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

hull-howe

It’s Blackhawks vs. Red Wings As Conference Foes, One Last Time

hull-howe

There was a time in my younger years when I would watch Rudy and come away from each viewing believing I could be him.

We already had plenty in common. I was a “five-foot-nothin’, a-hundred-and-nothin’” wanna-be athlete who could hold his own in any team sport simply because of desire and want-to. I would push the limits of my “speck of athletic ability” and would stand up to the many, many doubters who believed bigger, faster, stronger should mean just, go, away to shrimps like myself.

“Why not me?,” I’d say. “Why can’t I be the next Rudy?” I believed it, I really did. I could recite nearly the entire flick and could watch it on loop without ever considering removing the tape from the VCR.

Then, I grew up. I began hating Notre Dame and everything associated with it, just like every human over the age of 12 should. I heard Rudy butcher that famous speech so many times it could make Knute Rockne begin hating himself for even recruiting The Gipper, let alone be motivated to win anything for him. “Rudy sucked at football, and his family should have been imprisoned for even turning him on to that cult that congregates in South Bend. Quit getting killed and focus on getting a degree, idiot,” I began to think.

I gave up the me-against-the-world mentality on the field and transferred it to the professional world, going into the locker room with a pen and pad rather than a uniform, staying in sports full-time the only realistic way I could. If you can’t beat ‘em, write about ‘em. And while I wouldn’t trade my career for anything, that change from ultra-competitive former athlete to behind-the-scenes realist has made me view sports more objectively now rather than with the natural passion – like Rudy – that led me to choose this path in the first place.

And I still haven’t figured out if that’s good, bad or inconsequential.

That doesn’t mean a Blackhawks loss doesn’t sting, or that the 2010 Stanley Cup run didn’t bring me to tears, because it does, and it did. And it surely doesn’t mean that if the ‘Hawks are ever eliminated from this postseason that the words, “It’s OK, Blackhawks! Great season! Let’s get ‘em next year!” will ever come off my keyboard. That’s just insulting.

But you also won’t hear me chanting, “DE-TROIT SUCKS!” while I sit in my seat at the United Center for Game 1 on Wednesday, even though I’ll be enjoying those words coming from the mouths of others. Part of losing a bit of that natural passion that I mentioned above keeps me from doing such things, or from blindly supporting my teams no matter how terrible they perform and getting into fights with the opposition’s fans simply because they’re wearing a different shirt than I, though it does come out of me once in awhile.

That objectivity that comes with my job has me putting aside the hate I grew up having for Detroit and taking a step back to instead appreciate what it means for two Original Six rivals to meet in the playoffs for the last time as conference foes.

This Western Conference semifinal between the Blackhawks and the Red Wings isn’t must-see just because of the rabid fan bases that can barely stand the sight of each other’s iconic logo, or are jealous over the other’s success, no matter how recent or distant, though that’s, of course, a huge part of it. For me, it’s more about NHL realignment leaving us with just two regular-season meetings between these bitter rivals and making sure this potential playoff matchup never happens short of the Stanley Cup Final again.

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.

The longevity is the reason multiple generations of Chicago and Detroit fans have been able to respectfully dislike each other. When I hear “DE-TROIT SUCKS!” throughout this series, or when I see a Red Wings fan stand up and loudly cheer for one of their team’s goals, it’s the history between these great franchises I’ll be thinking about – and how moving forward those things will become more rare.

I hope others share my sentiment of respecting Detroit, no matter how unpopular it may be, and don’t just view this series as another opportunity to trash-talk Red Wings fans. I hope everyone can realize how historic this playoff clash will be, and how you’ll be telling someone years from now about the days you attended Blackhawks games when the Wings visited Chicago more than once per season.

I plan on being one of those people down the road, rambling on about what I witnessed. And even though I may have lost some of the fire and raw emotion that should come with this series, I’m thankful I can appreciate the history that comes with this rivalry – and what we’ll be missing out on in the future.

Let’s go, ‘Hawks.

Boxing-Round 1-Game 5-Hawks 5-Wild 1

Movin’ On: Game 5 Series-Clinching Boxing with Blackhawks (5) and Wild (1)

(Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune)

(Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune)

How relieving was it to witness a handshake line you knew wouldn’t be the last of the Blackhawks’ postseason?

For the first time since their Stanley Cup run in 2010, the ‘Hawks are headed to the Western Conference semifinals after eliminating the Minnesota Wild with Thursday’s 5-1 victory at the United Center. And even though there are plenty of things that need to be improved and refined before the second-round series with either Detroit or San Jose, the rather quick series we all expected should give the ‘Hawks some time to get everything together.

Getting this out of the way quickly, it sucked to see Josh Harding’s season end the way it did. He labored through all or part of five games while battling MS, and that’s enough for me to call him an inspiration. To get chased in an elimination game had to sting. Poor guy.

To the more exciting stuff, Jonathan Toews finally got on the score sheet after a nifty pass to Marian Hossa helped open the scoring then later adding an assist on Patrick Sharp’s power-play goal. The top line of Toews, Hossa and Brandon Saad entered Thursday with three combined points in the series – all from Hossa – but totaled six in Game 5 alone.

