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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posts by Bartl
I guess that’s what you get when pitting a struggling team against another whose name isn’t even grammatically correct.
Luckily for the Blackhawks, they got their suck out of the way in the first period before Toronto melted down and allowed the ‘Hawks to come away with a 5-4 win at the United Center on Wednesday night.
I’ll save you the goal-by-goal rundown and give a couple of quick thoughts:
♦ Johnny Oduya ended up even after going a minus-3 in the first period, including a goal that came on his first shift wearing the Indian head. However, Brent Seabrook didn’t do him any favors on the first two goals with misplays that led to Leafs goals.
I traded emails with Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press regarding Oduya, and I’ll post his thoughts this afternoon, so check back later.
♦ Patrick Kane was solid all night and gave the ‘Hawks a spark with his play at center. His goal came on some clean up around the net after a Sami Lepisto shot. More of this please. Like, you know, always.
♦ Nice to see Andrew Shaw get on the board in his first game back, fighting off a check before circling to the near post and potting one. Also, his goaltender interference call followed by a roughing penalty was complete and total horseshit. Shaw’s rush to the net was aggressive and forced Jonas Gustavsson to move out of the crease, causing a collision with Shaw that was the result of aggressive play by both players. After that dog shit call, the refs gave Shaw a roughing call despite simply defending himself against Luke Schenn, who came from about 20 feet away from the play to blatantly attact Shaw behind the net.
♦ After the ‘Hawks tied it, Patrick Sharp committed a hockey sin by taking a horrible hooking penalty in the offensive zone before Chelsea Dagger finished playing after Shaw’s goal. Roughly 28 seconds later, the Leafs regained the lead.
♦ The importance of Marcus Kruger’s goal at the end of the first period may be overlooked the way the ‘Hawks were able to charge ahead through the rest of the game. His tally cut the lead to 3-2 and shifted momentum. Without the goal, the Leafs head into the second period with a two-goal lead and pretty much in control.
♦ That goal may have been especially important for the team’s psyche given Coach Q replaced Corey Crawford with Ray Emery to start the second period. Crawford allowed three goals on 10 shots, while Emery came in to make 24 saves over the last 40 minutes. You’ve got to think Emery is going to be the starter moving forward, and there’s no telling what’s going through Crawford’s head right now after being pulled in two straight.
With 17 games remaining now is the time to commit to the goaltender not hurting you the most, as sad as that sounds. It seems Emery is the one at this point. Someone needs to take the reigns heading into the postseason, and Razor is the closest thing the ‘Hawks have to a playoff goalie. Not to say he’s the answer given his struggles this season, but no team heads into the stretch run and into the playoffs using a pair of goaltenders – unless you’re St. Louis with Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott. Emery has to be the one Q commits to now, in my opinion. We’ll see what happens, though.
All right, here’s Boxing….
“When they got that first one, we need to stay the course and for whatever reason we seemed to get away from our game. We didn’t manage the puck well in the third, and as a result we lose the game.” – Jamal Mayers
This one is tough to be angry about. It’s just damn annoying.
Not only do we have to listen to reports and read official statements about the possibly concussed Jonathan Toews getting into a car accident in the morning, we’re treated to a game in which the ‘Hawks looked… blah.
The Blackhawks’ 3-1 loss to Dallas on Thursday at the United Center looked pretty good for about 50 minutes, with the ‘Hawks controlling much of the game and seemingly dictating the pace – not that it was all that exciting to begin with.
Corey Crawford was playing well and making the necessary saves on the few lapses in front of him, and he seemed on his way to helping record the team’s first shutout.
Then a string of unfortunate bounces and a relaxed style of play did the ‘Hawks in, as three deflected goals got past Crow to send them to their first loss in regulation when leading after two periods this season.
Going to get straight to a couple things here…
♦ Seven times the Blackhawks have put five or less shots on goal in the third period, with Thursday being the only time they lost. Basically, Coach Q and the gang decided the one-goal lead was enough and took down the firing squad to play a prevent-type D.
I don’t care what team you’re playing in this league, a one-goal lead with 20 minutes to play is not safe, and to think and/or play otherwise is just not smart. Add that onto the fact something named Richard Bachman was playing his ass off for the Stars all night, he’s still a backup goaltender. Attack him, disrupt him – like how they did on Marian Hossa’s goal and what they did against Detroit the other night – and get a goal or two to put it away.
Instead, the ‘Hawks took their foot off the pedal and it cost them in a four-point game.
♦ Dallas, meanwhile, did exactly what the Blackhawks were doing the past few games to get back on track – put people in front of the net and get dirty goals. Steve Ott and Michael Ryder scored on deflections, then Brent Seabrook’s skate got an assist on Loui Eriksson’s tip-in. Crawford had no chance on any of them. Sure, there were some minor blimps on the ‘Hawks end that kept the puck in their own zone, but the results are more telling than what led up to them. Dallas was attacking, the Blackhawks were tightening up. Game over.
