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

Boxing 12-9-13-Stars

Messin’ with Texas: Boxing with Blackhawks (6) and Stars (2)

Ronald Martinez/Getty photo

Ronald Martinez/Getty photo

Well, city of Dallas, thank you for providing us with two teams Chicago can laugh at on consecutive nights.

After the Bears broke open a tight game to rout the Cowboys on Monday Night Football, the Blackhawks scored early and often in a 6-2 domination of the Stars on Tuesday.

Before we go any further – especially since we won’t get to see him again until March 25 – can we all agree that Antoine Roussel is one of the biggest jagoffs this planet has ever seen? Kris Versteeg giving him that little shot as the clock wound down got him all butthurt, but Roussel was a piece of shit all night with his antics. And of course, that asshole scores twice. At least they had little meaning, unlike the last meeting at the United Center. He’s about as much fun as a morning-after-White Castle shart.

On to more important things, the resounding victory was a nice follow after dominating Florida on Sunday, and a solid precursor heading into Wednesday’s tilt at the UC against Philadelphia. Antti Raanta was solid, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Brandon Saad and Duncan Keith all played very well, and the ‘Hawks got a little revenge, too.

A couple things I wanted to point out…

– We’ve all been pretty tough on Brent Seabrook around here, but I thought he played a solid game tonight, including the pass that sprung Kane for his breakaway goal. He played tough along the boards and drew a couple penalties.

– Though the ‘Hawks failed to convert on that early, extended 5-on-3, it wasn’t because they were short on chances. Sure, it stings not to pot one there, but Lehtonen made a couple of nice saves and pucks went just wide. Had they not generated anything, it would be more concerning.

– As Nakis wrote on Twitter, nice goal by Future 3rd-line Winger Michael Kostka.

– Keith’s slap pass to Sharp that led to a breakaway goal was a thing of beauty. By the way, he’s fourth in the league with 24 assists. Not fourth among defensemen, but fourth in the goddamn NHL. That’s neat.

– With the news Corey Crawford will be out three weeks – and I think that’s a gift given how bad he looked coming off the ice Sunday – it’s Raanta’s net. He might even get the call against the Philly as well given that the backup is now something named Kent Simpson. He let in a softy in the second and then one in the closing seconds to Dallas’ resident cocksucker, but he played some solid goal and made 27 saves.

Jonathan Toews missed a couple shifts and only took 11 draws, losing seven. Hand? Wrist? Just precaution in a blowout? We’ll see.

Before I get to Boxing, I’d like to first apologize for my lack of presence around the site lately. I got married – yes, I actually was able to convince someone to marry me – and have been dealing with a pending move back into the city, so things outside of here have been a bit hectic. I’ll be around a lot more now, especially as we get Cheer the Podcast going regularly.

Here we go….

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The Wine Cooler, Episode 8: And We’re Back – Finally!

Wine Cooler

It’s been a hell of a long time since we’ve done one of these – since right before Game 6, to be exact – so we decided to get back on the horse. Bartl and Nakis (Pronounced n-AAAAAAAA-kis, as I was told later) welcomed Adam into the fold for his first ‘cast. We discussed:

- Mighty Mike’s trip to U S and A

- Kris Versteeg since the trade

- Brandon Pirri

- The awfulness of the Eastern Conference

- The domination of the Western Conference

- The fucking Blues

And other stuff. Go ahead and take a half hour out of your time and give us idiots a listen. Enjoy!

If that doesn’t work, click and listen here

Chicago Blackhawks v Florida Panthers

Thirdy Something: The Blackhawks and the Third Period

Chicago Blackhawks v Florida Panthers

I planned to do Boxing tonight, but I ended up having to watch the game at work and couldn’t get around to it. Plus, there are some things to talk about that can’t be done through Boxing. I will do it after Thursday’s game against the ‘Ning. I think. I hope.

Taking at least a point in eight of the first nine games is something that should be celebrated. Not in the NHL-record-24-straight-games-to-start-a-season sort of fashion, but it’s definitely impressive – even for a team coming off its second Stanley Cup title in four years.

But there’s no doubt there’s some uneasiness resonating within the fan base about the Blackhawks’ inability to find twine in the third period this season, leading to some unnecessarily uncomfortable outcomes. Such was the case Tuesday, as the ‘Hawks blew a 2-0 lead in the final period before Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp scored in the shootout for a 3-2 win over Florida.

I know it seems like the easy way out, and I’m probably in the minority, but paint me unworried – which is precisely the stance the Blackhawks are taking. It’s October, and they’ve ended up with two points more often than not.

”We’re not happy with giving up leads in the third period,” Sharp said. ”We’d like to close teams out by scoring in the third period and get out of here, but when the games get tight we seem to play better and that’s important. It would be a lot worse if we were coming away with no points instead of two.”

”I don’t think we’re playing any different than the first two periods. I don’t think we’re sitting on leads,” Quenneville said. ”We’re not complaining, let’s put it that way.”

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Bolland

Revisiting Bolland’s Return to Chicago; Nordstrom Sent Down Before Trip to Florida

Bolland

Before I start looking ahead, I wanted to take a look back at Saturday’s 3-1 win over the Leafs, when Dave Bolland made his first trip to the United Center as a visitor and the whirlwind of emotions that went along with it.

We’ve been through this before when key members of the 2010 Cup team returned to the UC after being jettisoned, but Bolland hitting the ice in a Leafs sweater felt very different – for me, at least. Him being dealt on draft night probably was the least surprising transaction Stan Bowman has made after Bolland had a rather disappointing 2013 regular season.

He battled injuries – which was becoming all too familiar – and his inability to supplant himself as a consistant second-line center who could win draws became tired. There’s no question Bolland is talented, and his playoff performances from seasons past along with his lively personality kept some on his side. But when it came down to it, we all knew he had to go. It was merely a formality.

Had Bolland not scored the clinching goal in Game 6 against Boston, which may end up going down as the most famous goal in Blackhawks history – surpassing that of Patrick Kane in 2010 – due to the situation, the sadness we felt watching him go likely wouldn’t have reached the heights it did. But he did work his ass off to get in front of the net and beat Tuukka Rask 17 seconds after Bryan Bickell’s equalizer, and he did give us that famous celebration of tossing his gloves to the ice before Frolik jumped into his arms. We’re not going to forget that. Ever. And that’s why seeing him on the ice Saturday wearing Toronto colors felt more strange than maybe it should have.

