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

A Little Help, Please?: Boxing with Blackhawks and Coyotes

(Credit: Tom Cruze, Sun-Times)

Quickly, Tim has some quick thoughts on the realignment – which I won’t cover here – and Jim will be posting this afternoon with some more analysis about radical changes.

Is there anyone playing as well as Jonathan Toews right now?

If there is, it sure isn’t anyone currently suiting up for the Blackhawks.

Toews owned the second period, bringing the ‘Hawks back from a 3-0 deficit to salvage a point in a 4-3 shootout loss to Phoenix at the United Center on Monday.

Corey Crawford allowed three goals on 16 shots before being pulled in favor of Ray Emery, though the move was more of Q trying to spark the team rather than for the poor play of Crow.

Granted, the third goal was all Crawford’s fault, though the first two were tough. Steve Montador got caught between his skates and his brain, trying to stop hard to chase a loose puck jetting toward center ice. He lost an edge, then couldn’t recover, leading to a 2-on-1 break which Crow had no chance to stop.

The second … my God. Duncan Keith, please tell me what in the living funky hell you were doing? Keith blindly dropped a “pass” into an empty corner behind him. By the time Brent Seabrook had realized his defensive partner had a gigantic brain fart, the Coyotes were taking a two-goal lead.

Marian Hossa missed his 400th goal by shooting it into the foot of Yandle as the immortal Mike Smith was sprawled out somewhere in Schaumburg trying to find his way back to the net. Also cost the ‘Hawks the potential game-winner.

Back to Toews. Can we give this guy some help, please? His 17 goals lead the NHL. He’s scored in five of the last six games, giving him 13 points during that span (7G, 6A). His career high of 34 goals set in 2008-09 is sure to be broken this season. I know it’s too early to start the Hart Trophy talk, but Toews is the only reason the ‘Hawks even got a point out of tonight – the definition of MVP.

My roommate, who watched the Versus broadcast tonight, pointed out Doc called Toews “a great leader.” Yeah, no shit. Isn’t it about time everyone starts recognizing Toews as one of the best players in the world? Here we are talking about a guy who was the MVP of the Olympics playing for Canada. He’s won every single major championship everyone dreams of winning growing up.

Toews is making his case – if he hadn’t already – as an all-everything player who deserves even more recognition than he already gets.

And with that, here’s Boxing …

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

More >

Up Yours: Boxing with ‘Hawks and Blues

(Dilip Vishwanat, Getty Images)

It doesn’t get much sweeter than beating the St. Louis Blues on their home ice in front of the biggest contingent of degenerates known to man.

Cheer louder for a hit than a goal? Check.

Looking like dip shits during your power play “dance?” Check.

Getting behind a team that quite obviously can’t compete talent-wise so it has to resort to playing like cheap hooligans? Double check.

Saturday’s 5-2 win at the Whatever the Hell They’re Calling it Now Stadium Arena Place was a nice kick in the ass to a team which, admittedly had been playing well – especially there. If the ‘Hawks had to play the Blues for 82 games, no one would have to worry about the “coming out flat” talk or wondering where their energy is hiding.

It’s a Sunday, so no random thoughts or anything. Here’s your Boxing…

More >

Sorry, Chicago: Boxing with Blackhawks and Coyotes

Much like Carcillo on this punch, the 'Hawks whiffed against the Desert Dogs. (Credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

I read on Twitter the Blackhawks were 8-1-0 in their last nine games when returning home from a road trip of four games or more.

Well, that sure went to hell fast.

The awful parts of the Circus Trip resurfaced on the United Center ice in a 4-1 embarrassment against Phoenix. I’m not trying to treat a shit performance at the end of November like life or death, but this was such a listless performance that it’s hard to ignore.

Quickly before I get to Boxing…

Niklas Hjalmarsson and Nick Leddy played like a pile of dog shit. They both had better views of a couple goals tonight than the damn goal scorers themselves.

Mike Smith needs to be challenged more. Viktor Stalberg had a chance in the first period and didn’t get a shot off as he skated right past the net, Marian Hossa hopped around more than he shot the puck, as he and Jonathan Toews ended up with one shot apiece. I could have thrown some magazines on my shins and beat the ‘Hawks tonight.

