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

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.

November Flashback: Proving 2010-11 Expectations Were A Bit Overblown

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.

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Crunched in crunch time: Boxing with Blackhawks/Lightning

"I'm finishing my coffee. Yep, enjoyin' my coffee." (Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

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 …

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Fill ‘er up: Ran-out-of-Gas Boxing with Blackhawks/Bruins

"I was just looking for the other half of my face." (Credit: BRIAN SNYDER, REUTERS)

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…

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Get on Your Hossa: Overtime Boxing with Blackhawks/Red Wings

Credit: Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

Marian Hossa deserves every bit the credit for this victory, and not just because he scored the game-winner.

The Blackhawks’ 3-2 overtime victory Monday against Detroit came to fruition mainly because of Hossa’s 23:54 of purely superb play on both ends of the ice. I’ve said it over and over again, but watching this guy play is a thing of beauty and we’re lucky to be able to witness it.

If Hossa had scored on that breakaway after jabbing the puck off the boards between two Red Wings, we may be talking about this being his best game of the season. It would have been nice to see him put more of a move on Joey MacDonald, but it shouldn’t take away from the original play he made to get into that position.

Hossa’s overtime winner was more than deserved after Patrick Kane fought off the entire communist party to control the puck then drew the penalty from Henrik Zetterberg at the end of regulation.

Oh, and I hope Todd Bertuzzi is having his toenails ripped out one by one with metal tongs while having farts blown in his face by Yokozuna as Failure to Launch plays on loop in the background. Ultimate torture.

Here are a few more thoughts before Boxing…

↔  To state the ridiculously obvious, the two points earned are insanely important. However, they became a hell of a lot more important when the Ageless Wonder Teemu Selanne decided to net an effing hat trick in Anaheim’s 5-4 win against Colorado later in the evening. A Blackhawks loss in the OT would have put them two points back of the Ducks for 7th. Despite the victory, the ‘Hawks are stuck in eighth.

↔  MacDonald played a hell of a game, don’t get me wrong. My issue with what most have deemed an exceptional performance lies in the fact the Blackhawks were rather non-existent around the net on point shots. MacDonald had clear looks at nearly every shot put on him. The one time someone made him smell their ass, Toews was the culprit and the puck sneaked through on a Brent Seabrook shot and hit the post. If the ‘Hawks put more traffic in front, MacDonald may not have had the performance everyone is lauding.

↔  Niklas Lidstrom may play until his 84 years old — and everyone would still fear him.

↔  Bertuzzi’s hit was unquestionably a scumbag move from a scumbag player who’s been a scumbag for his entire career. If you think I’m overreacting because Ryan Johnson played the duration of the game and still was a factor at center, look at the replay. Bertuzzi came at Johnson with his elbow up and no regard for the consequences of his actions. There was no “hockey play” made. Will he be suspended? Probably not, since he’s been somewhat clean for the past couple of years. However, the NHL is doing everything possible to rid the league of hits such as these. They need to do something about it.

And with that, here’s Boxing…

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Maybe he’s just very well… ‘Red’: Blackhawks visit Red Wings

"There are no delicatessens under Communism." (Getty Images)

With eight games remaining and the Blackhawks clinging to eighth place, they’ve managed to put themselves in one of the most hated positions any of us could possibly dream: The Red Wings will be a major hurdle in the ‘Hawks chances to make the playoffs.

Tonight begins the first of three meetings against Detroit before the regular season ends. That’s about as appetizing as a shit sandwich topped with wet farts.

Just for some quick added pessimism, the last Stanley Cup champion to miss the next year’s playoffs was the 2006-07 Carolina Hurricanes.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, here’s a positive: Pavel Datsuyk won’t play tonight, and Johan Franzen sat out Saturday’s 4-2 Wings win against Toronto. Jimmy Howard is day-to-day after injuring his shoulder against the Maple Leafs, and with Chris Osgood on long-term IR, it looks as if Jimmy MacDonald will be in net tonight.

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Nine more lives: Boxing with Blackhawks/Panthers

"With Sharp gone, I can get used to being the most handsome guy on the ice." (Chicago Tribune)

It wasn’t exactly the entertainment I was accustomed to during my five nights in Las Vegas, but I’m not going to complain about two much-needed points.

The Blackhawks welcomed me back home with a 4-0 snoozer I largely blame on the Panthers being, well, bad. With that, the ‘Hawks are now tied for 5th in the West with nine more games which will be much tougher and more exciting than Wednesday’s.

Against Florida, the ‘Hawks got away without needing a Dave Bolland nor a Patrick Sharp nor a 100-percent healthy Brian Campbell. Don’t get used to it with Anaheim, Detroit and Boston looming. Pardon the pessimism, especially knowing each game is a must-win given the standings, but the Blackhawks will need more against those squads.

With that said, the defense played like they should have in a home game against a team looking up at New Jersey and the New York Islanders in the East. Corey Crawford did what he needed to, aside from re-enacting Al Pacino’s scenes from Scent of a Woman each time he touched the puck.

A couple other quick thoughts before Boxing:

→   I was very impressed the way Viktor Stalberg responded to the top line promotion, playing actively and drawing a penalty by taking it hard to the net on the first shift of the game. He later took a feed from Jonathan Toews on the doorstep for a goal in the first minute of the third period. Sweet.

→   Did anyone else have heart failure when Marian Hossa went back to the locker room after taking a spill?

→   For the first time all season, the idiots at the UC who constantly yell “SHOOOOOOOOT” each time a Blackhawk has the puck were right to direct it at Nick Leddy.

→   Not sure what the hell happened to Tomas Vokoun when he went ice fishing along the boards on the Tomas Kopecky goal, but that net couldn’t have been more wide open. Hossa, to Michael Frolik, to Kopecky on a great passing play started by Brent Seabrook, who can’t get credited for an assist unfortunately.

→   Speaking of Seabrook, he played a hell of a game which included the rocket that ended up being the game-winner.

→   Oh, and the Captain did his thing again.

Onto Boxing …

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STATS Game: Rest Corey Crawford

What’s the best thing about Corey Crawford starting every game for the past month? The meatballs haven’t been able to voice their blind hatred for Marty Turco.

OK, OK … it’s not the best thing. Crawford’s 10-2-3 record and 2.66 goals-against average takes that title. But despite those numbers, I’m still going to lobby for him to don the baseball cap Thursday in Dallas.

Here’s part of the reason why:

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