Does that video tribute get played, sans the goal obviously, had he not delivered one of the greatest moments in franchise history? Doubtful. The standing ovation that followed? Maybe, but I can’t imagine the game is stopped to give him that much attention. The fact is, his 399 games donning the Indian head, including the playoffs, will be defined by the last few seconds he wore it.

That’s all well and good, and he gave us one of the best sports memories of our lives, but we have to realize his previous deficiencies were what sent him packing for Canada. It was tough Saturday, and I’m glad it’s finally over.

Now, for the week ahead….

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CPR Results - Lightning

That’s a Shame: Blackhawks Allow Late Goal, Fall 3-2 in St. Louis (Plus Community Player Ratings Voting)

 

(Chicago Tribune photo)

(Chicago Tribune photo)

Losing is never fun. Losing to the Blues and their meth-head fans is even worse. Then changing the channel to see the Cardinals win a playoff series 10 minutes later undoubtedly is the featured torture of the devil himself.

But let’s take a step back and realize a couple things. Firstly, three victories in October does not a Stanley Cup champion make, no matter what Blues fans would have you believe. And a Blackhawks loss in October in a game between two solid clubs that could have gone either way really shouldn’t have anyone losing control of their bowels.

For once, a matchup between the ‘Hawks and Blues was pretty riveting, exciting hockey. The Blackhawks opened things up right off the bat, shooting down the ice at every possession change and creating a number of odd-man rushes they just couldn’t get past Jaroslav Halak. If one of those chances are buried, the scope of the game changes and I might be writing about a victory.

St. Louis converted on their prime chance in the first, with Vladimir Tarasenko potting a neutral-zone turnover past Corey Crawford. But, in usual Blues fashion, a stupid hit-from-behind penalty by Maxim Lapierre allowed Patrick Kane to tie the game less than two minutes later.

David Backes redirected a Alex Pietrangelo’s shot to give the Blues a 2-1 lead, but, yet again, St. Louis committed a dipshit penalty immediately that wound up with Jonathan Toews tying the game, again less than two minutes after the Blues took the lead.

Brent Seabrook’s attempt to slip into the slot backfired, as Alex Steen converted a 3-on-1 with 20 seconds remaining, and that was all she wrote.

All in all, there wasn’t much to hate – other than of course the extended cast of Duck Dynasty that are Blues fans celebrating like they were just offered a lifetime supply tainted crack. Let me explain….

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Backes kissing dog

I Actually Like the St. Louis Blues

Backes kissing dog

I know there’s a lot of hate going around from Blackhawks fans towards the St. Louis Blues. Sure, it’s becoming a nice rivalry, but sheesh. I find it pretty astounding, actually. I really don’t mind them.

For instance, look at that picture up there of David Backes making out with Ryan Reaves, who is being held by the lovely Barret Jackman. It’s quite obvious how much they care about each other and support each other. They always have each others’ backs and have great chemistry, especially Jackman and goaltender Jaroslav Halak.

Jackman catches a lot of flak, but he’s actually a very classy individual. I remember that one time he tried to have a nice, calm, intelligent conversation with the Blackhawks bench last season. I’m sure he wasn’t complaining or acting like one of those cracked-out menopausal homeless women that sleep under the Arch whom he has sex with on a regular basis. He was simply trying to say, “Hello, how are you?” And look how he was treated:

And all that talk about how the Blues take cheap shots at people? Especially against the Blackhawks? C’mon. Backes is the epitome of a captain and great teammate. I remember that time when he simply tried to give Jonathan Toews a pat on the back for a job well done, and then Toews just flipped out for absolutely no reason. I mean, of course Backes is going to try to defend himself.

And who can say enough about their coach, Ken HitchcockDespite playing stout defense that by no means features a bunch of thugs on skates trying to make up for their lack of skill like everyone claims, he quite obviously has them all under control.

St. Louis is a high-end organization from top to bottom. They’re so very welcoming to everyone, especially Blackhawks fans. Sure, they have that new ticket policy to try and prevent ‘Hawks fans from getting tickets to games at that luxurious stadium of theirs, but can you blame them?

Why would they want us unruly Blackhawks fans mingling with dedicated Blues fans like these:

No wonder they don’t want us idiot ‘Hawks fans there. The people of St. Louis are some of the smartest in the country:

get-a-brain-morans

I really don’t understand why Blackhawks fans are so hurtful and derogatory towards the fine people of St. Louis and their loveable Blues.

I mean, look at how much there is to like.

Boxing-10.1.13-Capitals

Title Defense Begins: Boxing with Blackhawks (6) and Capitals (4), plus Community Player Ratings

Banner Night

Shot from Bartl’s seat at the United Center

It’s funny, really. For months, I had been looking forward to a new hockey season and anxiously awaiting the Blackhawks to begin their title defense and quest for a repeat. But the irony is that I had a difficult time letting go of last season and the memories that came with it.

As I watched the video montage on the ice, I couldn’t help but think of the not so distant past, sitting at a little dive bar in the Chicago suburbs, listening to my Dad say, “Good. Now score again, and break their fucking hearts,” after Bryan Bickell’s goal in Game 6 before Dave Bolland obliged 17 seconds later. I wasn’t thinking about the game that was going to be played minutes later and the reality that came with it.

It didn’t take long to get back into the mode of worrisome fan, though. The Blackhawks didn’t make it easy on themselves, but they came away with a 6-4 victory over Washington in Game 1 of their Stanley Cup title defense.

A couple quick things…

–  It’s the first game of a long season. Some of the play was sloppy and there are kinks to be worked out, and that’s likely what you’re going to see for a few more games.

– With that said, also don’t read too much into the Blackhawks sagging back on the penalty kill. While it was frustrating to see Mike Green stand in the middle of the ice and score a goal while also having one of his shots deflected in by Mikhail Grabovski, the ‘Hawks quite obviously were more concerned with preventing cross-ice passes while not over-committing to Green, Nicklas Backstrom, or Alex Ovechkin. Granted, Ovi scored and the Caps finished with three power-play goals, but that’s one tough unit. I wouldn’t expect to see the ‘Hawks employ that strategy very often.