Corey Crawford has to get better – and fast.

The Blackhawks were too aggressive when they should have held back, and not aggressive enough when they should have attacked. It was a backwards performance that resulted in a horrible performance in what was supposed to be at least a return home with a decent effort. Instead, we were witness to a bad line change, another delay of game penalty, bad decisions and shaky goaltending.

With Friday brings the possibility of redemption, and it can’t get here soon enough.

Boxing…

More >

After Up and Down Circus Trip, Crucial December Awaits

(Dale MacMillan, Getty Images)

The Blackhawks’ annual Circus Trip made Barnum and Bailey’s act look as entertaining as a trapeze artist with no arms.

The two-week jaunt had everything. They curb-stomped rival Vancouver 5-1, looked like an AHL team while getting outscored 14-4 in Alberta, partied in Vegas before it got better with a tough 1-0 loss in San Jose on Blackout Wednesday, then ended well with edge-of-your-seat, back-to-back victories in the Golden State.

The unpredictability of sports is what constantly draws fans in, and this last trip exhausted most every emotion possible while watching this ‘Hawks team.

Coming out of it 3-3-0 is what most of us hoped, even if Brent Seabrook was healthy for all of it. Chalk that up as a victory, despite the fact two of the three losses were as ugly as a bearded lady.

Take the six points. Move on. There’s plenty more next month to get crazy over. And yes, I realize there’s still one more game left in November, but when have we ever stopped looking ahead?

More >

Thank you Sir, May I Have Another: Boxing with Blackhawks and Canucks

"Everybody! Quick! Come see how good looking I am." (Credit: ANDY CLARK, REUTERS)

THAT’S the way you start a road trip, fellas.

With clowns and elephants occupying the United Center, the ‘Hawks began their annual Circus Trip with a 5-1 thumping of hated Vancouver, giving the Canucks a bit of payback for the ass-whipping they handed them in Chicago.

So, how do you counter the league’s top-ranked power play unit? Don’t give them any power play chances. Seems easy enough. Both ‘Hawks penalties came on coincidental minors, and the Canucks never had the man advantage all night.

Hockey Broad and I traded comments on the Circus Trip Roundtable, with both of us agreeing the ‘Hawks needed to stay out of the box with the penalty kill being less-than-stellar recently. Mission accomplished.

Next up is the Calgary Flames on Friday, and I’ll be watching that game from some sports book in Las Vegas, as I’m headed out for a little vacation. Jim will have your recaps while I’m away, so the next Boxing you’ll get will be after next Wednesday’s visit to San Jose.

Some quick thoughts first …

♦   A lot of what we covered in our roundtable was exactly what happened tonight. We discussed how Duncan Keith would step up with Brent Seabrook out, and he did – minus his awful pass which led to a breakaway. Special teams needed to improve, and it did. Corey Crawford’s recent struggles? Eh, fuck those. Lots of good all around.

♦   Speaking of that, Marian Hossa is just sick. And it was also nice to see him get into a little scuffle. He’s so reserved at times that you wonder if he’s just floating around the ice without a care in the world. But for him to show that emotion, everyone better watch the fuck out.

♦   Crawford – what a night. Saw the puck well throughout the game, and he made a hell of a save on Jannik Hansen’s short-handed breakaway when Keith farted the puck away.

♦   Vancouver’s lone goal appeared to start when Nick Leddy made a poor decision to pinch when one member of the Ambiguously Incestuous Duo had a clear advantage to a loose puck. Sedin lofted it over Leddy along the boards to his brother (shocking), who then found Hansen with a nice pass through Niklas Hjalmarsson. Eh well, I guess.

♦   Speaking of the Sedins, I know that the shit I give them around here is largely biased due to the rivalry. But really, truthfully, honestly, how do Canucks fans cheer for these dirty, cheap assholes? Whichever red-headed step child shoved his stick into Crawford’s crotch as Crawford held the puck near his neck waiting for an obvious freeze should be tarred and feathered and not allowed to see an NHL rink for 10 games. Truly classless, much like their constant diving and shithole antics that make me wonder how these shitheads don’t get called for more penalties. It really, really sucks that they’re good hockey players, because they really disgrace the game at times.

