Editor/founder of Cheer the Anthem, season ticket holder in Section 326 and full-time sports writer who lists June 9, 2010, as one of the greatest days of his life. Contact him at email@example.com.
Posts by Bartl
Now that we’re back to getting some regular content on the site, we’ve decided to re-introduce every staff member with our opinions on some Blackhawks issues as the NHL takes a break from games that count.
Feel free to tell us how stupid we are and voice your gripes in the comments or on social media. Let’s get after it then, shall we?
Oh, also, Sellers’ answers are the best. I mean it’s not even close. OK, now let’s get after it….
The Blackhawks are 7-5-0 since Christmas and are tied with St. Louis (Blues have a game in hand) behind Nashville in the division. How do you account for the recent slip in their play?
Nakis (@JimNakis): It’s undeniable that the Blackhawks started coming back to earth after Corey Crawford took a fall at that Enya concert. I think it’s some combination of general fatigue, substandard defensive play from Oduya, Rozsival and Rundblad and Crawford trying to rediscover his pre-injury form. All things considered, I’m not super worried about the state of this hockey team.
Adam (@SouvenirCity): The Jets are no longer a punchline and two of those losses came at their hands for starters. Losing to the Stars isn’t wholly unexplained neither. That team is good and merely took some time to figure out a few things. Defensively they’re going to remain a mess more likely than not, but Dallas scoring 6 goals? That’ll happen with the kind of firepower they have up front. The only losses that really pissed me off were the WC and the Oil. The Winter Classic was a tough one to swallow given how it happened. I don’t fancy the Capitals much and that’s twice now the Hawks have dropped games to them. 0 points vs. WSH is not a good look. The Oil are the worst team in the league and it’s no longer a loss I can laugh off. Stop losing to them. Crawford was out for the beginning of that stretch I believe and our third pairing doesn’t give me much, if any, confidence.
Mighty Mike (@brightblack76): Combination of things, really. There’s the standard winter doldrums, where they seem to lose interest for a bit. There’s also been some rank bad luck (see Avalanche, Colorado for a prime example). The various injuries and suspensions and general Q line-juggling have disrupted the flow a bit as well. And yes, Crow hasn’t been imperious since his stage-dive went wrong. Nothing to worry about, really, although I’d like to see them push for the Division so that they avoid having to go through the Preds AND the Blues (although getting the Kings in the 1st Round would hardly be a walk in the park either).
Tom (@ThomPauly): The snooziness of January. Probably not what people want to hear, but these games are boring for good teams. They mean very little when you’re virtually guaranteed a playoff spot. And with the runs of success the Hawks have had in the past, it’s understandable that they’ve been just okay since the mid-December. I’m not, by any means, suggesting that it’s acceptable, but take a look at the January record for the Hawks last year. They were 5-2-6 to start the year last year. That’s not too good for any team, much less one that expects to compete for a Stanley Cup.
Sellers (@lexpatriate): These are clearly not champions. Champions don’t take breaks. A champion would have seized the opening and pressed the advantage and initiative and no letting up on the gas. A champion would have championed.
Bartl (@BartlSTATS4): Let’s take a look at the losses since the holiday break. Outdoors in the final seconds in Washington. Varlamov’s stellar 54-save shutout. At Edmonton in the second of a road back-to-back. A home to loss to a legit Winnipeg team that has owned the ‘Hawks. And a flat stinker against Dallas, which happens. I mean I’m not trying to make excuses, but I’m simply not getting worked up, especially after dominating Arizona and winning at Pittsburgh before the break.
The punishment for watching the Blackhawks as much as some of us do is that we can’t just accept taking two points from one of the hottest and talented teams in the NHL without delving into some underlying issues – and there were a few that need to be pointed out from Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout win over Tampa Bay.
Oh, you want the good stuff first? OK, let’s look at the good stuff.
♦ For as much as we’ve harped on Kris Versteeg on this site, on Twitter, on Facebook, in our own text and email threads, in your haunted dreams, etc., he’s actually been pretty decent lately, and it’s tough not to justify his place on the top line with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews – for now. Sure, you’re still going to find him blindly firing a pass to the center of the ice with no one there and he’ll stickhandle himself out of position, but he’s getting to the net and creating some chances. It’s far more than what we expected after playing like a pile of dog shit last season.
♦ Corey Crawford got hung out to dry twice – both involved Brent Seabrook, and we’ll get to that later – but he played another solid game and has done so pretty much all season. His solid play furthers my point of cocking your hand back and swiftly decking anyone who suggests anyone else is the system is better suited for his starting role.
There’s more good, and overall the ‘Hawks played rather well on both ends Tuesday, but here are some things that are concerning:
Coach Q said at Tuesday’s morning skate – to paraphrase – that he wasn’t concerned about scoring. He knows his team can score. What he’s concerned about is keeping the puck out of their own net.
Scott Darling has done a pretty damned good job of that in his first two NHL starts, stopping 56 of the 58 shots he’s faced. And the goal he allowed against the Ducks? It came off of the Blackhawks’ inability to generate chances on the power play before Brent Seabrook’s blunder allowed Devante Smith-Pelly to streak down the ice on a breakaway.
If Q wants to be confident in his offense, fine. I mean, the talent is there, obviously. But don’t ignore the issues. The Blackhawks haven’t scored more than two goals in four straight games, losing three. The power play is 2 for 13 in that stretch and has converted just 18.4 percent on the season.
Furthermore, Andrew Shaw should not be tied for the team lead in goals with three. Saad, Hossa, Toews – these guys need to start putting pucks in the net. And two of Kane’s three goals came in one game – against Philadelphia. If Q thinks there aren’t problems offensively, then he needs to get his head out of his ass. It seems like the goaltenders – all three of them – have a pretty solid hold on the net when they’re in there. That would be the least of my concerns right now.
I’m posting this pretty late after the game, so everything else I have to say is in Boxing. Have at it …..
