Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: How to beat the Blackhawks

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Hawk Talk: How to beat the Blackhawks

Saturday, May 15, 201012:15 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

Contrary to that clown-car clash going on in the Eastern Conference, in its final the West boasts a battle of the best, top-dogged San Jose Sharks and second-seeded Chicago Blackhawks. Its a shot at redemption for the Tiburones and a shot at destiny for the Redshirts. Both teams are worthy of a Stanley Cup final, and either would be a prodigious favorite to win the Cup once there. So, ladies and gentlemen, the true fight to raise the greatest trophy in sports starts Sunday in San Jose. Heres how the Sharks can topple the Blackhawks:

Ninny Niemi: Sure, Antti Niemi has become a Blackhawks hero with his terrific work so far in the postseason, including a pair of shutouts in the quarterfinals -- a feat that hadnt been accomplished since Tony Esposito. But here it is: The rookie is vulnerable. He tends to hit the splits quick, leaving the top shelf open often, as well as let loose rebounds. The Blackhawks defense, for the most part, has played a great moat around the crease, keeping Amazing Antti from seeing shots and wiping up his leavings at first drop. But theres weakness there to be exploited.

A Quick Bite: One of the few openings the confident Hawks leave opponents is a mild and brief tendency to become discombobulated under duress. This may not make Chicago any different from 29 other NHL teams, but unlike most of those other teams, that standing eight-count is often the best chance you have to knock it off in a single game, much less a series. The Nashville Predators were in many ways the antithesis of the Blackhawks, a team that had to scratch and claw for any advantage over the sublimely talented Hometown Heroes. That heads-down approach gave Nashville 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the series and pushed the Blackhawks to within 14 seconds of an elimination game. Vancouver dealt Chicago a smackdown in Game 1 of the semis that left the Blackhawks dressing room more than a little stunned. San Jose coach Todd McLellan is a sharp cookie, and hes doubtlessly lecturing his charges on the advantages to pinning the Blackhawks quickly. The Sharks are at home, with the advantage theyve worked all season to use, so if they execute it to knock the Hawks down in Game 1, unease again may set in again for Chicago.

Push Their Panic Button: A Joel Quenneville team is normally immaculately prepared and motivated from the get-go, which made the malaise his team felt throughout the early stages of the Nashville series and the strangely flat start to the semis particularly perplexing. While an immediate San Jose win in the series is probably not integral to an overall conference finals win, any mucking up of Chicagos game plan could yield emotional riches down the road. Quenneville is a known tinkerer, although so far, hes been perfect with his tweaks -- his overhaul of the club prior to Game 4 of the quarterfinals yielded three straight wins and advancement and his flip of Dustin Byfuglien from the blue line to the top line was a work of art -- but shuffling for shufflings sake still can take a toll on a team, as seen in Chicagos post-Olympic stumbling. If the Sharks can find a way to push Cool Hand Qs panic button early, it could leave the Blackhawks unsettled for the duration.

On a related note, to everyones surprise, the Blackhawks admitted being ill-prepared and perhaps undermotivated after losses to Nashville in Games 1 and 3 of the quarters and Games 1 and 5 of the semis. If San Jose senses any such lack of (in Qs parlance) compete level, the Sharks can swim in and chomp the heart out of the Hawks.

Keep em Slippy-Sloppy: Normally cool and collected, Chicago was downright panic-prone in their own zone for most of the quarterfinals. While the Hawks rarely repeated such mistakes against Vancouver, that was as much a case of the Canucks being undisciplined and unable to enact a true game plan that sheer maturity on Chicagos part. A confident, skilled San Jose team can cough turnovers out of the Redshirts and will be able to bury every bumble the Blackhawks make.

