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

Get on your Hossa

Yep, That Actually Happened: Hossa, Emery Help Blackhawks Steal 2 Points From Flames

Get on your Hossa

Firstly, I’d like to thank the fellas over at Hockee Night – Forklift, CT and Morph – for putting together an awesome fundraiser over at Galway Bay last night. Not only are they fun to drink and watch hockey with, they’re also fantastic people.

And because I did my share of drinking – I mean, they would have been insulted if I didn’t get my money’s worth – this probably will be the shortest recap in this site’s history.

More >

Credit: Rich Lam, Getty Images

Moving On: ‘Hawks Drop Shootout in Vancouver, Head to Calgary

Credit: Rich Lam, Getty Images

Credit: Rich Lam, Getty Images

Few things are more frustrating than watching the Blackhawks struggle to get one past Roberto Luongo, but such was the case last night.

On the bright side, the one that did get past him – Patrick Kane’s tally off a beautiful feed from Andrew Shaw in the third period – gave the ‘Hawks another standings point. Two straight shootout losses won’t blow anyone’s skirt up after six straight wins, but how many of you would complain if you were told the Blackhawks would be 6-0-2 after their first eight games?

Tonight, it’s onto Calgary to try and ended a four-game losing streak at the Saddledome and capture two points with Ray Emery in net. But first, some thoughts from Friday night’s game…

More >

Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn, USA TODAY

Point Taken: Shootout Boxing with Wild (3) and Blackhawks (2)

Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn, USA TODAY

Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn, USA TODAY

For the 84th consecutive season, the Chicago Blackhawks will not go undefeated. Darn.

While the shootout loss is disappointing, the all-important standings point – they’ve earned 13 out of a possible 14 – came with it. And on top of it, the ‘Hawks had a very solid all-around effort to begin a six-game road trip – at the end of which they’ll have already played nearly half of their road games for the entire season.

Lots of good in this one. The ‘Hawks made it clear they were going to pressure Josh Harding and the Minnesota defense from the get-go, and it led to a goal from Andrew Shaw that was made possible by Bryan Bickell’s rush to the net.

Jonathan Toews then caught Harding five-hole from the left wing, forcing Niklas Backstrom into action early.

The penalty kill was stellar again, snuffing out another 3-on-5 disadvantage and four short-handed situations in all, including one to end the third period to preserve the point. Oh, and Corey Crawford. He made three saves before the ‘Hawks lost Matt Cullen on the game’s first goal and can’t be blamed for raging douchebag Cal Clutterbuck’s redirection in the second period.

Then there was this save on the 5-on-3:

While the ‘Hawks obviously controlled possession for most of the final two periods – the Wild had only two shots in the third – most of their shots weren’t off quality chances. The aggressiveness and bull-rushing of the net we saw early on faded and Backstrom wasn’t challenged to make many tough saves.

Though Patrick Sharp hit the crossbar in regulation and again in the shootout, I don’t think he played his best game. He seemed a step slow all night, and he was flat-footed when Mikko Koivu, I believe, skated into the zone right past Sharp, forcing him to take what could have been a costly penalty at the end of the third.

And Dave Bolland lost 14 of 20 faceoffs. Holy shitball does that need to stop, and fast. That’s way too many possessions behind given up for the second line.

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

More >

Jimmy holds grudges.

Like a Broken Record: Overtime Boxing with Blackhawks (2) and Red Wings (1)

Yep, that's Jimmy's water. (Credit: Scott Strazzante/Chicago Tribune)

Yep, that’s Jimmy’s water. (Credit: Scott Strazzante/Chicago Tribune)

Never have the Blackhawks won their first six games. And there’s little better than watching them set that franchise record by beating hated Detroit – in overtime, no less.

Nick Leddy’s tally in OT was the difference in a 2-1 victory that seemed far-fetched given the way the ice was tilted for most of the contest. Luckily Corey Crawford was on our side.

Crawford and some stellar penalty killing helped snuff out Detroit’s six power plays, which including a 5-on-3 in the second period. Between Michael Frolik being extremely active on the kill, Crow making some tough saves and the Wings shooting themselves in the foot, Detroit’s in ability to get more than one through on numerous chances proved to be the difference.

Other stuff…

– This is the shit part of only playing Western Conference foes in a shortened season: Every OT game hands over a point that could prove to be crucial in the division race and battle for playoff seeding. With Detroit unable to find its scoring touch, a regulation victory was there for the taking, but …

– … they looked completely gassed in the third period on the end of a back-to-back. That’s understandable, especially given they played most of the second period shorthanded. Though it’s frustrating to give up a point to the Red Wings, the flip side of that is the ‘Hawks got two points when they didn’t appear they’d even snatch one at times.

