Resplendent Riveters Run Rampant on Russians, or, The Riveters Preseason Series

Editor’s note: I know what the title of the site is, but with how the Blackhawks handled the Patrick Kane situation, I don’t feel like writing about them, so enjoy this post about the Riveters.

The NWHL is back! Amanda Kessel be praised!  I was fortunately able to make it to the two Riveters preseason games, and I thought I’d type out some quick observations I had from them.

-Amanda Kessel is the fifth horseman of the apocalypse.  The mythical destroyer of worlds.  Death incarnate.  Everything she was promised to be and more.  Riveters fans should be very, very excited.  Almost every time she had the puck she created a scoring chance, and when she didn’t have the puck she was usually taking it away from the opposing team.  It was an absolute joy watching her do everything right, from impeccable skating, always finding the right spot to be, to placing her stick perfectly to direct a pass from her teammates.  She had two goals in two games and easily could have had more.  Amanda Kessel is the best player to ever put on a Riveters sweater, and it will be fun watching her.

-Rebecca Russo, one of many additions to the Riveters roster, has shown immense promise with this new Riveters team.  She is incredibly fast with soft hands and is difficult to take the puck away from. She had the only assist on D’Oench’s goal in game one.  Her combination of speed and tenacity will fit in well with the Riveters, as will her big personality that seems to shine through no matter what.  She is sure to be a fan favorite before long! Plus, she went to BU.  Everyone loves people who went to BU! 😉

-Ashley Johnston had an incredible two games, seemingly back to her pre-injury form from last season.  The unparalleled positioning, shot, and awareness that that made her such an effective blue-liner last year are back.  Look out NWHL.

-Michelle Picard, former US Olympian, was impressive with her skill and aggressiveness.  She has no qualms about jumping up into the offensive zone, and was effective doing so.  Picard was also strong with the puck, showing excellent vision and distributing the puck well.

-The biggest question mark with the Riveters right now is their goaltending, after signing and then losing the leagues previous best goaltender, Jamie Leonoff.  Rookie goaltenders Sojung Shin and Katie Fitzgerald have large shoes to fill, but looked good in the first two games.  Fitzgerald showcased some considerable athleticism, while Shin was impressive playing an excellent positional game and showcasing a lightning-like glove.  At the moment, I believe Shin should and will be the starting goaltender, as she showed a more complete game than Fitzgerald did.  Both showed some difficulties with rebound control, but once the team gels more that should be worked out.  It is a small sample size, but Riveters fans should be hopeful about their goaltending tandem.

-So the Riveters the first few games have been, wait for it, good at zone entries and exits.

I’ll give you a minute to process that.

GOOD ZONE ENTRIES AND EXITS! Last season twitter was constantly screaming about their absence and the difficulties that they were causing for the Riveters.  But if these two games are any indication, it will no longer be a problem for the Rivs.  The improved defense is a big part of this.  As Jen LC (who in my mind is the best analyst around) on twitter says, having D that can dig the puck out, turn, and quickly move it out of the zone is incredibly important to a team’s success.  She says if forwards have to come back and help dig the puck out, they can’t participate fully in the breakout the way they should.  The D on this Riveters team don’t need help getting the puck, and can look to move it up ice quickly. Combining that with a faster and more skilled forward corp, and this team can move the puck in and out of zones fast and efficiently.

-The Riveters game could still use some more structure, particularly on the back end, but this wasn’t surprising.  They were playing for the first time with each other, and I for one was very impressed with how far their play had come from last year.  The structure will come.  This is a team that will be able to compete with any team in the NWHL, and in my mind is second only to the stacked Pride roster.  This should be a fun year for Riveters fans, so enjoy the ride!

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Learning to Play Hockey as an Adult: Why You Should Learn

