Blackhawks sputtering on the edge of ‘oblivion’

Okay. That may be a tad mellow-dramatic. Last night’s game was a tough watch. The Hawks got out to a 1-0 lead only to see the Islanders score the next 4 goals. I’m not sure why coach Quenneville stuck with goalie Anton Forsberg so long. I would have pulled him after the 3rd tally. For whatever reason, the Hawks don’t seem to play hard for him.

In the midst of the inconsistent defense, and goalie play, Patrick Kane had himself a night. He scored two goals (one unassisted), and made a sweet pass that lead to defenseman Erik Gustafsson’s first NHL goal. When the Hawks cut it to 4-2, I thought there was a chance. Unfortunately Jeff Glass couldn’t do much better in goal. It was sad to see.

The Hawks clearly need to do something. They can’t count on Corey Crawford to come back and save them. He could be dealing with a career ending injury, suffering from post-concussion symptoms. Crow masked a few deficiencies, including bad defense at times, and lack of scoring. The Hawks should have manhandled the Islanders, instead they looked like a team playing 4 games in 7 nights.

Perhaps it’s just the effects of not playing hockey in a week. Perhaps, Stan Bowman needs to make a trade for another goalie. At what cost though? With the team the way it is, you don’t want to lose more young talent. Then again, they are not getting anything from Saad, Sharp, and Toews. Towes drought is going on two years now. There is something clearly wrong with his game. Perhaps he has taken too many shots to the head, and body?

I don’t have many answers for this team. I thought last year’s high scoring team was destined for a deep playoff run. I was sadly mistaken. This year’s team is so hot and cold. Many are calling for either stars to be traded, or Quenneville/Bowman fired–or all of the above. I’m not sure that’s the answer.

The Blackhawks no longer have the luxury of depth when key players like Artem Anisimov, or Corey Crawford go down. They simply can’t outplay teams anymore to compensate. Hopefully getting Anisimov back can put a spark into the team. They probably need to break up Saad and Toews. Kane has proven to be able to make any two other forwards look good, if not great. Toews seems to have the opposite effect, and that is no good for winning hockey. It’s tough to watch. The Hawks are in an equally tough spot. I fear the results, and change that will inevitably come if the Hawks miss the playoffs.

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Brawl of the Week: Hall of Champions

This week’s Tavern Brawl is brand spanking new: Hall of Champions. Simply, get a deck of one of the champions and beat a player using another championship deck. I don’t follow all that stuff, so all I know is that these are some of the most interesting/competitive decks of all time. Since they span a vast time period, I am assuming all the decks are Wild rules.

My first deck was a warrior deck, it looked good, but I was matched up vs another warrior deck, and well, they were the better warrior. My second attempt, I got Pavel’s Shaman deck, and it was choice.

You can get a few dailies done with these, as there are different classes. So, go on and get in there, see what it feels like to play a championship caliber deck. Pick up your free pack, and have some fun! See you next week!

Pavel’s Shaman deck was fun. Having Ragnaros in your back pocket for a kill shot ain’t too shabby!

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Provocative ‘Cheesesteak’ Tacos

I saw a thing on the internets, it was “Cheesesteak 4 ways”. They were mostly abominations of the classic cheasesteak. It did however get me thinking, “I can make cheesesteak tacos”, so I did!

This recipe has no provolone, no cheese whiz, but feel free to tweak yours to include them. I will list my ingredients, and you can go from there. One thing I will say is try it as close to this recipe as your palate can take, so you know what works and what doesn’t.

  • 1 lb ground chuck- I used 80/20. I thought about using sandwich steaks, or some other cut of meat, but ultimately ground meat goes best with taco shells.
  • 1/4 cup of onion, chopped finely (I like it small, you may not)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup green pepper
  • 3 medium sized mushrooms (probably a half cup)
  • 1/4 cup milk/cream/half and half (I used half and half because that’s what I had)
  • 4 ‘tabs’ of butter (about a tbs and a half)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Hard shell corn tortillas
  • Flour soft shell tortillas
  • Cheese mix- 1 slice of Swiss, 1 slice of American, 1.5 to 2 oz cream cheese, 2 oz Monterrey Jack cheese (cut up from a block). Additional cheese slices for the tacos (not required, but recommended!)

I chop all my veggies pretty fine. Not so fine with the peppers, but the onions and garlic I like small. Why? Because if you don’t they tend to blow up and get huge, and this annoys me. Do as you will. Saute the onions for a few minutes, then add the peppers, and mushrooms. When they get soft, add 1 tab of butter, and garlic for about 30-60 seconds, (until you smell it). Put aside for later.

