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

It’ll Get Fixed … Right?

(Credit: Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE)

Sorry, no Boxing tonight. I went out, I’m tired and it takes a long time. It’ll be back Thursday, I promise …

Trying to sugarcoat the past few games is a waste of time, we know that. But I’m going to take a quick step back.

The Blackhawks went down to Florida and got three points on a brief trip in which they very easily could have come out with zero. Then they came home and shit the bed against Vancouver. It pissed us off, royally.

So Q decided he was going to change things up. It resulted in a 3-0 loss in St. Louis, and now we’re about to hang up our proverbial skates with 67 games to play, which is more ridiculous than any line combination Q could ever dream up.

I’ll quickly concede the fact Q shuffles his lines irregularly, at times when it seems unnecessary. This does not qualify as one of those times.

There’s plenty of discussion pointing to the fact that it’s only November, and Q should not be panicking by shifting players around in “unfamiliar” positions with “unfamiliar” players. That right there is the exact point – it’s only November. If there’s a time to make some changes to feel things out after a dog shit stretch, it’s right now. And that’s especially true heading into a road game against team in turmoil playing its first game with a brand new coach.

If Q was pulling the slot machine with his players hoping to pull gold from his ass against a seasoned conference opponent, I could understand a bit of flack heading his way. Despite a stretch in which the ‘Hawks played like shit, I could at least understand the concern.

But to present a quick newsflash to everyone, there’s going to be another dog shit stretch this season – maybe two, or three, or … well, you get the point. Go ahead and change your diapers upon hearing that, but it’ll happen. The best of teams lose games, and most often in succession. During an 82-game season, slumps are going to happen.

With that said, sometimes change breaks a slump. Moreover, especially with a changed roster like the Blackhawks’, teams don’t walk into camp simply tossing combinations together while saying, “Yep, this is going to be it for the next 82 games. Fuck everyone.” Things changed in camp, things change during the season.

Every coach in this league changes line combinations. Most recently, the New York Islanders snapped a six-game losing streak by completely changing personnel and beat Washington 5-3. Jack Capuano felt the need to do what he could in order to spark his squad. It worked, and that’s awesome.

Sometimes, things don’t work. Tuesday’s loss was an example of that. However, that doesn’t mean Q needs to be chastised for it. The ‘Hawks played three consecutive games in which their game wasn’t up to expectations. For Q to toss something together in hopes of surprising an already stunned Blues team learning Ken Hitchcock’s system in two days is not earth-shattering. It’s closer to normal than if he sat on his hands.

I won’t defend certain things. John Scott being in the lineup is never a good idea, and that’s not something I’ll ever be on Q’s side about. The power play? Absolutely pathetic, and someone needs to be held responsible for these disgusting displays, because it’s now a chronic problem which needs to be fixed for the Blackhawks to be the elite team they hope to be this season.

But to get upset at Q for making some line changes to test things out heading into the 15th game of the season against a team with its collective head spinning in circles due to more drastic change than a line combination is panic in itself. Say Q is panicking all you want, but you’re then in turn exceeding his “panic” by miles.

There’s a time and a place for everything, and early November seems to be that time when Q should be allowed to test his squad with some different looks. It’s normal, every coach does it. There’s no bubble around Chicago under which things work drastically different than any other NHL city.

OK, the changes for Tuesday didn’t work out. The ‘Hawks are now 8-4-3 and lead the Central Division. Relax, please. I have some confidence Q isn’t going to troll out the same lines Thursday…. right?

And if he does? Well, it’s only November.

Follow Cheer The Anthem on Twitter @CheerTheAnthem and on Facebook
Download Cheer The Anthem’s Android app for immediate alerts to new posts
If you’re on your iPhone, save cheertheanthem.noticeorange.com to your bookmarks. Works like an app.

Powerless: Boxing with Blackhawks and Canucks

Credit: Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune

This was one of those games that just didn’t have a good feel to it from the get-go. Very, very little went right, and the Blackhawks’ powerless play once again left massive logs of poop on the ice.