So you’ve been watching hockey for years, and you know everything about it. You know the teams, the players, the stats, and that the Blues are the spawn of Satan. However, for whatever reason you haven’t played. Or you haven’t played in years. Maybe you’ve had an itch to learn how to play, and never quite scratched it. Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s not too late. I learned as an adult (if you ever see me play and want to take issue with the idea that I ever actually learned, well, you’re probably justified), and know people who have learned at all ages, from 20 to well into their 50’s. I can also say, without a doubt, that learning to play was one of the absolute best decisions I’ve ever made. So I am writing this series of posts to convince you to play as well, and show you as best I can how to learn.
So, why should you learn? A bunch of reasons!
To appreciate the sport on a deeper level – Now, I am in no way saying you need to play hockey to understand the game. Some of the best hockey minds I know have never played. But let’s be real, getting on the ice yourself can only deepen your understanding of the game. It can help you understand just how skillful that deke was, how precise that pass was, how sick that top shelf backhand was. Skate a mile in the players skates as it were.
You’ll be helping the sport grow – This may sound naive, but it is completely true. Hockey is a relatively minor sport within America in terms of participation. While you as an adult will never be as important to its growth as children are, you can grow it in a real way. The money you spend on the game will help it expand, both on the local level by injecting money into the rinks and leagues, as well as the local shops, and will help the big gear companies continue to expand. Hell, if more people played, more companies could get in on the game. Wouldn’t it be fun to see Nike release a line of gear like they did with golf a few years ago? And from a non-monetary perspective, every new person playing brings their unique skillset and life perspective to the game, further enriching it.
The “post-game locker room beer” – Nothing will ever taste sweeter, no matter how bad the beer is. Plus, in the league I’m playing in right now, sometimes we go heckle other teams while drinking the beer after we change. Makes the beer taste even better!
Your game matters more than your professional teams – A bunch of us, myself included, live and die with our NHL team, but the funny thing is that we have no control over what our team does. Maybe your coach is making dumb personnel decisions and it’s driving you mad, maybe your front office keeps extending the wrong players. Maybe the players on your team have let you down recently (not that that’s happened recently nooooooo sir). But if you play, you’d be amazed to see that your game, which you have control over, will begin to take precedence. It’s nice!
But really, screw all of those reasons, you’ll do it because it’s fun! I remember the first time I stepped onto the ice with my gear after learning to skate, and felt the wind rush over my face as I skated on the empty rink. I’ll never forget the moment. I’ll never forget my first goal, which just so happened to be in my first game. Or how could I forget when I scored a no look backhand as my first goal in my second season. I think I had the wildest, gangliest celebration ever. Those moments will stay with me forever. So will the laughter, both on the ice and in the locker room. This last year, I had more bad weeks than good ones. No matter how bad the week was though, when I stepped onto the ice for a game, everything else disappeared, and would stay disappeared until I went to bed that night.
Basically, playing hockey is amazing, and I wish more hockey fans did it! But I already convinced you to learn, right? Well, good! Stay tuned this week, and I’ll show you how to learn!

Here are the posts you can expect:
Wednesday: Your Game Plan for Learning to Play Hockey
Thursday: SPECIAL GUEST POST from Sara Garcia (@sara_lnr) on playing hockey as a woman in co-ed leagues
Friday: What to Buy
Monday: How to Go About Learning to Skate
Tuesday: How to Learn to Play
Wednesday: Addressing Common Concerns (and any questions you have hint hint)

Well Glad That’s Over…

HAWKS WIN!!  Or the Stars somehow didn’t put us away.  Either way, I’ll take it.  But there are some things we should talk about…

The first 2 periods of that game were bad…  Like, awful.  We looked like the Sabres out there.  We couldn’t complete passes, enter the offensive zone cleanly, or clear our own zone.  We badly lost the possession game, and couldn’t shoot to save our lives.  Hell, we were making the Stars 4th line look good.

Carcillo was a damn tire fire.  Seriously, he’s a bad hockey player.  We’re gonna bench him in the playoffs, so can we just waive him and give his money to someone who can do something (TT, Dahlbeck the list goes on and on and on).

I’m absolutely not a fan of the whole “roll 3 lines and 2 D-pairings” thing.  Multiple beat writers have said that was due to all the penalties, but still.  Not a fan.  Runblad had 6:25 minutes, Morin 5:32 minutes, and Carcillo 4:43.  Meanwhile Duncs is rolling at damn near 30.

We had a lot of times where we waited too long to shoot, or got cute with a pass.  This was especially true early.  When things aren’t going your way, and the other goalie is as shaky as Lehtonen was, put shots on net.

Okay, that’s a lot of negativity.  Lets look at the positives…

Holy goalie stealing a game Batman.  Crow played out of his mind.  A .941 when you’re facing that many shots is very impressive.  His little 3 save in a row thing early was mind blowing, as was his save on the shorthanded chance towards the end.  Seriously, amazing game.  1st star in my book.

I liked Sharpie a lot.  If you shoot the puck, good things happen, and he demonstrated that.

The iron was not our friend.

I thought TVR had a fine game.  No real complaints.  He got about 11 minutes of ice time, which is about what you would expect from a young player in his first game.  I hope he gets another.

Only 7 players had positive corsi, which isn’t really optimum.  That shouldn’t be surprising, as we got frighteningly out-possesed the first 2 periods.  We will lose games if this keeps happening.

Hossa’s goal line play the third period to get to the net?  Chills.

So in the end a win is a win.  Hopefully the boys don’t come out so flat footed in the future, and we can avoid this in the future.

