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

Norval Nelson, 92, to be honored during Game 6 National Anthem

D-Day veteran Norval Nelson, 92, will be honored during the National Athem on Sunday at the United Center prior to Game 6. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Ciepley)

Taking part in the National Anthem tradition Sunday at the United Center will be a bit more special for me after receiving a message from loyal reader Jennifer Ciepley.

Mr. Norval Nelson, one of the last surviving U.S. Navy divers from the D-Day invasion of Nazi-occupied France on June 6, 1944, will be next to Anthem singer Jim Cornelison while more than 20,000 fans at the United Center celebrate the tradition.

Mr. Nelson, 92, is the grandfather of Jennifer’s husband.

“He really is an amazing man and at 92, still is bright and quick to smile and he loves this country,” Jennifer said. “Can you imagine the changes this man has seen in his lifetime?”

Mr. Nelson was 26 years old when he and 199 other divers — or “frogmen” as they were called — crossed the English Channel on D-Day. Though suffering five combat injuries in six days, he was one of only 17 divers to survived the invasion. Nelson is one of only four divers still alive today.

Hungry and seemingly terribly injured, Mr. Nelson said, “I asked God, ‘Please let me die.'”

Mr. Nelson was one of 199 members of Navy Combat Demolition Force O, which had the duty of blowing up obstacles the Germans put on the beach to prevent landings of allied forces. The naval demolition units were precursors of the Navy SEALs.

Westminster Christian High School in Elgin raised money through its basketball team’s Free Throws for Heroes movement to send Mr. Nelson to Fort Pierce in Florida, where he trained before the war and always wanted to visit.

Upon his arrival, he was honored with a celebration.

The Chicago Blackhawks will help provide Mr. Nelson with an experience he and his family likely will never forget, as the United Center cheers during the National Anthem prior to Game 6.

Hopefully the Blackhawks give Mr. Nelson something to cheer about as well.

Thanks again to Jennifer Ciepley for providing the photo and information

5-OH!: We’ll-See-You-in-Chicago Boxing with Blackhawks/Canucks

"All right, first one to get the whole stick up his ass gets the window seat on the way back to Chicago." (Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

And just like that, it’s a series.

Go ahead, lie to me. Tell me you saw this coming. I just may be gullible enough right now to believe you.

Thursday night’s 5-0 bitch-slapping of the Canucks in Vancouver was about as beautiful of a performance as … well, as Tuesday night’s. The back-to-back wet farts by Roberto Luongo with his team a single victory away from eliminating its arch rivals is a classic occurrence from a guy who can’t seem to keep himself composed.

Luongo took off his “Oh Shit” face long enough during interviews Tuesday night and Wednesday to tell everyone how calm he was, how he was going to leave the 6 GA branded on his ass in his rear-view mirror. Then he came out Thursday looking like an AHL castoff. He would have had a better chance stopping pucks if he stood up his tube of L.A. Looks hair gel in the crease.

Much like we were asking where the Blackhawks were the first three games of the series, Canucks fans have to be wondering where the living hell the composed, fluid, throat-grabbing Canucks have disappeared to during the last two. It’s been a meltdown of epic proportions, resorting back to being thugs in the face of adversity.

Alain Vingeault looked up to the scoreboard so damn often I simply thought he slept funny and his neck was stuck. It ain’t gonna change, buddy. You’re still getting your ass kicked. And on top of that, he couldn’t keep his players composed.

Notorious assholes Kevin Bieksa and Alexander Edler decided to forget they were playing hockey in order to get chippy, and things just got worse for the Canucks. Once again, it was phenominal to see. I wrote over and over again this Vancouver team was different from the past two postseasons. Apparently I was wrong. Get this team down, and they fold up quicker than one of those slap braclets many of you are too young to remember.

When Vancouver wins this series (keeping with tradition, so you can breathe now), we’ll at the very least be able to look back at these performances and say, “OK, at least we made a valiant effort to defend the Stanley Cup.

But that flight to Chicago for Game 6 – can you believe it; Game Fucking 6?! – for the Canucks will be so tight they may crumble with a minor bout of turbulence. There may not be as much laughter and tomfoolery as there was on the trek between Game 2 and Game 3.

It’s back to Chicago and the raucous United Center for a game I never thought would come. It seems a while ago I walked past Canucks fans holding brooms heading into the UC from Game 4. Now I hope the ‘Hawks bring me a step closer to shoving them directly up their asses.