The ‘Hawks spent roughly the first three minutes of the game in their own zone, and it may have taken even longer for them to make consecutive tape-to-tape passes. Was it fatigue from three games in four nights? The travel from Florida? Spending time with pops?

Whatever it was, Sunday night was a shit-filled performance in the first meeting since the playoffs as the ‘Hawks fell 6-2 to the Canucks.

So much for the theory of, “When the ‘Hawks power play finally scores one, the goals will come in bunches.” The Blackhawks went a putrid 0 for 5 with the man advantage while looking as if they should have just started declining penalties. Five guys standing around, blinding throwing passes and playing as if they’ve never practiced the power play before won’t get anyone anywhere. It’s becoming borderline humorous. I can’t even get excited anymore when the opposition takes a penalty.

Oh, and if Steve Montador gets another second of power-play time, I’m going to strangle myself with dental floss.

♦   Your argument for that may be something like, “Lighten up. Vancouver came in with the sixth-ranked penalty kill and they have one of the better killing units in the league.” Well, the Blackhawks came in with the fourth-ranked kill and allowed the Canucks to go 5 for 6 with the man advantage as the ‘Hawks stood there with their jaws dropped as if they were watching Victoria’s Secret models undress.

The ‘Hawks struggled with their power plays mainly due to the Canucks’ active kill. They attack the puck while the other three play a solid zone to be able challenge the next pass. Too many times the Blackhawks were flat footed on their kill, watching and gazing at what a power play should actually look like.  Vancouver enters the zone hard or places a solid dump-in where a teammate can get it while the others get into position.

♦   I think the saddest part of the evening was watching the Canucks get into the heads of the Blackhawks by playing smart and physical to disrupt the ‘Hawks attack. While the amount of flopping done by the Sedins makes me want to petition Brendan Shanahan to institute the death penalty for diving, Vancouver drew penalties and then converted. It seems simple, but it’s a simplistic part of hockey the Blackhawks have been overlooking all season.

Here’s Boxing …

More >

Now Leaving Del Boca Vista: Boxing with Blackhawks and Panthers

Credit: Joel Auerbach, Getty Images

Much like the Boston game Oct. 15, the Blackhawks seemed to shift into neutral while sitting on a one-goal lead in the third period they hoped to close out.

And much like that contest, the opposition was able to tie it up and bring it to a shootout. At least they got two points out of this one, beating Florida 3-2 following the game of Candyland

I’m going to try something new and get even deeper into the Boxing theme here. Let me know if it works:

Jabs (Quick hits)

♦   Duncan Keith missing tonight didn’t have much affect against a mediocre team like Florida, and hopefully it won’t matter much against Tampa Bay, either. The Lightning have totaled three goals in their last two games. Sean O’Donnell and Nick Leddy seem a capable pair to be able to make up for Keith’s absence.

♦   Corey Crawford played a fantastic game tonight and kept the ‘Hawks ahead for as long as he could once they knocked back the throttle a bit. Allowing 43 shots obviously isn’t good, but the Panthers totaled 42 against Winnipeg four nights before. They fire the puck, so no need to panic, really.

Haymakers (Solid plays from the ‘Hawks)

♦   Jonathan Toews made a hell of a play to step in front of the pass and go hard to the net to score his goal. Vintage Captain.

♦   Patrick Kane once again showed just how well he can read a play to make the correct pass, firing it across the ice through the defense to set up Marian Hossa. Anyone shocked it was Tomas Kopecky who came into the play late to leave the slot wide open to allow that pass?

♦   Crawford was solid all night. Tough to pinpoint a single moment, but he was turning away a relentless amount of shots from the Panthers’ firing squad.
Counter-punches (The opposition)

♦   Both goals were tough on Crawford, who didn’t have much of a chance on either. Weiss’ goal took a tough bounce away from Crow, and Jovo’s goal was simply a great play by him.
Low Blows (Not-so-good stuff)

♦   The Blackhawks looked absolutely awful on their lone power play opportunity, once again making an otherwise talented team look silly. The ‘Hawks have scored 31 of their 38 goals at even strength, and they have one less short-handed goal (3) than they do with the man advantage. Just strange for a team with so much offensive talent.
The Decision

♦   Kaner really has that move down, saving a point for the ‘Hawks after they put it in cruise control once again. The Blackhawks need to learn how to finish these games out rather than riding a one-goal lead and hoping to hold on with conservative play. Nonetheless, Crawford stoned both shots in the shootout to pick up the win.