– Along the same lines of not overreacting, let’s not start getting on our knees in front of Brandon Bollig because he scored a goal. I’m sure the MOAR BOLLIG! people are salivating right now, but maybe we should let things play out. Like, for instance, realizing that his offensive-zone penalty gave his goal right back 6 1/2 minutes later. I’m interested to see where he winds up in the Community Player Ratings.

Michal Handzus’ pass to Brandon Saad was beautiful.

– How about that new hybrid icing, eh? If I’m not mistaken, I don’t think there was a single icing call the entire game.

Braden Holtby played like dog shit. Thanks.

– Here is the first edition of Community Player ratings for you readers to share your opinions on how things went last night. I’d like to make a very important point: All of your responses are anonymous. We have no idea which person casts which vote. So, if you rate Bollig a 10, you won’t have to personally deal with any of us at CtA or any of your fellow readers chastising you.

We will leave the voting open for 24 hours, and then we will post the results Thursday to show how you collectively rated everyone’s performance. Happy voting! Boxing after the jump…

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CupWin

Thank You, Blackhawks

CupWin

Bartl, fiance Nichole and Pops following the Game 6 victory… between many rounds of beers.

“Now break their hearts. Score again, and break their fucking hearts.”

I wasn’t deep into celebrating Bryan Bickell’s tying goal with 1 minute, 16 seconds remaining, when my father uttered those words with such conviction that I actually became frightened. He clapped a few times, raised his hands, then went right back into business mode.

“Do it again and break their fucking hearts.”

See, my dad isn’t one to offer up such passion when it comes to sports. He knew his only son’s sanity rode on the outcome of the Stanley Cup Final, and that’s really the only reason he came to peace with his inevitable hangover and joined me at a local establishment.

It’s also the only reason he cared at all. The Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup doesn’t enhance his life any, but it brings such joy to his kid that his enthusiasm shot past obligation and into a genuine state of jubilation. He just couldn’t help himself.

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CT hawks-bruins55.JPG

I Love This Team: Your 2013 Stanley Cup Champions, the Chicago Blackhawks

CT hawks-bruins55.JPG

You’re not going to get much more than this from me tonight. I’m celebrating until my body won’t let me celebrate anymore.

It’s almost fitting Dave Bolland,  who we have ragged on time and time again, scored the goal that would give the Blackhawks a 3-2 win and the team’s second Cup in four seasons.

It marked the perfect moment for a team that seemed to have a mantra of, “Don’t quit on us. We won’t let you down.” We were all guilty of quitting on this team at one point or another, and they all put their middle fingers in the air and proved that they weren’t going to give up on themselves, no matter what we thought.

You’ll get more details from us tomorrow, but enjoy this for now. How amazing is this?

Mostly, I’m so proud to share this site with Nakis, Adam and Mighty Mike, who have been instrumental in helping provide you readers with great insight. They’ve been even better “internet friends.” What  a season, and you’ll be hearing from us plenty over the next couple of months as the offseason is right around the corner.

I’m still trying to soak this all in. Unbelievable.

GO ‘HAWKS!

 

 

The Wine Cooler: Episode 7 – One. More. Win

Wine Cooler

The Blackhawks head into Game 6 with a chance to hoist the Stanley Cup for the second time in four seasons. That would be a nice middle finger to the Massholes that have deemed Boston, “Championship City.”

Bartl and Nakis discuss that, the injuries to Patrice Bergeron and Jonathan Toews, the Chara Effect – or non-effect – and how Corey Crawford is a world-class goaltender and meatheads just need to accept that because DAT EMERY GUY AINT GONE PLAY NO MOOR AND DATS JUS DA END OF DA CONVERSATION, MY FRENTS!

We pack a nice show into the 30 minutes BlogTalkRadio allots us free of charge. Enjoy.

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(Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

Beantown Beating: Blackhawks Shut Out in Game 3 as Bruins Take 2-1 Lead in Stanley Cup Final

(Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

(Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

This one didn’t go the Blackhawks’ way from the very beginning.

Marian Hossa was scratched at the last moment in favor of Ben Smith, who probably had half of a hot dog down in the press box before being summoned to the dressing room, and things didn’t get any better from there as the ‘Hawks fell 2-0 at TD Garden in Monday’s Game 3.

Zdeno Chara apparently received stitches after cracking his head on the ice in the pregame warmps and still played, so that’s a little bothersome. Either way, Hoss wasn’t out there and the bad news kept coming. Daniel Paille scored just over two minutes into the second period, then Patrice Bergeron added another later in the period to give the Bruins all they would need.

I don’t believe in calling any game a must-win until the other team has reached three victories, but let’s just say Wednesday is a “win-or-they’re-up-shit’s-creek-without-paddle” game.

Let’s see what we’ve got here…

♦   We’ve heard all of the DEY NEED TO DECLINE DA PENALTIES! DEY CAN DO DAT LIKE IN DA FOOZBALL GAME, RIGHT?!” jokes, but we’re at the point where the Blackhawks might be at more of a disadvantage when up a man. Credit is due to the Bruins’ aggressive and often relentless penalty kill, but let’s get serious here; a team that is built on speed and finesse continues to stand around while completely wasting two minutes of everyone’s time.

One specific example came when Patrick Kane held the puck around the boards and drifted high rather than pass the puck into an area down low that would force the Bruins to shift and potentially open up more ice – or even put himself in better position to find a lane and put the puck on net. He skated it toward the blue line, telegraphed a soft saucer pass everyone knew was coming, and the puck ended up out of the zone. These types of decisions have led to multiple shorthanded chances for the Bruins, especially Brad Marchand. The Blackhawks are basically killing Boston’s penalties for it.

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HELLSPAWN

I, Too, Love Shin Pads: Day-After Thoughts from Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final

(Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune)

(Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune)

Thank you, Andrew Shaw, for making your winning goal that much more entertaining.

And, thanks to Adam, we may have a new nickname for him:

HELLSPAWN

After Shaw deflected a Dave Bolland deflection off a Michal Rozsival shot (got that?), he professed his love for Bolland, thanked his shin pads and then dropped an F-bomb in his NBC interview with Pierre McGuire, sending the United Center crowd – including this exhausted individual – home happy.

Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, which eventually ended with the Blackhawks beating Boston 4-3, proved at least one thing: We’re being treated to a Final featuring two extremely good teams that didn’t need luck to get there. There were points I battled through the stress of what was happening to realize I should be excited just to be witnessing such great hockey featuring a team I support. Then, of course, I went back to biting my fingers off.

Aside from Shaw’s goal that brought more relief than anything, there’s a few other things I’ll take from this one heading into Game 2…

♦   Corey Crawford and Tuukka Rask both played outstanding games, but I’m going to focus more on Crawford, mainly because Rask essentially pointed out the deficiencies in front of him rather than accepting the loss as a team. I think there’s little doubt that, unless the Blackhawks win the other three games 10-9, Crawford will be adding a Conn Smythe to his resume should Chicago hoist the Cup. The numbers look like this: 13-5, 1.73 GAA, numerous huge saves.

Crawford came up big while helping the ‘Hawks kill off a too-many-men penalty in both the first and second overtimes. Sure, the Bruins beat him and drew iron a couple times, but Crow made the saves he needed to and even added some flare to a couple, especially that snagging glove save early in the game. The Blackhawks’ defense definitely wasn’t at its best Wednesday, and Crawford helped make up for it.

♦   On that note, I’d personally like to thank Kaspars Daugavins for whiffing on his OT chance with Crawford basically down and out after fending off another chance.

♦   This, also courtesy of Adam, of Marian Hossa in the second OT:

Photo: Marian Hossa during the 2nd OT last night. May be the only time it's ever applicable to cite Ken Harrelson's TWTW stat.

♦   Not only did Shaw score the winner, but Bolland’s goal that cut the Boston lead to 3-2 in the third was all him. Torey Krug, the rookie defenseman out of Michigan State who has been playing fantastically thus far in the playoffs, attempted to fire the puck to the middle of the ice, only to Shaw, who carried back into the zone. Krug then glided along side Shaw with his stick on the ice attempting to block a potential pass, but Shaw saucered it beautifully across to Bolland, who one-timed it past Rask.

♦   Bolland also got credited with an assist on the game-winner. To add some perspective into the rarity of a two-point night from Bolland, he totaled three points in his previous 25 games combined, including the playoffs.

♦   I feel like Hossa should just repeatedly say, “Fuck off Fuck off Fuck off Fuck off Fuck off Fuck off” whenever an opponent tries to take the puck from him. The man is a beast.

♦   I’ve read a few places about the Blackhawks being a step behind and the Bruins carrying the play for long stretches, but I think the same can be said by flipping those team names. I understand the Blackhawks had to overcome a pair of two-goal leads, but the ‘Hawks were a +51 in CORSI, and weren’t the only ones looking exhausted in the overtime sessions. Boston being up on the scoreboard through the first two and a half periods wasn’t necessarily indicative of the ice being tilted. The Bruins got two snipes from Lucic and a power-play goal on another snipe from Bergeron. They took advantage of some good chances in regulation. The Blackhawks had just as many chances as the Bruins they didn’t convert. That was a pretty damn good hockey game on both ends, but both teams have things to improve heading into Game 2.

♦  It will be interesting to see how severe the Nathan Horton injury is and how much it will affect Boston if he misses time. It appears to be a shoulder issue, which may spell bad news for the Bruins. Horton had an assist to give him 18 points for the playoffs, and he has been a huge contributor with Lucic and Krejci on the top line. He’s listed as day to day right now, but there are reports saying he could be done. If Horton is out, it will be interesting to see how Julien mixes his lines moving forward.

♦   So, the Blackhawks won with Brandon Bollig taking Viktor Stalberg’s place in the lineup. Still don’t necessarily agree with the move, but, as Nakis found out and then posted to Twitter, it seemed like Stalberg had fallen into acceptance with Q’s decision by Tuesday afternoon. We’ll see what Q rolls out at the next practice.

♦  As anticipated, the Blackhawks didn’t practice Thursday due to the 239572305-minute game Wednesday. And Hossa wasn’t exactly pleased that his neighbors decided to do some work ass early in the morning.

There’s so much we could go over, but I’ll leave the rest to you if you’d like to add more discussion in the comments. See you Saturday.

The Celebratory Words of Andrew Shaw

Andrew Shaw celebrates his game-winning goal in the third overtime against the Bruins in Game 1.

I will have my thoughts from last night’s thriller later this afternoon, as promised, but first I wanted to share a couple of great Andrew Shaw moments after he scored the winner in the third overtime to beat the Boston Bruins 4-3 on Wednesday.

Via Deadspin, Shaw was mic’d up by NBC for the game. After confessing his love for Dave Bolland, he also had some strong feelings about his equipment that assisted him on the winner. And it was awesome:

Not long after, via Puck Daddy, Shaw went ahead and dropped an F-bomb in his interview with Pierre McGuire on national TV:

Oh, Shawzer.

Let’s Play 1.5: Blackhawks win 3 OT Marathon, Take 1-0 Series Lead on Bruins

I’m very sorry, but you’ll have to wait until at least around lunch time Thursday to get my thoughts on Game 1. I was at the United Center and feel like I played along with these teams. And after a one-hour drive in rain back to the suburbs, I’m running on fumes.

So, I’ll leave you – for now – with this pic of Shaw celebrating. Oh, and Holiday Road, courtesy of Mighty Mike:

Wine Cooler

The Wine Cooler: Episode 6 – Really? Brandon Bollig? For Game 1? Of the Stanley Cup Final?

Wine Cooler

In this episode of The Wine Cooler, Bartl and Nakis discuss our minds being boggled by Bollig apparently taking Stalberg’s spot in Game 1 and plenty of talk about the Boston Bruins and what we can expect from this series. Essentially, a lot of being extremely nervous… because, well, #BecauseItsTheCup.

Enjoy!

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blackhawks-bruins

Cheer the Anthem’s Stanley Cup Final Roundtable: Bring on the Bear

blackhawks-bruins

As the Blackhawks prepare to face the Bruins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday, we’ve all taken a stab and some of the questions surrounding this Original Six Final. Sure, the series will be frustrating at times and you’re going to want to bite your fingers off because you’ll be so nervous pretty much every second, but … well, I guess I pretty much covered it.

