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

When Does it Get Better?: Boxing with Blackhawks and Red Wings

"A little help?" (Credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

It’s not going to get any easier for us. — Jonathan Toews

Somewhere in the depths of hell, a Red Wings fan just hit a slick patch of ice.

Halfway through the season, the St. Louis Blues are tied for first place in the Central Division, while the Blackhawks are mired in a four-game losing streak.

Not exactly what anyone expected, especially since the ‘Hawks scored the first goal in three of those loses. Adding shit luck on top of another loss when the ‘Hawks were in position win, Patrick Sharp has an always vague upper-body injury, suffered during or shortly after his goal put the ‘Hawks up 2-0.

Some quick things before Boxing does the rest…

♦  As Toews said, nothing is going to get easier any time soon. After Columbus and Minnesota this week, here’s how it looks, in order:

at Detroit, vs San Jose, vs Buffalo, vs Florida, at Nashville, vs Nashville, at Vancouver.

Oh, and jaunt to Vancouver is the beginning of a nine-game road trip from Jan. 31-Feb. 18.

♦   There’s evidence of panic among the feather-headed faithful. While most of it is unwarranted and illogical, it’s hard not to blame the overreactions as this losing streak continues. It’s now a matter if Stan Bowman feels the same panic, sees the issues and makes a move quicker than we thought he would as the ‘Hawks seemed to be rolling just a couple weeks ago.

What’s the right move? Make a deal and bring more uncertainty to a locker room already on edge? Or do you ride out the skid and figure it out in a couple week? There might not be a “right time” anymore. And if Sharp is going to miss games, Stan may get edgy himself and spring some people. Time will tell.

♦   Speaking of Sharp, the injury seems to be a bit of a mystery. Before I weigh in, let’s see what the diagnosis is Monday and react from there.

♦   We can bitch about the officiating through our sleep tonight, but the fact remains the Blackhawks didn’t take advantage when they got the calls, and the Red Wings did just that. The ‘Hawks converted their first power play attempt, then shit themselves on the next five. And if that wasn’t enough, Jimmy Hayes couldn’t convert a penalty shot that would’ve put the ‘Hawks up 3-1 and made Detroit’s climb more uphill.

I won’t deny the non-calls on Tomas Holmstrom for tripping Brent Seabrook and the bench for two many men didn’t hurt the Blackhawks’ chances, but there were plenty more opportunities, and that’s where you should direct your anger – especially since the ‘Hawks power play this season largely has resembled an orgy breaking out at the National Federation of the Blind.

♦   Not even Dennis Rodman would know what to do with all the rebounds Corey Crawford is giving up right now. He made some big plays tonight and likely will be back in net Tuesday, but I think it’s safe to say the jury is still out on how much he can be trusted down the stretch.

♦   Of the Blackhawks’ 17 total losses, Marian Hossa has gone scoreless in 14 of them.

♦   Patrick Kane: 2 goals, 4 assists, minus-4 since Dec. 11 (13 games).

Boxing…

More >

The Young and the Defenseless: Boxing with Blackhawks and Flyers

"Yep. That's my rebound." (Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE)

Not many teams win games when allowing 46 shots on goal. In fact, teams giving up at least that many shots have gone 4-8 this season.

The Blackhawks allowed 21 shots in Philadelphia’s three-goal second period alone, then were done in by Patrick Kane’s late high-sticking penalty as JVR netted the game-winner with 33 seconds left in regulation to beat the ‘Hawks 5-4 on Thursday night.

The 46 shots on goal were the most the Blackhawks have given up since allowing 51 to Columbus on Nov. 1, 2008.

The third-period rally was a hell of a lot of fun though, wasn’t it? Brent Seabrook scored just as the ‘Hawks came back to full strength, then Kaner potted one 25 seconds later to tie it up.

For all the bullshit that went on in the second period, the Blackhawks were on the verge of earning at least a point against a top team on the road without playing their best hockey – and with a couple regulars missing. While I know I’m trying to find a silver lining – despite knowing the ‘Hawks need to play a full 60 and could use some blue-line help – I’d rather look at it this way rather than posting on Twitter how the Blackhawks need to trade Kane for taking that penalty. And yes, there were many tweets like that after the game.