Onto Boxing…

More >

Haunted Madhouse: Boxing with Blackhawks and Predators

(Credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

When Nashville scored in the first minute off a fluky goal, I couldn’t help but think Halloween had something to do with it. But the Blackhawks turned the “holiday” into Hawk-o-ween with 5-4 overtime victory over the Predators and the Barry Trotz’s non-existent neck.

A couple quick things before Boxing …

♦   While Pekka Rinne made a few great saves which kept this game from possibly getting out of hand, the Blackhawks found his weakness between his arm and above the pad. He made some great saves on Marian Hossa when the puck never left the ice, but Patrick Kane beat him past the hip on his goals, including his second when Rinne was caught too far toward his net and didn’t take away the angle. Overall great game from him, but the Blackhawks exposed a weaker part of his game.

♦   It’s gotta be noted the powerless play went 0 for 7 tonight, including a missed opportunity on a third-period 5-on-3 which could’ve resulted in doom had the ‘Hawks not come away with two points. The ‘Hawks are 0 for 18 over their last four games, and they’re converting on an 8.9 percent clip – 29th in the league, one spot above St. Louis’ 8.3 percent.

Yes, there was some good puck movement out there, and Rinne had plenty to do with the 0-fer tonight, but if we’re going to crunch stats and talk about every other statistic under the sun, we can’t ignore the results. With a 7-2-2 record, there’s not much to complain about except for the PP, but I don’t think I’m out of line saying the ‘Hawks need to start converting rather than looking pretty and not scoring, because it will come back to bite them down the line.

♦   Duncan Keith’s injury may damning if anything is broken on that hand.

♦   A great game from Kaner, giving him 11 points on the season – which may be surprising considering the stat I give you in Boxing.

♦   Three goals in two games for Viktor Stalberg, who completely fooled Rinne and stuck it under the arm on the short side for the winner.

♦  Two breakaway saves from Corey Crawford – who got away with an iffy performance tonight – and Jonathan Toews went 20 for 25 on faceoffs. Neato.

♦  Two quick site notes: As I posted earlier, Jim Nakis, AKA “HjammerTime” on the SCH comment boards, is our newest writer on CtA. Please give him a warm welcome.

Secondly, I keep receiving plenty of emails about an iPhone app. Here’s what you do. Pull up Safari and type in cheertheanthem.noticeorange.com. Bookmark that page and it works just like an app. That should solve it until we get our own app built, which may take some time with Apple being assholes.

And Boxing …

More >

Introducing the Newest Addition to Cheer the Anthem

As you may have noticed from the past two recaps, we have a new writer on staff to share more thoughts we hope you won’t find too ridiculous.

Jim Nakis has come on board to provide everyone with some witty, humorous and above all knowledgeable Blackhawks banter for your enjoyment. Some of you may know Jim better as “HjammerTime” on the Second City Hockey comment boards. The best thing about Jim other than the fact he can write well about the Blackhawks? He’s an Arctic Monkeys fan.

I speak for Jim in that he is hoping you enjoy his contributions, and I speak for both Tim and I when I say we know you will.

Welcome aboard, Jim!

Boxing returns tonight/tomorrow morning. Get some.

STATS Game: Blackhawks at Hurricanes

I did this a few times last season when I could, so I thought I’d share some facts heading into tonight’s contest at the RBC Center versus the Carolina Hurricanes.