And it was a great thing those guys showed up because the second line was hamstrung once again by the ineffectiveness of Michal Handzus, who won just 41.8 percent of his draws in the series. Maybe Q considered replacing him with Marcus Kruger, but he lost 12 of his 15 faceoffs Thursday and won 40.9 percent throughout the series. Dave Bolland should be back for the second round, but I wouldn’t exactly consider him an upgrade given his shitty season that saw him win 46.1 percent at the dot in 35 games. I’m just going to say this once: The Blackhawks won a Stanley Cup with Sharp as their second-line center. OK, that’s it. Won’t say it again.

And how about that power play, eh? Fuck me. The ‘Hawks finished 2 for 13 in the series thanks to Sharp’s 5-on-3 goal, but luckily they killed off all 17 of Minnesota’s chances. It still baffles me how a PP so deep with talent can’t score, and guys like Michael Frolik and Kruger are the catalysts for one of the best kills in the NHL. It would be nice to see the power play giving the special teams units more balance in Round 2.

I know to this point I’ve pretty much been Buzz Killington, but we all knew the ‘Hawks have some deficiencies moving forward. And since we’re all looking at the big picture – in other words, Stanley Cup or bust – I’m not going to pat everyone on the wiener and celebrate a first-round win against an overmatched opponent. But how about some good?

Corey Crawford. I want to know how many people chanting “Cor-ey! Cor-ey!” at the UC were earlier this season demanding he be benched permanently in favor of Ray Emery. There were way too many of those meatballs all season, and Crawford basically stuck it right up their asses in this series. It had to be a great moment for Crawford and another boost to the confidence of a goaltender who continues selling more people on his potential to lead these ‘Hawks to a Cup.

Oh, and Hossa. Fuck, and yes.

All right, Boxing time. Right-click the image, then click ‘view’ to enlarge…

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And It’s a Series: Game 3 Overtime Boxing with Wild (3) and Blackhawks (2)

Credit: Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune

Credit: Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune

 

Let’s get a few things straight right off the bat.

The Minnesota Wild probably played the best game they had. They were physical – three times as much as they were in the first two games – took it to the Blackhawks right from the outset while Mike Yeo made the adjustments he didn’t in the first two games at the United Center.

Yet still, the ‘Hawks were in it while playing one of their worst games we’ve seen in awhile.

Sunday’s 3-2 overtime loss was more annoying than discouraging, and it definitely wasn’t deflating. Anyone who thought the Blackhawks were going to go 16-0 in these playoffs turned a blind eye toward reality and believed in perfection when the the ‘Hawks have proved to supply anything but throughout this campaign – and more importantly, this series.

Secondly, if there’s anyone reading this that wants to blame Corey Crawford for any of those three goals, I’d like you to watch that game over again when the emotion subsides. If you were excited when Duncan Keith scored late in the third to force OT, you better realize it was Crawford’s performance that held off the onslaught of Wild shots to allow the ‘Hawks to even have an opportunity to win that game. Three perfectly place shots did him and the Blackhawks in. There’s not much else to say about that. If you’re blaming Crawford, you need to reassess things.

Going forward, I’d like Brent Seabrook to being playing hockey. I’d like for Jonathan Toews to end his four-game playoff streak without a single point. I’d like for Patrick Kane to continue embarrassing people with how well he’s playing, yet I’d also enjoy if all of his assists didn’t go to defensemen when the ‘Hawks have one of the best collections of offensive talent in the entire world. I’d like for the power play, which possesses that same other-worldly offensive talent, yet with a man advantage at that, be better than 1 for fucking 9 in the series.

And I’d like if the Blackhawks won Game 4 on Tuesday to save me from being insanely pissed off when I sit in my seat for Game 5 at the UC.

Is any of this too much to ask? I didn’t think so. Now, here’s Boxing.

Right-click the image, then click ‘view’ to enlarge…

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One Down: Game 1 Overtime Boxing with Blackhawks (2) and Wild (1)

(Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune)

(Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune)

Whew.

Welcome to playoff hockey, everyone. The Blackhawks and Wild proved no matter who is in the lineup or where the game is being played, once the puck drops on the Stanley Cup Playoffs it’s time to forget about the regular season and ignore the seeds. Teams are just flat out going to go after each other for 60 minutes and possibly more for however many games it takes until the superior team is left standing.

Luckily the Blackhawks came out on top when Bryan Bickell potted the winner in overtime to give them a 2-1 victory over Minnesota in Game 1 at the United Center. It sure as shit wasn’t easy, though.

First, news came that Nicklas Backstrom suffered an injury in warmups, forcing Josh Harding, who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in the offseason and played in only five games, to start in goal for the Wild.

All Harding did was go out and stop 35 shots in a truly inspiring performance while nearly winning Game 1 all by himself. And while it’s difficult to cheer against a guy like that, Bickell’s winner brought a sigh of relief as the ‘Hawks avoid a major letdown.

A few thoughts before Boxing…

♦   The ‘Hawks winning this game saved Corey Crawford from getting a massive storm of shit after he allowed a weak goal to Cal Clutterbuck on Minnesota’s first shot of the series. Crawford, though, really played a fantastic game after that slip-up, finishing with 26 saves – none bigger than the blocker stop on Zach Parise in overtime that scared the flying shit out of everyone.

   Harding, again. Good for you.

   The pass Johnny Oduya made off the glass that sailed roughly 125 feet and dropped perfectly in front of Viktor Stalberg was disgusting. You could see him deliberately lining it up like a billiards player setting up the winning bank shot with the final ball falling beautifully in the corner pocket across the table. Stalberg’s pass and Bickell’s awesome move finished it off.