– I think I’ve figured out why Pavel Datsyuk is so annoying. It’s because he doesn’t do anything to annoy me except consistently play well against my favorite team while wearing that uniform. That’s it. Nothing else. He’s one of the best players in the world, does it with class and has a game I wished he had played all these years wearing the Indian head. When he went 1-on-4 through the ‘Hawks with sick puck-handling before nearly beating Crawford with a backhand, I about shit myself.

– Speaking of Crawford, his second-period performance was fantastic. To face a 3 on 5 and five other short-handed situations on the end of a back-to-back and help turn them all away can’t be discounted, even if he didn’t even see the third-period goal that slipped through five-hole. Again I’ll ask: What more do you want from him at this point?

– Now comes a six-game road trip, beginning with new-look Minnesota on Wednesday. We’ll be back to preview that journey, which includes paying a visit to those assholes in Vancouver on Friday and the Feb. 5 tilt with undefeated San Jose.

Now for another edition of Boxing. Right-click on the image and click view to enlarge…

More >

Credit: USA Today

Better Late than Never: Overtime Boxing with Blackhawks (3) and Stars (2)

Credit: USA Today

Credit: USA Today

Through four games, the Blackhawks have won in seemingly every way possible.

They’ve dominated (Kings), simply outscored the opposition in a game with shoddy goaltending (Coyotes), jumped out to a big lead and held on for dear life (Blues) and battled back from a multiple-goal deficit – the latter being a 3-2 overtime win over Dallas on Thursday night.

Patrick Kane, who continues to play out of his mind, made a beautiful backhand pass to a waiting Marian Hossa for the winner to complete the comeback from two goals down.

The ‘Hawks have won their first four for the first time since the 1973-74 season and aren’t showing any signs of slowing down. I saw a tweet during the game that the Blackhawks were showing signs of fatigue due to the condensed schedule, and I don’t believe that’s true for a minute.

Sure, Michal Rozsival farted away a puck in his own zone that led to an easy goal that put the ‘Hawks behind 2-0, and Patrick Sharp wasn’t exactly thinking straight when he blindly fired the puck to center ice that led to a late penalty that could’ve cost the ‘Hawks the game. But tired? I saw jump all night.

And how good were the special teams? The Blackhawks went 3 for 7 with the man advantage, marking the first time they’ve scored three power-play goals since going 4 for 9 in a 4-2 win over Calgary on Dec. 5, 2010.

We saw very little standing around and plenty of puck movement, as evidenced by Sharp’s feed to Jonathan Toews for the equalizer in the third, followed by the Kane-to-Hossa masterpiece.

Other stuff…

Corey Crawford was taking a beating on social media after allowing that first goal, and then again after Duncan Keith saved his ass at the end of the second period. While there aren’t many excuses for letting that puck trickle through his legs on the second instance, Crawford deserves credit for making the initial stop with a man bearing down on him full speed on a breakaway. He stopped a penalty shot and made a key save on a redirected puck in OT with the ‘Hawks a man down. Not sure what else everyone is expecting from the man.

– Speaking of Keith, he played a fabulous game tonight and has been extremely solid through four. Brent Seabrook on the other hand? He’s just not looking very sharp yet. The penalty shot was his fault after he took his eye off the puck and let it slip under his stick.

Nick Leddy is playing good hockey, and he would’ve gotten much more praise tonight had Hossa been able to beat Kari Lehtonen – who stood on his head most of the night – off Leddy’s great feed. Leddy’s one-man charge into the zone on the power play was a thing of beauty, and his pass to Hossa was a great find. More of this, please.

Onto Boxing. Click to enlarge…

Boxing1-24Hawks-3-Stars-2-Full

Credit: Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune

The Lockout-Shortened Sprint: Looking Back at the NHL Through 48 Last Season

Credit: Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune

Credit: Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune

It’s not rocket surgery. Getting off to a good start in a season shortened because of children’s antics is paramount. And after three games, the Blackhawks have done what’s necessary.

Sweep a back-to-back against the defending Stanley Cup champions and the team that knocked them out of the playoffs? Check.

Dominate the majority of a home-opener versus an annoying division rival? Check.