♦   Glad Steve Montador decided he wanted to be Gordie Howe. He’s already halfway to his career high in goals.

The rest is in Boxing …

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

More >

Circus Trip Roundtable

Clowns suck.

Myself, Jim and Tim decided to touch on a few issues heading into the annual Circus Trip. Three idiots, three questions. Get some.

1) Just when Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith seemed to be regaining their form together, Seabrook goes down with an injury which may keep him out as the ‘Hawks embark on the annual Circus Trip. How will Seabrook’s absence affect the defensive corps, and who will you be looking for to step up?

Jim: Ugh. Seabrook going down sure took a bit of the fun out of an otherwise fantastic Sunday for Chicago sports fans. The timing of this is fucking horrible and certainly dampens the outlook as the Hawks head out on the Oregon Trail. Seabrook brings the mean back on the Hawks blue line and he certainly would have been nice to have in the Vancouver and Anaheim games – two teams which bring it physically. God only knows what this does to the pairings. Does Q revert back to Keith and Leddy, or does he let Monty step up into the first pair and keep Hjammer and Leddy together? Hjammer is going to have to be the physical force back there and Nick Leddy is going to have to continue to eat up important minutes (27 against Edmonton). The biggest impact will be on Duncan Keith. #2 will be asked to pick up the load (especially on the PK), much as Seabrook did when he went down. I think Duncs will be equal to the task. The absolute worst part of all of this? You guess it.….more John Scott. Shoot me now.

Tim: I think we saw a decent picture of how this group will adjust to the absence of one of its leaders with the Keith hand injury. That’s a very positive sign. And just like in those games, I hope Coach Q has the sense to dress 6 qualified defensemen, instead of John Scott.

As for who needs to step up, the name we have heard precious little of so far this season is Niklas Hjalmarsson. Granted, at least he isn’t getting nightly delay-of-game penalties anymore. But he needs to make more of an impact out there on a nightly basis. So far he’s been largely invisible.

Bartl: Seabrook stepped up when Keith was out, now Keith is going to have to do the same with his rekindled partner sidelined. While Hammer quite obviously will need to step up his game, that’s something we’ve known for quite some time now. The defensive deficiencies lie with Scott, Lepisto and/or O’Donnell to play smart, sound hockey. While that those qualities waived bye-bye to Scott a long time ago, it’s the other two I’m concerned about. Neither have been able to crack the lineup ahead of that elephant on skates, and having to rely in decent minutes from either of them racks my brain. Aside from that Montador likely won’t be seeing as much time at forward given he’ll need to play more minutes on D, and taking away a hot stick from a clicking offense is rarely good.

More >

Not Quite Yet, Kids: Boxing with ‘Hawks and Oilers

(Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

The Edmonton Oilers are going to be playoff contenders, though the jury is still out on when that time will come. The Blackhawks showed them glimpses of what it’s going to take to get there.

The ‘Hawks captured a 6-3 victory Sunday night at the United Center, sending themselves off on a good note heading into the annual Circus Trip – kind of.

Brent Seabrook hit the boards hard and suffered the always-vague lower-body injury which could prevent him from traveling with the team for its six-game jaunt. Q said Seabrook will be evaluated more Tuesday and is going with a “day-to-day” amateur diagnosis.

This could present a multitude of problems for a defense already dressing John Scott. The onus will fall on Sami Lepisto and Sean O’Donnell to fill the void left by the absence of one of the NHL’s best defensemen. That means two players who couldn’t even crack the lineup ahead of a no-talent gorilla will have to attempt to do enough of a Seabrook impression to help anchor the blue line.

I guess we’ll find out more soon if that’s the case …

♦   Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: These kids are good. Hall took advantage of mistakes by both Duncan Keith and Nick Leddy to win the puck and create scoring chances with hard rushes to the net, and also was robbed by Corey Crawford after putting himself into a scoring position in the slot. Eberle’s goal was a pretty move just after coming out of the box, and RNH showed exactly why he was the No. 1 overall pick and stuck with the big club.