While the Blackhawks are getting solid contributions from all four lines, the Hurricanes are scrambling after three straight losses. Here are their likely forward lines for the tilt:

Chad LaRose – NAME THAT STAAL … Eric Staal – Jiri Tlusty
SKINNERRRRR! – Jussi Jokinen – Tuomo Ruutu
Alexei Ponikarovsky – Brandon Sutter – Patrick Dwyer
Brett Sutter – Tim Brent
(yes, that Tim Brent) / Derek Joslin - Zach Boychuk

Here are some stats/facts …

More >

Wild, Wild West Side: Victorious Shootout Boxing with Blackhawks and Ducks

(Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

As a season-ticket holder, I thank the Blackhawks for the extra hockey the past three home games. As a fan, I’m wondering what the hell is wrong with earning the two points without having to deal with the frustration of the goddamn shootout.

I don’t think I’m alone in thinking the ‘Hawks were lucky to come away with two points after a 3-2 shootout win at the UC on Tuesday night. Patrick Kane saved the night with two gorgeous assists and the shootout winner, though he didn’t make things easy with a bad giveaway which led to Teemu Selanne’s goal.

Dave Bolland took a bad penalty at the end of the first period, then Sean O’Donnell mixed in a delay-of-game before Marian Hossa was given an iffy penalty with 2:10 left in regulation. Fortunately, the Ducks converted on only one of these power plays, leaving the door open for the Blackhawks to earn the pair.

And before Jonathan Toews and Kaner netter goals in the shootout, Hossa ripped one off the post as the horn sounded off a great faceoff win by Toews. How he was able to win it perfectly while putting just the right touch on it so the 2.4 seconds didn’t run off, allowing Hossa to get a missile off is truly amazing to me.

Let’s talk about the rest in Boxing…

More >

Calmer Than You Are, Dude: Boxing with Blackhawks and Avalanche

(Ron Chenoy/US PRESSWIRE)

Whew, now that was fast-paced hockey.

The Blackhawks were able to calm themselves after the Avs’ initial first-period rush, get into the flow of the game and come away with a 3-1 victory in Colorado, going 2 for 2 on the brief road trip.

I’m tired, so just a few quick observations before Boxing …

♦   With the entire game going pretty much back and forth at warp speed, both Corey Crawford and Semyon Varlamov saw nearly everything thrown at them, neither giving up a bad goal on the night. The Blackhawks put two difficult shots past Varlamov, while Crawford wasn’t able to get in front of an unfortunate bounce. Varlamov should be spending the night in jail after his ridiculous save on Marcus Kruger.

“Bick-Bo-Fro … douchebag”: A bit of a left turn from the “quid pro quo” comment from The Hangover, but this line has been something special thus far. Poor, poor Michael Frolik. Varlamov robbed him of his first goal on a beautiful chance right in front. Bickell has played his ass off and Bolland, well, …. please for the love of holy Christ stay healthy.

♦   Dan Carcillo’s fantastic pass set up Jonathan Toews’ goal, marking yet another solid feed from Carcillo. He got rewarded with his 2nd point as a ‘Hawk, though it’s not for the shortage of some great opportunities he’s set up which simply haven’t gone in the net.

♦   Duncan Keith disrupted a play in the neutral zone, which ended up leading to Patrick Sharp’s handsome goal. After Keith forced the turnover, the ‘Hawks were able to get into transition, pepper Varlamov with a couple of in-tight chances before Sharp sniped the short side to beat him. It was the second straight solid game for Keith, who has been taking plenty of heat lately.

OK, time for Boxing. Two images, click to enlarge …

More >

Cruising While Not in Control: Boxing with Blackhawks and Bruins

(Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune )

“It’s tough to give up a goal, especially when you’re up 2-1. It seemed like we were playing back a bit and not really pushing the pace. When you get that one-goal lead you don’t want to cheat and push too much but at the same time it would have been nice to make it 3-1.” — Patrick Kane

My best friend flies airplanes for a living. We don’t need to trade jobs for me to know you don’t turn the autopilot on until you’re completely in control.

The Blackhawks did just that in Saturday’s 3-2 shootout loss to Boston, burning a point and crashing before being stonewalled by Tim Thomas in the pissing contest.

