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

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.

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

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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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Boxing-Hawks-Kings-Game2

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.

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

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Toews-Wings

Of Course it Would Go 7. Of Course.

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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.

Boxing-Round 2-Game 6-Hawks 4-Red Wings 3

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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