♦ John Scott played 2:22 and had five shifts. Dallas came into the game ranked 21st in the NHL in fighting majors, making Scott’s presence damn near worthless – again.
♦ Bryan Bickell was probably the most noticeable forward for the ‘Hawks tonight. Pretty solid game all around.
♦ Power play: 0 for 31 over the last 12 games.
♦ Interesting trend: There were nine games on the NHL schedule Thursday, with seven road teams picking up wins.
♦ With the accident this morning and all the concussion rumors, it will be interesting to see if Toews makes the trip out west to face the Los Angeles Kings – with the newly acquired Jeff Carter – and Anaheim.
Here’s your Boxing…
No Jonathan Toews. No Pavel Datsyuk. Still, the same ol’ gritty rivalry.
The Blackhawks and Red Wings gave us another entertaining battle on both ends of the ice, and Corey Crawford beat Jimmy Howard in a fantastic goaltending dual as the ‘Hawks held on for a 2-1 victory Tuesday night at the United Center.
Jimmy Hayes was rewarded with a goal after working in front of the net, then assisted on Marcus Kruger’s tally with some nice board work and a charge to the back of the net, as Kruger tipped in an Andrew Brunette shot that bounced off Howard.
You know the basics, so let’s get to some other stuff…
♦ It obviously wasn’t ideal to have Toews out of the lineup with the always-vague upper-body injury, though there weren’t many points in the contest I was screaming for Toews to be there. The final minute sticks out, when The Captain would’ve been on the ice for in-zone draws as the Wings had the extra skater, and Dave Bolland lost two to give Detroit a couple more shots at Crawford as the clock ticked away. Other than that, the ‘Hawks keep the Red Wings at bay and Henrik Zetterberg damn near invisible.
♦ Patrick Kane was solid tonight, and it was only for a spectacular Howard save on Patrick Sharp that Kaner didn’t register a point. Kane took the puck on the far side and circled toward the center of the ice while the ‘Hawks were on the power play. He skated the puck to the near side and went right at Justin Abdelkader, who had lost his stick. Kane was able to move in and create a passing lane to get the puck to Sharp camping in front of the net. Howard went post-to-post and stuck out his left pad, snuffing out the chance. Nonetheless, a smart, heads-up play by Kaner. He was all over the place and seemed to step up his game with Toews out.
♦ Speaking of the power play: 0 for 30 over the last 11 games, with the last PP goal coming when Bolland beat Pekka Rinne in a 3-1 home loss to Nashville on Jan. 24 – the last game before the All-Star break.
♦ Crawford’s play wasn’t stellar, but his saves were not exactly routine. I saw far less rebounds than in the previous games during his current stretch of four straight games with one GA. Him staying in the blue paint more often than not has seemed to pay off, and his run has quelled the talk of trading for a goaltender – for now.
♦ When a goaltender is on like Howard was tonight, garbage goals are necessary to grind out a win like this. The ‘Hawks got them with the help of some aggressive play in front of Howard, taking advantage of a couple loose pucks and pounding them home. This seems to have been lacking recently.
♦ Going 28 for 54 at the dot without Toews is definitely a victory on that end. With that being said, here’s to hoping Toews doesn’t have to sit out Thursday against Dallas.
No matter how terrible the Blackhawks were during their nine-game road trip, at least we have the Columbus Blue Jackets to thank for being only slightly better than a drunk men’s league team.
Following up on their 4-2 slump-buster over the New York Rangers at MSG on Thursday, the ‘Hawks crushed the BJs 6-1 behind solid efforts from nearly everyone.
The victory marked the Blackhawks’ first back-to-back road wins since taking five straight from Nov. 25-Dec. 14.
After Sami Lepisto made every ‘Hawks fan replay Chris Campoli’s turnover in Game 7 against Vancouver in their minds 300-400 times, it was all Chicago.
Jonathan Toews made a hard move to the net and slid it past Steve Mason to tie it up, and Viktor Stalberg netted his eighth goal against the BJs this season just over four minutes later for what proved to be the game-winner.
Patrick Sharp took a great feed from Patrick Kane and one-timed it past Mason in the second before Kaner chased Mason through the five-hole less than two minutes later.
Marcus Kruger and Lepisto added the insurance in the third.
Hell of a game to write about in my first post in a long time. Moving and being without internet couldn’t have come during a better couple weeks so I didn’t have to talk about the lumps of shit that happened previously.
A few quick thoughts…
♦ Note to Lepisto: Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever make a fucking mistake. Ever. Next time, Q won’t just bench him, he’ll call Bowman from a cell on the bench and have him cut. Granted, Lepisto’s turnover was absolutely brutal, but he hasn’t been playing all that terribly lately. After the Jackets’ goal, Lepisto didn’t see another shift until he scored his goal, playing 5:59 for the game.