A few thoughts before Boxing …

How many of you thought the ‘Hawks were completely screwed after Brian Campbell took that penalty 16 seconds into the game? (/Bartl raises his hand)

Duncan Keith was an ass hair away from a hat trick, as Patrick Kane nipped the puck on past Luongo to put the ‘Hawks ahead 3-0

Although the Blackhawks were 1 for 273 on breakaways Thursday, Marian Hossa made the one look damn sexy. Luongo looked like he was trying to figure out his ride home while Hossa skated in.

How do Canucks fans decide which Sedin jersey to buy? “I’m just gonna get the one for the guy who’s better loo… no, they both look the same. OK, I’ll get the one of the guy who’s got the most career poi… well, that’s pretty much the same, too. Hmm, how about I get the one of the guy who has the least amount of leadersh… well, that’s pretty damn similar, too. Just give me the one of the guy with red ha… damn it, they both have red hair. All right, give me the one of the biggest headcase … (Clerk says) Here’s your Luongo jersey, sir.”

Edler’s elbow to Brouwer was such a bush-league play that he should get a suspension purely based off the fact that he’s a gigantic piece of shit.

Oh, and Corey Crawford had a 36-save shutout. Boo-ya-ka-sha!

OK I’m done. Here’s Boxing:

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Seabrook travels; Luongo staying calm; Canucks brass gets earful

 

Credit: Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune

Just stopping by quick to throw out a couple storylines heading into tomorrow’s Game 5 in Vancouver …

Despite suffering a concussion in Game 3 from Raffi Torres’ horrendous hit, Brent Seabrook will travel with the Blackhawks to Vancouver and could play in Game 5, according to Coach Q.

I’m not sure how I feel about this, given the recent history of players hitting the ice too quickly after a concussion. See: Crosby, Sidney. And especially since the Blackhawks just gave Seabrook a big-money extension. It was clear Seabrook was dazed and skating off balance when he came back on the ice for his next shift. He then sat out the rest of the game. That means there’s a problem, and it probably hasn’t fixed itself in four days.

Even putting that aside and looking at it from a must-win point of view, Seabrook sat out the Game 4 rout. That doesn’t mean I feel Seabrook is useless and the Blackhawks can win without him again, but why risk the chance of long-term injury when it doesn’t seem completey necessary? Of course, we said that about Dave Bolland and then saw what happened.

It can go either way, but I would rather have Seabrook sit and see how he feels for a potential Game 6.

CLICK THE JUMP FOR MORE NOTES

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Night of the Living Dead: It’s-Not-Over-Yet Boxing with ‘Hawks/Canucks

"You can say fuck, shit, piss. Whatever you want." (Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune)

If that was the last time we see the Blackhawks on the United Center ice this season, what a way to go out.

Tuesday night’s 7-2 demolishing of Vancouver in Game 4 might have been the most fun I’ve had watching something I couldn’t muster the excitement for all day. For one night – and hopefully not the only night – the ‘Hawks took it too their opponent in a fashion which we’ve all been dying to see.

And it came without Brent Seabrook, who sat out due to the douchebaggery of one Raffi Torres.

Tuesday, the Canucks were the ones missing passes, not staying in position and chasing the entire game. Vancouver was out of its game, and it was extremely pleasant to witness.

Oh, so that Dave Bolland guy came back. Yeah, it took him all of two periods to become the Blackhawks’ leading scorer in the playoffs. His line completely hampered the Sedin Twins defensively, then took it the Canucks offensively as him, Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik ended up a plus-4.

All three scored a goal, and Bolland and Frolik combined on a couple superb plays. Bolland’s goal was all Frolik’s doing, as he skated into the zone and forced the turnover Bolland cleaned up. Bolland then took the hit to make a beautiful pass, springing Frolik for the breakaway and de-pantsing of Roberto Luongo.

From there, Vancouver did exactly what they’ve been avoiding all series and decided to get chippy rather than play hockey. It’s what we’ve seen the past two postseasons from the Canucks, and it’s amazing how quickly they can get back to their bad habits when the ‘Hawks took it to them. Will it carry over to Game 5? Who knows. But despite holding a 3-1 series lead, it sure seems they were so rattled they couldn’t control their emotions on the ice.

From a team we’ve seen so poised through the first three games, it was shocking Vancouver didn’t just take its beating and stayed within themselves. Instead, the Canucks may have given the Blackhawks even more momentum heading to Vancouver. We’ll see if that’s true or not.

And how nice was it to finally get to Luongo. I respect the hell out of him and think he’s an all-world goaltender, but damn to see that guy skating off the ice with his tail between his legs is an awesome site – more because of what it did for the Blackhawks and the fans, especially.