I ran into the CI crew during the first intermission at the corner bar near section 322, and Fels asked me when the last time two Chicago-area goaltenders faced each other prior to Sunday. My best guess was when Craig Anderson went up against Glenview native Al Montoya, and the last time they started against each other was Jan. 2.
The last time it actually happened in Chicago? Beats me, but Lemont native Scott Darling won Sunday’s Battle of the Chicago Suburbs by making 32 saves in a 2-1 win over the Senators and Park Ridge’s Anderson.
Darling wasn’t tested all that much, but he kept cool for a guy making his NHL debut in his hometown for the team he grew up rooting for, which I guess is kind of a big deal or something if you’re searching for a narrative. Not a bad one, but more importantly I’m happy the Blackhawks were able to come away with two points with their third-string goaltender as Corey Crawford sat out a fourth straight game.
Most of us here at CtA have discussed Crawford missing an extended period would probably be the most damning injury to the Blackhawks’ success this season. Antti Raanta and Darling have at least showed they can hold up in a small sample size, but going on much longer without Crawford, who is 3-0-1 with a 1.66 GAA and .926 save percentage (take that, haters), sure isn’t ideal.
The only goal Darling gave up was Milan Michalek’s short-handed tally in the second period, and it’s tough to blame him for it. As Brad Richards was coming to the boards to secure the puck off a ring-around, the ref inexplicably skated in front of Richards, forcing him to miss it. That sprung Alex Chiasson and Michalek, and well, you know the rest.
Jonathan Toews’ goal was the Blackhawks’ first in the second period all season, and it also gave Patrick Kane his 500th career point off the assist.
Anything else I’ve got is in this season’s first edition of Boxing. Have at it….
With our podcast schedule in flux due to life and whatnot, the fellas here at CtA decided to put together a three-part round table that starts with the regular season, taps into the playoffs and looks ahead to the offseason. We did this figuring we’d spare you from one 500,000-word post.
I’d also like to introduce our newest contributor, Tom Pauly, who is extremely knowledgeable about hockey and is just as demented as us. Basically, he fits right in. Give him a follow on Twitter @ThomPauly, and also be sure to check out his hilarious other venture, The Full Amonte.
All right, on we go.
The levels of fandom lead to emotions such as these, especially in this city.
Cubs fans can take losses knowing nothing is expected of them for years to come. White Sox fans know they’re stuck with an average big league club and a depleted farm system, and any signs of positivity they get are just a bonus.
When the Bulls bow out in the first round of the playoffs, their fans can shrug it off in what-could’ve-been fashion knowing their best player was lost to injury – again.
Bears fans? Blame Jay Cutler, root for the backup, watch a promising start “fade to black,” schedule your fantasy draft, rinse, repeat.
Tapping into Blackhawks fandom doesn’t afford you the luxury of burying yourself in any of those aforementioned situations anymore, though. The regular-season losses are analyzed down to the 18th skater more often than accepted as ho-hum. Playoff defeats are heartbreaking to the point of downright tragedy.
All of that comes with expectations, which the Blackhawks meteorically have risen since their surprising run to the Western Conference Final in 2008-09 and subsequent two Stanley Cup titles. There’s no more acceptance of losing a playoff series without a mandatory period of depression – no matter how long or short. Even those singing the praises of an exciting season and thrilling run to a fourth conference final in six years aren’t going to seek out a highlight of Sunday’s final goal. It hurts too much.
Couldn’t say it any better than Notorious BIG.
Game 5 was, without a doubt, the most nerve-wracking hockey I’ve watched since overtime of Game 7 against Detroit last year. And that’s probably only fitting given that the Blackhawks need to overcome the exact same deficit they faced in that series.
From up two goals (twice), to farting away the lead, to an absolutely intense first OT to the winner by Michal Handzus, it brought out every emotion humans are capable of showing. I can’t imagine that Game 6 will be any different.
Rather than writing about the Blackhawks’ playoff demise, we’re able to get to some analysis ahead of the return to the Staples Center on Friday. Here’s what I’ve got…
When the fan base was weighing in on the better matchup for the Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final, it seemed the majority chose the Kings over the Anaheim Ducks.
The third period of Game 2 showed why a series with the Kings wasn’t something I wanted to go through.
After the ‘Hawks controlled the majority of the first two periods, Los Angeles took advantage of a couple of early power plays in the third on its way to a five-goal period to even the series heading to Hollywood for Game 3 on Saturday.
The Blackhawks capitalized on a pair of timely changes, as Nick Leddy took an outlet pass and put a nifty backhand past Jonathan Quick before Ben Smith scored merely seconds after he got on the ice to give the ‘Hawks a 2-0 lead into the final two minutes of the second. Brent Seabrook had a prime chance to put them up three, but Quick’s sliding save across the crease kept L.A. within a pair.
Justin Williams had a puck go off his sake and trickle past Corey Crawford near the end of the second, and from there it was all Kings.
The Kings’ explosion shouldn’t really surprise anyone. This a team that stormed back from 0-3 down to San Jose to win the series and 2-3 against the Ducks before dominating Game 7 on the road. As much as we commend the Blackhawks for never being out of a game, series, whatever, L.A. has the same pedigree – and maybe even more dangerous when backed into a corner.
The last three games of this series have helped produce enough stomach acid to make Tums become a midday snack. The first 10 minutes provided some worry before it was Jonathan Toews to the rescue with a third-period goal that would stand up for a 2-1 victory in Game 5 as the ‘Hawks held serve at the United Center.
The penalty 31 seconds in, combined with the bad bounce that slipped past Corey Crawford and the pair of posts the Wild hit in the first period made for an uncomfortable beginning to a game the Blackhawks needed before heading back to Minnesota. They gradually began dominating the possession into the second period and final got the final nail on a play that Patrick Sharp made the smart move to fire the puck at the net for a waiting Toews.
