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Posts Tagged ‘Joel Quenneville’

 

Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team In the Chicago Blackhawks-Vancouver Canucks Western Conference Semifinal series, most of the statistics are remarkably even. The one exception: shots on goal. The Hawks hold a decisive edge, accumulating a 31 shot advantage. Even though they’ve taken more shots than a college fraternity pledge during hazing week, the numbers of total goals scored in this series is a dead heat. Many of the Chicago slap shots are coming from beyond optimal range and often after a pass or two too many. It’s a true testament to the Vancouver defensemen, who have done a great job limiting Chicago’s prime scoring opportunities.

It also reaffirms the hype surrounding Canucks’ goaltender Roberto Luongo, one of the best in the business. By stopping 107/115 shots he’s faced (.930 save percentage), he’s clearly outplaying his Blackhawks counterpart Nikolai Khabibulin. The “Bulin Wall” has saved 72 of the 82 shots (.878 save percentage) coming his way. The Hawks scored very late in regulation and then again in overtime of Game 4 to win 2-1 and even the series at two games a piece.

After the road loss, Luongo spoke about the defense in front of him. “It was a pretty close game and we took the lead and we were doing what we needed to do in protecting that lead as far paying the price of blocking shots and stuff like that,” Luongo said.

In order to take control of this series, Chicago must do a better job converting more of their scoring opportunities. The optimal plan might be following Coach Joel Quenneville’s mantra of keep getting pucks on the net and eventually good things will happen.

“I think against him, shots at the net, traffic, second and third opportunities, tip screens, deflections, that’s how you have to beat him. The more we do that, the better chance we’ll have to put the puck behind him,” Quenneville stated. And like the greatest hockey player of all, Wayne Gretzky famously said: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

There’s one aspect of the game of hockey that makes the athletic achievements of the players all the more impressive. Most of the time, hockey players must perform their tasks aware that a giant Russian or Canadian man is speeding towards them on skates with the intent to kill them.


Well, not literally kill them, but hockey is an extremely physical game and the seek-and-destroy physicality often takes on an added dimension during the emotionally-charged Stanley Cup playoffs.

Click here to view the rest of this story on NBCChicago.com.

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team This week the Blackhawks reached one milestone, but fell short of another. The Hawks established an all-time single-season attendance record Wednesday night before their contest against the Columbus Blue Jackets. It’s amazing what putting home games on television, welcoming back iconic players and broadcasters, hosting the Winter Classic, developing a young winning team etc. can do for a franchise previously in need of rejuvenation!

Laura Fontana-Vena of Elmhurst was the 8,547th fan to pass through the United Center’s turnstile on Wednesday, marking the Blackhawks’ 835,972 this season, surpassing the former record of 835,971 established during the 1995-96 season. Fontanta-Vena was presented with a Blackhawks jersey with “835,972” on the name plate before performing the ceremonial puck drop. The Blackhawks’ new record is through 39 regular-season contests at the United Center, all of which have drawn capacity crowds. chicago-blackhawks

Now for the bad news, the Hawks lost that contest against Columbus, 4-3 in an overtime shootout.

However, they picked up a point in the standings, giving them a C-note for the season: a milestone they haven’t reached in 16 years. They now need just one point to clinch the 4th seed in the Western Conference- and with it home ice advantage for the playoffs’ first round. The Hawks have just two games remaining, a home and home with their hated rival Detroit. Hawks coach Joel Quenneville discussed the Red Wings. “I think both teams want to go into the playoffs on a strong and high note. They’re a dangerous team and we haven’t beaten them yet and I think we’ll be excited to finish strong,” the bench boss stated.

Should that option fail, Chicago can also grab the coveted 4th seed if the two teams chasing them, Vancouver and Calgary, both stumble somewhere in their last two. Calgary has a home and home with mediocre Edmonton. Vancouver faces off against two bottom feeders: the cellar dwelling Colorado Avalanche and the third-from-last Los Angeles Kings.

Wednesday night’s second period intermission was noteworthy as NBC Chicago’s own Paula Faris took part in the popular “Coca-Cola Shoot-the-Puck challenge.” The much ballyhooed on-ice promotion gives contestants three chances to win hundreds of dollars if they can put the puck in the net from the center line. Unfortunately Faris, like the Blackhawks themselves, fell short of her goal on this night and missed all three shots. However, I did hear from Hawks personnel that she made three in a row while practicing before the game.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team Last week the Chicago Blackhawks lost and later regained the Western Conference’s fourth seed and with it the final home ice advantage for the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. They’re currently two points ahead of the fifth place Vancouver Canucks – who come to town Sunday for a slightly important regular season game- and five points ahead of the 6th place Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Hawks are helped immensely by the return of pure scorer Patrick Sharp. Number ten looked as sharp as hispatrick_sharp namesake during his first game back Sunday. Sharp had 2 goals and an assist in a 4-1 victory over Los Angeles. It was also nice for the United Center crowd to hear ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man” played in celebration of goals again. Especially since we’re getting sick of the usual goal-scoring song- that annoying tune – Amstel light commercials. Chicago is 38-22-11 on the season, but went just 6-7-3 without Sharpie. “You add a player like that to our lineup, you have 3 lines that can all produce and are dangerous. So it’s a really nice addition,” Coach Joel Quenneville said.