   Eddie Olczyk praised Viktor Stalberg. On the air. To the public. In other news, the devil is playing pond hockey in hell after a sudden temperature drop.

   The ‘Hawks did take a few dipshit penalties tonight, including one by Oduya in OT. However, Marian Hossa’s goal came on the power play, making the Blackhawks 1 for 11 over their last five games.

   The ‘Hawks lead a playoff series for the first time since the 2010 Stanley Cup Final.

Boxing. Right-click the image, the click ‘view’ to enlarge…

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Idiots of the Round Table: Cheer the Anthem’s Minnesota Wild Preview

round table

It’s playoff time, finally, and we here at Cheer the Anthem couldn’t be more excited. Before the Blackhawks thump the Wild’s skulls for ‘em, Bartl, Nakis, Brown and Mighty Mike have decided to answer a few of our own questions heading into Game 1 tonight.

I wish I could say we gathered around and did this over beers at a local bar, but Mike played the whole “I live in London and can’t make it” excuse that’s getting really old. Damn foreigners.

Kidding aside, here’s what your resident idiots had to say about the upcoming series against Minnesota:

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The Wine Cooler, Presented by Bartl and James – Episode 4: Things are Gettin’ Wild!

Bartels&Jaymes

Finally, the playoffs are here. Bartl and Nakis preview the first round series with the Minnesota Wild, though we won’t be able to make any jokes about Dany Heatley’s drunken driving escapades as he’s out for the season. We’ve got the Blackhawks in 6. You’ll have to listen to find out our other warped thoughts.

Listen to internet radio with The Wine Cooler on Blog Talk Radio

 

Or visit this link if the embedded one doesn’t appear for you.

 

 

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Leaders in the Clubhouse: Boxing with Blackhawks (4) and Oilers (1)

While we’re all waiting for the playoffs, I guess we can handle putting another trophy in the case with a dominating victory against an overmatched team.

The Blackhawks took it to the Oil all night, clinching their first Presidents’ Trophy since 1990-91 – when they went on to lose to the fourth-place Minnesota North Stars in the Norris Division playoffs. Let’s hope this season ends up a little better, eh?

Due to the late start I’m pretty wiped out, so I’ll just make a couple of points before Boxing…

♦   Ray Emery going off the ice after re-aggravating his lower-body injury got me to thinking. “Well, it’s coming down to the end of the season so of course a guy who is pretty injury prone will start to suffer from his bangs and bruises. He’ll sit for the last couple games and be OK if Q needs him in the playoffs.”

Then I thought again. “But wait, this is only a 48-game season. And he’s hurting and can’t get through a game. And he’s probably coming back next year because he had such a stellar basically half-season. And he’s starting to break down at the most important time. I’m not happy about this, seeing as the the solid goaltending between him and Corey Crawford has been such an important part of the Blackhawks’ success. What if we don’t have both of them for the playoffs?”

However, that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily worried about Emery. Crawford’s disgusting save on Jordan Eberle shows what he’s capable of doing during a playoff run. I’ve always been on the side believing Crow should be the playoff starter, and Emery’s injury just may secure that anyway.

♦   Patrick Sharp, glad to have ya back, sir. And also, please don’t almost get hurt again and scare the fucking shit out of us. Thanks.

♦   Not a bad debut from Drew LeBlanc. Patrick Kane tried to get him a goal there in the third and he also had a couple nice passes that could’ve gone for goals.

♦   Speaking of Kane, hell of a job potting that breakaway after Michal Handzus sprung him for one of his three assists. Kane then had a beautiful cross-ice pass on Johnny Oduya’s goal later. He’s good.

All righty, that’s it. Here’s Boxing. Right-click the image, then click ‘view’ to enlarge…

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That’ll Happen: Boxing with Canucks (3) and Blackhawks (1)

Canucks-Hawks

I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t have a feeling this was coming, with the Blackhawks playing their third game in four nights and all. I just didn’t think they’d get smoked for roughly 45-50 minutes.

A loss to Vancouver is never exciting and always annoying, but the Blackhawks’ 3-1 defeat in America Jr. marked only their sixth of the season in actual hockey. Out of 45 games. That’s, like, good and stuff.

A couple things before Boxing …

♦   The first person to ever use the phrase, “He’s a giant rectal wart who washes his vagina with a Brillo Pad while listening to Bette Midler’s Greatest Hits and eating a dog’s asshole,” when referring to a human in a derogatory manner must’ve been thinking of Ryan Kesler. Oh, wait, I’m the first person to ever use that particular phrase? OK. Yeah, I was thinking of Ryan Kesler.

♦   Dave Bolland left with a groin injury, per Q. I’m completely over this guy. He can’t stay on the ice because he’s constantly injured, and when he is on the ice he’s awful. I give up.

♦   Ryan Kesler snacks on used diapers. Regularly.

♦   If not for Corey Crawford, the Blackhawks would have been down 8-0 at the end of the first period. He played a fantastic game and bailed the ‘Hawks out with a stellar save on numerous occasions. The Blackhawks played horribly in front of him. He’s the only reason the Blackhawks had any semblance of a chance before Daniel Sedin - brotherfucker – put a great move on Crawford on the breakaway at the end of the second period.

♦   Gorilla Salad scored the Blackhawks’ lone goal. Ouch. Cory Schneider snuffed out some great chances from the ‘Hawks in the third, but he was nice and rested for most of the first two periods as the Blackhawks mustered just four scoring chances through 40.