We’ll see if any of the Canucks fans who have been chiming in on the site use the strained back muscle or whatever it was as an excuse, but if it was that bad then he should have sat. Again, take your beating and move onto Game 5 rather than risk it. Instead, he came out, got lit up, then hit bench with a 6 tattooed on him.

I’m not going to sit here and write the Blackhawks are going to come back and win this series. I still don’t believe it will happen. But a win in Game 5 will get me – and Canucks fans alike – thinking heavily about it.

Tuesday was the Night of the Living Dead. The Blackhawks are staggering, but they’re not gonna give it up that easy.

I’ll just go ahead and discuss the rest in Boxing. Enjoy – even if you’re a Canucks fan.

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No Suspension for Torres; Toews Downplays Canucks’ Dominance

 

Word came out today that Vancouver Canucks’ notorious jackass Raffi Torres will not be suspended for his crushing hit on Brent Seabrook in Game 3 on Sunday. And before any of the Canucks fans who have been chiming in on this site begin foaming at the mouth, read what one of your own had to say about Torres and his hit.

Seabrook sounded off on Torres, saying the hit deserved a suspension. Ignoring the fact Seabrook is obviously biased toward the decision being the recipient of the hit, remember that Torres just recently came off a suspension for a cheap shot on Oilers’ rookie Jordan Eberle.

In a brief Twitter discussion I had today with the The Globe and Mail’s  James Mirtle, he had this to offer regarding the NHL and their policies toward these types of hits:

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Dim the Lights: Down 0-3 Boxing with Blackhawks/Canucks

Credit: Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune

I know what you optimists are thinking, and you can stop right now. The Blackhawks are not the 2010 Flyers, and these Canucks are not the Boston Bruins. It ain’t gonna happen.

Even when the ‘Hawks were at their best in this series, it wasn’t enough. Vancouver took advantage of the few opportunities they were given to beat the Blackhawks 3-2 and pull within one victory of ending their rivals’ season.

This series may not end Tuesday, but it likely will be the last time you see the Blackhawks play at the United Center this season. Pardon the utter lack of faith, though I cannot fathom how you could disagree. The Canucks didn’t play their best game, and they still beat the Blackhawks when they played, well, a lot better than they had. It’s tough to argue with that.

A few thoughts before Boxing …

I’d first like to throw out a shit sandwich to anyone who believed dressing John Scott was a good idea. A dipshit penalty, one horrendous decision by Coach Q to put him out for nearly an entire power play, and 5:20 of ice time later, Scott sat the bench for the rest of the game. That should be the last time we see Scott in an Indian-head sweater.

Although the Blackhawks didn’t convert on 1:17 of 5-on-3, I wouldn’t say they pissed that time away. Roberto Luongo made two terrific saves on Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane at the doorstep to snuff out the Blackhawks’ attack. Though it would have been nice to go up two goals at that point and create some sort of cushion, it’s probably the best the power play looked in the series aside from …

Duncan Keith scoring off the draw five seconds into the first power play of the night. It marked the Blackhawks’ first lead of the series and last of the night, which makes me want to cause physical harm to myself.

Even though both ‘Hawks goals came on the power play, they finished 2 for 7 and couldn’t take advantage of Vancouver consistently taking penalties.

We all wondered where the Blackhawks’ “stars” were the previous two games. Keith scored, Toews had two assists and Kane added another. Marian Hossa? Well…

Here’s your Boxing:

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Slipping Away: Game 2 Boxing with Blackhawks/Canucks

Credit: Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune

The Blackhawks are doing just enough to piss off everyone. There’s hope, then it’s ripped away. And with the glimmer flickering its last gasps, it’s all over.

Vancouver 2, Blackhawks 0. The way things have gone, I implore you to find a reason it will change on home ice.

The obvious fact: The Canucks are flat out better than the Blackhawks. That wasn’t a state secret coming into this series. The not-so-obvious fact? Vancouver has put together a fantastic gameplan to slow down the Blackhawks and take away their speed. The Canucks have controlled the neutral zone, taking away the ‘Hawks’ ability to skate into the zone with much threat for most of the series.

Vancouver’s aggressive forecheck has done the ‘Hawks in on numerous occasions, forcing the Blackhawks into turnovers and rushing the decision-making while keeping the ‘Hawks’ speed at bay. On top of that, notice how the Canucks clear the puck from their zone. It’s flipped into the air into the center of the ice, avoiding icing and making the Blackhawks chase. More often than not, the puck is not rung around or banged off the side boards to simply clear the line.

The puck floats, bounces harmlessly into the Blackhawks’ zone waiting for a defenseman to finally get his stick on it. This time is allowing the Canucks forwards and defensemen slip into the neutral zone and set up. This might as well be 1989, because the Blackhawks haven’t been able to complete a two-line pass with any sort of efficiency. The ‘Hawks are being shut down and taken out of their game.

