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Chicago Blackhawks

Kris Versteeg’s at it again. Blackhawks 2, Flames 3

Kris Versteeg Blackhawks Flames

Here’s the thing.

No one cares about the Blackhawks right now. All of Chicago is transfixed by the Cubs, and rightfully so. Sunday’s game against the Kings, usually a more difficult game to get tickets to, happens to fall on the night of Game 5 of the World Series. It’s a game where the Cubs could potentially win it all, if they sweep the homestand.

I took a little look around the internet. Standing room seats are available on Stubhub as of this writing for around $25.  Kings/Hawks is my annual “splurge for nice tickets” game — a comparable seat to mine, a very fine seat in the lower bowl, is reselling for around $100 less.  

So no, no one is too interested in October hockey right now.

It’s probably a good thing, too. The Cubs are thrilling, full of slick, hot young players, some veteran depth, and enough interesting stories to last the entire post-season.

The Blackhawks? Not so much. They’ve got some rookies, and maybe there are some interesting stories there, though you wouldn’t know if you’re only casually following the team. Most casual fans probably still can’t tell you what a Gustav Forsling is. The team hasn’t done much to promote the new guys, outside of a minute long interview with Nick Schmaltz and Tyler Motte.  I get it, no one’s quite sure who’s going to stick and who’s taking a long drive back to Rockford, but still. This might be about all the Blackhawks have to work with, prospects-wise.  Neither of them are Auston Matthews, but the team could sell us on the new guys a little harder.  

Here’s the story on the Blackhawks so far this season: slow, a little discombobulated, playing people out of position, a miserable penalty kill. Like, historically miserable. This is a far cry from the unstoppable juggernaut of the 2012-13 season. This is a team that needs some work.

  • Facing off against Brian Elliott, now of the Flames, you still never know which Elliott you’re going to get. Is it the sieve who allowed 14 goals against over his first three games, all against fairly weak competition? Or is it the guy who seems to derive great joy from stoning the Blackhawks? This time we got the latter, as Elliott turned away all but two shots, including a late flurry in overtime.
  • Did everyone forget how to do a shootout? That was … not the most thrilling shootout I’ve ever seen in my life.
    • Me, right around when the shootout went past three rounds: “This is going to be won off a really stupid goal”
    • Me, immediately after Versteeg scored: “lol yep”
  • What is even left to say about the penalty kill? It’s bad. It’s unfathomably bad. The team knows it’s bad. It’s in their heads now, so good luck getting it out.  The Flames only had one power play goal before coming to the United Center; now they’ve got two more. Thanks, penalty kill.
  • Corey Crawford has been almost perfect at evens: he’s allowed three goals on 106 shots, with a .972 Sv%. The penalty kill woes can’t all be hung on him. People always say you have to hit rock bottom before things get better; I’m hoping the Blackhawks don’t want to try to push the limits of rock bottom much further than this.
  • Thank goodness for the Blackhawks carrying eight defenders to start the season. With Trevor van Riemsdyk already out for an extended time, Gustav Forsling took a hit and is considered day-to-day. Michal Rozsival, who was never going to see much action this season, is pressed back into service until Forsling’s ready to go again.
  • This game was stupid. Vinnie Hinostroza’s still a scratch. Let’s move on.

The Blackhawks are in New Jersey tonight to face the New Jersey Devils, complete with Taylor Hall Action, then return home for Sunday’s tilt against the Kings.  

All of these games are up against the Cubs. Go ahead. Keep watching baseball. Enjoy the ride while you can. Maybe when you come back to hockey, the Blackhawks will have their game evened out.

(Photo: Sarah Avampato)

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