♦   Q said Michal Handzus being scratched was a “coach’s decision.” My guess is because the Canucks can keep up with the Blackhawks speed-wise and Handzus can’t beat a snail in a 40-yard dash.

All right, I’m done. Here’s Boxing. Right-click the image, then click ‘view’ to enlarge….

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Credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune

So, About that Power Play…

 

Credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune

Credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune

Editor’s Note: This column appears in tonight’s edition of The Committed Indian. Help Sam Fels feed his drinking habit by purchasing one outside of the United Center for $3, or sign up for a digital copy on the website. Don’t be cheap.

Second Note: This was originally written for Friday’s Indian, but Sam had to push it back to tonight’s issue. So, this obviously doesn’t include the Blackhawks going 2 for 3 on the power play against Nashville. Stats in the column are as of Thursday afternoon.

There aren’t many secrets here. It’s not like Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff are holding on to some sort of magical strategy while purposely sending the players out on the ice at a disadvantage, only to later surprise everyone with a full-proof plan that results in unlimited goals with the man advantage.

The Blackhawks’ power play sucks, and there’s no amount of high-sucrose recipes in this world that can sugarcoat it enough. They’ve gone 0 for 19 over their last nine games and haven’t potted a power-play goal since Patrick Kane’s tally in the third period of a 2-1 loss to Anaheim on March 29.

At the time of writing this Thursday afternoon, the ‘Hawks are tied with the New York Rangers for 20th in the league converting just 15.4 percent of their power-play chances. Take out the Blackhawks scoring six power-play goals through the first four games, and the percentage drops to 12.9 since Jan. 26.

And we’ve seen everything, too. The constant inability to enter the offensive zone while the other team has one fewer guy can make anyone’s urge to kill rise dramatically. Once in the zone? Who knows. Gaining possession after a dump-in hasn’t exactly been something of a regular occurrence. And if that does happen, you can usually count on a lack of movement as the Blackhawks wait for that back-door pass through the crease to open up. The problem is that it rarely ever does, yet that doesn’t stop them from attempting to pass through opponents’ sticks that unfortunately aren’t invisible.

This isn’t exactly new. We watched the Blackhawks do much of the same last season when they finished 26th in the league with a similar 15.2 percent conversion rate.

Yes, there’s been plenty that’s frustrating about watching the ‘Hawks blow chance after chance with the man advantage, and the popular notion is that this ineptitude while cause more harm to the Blackhawks when they get into the playoffs against better competition and need to convert on these prime opportunities. However, based on the power-play statistics of some recent Stanley Cup winners, that may not exactly be the case.

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Credit: Jasen Vinlove, USA TODAY

Hated Respect for Detroit; Just Hate for St. Louis

Credit: Jasen Vinlove, USA TODAY

Credit: Jasen Vinlove, USA TODAY

Winning the last-ever Central Division title has a nice feel to it, especially when the Blackhawks were able to clinch it by coming back Friday against a Detroit team we all love to loathe. And when dessert is a sweet victory over the talentless apes wearing Blues sweaters, well, that makes for a nice weekend in my book.

But after Corey Crawford turned away 30 shots in Sunday’s 2-0 victory in St. Louis, it got me to thinking a little bit about where the rivalries with these teams will stand once Detroit heads East as realignment takes effect next season.

While the Red Wings have always been hated, there’s still a level of respect that goes into watching guys like Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk - and going further back to the likes of Nicklas Lidstrom, Dominik Hasek and Steve Yzerman – grace the ice with their play. It just so happened they wore a different sweater.

Granted, those sweaters are evil and ugly and make you want to vomit up the three squares of your day, but any one of us ‘Hawks fans would have liked to have any of them wearing the Indian head. Hell, Hasek may have played most of his career in Chicago had it not been for Ed Belfour.

The Blues? Other than Vladimir Tarasenko, there’s not one breathing pile of diarrhea on skates I would take from that team. Even if any of them wanted to play in Chicago for free, I would have them deported back to that hellhole of a city that shouldn’t be allowed to call itself part of America.

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The Wine Cooler, Presented by Bartl and James – Episode 3: OMG GOALIE CONTROVERSY!

Bartels&Jaymes

 

In Episode 3, Bartl and James talk goalie “controversy,” Dave Bolland pretty much sucking and what Q will do when he returns, plus Bowman’s so-far-solid acquisition of Michal Handzus. We also look ahead to Friday’s tilt with Detroit, which could possibly be a first-round playoff preview – and that bugs the shit out of us.

Listen here:

Listen to internet radio with The Wine Cooler on Blog Talk Radio

 

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Boxing4-1Hawks-3-Preds-2Full

April, Fools: Shootout Boxing with Blackhawks (3) and Predators (2)

"Yes, as a matter of fact, I am this good." (Chicago Tribune)

“Yes, as a matter of fact, I am this good.” (Chicago Tribune)

As the Blackhawks and Predators were lining up for the third-period faceoff and the ‘Hawks leading 2-0, my buddy Neil leans over to me and says, “All right, let’s not fuck this up.”

The Blackhawks, though, nearly played their own April Fool’s joke on us, blowing the lead on a couple of weak goals before Jonathan Toews and Michal Rozsival (!) went all fuck-this-shit in the shootout to give the ‘Hawks a 3-2 win over Nashville at the UC.

