Notes from this morning's skate:
-- Remember Sheldon Brookbank? He's on the other team now. We swapped one Sheldon for another.
-- As confirmed in the links post, no Cam Fowler for the three remaining games of the road trip: Chicago (tonight), Detroit (Friday) and Nashville (Saturday). Bruce was quoted as saying, "He hasn't done a lot." Yeaaah, that's not a good sign.
-- Jonas Hiller didn't initially join the team for the skate but came out later, according to Dan Wood:
Hiller working on side-to-side movements and taking shots. #NHLDucks— Dan Wood (@Duckscolorman) February 12, 2013
-- Viktor Fasth is back in net with Jeff Deslauriers as his backup. Lines are back to 'normal' after yesterday's shakeup. Silly Bruce.
Today's virtual sitdown is with Sam Fels, Dark Overlord at The Committed Indian:
JN: Why the hell are you so good right now? Isn't your goaltending supposed to suck? Just a heads up, I picked Chicago to win the Western Conference. The Jen Neale Bump is practically a kiss of death. Sorry in advance.
Sam Fels: In true Hawks fan fashion, there was far too much overreaction to the goaltending. Corey Crawford had a pretty good rookie season, and one awful one. There was just as much evidence he could be good again as bad (though I'm not counting chickens yet because his angles still get a little goofy and he doesn't move that well). The most likely outcome was that he would split the difference, and that's what's most likely to happen.
As for the rest of it, the Hawks are good because everyone is a little more properly slanted, giving them four actual lines. Beyond the stars, rookie Brandon Saad has really opened up space for Toews and Hossa, though he doesn't have the points to show for it yet. Bickell and Stalberg have been a terror on the forecheck on the 3rd line, and Kruger and Frolik almost the same on the 4th. And of course, Patrick Kane is always best when he has something to prove. Having some fans finally turn on him last year seems to be that chip. It's even more amazing what he's doing because Bolland can't win a draw if his balls depended on it, and they don't have the puck a lot.
JN: If Coach Q doesn't take the Blackhawks to at least the Western Conference Finals, does he get the boot? Not that Chicago fans aren't rational or anything. Just look at Lovie Smith...ok, bad example.
SF: First off, Lovie totally deserved to be fired. You can't miss the playoffs five of six seasons in the NFL. Like, it's almost a mathematical impossibility.
As for Q, I would think Conference Finals are what he has to achieve. Q and GM Stan Bowman have clearly not seen eye to eye on players, and Bowman didn't hire Q. He'll get to hire his own coach one day. Q also had serious special teams issues the past couple years, and has tried everything under the sun that had the players rolling their eyes. Part of the success this year is leaving things the fuck alone. Hopefully he's learned. But this Wirtz is not going to accept three years without significant playoff income, that's for sure.
JN: What's the general feeling about Patrick Kane? As long as he's playing well, you guys will put up with his douchey behavior? We kind of go through the same thing with Bobby Ryan when he gets wasted on a golf course and shoots his mouth off to the press.
SF: As I mentioned earlier, last year was the first time fans started to turn on him a bit because he wasn't dominating on the ice and there was still the off-ice stupidity. Most fans here want Kane to stop drinking not because it's not good for him, but mostly because he sucks at it. Seriously, how many times have you passed out in public? He can't not pass out in public, it seems. Also, there were stories the year before that he had missed games and practices because he was hungover (or maybe other things). But as long as his social life doesn't impinge on his production, and he's playing like this, no one will care.
Personally, I think he's a generational talent that you never, ever give up on. He's the most talented Hawk since Savard, and I consider it a gift to get to watch him night in night out. Most people still think that way.
JN: May I have Patrick Sharp? Or at least do me a favor - I'm sure you owe me one - do not allow him to play on Tuesday. There is always one player on every team the Ducks cannot stop. The Blackhawks have Sharp, followed by Jonathan Toews.
SF: Oh honey, there's a long, long, long line of women ahead of you on that one. I'm gonna guess some men too. Those men who aren't in line have long ago accepted that their girlfriends are thinking about Sharp in bed anyway. Sharp's actually stopping himself these days, in a scoring drought. Again, his line hasn't had the puck a lot and neither he or Kane are great without it. He's been floating a bit waiting for Kane to hit his tape, instead of darting in and out of space to get scoring chances. But his next 7 goals in five game streak is never far away.
[Ed. Note: Didn't realize until after reading Fels' answers just how much it sounds like I want to bang Sharp. Not my intention. I swear, the blonde is just peroxide. - JN]