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 email@example.com.
Posts by Bartl
The Blackhawks are doing just enough to piss off everyone. There’s hope, then it’s ripped away. And with the glimmer flickering its last gasps, it’s all over.
Vancouver 2, Blackhawks 0. The way things have gone, I implore you to find a reason it will change on home ice.
The obvious fact: The Canucks are flat out better than the Blackhawks. That wasn’t a state secret coming into this series. The not-so-obvious fact? Vancouver has put together a fantastic gameplan to slow down the Blackhawks and take away their speed. The Canucks have controlled the neutral zone, taking away the ‘Hawks’ ability to skate into the zone with much threat for most of the series.
Vancouver’s aggressive forecheck has done the ‘Hawks in on numerous occasions, forcing the Blackhawks into turnovers and rushing the decision-making while keeping the ‘Hawks’ speed at bay. On top of that, notice how the Canucks clear the puck from their zone. It’s flipped into the air into the center of the ice, avoiding icing and making the Blackhawks chase. More often than not, the puck is not rung around or banged off the side boards to simply clear the line.
The puck floats, bounces harmlessly into the Blackhawks’ zone waiting for a defenseman to finally get his stick on it. This time is allowing the Canucks forwards and defensemen slip into the neutral zone and set up. This might as well be 1989, because the Blackhawks haven’t been able to complete a two-line pass with any sort of efficiency. The ‘Hawks are being shut down and taken out of their game.
And that’s the reason the fourth line came up with all three goals Friday night. The ‘Hawks skilled players are being neutralized by Vancouver, and that’s the reason you’re not seeing Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, etc., do anything of substance in this series. If the Canucks are allowing goals to only the fourth line – which sees limited minutes – against their bottom six, Vancouver seems to feel its in good shape. And its the correct gamplan, seeing as the Canucks hold a 2-0 advantage heading to Chicago.
Not to take anything away from Ben Smith, who played an outstanding game. The same goes for Viktor Stalberg, who not only scored but after 84 games decided it was time to be a bit physical. Kane looks scared shitless, and only for the last six minutes of the game decided to fight through checks. Toews? Hossa? Sharp? Coach Q needs to watch some tape and figure out how to get these guys in position to score against Vancouver’s aggressive – yet very skilled – play.
Enough can’t be said about Corey Crawford. He is facing the Dustin Byfuglien treatment the Blackhawks laid on Roberto Luongo the last two postseasons. The Canucks are parking people in front of the net and disrupting Crawford’s line of site through the first two games. But he stoned the Sedins on a 2 on 0 and faced enough odd-man rushes to make my farts seem pleasant, yet stood tall and kept the ‘Hawks in the game the best he could.
The rushes came from the ‘Hawks using their defenseman to pinch more frequently and carry the puck into the zone as often as possible in order to put some sort of pressure on Luongo. Problem was, it didn’t work. Vancouver broke free for numerous scoring chances, and luckily they took 400 offsides penalties or this game might have ended 10-3.
Friday’s game was lost in the second period. Sharp’s retaliation trip led to Vancouver’s power-play goal in the first minute, then a deflection goal with 13 seconds remaining took away the momentum after Smith pulled Chicago to within one.
There’s a whole ton of shit that needs to be figured out in two days, and it’s going to be a chore to actually do it. My feeling is the Blackhawks are going to need more than just the motivation of the home crowd, because the Canucks seem confident enough not to give a rat’s ass what color the jerseys are.
With all of that said, this series is far from over as much as it may seem like it. There’s still a decent amount of positives to take from these two games. If the top six show up, there’s a lot that can be done.
Onto Boxing, if you can stomach it.
Blackhawks-Canucks III may seem like a more sexy title given the renewed rivalry and Chicago’s dominance over the past two postseasons. But there was a time when the Canucks got the best of the Blackhawks, and they kept Denis Savard, Norris Trophy winner Doug Wilson and the ’Hawks from moving onto the Stanley Cup finals.
It was the same series the Vancouver Canucks and coach Roger Neilson provided the hockey world with a memorable moment.
This seems fitting, doesn’t it? Granted Daniel and Henrik Sedin look much more alike than Schwarzenegger and DeVito, but this seems a pretty good movie to help with the breakdown.
The Blackhawks and Canucks split four regular-season meetings with each winning once each at home and on the road. Here’s a quick snipit of team statistics from each contest.
The most glaring aspect — which Brad Ziemer of the Vancouver Sun pointed out yesterday in our Behind Enemy Lines interview — is the Blackhawks were just 1 for 20 on the power play through the four games. The Canucks went 5 for 16. Ziemer said this series could come down to special teams, and he may be right.
Much like I did during last season’s playoffs against San Jose, I’ll breakdown each regular-season game relating to a quote. This edition, we’ll rely on Twins to provide us the memorable banter. And if you were lucky enough to get Boxing after one of these games, you’ll be able to take another gander at that as well.
And ….. go.
Blackhawks-Canucks III begins Wednesday, with the hated rivals set to do battle once again. To gain a bit more insight into the opponent, I traded emails with Vancouver Sun beat writer, Brad Ziemer, who has done a fantastic job of covering the Canucks.