And that’s the reason the fourth line came up with all three goals Friday night. The ‘Hawks skilled players are being neutralized by Vancouver, and that’s the reason you’re not seeing Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, etc., do anything of substance in this series. If the Canucks are allowing goals to only the fourth line – which sees limited minutes  – against their bottom six, Vancouver seems to feel its in good shape. And its the correct gamplan, seeing as the Canucks hold a 2-0 advantage heading to Chicago.

Not to take anything away from Ben Smith, who played an outstanding game. The same goes for Viktor Stalberg, who not only scored but after 84 games decided it was time to be a bit physical. Kane looks scared shitless, and only for the last six minutes of the game decided to fight through checks. Toews? Hossa? Sharp? Coach Q needs to watch some tape and figure out how to get these guys in position to score against Vancouver’s aggressive – yet very skilled – play.

Enough can’t be said about Corey Crawford. He is facing the Dustin Byfuglien treatment the Blackhawks laid on Roberto Luongo the last two postseasons. The Canucks are parking people in front of the net and disrupting Crawford’s line of site through the first two games. But he stoned the Sedins on a 2 on 0 and faced enough odd-man rushes to make my farts seem pleasant, yet stood tall and kept the ‘Hawks in the game the best he could.

The rushes came from the ‘Hawks using their defenseman to pinch more frequently and carry the puck into the zone as often as possible in order to put some sort of pressure on Luongo. Problem was, it didn’t work. Vancouver broke free for numerous scoring chances, and luckily they took 400 offsides penalties or this game might have ended 10-3.

Friday’s game was lost in the second period. Sharp’s retaliation trip led to Vancouver’s power-play goal in the first minute, then a deflection goal with 13 seconds remaining took away the momentum after Smith pulled Chicago to within one.

There’s a whole ton of shit that needs to be figured out in two days, and it’s going to be a chore to actually do it. My feeling is the Blackhawks are going to need more than just the motivation of the home crowd, because the Canucks seem confident enough not to give a rat’s ass what color the jerseys are.

With all of that said, this series is far from over as much as it may seem like it. There’s still a decent amount of positives to take from these two games. If the top six show up, there’s a lot that can be done.

Onto Boxing, if you can stomach it.

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Flashback: 1982 Campbell Conference Finals, Vancouver vs. Chicago

 

Blackhawks-Canucks III may seem like a more sexy title given the renewed rivalry and Chicago’s dominance over the past two postseasons. But there was a time when the Canucks got the best of the Blackhawks, and they kept Denis Savard, Norris Trophy winner Doug Wilson and the ‘Hawks from moving onto the Stanley Cup finals.

It was the same series the Vancouver Canucks and coach Roger Neilson provided the hockey world with a memorable moment.

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Recap (and Boxing) of ‘Hawks/Canucks Regular Season Series: Twins style

This seems fitting, doesn’t it? Granted Daniel and Henrik Sedin look much more alike than Schwarzenegger and DeVito, but this seems a pretty good movie to help with the breakdown.

The Blackhawks and Canucks split four regular-season meetings with each winning once each at home and on the road. Here’s a quick snipit of team statistics from each contest.

The most glaring aspect — which Brad Ziemer of the Vancouver Sun pointed out yesterday in our Behind Enemy Lines interview — is the Blackhawks were just 1 for 20 on the power play through the four games. The Canucks went 5 for 16. Ziemer said this series could come down to special teams, and he may be right.

Much like I did during last season’s playoffs against San Jose, I’ll breakdown each regular-season game relating to a quote. This edition, we’ll rely on Twins to provide us the memorable banter. And if you were lucky enough to get Boxing after one of these games, you’ll be able to take another gander at that as well.

And ….. go.

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Behind Enemy Lines: Q&A with Vancouver Sun beat writer Brad Ziemer

Blackhawks-Canucks III begins Wednesday, with the hated rivals set to do battle once again. To gain a bit more insight into the opponent, I traded emails with Vancouver Sun beat writer, Brad Ziemer, who has done a fantastic job of covering the Canucks.

Ziemer gives us his thoughts on the the differences between previous Vancouver teams, the resurgence of Roberto Luongo, the keys to the series and his prediction.

You may not enjoy his answers.

Bartl: Everyone knows the playoff history between the Blackhawks and Canucks. They don’t like each other. However, Vancouver enters this series as the favorite while the Blackhawks are backing in with a bit of luck. What are some noticeable differences from this year’s Canucks team and the two previous teams which lost to Chicago?