Go To Smashville: Sure, the Sharks wanna bite, attack, swoop -- theyre a high-powered offense with skills to flash. But San Jose would be smart to pull a few Barry Trotz tricks out of the playbook. Button down the game and Chicagos puck-possession advantage tends to disappear. The Sharks might not have the defensive chops of Nashville that would allow them to simply dominate the series from the blue line, but they can pack enough feistiness to bring the game right to Chicagos jawline. Based on how the Blackhawks wilted in the face of some of Nashvilles physical pressure, a bit of slog-it-out brawling could go a long way in the semis.

History Never Repeats: San Jose so far has faced down the demons of playoff failures past. The Sharks just bit down hard on the closest thing the NHL has to a dynasty, dispatching the gilded (and white-hot heading into the playoffs) Detroit Red Wings like stale octopus. So theres no reason -- no, not even Chicagos decided dominance this season -- to choke or gag or have second thoughts now. Tighten up the mental jujitsu, table any vertigo, work the Shark Tank to advantage and blow right past Chicago into the franchises first Stanley Cup Finals.

Defend the Tank: Yeah, the Blackhawks have beaten San Jose both times in the Shark Tank this season, but this is the advantage the Sharks battled all season for and now a mere point in the standings has created a potential difference of four home Western Conference finals games rather than three. While Chicago clearly is not intimidated by the Shark Tank, its San Joses job to create unease and establish the tone and tenor of the series from Game 1 forward. Grant the Blackhawks even a split in these first two games and the Sharks have not only lost their home-ice advantage, theyve swung momentum drastically in Chicagos favor and increased the likelihood of returning to California for a must-win Game 5.

Top Line is Go! The Sharks boast a top-six on offense that is a beast, and while the Blackhawks boast better depth overall, sometimes that depth can spread responsibility too thin -- witness Jonathan Toewss everyone is waiting for someone else to do it disgust after Chicagos Game 5 loss to Vancouver. Theres no such question of where to place the burden with San Jose. Strategically, San Joses strength plays right into Chicagos weakness. The Sharks love to linger deep and deftly maneuver in the shadows of the defense -- and thats just the sort of attack that makes the Blackhawks nervous and prone to fumbles. Plus, a calm, collected San Jose offense will end up being its best defense as well -- the Blackhawks puck-possession game is predicated on keeping the puck out of the Chicago zone and opponents on their heels.

A Steady Hand: OK, Evgeni Nabokov didnt have his best season against the Blackhawks this season, being run from the first Sharks-Hawks tilt in San Jose on Nov. 25 and nearly dealt the same blow in the Tiburones Tank on Jan. 28. But historically, Nabokov has been strong against Chicago: 14-6-5 with a 2.50 goals-against average and .912 save percentage. And if he builds on the second and third periods of that Jan. 28, as well as his masterful work in stopping 45 Chicago shots in a Dec. 22 win at the United Center, the Sharks will boast a massive advantage in net for the series.

Brett Ballantini isCSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnikon Twitter for up-to-the-minute Hawksinformation.

Top 6 Blackhawks pop culture salutes ever

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AP

Top 6 Blackhawks pop culture salutes ever

The Original Six team with six Stanley Cups in franchise history known as the Chicago Blackhawks has gotten plenty of salutes from movies, TV shows and other avenues of entertainment over the years. Here are the top six pop culture nods according to us:


6. The Dilemma

The 2011 comedy starring Vince Vaughn and Kevin James features lengthy scenes shot at actual Blackhawks games at the United Center in 2010. Even Blackhawks arena announcer Gene Honda has lines in the picture. 


5. Sudden Death 

Jean-Claude Van Damme. There's nothing else needed to defend this selection. But, the 1995 action flick puts the Blackhawks against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, of course with the Vice President in attendance.

Actual storyline: The Pittsburgh Civic Arena is wired with explosives that could destroy the whole city. It's up to arson investigator Darren McCord to stop it before the game ends. 

The movie even spawned a delightful song in a Chris Pratt Parks and Rec deleted scene. 