I’m tired, so here’s this stuff before Boxing…

– The first news of the day was on the trade front, as Stan Bowman acquired Michal Handzus – who waived his no-movement clause and agreed to join the Blackhawks – from San Jose for a fourth-round draft pick in order to provide some center depth and win a draw or two. So naturally, Dave Bolland goes out and wins six of the eight draws he takes before getting injured.

Handzus should be able to make his ‘Hawks debut Thursday against the Blues, and we’ll see where Bolland is at at that point. One of the best parts of the trade, though? The ‘Hawks were forced to send Brandon Bollig back to Rockford to make room for Handzus. That in itself is awesome.

– The Corey Crawford haters got a little more ammunition after he allowed a couple of softies in the third period to tie the game. While there’s not doubt he shouldn’t have allowed probably either of those goals, no one can really deny the defenses hung him out like week-old laundry as well. Either way, though, Crow needed to have a better period – but you can also say that about pretty much the entire team.

– Brandon Saad. Patrick Kane. Fuck. And yes.

– So, Q goes with Roszival in the shootout because of how well he’s done in practice. Honestly, that’s pretty damn awesome to pluck a guy, no matter his position or offensive reputation and put him out there in game action during the skills competition. It was a complete surprise, and that could be a good part of the reason the move worked.

And now Boxing. Right-click the image, then click ‘view’ to enlarge…

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Easter Funday: Boxing with Blackhawks (7!) and Red Wings (1, Ha)

Credit: USA Today

Credit: USA Today

Man was that fun. Well, unless you’re a Red Wings fan – meaning you had already gone through life without a soul before Sunday’s beatdown, so maybe you felt no emotion anyway.

For the Blackhawks, elation ensued throughout most of the day as they went into MoTown and penis-slapped Detroit 7-1 in front of a stadium full of people ditching church on Gordie Howe’s 85th birthday “celebration.”

I’m not going to recap each of the seven goals that helped lead to Jimmy holding grudges, but here’s a few things before Boxing …

– HAHAHHAHAHAHA Jakub Kindl HAHAHAHAHA. What a fucking awful play to put the puck in his own net to help Dave Bolland end a 14-game goalless drought. Bolland would go on to score one of his own later, proving he actually does have some sort of worth left in him after dragging his ass up and down the ice and constantly losing draws for most of the season.

– Welcome back to the big club, Jeremy Morin. Scoring on his first shift was a hell of a way to get going donning the Indian head.

– Brandon Saad is the fucking truth, and that’s all there is to it. Jonathan Toews said after the game that Saad is getting better with each shift, and there’s really no better way to say it. Saad for Calder?

– Speaking of Toews … Boom. A goal and two assists, and he won 14 of 19 draws, which is just flat out disgusting. The Captain has won 60.3 percent of his draws this year.

– I CAN’T BELIEF DAT CRAWFORD GUY COULDN’T GET DAT SHUT’EM OUT. DA EMERY GUY COULDA HAD DAT LAST SHOT CUZ HE’S DA WAY BETTER GOALIE MAN AND I TINK HE WINS DA CONTROVERSY WE GOTS A BREWIN’ ‘ROUND HERE CUZ HE STOPS MORE SHOTS AND WINS BETTER DAN DA CRAWFORD GUY WINS.

– So Q decided to switch up the defensive pairings, going with Keith-Hjalmarsson, Oduya-Rozsival and Seabrook-Leddy. Q downplayed the changes by saying he was simply testing things out, but maybe he’s finally have enough of the underachieving Keith-Seabrook pairing to send a message. I’m assuming these won’t be long-term changes, but after the dominating performance Sunday there’s a chance Q sticks with these Monday versus the Preds.

Here’s Boxing. Right-click the image, then click ‘view’ to enlarge…

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Iggymugshot

Iggy: A Morality Play

That’s right, CtA now has a Photoshop/parody guy. We are more than excited to welcome Michael Devine, who will be posting as regularly as he would like on this site and gracing us and you readers with some hilarity.

Firstly, go follow him on Twitter @brightblack76. Then, double-check to make sure you’re following him, because you’re missing out if you’re not. He already has some stuff up here for you to check out when you get the chance.

Michael, who also has gone by mightymikeD, describes himself as such: “Irish, lives in London and goes through horrific sleep-deprivation to watch Hawks games at Ass O’Clock in the Morning!”

And you thought YOU were a die-hard fan.

Have you been wondering how Stan Bowman is “wooing” Jarome Iginla to come to Chicago? Well, without further bullshit, here’s Michael’s first contribution to CtA:

“Iggy: A Morality Play”

Iggymugshot

Scene: Morning. A luxury Chicago hotel room. Jarome Iginla wakes up. He appears to be in the bathtub. His head is pounding and there is a funny taste in his mouth. He groans and looks at his watch, realises, with horror, that he is late for his flight and tries to climb out of the bath.

Iggy: “Oh, heck, Bob’s going to kill me. Without me being there the guys will just be milling around aimlessly in the terminal and Kipper has probably got himself deported!”

He catches sight of himself in the bathroom mirror and freezes in horror.

Iggy: “What in the fudge? Why am I wearing make-up? What are these bruises on my arms? WHY DO I HAVE “PK RULEZ YO” WRITTEN IN LIPSTICK ON MY CHEST??!?”