The Hawks are just three points behind third place Calgary, but do not hold a realistic chance of obtaining third place, because the top three slots are reserved for division champions and the Hawks have no chance at catching the Central leading Detroit Red Wings. Seven of Chicago’s final 11 are at home, where the Hawks are 19-7-7. If Vancouver is to catch them, they’ll have to do it away from Canada with 7 of their final 11 on the road. And don’t forget about that youngster franchise in Columbus. The Blue Jackets have already set a franchise record for points in a season and are getting hot at the right time. During this final stretch, Chicago will try to get the same type of separation from the muddled middle that San Jose and Detroit currently possess.

“Being in the middle of this pack again, it certainly gets your attention. I think everyone has some stretches; during the course of the year we had some bumps. I think March was extended and I think we can learn something from it. Maybe we let off the gas pedal a little bit, and we know now: that can’t happen,” Quenneville stated on Sunday. Maintaining a position with home ice is crucial, because as star defenseman Duncan Keith recently told me, “We feed off that. When there’s 22, 21 thousand people cheering for you, it helps.”

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team
The Winter Classic may have received all the hype, but few regular season games will have more importance than Wednesday night when the Blackhawks welcome the NHL points leading San Jose Sharks to the United Center.

“It’ll be a good test, a huge game we gotta be up and ready for,” Hawks defenseman Brent Seabrook said.

On Sunday the Hawks (38-22-11, 87 pts) broke their five game winless streak.

Read the rest of this post on nbcchicago.com.

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team Now that being a Chicago Blackhawks fan is as trendy now as it was in the 60s during the franchise’s glory days, the team’s marquee players: Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and (to a lesser extent) Brian Campbell are all essentially local celebrities. But this team has some other All-Star level talent that you’ve never heard of. They’re currently fourth in the Western Conference despite having no one among the top 40 in the league in scoring- a testament to their depth. Beyond “Kaner,” “Taser,” and “Soupy,” (are you picking up the unofficial hockey player nickname generating formula yet?) these are the names you should know.

Patrick Sharp- “Sharpie,” the team’s leader in goals scored may be the most underrated player on the squad.

Duncan Keith- not to be confused with 90s one-hit wonder Duncan Sheik,versteeg_200 he’s the Hawks other blue-liner with an All-Star appearance on his resume.

Kris Versteeg- Hawks bench boss Joel Quenneville described the NHL’s rookie scoring leader thusly: “He’s a competitive guy that doesn’t get distracted by any of the stuff that goes on during a game: got good quickness, good imagination without the puck.”

Martin Havlat- started slow, but came on in January, when the team badly needed an offensive lift and is now second on the team (behind Kane) in scoring.

Goalie tandem of Cristobal Huet and Nikolai KhabibulinAlthough they tried to shop Khabibulin earlier in the season, the fact that he’s playing solid hockey here now is a warm, fuzzy feeling. When the playoffs come, having both the Bulin Wall and Huet, another goalie the Hawks acquired via a big money free-agent contract, sharing the net will be advantageous over other teams that lack fresh goaltending.

In addition to hosting the NHL’s marquee regular season game (Winter Classic), the Hawks have the premier position in three key off-the-ice criteria. The Indian head was voted the most recognized logo in NHL and the Hawks currently lead the league in attendance and merchandise sales. This shows how much they’ve built the brand. If they go far in the ’09 Stanley Cup playoffs, and later make an annual habit of doing so, the names I mentioned above will be instantly recognizable in this city.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

When Denis Savard was fired from his position as head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks just four games into this season, many people criticized the decision.
Most were uber-critical about the timing. Savard was a sentimental fan favorite, despite a 1-2-1 record on the young season.

Today however, the decision to insert Joel Quenneville in place of “Savvy” looks quite astute. With Coach Q. in place the team has seen its on-ice record (28-12-7 since the Indian committed to Quenneville) improve as much as the team’s Q Rating.

Click here to read the rest of this post on nbcchicago.com.

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