I’m sure most of us predicted when the series began that we’d be seeing some handshakes tonight, but at least the ‘Hawks were able to rebound from a pair of stinkers up north to apply the right amount of gas to get them through an important game in the latter part of a series. They have a tendency to do such things.
I’ve very tired, so just a couple of things….
* Despite years of wondering what kind of lineup Q will ice from shift to shift, I still was bewildered at what I saw in Game 3 and 4 and the matter of putting Kris Versteeg on the top line to start Game 5. What’s even more mind boggling is that when Q puts together the combinations that seem to be the most logic, the ‘Hawks produce. Yet, Q continues to roll questionable lines when it seems completely unjustified.
For instance, is it any surprise the Blackhawks’ game picked up when he put Toews, Sharp and Marian Hossa together tonight? The Red Wedding line that produced so well during the regular season? Is it any wonder that when you put Bryan Bickell in the right spots with the right people that his game goes up a notch? Or when Peter Regin is dressed like everyone had been clamoring for and he puts in solid work on the bottom six despite not having played since April 12?
These are things I’ll never understand about Q and his propensity to change lineups for the sake of change and nothing else. Instead, we had to suffer through Game 3 and 4 and part of tonight wondering when the hell he’s going to stop trying to out-think himself.
* Crawford didn’t have his best in Game 4, but as has been the case for years, he puts his balls on the ice when the tough really gets going. He had a near-perfect performance in Game 5 and helped the ‘Hawks weather the storm when the Wild were pushing hard for the tie.
* Woof, did Duncan Keith have a couple of bad turnovers or what? At least twice I remember him hitting the meet of a Wild stick on a pass attempt he had no business making.
Apologies for the (very) delayed recap, but sometimes Friday nights turn into Saturday mornings very quickly. I’ll be pretty brief, as I’m sure you’ve read mostly everything you need to know. Just a couple of highlights.
* Patrick Kane’s disgusting backhand flip of a game-winner has deservedly been played all over since it happened, along with his yelling of “Showtime!” celebration. The guy just seems to be in the right spot at important moments, and even when he’s not in the right spot, he gets himself there by improvising as he did on the backhand goal. He and Marian Hossa also showed that good things happen when you have your stick on the ice, as they accepted feeds from Ben Smith and Brandon Saad, respectively, to pot goals in open nets.
* Corey Crawford was again spectacular, snuffing out numerous Wild opportunities in the first and second periods before being the victim of a couple bad bounces and overall shitty play from….
* Brandon Bollig. Another awful night. On the second goal, he turned the puck over at the center line leading to a Wild possession. Bollig then got beat badly to the net by Brodziak, who had a clear shot past Crawford. I hope Bollig stubs his toe so badly that he cannot play another game for the rest of the playoffs.
That’s it for now, he’s Boxing. I’ll be back with another edition after Game 2. GO ‘HAWKS!….
All right, full disclosure: After Game 2, I had a meltdown. Nakis and myself were cursing the world and couldn’t see the Blackhawks winning this series. I calmed myself a bit and rested my DOOM to look forward to Game 3.
Then Game 4 happened. Win.
After Jonathan Toews scored in OT of Game 5, I had made a complete 180 and went from completely despondent to a no-way-the-‘Hawks-lose mentality. I should have known, should have looked back to last year’s Red Wings series and even the 1-2 hole in the Cup Final against Boston. I should have taken stock in the Blues blowing that 2-0 lead to the Kings. I didn’t, and I’m so happy that the Blackhawks proved Nakis and myself wrong. Every bit of it is glorious.
What makes it even better? The fact that the Blues have basically become the Cubs of the NHL. I don’t feel sorry for them in the least bit. And even though I thought they were better than last year, they never cease to amaze with their ability to completely fold. After Patrick Sharp’s goal to make it 3-1 on Sunday, I sat in my seat at the United Center and felt a breeze from the Blues bench all the way up in the 300 level from the wind being blown out of St. Louis’ sails. The Blues weren’t able to crush the ‘Hawks spirit like they’d hoped, and now the Blackhawks are moving on to Round 2, while the Blues are heading back to Meth Country.
Let’s talk about a couple of things…
* I’m going to start with Corey Crawford first, because he’s fucking deserves it. As the ‘Hawks continued with their conga line to the penalty box in the second period, Crawford continued to turn away the Blues and wound up helping the Blackhawks kill 10 minutes of shorthanded time. It was the type of performance Crawford deserves much, much more credit for than he’ll ever get in this town, and it’s a goddamn shame. Not only should he have won a Conn Smythe for his balls-to-the-wall effort in leading the ‘Hawks to last year’s Cup, he played pretty outstanding in five of the six games of this series. And this is from a guy who already got his new paper, with his contract extension yet to even kick in. He deserves more patting on the ass, not this kind of shit I see on Facebook immediately following another stellar effort:
* Coach Q said Duncan Keith may have played his best game since Q started coaching in Chicago. It’s pretty difficult to argue with that assessment. Keith was the one who saved a clearing attempt on Toews’ goal, and his shot may have gone in even if Andrew Shaw didn’t deflect it. Then, he got one of his own. No, you shouldn’t win a Norris Trophy for your offense, but Keith had two goals and five assists in the series and played out of his mind in the defensive zone as well. And remember, he played with Sheldon Brookbank for three games while Brent Seabrook was suspended, even though some didn’t think Keith could survive without his buddy.
* When Toews decides it’s time for him to take over, the opponent is generally fucked. Three goals and four assists in the series, OT goal in Game 5, game-winning goal in the Game 6 clincher. The Captain had three goals in the entire playoffs last season and totaled just three assists in the first nine games – and the ‘Hawks still won the Cup.
* Barret Jackman showers in Ryan Reaves’ pee stream.
* I went to St. Louis one time and walked into a tavern. I noticed everyone was slurping a variety of liquids off the bar. A man and woman sitting at a table nearby had their waitress come over and pour a bucket of beer down in front of them, and they proceeded to put mouth to table and drink it up without batting an eye. Though I felt this was all very strange, I sat down and ordered a Bacardi and diet. The bartender came over, poured a can of diet coke and some Bacardi simultaneously on the bar in front of me, stirred it around with a straw and then told me the price.