4. NHL '94 Roenick in Swingers

Vaughn and co. play the 1994 installment of the EA Sports NHL video game in the 1996 film with the Blackhawks taking on the LA Kings and hilarity ensues. 


3. Queen's We Will Rock You music video

Off the 1977 album "News of the World", the music video for We Will Rock You features bassist John Deacon sporting a sweet Hawks letterman-type jacket. 


2. Christmas Vacation 

[*Strong language]

"The silent majesty of a winter's morn; the clean, cool chill of the holiday air...." 

This Blackhawks shoutout in the classic Christmas comedy is too great not to make the top 2. You'll still see "Griswold" white Blackhawks jerseys pop up at the United Center during the holiday season to saltue the 1989 film. Rusty also wears a red Hawks sweater when Clark is putting the infamous bright lights on the house. 


1. Wayne's World

It might be a predictable No.1 pick, but come on. Mike Myers and Dana Carvey worked the Hawks into this iconic 1992 comedy in an epic way. The duo also gave the Blackhawks a big shoutout on Feb. 15, 2015 when Mike Myers wore a Hawks sweater as Wayne in a Wayne's World sketch for SNL's 40th anniversary. 

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Patrick Kane’s love-hate relationship with St. Louis fans highlight of 2020 NHL All-Star Game

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USA Today

Patrick Kane’s love-hate relationship with St. Louis fans highlight of 2020 NHL All-Star Game

ST. LOUIS — Patrick Kane has been booed all weekend in St. Louis and the nine-time Blackhawks All-Star poked a little bit of fun at Blues fans for their, shall we say, warm welcoming. But Saturday put the crowd in a weird spot.

On one hand, Kane is an arch rival in St. Louis. On the other, he represented the Central Division and was teammates with the four Blues All-Stars (Jordan Binnington, Ryan O'Reilly, David Perron and Alex Pietrangelo).

After falling into a 3-0 hole to the Pacific Division, the Central Division stormed back for three straight goals. Perron scored the second goal, which drew huge cheers. Fourteen seconds later, Kane scored the equalizer, which also drew loud cheers. 

But then the St. Louis fans realized who had scored and Kane had some fun with them by holding his glove up to his ear. 

"Tried to like put my hand up to my ear to hear the boos," Kane said. "But then I was showing them that hey, I’m playing with the Blues players, I’ve got the same jersey as them. Just had fun with it. "

The Blues found themselves conflicted for a second time when Kane evened the score at 5-5 after converting on a breakaway. The interaction between Kane and the crowd was the most memorable moment of the night.

"It’s all in good fun," Kane said following a 10-5 loss to the Pacific Division. "To be honest with you, sometimes you get booed, you kind of like it a little bit. It’s St. Louis and Chicago, it’s a huge rivalry. Not only in hockey, but pretty much every other sport they play against each other. I guess that’s only baseball, but, you know what? Had a lot of fun this weekend and I thought that was a pretty cool moment."

Even the Blues had fun with it.

"Those were boos," a smiling Pietrangelo said. "Not cheers."

But at least somebody had sympathy for Kane.

"I felt bad for Kaner," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "He comes out in his introductions and is getting booed and stuff and then he scores and they're cheering for him. Tough situation for him. Players all know. They all handle it very well. It's a fun event."

In the end, it provided entertainment and brought some life to the event. What Kane is really trying to figure out is why he's snake bitten at All-Stars Games. He hasn't won since 2012 in Ottawa when Team Zdeno Chara defeated Team Daniel Alfredsson 12-9 under the fantasy draft format.

"I know, right?" Kane said. "Central can’t get over the hump. We won one last year and lost in the final. I think every time you look at the roster, you always think you have a really good roster with some of the players that are on the team, and for whatever reason we can’t do it."

The Central Division slipped to 1-5 under the 3-on-3 format, but Kane may have a solution on how to fix their struggles.

"Maybe it would be better if the Central played an Eastern team next year or something," Kane said half-jokingly. "Maybe you could switch it up that way."

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.