Graduate Blackhawks

Stats from war-on-ice.com and nhl.com

A Quick Guide to the Events of the Weekend

Hey everyone! I hope that you had a nice time! It was an interesting weekend for the Blackhawks, and I wanted to give ya’ll my take on it real fast.

 

Ben Smith is Back! I absolutely loved this. Ben Smith really made himself a name on the Blackhawks this year. What I love about him is how versatile he is. Smitty cut his teeth on the 4th line this year playing solid defense, but also giving it some much needed offensive edge. He also played on lines 2 and 3, where maintained that defensive talent while showing that he can play offense with the big boys. I though him and Kaner had really nice chemistry together, though personally I would like to see the two of them on different lines. I like Smitty as a 2nd or a 3rd liner to have his considerable defensive acumen while giving it more offence. Maybe later on in his career as he continues to develop he can move up, but good and cheap 3rd and 4th liners are what can make a hockey team, and I’m glad to have Smitty. OH! I forgot about the money! I was guessing that he comes in at 1.5-2 million, and we got him for 1.5. I’m a fan.

 

Raaaaaaaaaanta We brought back Raanta as well. I was a fan of this. Raanta has a lot more development to go, but I think that the goalie market is very lean, so I’m glad we secured a backup who isn’t 523952 years old (shot at Khabi there). Also, $750k is a great price for him. I think that Raanta has a high ceiling (we saw glimpses of this when he pulled our bacon out of the fire in the first half of the year when Crow and Khabi went down with injuries) and I’m excited to see him develop. One last thing, I know a lot of people wanted him at Rockford this year to develop, and while I agree that would do him a world of good, when it comes to a backup goaltender I think the devil you know beats the devil you don’t.

 

GIVE ME MO! I was super excited that we re-signed Jeremy Morin. I think he has tremendous upside and is going to go far in the NHL. I love his on ice vision, his shot, and his 62.6% CF. He makes players around him better, and I think eventually he’ll be a top-6 forward in the NHL. Also, 800k is a great price for him. I am worried that he’ll be sitting in the press box a lot, and I really hope the Hawks finally give him the chance he deserves.

 

WE TRADED BOLLIG!!! Oh. My. God. I was starting to wonder if this day would ever come. But then two things that are constants came through for us. The first is that Stan Bowman is a genius. I mean, a third round pick for Bollig?! The second is Brian Burke’s propensity for meathead forwards. I love it! I have nothing against Bollig personally. Actually, that’s not true. Attacking your fans on Twitter is pretty awful for a professional athlete, but I digress. I don’t like him as a player, and I hated his extension, but now that’s not an issue. A good day indeed.

 

Stan Bowman is Awesome He really is. Not only did he re-sign 3 valuable players for 3.05 million, but he managed to get a third round draft pick for Bollig. And I liked the way he drafted too. I know that some people aren’t a fan of Schmaltz, but he has high upside, and we have enough talent in the system to see how he develops. And I was fine with the rest of the draft too. Stan Bowman, you are a friggin genius!

 

 

A (Rather Late) Offseason Primer, Part 3

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON’T LEAVE ME!!!! or let’s resign Kane and Toews: Okay, dramatic title aside, we need Kane and Toews. They are two of the top talents in the league. They are young. They are the best things that have ever happened to The Chicago Blackhawks. They are the most dynamic 1-2 punch in hockey (if you disagree with me, well, you’re wrong). They win cups.

We need them.

Good news: We are almost certain to get them back. Both of them have said about a gazillion times they want to come back to Chicago (though, to be fair, Toews always seems more gung-ho about it than Kane does).

Bad news: We don’t want to become the new Pittsburgh Penguins. We need money to spend on our bottom six, plus defensemen and goaltenders. There was a while that people were throwing around the number of 12.5 million apiece as the cost to keep them, which would be a problem. Say that the year those extensions went into effect the cap raised to 75 million dollars. This would mean that Kane and Toews would take up a third of the salary cap. If the cap doesn’t raise that much, it would be an even larger percentage.  To those of you who aren’t good with money, take my word for it, that’s a lot. Too much. And the cap might not get raised that much, which would make it an even larger percentage. I don’t know what Bowman would do if they stood by their guns on it. I don’t want to know.

TL:DR We need Kane and Toews to resign. Let’s hope it comes in at 8.5-10 apeice.

One last note: I like the way that the organization is set up right now. A lot. There is a lot of talent on the team, and when some contracts go up that won’t be resigned (I don’t think Kruger and Shaw and Bickell get resigned, but that’s the topic for another day) there are players like Teuvo, Danult, McNeill, Carey, and Hartman to pick up the slack. This team is gonna compete for years to come. Grab a beer and enjoy, it’ll be fun!