The Oil remind me greatly of the 2007-08 Blackhawks – Lots of young talent and not enough veteran support which left them teetering on the brink of breaking out. Nikolai Khabibulin was in net – for 49 starts, anyway – for those ‘Hawks, who got it together the next year when Khabi put together a 25-8-7 season. While Edmonton won’t be getting home-ice advantage in the postseason no matter Khabi’s solid play so far, I fully expect the Oilers to be contending for the No. 8 seed if they can manage to avoid 2-4 road trips like this one down the line. The talent is there.

♦   The ‘Hawks moved to 7-1-2 at home, earning 16 of a possible 20 points at the UC. Part of last season’s shitfest had to do with the fact the Blackhawks were less-than-stellar on home ice, even when the schedule seemingly was doing them favors. Not the case this season – so far.

♦   Another power-play goal. I think I’ll wet my pants.

Onto Boxing….

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

More >

The Blue Jackets are Who We Thought They Were: Boxing with ‘Hawks and BJs

"See that chick in the 8th row?" ... "Dude, after the game. I have ass to kick still." (John Grieshop, Getty Images)

Couldn’t say it much better than Dennis Green during his famous rant.

The BJs showed us and the Blackhawks exactly what we expected: That they’re a dog shit team which the ‘Hawks needed to steamroll after some sub par performances recently.

The Blackhawks dominated every aspect of their 6-3 thumping of Columbus on Thursday night, and they’ll head into back-to-back home games this weekend on a positive note.

Just a couple things before Boxing …

♦   Q said he hoped the ‘Hawks came out “angry” tonight after the past couple of farts they left on the ice. Whether it was anger or the overall stench of the Blue Jackets that had the ‘Hawks rolling, I don’t care. Take the easy two points and see if you can institute all the good done over the weekend at home.

♦   The Blackhawks have given up 13 goals over their last three games. Eight of them have come while they were shorthanded. The penalty kill now sits at 76.5 percent – bad enough for 23rd in the league. That’s not exactly neat.

♦   Hopefully John Scott missed the team flight and is getting in some sort of trouble in Columbus so he’s placed in jail and we don’t have to worry about him dressing this weekend.

♦   Of the Blackhawks’ 50 goals this season, only two have come from defensemen (Steve Montador’s goal Thursday doesn’t count since he was playing forward at the time) and both have come from Nick Leddy. I’m surprised by this, though that may mean the ‘Hawks aren’t taking their shots from the point to get the puck on net to create some more chances and “garbage” goals. If they were doing that, you’d think a few more would have gotten through by now. I mean, we’re 16 games into the season …

Enjoy Boxing …

More >

It’ll Get Fixed … Right?

(Credit: Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE)

Sorry, no Boxing tonight. I went out, I’m tired and it takes a long time. It’ll be back Thursday, I promise …

Trying to sugarcoat the past few games is a waste of time, we know that. But I’m going to take a quick step back.

The Blackhawks went down to Florida and got three points on a brief trip in which they very easily could have come out with zero. Then they came home and shit the bed against Vancouver. It pissed us off, royally.

So Q decided he was going to change things up. It resulted in a 3-0 loss in St. Louis, and now we’re about to hang up our proverbial skates with 67 games to play, which is more ridiculous than any line combination Q could ever dream up.

I’ll quickly concede the fact Q shuffles his lines irregularly, at times when it seems unnecessary. This does not qualify as one of those times.

There’s plenty of discussion pointing to the fact that it’s only November, and Q should not be panicking by shifting players around in “unfamiliar” positions with “unfamiliar” players. That right there is the exact point – it’s only November. If there’s a time to make some changes to feel things out after a dog shit stretch, it’s right now. And that’s especially true heading into a road game against team in turmoil playing its first game with a brand new coach.

If Q was pulling the slot machine with his players hoping to pull gold from his ass against a seasoned conference opponent, I could understand a bit of flack heading his way. Despite a stretch in which the ‘Hawks played like shit, I could at least understand the concern.

But to present a quick newsflash to everyone, there’s going to be another dog shit stretch this season – maybe two, or three, or … well, you get the point. Go ahead and change your diapers upon hearing that, but it’ll happen. The best of teams lose games, and most often in succession. During an 82-game season, slumps are going to happen.

With that said, sometimes change breaks a slump. Moreover, especially with a changed roster like the Blackhawks’, teams don’t walk into camp simply tossing combinations together while saying, “Yep, this is going to be it for the next 82 games. Fuck everyone.” Things changed in camp, things change during the season.

