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Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Toews’

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

Heading into 2008-09, the season of Chicago Blackhawks renaissance, it was thought in certain circles that Hawks General Manager Dale Tallon could be on the way out. Tallon was more Bill Wirtz’s guy than he was Rocky Wirtz’s guy. After NHL coaching legend Scotty Bowman joined the Hawks organization (pronounced “organ-I-zation” in Canadian English) as Senior Advisor of Hockey Operations, rumors swirled that Tallon might be replaced by Bowman’s son, assistant GM of Hockey Operations, Stan Bowman.
Today however, Tallon is sitting pretty as the blueprint for success he drafted has guided the Hawks much further along the postseason path than anyone expected. After advancing to their first Conference Final since 1995, (where they’re currently down 2-1 to the Red Wings), Tallon spoke about his team, the youngest in the league, climbing the ladder much faster than expectedtallon

“The sooner the better is fine with me. I don’t want to wait any longer, it’s been fun and I’m proud of these kids, this is the greatest group of kids I’ve been around; on and off the ice,” Tallon said.

Tallon’s first season as GM was tumultuous. After the 2004–05 NHL season was canceled due to labor issues, a new collective bargaining agreement was signed. This created a new financial structure and many rule changes intended to yield higher scoring games. In response, Tallon reshaped the team, but most of his free agents never panned out and the Hawks finished 14th in the 15-team Western Conference.

However, since then he turned the Blackhawk franchise around (the Hawks are the only team in the NHL to improve their win total each of the past four years) by drafting young talents Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and also acquiring stars Patrick Sharp and Kris Versteeg. Tallon recently spoke about the traits possessed by his young nucleus. “Their impeccable character- they’re beyond their years as far as composure and intelligence…they’re way ahead of their time as far the mental aspect of it, their maturity impresses me,” Tallon said before later commenting on his team’s versatility:

“This is a team that can play any style, it you want to play it tough, we’ll play it tough, if you want to play speed, up-tempo, we’ll do that too. I think people underestimate how strong and resilient these kids are.” Chicago’s deep playoff run has been great for hockey ratings on television, and the NHL could certainly use this boost. Perhaps the Blackhawks’ rebirth, led in part by the young stars Dale Tallon drafted, will help improve the league’s damaged Q rating. Tallon spoke about the plethora of current young NHL stars.

“As hockey fans we’re in a great era right now. You see Crosby perform and Ovechkin and Malkin, and you see Backstrom in Washington and everyday we get to see Kane and Toews and don’t forget we’ve got some other young guys in Bolland, Brouwer, and Byfuglien, you can go down the list…we’re very fortunate in this era to be able to witness such young players excel at such a young age,” Tallon stated.

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

With the Chicago Blackhawks capturing the city’s heart this season, numerous second city citizens who previously ignored hockey are now finding themselves to be experts on the sport’s terminology. “Even Strength” is the term used to describe the portion of the game when both teams have the same number of attackers on the ice. It’s also the perfect way to describe the Hawks match-up with the Vancouver Canucks in. The statistics for the best of seven series, which Vancouver now leads 2-1, are remarkably even. Vancouver has the edge in total goals by just one, Vancouver has committed only two more penalties than Chicago, and both teams have exactly 13 penalty kills in this series.

Each team even has a home venue (United Center and General Motors Place) named by a transportation corporation recently in or headed towards bankruptcy protectionchicago-blackhawks

Vancouver defenseman Ossi Vaananeen spoke highly regarding the fundamentals of the team currently battling his squad so tightly. “They’ve played well, in a tough division. They have good power play, good special teams, they scored a lot of even strength goals, they had more points than us this year,” Vaananeen said.

An even Steven series should have been expected when considering how the regular season went. Just 3 points and one win separated the two clubs in the 2008-09 standings. The two teams also tied for exactly 88 points in 2007-08. Even though the Hawks were the better team during the regular season, they now must win Thursday, if they are to have a realistic shot at winning the series. Hawks captain Jonathan Toews spoke about some things Chicago must improve. “I think we need to start chipping away and moving out feet to wearing them down next time,” Toews said in reference to the Hawks falling behind in each game of the series. The way things are going, it will likely take a 7th game (and probably and overtime shootout) to decide this Western Conference semifinal.