A (Rather Late) Offseason Primer, Part 2

Earlier today I covered defense.  Now I’m gonna cover pretty much everyone else.  I’m gonna save two for later though.

What a Hoss: Marian Hossa is really, really talented. He’s a big part of why The Red Wedding Line is so good. We here at Graduate Blackhawks believe he should have won the Selke this year (by we I mean me btw) since he routinely made opposing players look foolish.

He’s also really expensive, and will be for the considerable future. 2021 to be exact. There is no way of knowing if he will be worth it for that long. But none of this matters, his cap hit, contract term and age make it almost impossible to ship him off. So pray that he remains on of the top forwards in the league for a long, long time.

Give Me Mo (gosh these titles are getting bad): I have to say, I’m on the Jeremy Morin bandwagon. Why? Cause he’s got a killer instinct. He’s got great on ice vision and hockey sense. Because of his pug nose (wait, what?!). Because his 5 on 5 corsi is 62.6%. Because he can score. I’ll keep this simple. Resign him, put him on a line with some offensive minded players, and watch the sparks fly. He may get scored on some times, but hey, he’s gotta learn. I worry that Q is gonna be cranky and not play him, but everything I’ve heard makes it seem like they’ll give him a chance. As reported here, Q said “I just think Mo really, I think he progressed this year. He didn’t get much of a chance in the playoffs, but I think that Mo has a good ability to score goals. He’s got the unpredictability offensively that, it’s a nice trait to have. It’s the unpredictability of being consistent and defensively being reliable that, putting that all together is what we’re looking for. And he gets that, the last couple of those things tightened up, you know, I think Mo could grow as a player and all of a sudden his opportunity could be enhanced. But there’s potential there. I like the way he competes and offensively he’s got some nice traits as well.” Typical Q, being not committing to anything.

Teuvo Time: Keeping this one short. He’s gonna be good. Real friggin good. Like, big part of the future of the franchise good. Don’t, for the love of God, trade him. Or Saad.

Goaltender Bender!!! (I’m struggling with these titles): For all you Crawford haters, grab a brown paper bag and breath into it: He’s staying. For the long term. I think he could get traded at some point, but something younger and better has to come along, and it won’t for a while.

As for Raanta, I’m guessing he comes back. He’s a super guy, evidently loved in the locker room, and got us out of a tough jam early in the season, but he’s not the best backup around. Problem is, I don’t see a better option. The good thing is, I think he has the potential to be as good a backup as there is, and even a good starter.

Nikolai Khabibulin: Hahahahahahahaha no.

David Runblad: Seriously, I don’t know whats going on here. Bowman must see something in him. I’d like to see it soon as well, but I don’t really matter, now do I?

Peter Regin (I’ve just started saying peoples names now. Titles are hard): First of all, I love Peter Regin. He doesn’t score often, but he doesn’t have to. He goes hard to the net (something the Hawks, aside from Shawzer, seemed unwilling to do this year, but I digress), plays good hockey, and I like his possession numbers (55.2% CF).

A Thorny Issue (Thorns are Sharp… oh forget it, I’m tired): This one is tough. Sharpy is really talented, but on the wrong side of 30 and his name is being thrown around. I don’t buy it. He is on the wrong side of 30, but I think he’ll be able to play out his contract at a high level. The city loves him. He’s really good looking (wait what?). I think he stays.

Lets “Kesler” Something Up (worst one yet): I want Kesler. He’s cheap, talented, and takes the pressure off of Teuvo to perform right away. Seriously though, a top six of Sharp-Toews-Hossa, Saad-Kesler-Kane is sexy as all getup. I don’t, with Keslers age and injury history want to give up Saad and/or Teuvo. I don’t think its likely, but maybe we could do Shaw, Bickell and a prospect for him. Or maybe throw Oduya in there for one of them. I love Shaw and Bickell, but there is enough talent in the system to make up for their loss. I mean, seriously, how sexy is that top six?

Another wrench in the engine is the idea that we would have to trade Sharp for him. That is being thrown around, and and it could make some sense. I still think we should try and move bottom 6 players, but teams might not buy it. Anyway, it’ll be an interesting few days.

Ben Smith: He can do a little of everything, and he’s still going to only get better. A must to resign.

Bollig and Versteeg: Everyone knows what I’m gonna say. I’d like to get rid of them, but I don’t see how it happens. Maybe to sweeten a deal. Hell, at this point I’d trade them for a 5th rounder, or even considerations, just to get their money.

All stats came from www.extraskater.com (which is godly) and all the cap numbers came from www.capgeek.com (which is just as godly).

Tomorrow, I address the big one, KANE AND TOEWS! Should be fun.  Thanks for reading!