Brown and drain your ground beef. When it’s drained, add the veggies back. Let it cook for 2-3 minutes. Add salt and pepper to your liking. I added a couple tablespoons of water just to make sure things wouldn’t dry out and start to burn. Add your milk/cream/half and half, then add the rest of your butter and cream cheese. Let it melt. (if things get too gooey at any point, add a little more water/milk/cream/half and half–to your preference). Start adding your cheese, one cheese at a time, continuously stirring when needed. Taste/add seasoning. Once you get the consistency/flavor you like, set on the lowest setting to keep warm.

Heat up your tortillas, and enjoy! I added about a 1/4 slice of cheese per taco on the taco shell itself. I used American for the first 3, and Swiss on my 2nd soft shell taco. Feel free to add your favorite cheese!

I tried both hard and soft shell tacos. I preferred the hard shell. It seemed to bring out the flavor of the cheesesteak more. You may not. Feel free to explore, change the recipe. Let me know if you do!

This recipe also got me thinking: It might be good on pizza, slider buns, crescent rolls, or puff pastry. I’m also thinking to try it with chicken. It’s definitely going to be in my rotation going forward!

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Matt Nagy named 16th Bears coach

Matt Nagy has officially been named the 16th head coach in the history of the Chicago Bears. He is the 6th coach since Mike Ditka led the Bears to their only Super Bowl win, and the 3rd coach since Lovie Smith was fired in 2012. Let’s hope he has better results then the last three.

Matt Nagy comes over from the Kansas City Chiefs, and has been with Andy Reid since their days back in Philadelphia. Nagy started as an unpaid intern, and worked himself up to offensive coordinator. His latest success includes coaching Chiefs Quarterback Alex Smith to his best professional season. The Chiefs offense blossomed under Nagy’s playcalling, which scored over 28 points a game for the last 4 games of the season. The Chiefs offense were top 5 in total offense, 6th in points per game, 7th in passing yards, 9th in rushing yards. They also led the NFL with the fewest turnovers with 8 total. Those are some pretty nice stats, but they are just stats.

The Bears, and Ryan Pace still have a lot of work to do. Nagy has a coaching staff to fill, the Senior Bowl to prepare for, free agency, and the 2018 NFL draft. It will be fun and exciting to see the players, and coaches they will add going forward. I am holding out hope they can retain defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, but if not, there are a few qualified defensive coaches available. Including recently fired Jack Del Rio, and Chuck Pagano. Fangio would be the best fit, as he has molded the current defense.

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Brawl of the Week: ‘Servant of Yogg-Saron’ Tryouts (again)

This week’s Tavern Brawl is one we had a time or two before: ‘Servant of Yogg-Saron’ Tryouts. Pick your hero, your deck is filled with random class and neutral minions. For each minion played, there is a random spell cast, with a random target.

Yeah. The most random of the highly random; an RNG fest. This match is not for the feint of heart. Nothing quite like having a board full of minions, only to cast Brawl on yourself (not once, but twice in the same match!). The swings can be nasty.

Maybe you get “lucky” like I did, and have your opponent bail on you a couple rounds after the match starts. If not for that, I’d probably still be playing. So get in there, and get your free pack. Have fun. I will see you next week!

 

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Coaching Carousel: 2018 Edition

The coaching carousel spins round and round. Every year, there are between 5 and 10 coaching vacancies in the NFL, give or take. This years opportunities stand at 6 so far. There are a couple teams in “limbo” as far as what they will do. There always seems to be 1-2 that pop open suddenly. Let’s take a look at the teams and possible replacements.

Arizona Cardinals: In a stunning, but long rumored move, head coach Bruce Arians is stepping away from football, and retiring, to spend more time with family. Arians has had some health concerns as of late, and coaching football doesn’t help one live the healthiest of lifestyles.

The Cardinals job is kind of a “ready to win” position. They probably need a QB, but they have a solid defense, and premiere running back. I could see them going with a more veteran coach such as Minnesota offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, who could bring a veteran QB with him from free agency. A defensive mind could fit at well.

Chicago Bears: In probably one of the worst kept secrets, the Bears parted ways with veteran head coach John Fox. There have been rumblings going into the season, but when the Bears lost to Green Bay after a bye week, without Aaron Rodgers being present, it seemed to shift uncomfortably towards Fox’s departure. The rumor mill has been churning furiously as to his heir apparent.

My pick: is Kansas City Special Teams Coordinator Dave Toub, who has ties to Chicago when he worked as Lovie Smith’s Special Teams guru. I don’t think he is a favorite. My gut tells me it will be someone from the Saint’s organization as Ryan Pace has a fixation on that. My fear is Josh McDaniels being hired.

Detroit Lions: I was particularly surprised hearing they parted ways with head coach Jim Caldwell. Caldwell had a winning record during his 4 seasons in the Motor City. I suppose a level of stagnation has crept in, but it was hardly Caldwell’s fault. The trendy thing is to go with the opposite of what you had, so they might go for a defensive guy.

