DON’T SAY THAT, or: Let’s All Stop Jinxing The Blackhawks

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Nineteen games without a loss in regulation. Even writing those words out makes me twitch. It feels a little too much like tempting fate for my superstitious self’s liking. It’s almost paralyzing, as a fan, to think that we’re approaching the midpoint of the season and there are still no marks in that regulation loss column.

Sorry. I had to get up from my desk and find some wood to knock on.

People keep looking for a reason for the streak, that one thing that sets them apart from the other teams – is it the coaching? the special teams? the goaltending? the depth the Hawks have been slowly building since blowing up the team in the wake of their 2010 Cup win? – but no one can seem to come to an agreement about just what that thing is. Because it’s not just one thing. It’s all of the above, and something more important besides.

It’s heart.

This team has a love for the game, and for each other, and for their city, that is incredible to witness. Their sheer refusal to lose is not because they want the win for themselves, but because they want it for each other. They want it for Chicago. They’ve fought back from goal deficits, offensive zone penalties, and awful turnovers, grinding out many of these wins by the skin of their collective (albeit few) teeth.

So where does it end?

This Chicago fan hopes it doesn’t, but I’m also a realist. The Ducks, particularly, are chasing the Hawks in the standings, and the team knows they can’t let their guard down and get complacent. Not that complacency is an issue with this group. The attitude around the Hawks locker room, from the coaches all the way down, seems to be that they need to believe that they aren’t yet playing their best hockey, and that they always need to be looking for ways to improve.

I don’t know about all of you, but if Chicago truly hasn’t shown us their best hockey this season – I can’t wait to see what’s to come.

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Penguins v. Flyers in .Gifs (Or: Hockey for People Who Don’t Hockey Good, Pens Fan Edition)

Hi, Beauty Move followers, this is Julia, Hannah’s good hockey buddy. I’m not a regular blogger here (I blog over here), but there are times when Hannah is incapable of writing about hockey, which is where I come in. Think of me as a cool substitute teacher who is currently subbing because last night’s Pens/Flyers game reduced Hannah to dead. So instead, I will explain everything that happened using the highly scientific method of illustration via .gif to recap probably the most exciting hockey game of the week.

Dear God, I hope it’s the most exciting hockey game of the week. I don’t think we can take much more.

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This Is Oil Country

Image(photo property of Edmonton Oilers)

It isn’t easy being an Edmonton Oilers fan right now. We’re a quarter of the way through the season and I already feel like I’ve gone ten rounds on the worst roller coaster Six Flags has to offer. Games like the one against Colorado, though, make the emotional whiplash entirely worth it. Saturday night, we were given a glimpse into the future of this team, and it’s shaping up to be a bright one indeed.

The Oilers came back from a three-goal-deficit twice (3-0 and 4-1) in the game to post a 6-4 win over the Avalanche, and the points were not confined to one or two players. Jordan Eberle (2G, 1A) and Taylor Hall (3A) each had three points on the night, and four other Oilers put up multi-point games as well. Ales Hemsky kickstarted the team’s offense when he scored the team’s first goal at the end of the first period. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins broke his thirteen-game goalless streak to get his first of the season, and Magnus Paajarvi scored his second game-winning goal of the week after getting the call at 7:55 to let him know that he would be playing that night.

By the end of the game, the Oilers had fired 56 pucks on the Avalanche net (the Kid Line combining for 19 of those shots), breaking a 27-year-old franchise record for shots on goal in a single game, and this offensive burst, more than anything, was responsible for their win. It was more than an answer to the Avs’ three first-period goal – it was a statement. This is what this team can do. This is what these Oilers are capable of. The offensive power on this young team is unfathomable, but Saturday was the first time this season that it has really been showcased.

When the Oilers are giving 100%, they have the potential to be unstoppable. They have all of the pieces. What fans have to remember is that the Oilers are in a rebuild, and are still learning to put those pieces together. The Oilers have so many skilled forwards, but other teams know how to stop skilled forwards, so the offense can’t be the only piece depended upon. The Oilers are at their best when playing a focused, disciplined, and I would even say defensive game. If the shots keep coming even half as well as they did Saturday night, the goals will come. What trips this group up, what causes them to lose games, is when they take their eye off the end result, begin to take stupid penalties, and lose their focus. Right now, discipline needs to be the watchword.