It’s difficult to say “There’s a long way to go” when we’re already at the 45-game mark. And if you did, it’s really only half-true anyway. While 45 games means there’s plenty of time for the standings to shift, it also means there’s little margin for error if a team isn’t on pace with the rest of the conference’s top eight from the get-go.

Here’s a look at the 2011-12 playoff picture after each team played 48 games:

West

*Detroit – 32-15-1 – 65
*Vancouver – 29-15-4 – 62
*San Jose – 28-14-6 – 62
St. Louis – 29-13-6 – 64
Chicago – 29-13-6 – 64
Nashville – 28-16-4 – 60
Los Angeles – 23-15-10 – 56
Minnesota – 23-18-7 – 53
________________________________

Colorado – 25-21-2 – 52
Dallas – 25-21-2 – 52
Calgary – 22-20-6 – 50
Phoenix – 21-19-8 – 50
Anaheim – 18-23-7 – 43
Edmonton – 18-26-4 – 40
Columbus – 13-29-6 – 32

East

*Rangers – 31-12-5 – 67
*Boston – 32-14-2 – 66
*Washington – 26-19-3 – 55
Philadelphia – 29-14-5 – 63
Pittsburgh – 27-17-4 – 58
Ottawa – 26-16-6 – 58
New Jersey – 26-19-3 – 55
Florida – 22-15-11 – 55
______________________________

Toronto – 24-19-5 – 53
Winnipeg – 22-20-6 – 50
Tampa Bay – 21-23-4 – 46
Montreal – 18-21-9 – 45
Islanders – 19-22-7 – 45
Buffalo – 19-24-5 – 43
Carolina – 16-24-8 – 40

Take a quick look at the final standings. While 15 of the 16 playoff teams remained the same (Phoenix replaced Minnesota, we’ll get to that in a minute), the playoff matchups were much different.

If last season ended after 48 games, Detroit would have ended up with home-ice advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs, starting with a Minnesota team in the midst of what would turn out to be a horrible collapse.

Instead, Detroit ended up as the No. 5 seed and went on the road to start its series with Nashville, which it lost in six games. Rather than Minnesota parlaying its hot start into a playoff berth, it fell completely apart and ended up 12th in the conference.

On the other end of the spectrum, Phoenix would have been headed home after a rough 48 – three games before it began an 11-0-1 tear that propelled it back into contention. The Coyotes wound up winning the Pacific and making the franchise’s first appearance in the conference finals.

Save for Philadelphia-Pittsburgh, each first-round playoff matchup would have been different in both conferences in a shortened season.

Simply put, a quick start leaves less time to blow it (Minnesota). And if you struggle off the bat, there’s less time to make an epic run and recover (Phoenix). It’s not groundbreaking, but important to note nonetheless.

If last season ended after 48, we wouldn’t have had to endure that shitty nine-game losing streak that began with Game 49 and contributed to the Blackhawks dropping to the No. 6 seed to face a red-hot division winner in the first round.

It’s not so unfathomable to be discussing how their 3-0-0 start to this season is a solid move toward a nice playoff standing by shortened-season’s end. Yes, there’s plenty of time left and a bitch of a six-game road trip upcoming.

Still, there’s no reason to dismiss how far the Hawks’ fast start can take them in the grand scheme of things. But if the ‘Hawks fart away nine games again with little time to recover, it could be the difference in hosting the opening playoff game to watching the postseason on their expensive couches.

Credit: Chris Swede, Chicago Tribune

Eat Crow: Home-Opener Boxing with Blackhawks (3) and Blues (2)

Credit: Chris Swede, Chicago Tribune

Credit: Chris Swede, Chicago Tribune

First things’s first: I can’t begin to explain how excited I am to be doing Boxing again. Sitting in Section 326, Row 12, Seat 9 sporting my Duncan Keith No. 3 Michigan State sweater made me forget about everything that transpired over the last six months. It felt great to be back watching hockey at the United Center, and I can’t wait to get back there Sunday.

As for the game, the Blackhawks’ onslaught of first-period odd-man rushes yielded only a single goal when Patrick Kane put a sweet move on Brian Elliott to complete a 3-on-0 as the Blues napped after a turnover. Somehow, after seemingly dominating the majority of the period, the ‘Hawks were outshot 9-7 and headed into the second period short a man after Marian Hossa took a tripping penalty with less than 20 seconds left.

Goals from Brent Seabrook in the second (originally credited to Keith) and Viktor Stalberg in the third were enough to hold off St. Louis, which made things interesting with a pair of goals in the final period.

