Bartl

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 jeffrey.bartl@gmail.com.


Posts by Bartl

Thank You For That: Blackhawks Dominate Blue Jackets, 6-1

"We won a game yesterday. If we win one today, that's two in a row. If we win one tomorrow, that's called a winning streak. It has happened before."

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:

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Much Ado About Goaltending

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.

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More Ammo for the Meatballs: Boxing with Blackhawks and Oilers

(Greg Southam/MCT photo)

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…

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Not as Bad as it Seems: Blackhawks Fall in OT

NOTE: Having trouble with the box score tonight, so no Boxing. It’ll be back after the Edmonton game – hopefully.

(Rich Lam/Getty photo)

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.

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Saturday Maintenance: Morrison Acquired, Toews Likely Returning, Bad Trade Talk

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.

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Punched Out: Boxing, Once Again, with Blackhawks and Predators

JIM YOUNG, REUTERS

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.

Here’s Boxing…

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Logjamin’: Competitive Central Division on Pace to Make History

Zetterberg, Toews, Weber, Oshie

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.

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Captain, is it Serious?: Boxing with Blackhawks and Predators

(John Russell, NHLI via Getty Images)

The amount of pain resulting from Saturday’s 5-2 loss in Nashville is to be determined.

Jonathan Toews played less than 10 minutes before leaving, and the ‘Hawks played careless defense and got sub-par goaltending from Corey Crawford, helping extend their road losing streak to four games.

There’s little question the “upper-body” injury that kept Toews from finishing is the same that sent him to the bench against Florida. The slash to the hand/wrist area is the likeliest of anything anyone can think it to be. How it got aggravated, though, is anyone’s guess.

I know this may be tough to hear without a diagnosis and it coming after a humiliating defeat to a division rival, but as long as Toews’ injury isn’t a clean break, it came at the best possible time. If it’s necessary, Toews can sit Tuesday and then relax for a week after skipping the All-Star game next Saturday, and we can see where we’re at then. If this happened in the middle of a three-games-in-four-nights stretch, then I may be a bit more concerned.

That doesn’t mean I’m not now, especially since the vagueness of the NHL injury front keeps us from knowing much. However, though briefly, I’m remaining optimistic.

♦   Allowing a 100-foot goal became Crawford’s biggest of his many blemishes this season – and maybe his career. We can talk about funny bounces all we want, but that floater has to be stopped. The momentum completely shifted after the ‘Hawks controlled most of the game to that point. He’d later go down like he took a shotgun to the chest on a move by Kostitsyn, leading to the hook in favor of Ray Emery, who was promptly greeted with a breakaway he stopped.

♦   Nick Leddy and Niklas Hjalmarsson - I’m begging them to prove their worth soon. Leddy’s offensive talent doesn’t help with what the Blackhawks need. They have plenty of scoring. What the ‘Hawks need is defensive reliability, which he’s not giving at the moment. The failed clear led to Hammer staring at Legwand, as Wilson slid right behind him for an easy goal. That’s not on Crow, that’s the defense. And Duncan Keith didn’t do Crow any favors by coming up way too high on the kill, leaving Smith two clear cracks at putting it into the net.

♦   Marian Hossa played an outstanding game at both ends, and potted the only Blackhawks’ goals while making the red-hot Pekka Rinne look pretty damn bad.

Here’s Boxing…

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First Thing’s First: Boxing with Blackhawks and Sharks

"Oh, excuse me Antti." (Credit: Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

That’s your top line, ladies and gentlemen.

The Blackhawks came away with five of six points in their three-games-in-four-nights stretch, dominating San Jose 4-3 – save for a few moments.

Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Viktor Stalberg combined for two goals and three assists in the victory, coming up with big goals – and two more near-goals – to help improve the ‘Hawks to 3-0-2 in their last five games.

♦   It’s tough to ignore the play of Stalberg, despite the fact half of his 14 goals have come against Columbus. Nonetheless, when you’re hot, you’re hot. His goal was nothing short of perfection on all accounts, charging hard toward the net after recognizing the open space. With his speed and first step, these goals can continue happening, especially playing on a line with two of the league’s best passers.

♦   Kaner is in a big scoring slump, and if it wasn’t obvious enough, Antti Niemi absolutely robbed the living hell out of him in the first period. Toews and Kane executed a perfect 2-on-1, and Niemi seemed down and out. As we’re all privy to when Niemi was wearing the Indian head, he suck out the glove across the open net and snagged a sure-goal out of the air. Kane couldn’t believe it, and Toews had to go console him. It’s a shame, but it seems as if he’s getting closer to ending that slump.

♦  Toews’ goal was the work of the entire line. Stalberg hustled to bother Niemi, and the puck shot out to Kane on the left board. Without a hesitation, he fired it to the front with Toews waiting, and all three got on the score sheet. I’ll mention this again later, but Toews described the goal during the intermission interview and referred to Niemi as “their goaltender.” Fuck the friendship when it comes to getting a win, eh?

♦   Another goal from Andrew Shaw, who may get a statue outside the UC soon if it were up to a good chunk of the fan base. I like the guy. I think he brings plenty of things to the table and it’s hard to ignore his scoring numbers. He went 6 for 6 at the dot tonight and has an awesome Napoleon complex.

However, quoting the Gin Blossoms, Shaw may want to start singing: “If you don’t expect too much from me, you might not be let down.” Thinking this guy is the second coming of Denis Savard will only make for a long fall from the top of the What-You-Talkin’-About Willis Tower. If this keeps up, awesome. Build his statue. But when he starts to screw up – and he will – remember to be objective toward your newly found hero.

♦   I’d like to thank the ‘Hawks for taking my mind off what I witness first-hand at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday. That first period was complete shit show. Following that with five solid periods helps.

Onto Boxing…

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Hats Off: Boxing with Blackhawks and BJs

(Credit: US Presswire)

I got home very late tonight, so this will be short before I get to Boxing.

♦   Viktor Stalberg – Good for you, kid.

♦   Jared Boll/Referees – You’re assholes

♦   Marian Hossa – Badass

♦   Corey Crawford – Just gave up another rebound.

That’s it. I’m tired. Here’s Boxing…

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