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
The rise of the Chicago Blackhawks franchise from obscurity to fan and media darling has been well documented. But there’s another (and even more positive ) story that also needs to be told. As bright as the present currently is, the future looks even better. The team’s leaders are a very young core of players whose best days are likely still in front of them. The most recent player to emerge is speedy left winger Kris Versteeg, one of three finalists for the 2009 Calder Trophy, given out annually to the league’s top rookie. Great at both ends of the ice, Versteeg has the chance to become the ninth Chicago player in team history to be awarded the Calder Trophy and joins teammates Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews as the third Blackhawk in the last two seasons voted a Calder Trophy finalist.

Versteeg led all NHL rookies with 31 assists as part of a youthful nucleus that’s set to meet the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference semi-finals. His four shorthanded goals (or “shorties”) were also tops among League rookies and fourth overall. “Playing on this team we’re exciting, we play hard for each other and Kane and Toews, they’ve kind of been through it before and they know what it takes to do it,” Versteeg said.

 (AP Photo/Frederick Breedon)

Patrick Kane captured the honor last season. Other past Blackhawks to earn the award are: Mike Karakas (1936), Carl Dahlstrom (1938), Ed Litzenberger (1955), William Hay (1960), Tony Esposito (1970), Steve Larmer (1983) and Ed Belfour (1991). “It’s been huge just to be nominated for it,” Versteeg stated. The winner announced June 18th. The other two finalists for the award:

-Steve Mason, Columbus Blue Jackets. Named the NHL’s Rookie of the Month for both November and December, he accomplished a four-game winning streak where he stopped 94 of 95 shots. As Columbus captured the first playoff berth in franchise history, Mason’s 10 shutouts led the League and his 2.29 goals against average was second only to Boston’s Tim Thomas (2.10).

-Bobby Ryan, Anaheim Ducks. The second overall selection in the 2005 Draft, Ryan led all rookies with 31 goals and 57 points in just 64 games. Ryan earned Rookie of the Month honors for January with 11 goals and five assists in 14 games.

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 last time the Chicago Blackhawks won a playoff series was 1996 — a first round triumph over the Calgary Flames. If history repeats itself in 2009, the series MVP could likely be Hawks Center Jonathan Toews, who was 8 years old back then.

He was born the same year the Flames’ home arena, the Pengrowth Saddledome, hosted Winter Olympic hockey in 1988. With 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists), team captain Toews is leading the Hawks in scoring this postseason.

Click here to read this entire post on NBCChicago.com.

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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

When the Chicago Blackhawks named 20 year old center Jonathan Toews their team captain last off-season, he became the youngest guy in the NHL (third youngest in league history) to wear the capital “C” on his jersey. With this honor came the responsibility of taking accountability to the media grilling after games, including the tough losses when no players feel like talking. Toews has a captaincy style similar to White Sox leader Paul Konerko: serious, soft-spoken and always ready to analyze and discuss the state of his team. When the Hawks encountered their last rough patch, Toews spoke candidly about it:

“We know there’s going to be tough stretches during the schedule. At the end of the day there’s always going to be little things nagging at you: injuries, fatigue whatever it is, but those excuses don’t matter. Everyone knows we’re a young team, but we showed what kind of a team we are in December and we want to keep going down that path and getting better,” Toews said following a recent disappointing home loss to St. Louis. toews-blackhawks-392

Recently Toews has talked a lot with his game. With 6 points in the last 5 games (including the Hawks’ only hat trick this season on February 27th) Toews is getting hot down the stretch. With star forward Patrick Sharp away from the ice on injured reserve, Toews is now the leading goal scorer on the Western Conference’s fourth seeded team. In just his second season, the 3rd overall pick of the 2006 NHL draft is far from the most tenured player on the team. However, it’s Toews, not one of the older veterans in the Hawks locker room, who puts the ups-and-downs of the 80 game grind in perspective.

“It’s a long season, we’re not going to make excuses, even the best teams have their rough spots, we just got to learn to battle through and not accept that. We got enough character and will in this room to be a successful team and the success we had early on- we know that’s not good enough. We’re not satisfied,” Toews said describing the big picture.