Every coach in this league changes line combinations. Most recently, the New York Islanders snapped a six-game losing streak by completely changing personnel and beat Washington 5-3. Jack Capuano felt the need to do what he could in order to spark his squad. It worked, and that’s awesome.

Sometimes, things don’t work. Tuesday’s loss was an example of that. However, that doesn’t mean Q needs to be chastised for it. The ‘Hawks played three consecutive games in which their game wasn’t up to expectations. For Q to toss something together in hopes of surprising an already stunned Blues team learning Ken Hitchcock’s system in two days is not earth-shattering. It’s closer to normal than if he sat on his hands.

I won’t defend certain things. John Scott being in the lineup is never a good idea, and that’s not something I’ll ever be on Q’s side about. The power play? Absolutely pathetic, and someone needs to be held responsible for these disgusting displays, because it’s now a chronic problem which needs to be fixed for the Blackhawks to be the elite team they hope to be this season.

But to get upset at Q for making some line changes to test things out heading into the 15th game of the season against a team with its collective head spinning in circles due to more drastic change than a line combination is panic in itself. Say Q is panicking all you want, but you’re then in turn exceeding his “panic” by miles.

There’s a time and a place for everything, and early November seems to be that time when Q should be allowed to test his squad with some different looks. It’s normal, every coach does it. There’s no bubble around Chicago under which things work drastically different than any other NHL city.

OK, the changes for Tuesday didn’t work out. The ‘Hawks are now 8-4-3 and lead the Central Division. Relax, please. I have some confidence Q isn’t going to troll out the same lines Thursday…. right?

And if he does? Well, it’s only November.

Follow Cheer The Anthem on Twitter @CheerTheAnthem and on Facebook
Download Cheer The Anthem’s Android app for immediate alerts to new posts
If you’re on your iPhone, save cheertheanthem.noticeorange.com to your bookmarks. Works like an app.

Powerless: Boxing with Blackhawks and Canucks

Credit: Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune

This was one of those games that just didn’t have a good feel to it from the get-go. Very, very little went right, and the Blackhawks’ powerless play once again left massive logs of poop on the ice.

The ‘Hawks spent roughly the first three minutes of the game in their own zone, and it may have taken even longer for them to make consecutive tape-to-tape passes. Was it fatigue from three games in four nights? The travel from Florida? Spending time with pops?

Whatever it was, Sunday night was a shit-filled performance in the first meeting since the playoffs as the ‘Hawks fell 6-2 to the Canucks.

So much for the theory of, “When the ‘Hawks power play finally scores one, the goals will come in bunches.” The Blackhawks went a putrid 0 for 5 with the man advantage while looking as if they should have just started declining penalties. Five guys standing around, blinding throwing passes and playing as if they’ve never practiced the power play before won’t get anyone anywhere. It’s becoming borderline humorous. I can’t even get excited anymore when the opposition takes a penalty.

Oh, and if Steve Montador gets another second of power-play time, I’m going to strangle myself with dental floss.

♦   Your argument for that may be something like, “Lighten up. Vancouver came in with the sixth-ranked penalty kill and they have one of the better killing units in the league.” Well, the Blackhawks came in with the fourth-ranked kill and allowed the Canucks to go 5 for 6 with the man advantage as the ‘Hawks stood there with their jaws dropped as if they were watching Victoria’s Secret models undress.

The ‘Hawks struggled with their power plays mainly due to the Canucks’ active kill. They attack the puck while the other three play a solid zone to be able challenge the next pass. Too many times the Blackhawks were flat footed on their kill, watching and gazing at what a power play should actually look like.  Vancouver enters the zone hard or places a solid dump-in where a teammate can get it while the others get into position.

♦   I think the saddest part of the evening was watching the Canucks get into the heads of the Blackhawks by playing smart and physical to disrupt the ‘Hawks attack. While the amount of flopping done by the Sedins makes me want to petition Brendan Shanahan to institute the death penalty for diving, Vancouver drew penalties and then converted. It seems simple, but it’s a simplistic part of hockey the Blackhawks have been overlooking all season.

Here’s Boxing …

More >