The up-and-down effort let Boston tie it on a Nathan Horton goal in the third period while Chicago went the final 17-plus minutes without a goal which could have sealed a nice win over the defending Stanley Cup champs.

Marian Hossa missed the game with an upper-body injury, and I’m becoming increasingly pissed by the fact it never seems certain he will ever play.

Anyway, I’m not in the mood to go over this play by play, so let’s just get to Boxing. Click the two images to enlarge…

More >

Behind Enemy Lines: Boston Globe Bruins Beat Writer Fluto Shinzawa

Quick preview today, as Fluto Shinzawa (@GlobeFluto) of the Boston Globe was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding tonight’s Blackhawks-Bruins matchup at the United Center.

Bartl: The Bruins have gotten off to a slow start coming off the Stanley Cup victory, which is something the fans in Chicago know quite well. Do you buy into the theory of a “Stanley Cup Hangover,” or is their current play on the ice something which can be easily corrected?

Shinzawa: Yes, I believe in the hangover. Season is far too long. Bruins started last year with exhibition games in Northern Ireland and Czech Republic. Ended on June 15. Too little time to recharge mental batteries. More mental than physical. That said, they’re not far off. They need to play with emotion to be at their best. That engagement has been spotty.

Bartl: Aside from the slow starts from indiviual players, David Krejci is battling an injury suffered in practice Tuesday and will not travel to Chicago. How will his absence have an effect on the matchup with the Blackhawks?

Shinzawa: Tyler Seguin will play in Krejci’s place. That line has been so-so. They should get plenty of reps as they try to find their rhythm. Julien likes rolling four lines. That won’t change with Krejci out.

Bartl: The ‘Hawks started slow Thursday, but ended up dominating most of the game from the eight-minute mark on. What must Boston do to slow down the Blackhawks’ attack in order counter that with an attack of their own?

Shinzawa: Bruins will want to be physical against Chicago. Get pucks deep, establish forecheck, limit opposing puck possession.

Follow Cheer The Anthem on Twitter @CheerTheAnthem and on Facebook
Download Cheer The Anthem’s Android app for immediate alerts to new posts

Leavin’ on a Jet Plane: Boxing with Blackhawks and High-Speed Aluminum Tubing

"Center" of attention. (Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

It’s not like me to be so happy about a victory over a team that would probably finish second in a suburban men’s league, but there was a lot of good going on tonight. The fact I’m building up this solid effort (from the eight-minute mark on, anyway) is because it’s the third game of the season, and things seem to be clicking in places we may not have expected.

Thursday night’s 4-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets wasn’t perfect by any means, though what transpired for the better part of the contest was the Blackhawks simply flattening an outmatched team and ruining the return of Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien.

Ray Emery wasn’t fantastic, and he looked, well, like a guy who is just getting over the flu at times. Both first-period goals were re-directed by Jim Slater, and they likely would’ve gotten past most goaltenders. The third? Well, that’s where he slipped up a bit, but as I’ve stated before, there’s a reason a backup is a backup.

The one time he came out of the net and tried to pass the puck up ice to get he play started, he gave Byfuglien a gift which he nearly buried. This prompted my fellow season-ticket holder Neil to say of Emery, “He was just tryin’ to help a brotha out.” Wait, help a brotha … Ohhhh, I get it. They’re both African-Americans. I understand now. I’ll laugh.

Jonathan Toews committed a hometown turnover which led the first goal, and the amount of in-zone turnovers where beyond counting, though Winnipeg luckily had its share of those issues as well.

I’ll get more into what I felt was impressive in Boxing, but I have to say I came away very happy with the play of Dan Carcillo. CarBomb was all over the ice tonight, and in no way did I feel he was out of control. He made solid passes which nearly led to goals, and I think his all-out play and style fit well with the finesse of Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa on that line.

Carcillo’s assist game came on a play where he won the puck off the board and fed it to Hossa, who bulldozed through a check to find an open Kaner, who fired it in on a one-timer. If that line continues scoring goals in that style, Carcillo is going to end up being a great pick up and a great match with those two.