“OK man, I’ve got to ask – why is everyone just slurping their drinks off the bar.”
The bartender replied, “Sorry, we don’t have any cups in St. Louis.”
* Enough jokes. On to Round 2 we go. Here’s Boxing…
In Game 1 and 2, the Blackhawks were outplayed for long stretches, held a one-goal lead in the third period before eventually succumbing to late goals in overtime defeats.
Game 3 had plenty of similarities, but Corey Crawford stood tall in net and led the Blackhawks to a 2-0 victory in one of the better games he’s ever played. His 34-save effort got the ‘Hawks back into the series and gave us all the hope we’ve been looking for after two disheartening losses.
Puck possession and a general presence in the offensive zone were essentially non-existent from about the initial burst in the first period through the final minutes of the third, and the Blues continued to up the pressure and controlled most of the action. These stretches were all too familiar from the first two games in St. Louis, and it seemed the Blues would score that eventual cock-stomping goal we’ve all come to expect.
Crawford played well in Game 1 and admittedly not so well in Game 2, but he was exceptional Monday – and the ‘Hawks needed every last bit of it.
Jonathan Toews was able to slip one past Ryan Miller in the first period, and Crawford made it stand up until Marcus Kruger added an empty netter in the final seconds. It was another up-and-down performance from the ‘Hawks, with plenty of improvement still left in order to even this series Wednesday.
— Sheldon Brookbank played a lot better than I expected and didn’t seem out of place at all filling in for the suspended Brent Seabrook. He made one defensive-zone turnover that had us holding our breath, but other than that he was solid. He even took hit from behind by known piss drinker Maxime Lapierre, who proceeded to act as if he had just been the victim of the world’s greatest injustice. Fuck you, Maxime.
— Remember how so many of us still had confidence because the ‘Hawks played well enough to win the first two games but still lost? That’s exactly how Blues fans feel after Monday, except they are still one game up and have the chance to bury the Blackhawks into a 3-1 hole heading back to St. Louis. Crawford was the difference this time by being basically perfect, but a replica of this Blues performance and one blip of imperfection from Crawford on Wednesday easily could have the ‘Hawks coming up on the losing end.
— Brandon Bollig and Ryan Reaves combined for less than 10 minutes of ice time in Game 3 because they’re both worthless piles of shit who serve absolutely zero purpose yet continued to be dressed.
— Meanwhile, Jeremy Morin sat in the press box – again.
— So, about the power play. St. Louis gave the ‘Hawks four prime chances to provide some breathing room on the scoreboard in the second period, including a brief 5 on 3. The Blackhawks are now 1 for 14 in the series, and it’s starting to become a problem given that the Blues continue to take stupid penalties and the ‘Hawks can’t take advantage. At one point on the 2-man advantage, Patrick Sharp held the puck roughly eight feet from the net for seven straight seconds with nary a shot or pass for absolutely no reason. That type of stagnation, along with trying to generate offense from the point rather than in around the net, isn’t going to get it done.
— Michal Handzus was great on the kill again Monday. He’s still a fart in the wind 5 on 5, and there’s no reason for him to be centering the second line and dragging it down. It’s a tough line to toe when he’s playing so well when the ‘Hawks are shorthanded.
— Toews won 19 of 24 faceoffs. That’s, like, good and stuff.
So the Blackhawks got away with a less-than-stellar effort to get back in the series. Get another one Wednesday – hopefully without giving fans acid reflux – and it will be a best of three. Let’s take this one and move on.
You Should Have Racing Stripes the Way You Keep Me in Pursuit: Overtime Boxing with Blues (4) and ‘Hawks (3) – Blues Lead Series 2-0
You want narratives? OK, I’ll give you narratives.. They’ll make you feel better. Which is good, because these are things you’re going to be hearing from the time you read this Sunday through faceoff of Game 3.
The Blackhawks were down 0-3 to Vancouver in 2011 and pushed the series all the way to overtime of Game 7. The ‘Hawks were down 1-3 to Detroit last season and came back and won the series on the way to winning the Stanley Cup. The Blues were up 2-0 on the Kings last season before coughing up the next four games.
Chicago has been down in a series and won, and St. Louis has been up in a series and lost. Hey! Look at that!
Want to be realistic? Probably not, but I’ll take the unpopular side and be realistic.
None of that shit matters a single bit. Not even one little word of it matters. Different teams, different years, different odds for everything. Different personnel, different opponent. If you want to get caught up in a feel-good narrative, you go right ahead and do that. I’m not going to be the one putting an arm around your shoulders to tell you, “History sides with us! We’re going to win for sure!” I have too much pride and logical thought to do that.
Now, that doesn’t mean I’m standing on the ledge, either. I might have been for the few hours following Saturday’s dick punch of a 4-3 overtime loss, but I’ve brought myself back to Earth a little bit to actually try and discuss some things without simply staring at the DOOM of a 0-2 deficit to those toenail eaters that reside in Chicago Jr.
We can begin anywhere here, so I’m just going to start with another thing you’ll be seeing for the next two days.
— Brent Seabrook’s hit is going to be characterized as dirty and will get him a suspension. There’s no suspense here. That’s what will happen. However, I’m not angry about the severity of the hit – would have probably been different had David Backes been completely upright – or what’s to follow, but rather pissed off that Seabrook put himself in that position in the first place. Up one goal, shorthanded, less than five minutes left in the third period of a playoff game and he’s taking runs at people in the corner. Seabrook would have gotten a charging call regardless of if he hit Backes in the head or shoulder or wherever. It was a hit that simply did not need to be made, and shouldn’t have been made. And then the worst possible outcome happened, and things got doubly fucked.