Other things…

The Blackhawks are off to a 3-0-0 start, which would seem pretty arbitrary during an 82-game season. With this campaign already being at the 45-game mark, earning six quick points could go a long way. And if you told me they’d be unbeaten after facing Los Angeles, Phoenix and St. Louis to open the season, I would have asked who replaced your sanity with the optimism of Richard Simmons.

So, it looks like the Kane trade talk can pipe down for, like, another couple days, eh?

Corey Crawford was damn good. He made the saves he was expected to make, and then plenty more. He snuffed out St. Louis’ comeback attempt when the momentum shifted and played big during the Blues’ final burst to end the game. There shouldn’t be any question that Crawford gets the start Thursday in Dallas.

Brandon Saad shook off a slow start and questionable decision-making to have a second solid game. He seemed very timid in the first period but by the third he was very aggressive getting into the Blues’ zone.

I know I need to accept that Joel Quenneville will continue to dress someone for the sole purpose of him playing roughly five meaningless minutes, but why Brandon Bollig deserves to wear an NHL sweater at this point is beyond me. I mean Christ, even the Blues scratched Ryan Reaves.

Let’s get to the season’s first Boxing, including my channeling into the mind of Jonathan Toews. There’s one image for the summary, another for the box score. Click on each to enlarge….

Boxing1-22Hawks-3-Blues-2Sum

Boxing1-22Hawks-3-Blues-2Box

Rink Empty

Opening Night – TBD

Don’t be alarmed when you turn on the NBC Sports Network tonight at 6 p.m. CST and find Brian Schactman hosting CNBC Sports Biz: Game On!That’s your regularly scheduled programming, thanks to this pissing contest between the NHL and NHLPA.

Rinks in Montreal, Philadelphia, Calgary and Colorado will be empty tonight rather than hosting Opening Night, which is now simply referred to as Lockout: Day 25. The two sides met Wednesday for five hours, and they’re apparently meeting again today. An end to the lockout, though, seems to be nowhere in sight.

From Steve Fehr, special counsel to his brother, Donald:

“I think we’re making progress in a number of the areas that were discussed, which include health and safety, drug testing issues, medical care. They were good discussions. It’s a shame that they are going on in the midst of a lockout when we could be doing it while we’re playing, or we could’ve been doing it a month ago or two months ago.”

Yes, thank you for reminding us how neither side apparently consisting of whining 6-year-olds couldn’t sit down and talk like adults much earlier.

From Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly:

“We had no discussion of the major economic issues or system issues, so that continues to be a disappointment from our perspective.”

This coming from someone representing the owners, who could continue getting their precious revenue by hosting games while negotiating. But no, let’s just shut the whole damn league down. That’ll help you make money, seeing as you’ve already bitched about losing $100 million just from wiping out the preseason.

Two weeks worth of canceled regular-season games begins accumulating tonight, eventually amounting to 82 by Oct. 24. Three previously booked nights at the United Center will now feature an empty arena and five total Blackhawks games will be sucked into the lockout’s black hole.

Tonight is the night the lockout becomes real, and not just some disagreement we thought would’ve been worked out months before it could affect us.

We’re mere days away from more games being wiped off the schedule, and my optimism for a resolution has all but disappeared.

Barnaby

One on One with Former ESPN Analyst and One-Time Blackhawk Matthew Barnaby

I was able to get in touch with former ESPN analyst and Blackhawk Matthew Barnaby, who signed with the ‘Hawks during the dark days prior to the 2004-05 lockout. During his one season with the ‘Hawks he played with youngsters Patrick Sharp, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith.

Barnaby addresses his opinions on the current lockout, a possible reason why not everyone has signed to play overseas during the work stoppage and his time spent playing with some current ‘Hawks.

Bartl: You saw three work stoppages during your playing days – a short strike in 1992, the three-month lockout in 1994-95 and The Wipe Out of 2004-05. Viewing this one from the outside, what is it going to take for the NHL and NHLPA to come to an agreement for there to be hockey this season? How long is this going to last, in your opinion?

Barnaby: I was drafted in 1992, so i didn’t pay much attention to it because it didn’t affect me. I was going back to junior. As for 94-95, I got sent to the minors and I can say it was probably a good experience for me to play in the minors, but was certainly happy when it ended to really start my NHL career. I went down to Rochester (AHL affiliate of Buffalo) with a great attitude, played hard. I really didn’t understand much of the economics at that time. In 2004 I know Bob Goodenow didn’t have the pulse of the union. That deal could have been done a lot earlier. It’s too bad because everyone suffered. The differences now really are how much is each side going to get of the $3.3 billion pie. It will take concessions on both sides to get a deal done. I really think this should be the easiest one to do. I say we see hockey in November.