Anyway, here’s what we’ve got regarding the series as of now, as Bartl, Nakis, Mighty Mike, JesusMarianHossa and Chris Deme weigh in:

The Blackhawks were the best team in the NHL during the regular season and have lost only one game at home in the playoffs. Why are you optimistic the Blackhawks can win the Stanley Cup?

Mighty Mike: You’ve answered your on question: The Blackhawks were the best team in the NHL this season.  A couple of hiccups against Detroit has done little to persuade me that they’re not still the best team in the league. They have the skill and the savvy to beat anybody. They would do well to keep that in mind when the going gets rough (and it surely will).

JesusMarianHossa: Because I’m a fan of the team and even gambling interests can’t get me to actively root against them. The part of the question that says “they were the best team in the regular season” would also satisfy as a reason for optimism. If you’re looking for any real insight here, it’s that the Blackhawks were #2 in Score-Adjusted Fenwick for the 2013 regular season. They just beat the team that was #1, and the only team I really “feared,” in five games.

Deme: Speed kills. The only team Boston has played in the Playoffs that rivals the Blackhawks’ speed is Toronto, and the Bruins barely escaped that series. The Hawks are fast, they have remarkable depth contribution, and Corey Crawford is playing the best hockey of his career. They have a fantastic shot at being a royal pain in the ass for the Bruins.

Nakis: With the exception of the perennially shitty power play, the Blackhawks have looked fantastic in every aspect of the game during these playoffs. Crawford is playing great; the defense has been nails and is transitioning the puck better than any team in the league; the forecheck has been vicious and the penalty kill is on another planet entirely. If there is any pessimism in me, it’s due almost entirely to the identity of their opponent.

Bartl: Simply put, other than the hiccup in the Detroit series, the Blackhawks really haven’t given me a reason NOT to be optimistic heading into the Final. Even then, they were still playing well overall. When the stars haven’t scored, the depth has shown. When the stars have scored, Kane nets a hat trick and sends the Hawks to the Cup Final. The top defensive pairings are playing well, Crawford is at the top of his game and there’s little reason to believe the ‘Hawks can’t hoist the Cup again.

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Bartl and James. Thanks to @MonocleMan1 (Moph from HOCKEENIGHT) for the photoshop

The Wine Cooler, Episode 5: We’re Back – Beacuse it’s the Cup

Bartl and James. Thanks to @MonocleMan1 (Morph from HOCKEENIGHT) for the photoshop

Bartl and James. Thanks to @MonocleMan1 (Morph from HOCKEENIGHT) for the photoshop

This was long overdue, and of course it’s already outdated. Literally the minute we finished, the NHL announced Duncan Keith has been suspended for Game 4 for his high-stick on Jeff Carter after Carter tried to chop off his glove-less hand.

We discuss the play, though, along with The Great David Haugh’s criticism of Patrick Kane in the Chicago Tribune and much more about Game 3 heading into Game 4.

But of course, no talk on the actual Keith suspension. Thanks, NHL, for waiting until 6pm CST to announce it. Assholes.

Enjoy!

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Boxing-Hawks-Kings-Game3

Speaking Words of Wisdom, Let it Be: Game 3 Boxing with Kings (3) and Blackhawks (1)

 

(Credit: Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

(Credit: Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

Nothing like quoting The Beatles to get a very important point across: Forget this one, and move onto Thursday.

Go ahead and say you expected the Blackhawks to sweep, even after winning the first two at the United Center. Go ahead. You’re a fucking liar, and that’s it. The Kings have played a completely different game at home over the last two months, and there was all but a ball hair’s chance the ‘Hawks would take both at Staples Center.

Not much surprised me in Tuesday’s 3-1, Game 3 loss in L.A. The Kings had an extra bounce in their step, they were more aggressive with the forecheck than they were through the first two games and coach Daryl Sutter used the last change on home ice to pit his top lines against the Blackhawks’ bottom defensive pairing when he could.

Damn near every ‘Hawk and then Q stated that they simply didn’t match everything they had prepared for and expected to see from the Kings. That’s on them, and they know it. Yet still, L.A. played probably the best game we’ll see and the Blackhawks were threatening to tie – and probably should have tied – the game late. Not only that, but the winning goal turned out to be a fluke off of Slava Voynov’s broken stick.

Shit happens, man. Bounces go a certain way, and they’re not always favorable. And given the way the Kings have dominated during their now 15-game winning streak at home – they came into tonight with a 38-18 scoring edge during that run – we should be pretty content that it took a couple of bad breaks for the ‘Hawks to wind up on the losing end.

The Blackhawks should be just fine, so relax.

A couple other things before Boxing…

♦   I’m currently working a night shift, so I heard a caller on Les Grobstein’s overnight show on 670 The Score on my way home talking about how Patrick Kane has been awful and he needs to be more physical and yada yada yada he finally hung up. Here’s the thing every Blackhawks fan needs to get through their fucking heads: Kane is not ever, ever, going to be a physical player. That’s not what he’s here to do. He’s a finesse player with open-ice stick-handling skills that are other-worldly, making the Blackhawks more dangerous when they can create space for him to operate.

Q said after the game the ‘Hawks didn’t get him the puck enough, mainly due to the Kings’ pressure that prevented them from cleanly breaking out of the zone and forced many passes to miss sticks. Kane was essentially taken out of the game, and that’s a credit to the Kings. Also, the ‘Hawks winning 10 fewer faceoffs didn’t exactly help matters for puck possession.

Stop worrying about Kane. Worry about how the ‘Hawks will adjust to get him the puck more.

♦   Duncan Keith apologizing to Jeff Carter was pretty classy, if you ask me. He clearly got caught up in the moment and didn’t mean to hit Carter up high. And to do that after Carter purposely tried to slash his bare hand while picking up his glove took even more character, because had it been me I probably would have meant to hit Carter in the face for being a jagoff.

    As Nakis pointed out on Twitter, Brandon Saad cannot be losing that puck at the blue line late like he did. Get the puck deep, kid.