Not only did he put the Blackhawks in a bad position to have to kill off that major, but now a member of the top defensive pairing will be out likely multiple games in a series they trail 0-2. I understand hockey is a fast-moving, reactionary game, but Seabrook needs to take a split second to think about what the fuck he’s about to do and the situation he’s in.
— Let’s also not sleep on the league possibly taking action with Bryan Bickell, whose blatant knee-on-knee hit on Vladimir Sobotka put the ‘Hawks shorthanded in the third in the first place. He was luck to escape with a minor.
— So Brandon Bollig played a whopping 1:23 after the first period. Essentially, the ‘Hawks played the final two periods and into OT as if he’d gotten a red card (savor the soccer reference, folks). They could have put his sweater on a hanger behind the bench and it would have served the same purpose. I want Q to justify Bollig dressing in Game 3, Game 4 or for the rest of his life, for that matter. There were two guys in the press box that would have gotten more minutes had they just accidentally fallen off the bench and onto the ice.
— Speaking of changes, Michal Handzus 5-on-5 is a complete disaster. He’s as fast as a turtle in quick sand as serves as much purpose as a screen door in a submarine at even strength. Did he play well on the kill? Pretty much, but so did everyone. I would say Peter Regin could have done the same things he did shorthanded while also providing more 5-on-5.
— So, last-second goals were a thing for the Blues, eh? That sure as shit fucking sucked as much as winning a day with an NHL player and having Ryan Reaves show up.
— Lots of blame being placed on Corey Crawford for… everything. I’m sure he’d like to have the OT goal back despite not having X-ray vision to see through five guys and still be able to slow it down, but he’s the reason these games weren’t blowouts. Anyone who can’t see that should be watching an intense battle of team handball or something. That being said, he definitely wasn’t as good in Game 2 as he was in Game 1.
— Positive stuff we’re looking for, right? At least the next two games are played at the United Center. That’s something. The penalty kill has been outstanding and erased eight Blues power plays before falling six second short of killing off over six minutes of penalties to end the game. Also, the Blackhawks weren’t at their best for consistent stretches and could have won each game had it not been for late breakdowns of various kinds. Thing is, the Blues are sitting there saying, “We didn’t play our best either and still won these fucking games.” It goes two ways.
What we’ve gotten so far is the height of playoff competition in the first two games of a series against what has become a bitter rival. It’s going to make us more emotional. I get that. So I need to take my own advice and calm down a bit and see what happens in Game 3. A loss Monday and I’ll be wondering why you’re not panicking along with me.
Your Blues Inspire Our Rock ‘N’ Roll: Cheer the Podcast Ep. 11, CtA Round Table and Playoff Predictions
One year after having to go through their storied rival in the first round to win their second Stanley Cup in four years, the Blackhawks now begin their title defense against a St. Louis team that has taken Detroit’s place as our most-hated franchise in the Western Conference.
Before I go any further, I’d like to point out that the Blues are the only franchise that was part of the 1967 expansion that hasn’t won a Stanley Cup. Ever. Not one. At all. That’s hilarious. Fuck them.
But despite St. Louis pissing down its own leg for the last 47 years, I think we’re all expecting another round of heart palpitations. I explained to Adam and Jim the other day that I’m unexpectedly calm heading into the matchup with St. Louis. It’s not because it comes in having lost their last six of the regular season and blew the division title in hilarious fashion, but more so because I have confidence in this Blackhawks team when at full strength. Once the broadcast starts, though, and I see all those meth-heads waving their towels, I’m going to start getting nervous.
In fact, by the time you read this, I’m sure I’ll slowly be beginning to freak out. Because that’s what I do.
Speaking of Adam and Jim, those bastards decided to record a podcast on a night I had to work, again excluding me from being able to share my feelings “on the air.” Below you’ll find Episode 11 of Cheer the Podcast.
It took 80 games – yes, 80 – but the Blackhawks finally found a way to win in overtime.
Thanks to Jeremy Morin extending his goal-scoring streak to three, Marian Hossa’s tying goal with the extra skater and Patrick Sharp’s tally in OT, the ‘Hawks won their fourth straight by beating Montreal 3-2 on Wednesday night in the final regular-season game at the United Center.
While the Blackhawks’ overtime woes cost them some points in the standings, all it really did was cause some minor frustrations in the grand scheme of things as they prepare to head into the playoffs for another defense of their Stanley Cup title. And with this ‘Hawks team, that’s pretty much what we’ve been looking forward to since this season began, anyway.
Speaking of the postseason, it may be about time Q begins considering dressing Morin over Kris Versteeg as Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are back in the lineup when the playoffs start. It’s been a whirlwind for Morin all season, considering he was unexpectedly sent to Rockford after camp and shuttled to the big club to play 22 games to fill various needs.
But all the kid has done is produce when he’s here and given the ice time. Aside from a rather perplexing dump-in that resulted in icing last night, he put together a solid performance to extend his point streak to four since being a healthy scratch for two games. Morin has four goals and six assists with the ‘Hawks, mostly playing fewer than 10 minutes in each contest. He’s gotten over 12 in each of the last three and scored a goal in each. When he’s on the ice, he does his job, and his game is suited for playing against the up-tempo style of Colorado (if that’s that team the ‘Hawks end up facing in the first round).
Versteeg, meanwhile, has been one of the most frustrating ‘Hawks since he was acquired from Florida. He’s wildly inconsistent, takes shots that simply don’t make much sense and has made so many careless turnovers and incomprehensible decisions that I’m about ready to explode upon hearing his name. Maybe Sharp didn’t see him on Hossa’s goal, but Sharp had Versteeg open for a clean shot on the far side and decided to throw it to Hossa in traffic. Hopefully Q gives Versteeg a seat in the press box come playoff time, though I’m not holding my breath.
Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for tonight. Washington on Friday and then the Preds to finish the season Saturday. Here’s Boxing….
The time finally is upon us.
Teuvo Teravainen will make his much-anticipated debut tonight for the Blackhawks as they host the Dallas Stars, and it’s being met with plenty of excitement – much to the chagrin of the beat contingent.
