friends all along that if we could only get Bolland back the Hoxx would be a different team altogether....For once I was right. Having Bolland back in the lineup not only puts a talented offensive threat back on the ice but he takes a load of pressure off the first line to not have to pull off a goal every time they are on the ice. If you doubt that and look for the ways he can contribute, watch the replay of how he chipped the pack away from Daniel Sedin and found Michael Frolik streaking up the ice for a breakaway goal midway through game 4!! Dave Bolland single handedly turned the fortunes of game 4 and the Blackhawk's chances of survival on it's ear netting a goal and 3 assists!! Having Bolland back in the lineup has re-established the balance not only to the Hoxx offense but the the PK unit as well. Bolland was the missing link for the Blackhawks the first 3 games of the series. Now that he is back and the Hoxx have decided they don't want to golf in this crappy weather we are looking at a real series against the Canucks with a real chance to force game 7 back to Vancouver with a game 6 win Sunday night...Still a long grocery list to fill, but what looked insurmountable just 4 days ago looks entirely possible now!!

What just happened??!!
       The Canucks claim, led by a composed Roberto Luongo, (I guess getting to sit out the 3rd period again gives you alot of time to calm ((delude)) yourself !!).....that the Chicago Blackhawks are not in their heads and they are not in a panic, but just like your little sister saying that what you just nicknamed her isn't bothering her, you know the Hoxx have not only gotten inside their brains but are hammering down tent stakes for an extended stay. Suddenly, Luongo along with his Canuck teammates are in a different mindset flying back to Chi-town for game 6; no need to pack brooms for a pending sweep, no thinking of who they are playing in round 2.....The memories of bowing out of the playoffs to the mighty Blackhawks the last 2 years running has to be dancing endlessly through their cavernous heads!! As calm as he appeared during the post game news conference last night, on the inside, Luongo has got to be thinking, 'it's happening again' 'it's happening again' it's happening.....'   Going up 3-0 and then losing the last 2 contests in blowouts is the worst possible case scenario for the Canucks and Luongo. In both of the last 2 playoff series against Chicago they took leads only to see them melt away as defeats. The 2009 result will always be memorable because afterward Luongo broke into uncontrollable sobs on the ice as the teams lined up and shook hands. All the pressure is now squarely on the Canucks and especially Luongo's shoulders. Their fans saw them rack up the best record in the league this past season dominating the stat sheets while Luongo shut down team after team while netting the ever useless President's Trophy. (Not alot of teams point out that while failing to win the Stanley Cup they do have a real nice consolation trophy!! )  'Luongo and the Canucks' (sounds like a cheesy lounge band) have had one goal on their minds since last season abruptly ended...... that was and still is to find a way to crack the puzzle of how to beat the Chicago Blackhawks and advance in the NHL playoffs. They seemed to have figured it out the first 3 games of the series, skating and checking aggressively with Luongo atop his game just like the regular season, looking at a sweep and at last, redemption. But the Hoxx weren't dead yet, and just as the Canucks's forensic team rolled over the body to check for vitals, a bloddied extended arm shot up  and seized them by the throat!!  Vancouver has become desperate. The aggressive style of play has to devolved into cheap shots and elbows to the head. Their once unflappable hero, Luongo,  has been yanked after 2 periods the last 2 games in a row....(10 goals in 4 1/2 periods!!)  NOW there is a battle afoot, NOW we have a series, NOW the Canucks must decide if they stick with the dirty style of play they exhibited Thursday night which only dug the hole deeper or to pull back, (Edler should definitely be suspended for the elbow he maliciously threw at Brower's head!!!!) and whether to stick with their talented yet seemingly hexed  goalie, Roberto Luongo??? An awful lot to think about on a 4 hour plane ride....Once the thrill of getting to pick out any soda he wants on the ride fizzles for Luongo, the music will slowly slip inside his head....Chelsea, Chelsea I believe.....for a moment he finds his fingers tapping along .....NOOOOOO.... it's happening again!!! It's happening again!!!!    The puck hits the ice Sunday night at 6:30!!   LET'S GO HOXX!!!!!                 Dave Kuhlman    Bullsbearscubssoxhoxx     dave@onyerleft.com

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Oh Where Oh Where Has my Underdog Gone???

Anyone remember what this felt like??