Speaking of the regulars being out, Jimmy Hayes and Andrew Shaw played some solid hockey. Again, I’m not going to pay for hookers for them quite yet, but the early results are nice so far.

Hayes played on the most solid line of the night with Jamal Mayers and Michael Frolik, scoring on a great hustle play after taking a beautiful pass from Mayers.

Shaw’s NHL debut was nothing if not exciting. Great chance on his first shift, dropped the gloves early, got bloodied to all hell and had his sweater torn, then came back with a ton of stitches to score his first goal. Gotta give it to the kid for a solid night. No fear.

Boxing is a bit more wordy tonight, so I’m going to go to bed and let that take over….

More >

CarBombed: Boxing with ‘Hawks and Oilers

Nice job, moron. (Credit: Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

It’s a team we should beat. Giving up two on the 5-minute penalty kill changed the momentum of the game. But we still shouldn’t (have) lost to a team like that.

– Patrick Kane

It’s hard to pin a loss on one player, but Monday’s 4-3 defeat at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers is the closest I can come.

Dan Carcillo not only set himself up for a suspension with his crushing and unnecessary hit on Tom Gilbert, he may have seriously injured his knee in the process.

The ensuing 5-minute major penalty led to two Edmonton goals that ended up being the difference, as the Blackhawks fell once again to the Oilers only two three days after a big home win over rival Detroit.

For one, I’m going to go into full honesty mode here and say that I told the vast majority of people to calm down when the ‘Hawks signed Carcillo. I then continued to defend that signing when he showed some slick offensive skills we never thought we’d see. I don’t necessarily believe I was wrong, either.

Then Monday happened.

At least his suspension/potential injury will give another prospect a chance to play some minutes.

Quick thoughts ….

♦   It didn’t help Niklas Hjalmarsson got clipped with a high stick prior to Taylor Hall’s goal – the second on Carcillo’s major. It sucked, but it happens.

♦   After all the Carcillo shit and the two goals allowed, the Blackhawks still had a chance to win this thing. Then, they went 0 for 5 on the power play, including a four-minute double-minor on a high stick to Jonathan Toews, who was an absolute beast and didn’t miss a shift after getting fixed up.

Ryan Jones got called for a goaltender interference penalty, and the ‘Hawks looked like dog shit on that power play, too. The Blackhawks played with a man advantage for six of the final 8:46, and they came away with absolutely nothing.

Before ALL the blame lands on Carcillo, let’s realize the ‘Hawks had chances to win this game despite that. The awful PP unit and a weak goal from the well-known Ben Eager ended up doing the Blackhawks in.

♦   Speaking of that weak goal, Corey Crawford could’ve played better. Thinking about it a little bit more, Crow will probably be back in net Thursday in Philadelphia before Ray Emery gets the nod Friday at home against Colorado. Sunday against Detroit will likely depend on how each plays in these games. We’ll see.

♦   For the second straight game, Patrick Kane left the center of the ice open as he trailed the play, allowing the opposition an easy goal. Tonight’s came from Andy Sutton. With Carcillo out, it may be best to get Kaner back to the wing and bring up Brandon Pirri, unless Marcus Kruger is ready to play. Either way, I think Q needs to get Kane away from the center spot. He’s clearly not playing the same as he did when he started the season there.

I’ll do the rest of my talking in Boxing…

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

More >

Sign of What’s to Come?: Boxing with Blackhawks and Red Wings

(Credit: Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune)

After watching such a well-played game between two world-class teams like the one that went on at the United Center on Friday night, I’m all out of jokes for the hated Red Wings.

I have to show some respect, however much I can muster begrudgingly.

The season isn’t even halfway completed yet, but I can’t help but think of the torture – yet unbelievable excitement – a Western Conference final matchup between the Blackhawks and Red Wings would bring.

The first 40 minutes were some of the best hockey I watched in a long time when factoring in the play of both teams. Fittingly, it took a third-period tie-breaking goal and some big defensive stops at the end, and it was the Blackhawks who came out on top 3-2.

Detroit may be the oldest team in the league, but it is still filled with tons of talent. The Red Wings are going to need to get better on the road (now 9-11-0) if they’re to make serious noise come mid-April, but any team likely would struggle a bit during a stretch playing 11 of 14 away from home.