Speaking of, before I go any further I’d like to send my condolences out to to the family of Daily Herald reporter Tim Sassone, who passed away today at the young age of 58. Sassone covered the Blackhawks for 25 years, through the darkest depths and the highest of highs. I’m sure he would have loved to see a prospect like Teuvo. Rest easy, my friend.
The arrival of TiVo – as Q said will be the kid’s nickname – has been met with a great deal of excitement (just listen to Nakis on the most recent podcast) while our friendly neighborhood beat writers have done their best to pump the brakes. And while I understand both sides of the emotional spectrum, it’s time to drop all of it and see what the kid’s got.
First off, apologies for the lack of content on the site lately. Not only has Mighty Mike D had some internet issues over Ireland, Nakis is currently in NOLA for his bachelor party and I just returned from a two-week stint in Hawai’i for my honeymoon (I’m sure you feel sorry for me). Needless to say, we’ve had some shit going on.
Secondly, apologies for the lack of Boxing due to the same reasons listed above.
OK, onto Sunday.
That Marian Hossa guy is pretty good at hockey. After sitting out five games with an upper-body injury suffered in that snowy mess at Soldier Field, Hossa returned to score a beautiful goal before adding an assist on Jonathan Toews’ late shorty that iced the Blackhawks’ 4-1 win over Detroit on Sunday.
It was the only visit of the season for Detroit, which sent their asshole fans who bolted the bankrupt city to live in a real place like Chicago because they know its superior to a place riddled with boarded-up whore houses.
Hossa’s goal was all kinds of disgusting, as he essentially as blew past every Wing and then put one right past Jimmy Howard. Hoss was a beast all night on both ends of the ice, and it’s no secret the ‘Hawks missed him. They had scored two goals in three straight and four of their last five before Hossa sparked them.
A couple notes before Boxing…
* Brandon Saad played only a little over six minutes before leaving with an injury, sort of tainting the victory if he misses some time. The Blackhawks have to face a hot Philly team on Tuesday before asshole Blues come to town Wednesday. With an offense that has overall struggled of late, it likely can’t afford to be missing Saad’s contributions.
* Ben Smith saw significant time at second-line center and didn’t disappoint. He scored a goal from his knees, added an assist on Nick Leddy’s goal and made Howard’s life a living hell all night. The lineup shuffle was even unexpected for Smith, who won 7 of his 10 draws. Does Q put him there Tuesday again? Can’t say I’d argue if he does.
* I don’t like Kris Versteeg. He played all right against Colorado – he played with Toews, so he should have – but other than that I’m just not enjoying anything he’s doing, which isn’t much. One goal in his last 18 games isn’t going to cut it.
* Detroit haha I hate you bye.
With 10 Blackhawks and 149 NHL players taking part in the Sochi Games, the fellas decided this would be a perfect time to get together for a roundtable “discussion” of the internet variety. I think Mighty Mike is the most excited out of any of us given that he finally gets to watch NHL-level competition without having to stay up until all hours of the night. The rest of us? Well, that’s why they invented DVR.
Let’s get to it:
Who will win the gold medal and why?
Mike: I’m going to make myself popular and say Canada. There’s a shocking amount of firepower there, even without Stamkos, which also extends to their Defensive corps: when you can ice Keith, Doughty, Weber and Subban you are bringing some serious Offensive upside. Obviously Crosby, Toews, Getzlaf, St Louis and Tavares are all-world elite forwards and the supporting cast is terifying too. I’d expect Drinky Price to do the heavy lifting in goal and he’s in wonderful form, despite the Habs’ struggles of late. Bob and Flopper are more-than capable backups. I really don’t think there’s anyone to touch them, if I’m honest. But I tend to get these things wrong, too.
Adam: Canada, because they’re better than everyone else. Their B-Team would probably make it to the medal round. If the Canadians fail to make the gold medal game, it would be a major upset.
Nakis: Canada. This #analysis is based on that fact that their roster seems to have better players on it than any of the other teams participating in the tournament. They’re so deep they aren’t even dressing Matt Duchene. They’re so deep that they literally buried Marty St. Louis. They’re so deep that Roberto Luongo doesn’t even matter.
Bartl: Let’s take a quick look at some of the players left off Team Canada.
Claude Giroux (11th in NHL with 58 points), Joe Thornton (2nd in NHL with 48 assists), Tyler Seguin (24 G, 32 A), Logan Couture (14 G, 21 A in only 43 games due to injury), Eric Staal (14 G, 31 A).
You could create a new country like Peter Griffin, use these guys as five of your top six regardless of position and you’ll have a potential medal contender on your hands. Not to mention, it’s highly doubtful any of them would have been left off Team USA.
I will take Canada.
Maybe it was the death of his grandfather that motivated him, or maybe it’s just that Patrick Kane is one of the most lethal offensive threats in the NHL, but his performance Monday was one that we’ve been dying to see again.
Kaner scored twice and added an assist in a 5-3 win over Los Angeles as the Blackhawks improved to 2-0-2 on this hell of a road trip. It’s late, so here a couple of thoughts before Boxing…
— The goals aside, Kane’s pass to Bryan Bickell was equally as stellar. Bickell had been scratched for three of the previous four games, and it seemed as if Kane was looking for him the whole way. It was part of a fantastic night just hours after his grandfather passed away.
Kane’s 26th and 27th goals brought him to within three of his career high set in 2009-10.
— After the ‘Hawks largely dominated the first period due to a plethora of Kings penalties, here’s how the rest of the game played out:
Corey Crawford would probably like to have a goal or two back, but his performance in the second and third period helped hold off the Kings attack. It wasn’t his best game, but he made some solid saves to give the ‘Hawks a chance to finally pull away.
— Patrick Sharp took a double-minor high-sticking penalty, and also had a couple of other run-ins. He’s seemed overly frustrated lately and getting into skirmishes, but I think some of the reaction is a bit overblown. He has at least one point in six of the last eight games, so his production is there. If he wants to mix it up a little bit more, so be it. It isn’t quite hurting anyone.