Ziemer gives us his thoughts on the the differences between previous Vancouver teams, the resurgence of Roberto Luongo, the keys to the series and his prediction.
You may not enjoy his answers.
Bartl: Everyone knows the playoff history between the Blackhawks and Canucks. They don’t like each other. However, Vancouver enters this series as the favorite while the Blackhawks are backing in with a bit of luck. What are some noticeable differences from this year’s Canucks team and the two previous teams which lost to Chicago?
Ziemer: This is a much more confident and mature Canuck team. Guys like Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows, who used to waste much of their energy trash-talking and getting involved in scrums, have for the most part stuck to hockey this season. The team is also much deeper on defence. They enter the playoffs with their top six defencemen all healthy for the first time all season.
Pure disgust to utter elation in a matter of four hours.
And now, back to reality.
Sunday was a microcosm of a Blackhawks season which had people jumping off cliffs, then scaling the mountain again in hopes of reaching the top. The Red Wings came into the United Center and farted all over the Blackhawks’ playoff hopes with a 4-3 heartbreaker.
Then, the Minnesota Wild brought the Febreeze with a 5-3 win against Dallas, sending the Blackhawks to the playoffs for the third straight season.
It’s pretty much pointless to discuss the Red Wings game in detail. That was in the prior season, the regular season which doesn’t matter anymore. To piss ourselves off about the fact the ‘Hawks came into the game with everything to play for and the Wings entering the game with nothing …. wait, I just said I wasn’t going to do this.
Our dear friends – the Vancouver Canucks – await in Round 1. Dustin Byfuglien’s fat ass won’t be around to wave in Roberto Luongo’s face again this year. And if you’re happy to see the Canucks simply based off the fact the ‘Hawks have won two straight playoff series against them, dig deeper. These are two very different teams. Let’s just hope Luongo is still the same postseason goaltender.
Wednesday at 9 p.m. CST, it’s on. Hopefully the Sedin Sisters just keep spooning each other and miss puck drop because they got caught up watching Junior while attempting to make the plot come to real life.
You can check the schedule here for the first-round series, and we’ll be back each day with a more detailed breakdown of the series.
Until then, here’s a very special edition of Boxing detailing the only thing that matters… More >
Here we go. It’s Dallas vs. Minnesota to save an erratic and inconsistent regular season. Dallas wins in regulation, the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks will be watching the playoffs from their couches.
4-3, Detroit. Goddamnit.
In roughly three hours from the time of writing this, the Blackhawks will know whether or not they’ll have a chance to defend their Stanley Cup. It’s absolutely unbelievable, if you ask me, that it’s come down to this.
And since I’m a nobody, how about we ask Jonathan Toews.
“It’s so frustrating it has come down to this. I’m pretty much speechless. When it’s the culmination of an 82-game season and you’re sitting here in this situation, after working so hard for such a long season, and with the group that we have, it’s unreal to be here. The fact that we’re completely at another team’s mercy right now. … I can’t believe it.”
I’ll leave you with my column from The Committed Indian, which was sold outside by Second City Hockey’s Sam Fels before the loss to the Red Wings.
What a difference a year makes, eh?
Sam gave me this space for the last regular season game of 2009-10, though the situations are much different. Last year, I wrote about the Blackhawks overcoming injuries and adversity to have a shot at the No. 1 seed.
I also wrote the ‘Hawks looked like a Stanley Cup contender for years to come. While dynasties are rare and down seasons will happen, this Blackhawks team taking the ice in front of you today has made sure Game 82 means everything – and not for the better.
No matter your thoughts on the moves this past offseason – though they were completely necessary – I don’t believe any of us thought the Blackhawks could miss the playoffs this season. Yet a loss in regulation today against hated Detroit and a Dallas victory of any kind later tonight against Minnesota means the ‘Hawks will be watching the postseason from their couches.
How bad do those two home losses to Edmonton look? Or the loss to New Jersey on Nov. 3 when the Devils entered the game 2-9-1? Losing seven of the first 11 at the United Center? The wet fart that has been the penalty kill?
The aforementioned deficiencies in performance have contributed to making Game 82 matter for a much different reason than last season. We’ve all tossed around the term “must-win” since February, and we’re unfortunately still saying it in April – before the postseason.
Today is the ultimate “must-win” – or at least “must-not-lose-in-regulation” – game. Have we all decided to drop our standards and justification for excitement because the situations have changed since last season? I’m having a hard time deciding whether I’ll be happy the ‘Hawks made the playoffs or be upset they barely qualified.
However, celebrating last season’s Stanley Cup victory was one of the greatest moments of my life. The only way I’ll have a chance of that repeating come June is if the Blackhawks get into the postseason. Philadelphia – and the rest of the Eastern Conference, for that matter – proved in 2010 that getting in is all that matters. Anyone can win it all by getting hot at the right time.
I hope the Blackhawks fit that bill.
