So the Stars are facing the Chicago Blackhawks this evening. Again. Meaning that, rather than talk about these two teams once again, I'm gonne go a different route, and let somebody else talk about these two teams. In an effort to know thine enemy, I present the thoughts of a true Blackhawks fan - not one of the thousands of bandwagon jumpers we'll see at the AAC tonight - blogger Michael Devine.
1) So Corey Crawford was injured in the game against the Panthers on Sunday. When Kari Lehtonen missed five games early in the season for the Stars his absence was keenly felt. With Crawford due to miss some time, what kind of an impact will that have on the Hawks?
We've yet to hear word from Olympus on the extent of Crow's injury (and even then it'll likely be the usual clear-as-mud Q-Speak: "Lower-Body..too early to tell..we'll see". Some folk are panicking already because obviously original back-up Nikolai Khabbibulous is a) Hurt and nowhere near a return, b) Old & Terrible and c) Drunk, most likely.
Antti Raanta has done reasonably well in his handful of appearances but has some glaring weak spots in his game that only time & experience will fix. It'll be asking a lot of a guy in his first season in North America to backstop a Cup defence. If Crow is going to be out for a significant period, then Stan Bowman will have to either look for a trade or pick up a Free Agent.. I've heard Jose Theodore & Rick DiPietro's names mentioned and now I need a drink.
This team is good enough to ride out a short period of sub-par netminding, but it's hardly a recipe for success in the happy old Western Conference.
2) The Hawks forwards are a pretty talented bunch, to put it mildly. Everybody knows the big names, but who are the unsung heroes in the lineup?
I don't know if he counts as "unsung", what with the Calder nomination and potential to make Team USA, but Brandon Saad is a favourite. He's a genuine power-forward, defensively responsible, has a deceptive turn of pace and very slick hands. Marian Hossa Jr, basically, and that's as high a compliment as you can get in Hawks circles. We've seen various cameos from Ben Smith over the last few seasons and he would have been a regular before this year if it wasn't for injuries. He's a good, solid if unspectacular Bottom-Six guy who provides some grunt but also has a decent scoring touch and a knack for chipping in with crucial goals. Marcus Kruger makes me fear for his long term health (his nickname is "Frogger") with hgis fearlessness. Still not sure what we have with him, whether he's the penalty-killing checking center or has potential to be the pivot on the 2nd. But he's as unsung a hero as we've got. Oh, Brandon Bollig is still useless, though.
3) Antoine Roussel attracted the ire of a number of Hawks fans after last week, yet in Dallas he's a firm fan favorite. And it seems like the reverse is true with Andrew Shaw. What are your thoughts on the play of both of those players, and the potential continuation of hostilities on Tuesday?
I don't mind the taunting, the agitation and the general edginess of Roussel's play. That's all window-dressing and good fun. The elbows straying into the previously-concussed Captain's head, that's a whole different kettle of fish! I did almost feel sorry for him after he got jumped by Rinaldo, who is a truly evil POS.
But, as you say, it's a love/hate thing with these sort of players. Andrew Shaw is a fan favourite despite not actually being that good at anything: he's kind of carved out a niche for himself on a high-skill team by being this little ball of energy that knows no fear and annoys the hell out of the opposition. And then gets some part of his body into the path of a point shot to deflect it in. Seems like Roussel is doing similar, and fair play to him.
The only thing that worries me about these rivalries/antagonism is when it escalates and you end up with the sort of garbage that we saw in Boston the other night. Other than that, it's always fun to have a bit of needle.. keeps that blood pressure nicely jacked up to the pitch and pace of Hockey fandom!
(Oh, and from looking at his bio, I see that Roussel spent a season with the Chicago Wolves.. that explains an awful lot!)
4) And lastly, the Stars are a bubble team, and have been for a few years now. Although primarily on the outside looking in. What's it like cheering for a team that is guaranteed to make the playoffs. Do you even care about these trivial regular season matchups?
We do suffer from "First World Problems" to a degree as Hawks fans: right now the big raging debate is about Q's handling of the personnel on the lower lines and just what the hell is wrong with the PK. Which doesn't amount to much when you look at what other fanbases have to deal with. We're moaning that Q is point-chasing in November and not giving some of our eight or nine potential Olympians some time off. Oh, the horror, right? I still think every regular season game is important, though. and to illustrate I'll ask you to cast your mind back to the last day of the 2010-2011 season (sorry if this is painful for you, it's no fun for me either). If the Stars had been able to hold off the Wild the Blackhawks Cup defense would have ended outside the playoff picture. All for the want of a point left behind when the Hawks could hardly be bothered to show up isome night in October or November.
So yeah. I treat every game as important. Except for games against Winnipeg. They're just there to make up the numbers.
Thanks again to Michael, and if you want to see how the other half live, check out the excellent Hawks blog Cheer the Anthem.
* * *
Mike Heika talks about that elusive quality of winning teams: confidence. [Sports Day DFW]
The update on Vernon Fiddler's injury. [Stars Inside Edge]
And on the subject of injuries, the Hawks' Corey Crawford will be out for a few games at least. Bring on the backup. [Daily Herald]
Regardless of what you think of Barry Melrose, it's always a good sign when the Stars are getting national attention. [Melrose Minute]
Two Texas Stars right near the top of the AHL scoring race. Course, that's such an awkward race to win, seeing as how the top players get call ups. As did Travis Morin initially, and now Colton Sceviour. [Kuklas Korner]
This is an old one, but, well, never hurts to refresh our memories from the last time these teams played, all of a week ago. [Conference iii]
And lastly, there's this gem of a quote from Shawn Thornton on the Hockey Code, less than a week before he knocked Brooks Orpik unconscious: "People could probably criticize that I'm a little too honorable..." Oh really now? [Puck Daddy]