There is a loud knocking at the door. Iginla hurries to get dressed. His clothes appear to be missing except for his suit pants, although they have been cut off inexpertly at thigh-height, and his tie; which has some odd stains on it.

Iggy: “I’m coming, I’m coming. Oh, fiddlesticks, where is my shirt?”

The knocking continues, louder and more insistent. Iginla gives up and opens the door.
Stan Bowman stands there, smiling strangely.

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Iginla’s Audition?: Boxing with Blackhawks (2) and Flames (0)

Holy Toews Face. (Credit: Chris Sweda,  Chicago Tribune)

Holy Toews Face. (Credit: Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune)

The worst-kept secret in the NHL is that Jarome Iginla has submitted a list of teams he’d be willing to waive his no-trade clause for by the April 3rd trade deadline, and the Blackhawks are one of them.

While Iginla didn’t exactly shine in Tuesday’s visit to the United Center with his awful team, count me in as someone willing to part ways with a couple of second-tier prospects and a pick to bring him to Chicago as a rental. The main reasons? Dave Bolland is beginning to infuriate me, and the thought of Iginla in a Hawks sweater gets me more excited than a 13-year-old boy seeing his first set of tits. He’s got plenty left in the tank.

The Blackhawks ended their two-game “losing streak” by holding woeful Calgary to just 16 shots in a 2-0 victory, making an easy night for Ray Emery as he set an NHL record by winning his first 12 starts of the season. Miikka Kiprusoff helped out by allowing Nick Leddy’s weak shot slip through before a Brent Seabrook shot was deflected off Iginla’s stick for the other goal.

Patrick Kane assisted on each score and played another stellar contest. If not for a guy named Crosby, the Hart Trophy likely would be coming to Chicago for the first time since Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita each won back-to-back awards from 1964-68.

A couple quick thoughts before Boxing…

– Seriously, what in the flying fuck is going on with Bolland? I am going to admit that I’ve never been his biggest fan and always felt he was a bit overrated. But man, he’s just not getting it done. Besides being ridiculously injury prone at the age of 26 (he’s missed seven games this season, six the year before, 21 in 2010-11 and 42 in the Stanley Cup season), he’s a second-line center who can’t win a fucking draw to save his life. Bolland went 8 for 22 at the dot Tuesday, dropping him to 44.6 percent on the season. He needs to get his shit together, and quickly, because his awful percentage at the dot is keeping the puck off of Kane’s stick.

– Only in Chicago would meatballs begin thinking there’s a goaltender controversy. I saw posts on social media to the tune of, “WHYS DAT EMERY GUY NOT DA FULL-TIME SHARTER IN THE DA NET FOR DEM HOCKS? DAT CRAWFORD LET IN GOALS DE UDDER NIGHT AND EMERY DIDN’T LET ANY GO IN DA NET SO HE SHOULD ALWAYS BE IN DA NET. CRAWFORD SUCKS, MY FRENTS!” Crawford has a 2.02 GAA and .922 save percentage, while Emery sports numbers of 2.09 and .920. What the fuck is wrong with simply having two goaltenders who are both playing fantastically? Just shut the fuck up and appreciate it. Thank you.

Right, Boxing. Right-click the image and click ‘view’ to enlarge…

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The Wine Cooler, Presented by Bartl and James: Episode 2 – Gettin’ Iggy with It

Bartels&Jaymes

Nakis and I give you plenty of Jarome Iginla trade discussion as well as a brief look ahead to Monday’s tilt with the Los Angeles Kings at the United Center. Mainly Iginla talk, though. Like, a lot.

30 minutes. Aaaaand go …

Listen to internet radio with The Wine Cooler on Blog Talk Radio

If the embeded link above doesn’t work for you, click here to listen.

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Bye, Bye, Bye: Shootout Boxing with Blackhawks (2) and Blue Jackets (1)

Credit: Paul Vernon, AP

Credit: Paul Vernon, AP

At least the Central Division “rivalry” with the Blue Jackets ended in style.

Johnny Oduya scored his first goal of the season on a sick pass from Patrick Kane before Jonathan Toews and Kane scored in the shootout to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 win to kick off their four-game road trip.

Kaner also notched his 400th career point with the assist in his 426th career game.

Thursday marked the final time the ‘Hawks and BJs would meet as division foes due to the realignment that will send Columbus to the Eastern Conference beginning next season. And the Jackets gave the ‘Hawks all they could handle in the four meetings. Each were decided by one goal, with two going past regulation.

And who knows? Maybe that won’t be the last time the Blackhawks see Columbus this season after all. The BJs are making a push for the playoffs after earning a point in their ninth straight game.

They didn’t have enough, though, to get past the ‘Hawks (22-2-3), who had dropped their previous two games following The Streak. It’s late so I’ll just leave you with this before Boxing: One concern? The Blackhawks’ penalty kill has allowed six power play goals in 10 chances over their last three games after giving up another one to Columbus.

Otherwise, Boxing has some more positive stuff. Right-click the image, then click ‘view’ to enlarge…

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And So It Continues: Dramatic Boxing with Blackhawks (3) and Avalanche (2)

"I AM GORILLA SALAD!!!!" (Credit: Chris Sweda,  Chicago Tribune)

“I AM GORILLA SALAD!!!!” (Credit: Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune)

Marian Hossa is out. You’re in the midst of an extended stretch without Patrick Sharp and Andrew Shaw due to in-game injuries. Who are you going to turn to for some late-game heroics?