     After reading another article in today's Trib about Blackhawk's team captain, Johnathan Toews giving the same speech to his beleaguered teammates outlining what they need to do going forward  after yet another devastating loss, it left me wondering.....I feel like sweet Polly Purebred wondering where the hell Underdog has gotten off to...As I've pointed out numerous times, this year's Blackhawks squad has undergone significant personnel changes with 12 Blackhawk players from last year's Stanley Cup Champions now donning opposing teams sweaters due to trades, free agency, salary arbitration and outright suckiness (  the only one missing Nick Boynton  is his barber!!) However, the Hoxx, as I have nicknamed them, have had plenty of time, 6 months now, to adjust to these changes and come together as a solid winning team. The roster is still stacked with All-Star talent and arguably 3-4 future hall of famers. Toews, Kane and Sharp are all among the league leaders in points amassed for goals scored and assissts. Marian Hossa has been a red hot scoring machine as of late and Corey Crawford is 3rd in the league in GAA.  (goals against average) Coach Q did another amazing  on the fly job of engineering  lineup changes that had put the Hoxx back into the thick of the playoff race with an 8 game winning streak over the last few weeks. So after having climbed to 4th position in the Western conference standings with a 6-3 drubbing of San Jose last just as of  last weekend, here 'we' are again teetering on the playoff bubble following a pathetic 5-0 pounding at the hands of the Dallas Stars Wednesday night. "Captain Serious" is trying to will his team forward every way he knows how, but something still seems to be missing. Are these guys listening?? Do they give a crap?? I'm sure they are, nobody likes to lose.The only reason I can draw here is there seems to be a palpable lack of desire. Not from Toews or Kane or really anyone in particular, but when the Blackhawks drop games like they did against both Florida teams two weeks ago or they just flat out fail to show up like they did in Dallas that leaves me scratching my bald head, you have to feel that this year's team lacks the hunger it had last year. I don't believe a GM a head coach, or even a team captain, all three of which I feel we have the best of in the NHL,  can instill or inspire hunger into a team, it's either there or it's not. Desire and hunger are elements you cannot simply snap into place. Last year's team just had both. Having been knocked out of the Conference finals by Detroit in 2009, the 2010 team hit the ice at full sprint with vengeance in their hearts and never looked back. As I mentioned previously, yes there was a ton of personnel turnover as every team that wins the Cup has to absorb, but with all the talent that is still here and an ace GM, Stan Bowman, and coach Q at the helm, it should be different by now. The 8 game winning streak was great but it seems as distant a memory as last Summer's parade. The last 5 games have seen the Hoxx go 1-4, (2 were OT losses nabbing 2 crucial points, but losses none the less) they are hardly looking like a team that is ready or wants to contend again. Maybe with the Olympics, the prolonged playoff run last Spring and all the celebrating last Summer, it's too much to ask the Blackhawks to have the deep seeded fire they exhibited last season. Maybe they don't want to grow those itchy beards again!!?? The Hoxx are still in contention and all is not lost, but I'd feel a hell of alot better knowing they had clinched a playoff spot by now!!
     It's not going to end my world if  'we' don't win again this year and I know it  probably won't happen, but it was one hell of alot of fun watching the pride restored in Chicago hockey once again. Parade day was too much for words!! The city was absolutely crazy that day!! It just seems for a city of our size with the fan base all our teams enjoy,  the championships come all too far and few between!! We haven't enjoyed a repeat champ since 1998! (I love the Bears to death as well but how many times can we celebrate a trophy won 25 years ago??!!)  Here's hoping the Captain  and the rest of our beloved Hoxx find the fire and desire again and kick the Coyotes asses tonight!! The puck drops in Phoenix at 7pm (Chicago time)  LET'S GO HOXX!!!    Dave Kuhlman bullsbearscubssoxhoxx dave@onyerleft.com

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Big Z, Warm Sun, No Runs?? Who Cares??!!

      Today's piece comes to us from bullsbearscubssoxhoxx on site Spring Training correspondent; Chase Comus.  The Northsiders struggled again failing to log any runs, but as Chase noted, Big Z was steady while not having his best outing; 1 run and 1 K through four frames. More importantly, zero teammates and or Gatorade buckets taking a beating!!  Z has been solid thus far and if he can keep his lid screwed on this year the Cubs will have a good chance at the playoffs.....anyway sounds like it was a great day to be watching the Cubs.......