Jonathan Toews has almost single-handedly brought the ‘Hawks to the brink of the postseason. Without him, this column would be more of a eulogy. With the Captain on our side, you have to believe the Blackhawks can beat anyone in a seven-game series, simply based off the fact Toews won’t let this team fold up.
Corey Crawford has been a pleasant surprise this season, and has been a huge reason for a good chunk of victories.
It’s the shell of Duncan Keith that worries me. It’s the stupid penalties that get me flustered. And it’s the lack of urgency which resonated for most of the latter part of the season that makes me wonder if the ‘Hawks can compete with a much better Vancouver team than they beat the past two postseasons.
It’s unfortunate Game 82 has become so important. But if the Blackhawks can survive to see Game 83, anything can happen.
Sorry to tease you a bit here, but there’s a bit of an issue loading up the Boxing images. That should be corrected by about lunch time, so I just wanted to get this up to let you know to check in around then.
I’ll be updating this post with the images. I don’t know what the damn problem is, but I’m getting it sorted out.
See ya back here soon, and sorry for the delay.
Back on Nov. 7, I wrote a column for Sam Fels’ wonderful creation The Committed Indian before the Blackhawks dropped to 7-8-1 with a 2-1 loss to Edmonton.
In my column titled, “10 Reasons Why the Blackhawks Can Repeat,” I shared my optimistic viewpoints skewed by a Stanley Cup run last season. I’ve decided to go back and breakdown what I wrote in November to what’s actually happened so far in 2010-11.
If you hate my guts, you’re going to want to share this with any and all of the electronic options available to you at the end of the post. I was wrong way more than I was right, though I don’t feel I’m anywhere near alone in most of these thoughts dating back five months.
Below are each of the reasons I wrote Nov. 7, with a detailed explanation and update to current times.
Have a blast.
Much ado is made about whether or not the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks will qualify for the postseason. But let’s ask ourselves an important question:
If the ‘Hawks do make the playoffs, would it be worth the inevitable embarrassment of getting bitch-slapped by Vancouver? Because that’s what’s going to happen – especially with efforts like Sunday’s.
The 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay is a microcosm of what the Blackhawks are going to be as postseason participants. We’ve been waiting all damn season for the ‘Hawks to live up to their “talent,” and through 78 games we’ve been mostly disappointed. Is there any sign of this being a different team when the Blackhawks hit the ice for the first-round series against the Canucks?
The answer is no. Sunday proved there’s going to need to be a lot of prayer to whatever higher power you answer to in hopes said higher power just ordered a Jonathan Toews FatHead.
Go ahead, call me pessimistic. You’d be 100 percent correct. But if you’re in any way optimistic following Sunday’s wet fart of a performance, get your head examined.
Here’s what the West standings look like heading into Monday:
Yes, I’m aware a series with the Canucks is not a sure thing and the Blackhawks can move up. And I’m also aware the ‘Hawks have had their way with Vancouver in previous postseasons. This isn’t previous postseasons.
On top of that, what makes anyone believe the ‘Hawks can beat Detroit or even San Jose if they can move up to 6th or 7th?
The effort against Tampa Bay was that of a team not realizing the magnitude of what’s happening. The Blackhawks treated all 60 minutes like a Sunday morning drive to church – relaxed, while hoping some figment of their imagination will make everything sweet and wonderful. Forget putting a foot on the gas pedal, because the Blackhawks were taking a handsome cab ride with Rusty guiding the way.
Mike Smith (yeah, I know, Mike Smith) wasn’t in the least bit challenged the entire night, and an early power-play goal off Niklas Hjalmarsson’s dipshit delay-of-game penalty culminating with Brent Seabrook thinking about the next episode of Chicago Code as Vincent Lecavalier converted did the Blackhawks in.
And before you say anything, I don’t care if Dave Bolland and Patrick Sharp are out. It’s no excuse. The effort put forth Sunday wouldn’t have beaten the Charleston Chiefs.
Onto Boxing, if you dare …
You had to know this was coming.
It’s not as if the ‘Hawks haven’t played back-to-back games before – in fact, they came into the game 8-3-1 in the second game of back-to-backs this season – but it was pretty evident the Detroit game took a ton out of the Blackhawks. The Boston Bruins dictated the pace and took it to the ‘Hawks in a 3-0 shutout from Tim Thomas.
Jonathan Toews ended up a minus-3 for only the fifth time in his career as the Blackhawks mustered only five shots on goal in the first period, giving Thomas basically 20 minutes off to start the game. There was basically zero energy, and Corey Crawford gets the credit for the ‘Hawks coming out of the first unscathed.
Boston simply played its game, and there was nothing the Blackhawks could do about it, even though they literally tried to rip off the Bruins’ faces in the process. Shawn Thornton needed 40 stitches after Fernando Pisani’s skate cut him across the forehead.
(Quick sidenote: Any chance this heats up the NHL’s talks of mandating visors? I say yes.)
Dallas lost to Phoenix in a shootout, meaning they’re six points back of the eighth-place Blackhawks. Chalk Tuesday up as tough loss, and move onto Columbus on Friday fresh and ready to go.
Here’s your Boxing…