   Jonathan Quick was the only reason the ‘Hawks didn’t tie that game. He stopped Bryan Bickell on the doorstep multiple times over the final minutes, including the desperation arm save. The Blackhawks had their chances and, like what happens to many opponents at Staples Center, Quick snuffed them out.

♦    Corey Crawford was damn near just as good. That stop on the bouncing redirect was sick.

The rest is in Boxing. Hopefully by the time you’re reading this you’ve taken a step back and realized that if the Blackhawks play this same game Thursday and the Kings come out with any less jump than tonight, the ‘Hawks likely will head home up 3-1.

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Toews scores in the season opener. (Credit: Wally Skalij, Los Angeles Times)

Something’s Gotta Give: Blackhawks Look to End Kings’ Dominance at Staples Center

Toews scores in the season opener. (Credit: Wally Skalij, Los Angeles Times)

Toews scores in the season opener. (Credit: Wally Skalij, Los Angeles Times)

To really capture how well the Los Angeles Kings have played at home lately, let’s go over some of the things that have happened since their last loss at Staples Center.

♦   The Columbus Blue Jackets – yes, those Columbus Blue Jackets – were competing for a playoff spot in the final week of the season.

♦   The St. Louis Blues still were considered a contender for the Stanley Cuhahahahaha sorry about that one.

♦   Not only did baseball season start, but every Major League team has played at least 54 games. The Cubs have even found a way to win 23 times. 23!

♦   April and May passed. Both months. All gone.

♦   Nakis got engaged. Really, he did. Congratulate him.

The Kings haven’t lost on home ice since falling 1-0 to Vancouver on March 23. They’ve won 14 straight at Staples Center, including going 7-0 in these playoffs. Jonathan Quick in that stretch? 13-0-0, 1.37 goals-against average, .946 save percentage.

If you’re wondering how the hell a team that’s 1-7 on the road in the playoffs can be preparing for Game 3 of the Western Conference finals, there’s your answer. Los Angeles has been so dominant at home that their only road win – Game 5 in St. Louis, of course – has been enough to get them this far.

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Off to LA LA Land with 2 In Hand: Game 2 Boxing with Blackhawks (4) and Kings (2)

Jonathan Toews thanks Corey Crawford for backing him up in a scuffle in the third period.

So, Jonathan Quick is human after all.

The reigning Conn Smythe winner allowed more than three goals for the first time in 35 playoff games as the Blackhawks took an early lead and never let go in a 4-2 victory Sunday in Game 2 at the United Center.

Andrew Shaw, Brent Seabrook, Bryan Bickell and Michal Handzus scored goals for Chicago, which now heads West with a 2-0 edge. And even though I was confident heading into this series, I didn’t see the ‘Hawks taking both at home – mainly because of how well Quick had been playing.

The things is, Corey Crawford is beginning to steal the show.

It’s not to say Quick didn’t deserve all the hype, by any means. He put the low-scoring Kings on his back last season and guided them to the Stanley Cup. Despite the team’s 1-6 road record in this postseason entering Sunday, Quick had held the opposition to two goals in each defeat. Twelve of L.A.’s previous 14 playoff games had been decided by one goal. You can’t ask much more from a goaltender to keep you in a game.

Finally, he didn’t have it. And since the offense rarely has it, the Kings are pretty much fucked when Quick doesn’t have it. The Blackhawks got to him early and kept adding insurance, finally leading to Quick’s departure.

Meanwhile, Crawford continues to shove solid performances up the asses of his doubters. The only goal he allowed in Game 1 was basically an own goal caused by the idiocy of Dave Bolland, and the second goal in Game 2 came on the first power play the Blackhawks failed to kill in 27 short-handed situations at home. The Jeff Carter snipe? Hey, it was a nice shot.

Crow has a 1.68 goals-against average this postseason, giving up one or zero goals eight times in 14 games. He even came to the aid of his captain when Jonathan Toews got caught up in some some shoving Sunday. If his doubters aren’t convinced yet, then I’m not sure what it’s going to take short of killing Ray Emery.

Does that mean he’s going to outplay Quick for the rest of this series? We’ll see. Crawford got to face a Los Angeles offense without Mike Richards on Sunday due to Bolland’s hit in Game 1, and the Kings are 7-0 at home in the playoffs while outscoring opponents 18-8. They’ve been down 0-2 before, in the first round against St. Louis, and came back. And if you’re expecting Quick to get pulled again, it’s probably more likely you’ll see Dwight King make the world happy by playing with a paper bag over his ugly fucking face. This series definitely isn’t over.

The Blackhawks surely won’t be mistaken for the Blues, though, mainly because they’re not all eating dog shit burritos garnished with Ryan Reeves’ pubes as Ken Hitchcock blocks the sun with his elephant ass while the team plays a round of Catch Jackman’s Farts With Your Taste Buds. While the defending Cup champs won’t roll over, the Blackhawks also aren’t going to let Staples Center intimidate them.

There’s plenty more I can write about this game – Brandon Saad playing like a fucking beast, Bolland playing like a bag of shit (again) and Patrick Sharp adding two more assists to his already solid playoff numbers – but I’m going to let Boxing do the rest.

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Of Course it Would Go 7. Of Course.

Toews-Wings

As it is, with it being possible, this marks only the seventh time in the last 42 years anyone has been able to witness a Chicago-Detroit playoff series. Just the rarity of this occurrence makes it special, in turn making these four, five, six or (gulp) seven games all the more historic. I’ve come to realize that I don’t only respect Detroit for its success as an organization, but also for what its existence has done for the game and how it brings out the passion in Blackhawks and Red Wings fans because of wars waged on the ice over the years.

I wrote that prior to Game 1, when I pointed out the reasons I would enjoy this series so much. And it all still stands. The final playoff series as Western Conference foes between the Blackhawks and Red Wings continues adding significance to this historic rivalry that is being taken away from us due to realignment.

You can look at it a couple of ways. Either the Wings are making you realize you’re not going to miss them due to the difficult times they’ve brought upon you as a fan – be it 2009 or this exhilarating yet frustrating series – or you’re getting more disappointed at the thought that Detroit is heading to the East and won’t be able to regularly deliver these types of games and series versus the Blackhawks that are more than entertaining. You’re either happy to see this rivalry be toned down, or you’re becoming more and more upset these teams are being separated.