       -Carlos Zambrano has been nothing but impressive so far this spring for the Chicago Cubs, showing a glimmer of hope for the Northsiders.  Prior to Tuesday’s game against the Colorado Rockies, Zambrano had yet to allow a run this Spring Training season.  However, his performance today lacked the spark needed to get the job done in a 4-0 loss.
                On a warm, sunny day in Scottsdale, the Cubs struggled to get anything going offensively against a  Rockies split squad... batter after batter returning to the dugout bat in hand. Defensively, it  started heading south in the second inning when left fielder Tyler Colvin misjudged a fly ball, resulting in a misguided attempt to make a Sports Center highlight reel–esque diving grab allowing Todd Helton to reach base safely. However, shortly thereafter, Geovany Soto showed us all why he should still be the starting catcher for the Cubbies as he beautifully threw out Helton attempting to steal second. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much else going Chicago’s way from here on out. A routine groundball hit weakly to third baseman Jeff Baker was thrown off target, allowing the eventual leading run on base when Thomas Field squeaked a grounder through the middle of the infield.
                The Cub bats continued to struggle as Zambrano failed to bring the heat. Before heading to the lockers in the fourth inning, El Toro allowed one run and five hits, while striking out just one lonely batter. Starlin Castro and Geovany Soto were the only Cubbies able to connect with the ball, ultimately being stranded on base. It was a frustrating day for the team and fans alike, but one can only wonder what a difference absentee’s Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez could have made.
                Despite the hardships Chicago has endured so far this Spring Training, one thing remains constant: fans still pile in to see their Cubbies. Even as a visiting team, the majority of the cheers went Chicago’s way and chants of "Fuku-dome"  persisted throughout. As a diehard fan myself, it’s tough to watch my team lose, especially a shutout loss. Win or lose, the Cubbies still have the best fans in the MLB!

Chase Comus- Scottsdale, Arizona

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Chicago Cubs Welcome New "Hitting" Coach.....

                                              It was the Dukes...it was the Dukes....

(The following is an outright spoof of the Cubs, Mike Quade and Mickey Ward. The Cubs Spring training season is not going the way any of us wants it, unless you're a White Sox fan.  I thought it would be fun to provide a little comic relief. I'm a die hard Cubs fan and will be until I die. But DAMN if the Cubs don't take 'Die Hard' to a completely different level sometimes!! I'm hopeful 2011 will be a great year for the Cubs and their fans but I will not be shocked if the wheels come off sometime in June. Please enjoy the following with a grain of salt!)

     Disgusted with last week's dugout occurrance, Chicago Cubs manager, Mike Quade has brought in some outside help. "Look, if we're gonna beat ourselves this year we may as well do it right!!"  The "Occurrance" we are referring to is the brawl between teammates pitcher Carlos Silva and third baseman Aramis Ramirez. "It was just pathetic!" Quade remarked, "two guys going at it like that....Doesn't Silva possess any boxing skills at all??...And Ramirez was certainly no better, leaving his left side exposed like that!! Keep your hands up man!! Come the regular season when Big Z (Carlos Zambrano, 3-0-0 lifetime dugout boxing record) gets after him Ramirez is gonna get killed!!"

    Spring training is supposed to be the time when MLB teams iron out wrinkles while prepping for the upcoming season and the Cubs have been trying their 'best' once again this year. They appear to already be in mid-season form after just one week on the field in Arizona. They have won 1 and lost 5 and are an astounding 4.5 games back of the league leaders. Quade sized up the Cubs effort thus far, "Typically it takes us at least two weeks of spring training to dig ourselves this big of a hole, but we've really been on point so far...guys are booting routine grounders and misjudging fly balls with such inaccuracy it would make (Cubs legend) Sammy Sosa jealous....and the pitching...lemme just say we will give up any sized lead at the drop of a hat."

     So with the Cubs right where they 'want' to be on the field, and manager Quade fed up with the Cubs lousy boxing skills, Cubs GM Jim Hendry announced earlier today that former boxing legend "Irish" Mickey Ward has agreed to council each and every Cubs palyer on the sweet science of boxing. "Coming on the tail of the movie about my life, The Boxer starring 'Marky Mark' Wahlberg and Christian "Batman" Bale, I couldn't be happier to be helping the Cubbies out at this point in my life!...It's all about helping a bunch of 'kids' sharpen their defense skills while keeping them ready to make that uppercut right for the knockout!!"  No stranger to taking a few lumps himself, Ward, most famous for his trilogy of bombastic boxing battles against former legend Arturo Gatti, (rest his soul) Ward won the first  of those brawls only to come out a little short in the last two...... "You've just got to keep plugging away to achieve your dream" Ward said, "I mean someone in that dugout has got to be able to take Zambrano down, and with my help we'll get it done!!"  "We are just thrilled to the bee's knees to have a guy like Mickey Ward here to help us out!!" replied an excited Hendry.