So, no. It’s not an easy time to be an Oilers fan. But it is an exciting one. The opportunity to see these young stars grow and develop into the elite players that they all have the potential to be is one that shouldn’t be taken for granted. The chance to witness the birth of a new dynasty doesn’t come around often.

Notes:
–The Oilers take on the LA Kings tonight at 10pm EST for the first time since their crazy meetup at the beginning of the season.
–Today is defenseman Ryan Whitney’s 30th birthday! Head over to his Twitter account and wish him a happy day!

Not A (Cookie) Monster

I definitely couldn’t have called this as the topic of my first real post this time yesterday, but the landscape of the season changes with every single game. And with this abbreviated season, there’s a lot happening all at once.

I have to say, the idea that people believe Matt Cooke would intentionally use his skate blade to injure an opponent absolutely repulses me. Let’s suspend disbelief for a moment and pretend that in that situation it was even possible – that while trying to regain his balance after finishing his check, Cooke was able to get his skate blade up and into the proper position to slice into Karlsson’s Achilles tendon – I find it difficult to believe that even the old Matt Cooke would’ve been capable of something like that.

Of course, as multiple replays of the incident show, there was nothing to remotely suggest that the incident was intentional, or the result of a dirty play. Let me be clear: I feel for Erik Karlsson and the Ottawa Senators. Karlsson is an incredibly talented young player who is a delight to watch (when he’s not playing against one of my teams) and with what is undoubtedly a long career ahead of him, and no one wants to see injuries like this happen to anyone. But what happened last night in the second period of the Penguins-Senators game was entirely accidental, and (further) demonizing Matt Cooke and calling for his blood isn’t going to bring Karlsson back any sooner. All that will do is cause further damage to the reputation of a man who has worked hard over the past two years to change the way that he plays his game.

Cooke took his March 2011 suspension very seriously, not in the least because he was informed by Ray Shero that his career with the Penguins was potentially in jeopardy because of it and factors surrounding it (i.e. the more dangerous aspects of his play). I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a player look as completely disappointed with himself as Cooke did in interviews following the suspension. He promised to work to change his play, and anyone who has been watching him play since then can vouch for the fact that he has delivered on that promise. The Matt Cooke we’ve seen on the ice last season and this one is a completely different player than the one we saw prior to the spring of 2011.

His reputation still precedes him, however, and because of that it is understandable that some fan may have immediately jumped to conclusions following the incident during last night’s game. But jumping to conclusions, particularly in this case, doesn’t achieve anything other than placing blame where it doesn’t belong. Even Shanahan and Player Safety, after reviewing from every possible angle, concluded that there was no intent to injure or evidence of it being a dirty play. Cooke is guilty of nothing more than finishing his check, trying to regain his balance, and landing in the wrong place.

Unfortunately, sometimes freak accidents happen. I wish Karlsson all the best, and hope that his recovery goes as quickly and as smoothly as possible. But I also hope that Senators fans, and other fans around the league, can start cutting Matt Cooke a little slack. He’s hardly a monster.

Let’s Get Rolling

Some who can’t do, teach. Others of us write.

I’ve never played hockey, unless you count pickup games of roller hockey with the other neighborhood kids, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t understand and passionately love the game. Lately I’ve decided to spare my non-hockey-fan friends, and send my thoughts into the world, rather than subjecting them to my incessant talking.

Some things you can expect include hockey news, impressive plays, lots of crying over the Edmonton Oilers, fights, hockey bromances, potentially excessive amounts of Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins, players being ridiculous, and anything else I decide needs saying.

Some things that you won’t see: irrelevant bashing of players, coaches, and teams; and  anything about players’ personal lives that doesn’t publicly and officially come from the players themselves. I have two policies – don’t be a douche, and don’t be a creep. The first won’t keep me from posting negative opinions, but I can promise that if I do, they will be relevant. The second? Come on, people. These guys are in the spotlight and being examined almost 24/7. I’m not going to go digging and add to that.

We’re in the fourth week of the season, just over 25% through, and I know you’re as excited as I am, so let’s get rolling.