Before we get to the final Boxing of 2011, here are some thoughts…

♦  OK, so I am going to rag a bit on an old fogy. Nicklas Lidstrom still is a good defender, even at his ripe old age. He was in perfect position to save a Marian Hossa goal while Jimmy Howard was down and out. However, he is not a GREAT defenseman anymore. Lidstrom’s Norris Trophy last season was no more than a parting gift for years of service in the league, then the fucker decided to come back. He’s been overrated for roughly four years, and it’s starting to piss me off.

Thankfully, Jonathan Toews exposed him like Mel Gibson at a Hanukkah party. Toews skated right past him to the center off the ice to accept a feed that led to a breakaway, and Lidstrom could do nothing but hook him, forcing a penalty shot. Toews proceeded to abuse Howard through the five-hole – shocking huh? – to tie the game.

At the end of the first period, Toews played the puck beautifully off the boards, lifted Lidstrom’s stick, corralled the puck and skated in. Again, Lidstrom hooked Toews to slow him down, because that’s all he could do after being left in the dust yet again.

♦  Patrick Kane at center wasn’t so bad, though he was late on the backcheck, allowing former Michigan State hero (sorry) Justin Abdelkader to come right up the gut and score past a diving Corey Crawford.

♦  Marian Hossa – my God. Could’ve easily had a trick tonight. His goal showed every aspect of his game we’ve all come to love. He was in the right spot to get the puck just below the red line, strong enough to fight through stick checks and talented enough to fire the puck past Howard on his around-the-world play.

Hossa’s career high is 100 points with Atlanta in 2006-07, when he scored 43 goals and added 57 assists. He’s currently at 41 points (17G, 24A), and if this fucking beast stays healthy, he may set a new high this season.

♦   Crawford was… meh. Nothing too good, nothing too bad. Even if those couple that hit the post got by him, there wasn’t much he could do anyway. Bertuzzi’s goal went in off the felon’s ass. He’ll be in net on Monday, in my opinion.

♦   I agree Jimmy Hayes looked good and played physically. However, his interference penalty was just dumb, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to take less than nine minutes of playing and start talking about staying power. Nice debut, now show me more.

And here’s your last Boxing of 2011. Happy New Year to everyone, and thank you so much for stopping by to read our rants…

More >

Quick Says ‘Not So Fast’: Boxing with Blackhawks and Kings

(Credit: Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

Here’s an example of solid goaltending stealing a game for a less-talented team.

Jonathan Quick made 38 saves – some in spectacular fashion – to lead the Los Angeles Kings to a 2-0 win over the Blackhawks at the United Center on Wednesday night.

In no way do I believe the ‘Hawks played all that well, but Quick made some unbelievable saves to snuff out some solid chances. He kicked away separate chances from Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane at the last possible second, and he stopped Patrick Sharp on a couple shots in one sequence, among others. No doubt the ‘Hawks could’ve played much better – especially on the power play – but Quick is largely responsible for this loss.

I’ll get to the goals and Coach Q bitching about the refs in Boxing, but here’s a couple quick thoughts:

♦  Toews went nuts about Mike Richards being awarded a penalty shot in the second period, but I’d like to see you make a different call if you were wearing the orange armband. If a player is skating in on a clear breakaway with an opposing player without a stick trailing him by two full strides, then the opposing player reaches out and shoves him from behind and the puck handler goes down, a penalty shot will be awarded 999,999 times out of a million. You’d call it, I’d call it, we’d all call it – right or wrong – and don’t tell me you wouldn’t. It’s basically an anticipation call, and I don’t have a problem with that unless it’s obvious the trailing player did not make illegal contact. In this case, it wasn’t obvious.

♦  Wednesday marked only the third time in the Blackhawks’ last 105 home games that they were shut out.

♦  It also marked the first regulation loss to the Kings in 12 meetings.

♦  Corey Crawford played a solid game, in my opinion. I think Q needs to give him Friday against Detroit to ride out this three-game week with all of them being at home. Actually, I’d put him down for Monday against Edmonton, too. Then, re-assess the situation for the Jan. 5 game at Philadelphia. A loss shouldn’t be what gets either Crow or Ray Emery back to the bench. I have to say I think Q is doing a good job dealing with his goaltenders to this point.