      Terms of Ward's deal were not available at the time of this printing but to have this landmark deal in place before St. Patrick's Day, the the most violent time of the year for the Irish, Ward himself included, is just fantastic. An excited Mike Quade finished the interview by remarking, "We wholeheartedly welcome 'Irish' Mickey Ward with open arms and can't wait for the real season to start...with any luck, by the end of April we will be well out of contention on the field and Ramirez and Silva as well as the rest of the team will put on some brilliant pugilistic exhibitions in the dugout for the fans!! Forget about the old saying 'Completely Useless By September'  the fans will be able to count us out at least by April 30th!! ('C.U.B.A.' ??) It's gonna be a great year.... Cubs fans can now count on more than just bad baseball for their money....well gotta go, Mickey's bunking with me." An upbeat Quade jogged away and sped off in his car presumably to meet Ward.  Looks like next year is here before it even began!!  Dave Kuhlman  bullsbearscubssoxhoxx    dave@onyerleft.com

Friday, March 4, 2011

Canadian Idol leads the Blackhawk Hit Parade!!

                    You don't spit into the wind and you don't mess around with the Captain!!

     The Defending Stanley Cup Chicago Blackhawks emabark on another 'must win' weekend staring tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes at the United Center. The Blackhawks have caught fire as of late reeling off 6 wins in a row and entrenching themselves squarely in the middle of the Western Conference playoff picture. Captain Johnathan Toews has put the team squarely on his back continuing his February performance as the leagues top "3 star" performer by racking up 2 more stellar goals Wednesday night. Whatever Cap'n Serious is eating for breakfast let's order a warehouse full!! Michael Frolik acquired from the Florida Panthers for Jack Skille two weeks ago finally found the scoresheet with a goal and 2 assists. We knew he was a good addition and maybe it just took a little time to get used to Chicago cooking. Overall the Hawks have found their team rhythym again and they look like the team they were last year while looking to be primed for a deep playoff run. The astounding aspect here is that despite going 7-1-2 over their last 10 games and currently sitting in 4th position for the playoffs, there are 11 Western Conference teams within 16 points of each other!  Parity has spread from the NFL to the NHL!!  The Western Conference at least. The 4th place Blackhawks are within 9 points of division leading Detroit, not insurmountable, yet only 2 points away from being out of contention!!  In the immortal words of Chris Farley, "Holy Schniekies!!"  Here is solid proof of the league salary cap at work. The league wants and has established parity.
 Parity now levels the playing field in the NHL as it has in the NFL, to the point where late in the season it's still anyone's championship to win. The Bears, the Packers as well as the bulk of the NFC were perfect examples of this. Green Bay was one loss away from not even making the playoffs let alone going on to win Superbowl XLV...This makes it more fun for the fans as far fewer are resigned to watching their respective teams play out the string while looking toward next year. The fans stay involved to the bitter end as we Bear fans did. SO close yet so far away!!
     Back to the situation in the NHL's Western Conference; The Blackhawks have been victims of and benefactors of the salary cap  in the same year. The Hawks are a team loaded with young talent and Chicago GM Stan Bowman was faced with an unenviable position ( I'm sure there weren't too many tears falling for us outside of Chicago!!) after winning the Stanley Cup last June; too many Blackhawks deserved a pay bump and there just wasn't enough space under the cap to accomodate everyone, so Bowman swapped, allocated and allowed guys to leave via free agency while picking up less experienced players and prospects in return. 10 roster spot changed overall. Too much change for most teams to digest especially after a shorter layoff than usual, but  thanks to parity the Blackhawks will not have to amass 112 points as they did last year and maybe not even the 95 it usually takes to clinch the 8th and final spot. It is hard to point at a Western Conference team and say, "this is a gimme game." all 15 are capable of putting up a formidable fight on any given night. Some may argue the cap eliminates the dynasty runs seen in the past. Let's face it though, those runs are only fun for the team and it's fans enjoying them. The rest of the league is left to play catch up typically with less revenue and resources.The salary cap is doing it's job evening out revenue and the playing field (surface here) even if it has hurt the Blackhawks chances at repeating this year. Nobody has repeated as Stanley Cup Champions since the 1996-1998 Redwings. Can the Hawks buck the trend?? Thanks to the mastery of Stan Bowman and his dad Scotty  we have a really good shot. We will find out in the weeks to come. First things first, the Blackhawks face 2 more must win games this weekend against Carolina at home and in Toronto. After Saturday, the  Mighty Blackhawks only have 16 games remaining with only 6 on home ice. It's gonna be an uphill skate for sure but we can feel a whole lot more confident with Toews leading the way!!  The Puck hits the United Center ice at 7:30 tonight.......Lets GO HOXX!!!!    Dave Kuhlman   bullsbearscubssoxhoxx    dave@onyerleft.com