Of course you’re going to go with… Gorilla Salad?!

Yep, Dan Carcillo became the 13th different Blackhawk to score a game-winning goal when he slipped one into the net with 49.3 seconds remaining to give the ‘Hawks a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over Colorado on Wednesday night that UC.

The Streak is now at 24 – Jesus H. Christ, they’re fucking 21-0-3 and haven’t been beaten in actual hockey halfway through the season – and the streak within The Streak is at 11 straight wins.

Shit, even LeBron James is taking notice:

LeBron-Tweet

Quickly before Boxing…

– While Q was optimistic regarding Hossa and Shaw following the game, it seems a near certainty that Sharp will be out at least a few games after taking a hard hit into the boards. The ‘Hawks already have dealt with Brent Seabrook and Dave Bolland missing time, and now Q will have to adjust his lines for at least the near future.

The Bryan Bickell-Andrew Shaw-Viktor Stalberg third line has been fantastic, but there’s a chance Stalberg will be bumped up to play with Bolland and Patrick Kane with Sharp being out. We’ll know more once the call-up is announced – Ben Smith? Jeremy Morin? Jimmy Hayes? – but then again it’s Q, so who really knows what to expect? Gorilla Salad may start in goal for all we know.

– Speaking of Carcillo, he mentioned after the game how he’d “like to be more than just an enforcer on this team.” Hey buddy, thanks for the late goal and the two points and all that jazz, but we’re still not overlooking the fact that you’re, well, not good at hockey. You are what you are, and that’s a below-average player who should spend most of his time in the press box making some expensive suit look as stylish as footy pajamas. Enjoy the moment while it lasts.

– Ray Emery did not have his best game tonight, but who the fuck really cares at the point. He allowed only two goals – again, for Christ’s sake – and set an NHL record by winning each of his first 10 starts to begin a season. His post-to-post movement is suspect, but that’s nothing new. He’s getting the job done when his number is called.

– Thanks, Jamie McGinn, for deciding to try and box out Bolland after you lost your stick rather than attempting to stop a determined Jonathan Toews on his way to a short-handed goal. Yeah, that wasn’t smart.

We get to see the Avs again at their place on Friday night, and Adam will be along with your wrap for that one. For now, here’s Boxing.

Right-click the image, then click ‘view’ to enlarge…

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Streakin’ Gone Wild: Boxing with Blackhawks (5) and Wild (3)

Credit: Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune

Credit: Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune

“I’m running out of words to say here. I don’t know how many ways I can describe this 10-game winning streak. It’s exciting. We’re having fun.” – Jonathan Toews

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

The Streak hit 23 games – how awesome is it to see 20-0-3?! – and the streak within The Streak hit a franchise-record 10 straight victories with Tuesday’s 5-3 win over Minnesota. Are there enough positive adjectives to describe this run? I think everyone is running out of them.

And how fitting is it Marian Hossa scored on the night the ‘Hawks honored him for playing in his 1,000th career game Sunday?

(Quick note on that: Here’s where I have issues with the separation between the regular season and playoff statistics. Hossa also has played in 130 postseason games, which weren’t taken into account. If he played a game in the NHL, he played a game in the NHL. I think all of them should be recognized. Just my opinion.)

Some quick thoughts before Boxing…

– The third line guys – Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw and Viktor Stalberg – came through again. Bickell scored twice, though one came with Brandon Saad delivering the pass you see in the picture above. Bickell’s first goal had him being in the perfect place at the right time, with Shaw and Stalberg picking up assists.

– Brandon Saad. That is all.

– Patrick Kane came through with another clutch goal, scoring on one of the only four shots the Blackhawks had in the third period. And to that point…

– The whole let’s-sit-back-and-just-ride-this-thing-out mentality when the ‘Hawks get a lead of two goals or more nearly came back and bit them in the ass for the fifth time this season. If there’s one thing to change when it comes to this team, it’s that.

The Blackhawks are so successful because of their puck position and the aggressiveness that comes with it. That’s where their talent shines. However, when they decide to sit back and let the game come to them, things nearly unravel. Here’s a quick snippet of the other times that’s happened this season:

Opponents-Comebacks

Solution? Stay aggressive. Role the lines until the final horn sounds and keep attacking. The Blackhawks are being outscored 19-18 in the third period this season.

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

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Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews, Josh Harding

Weather or Not, Here They Come: ‘Hawks Shoot for 10th Straight Win vs. Wild

Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews, Josh Harding

Supposed to get a shitload of snow in March? Why not. It’s Chicago. I’d also like to point out that anyone who mentions how “beautiful” the snow is obviously owns a fucking garage. And tell me how beautiful it is when you take your first giant step into the shit-covered slop that awaits you in the street the next day.

Despite Mother Nature’s continuous attempts to piss us off, we still have our beloved Chicago Blackhawks, who will be going for Jordan in a row for their season-starting point streak when the Minnesota Wild visit the United Center tonight.

While we’ve all basked in the beauty of The Streak, we’ve also been given a mathematical breakdown on just how rare it is.

Oh, and another record-setting streak is on the line, too.

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Sunday Matinee: ‘Hawks-Red Wings Primer

Jimmy holds grudges.

Jimmy holds grudges.

As Adam wrote in his wrap Friday night, the streaks inside the streak get lost on us – and understandably so.