I, for one, am feeling the latter.

No matter, it’s all going away after Wednesday. These teams would have to meet in a Stanley Cup Final that few would be able to survive physically in order to bring out this kind of excitement from the rivalry. It’s sad to think about, and even more depressing to consider how a loss tomorrow would not only be a gut punch, but it would also feel something like this.

And for that, I’m nervous. I’m nervous that I’m going to be sitting in Section 326, Row 12, Seat 9, resting my head in my palms as the United Center empties for the final time this season and Jonathan Toews leads a handshake line while dejected rather than elated. I’m not being negative, I’m being realistic. It’s not as if Detroit hasn’t won on the road in this series.

But with that also brings a level of excitement that only a Game 7 in a series between bitter rivals can manufacture. The Anthem rendition will probably make for the loudest couple of minutes I’ve heard the UC in quite some time, maybe ever. I can imagine my face hurting from smiling so much and my voice trying to send out one last cheer before it fades away along with the Red Wings’ season. I see the Blackhawks at center ice, saluting the crowd before heading off to the locker room as Western Conference finalists while the horn blares in the background.

These feelings, both positive and negative, are ones that can be guaranteed only with a deciding game with the magnitude of this one. Blackhawks-Red Wings, Original Six, conference foes, one last time. It almost makes you feel like tomorrow actually is Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, not that one of these teams still will need to win eight more to claim the chalice.

Of course this series would go to a Game 7. Of course it would. It’s like fate. Like the hockey gods are giving fans of both teams the ultimate send-off. Soak in the moment, because it won’t happen again.

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And It All Comes Down… To This: Game 6 Boxing with Blackhawks (4) and Red Wings (3)

"I learned this face from my pit bull that will one day rip my throat out in my sleep." (Credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

“I learned this face from my pit bull that will one day rip my throat out in my sleep.” (Credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

Exercise your sphincters, everyone. Game 7 is Wednesday.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t extremely confident we’d see it. OK, so maybe I was a bit of a Chicken Little. But don’t tell me I didn’t have reason to be. I did, and I’m pretty over the moon about being proven wrong.

After a Game 5 skull thumping, the Blackhawks took the lead, let it go through a dynamic Red Wings surge, then regained it for good with three unanswered goals in the third period to send us back to the United Center with a 4-3 victory in Game 6 at The Joe.

The United Center is going to be rockin’ on Wednesday, and I’ll be in attendance for the final game between the Blackhawks and Red Wings as conference foes for the right to play in the West finals.

Some stuff before Boxing…

   So we’ve been talking about how the Blackhawks have dominated the 5-on-5 play with the Corsi numbers pretty one-sided in the ‘Hawks favor throughout the series. Well, these numbers aren’t exactly fantastic, especially those of Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya, who made up the team’s worst pairing of the night. Still, the Blackhawks came away with the win. Interesting twist.

♦   Corey Crawford made 35 saves and ended up having a pretty fantastic game. However, the goal from Patrick Eaves can’t happen. He saw the shot off Drew Miller’s stick cleanly, yet he left a juicy rebound Eaves pounced on. Michal Rozsival holds some responsibility, too, for not tying him up. The second goal? I’m not going to deny the puck being on edge created a knuckling effect, but… c’mon guy. Crow’s gotta have that.

♦   Hello, Brent Seabrook. Nice to see you again.

♦   Marian Hossa’s power-play tally marked his fifth goal in 11 playoff games in 2013. That matches the amount he had in his first three postseasons with the Blackhawks, which totaled 32 contests.

♦   Bryan Bickell is making damn sure someone overpays to sign him this offseason.

♦   I think Jonathan Toews is back in the groove, sans his penalty. I’m saying it now – Toews scores the first goal Wednesday. I just feel it. I have no reasoning for it, except that he’s a fucking machine and will be out to gather heads in Game 7.

♦   That third-period surge was… wow. First Michal Handzus makes Brendan Smith pay for overplaying on Hjalmarsson, who found Handzus wide open in front of the net to beat Jimmy Howard far side. Then Bickell pots the lead goal before Michael Frolik became the first player to score on a penalty shot in the playoffs since… Michael Frolik, in 2011 vs. Vancouver.

♦   Not going to deny Red Wings fans can put that penalty shot call on the list of questionable ref decisions along with the non-call on Hjammer’s hit on Johan Franzen in Game 3. The referring has been pretty suspect throughout the series, but don’t forget the goal-that-wasn’t when Andrew Shaw “tied” Game 3. Shitty calls have been pretty evenly spread.

Next up: Game 7. But Boxing first. Right-click the image, then click ‘view’ to enlarge…

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Yes, Toews. You guys really are down 3-1. (Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune)

The Fat Lady is Warming Up: Blackhawks Fall 2-0 in Game 4, On Brink of Elimination

 

Yes, Toews. You guys really are down 3-1. (Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune)

Yes, Toews. You guys really are down 3-1. (Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune)

Editors Note: Sorry for no Boxing for this one. The site I pull the box scores from was down. Hopefully there’s a game Monday, and I’ll be able to have Boxing for that one.

Here’s a quick rundown of some regular-season occurrences that have proven to mean nothing during this series.

♦   The Blackhawks didn’t lose to the Red Wings in four meetings.

♦   The ‘Hawks weren’t held to just one goal in back-to-back games all season.

♦   The Blackhawks weren’t shut out in any of the 48 games.

♦   The ‘Hawks won the President’s Trophy. Detroit needed to win its final four regular-season games just to make the playoffs as a No. 7 seed.

And here are two that need to matter now:

♦   The Blackhawks won at least three straight games five times this season.

♦   Detroit lost at least three in a row three times.

We begged, we pleaded, we hoped for the classic Chicago-Detroit playoff meeting before the Wings dart off to the Eastern Conference next season. Not just because of nostalgia, but because the Blackhawks were far and away the better team in terms of talent and overall depth.

Then, we told you to calm down after the Game 3 loss. And then we told you not to fret, because the Blackhawks are a great hockey team.

Now?

Well, we may want to hold off a bit on those “DE-TROIT SUCKS!” chants during Game 5 at the United Center on Saturday.