♦ Here are the Blackhawks’ numbers, with the “core” players highlighted:
If we’re all in agreement this season is considered “Stanley Cup or Bust” for the Blackhawks, then I can forget about discussing anything in between.
Playoffs? Expected. Division title? Well, at least home-ice advantage, or the fan base expects doom.
It’s a part of living within a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately society. Winning streaks mean championships, and losing streaks mean fire sales. You’ll have to look fast to find the in between, especially with the come-as-you-are outlets like Facebook and Twitter.
Lately, the cries have been about the goaltending duo of Corey Crawford and Ray Emery, and how the Blackhawks stand no chance to advance in the postseason unless changes are made – no matter how drastic.
If you’ve yet to recognize a trend in the Stan Bowman era, goaltending is not his top priority. And there’s a couple justified reasons for that.
First, I’ll go ahead and preface everything with that I more than agree the Blackhawks need to add depth on defense. Moreover, I believe the ‘Hawks need to simply focus more in their own zone, which goes for everyone wearing the Indian head. I don’t think any of this can be disputed one bit.
But against my own good judgement, I took to Twitter after the game and saw more trading of Patrick Kane. More trading for Tim Thomas. People talking about trading the entire team, with the only untouchable being Jonathan Toews. People ready to fire Joel Quenneville.
I don’t know why I continue to be surprised by this. One game – granted, an extremely bad one that pissed me off royally – and all of the sudden the Blackhawks’ proverbial ship is sinking with 30 games to play while being six points back of the Western Conference-leading Detroit Red Wings. To break it into simpler terms for those who have been following hockey since 2009, that would translate to three games.
If the Cubs or White Sox were three games out of first with 30 to play, would you be calling to trade the entire damn team? Didn’t think so.
There are plenty of things I didn’t like about The Disaster at Rexall Place – Part Duex, but sometimes assholes like Sam Gagner have 8-point nights when a team plays like dog shit on both ends of the ice. Luckily, the Blackhawks don’t lose 20 points for the lopsided 8-4 loss. This isn’t Final Jeopardy, and the ‘Hawks didn’t bet it all and get the question wrong. It simply adds another number under the ‘L’ column, just like the last four.
Am I sugarcoating this defeat? A little. The Blackhawks’ six-game road losing streak is their longest since their franchise-record 19-game skid in 2003-04.
But there are so many meatballs out there forcing me to do it. I don’t want to be the calming voice. I’d much rather rant logically and swear up and down while throwing things at my cat, but as I wrote on Twitter, the Blackhawks have possibly the most bi-polar fan base in all of sports. If the ‘Hawks win their next two games, some of these same people clamoring for wholesale changes will be talking Stanley Cup again. I refuse to pour petrol on that fire.
With all that said, I’m angry about the loss, as I’ll show in Boxing…
NOTE: Having trouble with the box score tonight, so no Boxing. It’ll be back after the Edmonton game – hopefully.
Any loss to Vancouver rivals a complete rectal examination, though I came away somewhat pleased overall after the ‘Hawks fell 3-2 in overtime Tuesday.
Basically, I saw plenty more good than bad out there, which is all you can ask for after a week off, thrusting a new player into a big role and beginning a nine-game road trip.
♦ Seeing Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp on the ice was a positive, though Sharp wasn’t himself and Toews ended up missing a few shifts in the first period. I wouldn’t be surprised if one or both of them took off Thursday’s game in Edmonton.
With that said, Toews’ unbelievably stellar move in the OT nearly won the game if it weren’t for Cory Schneider playing to puck so well. The hand/wrist/whatever didn’t seem to bother him there.
♦ #ShawFacts – The love and affection for Andrew Shaw has worn off, and now we’re simply expecting him to be an NHL contributor if he’s going to play with the big club.
Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman made his first splash into the trade market Friday, albeit the type of splash resulting from stepping into the bathtub.
It isn’t the deal many had hoped for, but getting center Brendan Morrison from Calgary for prospect Brian Connelly seems to be a solid depth move with very little risk.
Bowman said he’s been talking to Calgary “for awhile” to secure this deal, which seems beneficial for both teams.
Two things. First, Morrison is not the second-line center the fan base hoped the Blackhawks would acquire. His job will be – or should be, since we never seem to know what Q is thinking – to win draws on the fourth line while not playing a ton of minutes.
Second, he’s 36 with a history of knee problems, so don’t expect him to provide anything more than serviceable minutes.
It’s precisely the reason Bowman wasn’t about to give up anything of substance for him, and Connelly seems to be on the back end of the list when it comes to NHL potential for Blackhawks defensive prospects. An AHL All-Star doesn’t translate into NHL-ready, or even close to NHL-ready.
