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

Night of the Living Dead: It’s-Not-Over-Yet Boxing with ‘Hawks/Canucks

"You can say fuck, shit, piss. Whatever you want." (Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune)

If that was the last time we see the Blackhawks on the United Center ice this season, what a way to go out.

Tuesday night’s 7-2 demolishing of Vancouver in Game 4 might have been the most fun I’ve had watching something I couldn’t muster the excitement for all day. For one night – and hopefully not the only night – the ‘Hawks took it too their opponent in a fashion which we’ve all been dying to see.

And it came without Brent Seabrook, who sat out due to the douchebaggery of one Raffi Torres.

Tuesday, the Canucks were the ones missing passes, not staying in position and chasing the entire game. Vancouver was out of its game, and it was extremely pleasant to witness.

Oh, so that Dave Bolland guy came back. Yeah, it took him all of two periods to become the Blackhawks’ leading scorer in the playoffs. His line completely hampered the Sedin Twins defensively, then took it the Canucks offensively as him, Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik ended up a plus-4.

All three scored a goal, and Bolland and Frolik combined on a couple superb plays. Bolland’s goal was all Frolik’s doing, as he skated into the zone and forced the turnover Bolland cleaned up. Bolland then took the hit to make a beautiful pass, springing Frolik for the breakaway and de-pantsing of Roberto Luongo.

From there, Vancouver did exactly what they’ve been avoiding all series and decided to get chippy rather than play hockey. It’s what we’ve seen the past two postseasons from the Canucks, and it’s amazing how quickly they can get back to their bad habits when the ‘Hawks took it to them. Will it carry over to Game 5? Who knows. But despite holding a 3-1 series lead, it sure seems they were so rattled they couldn’t control their emotions on the ice.

From a team we’ve seen so poised through the first three games, it was shocking Vancouver didn’t just take its beating and stayed within themselves. Instead, the Canucks may have given the Blackhawks even more momentum heading to Vancouver. We’ll see if that’s true or not.

And how nice was it to finally get to Luongo. I respect the hell out of him and think he’s an all-world goaltender, but damn to see that guy skating off the ice with his tail between his legs is an awesome site – more because of what it did for the Blackhawks and the fans, especially.

We’ll see if any of the Canucks fans who have been chiming in on the site use the strained back muscle or whatever it was as an excuse, but if it was that bad then he should have sat. Again, take your beating and move onto Game 5 rather than risk it. Instead, he came out, got lit up, then hit bench with a 6 tattooed on him.

I’m not going to sit here and write the Blackhawks are going to come back and win this series. I still don’t believe it will happen. But a win in Game 5 will get me – and Canucks fans alike – thinking heavily about it.

Tuesday was the Night of the Living Dead. The Blackhawks are staggering, but they’re not gonna give it up that easy.

I’ll just go ahead and discuss the rest in Boxing. Enjoy – even if you’re a Canucks fan.

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No Suspension for Torres; Toews Downplays Canucks’ Dominance

 

Word came out today that Vancouver Canucks’ notorious jackass Raffi Torres will not be suspended for his crushing hit on Brent Seabrook in Game 3 on Sunday. And before any of the Canucks fans who have been chiming in on this site begin foaming at the mouth, read what one of your own had to say about Torres and his hit.

Seabrook sounded off on Torres, saying the hit deserved a suspension. Ignoring the fact Seabrook is obviously biased toward the decision being the recipient of the hit, remember that Torres just recently came off a suspension for a cheap shot on Oilers’ rookie Jordan Eberle.

In a brief Twitter discussion I had today with the The Globe and Mail’s  James Mirtle, he had this to offer regarding the NHL and their policies toward these types of hits:

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Dim the Lights: Down 0-3 Boxing with Blackhawks/Canucks

Credit: Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune

I know what you optimists are thinking, and you can stop right now. The Blackhawks are not the 2010 Flyers, and these Canucks are not the Boston Bruins. It ain’t gonna happen.

Even when the ‘Hawks were at their best in this series, it wasn’t enough. Vancouver took advantage of the few opportunities they were given to beat the Blackhawks 3-2 and pull within one victory of ending their rivals’ season.

This series may not end Tuesday, but it likely will be the last time you see the Blackhawks play at the United Center this season. Pardon the utter lack of faith, though I cannot fathom how you could disagree. The Canucks didn’t play their best game, and they still beat the Blackhawks when they played, well, a lot better than they had. It’s tough to argue with that.

A few thoughts before Boxing …

I’d first like to throw out a shit sandwich to anyone who believed dressing John Scott was a good idea. A dipshit penalty, one horrendous decision by Coach Q to put him out for nearly an entire power play, and 5:20 of ice time later, Scott sat the bench for the rest of the game. That should be the last time we see Scott in an Indian-head sweater.

Although the Blackhawks didn’t convert on 1:17 of 5-on-3, I wouldn’t say they pissed that time away. Roberto Luongo made two terrific saves on Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane at the doorstep to snuff out the Blackhawks’ attack. Though it would have been nice to go up two goals at that point and create some sort of cushion, it’s probably the best the power play looked in the series aside from …

Duncan Keith scoring off the draw five seconds into the first power play of the night. It marked the Blackhawks’ first lead of the series and last of the night, which makes me want to cause physical harm to myself.

Even though both ‘Hawks goals came on the power play, they finished 2 for 7 and couldn’t take advantage of Vancouver consistently taking penalties.

We all wondered where the Blackhawks’ “stars” were the previous two games. Keith scored, Toews had two assists and Kane added another. Marian Hossa? Well…

Here’s your Boxing:

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Slipping Away: Game 2 Boxing with Blackhawks/Canucks

Credit: Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune

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.

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Flashback: 1982 Campbell Conference Finals, Vancouver vs. Chicago

 

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.

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Recap (and Boxing) of ‘Hawks/Canucks Regular Season Series: Twins style

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.

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Behind Enemy Lines: Q&A with Vancouver Sun beat writer Brad Ziemer

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.

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Wild Finish Aligns the Stars: Boxing with Playoff-Bound ‘Hawks

"And you'll still be looking up to me when this show's over." (Blackhawk Up image)

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 >

Waiting Game: Blackhawks’ playoff fate rests in hands of Minnesota Wild

Bend over, boys. (Chicago Tribune)

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.

Captain Rights the Ship: Eventual Boxing with Blackhawks/Blues

(Chicago Tribune)

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.