Bartl

Editor/founder of Cheer the Anthem, season ticket holder in Section 326 and full-time sports writer who lists June 9, 2010, as one of the greatest days of his life. Contact him at jeffrey.bartl@gmail.com.


Posts by Bartl

Boxing-Round 2-Game 1-Hawks 4-Red Wings 1

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

(Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

(Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

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

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

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

Some thoughts before Boxing…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Boxing-Round 1-Game 3 -Wild 3-Hawks 2OT

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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