Adam Jahns of the Sun-Times posted a series of tweets with quotes from ‘Hawks players and Morrison himself regarding the trade, some ‘Hawks chirping after Morrison was injured in a meeting last season and his injury history.
The main thing to come from this deal is that Bowman is hitting the phones trying to make this team better. We’ll see what else he has up his sleeve.
♦ Jonathan Toews is expected to play Tuesday in Vancouver, according to Bowman.
He made sure to note the trade for Morrison had nothing to do with Toews’ injury, which came as a welcome relief.
There may not be a team in the league looking more forward to the All-Star break than the Blackhawks.
Playing without Jonathan Toews and of course Patrick Sharp, the ‘Hawks looked fell short on the defensive end a dropped the final game before the break, 3-1 to the Predators.
Despite the offense lacking, I didn’t feel the offense necessarily was the issue. Nick Leddy and Niklas Hjalmarsson are becoming painful to watch. Absolutely and completely painful. It actually hurts from getting so damn angry at their problems – and they’re many.
No more crap about Leddy being young and learning and being thrust into a position to learn on the job. He’s playing for a Stanley Cup contender, and that label for the ‘Hawks comes in spite of him, not because of him. The second goal was a direct result of his inability to play defense with enough muscle nor brains. The blind ring around the boards didn’t work simply because he thrre it into a forechecker’s legs, leading to a nice kick pass for Mike Fisher’s goal.
Hjalmarsson gets plenty of blame as well, as Fisher had all day to prepare himself for that pass. At this point, I’d like to see Sami Lepisto get a night with one of these two in the press box. Something needs to be done.
(UPDATE: It’s since been confirmed it was Sean O’Donnell on the ice with Leddy, and not Hammer. My eyes weren’t working right from the opposite end of the stadium, which is my bad. However, it doesn’t change my stance that one of these guys needs a seat up high for at least a game.)
♦ Corey Crawford is giving up far too many rebounds, but this game could’ve gotten out of hand tonight if it weren’t for him. Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith allowed a breakaway chance, as did Hjalmarsson’s flat feet. Crawford stopped them both, then made some saves in the third that could’ve doomed the ‘Hawks had they gotten past him. No real praise, but no real thoughts of this being his fault by any means.
♦ Dave Bolland won 17 of 20 faceoffs tonight. Dave. Bolland. Won. 17. Of. 20. Faceoffs. I slowed it down for you to make you read it slower. Between that and his goal, I think he embraced taking Toews’ spot on the top line.
♦ Marian Hossa is an under-appreciated part of this team. He never gets enough credit, in my book. The reason he’s not talked about much is because he doesn’t do much wrong. I guess it gets hard to constantly praise someone.
♦ Patrick Kane stopping to twirl mid-breakaway is a prime example of him thinking too much about his slump. No, I really don’t have any idea what’s running through his head. It could be hookers or pretty pink bows. However, it’s hard not to speculate when a true, killer goal scorer refuses to simply take his space and go hard to the net to try and beat the goaltender like he’s always capable of doing.
♦ Andrew Shaw has officially become Q’s new Kris Versteeg. Shaw led all ‘Hawks forwards in ice time tonight, and while he’s playing hard, I don’t necessarily believe he deserved all that time. Q is trying to ride the hot hand, but Shaw hasn’t exactly done anything stellar over the past few games to have me going nuts over him. As I’ve said before, everyone needs to stay grounded on this guy – including Q.
♦ Michael Frolik was a healthy scratch in favor of Bryan Bickell. And no one cared or noticed one way or the other. The drop off of these guys is epic.
One day, the Blackhawks are sitting atop the Central Division standings, at times boasting the most points in the NHL. The next, they wouldn’t even have home-ice advantage in the first round if the playoffs began at that moment.
It’s a difficult time to keep up with the constant shifts in the standings, but such is life in the competitive Central – which is currently on pace to make a bit of history while providing us fans with some entertaining hockey down the stretch.
This is the 13th season since the NHL went to six divisions and the current playoff format in 1998-99 (the 2004-05 season marked the lockout). In the 12 completed seasons, at least one division has sent four teams to the playoffs 10 times.
In a game Blackhawks fans likely won’t forget soon, Minnesota beat Dallas on the final day of the 2010-11 regular season to prevent the Pacific from becoming the first division to send all five teams to the postseason.
Essentially, the playoff format has three division winners and five “wild-card” teams. The only seasons one division didn’t claim three “wild-cards” were 2000-01 and 2005-06.
The 2008-09 season marked the one time two divisions accomplished the feat. The Atlantic and the Central, when Detroit (No. 1 seed), the ‘Hawks (4), St. Louis (6) and Columbus (8) qualified four of their five teams – the only time since current realignment the Central has done it.
Overall, a single division qualifying a quartet is quite common. The rarity lies in what the Central currently is on pace to accomplish – place all four teams within the top six seeds.