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 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 Khabibulin- Although 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

It’s the midpoint of the second year of the Rocky Wirtz regime, and overall the Chicago Blackhawks are sitting pretty. They’re tied for the third most points in the Western Conference, and this team of promising young stars heads to the NHL all-star break with three players (two of which are not yet legal drinking age) on the Western Conference starting line. And just last month, they achieved a franchise record winning streak.

In the called song “Roxanne,” Sting instructed her to “put on the red light,” which the Hawks have done this season — although not lately — thanks to a much-improved special teams unit. Although they’ve converted a miniscule 4 of their last 42 power play opportunities, they’re still tremendously improved on penalty kill and power play conversion percentage from 2007-08.

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

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank Chicago Blackhawks top scorer Patrick Kane, along with teammate Jonathan Toews, was recently voted to start for the Western Conference in the NHL All-Star Game on the 25th. Together, the two young forwards serve as poster children for a revitalized franchise that leads the league in attendance and merchandise sales and team that is third in the league in scoring. “Kaner” recently answered questions about this banner season on conference call.patrick-kane52

He mentioned fellow Hawks currently flying under the radar. “I would probably have to say Patrick Sharp. With the Blackhawks, you mention names, you always hear about Kane and Toews, Campbell. Duncan Keith goes unnoticed. He is probably one of the biggest underdogs on the team, Sharpy, too. They never seem to get enough recognition, them two. It’s a shame they were not on the All-Star ballot. Duncan made it last year and Sharpy had 36 goals last year and he has 20 already. He’s a great goal scorer and definitely an All-Star in this league. Definitely those two guys are underappreciated,” Kane said.

Although the Hawks have been winning a lot of games lately, they still struggle against their hated rivals, the Stanley Cup Champion, Detroit Red Wings. Kaner spoke about the Wings’ postseason run last year:

“Guys like Zetterberg, Datsyuk; they are so fun to watch. You have a guy like Franzen who is scoring all these goals. It was fun to see a team with so much skill win where in the past it’s been teams like the Ducks who were kind of real physical and had a couple big lines that dominated down low,” Kane said before describing how different his sophomore season in Chicago has been from his rookie year.

“I think last year coming in, you’re just so happy to be in the NHL. Started playing a couple games and you realize the building is empty and you want to do something to try to fill it up. It’s amazing how quickly it’s happened. You look at the team, it’s pretty much been a total 180 from where we were at the beginning of last year. It’s unbelievable. Obviously the credit goes to the players, the management, Dale Tallon, Denis Savard obviously, Joel Quenneville, John McDonough, Rocky Wirtz, guys like that that have really helped turn us around and it’s just fun to be a Blackhawk right now.”

Paul M. Banks is a contributor for The Washington Times and founder of the webzine The Sports Bank.net

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank After their annual circus road trip started well and ended poorly, the Chicago Blackhawks returned home from their long 3-2-1 road trip to find themselves down by a goal late in the third period to the Anaheim Ducks, one of the top four teams in the Western conference. Since fellow goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin went down with an injury, big money free agent signee Cristobal Huet was winless and brandishing a mediocre goals against average. After shutting out the Ducks in the first period and making two breathtaking stops that aroused the United Center crowd in the second, Huet found himself the recipient of harsh booing in the final period as most of the 21,574 at the UC verbally expressed their disgust. This time however, Huet showed why he commanded the big bucks and raised his game up while his teammates came together on offense.

Jonathan Toews, with a game leading two points, scored the game winner assisted by (just added to the first line) Dustin Byfuglien and prominent rookie Kris Versteeg with about a minute and a half left restoring the roar of the UC crowd. This point was accentuated later when fans erupted for Dave Bollland’s empty netter making the final result 4-2. “In the first we came out strong and then in the second we struggled a little bit, but we battled hard and in the end it paid off,” Huet said.blackhawks

It was more than just your garden variety comeback for the Blackhawks; this victory was especially emotional. At this first home game following a long road trip, the team had two pre-game ceremonies; each offered a polarity of feeling to the die-hard Hawks fan. The team honored two-time All Star and 1983 Rookie of the Year Steve Larmer, who is also the third leading goal scorer in franchise history. This joyous tribute was followed immediately by a sorrowful homage to Pit Martin, the former Hawks forward who passed away this week. Martin played 11 years with the team and is 7th on the franchise list in career points.