Post Note:   I had the distinct privelege to be a guest on the Artie Clear Sports Talk Show last night. Artie hosts Philadelphia's (Give our puck back Pronger!!) most popular sports talk radio show on WiFi 1460 AM every weekday from 5-8pm EST. Artie graciously afforded me 12 minutes to rant about my beloved Chicago Blackhawks and the ever muddled NHL playoff picture. Artie is an expert on all things sports. Being a first time guest,  I was a tiny bit nervous going in but that vanished the second I was on the line with Artie. He is a welcoming host who makes his guests feel as though they are already good buddies just chatting about sports over a cold beer in his living room. It was a great experience and I truly hope I'm invited back. Thanks again to Amy Williams, Artie's ace producer who scouted me out and picked me for the show and the whole crew at the Artie Clear Show!! (http://www.theartieclearshow.com/)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Welcome Back Kotter....Er..... I Mean Blackhawks...

                                                  You can keep the puck Pronger!!

Holy Crap!!  Hockey season has finally started in Chicago!  Someone forgot to tell the Defending Stanley Cup Champs that it actually began 5 months ago, but hey, better late than never. By drubbing the Minnesota Sweat Hogs (Im assuming thats what they meant when they named their team 'the Wild') 4-2 last night, the Blackhawks look to have recaptured the some of the magic they enjoyed all last season. There was puck control, crisp passing, teamwork guys diving in front of shots, and even John "Gimme Your Lunch Money" Scott got into it with Wild winger Brad Staubitz. Staubitz made the unfortunate mistake of trying to hammer Brian Campbell as he was touching up on a pending icing call. Staubitz didn't even make good contact thunderously slamming himself into the boards, but the intent was there. Before Staubitz could blink, Scott who had been on the ice for maybe 90 seconds, pushed Campbell aside like his little sister, and was on top of Staubitz like a Doberman going after 5 lbs of raw hamburger. Scott rained blows nonstop on Staubitz's surprised mug until the refs pulled Scott off. The reusult; 17 penalty minutes for Scott and 7 for Staubitz. No man dissadvantage for the Blackhawks. Job well done by John Scott, message sent!!  I had written a few weeks ago about the need for Coach Q to make use of John Scott's "talents" again and I'm damned glad he's back. The surprised look on Staubitz's face during the fight said it all. It all happened in a heartbeat! Teams will think twice about pulling something dirty when they know John Scott may jump out of the bushes and beat the snot out of them!!       For some reason it has taken the Hawks this long to find their groove but it's coming at the right time. Last night's win leapfrogged them from 9th to 5th place in the tightly packed Western Conference. Team Captain 'Serious' Johnathan Toews (pr. Taves)  has taken the team on his back like a Grand Canyon pack mule and doesn't show any signs of slacking. His linemates, Chicago magazine coverboy, Patrick Sharp (1 g)and Patrick Kane (1a) also neatly tallied points last night while the unit is working ridiculously well together. The 3 goals Toews was involved in were all teamwork personified. Twice he fed a teammate with a beautiful pass for an easy tally and the goal he potted late in the 2nd period was a wicked snap shot on a gorgeous feed from Patrick Kane that Backstrom never saw coming. Late in the third period down 3-2 Minnesota was desperately trying to mount a comeback when Wild center Bouchard made a sprawling attempt to keep the puck in the zone on a power play. Bouchard managed to hook the puck with his outstretched stick but as he went down Captain Toews simply stepped over him while snagging the puck (Yoink!) and escaped down the ice deftly feeding Marian Hossa for a shorthanded goal crushing  the Sweat Hog's hopes and sealing the Blackhawk's 5th straight victory. Other players may have more overall goals and or assists but I doubt they mean as much to their respective teams as Johnathan Toews does. He goes out and earns the right to wear the "C" on his sweater every single night.
     So the DSCC's (Defending Stanley Cup Champions) have 19 games left starting with Calgary at home Wednesday night at 8p.m.and are finally skating from a position of strength. If they keep the fire burning they have finally gotten lit after 5 months of trying they are serious candidates to hoist the Cup come June!!  The road ahead is still a tough one with only 5 of 13 games in March at the UC and only 8 total home games of 19 remaining. On top of that, 3 of those are against the red hot Red Wings, but I'm far less concerned, as I'm sure many are, now the Blackhawks have found their stride again. No better time than the home stretch!!   Dave Kuhlman bullsbearscubssoxhoxx   dave@onyerleft.com    

Post note:  Defenseman Jordan Hendry will undergo knee surgery and miss the rest of the season. Nick Leddy who was finally given a permanent position (well earned!!) and new acquisition, Chris Campoli will need to absorb the slack in Hendry's absence.