The Blackhawks will be going for a ninth straight victory for the first time since Dec. 7-28, 2008 – the year hockey was invented, according to some of the fanbase. It’s easy to forget this team has picked up two points in each game for as long as they have when The Streak simply focuses on gaining at least one.

And that’s one of my problems with the streak, as I’ve mentioned before. There’s so much more going on with this team than just that arbitrary streak. The stars are playing like stars, the bottom six is contributing more than anyone expected, and both goaltenders are thriving when their number is called.

Does it get better than this? Yes – by extending The Streak with a win over those douchenozzles up north (or northeast, as some have liked to point out).

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Boxing-Blues

A Cool 20: Boxing with ‘Hawks (3) and Blues (0)

Credit: Jeff Curry, USA TODAY

Credit: Jeff Curry, USA TODAY

I saw a bunch of “experts” predict the Blackhawks’ record-breaking streak would end in St. Louis, because apparently they need to be tough with their Blues-are-my-favorites-to-win-the-Stanley-Cup-so-I-need-to-pick-them-in-every-game mentality.

Well, they can all eat shit.

Jonathan Toews delivered the Death Blow a mere 12 seconds in, and the ‘Hawks ran their record to a disgusting 17-0-3 by shutting out Chicago Jr. 3-0 on Thursday night.

Ray Emery completed the shutout after Corey Crawford suffered what is said to be an upper-body injury after appearing woozy heading to the locker room after the first period. The team is saying Crow is day to day at this point, so hopefully we’ll get an update soon.

And even if it is Barry Melrose, it’s still pretty awesome to listen to him on Sportscenter calling the Blackhawks the best team in all of sports.

I’m tired, so the rest is in Boxing. Right-click the image, then click ‘view’ to enlarge…

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Boxing-Oilers

Extra Special: Overtime Boxing with Blackhawks (3) and Oilers (2)

CT Hawks05998.JPG

The one thing I don’t like about this streak is the waiting. We all know, at least those of us who are logical and realistic, that the Blackhawks eventually are going to lose in regulation. And the past two nights, there were points in time I felt it was going to happen, and it almost was a relief to know it would finally be over.

I hate writing that as much as you likely hate reading it, but discussing an ultimately arbitrary record is somewhat taking away from what we need to focus on moving forward this season and into the playoffs. I actually found myself thinking against Columbus, “Well, if the BJs score here at the end, at least we can get a point and keep the streak going.” Then versus the Oil I thought, “Cool, at least if they lose in OT the ‘Hawks get a point and the streak hits 19.”

I became sick to my stomach after each of those thoughts, because that’s simply not looking at the bigger picture. After this streak is over, I won’t be thinking like that anymore. I’ll go back to being pissed off about some little mistake that cost them points. And honestly, I prefer not to think of this team as being perfect – because it’s not.

But with all that said, I can’t help myself. The streak is fantastic, and it’s clear this team is on a fucking mission and the rest of the West is just tagging along. No matter the ‘Hawks seemed to be cruising and just waiting for the perfect moments to come to them, the excitement after Hossa potted the winner in a 3-2 OT win over Edmonton was through the roof. Simply awesome.

Some thoughts before Boxing…

– I saw a tweet after the game suggesting a possible goalie controversy. Jesus Christ, please stop trying to create drama. Just accept the fact both goaltenders are playing well, be happy with who played well that given night and move on. Let it play out. This should be the least of anyone’s concerns right now.

– Seeing Carcillo on the top line makes me want to inflict pain upon myself. In fact, I’d rather sit around all day and smell Oprah’s farts than watch that asshole skate with Toews and Hossa. I understand Saad didn’t play his best game and took a couple bad penalties, but it wasn’t all Saad’s fault the ‘Hawks were down a goal heading into the third. Please, Q, stop this. Stop it now.

– Sharp deserves as much credit for the winner as Hossa. Strong move to the net, stuck with the rebound and let Hoss clean it up. Boom.

– Did I mention watching Carcillo on the top line is vomit-inducing?

– While I mentioned a part of my just wants this streak to end so we can get back to normal, if that happens in St. Louis on Thursday I may have to punt my cat. And my fiance’s cat.

Boxing. Right-click the image, then click ‘view’ to enlarge…

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That’s Just Enough: Boxing with Blackhawks (1) and Blue Jackets (0)

Credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

Credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

Firstly, I’d like to apologize for not having a recap up after the Blackhawks set the NHL record for best start to a season with Friday’s win over San Jose. I received a few emails wondering why the hell I didn’t put up a post, but the fact is I simply didn’t have the time this weekend. I should have mentioned something ahead of time, so it falls directly on me. To the loyal readers who thought enough to drop a line, I’m sorry and we’ll do our best from here on out to make sure we at least get something up for you.

Well, no one said they’d all be pretty.

Corey Crawford posted his second shutout of the season in his first game in nearly two weeks, Andrew Shaw scored the lone goal despite a nut shot from known fuckbag James Wisniewski and the Blackhawks extend their NHL-record start with a 1-0 win over lowly Columbus.

It’s a lazy Sunday night so tonight’s recap will all come in Boxing. Despite Crawford’s solid performance, I’d have to guess Ray Emery is back in net to face the Oil, with Crawford starting the front of another back-to-back at St. Louis on Thursday.

JesusMarianHossa will be along in the afternoon with your preview of the Edmonton game, but here’s Boxing for now. Right-click the image, then click ‘view’ to enlarge…

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