Bartl: What makes this lockout different/similar to the previous stoppages?

Barnaby: The difference of this lockout compared to 2004 is they are fighting over the money. Last one they were battling over different philosophies and a different system. Cap or no cap? That’s a huge philosophical difference. Now it’s about how much of that pie each deserves.

Bartl: There’s been some discussion regarding the public-relations battle being waged between the sides. Does either side have the upper hand at this point, or aren’t there any true winners here?

Barnaby: Both sides try and play to the public to try and get support and force the other side into doing a deal. Negotiations are about leverage. The owners hold the most leverage as they have more money and time. The players have a small window of opportunity to make their money and will never get this money back. Owners know it and also know that negotiations don’t start until checks are lost. In the end there are no winners but I do feel the public is more on the players’ side as opposed to the owners’ in 2004.

Bartl: In the end, which side ends up conceding the most?

Barnaby: The players. They are not going to roll over like we did in ’04. This will be different because they have trust in Fehr and also know what they gave up in ’04. Anything with a salary rollback I don’t think gets a deal done. I think if the revenue sharing is closer to 50-50 then a deal is done. Players are the ones giving back, it’s just how much.

Bartl: What factors do players consider during a lockout in determining whether they play abroad, train back home, etc.?

Barnaby: I had my bags packed in ’04 and ready to go to Sweden. My son Matthew grabbed it as I left for the airport and begged me not to go. That was the end of it. I stayed and waited it out. Trained 5 days a week at the start, then 4, then 3. Then stopped skating once the season was cancelled. If I had to do it over I would have went to Europe because I really felt it hurt my career. I think every player that has the opportunity should take advantage. You aren’t going against your union, but trying to stay in shape and keep that competitive edge.

Bartl: You were with the Blackhawks in 2005-06 following the last lockout and played with a young Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp. Did you see the potential in those guys? Were you surprised the ‘Hawks made such a quick turnaround from 2006 to making the Western Conference finals in 2009, then winning the Stanley Cup the following year?

Barnaby: No, i wasn’t (surprised). I remember telling Dale Tallon when we got Sharpie, ‘Wow how did you steal this guy?’ Highway robbery for Matt Ellison i believe (no offense Matt) .Dunc and Seabs I knew were going to be stars. I knew we had the foundation for a great team and knew Toews was coming into the fold. I was really upset when I got bought out   because I knew the future was very bright once a few changes were made and they were. Great kids, great city, great fans and a deserved Stanley Cup.

We came back after 1994-95, and again after 2004-05. We'll be back after this one, too.

No Hockey League

We came back after 1994-95, and again after 2004-05. We’ll be back after this one, too.

There’s been a bit of a hiatus on the site as we focused on our personal lives in the offseason. Leave it to us to start writing when the league is locked out.

I simply can’t be angry. I’ve tried, honestly. I tried to raise my voice and attempted to flail my arms around like a 70-year-old Italian woman telling a story. I even clenched my teeth once when I’d finally heard enough of about the yet-to-be-clearly-defined “hockey-related revenue.”

None of it takes. I’m just trying to cover up my sadness and disappointment that the NHL has been taken away from me, from us. My subconscious knows it.

The main problem? I don’t know where to direct my anger, and that simply depresses me. The owners, the players, Donald Fehr, Gary Bettman. They’re all guilty. Every last one of them. How do I pick a side when they’re all arguing over my money? And that’s exactly what they’re arguing over – our money, the almighty dollar.

The money we invested into attending games, buying merchandise and whatever else to help make the fourth of four major sports in America – where 23 of the 30 teams call home and where the last 18 Stanley Cup champs reside – grow by billions of dollars over the course of the last Collective Bargaining Agreement.

We watched the NFL lose a traditional offseason and the NBA cancel a chunk of its campaign over money, and we hoped the NHL would be better than that, recognizing it’s place among the sports food chain and knowing the risk of losing the casual fan that’s on their way to becoming knowledgeable because of growing interest.

We’re already living in a world where “record growth” is equivalent to “the Stanley Cup Final having less viewers than “Swamp People.” Take that as you wish – even though I personally don’t care – but less fans means less money for everyone.

More >