Blackhawks ground Jets 5-1 in Winnipeg - FOX 10 News | myfoxphoenix.com

Blackhawks ground Jets 5-1 in Winnipeg

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Saturday marked the first game as a professional for Jonathan Toews in his hometown of Winnipeg. Although Toews didn't stain the score sheet during the matinee, his teammates provided a top effort and dispatched the Jets 5-1.

For Winnipeg to have a decent chance of defeating the Blackhawks a few prerequisites would be required. To skate away with two points Winnipeg would need Chicago to come out with a disinterested effort. They would also need great goaltending, plus avoid costly errors. Unfortunately for the home team, goaltender Ondrej Pavelec wasn't at his best, they made costly turnovers and the Blackhawks were engaged throughout.

The Jets are riding a three game losing streak and the natives are getting restless. They appear to be a team still too reliant on one line to do much of the scoring and have trouble playing solid defense. So far the Jets don't have a potent offense and can't keep the puck out of their own net. They appear to lack an identity.

On the other hand the Blackhawks are starting to gel.

Joel Quenneville has been sticking with the same lines for awhile and Corey Crawford is playing with confidence. The Hawks have been focused and the bottom six forwards are contributing with goals while being defensively responsible.

In Winnipeg Marcus Kruger had his best game of the year. Kruger had two assists and was a +3. Most importantly one of the assist came off a faceoff win.

Kruger had a great game in the faceoff department and that seldom happens. Kruger was a team high 73%, winning 11 of 15 faceoffs. If Kruger could somehow improve at the dot the Hawks penalty kill as well as even strength play would benefit.

Nick Leddy is a player who has been contributing far more than at the start of the season. Leddy appears more confident and is making some nifty defensive plays while asserting himself in the offensive zone.

In the first six games Leddy took only six shots, and in two games didn't record a single shot. In the last eight games Leddy has recorded 13 shots on goal and has taken at least one shot in every contest. Leddy has also recorded seven points in the last eight games.

Ben Smith was back in the lineup replacing the injured Brad Mills. Smith is in a battle for the final lineup spot. He made a good showing on Saturday. Smith had a goal on three shots and was a +3 for the afternoon.

Michal Rozsival had one of his better games and logged 20 minutes of ice time. If Rozsival could return to last season's form the Blackhawk defense would be tough to beat. He was credited with five blocked shots and led all players in that category. Maybe Rozsival is coming around.

When the Atlanta Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg, Claude Noel who had been the bench boss of the local AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose, was given the head coaching job. The Jets have recorded only 12 points in the opening 15 games so many believe Noel is on the hot seat.

The only other head coaching candidate that was under serious consideration for the Winnipeg job was former Hawks assistant coach Mike Haviland. In the event of a coaching change it wouldn't be a shock if Haviland is a prime candidate to replace Noel. Currently Haviland is behind the bench for the Hershey Bears, the Washington' Capitals AHL affiliate.

Tonight the Blackhawks will square off with another opponent they should handle if interested. The Calgary Flames have accumulated only 12 points in 13 games and have lost two in a row.

Al's Shots

Crawford played well on Saturday and my guess is he will keep the net tonight.

Quenneville might give Nikolai Khabibulin another chance to get his game going but starting him on home ice could backfire. Quenneville may chose to wait until next weekend in Dallas to try to jump start Khabibulin.

It is has been reported Dave Bolland has suffered a serious leg cut in the second period of last night's Maple Leaf game.

Bolland was injured on a check from Vancouver forward Zack Kassian. Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle commented the cut on Bolland's leg is similar to last season's injury to Erik Karlsson.

Karlsson missed 10-weeks of action with a badly severed Achilles tendon and that was considered an extremely quick recovery. Bolland was scheduled to undergo surgery last night and more details will follow concerning his prognosis.

Certainly a tough break for Bolland as his loss could be lengthy and he will be sorely missed.

Another former Blackhawk in the news is Ray Emery who now plays for Philadelphia.

The Flyers were getting trounced on home ice by Washington on Friday night. The game got ugly and Emery contributed to the cause by skating the length of the ice to fight Capital netminder Braden Holtby.

The fight in this case consisted of Emery pummeling Holtby who was not a willing combatant. I tweeted immediately Emery should be in line for a suspension.

As LA Kings beat writer Helene Elliotte wrote in the Los Angeles Times on Saturday….

There is precedent for suspending a player who instigates a fight against an unwilling opponent, per NHL rule 46.2. In April 2012, Brendan Shanahan of the NHL's Department of Player Safety suspended Ottawa's Matt Carkner for fighting an unwilling Brian Boyle of the New York Rangers, but the league for some reason chose not to follow that precedent in this case.

In my view hockey is the best professional sport. My conclusion is supported as the game survives the most inconsistent, misguided league of all major sports.

When line brawls featured on Friday night in Philly happen the NHL gets attention for the wrong reasons. When the league comes back with the incorrect response it provides ammunition for those that down play the game as a niche sport.

Emery was way out of line and by the league not suspending him they validated his inappropriate behavior. It's time for the NHL to wake up and pick a side. The double talk and inconsistencies have to end.

Otherwise the sport won't gain the lasting popularity it deserves and will continue to garner attention for the wrong reasons.

I will be back on Monday morning and you can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia.

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