Onto Boxing we go. Click the separate images to enlarge…

More >

Behind Enemy Lines: Previewing the Jets with the Winnipeg Free Press’ Ed Tait

No banners up at the MTS Center yet, dude. (Getty Images)

Remember these guys? Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien make their return to the United Center since being dealt in salary dumps following the 2009-10 Stanley Cup run. After one middling season in Atlanta, the two are a part of the NHL’s long overdue return to Winnipeg, with Ladd donning the ‘C’ and Byfuglien carrying some new paper.

Here to help me preview the Jets is Winnipeg Free Press beat writer Ed Tait, who discusses the atmosphere in Winnipeg, the Jets still being the Atlanta Thrashers, and the two former Blackhawks. Enjoy!

Bartl: First thing, can you talk about the atmosphere in Winnipeg for the season opener and how the fans and players alike are embracing having hockey back in the city?

Tait: The season opener was like no other sporting event I’ve covered. There was a variety of different emotions shown by fans and players, from pure euphoria to sadness during the pre-game memorial to Rick Rypien. I saw grown men crying tears of joy, the Canadian national anthem has arguably never been sung louder in these parts and the MTS Centre concourse was jammed with people three hours before the opening face-off. The whole event had the feel of opening night and Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final morphed into one. The cool thing for fans now is this: after this road trip to Chicago and Phoenix the next home game is against Pittsburgh and everyone has their fingers crossed Sidney Crosby is back on the ice.

Bartl: Eventually, the excitement of having hockey back will turn to wanting competitive hockey. Do the fans realize they’re still cheering for the Atlanta Thrashers, who have yet to win a playoff game? Will the fans be a bit lenient with them this season?

More >

Blackhawks on the Mend: Salak Recalled, Saad to OHL, etc.

Hopefully all of this injury shit is confined to the start of the season, when the ‘Hawks had five days to heel up and get back in gear.

♦   Corey Crawford practiced today with a sore groin, and he’s not certain if he can go against Winnipeg tomorrow night. Crawford downplayed it and said he’ll decide at the morning skate how healthy he is, but there’s no reason to rush back for the third game of the season. In fact, it wouldn’t have been a bad idea to sit Crawford either Thursday or Saturday against Boston anyway even if he was healthy.

The humorous part, though, is that Ray Emery also missed Wednesday’s practice with the flu. To counter that, the Blackhawks recalled Alexander Salak to either start or be the backup against the Jets. With all the hullabaloo over the backup goaltender, we all may get a chance to see what Salak is all about. Then if he posts a shutout, we can read 19 more blogs about whether or not Salak will replace Emery even after Emery is done vomiting. Yippy.

More >

That’s More Like It: Another Round of Boxing with Blackhawks-Stars

"Thanks for the roster spot, bitch." (Credit: Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune)

After Friday’s poop fest, it was more than nice to see the ‘Hawks score first and shut down the Stars out of the gate in a 5-2 win Saturday night at the United Center.

It also helped that Andrew Raycroft was getting beat like a group of Mormons in a keg race to his glove side all night. A couple of inches on numerous shots and this game could’ve ended 9-2.

Jonathan Toews scored out of the penalty box after Andrew Brunette got his first goal as a Blackhawk. Dave Bolland had a pair, including one that made Raycroft look like, well, Raycroft. Goals came much easier than they did Friday against Kari Lehtonen.

The Blackhawks seemed to be determined well before puck drop, as the ‘Hawks limited shots to Corey Crawford as he was playing a back-to-back for the first time since late last season. No real threats were posed other than a Vernon Fiddler goal which was set up by a nice give-and-go with former friend Adam Burish. Still, it took a great shot from Fiddler to beat Crawford to the far top shelf when Crawford had the near post covered.

Jamal Mayers helped welcome back Jake Dowell to the UC with a couple of haymakers, while John Scott was up to his same old shit – wasting a perfectly good uniform while dressing his large, worthless body for a whole three minutes.