The Blackhawks turned the rest of this series into Game 7 with an are-you-fucking-kidding-me 2-0 loss at The Joe in Game 4, pissing away a solid first period and allowing a Jakub Kindl goal after one of three Jonathan Toews penalties in the second to fall behind 3-1 in the series.

Many predicted this to be a five-game series, and many of us still may be correct, unfortunately. This deficit would be disappointing no matter what, but the fact that the Blackhawks are forced to win three straight against their bitter rivals before they head to the East with no chance for redemption makes it that much worse.

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Woah, They’re Halfway There: Game 3 Boxing with Red Wings (3) and Blackhawks (1)

Nope. (Credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

Nope. (Credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

Anyone expect this? Even the most unreasonable of Red Wings fans would be lying if they said they did.

Yet, here the Blackhawks are, trailing 2-1 in a series with their bitter rival and forced to win three of the next four games just to survive a series that seemed to be a mismatch. The joke’s on us, so far.

I’ve been known to be a bit of a Chicken Little, and I readily admit I think I actually enjoy it just so if I’m wrong it feels even better. I sense doom and I speak loudly about it immediately. It takes me some time to take a step back, be rational and think things through. I’ve done that, I think, and have realized the ‘Hawks didn’t play a terrible game in Monday’s 3-1 Game 3 loss at Joe Louis Arena.

Jimmy Howard made 39 saves, but he was beaten a total of four times. Unfortunately, three of those hit the post or crossbar. They sustained an attack in the Red Wings’ zone on multiple occasions. Patrick Sharp had plenty of good looks, he just shot them all into Howard’s chest. And, after giving up two goals 31 seconds apart in the second period, they actually came back to tie the game. And in another unfortunate incident, the zebra blew the call and disallowed the second goal because of Andrew Shaw committing phantom interference (more on that later).

Now, am I worried? I think if any ‘Hawks fans says they’re not it would be at least a 75 percent lie. The ‘Hawks are down 2-1 to an inferior team (sorry, Detroit fans, but you know it just as well as us Blackhawks fans do) and face as close to a must-win as possible in Game 4 on Thursday. Concern at this point is reasonable.

Panic? Let’s not go there yet. That would set in with a loss Thursday. However, I wouldn’t necessarily blame anyone for being uptight right now, partly for these reasons:

♦   As I posted on Twitter, if Shaw hadn’t been acting like a reckless, irresponsible asshole throughout this whole series, the tying goal would have stood and the ref wouldn’t have waived it off. I’m fully convinced that Shaw’s out-of-control antics to that point combined with how close he was to Howard had the ref calling a close play against Shaw rather than looking at it with an open mind. I mean, did you see how quickly the ref waived that off?! That was a call against Shaw, plain and simple. It was assumed Shaw fucked with Howard because he’s been skating around the ice at 10,000 mph trying to decapitate people. He has 18 penalty minutes through the first three games and has officially gone from annoying guy you want on your team to a detriment. Q needs to put at stop to this shit, and fast. It’s the fucking playoffs. Get some control.

♦   Brent Seabrook is playing some bad hockey. It’s been noted that his passing skills have taken a nose dive, but his overall decision-making is suspect and he’s skating like he’s wearing slippers. How does he not keep Nyquist to the outside on that goal? That can’t happen.

♦   Jonathan Toews has three assists in his last nine playoff games. Aside from that, he’s 18 for 41 on faceoffs over the last two games. The Captain did play an overall solid Game 3 and had his chances, but he’s got to put one in, if only for his own sanity. This has to be driving him nuts.

♦   0 for 4 on the power play Monday. 3 for 22 for the playoffs. Luckily, the kill is a perfect 29 for 29.

The rest is in Boxing. Right-click the image, then click ‘view’ to enlarge…

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Just As We Remembered: Game 1 Boxing with Blackhawks (4) and Red Wings (1)

(Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

(Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

Going into Wednesday’s contest, 10 of the last 11 meetings between the Blackhawks and Red Wings had been decided by one goal, with the only exception being the Easter Funday blowout in Detroit. And while the Western Conference semifinals opener seemed destined to be decided by the same margin, the ‘Hawks pulled away with three goals in the third for a 4-1 victory and a 1-0 series lead.

It was less than two minutes after Marian Hossa opened the scoring that Damien Brunner knotted everything back up. And while the Blackhawks carried the play for most of the contest, Detroit headed into the third with a chance to steal home-ice advantage.

Then, Johnny Oduya potted the go-ahead goal, Marcus Kruger added some insurance and Brent Seabrook saved a sure Wings goal that could have shifted the momentum. The ‘Hawks have now won eight straight meetings with the Red Wings and don’t appear to be slowing down.

Some thoughts before Boxing…

♦   The long layoff didn’t seem to bother the Blackhawks as they looked like they had never left the ice. They basically dominated Detroit through the final two periods and finally put them to rest with a three-goal outburst. Fact is, the Red Wings simply can’t keep up with this ‘Hawks team, and their defense likely moonlights as a team of matadors. Aside from the depth gap, the speed gap was evident even with ….

   … Viktor Stalberg being scratched. By now everyone knows as much as everyone else outside of Vik and Q – which is nothing. And frankly, I really don’t care. Yes, I was shocked that Stalberg appeared headed for a benching because I think he at the very least held his own against Minnesota. But really, it’s obvious something must have happened. True story here – A friend of mine told me a month ago he was getting his haircut at the same time and place as Stalberg, and Stalberg was bitching to his hair dresser about his playing time. He hasn’t been happy for awhile, and it’s possible things boiled over. We’ll see what happens for Game 2.

   As someone who attended Michigan State, Justin Abdelkader scored the second-favorite goal of my life (I think you can guess which is No. 1). But man is he a piece of shit. “It’s amazing how a uniform can change the way you feel about a guy.”

♦   I need to know how it’s even fucking possible that of the 11 draws Kruger took, him and I ended up winning the same amount.

♦   Patrick Sharp was a beast at both ends of the ice, and his pass from the boards to a streaking Oduya was beautiful. Keep it up, Handsome One.

Nakis will be by in the afternoon with some more observations so for now, here’s Boxing. Right-click the image, then click ‘view’ to enlarge…

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