I’m tired, so here’s your Boxing…

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

More >

And We’re Back: Victorious Boxing with Blackhawks and Blue Jackets

(Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

We can look at the first period of Monday’s 4-1 win over Columbus in a couple of ways.

1) The Blackhawks looked sluggish in the first 20 minutes, working off the holiday feasts and delicious treats while being outshot by the worst team in the league 13-5. There were signs of rust, and the ‘Hawks looked like they were going to drop a game on home ice to the lowly Blue Jackets.

2) The Blackhawks’ worst was still better than the Blue Jackets’ best, as they kept Columbus off the scoreboard with enough of an effort until they got their legs under them in the second period. There was never a reason to panic, because the ‘Hawks are not as bad as they looked. It’s usually a matter of time that they’re going to show their true talent.

I prefer the latter.

A couple of quick thoughts before Boxing…

♦   How about that Viktor Stalberg, eh? A pair of goals to give him seven points over his last four games, and he skated his ass off throughout the contest. After initially bitching about being dropped off the top line, he’s flourishing in the bottom six with Dave Bolland and Bryan Bickell. His speed is a nice compliment with the two grinders. Fluke or a sign of things to come? “Let’s not start sucking each other’s dicks quite yet.”

♦   Let’s not call this a goaltender “dilemma,” because the word makes it seem there’s a problem. Far from it, in my book, given the solid play of both Ray Emery and now Corey Crawford over the last two games. They say in the NFL that if you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have quarterback. Having two solid goalies in the NHL doesn’t relate.

Crow’s 37 saves, coupled with a solid effort against Montreal makes it seem as if he’s back to what we hoped for when the season began. Who gets the start Wednesday? Just a topic of conversation for people leading up to that game, because as of right now, it really doesn’t matter. I’m confident with either of them in net, so let’s see what Q decides.

♦   Any chance John Scott’s wife had quintuplets so he can get five times the paternity leave?

♦   I don’t hear anyone complaining about Marian Hossa’s 12-year contract now, do you?

Let’s get to the glorious images of Boxing:

More >

Moving on: Blackhawks’ 5-game Winning Streak Comes to an End in Pittsburgh

No Boxing tonight, as I was out celebrating my Dad’s birthday and, well, I’m lucky to be getting this post up as it is. Wednesday night, you’ll have your Boxing.

(Jamie Sabau, Getty Images)

Shit happens, eh?

Call it a measuring-stick game, if you will. A game in mid-December on the first night of an away-home back-to-back in an inter-conference matchup doesn’t quite qualify for me. Much like the contest against Minnesota didn’t qualify as well.

No matter what happened tonight, we knew both teams would still be contenders. If the ‘Hawks lost 6-0, would we be flipping out that they’re never going to compete for the Stanley Cup? Would we forget about the 21 victories and throw them away? Are we about to do that now?

I understand this Blackhawks team has plenty of questions marks. I more than believe there’s plenty more they need to improve on in order to be clear-cut Western Conference favorites.

More than anything, I never expected to have these Blackhawks “figured out” by mid-December. And if you did, then you need to reassess. What we know, and still know, after tonight: The Blackhawks are good enough to contend for the Stanley Cup. And that vague, borderline assessment is exactly how I expected to feel at this point in the season.

After the 3-2 loss in Pittsburgh, a few things stood out to me, mainly as I began accepting certain things…

More >

Bittersweet: Boxing with ‘Hawks and Flames

(Credit: Scott Stewart, Sun-Times)

Joel Quenneville became the second-fastest coach to reach 600 career victories after the ‘Hawks beat Calgary 4-2 on Sunday at the United Center, but it may have come at the expense of losing Brent Seabrook for a period of time.

While Quenneville’s accomplishment deserves some recognition – only Scotty Bowman reached 600 quicker – it became a bit easier to come by in the era of no ties. Nevertheless, this team became what it is now with Q behind the bench. Good for him.

Beyond that, the loss of Seabrook means some more shuffling amongst the blue liners, and it comes after a ridiculously dirty hit by Rene Bourque that simply shouldn’t have happened. While Seabrook hasn’t exactly been playing his best lately, his absence is not something to sneeze at.

Hopefully when we find out more, the news won’t be too terribly bad.

I’m very tired, so we’re going to get straight to Boxing. One of us will be back in the afternoon with some further thoughts as the ‘Hawks continue a stretch of three games in four days on Tuesday.