— Another solid game from the fourth line, including the goal from Kruger off of a shot from Leddy, who also had a goal and led the team in Corsi %.
— The Blackhawks allowed their first power-play goal in nine games when Doughty scored in the first period.
Ok, I’m very tired. Here’s Boxing…
Finally I’m not here talking about a loss. And that’s an even better feeling seeing how the first 16 seconds went Wednesday.
The Blackhawks’ losing streak came to an end with a 5-2 win over Vancouver, scoring five unanswered after falling behind quickly. The ‘Hawks get two days off before they begin a three-game tour of California in San Jose on Saturday.
It’s very late, so let’s get to a couple things quickly:
— Kris Versteeg’s pass to Marian Hossa on the power play was nothing short of spectacular, marking the second straight night – after his feed to Patrick Kane from the behind the net against Calgary – that he made a nifty pass that led to a goal. However, his refusal to make a smart, simple pass to relieve pressure in his own zone led directly to the second Vancouver goal. After losing the puck, he then wandered aimlessly around the ice and was completely out of position chasing the puck, leading to an open man in the slot. His highs are high, but his lows are infuriating.
— The ‘Hawks got hosed 40-23 at the dot tonight. Meh, for now.
— Oh, hello Brandon Saad! Sweet game from the kid, including that redirect off Brookbank’s point shot.
— The fourth line was all over the ice, with Ben Smith sticking out especially. Brandon Bollig put a team-high six shots on goal. MOAR BOLLIG!.
— Corey Crawford haters during and after Sunday’s loss to Winnipeg: DAT CRAWSFORD GUY AIN’T DA GUY FOR DIS TEAM CUZ HE CAN’T STOP ALL DA PUCKS HE’S SUPPOSED TO STOP WHEN DA PUCK IS DER FOR HIM TO STOP! I CAN’T BULLEEF HOW SO BAD HE IS WIT HIS POSISHONING!
Crawford haters after the first goal Wednesday: C? HEAR WE GOES AGAIN WIT DIS GUY!
Crawford haters after playing a stellar game, making plenty of solid saves after the first blip early: OH BIG DEAL! DAS WHAT’S HE’S SOOPOSED TA DOO WIT ALL DAT MONEY WE PAYED HIM!
— The ‘Hawks penalty kill is 19 for 19 over the last seven games.
— The Sharks put 59 shots on net against Edmonton, and Ben Scrivens stopped them all. Ouch.
The rest is in Boxing…
With a six-game road trip upcoming before the Olympic break, the Blackhawks headed into their final game at the United Center until March 4 coming off a dismal offensive performance against Minnesota and looking to provide some momentum going into their trip.
And what did we witness? Another dismal offensive performance that left us all scratching our heads and had some trying to place all the blame on Corey Crawford because, well, that’s what people tend to do – no matter what.
The Blackhawks missed open nets and failed plenty of solid opportunities when Glenview native Al Montoya wasn’t standing on his head, and Marian Hossa gift-wrapped Andrew Ladd’s winning goal in the Jets’ 3-1 victory Sunday. It marked the Blackhawks’ first loss in regulation in 27 games when they led after two periods.
The Blackhawks, who have failed to score at least two goals in back-to-back games for the first time since March 23 and 27, 2012, now embark on a trip that includes stops in Calgary, Vancouver, San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Phoenix before the Olympics.
Bryan Bickell was a healthy scratch, with Q saying “we want more, we need more” from him. Q simply is trying to send a message – he dressed both Kostka and Brookbank – but expect Bickell to be back in the lineup against Calgary.
Some thoughts before Boxing… (Actually, it’s one big thought)
Jim got into it with a few people on Twitter following the game, and it largely had to do with this:
If you’re Corey Crawford, and you want criticism to go away, you have to outplay Al Montoya.
— Jay Zawaski (@JayZawaski670) January 27, 2014
Leave it to Zawaski to try and make a game the Blackhawks clearly lost because of their inability – for the second straight game – to get a second goal by missing many, many chances into something about Crawford to fit his “controversy” narrative. The worst part is that people buy it, and therefore will continue to do so.
Montoya played fabulously and far above his means – he entered having given up 10 goals over his previous two starts – while the Blackhawks failed to convert on the chances Montoya allotted them. Furthermore, the deciding goal came off a horrible Hossa turnover, even before Ladd’s shot deflected in off Keith.
Zawaski continued by saying Crawford “needed to be in better position” and should have “bailed out a teammate.” C’mon guy. I’m sorry, but this loss isn’t on Crawford. And for anyone to say it is, is completely blind to the fact that the ‘Hawks lost because they couldn’t put the puck in the net – again.
In Boxing, I list the recent production from four of the Blackhawks’ top six. It’s pretty pathetic. The ‘Hawks haven’t scored an even-strength goal since Andrew Shaw’s tally in the first period against Detroit. They’re also 1 for 20 on the power play over the last six games.
If you want to place blame, start getting on the Blackhawks’ top players for not producing how they should. Blaming Crawford is a cop out, and someone like Zawaski should know better if he’s going to go by the title of “Blackhawks Analyst.”
Jonathan Toews said the ‘Hawks “just threw away another two points.” And that’s not on Crawford. The ‘Hawks played like a pile of dog shit in the third period at both ends of the ice. That was the problem. They played 40 minutes, not 60.
On that note, be sure to check out our latest episode of Cheer the Podcast. We talk plenty about the doldrums of January and this current slump, even before the loss to Winnipeg.
That’s just your run-of-the-mill, please-get-this-crap-off-my-TV kind of game.
The Blackhawks entered Thursday’s matchup with Minnesota 9-0-3 in the second of back-to-back games, and they nearly pulled another point out of their asses in the final minutes. Alas, their sleep walking through the first 58 1/2 minutes did them in before falling 2-1.