I heard the mumbles of Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patrica being the front runner for the Lions, I could see that. I would not like this very much. I don’t have a gut feeling on this, other than Patricia, who would would make it tough for my Bears to play them twice a year.

Indianapolis Colts: Head coach Chuck Pagano had kind of a dysfunctional relationship with the GM for a couple years now. Looks like he finally wore out his welcome. The Colts had a bad year, mostly due to Andrew Luck never making it back from offseason shoulder surgery. Not many teams have winning seasons with their backup QBs starting the entire year.

The Colts are allegedly interested in Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, and Patriots offensive mind, Josh McDaniels. McDaniels makes a lot of sense, as he will have a great QB to work with. McDaniels has a track record of stirring up the pot. I’m not sure he will work well with the current GM. I could see another offensive guru, Pat Shurmur perhaps, or another hot offensive candidate. Dave Toub would probably do great in Indy.

New York Giants: The Giants launched head coach Ben McAdoo after he decided benching two time Super Bowl champion, Eli Manning was the right move. Manning ended his streak of starts, and was inserted back into the lineup after McAdoo was replaced. The ended up parting ways with GM Jerry Reese too. McAdoo did not complete his second year with the Giants.

The Giants are a mess. They are kind of primed for a guy like McDaniels, who would either have input on the GM or possibly have/share GM duties. He’s definitely high strung, and will most likely ‘write his own ticket’ as the top offensive candidate. This would make me very happy. Having to hire a GM*, and a head coach could slow down the process, and make them an ideal candidate to wait for a possible Super Bowl team. This puts McDaniel right in that time frame.

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders fired head coach Jack Del Rio after a 6-10 season. Most likely to make room for John Gruden to come back to coaching. As a fan of the Raiders, this makes me happy and a little worried at the same time. I love Chucky, but I am in the camp that Gruden got particularly fortunate going up vs his former team in the Super Bowl. His record after that season is less than stellar.

If not Gruden: Perhaps one of the hot young coordinators/QB coaches. Eagles coordinator Frank Reich, or QB coach John DeFilippo could help get Derek Carr back on track. It doesn’t make much sense to fire Del Rio, if they didn’t have at least some kind of deal with Gruden in place. So, I am not going to speculate a whole bunch with this one.

Guys I like: In no particular order: Dave Toub, John DeFilippo, Frank Reich, Darrell Bevell (Seahawks OC), Steve Wilks, Vic Fangio (Bears DC), Mike Vrabel (Texans DC).

I’m hoping my Bears act soon so whoever they hire can put a decent staff together. If the Bears lose Fangio, perhaps they can hire Jack Del Rio, who is a solid defensive mind.

Dream team: Dave Toub as HC, Mike McCoy as OC, Fangio as DC. Not sure Fangio would stay in Chicago, he really deserves a shot to be a head coach somewhere. I think he would fit in great in Indianapolis, Detroit, or Arizona.

*The Giants hired GM Dave Gettleman late last week.

 

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Hawks, Glass half full with win over Oilers

Last night the Chicago Blackhawks called upon 32-year old rookie, Jeff Glass to get his first NHL start. Glass had been in their system since earlier in the year when they needed a goalie to leave unprotected for the expansion draft.

Slippery, and smooth: Glass was really smooth, at times, looked a lot like Corey Crawford as he stopped his first 16 shots, and 42 out of 45 shots overall. The Hawks were coasting to a 3-1 win with 2 minutes and change left in the 3rd period. Glass had some help from the defense at times, and did give up a lot of rebound opportunities. That said, he did a great job. Especially on a couple of breakaway shots.

Cinderella story: Similar to Scott Darling, Jeff Glass has his own “Cinderella” story. He played with some of the great up and coming players in the 2005 u20 world cup. He also played with 6 KHL teams in 7 years. You can’t help but root for a guy like Glass, who at 32 got his first shot at an NHL start. He will no doubt get a another bite at the apple with Corey Crawford sidelined with an upper body injury.

Auld Lang Syne: Jeff Glass could get another start on New Year’s Eve, and have a shot to close out 2017, and ring in the new year with a win. Now, I am not going to say he’s going to be the catalyst in a Hawks turn around, but if they can just play 50-50 until Crow gets back in net, that would be huge. The guys seem to play hard for him, much like they did when former Hawk Scott Darling would fill in.

Mixologist: Coach Quenneville mixed up his lines as he is want to do, and the line of Schmaltz, Kane, and Hartman proved to be highly productive, racking up 6 points. Schmaltz took over at center for injured center Artem Anisimov, and came up with 3 assists. Kane had the GWG in overtime, and an assist. Hartman scored the Hawks first goal, tying the game at 1-1. It will be interesting to see what coach Q will do once Anisimov returns to the ice.

 

 

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