Hawks head coach Joel Quenneville talked about the magnitude of defeating Anaheim for both his goaltender Cristobal Huet and the team at large. “They’re a good team, 7-1-1 their record in the last nine road games is pretty impressive, so we should move forward from this one and be excited about next game. A big team win, a big win for Huet and I’m sure it will help his confidence as well. Huet deserves a W and I’m sure he’ll feel better going forward too,” Quenneville said.

For more Chicago Sports Analysis and discussion.

For my Washington Times.com blog “Chicago Blue State.”

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank Jonathan Toews (pronounced “tay-ves”) was named Blackhawks team captain this past summer, therefore becoming the youngest player in the NHL to currently serve in that capacity and the third youngest player in NHL history to receive that honor. Last season he finished third in Calder Trophy (Rookie of the Year) voting while teammate Patrick Kane won the award. Toews however, led all NHL rookies in goals. He was second on the Hawks in that category and third on the team in assists.

I spoke with Toews just after a three-star performance that included an assist and a game-winning goal over the powerful Anaheim Ducks. The 4-2 win resulted from a furious comeback in which the Hawks found themselves down 2-1 late in the third period. “I think there’s a lot of games where we’re down in the third, especially thinking back to the game in Toronto where we came back and games like that give you confidence and we knew we could win this game all along with whatever it takes; going to overtime if necessary,” Jonathan said.toews_300

Toews later commented on the superb play of surprising rookie Kris Versteeg, the team’s third leading scorer. “He’s been incredible. Some guys come of the gate hard as a rookie and play their best hockey right away and it then it kind of dies out, but that hasn’t been the case for him. Every single night he’s doing something and he’s proved he belongs at the top with the skill players in the scheme,” Toews proclaimed.

The Blackhawks started their annual circus trip successfully, before going cold and dropping the last three. Toews talked about how big the home win was as they head into a huge road game against their acrimonious rival and division leader, the Detroit Red Wings. “We definitely would have had a sinking feeling if we came up on the short side, didn’t want to lose four in a row. We told ourselves in this locker room that great teams, those that hang in there and make the playoffs at the end of the year can manage those little slides and little tough streaks, so I think we did a good job of battling back,” he said.

For more Chicago Sports Analysis and discussion.

For my Washington Times.com blog “Chicago Blue State.”

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The Sports Bank, NBC5 Street Team 2008 continues to be an eventful and exciting time for the Chicago Blackhawks organization and their fans. Last month Patrick Kane was named NHL Rookie of the Year; the team made a huge splash in free agency by signing All-Star defenseman Brian Campbell, and on July 16th it was announced that the Chicago Blackhawks will host their rival the Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field in NHL Winter Classic 2009 on New Year’s Day. No two NHL opponents have played more regular-season games against each other, and their 701st meeting will be just the third outdoor game in league history. Also, the first annual fan convention will take place at the Hilton Towers on Michigan Avenue this weekend. Event festivities include autograph and photo sessions with current Blackhawks stars such as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, former stars like Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull, and Tony Esposito, Q&A sessions with current Blackhawks management, broadcasters and alumni, coaches and front office staff detailing their Stanley Cup strategy, exhibitions, interactive games, a live HawkCast (podcast) taping.  $50 weekend convention passes sold out in mere hours. Opening Ceremonies will begin Friday at 5. Saturday festivities run 9 am – 7pm and Sunday 9 am – 2pm.

For more on hockey nerd heaven, I sought the opinion of Stan Bowman, Assistant General Manager, Hockey Operations. Bowman is a frequent guest on “Hawkcast,” the team’s official weekly podcasts, an authority on player scouting and development and even housed Patrick Kane during his rookie year.  His father Scotty Bowman is the all-time winningest head coach in NHL history. In my exclusive interview, Stan Bowman described this weekend’s convention thusly: “In hockey no team has ever done it before and just the reception we’ve gotten from it in that it sold out so quickly and lots of people wanting tickets and people wanting to come see it. It’s going to a good setup for everybody. It’s similar in style and format to the Cubs convention; obviously John McDonough is the one who pioneered the concept back in the early 80s, and it’s taken off to the point where it’s a big event and that’s where the hockey one is going too.”

For the full Bowman interview click here. For more Chicago Sports analysis and discussion click here.

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