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Posts Tagged ‘Central Division’

Chicago Blackhawks Better Gear Up For The Muscle

Posted by sportsmaven on January 4, 2009

Indications from the last 3 games (the two Detroit games and tonight’s 5-2 victory against the Calgary Flames) appear that teams are now trying to take the Chicago Blackhawks out of their game by muscling them around on the ice.  Coming off their recent 9 game winning streak, the Detroit Red Wings were unbelievably physical in blanking the Hawks 4-0 on Tuesday.  The Wings came hard at young Hawks RW Patrick Kane and C Jonathan Toews, injuring Kane and clearly disturbing Toews on many occasions.  The Hawks enforcers were silent in protecting their stars, something that will need to change for the Hawks to keep moving forward.

Calgary Flames' Mark Giordano, left, fights with Chicago Blackhawks' Colin Fraser during the first period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, Jan. 4, 2009, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Calgary Flames' Mark Giordano, left, fights with Chicago Blackhawks' Colin Fraser during the first period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, Jan. 4, 2009, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

The Red Wings continually sent ex-Hawk and RW Daniel Cleary after Kane, eventually forcing Kane out of the game.  This will become the new strategy of teams taking on the Blackhawks, as teams used to be able to beat the Hawks on talent alone, but now the times have changed.

With the emergence of RW Patrick Sharp and D Duncan Keith, along with the rapid development of youngsters Toews and Kane, the steady play of a surprising healthy RW Martin Havlat and the addition of now three time All-Star D Brian Campbell, the level of talent on the Hawks has shot through the roof of the United Center.  The addition of Calder Trophy contender LW Pat Versteeg has made the Hawks the youngest, most dynamic new team and propelling them into the top non-division leader in the Western Conference with 49 points, but 8 points behind the Central Division leading Red Wings but 9 points ahead of the team directly below them, the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The good news for the Blackhawks are that teams can no longer just show up and beat them any longer.  The gap of talent that has existed over the last few seasons has been closed, virtually eliminated through very shrewd work by Hawks GM Dale Tallon, assisted by assistant GM Stan Bowman and new special advisor Scotty Bowman, as well as the addition of veteran coach Joel Quenneville.  When the gap of talent is non-existent, teams like the Red Wings often resort to physical intimidation, imposing their will on their opponents.  For a young team such as the Blackhawks, this tactic is quite effective, displayed by home and home victories and the 0-4 record against the Red Wings for which the Blackhawks are proud owners.

The next step for the Blackhawks is to begin learining how to match physical play with physical play without taking themselves out of their game plan.  Tonight’s victory over the Calgary Flames was a start.  Hawks D Colin Fraser, RW Ben Eager, D Matt Walker, and RW Dustin Byfuglien set the tone tonight with 5:00 fighting penalties (Byfuglien with a 10:00 game misconduct penalty at the end of the game).  With the success of the 2009 NHL Winter Classic on New Year’s day, the 3 Hawks starters on the All-Star team, and the overall rise of an Original Six team deep in the ashes of despair, the young Hawks are now a target for teams to take their shots.  How the Hawks respond to that challenge is what will determine if their success will continue.

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Chicago Bulls Bring Big Ben Back to Detroit

Posted by sportsmaven on February 26, 2007

It was a homecoming of sorts for Ben Wallace yesterday in a rare afternoon matinee as the Chicago Bulls fell to the Detroit Pistons 95-93. The Bulls had a 16 point lead in the third quarter, but as history has reared it’s ugly head, the Bulls have blown yet another 2nd half double digit lead (note the 2 18 point leads lost in back to back games against the New Jersey Nets eariler this season). This game had all I love and hate about the NBA and pro basketball. The love: good intense physical basketball with two solid contenders in the Central Division, good mix of athletic, inside/outside play and a good matchup. What I hate: Chris Webber getting away with a blatant push to put back the game winner ( I didn’t realize that Chris Webber got the same respect from the refs as say a Kobe Bryant), the Bulls allowing Detroit 20 offensive rebounds (any one of which cost them this game) and the fact that Ben Gordon still can’t hit a game winner (4th one he’s missed as of late).

Ben Wallace Returns to Detroit
(AP Photo/Gary Malerba)

This game, shown to a national television audience, shows how far apart the Bulls and Pistons are as the class of the Eastern Conference. The Pistons seem like they haven’t missed a beat in losing C Ben Wallace, while the Bulls haven’t closed much ground in acquiring Wallace. The Bulls were content to let the trade deadline pass without making a deal, which I believe was the smart thing to do given the outrageously high price that the Memphis Grizzlies put on C Pau Gasol and the apparent unavailability of Minnesota Timberwolves C Kevin Garnett. F Luol Deng is emerging as a budding superstar in his 3rd year in the NBA and he definitely would have been a part of a Garnett trade scenario, but wisely, wasn’t part of a Gasol scenario.

The Bulls are on pace to finish between 44 and 47 victories this season, which would probably put them between a 4 and 6 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The New York Knicks have been playing improved basketball as of late, so their pick may just fall out of the lottery. This offseason will be key for the future direction of the Bulls. They need an inside scoring threat/skilled big man to move to the next level….will it be too late?

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