Bolland, on the other hand, proved just how useful he can be when he can stay healthy. Friday and Saturday were night and day, and don’t think Bolland wasn’t a major cause of it. The Stars looked completely out of sorts, and Bolland provided plenty of offense as well. It’s probably both good and bad, but the ‘Hawks seem to be a different team when he’s out on the ice (See: Vancouver series, Games 4-7).

Onto Boxing to celebrate the first of (hopefully) many more victories. As always, separate images for the summary and box score, click each to enlarge:

More >

Let’s Get ‘Em Tomorrow: Opening Night Boxing with Blackhawks-Stars

Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE

Oh well. Not much to get nuts about here. One game down, 81 (and hopefully more) to go.

Sure, there are certain things that made me angry. The power play was 0 for 4, Duncan Keith looked like poop. Marian Hossa and Michael Frolik missed on a couple of good chances.

Again, it’s just one game and a 2-1 loss in Dallas on opening night isn’t something to cower in the corner about. It’s time for the Stars to head into our house.

It’s time for the triumphant return of Boxing – the first one here at our new home, Cheer the Anthem. There are two separate images, one for the game summary and one for the box score. Click on each to enlarge.

More >

Behind Enemy Lines: Previewing the Stars with ESPNDallas.com’s Mark Stepneski

With Richards gone, is Eriksson ready to shoulder the load?

The season opener(s) is upon us, and to help preview the home-and-home with the Dallas Stars is ESPNDallas.com’s Mark Stepneski, who discusses last season’s letdown, the departure of Brad Richards and the Stars’ gameplan for the weekend against the Blackhawks.

Bartl: After missing the playoffs on the final day of the season and allowing the Blackhawks to sneak in, has there been any talk around the team about that near miss providing added motivation for this season, or has the team moved on?

Stepneski: I think missing the playoffs for a third straight season is a big motivation. But the sense I get from the team is that this season is kind of a fresh start. There’s a new head coach in Glen Gulutzan and several new players have been added via free agency. Not many in the national media are giving them much of a chance – hardly anyone is picking them to make the playoffs – and that is providing a little extra motivation as well.

More >

Emery “Wins” Backup Goaltender Job, Which Means… Nothing.

Yep, that's our backup goaltender. The one on the left, dumbass.

The Blackhawks officially signed Ray Emery to back up Corey Crawford this season, ending the competition with Alexander Salak. Why should you care? Well, you really shouldn’t.

It doesn’t matter what the reasons were for Coach Q and Stan Bowman to go this route. There are plenty, I’m sure, and none of which are of any concern to me. Chicago fans have an affinity for the backup, no matter what sport. It’s always been that way. And finally, for the first time in a few years, Blackhawks fans don’t have to worry who the hell is wearing the baseball cap this season while the starting goaltender shines in net.

More >

Looking at What Counts when Nothing Counts

(Chicago Tribune)

After a nice little break I like to enjoy each offseason, I’m making my triumphant, much-anticipated return so you folks can remind me of how my fantastic, well-written, well-informed opinions are what you look forward to on a daily basis bother you.

I hit the United Center last night in my usual spot in Section 326, Row 12, Seat 11 and watched the Blackhawks earn a meaningless 4-3 win over Detroit, much to the delight of the woman behind me screeching each time the ‘Hawks crossed the red line. Thanks, psycho.

The problem with these games that don’t count is that bad shit still can happen, evident by the fact Viktor Stalberg will be sidelined three weeks with a leg injury, and Ben Smith got railroaded by a nasty hit which knocked him out cold. The bad stings, and the good is taken with a shaving of ice.

Now that I’ve made you more depressed about watching preseason hockey, here’s what I saw:

More >

1 Bad Contract, 2 Bad Contract, 3 Bad Contract, Floor

Credit: Detroit Sports Nation

During my last appearance on the HOCKEENIGHT Puckcast, we briefly discussed the impending end of the NHL’s current Collective Bargaining Agreement following the coming season with the focus shifting mainly to the mandatory salary cap floor.

Forklift pointed out the relatively small gap between the cap ceiling ($64.3 million) and the minimum number ($48.3 million). For you math whizzes out there, that’s a $16 million difference – or the estimated amount of two high-priced studs or 3-4 second-tier players.