The ‘Hawks have lost nine times in regulation this season. Three of those defeats have came against the Wild. Yes, one-third of the Blackhawks’ regulation losses have come against goddamn Minnesota. Let that sink in for a second.
It’s no secret we didn’t see anywhere near the Blackhawks’ best against Detroit save for the quick two-goal lead they eventually relinquished, but Thursday was just one sad sack of a performance from top to bottom. Q said after the game that no one stuck out, and I couldn’t agree more. Laziness, stupid penalties and missed opportunities all were had throughout the contest, and it grew frustrating to watch.
Having Keith out was another turd we had to swallow.
Thoughts before Boxing…
* So, I understand the bright side of pointing out that the Blackhawks have lost only twice in regulation over their last 18 games. At least they’ve gotten points more often than not. I get it. However, Let’s take a quick look at the seven OT/shootout defeats.
– Dec. 20: Blew two-goal lead at home to Vancouver before falling 3-2 in a shootout
– Dec. 28: Blew three separate two-goal leads at St. Louis, then lost 6-5 in a shootout
– Jan. 2: Lost 3-2 in OT to the New York Islanders. Yes, those New York Islanders.
– Jan. 5: Fell behind by two in a listless performance until the third, tied the game, lost 3-2 in a shootout to San Jose
– Jan. 11: Nothing until the third, then lost 2-1 in OT to Montreal
– Jan. 14: Fell behind quickly 2-0, recovered to tie it, lost in OT to Colorado
– Wednesday: The Detroit debacle
This 9-2-7 stretch hasn’t exactly been pleasant, though the wins over Anaheim and Boston were rather big. But the Blackhawks rarely have played a full game lately, either falling behind early and having to battle back or blowing a multiple-goal lead of their own while leaving an extra point on the table. Thursday was just a crapfest throughout, and I’m not exactly surprised the ‘Hawks played a full stinker given the direction they’ve been treading lately.
* Handzus is getting plenty of blame for lollygagging it back into the defensive end, allowing Pomniville to receive a great pass from Heatley to beat Raanta on the first goal. However, have you seen Bickell in that highlight? He began coasting at the red line. I’ll throw some blame his way as well.
* Anyone else ever think you’d see Hossa demoted/benched for even a single stretch like he was? Not sure if there was a specific message Q was sending, but still surprising. Hossa had a three-game goal-scoring streak snapped despite having a short-handed breakaway chance he failed to convert when the puck took off on him.
* Matt Cooke is still a prick, no matter how much he wants to try and convinced us he’s changed.
* Brandon Bollig. Quality minutes late in the third period of a close game. Again. It’s becoming as painful as brushing your teeth with barbed wire.
* Winnipeg, which had a four-game winning streak snapped with a loss to San Jose on Thursday, visits the UC on Sunday for “one of those great 6 o’clock starts.”
It’s tough to say that a first-place team that just lost in regulation for the first time in 11 games is in a slump, but the Blackhawks sure seem to be the closest thing to it.
There’s no doubt that the ‘Hawks haven’t looked their best since the 7-2 shellacking they gave Colorado on Dec. 27. In the six games following that win, they blew three two-goal leads to the Blues, got only one through on the Kings, stumbled against the lowly Islanders, needed Sharp to save them against the Devils, allowed a tying third-period goal in a boring loss to the Sharks and got off to a piss-poor start in Thursday’s 3-2 home loss to the New York Rangers.
When you break it down, the ‘Hawks haven’t exactly been setting the world on fire during that 2-1-3 stretch. Looking to see that St. Louis is two points back with four games in hand, it makes this “slump” a bit more uneasy.
From Q postgame: ”We’ve got too many guys right now that aren’t contributing to that level we saw most of the season.”
At the same token, let’s not go full meatball and get discouraged. This team – like every team – will go through lulls, and I’m more than willing to take this one now rather than May. We could, however, do without Leddy and Rozsival engaging in a staring contest around the net on the winning goal.
It’s getting late, so here’s Boxing. More analysis will follow for games when I’m not at work, and also now that I’ll finally have cable and internet in my new apartment after 11 days of living like I was back in the 1980s.
Oh, quick note passed along to me by my high school buddy and Horse Racing Television anchor Scott Hazelton. Q, Mike Kitchen and former Bears assistant Mike Tice co-own a horse named Midnight Hawk. He’s racing at Santa Anita in California on Saturday at approximately 4:30 p.m. Central on Saturday, and the race will be broadcast on HRTV. Tune in to watch rich guys get richer. Midnight Hawk is a Kentucky Derby hopeful.
I specifically waited until this morning to put together a recap because I was so pissed off last night that I knew everything I wrote would be pure emotional rage with very little logic sprinkled in. The Blues fans on meth reading this know what I’m talking about.
The Blackhawks entered last night’s showdown in St. Louis with a 17-0-1 record when scoring at least four goals, with the lone defeat being that 6-5 OT loss to Tampa Bay way back on Oct. 24. I was doing nothing short of dreaming up ways to make fun of the Blues after the ‘Hawks went up 2-0 and 3-1 in the first period, figuring they’d tack on a couple more and send Nakis to the St. Louis-area bars with insults in tow. It looked much like the Colorado laugher from the night before.
Then the first two-goal lead evaporated. Brandon Saad and Brent Seabrook gave the ‘Hawks another, but they blew that, too. What was even more enraging was how quickly it happened, with Tarasenko and Berglund scoring goals they probably shouldn’t have.
Antti Raanta in a shootout? We can only hope we don’t have to see that happen again. To say he’s bad in the tiebreaker would be as nice as telling Ken Hitchcock he looks fine the way he is. And just like that, the Blackhawks pissed away three separate two-goal leads and handed two points to the hated Blues, who have won four straight in the series.
But that’s where I’m going to draw the line right now when it comes to these two teams. I’m going to jump ahead to May, because we all know there’s a good chance the Blues and ‘Hawks will be battling it out in the playoffs.