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

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…

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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.

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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:

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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…

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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.

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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…

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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.

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It’s Still 2 Points: Blackhawks vs. The Shootout

NOTE: Entries to the random drawing for the two FREE tickets to Friday’s Blackhawks vs. Ducks game at the United Center will be taken all day Tuesday on Cheer the Anthem’s Facebook page. Go “like” the page, follow directions, and you could be heading to the game Friday on CtA as an early holiday gift.

I’ve referred to the NHL shootout as many, many things over the years. Those descriptions usually involve curse words and/or some sarcastic comment.

I think it’s a stupid way to decide a professional competition. And yes, even worse than a tie. Putting the same amount of points on the line in a one-on-one between a skater and goaltender as are at stake in a team-oriented battle for 60-plus minutes is something only Gary Bettman would do, and something only meatball fans would love.

Is it exciting? Not really. Does it matter what I think? Like most of the time in my life, the answer is no.

Bottom line, no matter how much we hate it, the shootout affects the standings. The Blackhawks have already gone to six shootouts by mid-December after going to 11 all of last season.

With it being an off day, let’s take a look at some of shootout numbers for the current Blackhawks and the goaltenders, just so you have some reference the next time we need to suffer through one of these things.

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Thanks, Pops: Boxing with ‘Hawks and Sharks

"You're not so bad yourself there, Hoss." (Credit: Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

Daddy likes the sauce.

Patrick Sharp potted his second consecutive overtime winner and first as a father, sealing a 3-2 Blackhawks win over San Jose on Sunday night at the United Center.

While Sharpie’s handsome winner and Andrew Brunette’s deflection with a little over a minute remaining to tie the game were fantastic, the ‘Hawks played like they were wearing slippers for the first 40 minutes. Getting outshot 33-13 through the first two periods is just downright embarrassing, and it caused Q to switch up his lines – and rightly so – to start the third.

Whether it was that which sparked the rally or the Sharks playing not to lose, the Blackhawks were able to improve to 6-1-1 in their last eight games and are taking advantage of a favorable schedule like we all hoped.

Quick thoughts before Boxing…

♦   It’s true Jonathan Toews didn’t play his best game tonight, and there might be a reason: His 26 minutes, 55 seconds of ice time were a career-high, as Ben Smith sat and watched. Granted, Toews playing this many minutes simply can’t happen night after night, but Q called on his Captain to play the necessary minutes to get the ‘Hawks back into it. Toews went 14 for 23 on the faceoff dot, including winning the draw leading to Brunette’s equalizer. That’s why he’s the best player in the world at this moment. He doesn’t need to show up on the score sheet to affect the outcome of a game.

♦   Speaking of Brunette’s goal, the ‘Hawks executed the play just as it was drawn up. Brunette darted straight for the blue paint after the puck was dropped. Two quick passes and a one-timer toward the net gave the ‘Hawks exactly the type of goal they were looking for to beat Antti Niemi, whose solid performance went for naught.

♦   Joe Thornton and Ryane Clowe are complete ass hats. Thornton should have gotten another minor for shoving Toews around the ice after his high stick, and I’m still in shock Clowe didn’t have to start OT in the box after punching everything in a ‘Hawks sweater.

♦   Ray Emery is the reason the ‘Hawks even had a chance to tie and win that game late. He’s 3-0-1 in starting the last four games, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he started Wednesday in Minnesota against the surging Wild. Corey Crawford isn’t going to get off the bench soon if Emery keeps this up.

♦   FREE STUFF ALERT! I’m going to be giving away two free tickets in Sec. 326 to Friday’s game against Anaheim. No catches, the tickets are a free holiday gift as an appreciation for stopping by and reading us here at our new home since moving here in June. The random drawing will be held Tuesday, and one winner will get both tickets. Contest rules will be posted Tuesday morning on Cheer the Anthem’s Facebook page, so if you haven’t “liked” it yet, you better do it now. Only those who “like” the page have a shot at winning the tickets. Good luck!

Boxing is all I’ve got from here…

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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.

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