More >

Your Jock is Over … Somewhere: Boxing with Blackhawks and Wild

(Hannah Foslien, Getty Images)

While I’m not a fan of the whole moving-at-a-snail’s-pace-in-what-is-supposed-to-be-an-exciting-shootout tactic, Patrick Kane’s move to fake Niklas Backstrom out of his pads to pot the winner was pretty … well, you saw it.

And while I’m also not crazy about a three-point game against a Western Conference foe, the back-and-forth was pretty exciting, and the ‘Hawks came away on the positive end with a win over conference-leading Minnesota on the road.

When the Blackhawks scored twice in less than two minutes, even scoring on the power play, I felt like they had this one in control and would keep rolling.

Then I remembered they’re the ‘Hawks, and making things interesting seems to be their staple.

A couple of things we need to talk about ….

♦   The icing no-call that led to the Wild’s first goal was downright horrific to the point of being embarrassing for an NHL linesman. Sometimes, calls can go either way. This one, however, could only go one way, and he flat out missed it. You can bet if the ‘Hawks didn’t come out with two points, you would’ve been cursing this non-call over your cup of coffee in the morning.

♦   With that said, John Scott is … you know what, I’m running out of degrading adjectives for this guy. No matter what, if he thought icing would’ve been called, why in the hell are you going to skate below the goal line when Steve Montador had the puck won by about five strides? Coast, and get ready for the icing draw, if that’s what you were thinking.

Since his brain rivals that of a mosquito’s, he took his giant ass out of the play, left the front of the net wide open and let the Wild get back into the game. If he coasted in, he would’ve been able to have a chance to recover and disrupt the play. Instead, he acted indignant and proved he’s not the most colorful tool in the shed (I make a funny, he ha).

♦   No idea why Matt Cullen was similarly indignant when Duncan Keith made a fantastic play to put an end to Cullen’s breakaway. It was clean, stick-on-stick. Cullen gets an unsportsmanlike, and the ‘Hawks take the lead. Fine with me.

♦   With the way Ray Emery is playing, he’ll likely start through Tuesday’s game in Pittsburgh unless he completely shits the crease against either Anaheim or Calgary. If not, Corey Crawford likely won’t play until next Wednesday’s home tilt against Montreal. Does anyone have a problem with that? Probably not.

♦   Anyone want to argue with me that Jonathan Toews is the best player in the world at this moment? Tell me who’s better. I’m open-minded about this, but it’s going to take a strong argument. And remember, I said at this moment.

♦   While I want to say the ‘Hawks shit themselves in letting the Wild come back from down two goals, then again after Toews’ goal, Minnesota is a good hockey team and they weren’t going to fold up against a solid opponent at home. I won’t go as far as to guarantee the ‘Hawks will be competing with the Wild for the top seed come April, but they’ve got a good group over there that can keep it going, in my opinion.

♦  Are you honestly kidding me with Kaner’s 75 moves on that winner? For the love of all that is holy, the stick-handling and control were beautiful. Even the Boo-Ya Network recognized it as No. 1 for the night.

And now Boxing…

More >

Behind Enemy Lines: Q&A with Wild.com’s Mike Doyle

I was able to trade emails with Mike Doyle of Wild.com to help figure out why in the hell the Minnesota Wild are actually atop the NHL standings. Here’s what he had to say:

Bartl: The Wild seem to be surprising everyone but themselves this season, leading the Western Conference despite a host of new players and a first-year coach. What has been the main reason for the turnaround, and how different of a team is this from last year’s squad?

Doyle: Well, I wasn’t working for the Wild last season and some people have tried to make that connection, but I have to give credit to the other Mike in the Wild organization.

Coach Mike Yeo has this team focused and there is a belief from top to bottom that if the Wild sticks to its game plan, the team can beat anyone. Other teams say that they are tough to play against because they don’t breakdown or give up a lot of opportunities.

To start the season, there was a lot of excitement with the off-season acquisitions and a new coach, and that enthusiasm has continued into the season. Yeo was able to get the veterans to buy into the system immediately. This team truly doesn’t seem to care who gets the credit, just as long as the team wins, and that might be the thing that has propelled the turnaround from last season.

More >