In the grand scheme of things, the amount separating the floor and the ceiling isn’t all that much, and I agree with Fork that forcing small-market teams to shell out dough relatively similar to those playing in high-revenue cities may, MAY (I’m emphasizing there with the all caps and the italics) do damage to those franchises.

With the ceiling and floor both rising, it has forced certain teams to take on some bad deals and overpay to simply hit the floor. For one, Dale Tallon brought to Florida Brian Campbell’s contract ($7.14 M) and signed Tomas Kopecky ($3 M), Ed Jovanovski ($4.1 M) and Tomas Fleischmann ($4.5 M) to deals which all made our acid reflux reach disheartening levels.

And yet with all that, the Panthers are barely standing on the floor. To Tallon’s defense, it was a spending spree forced upon him by the NHL’s CBA which required him to shell out these head-scratching deals.

But is that such a bad thing?

More >

Behind Enemy Lines: Previewing the Blues with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford

Rather than the standard previews of Central Division foes from an outsider’s point of view, I decided to take a different approach. Behind Enemy Lines will take a look at our divisional rivals through the eyes of those invested in the team in one way or another. Today, the series concludes with the St. Louis Blues and beat writer Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Credit: Bill Boyce, AP

Bartl: One of the main questions surrounding the Blues was the health of David Perron, and it’s now known he won’t be ready to start the regular season following his November concussion. Will that have much of an impact on the team heading into the season, or were the Blues planning as if he wouldn’t be ready to go?

Rutherford: Not having David Perron in the lineup leaves the Blues without one of their top skill players and therefore hurts them, but because he missed the final 72 games of last season and most folks weren’t really expecting him to be ready, I don’t think his absence at the start of the season will have a dramatic effect. If the Blues struggle out of the gates and Perron is still out in January, it could weigh on them moreso, but they’ve been prepared to move on without him.

More >

Behind Enemy Lines: Previewing Detroit with The Winged Wheel

Rather than the standard previews of Central Division foes from an outsider’s point of view, I decided to take a different approach. This week, Behind Enemy Lines will take a look at our divisional rivals through the eyes of those invested in the team in one way or another. Today, we look at the Detroit Red Wings with some good-natured, R-rated discussion followed by a great charity opportunity from Greg of The Winged Wheel.

Bartl: I’m going to get this out of the way quickly though it’s been discussed madly by pretty much everyone, but I’d like to know your opinion: Is Chris Osgood a Hall of Fame goaltender?

Greg: Abso-tittyfucking-lutely. (That’s me, all class right out of the gate). 3 rings. 400 wins. Hands-down the most mentally tough goaltender to step into the blue paint. The dude dominated throughout the playoffs, had a crazy-long career, and punched Patrick Roy in the mouth several times. That translates to one result: In.

Obviously, there are a good number of people who strongly believe that The Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz does not deserve a bid to the Hall. Those people are wrong. They often cite just absurd arguments. They argue that his career was unimpressive because he played behind an outstanding team. Not so coincidentally, these arguments are usually made by fans of historically shitty teams. Your favorite barely-mediocre first line-center looks a whole lot better when you write off every player to have ever played for any team who ever came close to winning anything. These buffoons also make the argument that Osgood just isn’t of the same caliber as Roy, Sawchuck, or Brodeur. That’s kind of like saying Dino Ciccerelli is not Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, or Steve Yzerman. Well… yeah. No shit. But, he’s still in the Hall.

Long story short – Ozzie belongs in the hall of fame. You don’t luck your way into 400 wins. Period.

More >

Bartl on the HOCKEENIGHT Puckcast

Last night, I had the pleasure of making another appearance on the PUCKCAST with The Writer Known as Forklift and his partner in crime, CT. We discussed many things – CBA, realignment, Marcus Kruger, Ben Smith’s muscles, non-hockey topics – but mainly how much I hate America, given my Fox News appearance.

Enjoy the hour-plus banter and be less productive at work by listening through.