Ziemer: This is a much more confident and mature Canuck team. Guys like Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows, who used to waste much of their energy trash-talking and getting involved in scrums, have for the most part stuck to hockey this season. The team is also much deeper on defence. They enter the playoffs with their top six defencemen all healthy for the first time all season.

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Wild Finish Aligns the Stars: Boxing with Playoff-Bound ‘Hawks

"And you'll still be looking up to me when this show's over." (Blackhawk Up image)

Pure disgust to utter elation in a matter of four hours.

And now, back to reality.

Sunday was a microcosm of a Blackhawks season which had people jumping off cliffs, then scaling the mountain again in hopes of reaching the top. The Red Wings came into the United Center and farted all over the Blackhawks’ playoff hopes with a 4-3 heartbreaker.

Then, the Minnesota Wild brought the Febreeze with a 5-3 win against Dallas, sending the Blackhawks to the playoffs for the third straight season.

It’s pretty much pointless to discuss the Red Wings game in detail. That was in the prior season, the regular season which doesn’t matter anymore. To piss ourselves off about the fact the ‘Hawks came into the game with everything to play for and the Wings entering the game with nothing …. wait, I just said I wasn’t going to do this.

Our dear friends – the Vancouver Canucks – await in Round 1. Dustin Byfuglien’s fat ass won’t be around to wave in Roberto Luongo’s face again this year. And if you’re happy to see the Canucks simply based off the fact the ‘Hawks have won two straight playoff series against them, dig deeper. These are two very different teams. Let’s just hope Luongo is still the same postseason goaltender.

Wednesday at 9 p.m. CST, it’s on. Hopefully the Sedin Sisters just keep spooning each other and miss puck drop because they got caught up watching Junior while attempting to make the plot come to real life.

You can check the schedule here for the first-round series, and we’ll be back each day with a more detailed breakdown of the series.

Until then, here’s a very special edition of Boxing detailing the only thing that matters… More >

Waiting Game: Blackhawks’ playoff fate rests in hands of Minnesota Wild

Bend over, boys. (Chicago Tribune)

Here we go. It’s Dallas vs. Minnesota to save an erratic and inconsistent regular season. Dallas wins in regulation, the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks will be watching the playoffs from their couches.

4-3, Detroit. Goddamnit.

In roughly three hours from the time of writing this, the Blackhawks will know whether or not they’ll have a chance to defend their Stanley Cup. It’s absolutely unbelievable, if you ask me, that it’s come down to this.

And since I’m a nobody, how about we ask Jonathan Toews.

“It’s so frustrating it has come down to this. I’m pretty much speechless. When it’s the culmination of an 82-game season and you’re sitting here in this situation, after working so hard for such a long season, and with the group that we have, it’s unreal to be here. The fact that we’re completely at another team’s mercy right now. … I can’t believe it.”

I’ll leave you with my column from The Committed Indian, which was sold outside by Second City Hockey’s Sam Fels before the loss to the Red Wings.

What a difference a year makes, eh?

Sam gave me this space for the last regular season game of 2009-10, though the situations are much different. Last year, I wrote about the Blackhawks overcoming injuries and adversity to have a shot at the No. 1 seed.

I also wrote the ‘Hawks looked like a Stanley Cup contender for years to come. While dynasties are rare and down seasons will happen, this Blackhawks team taking the ice in front of you today has made sure Game 82 means everything – and not for the better.

No matter your thoughts on the moves this past offseason – though they were completely necessary – I don’t believe any of us thought the Blackhawks could miss the playoffs this season. Yet a loss in regulation today against hated Detroit and a Dallas victory of any kind later tonight against Minnesota means the ‘Hawks will be watching the postseason from their couches.

How bad do those two home losses to Edmonton look? Or the loss to New Jersey on Nov. 3 when the Devils entered the game 2-9-1? Losing seven of the first 11 at the United Center? The wet fart that has been the penalty kill?

The aforementioned deficiencies in performance have contributed to making Game 82 matter for a much different reason than last season. We’ve all tossed around the term “must-win” since February, and we’re unfortunately still saying it in April – before the postseason.

Today is the ultimate “must-win” – or at least “must-not-lose-in-regulation” – game. Have we all decided to drop our standards and justification for excitement because the situations have changed since last season? I’m having a hard time deciding whether I’ll be happy the ‘Hawks made the playoffs or be upset they barely qualified.

However, celebrating last season’s Stanley Cup victory was one of the greatest moments of my life. The only way I’ll have a chance of that repeating come June is if the Blackhawks get into the postseason. Philadelphia – and the rest of the Eastern Conference, for that matter – proved in 2010 that getting in is all that matters. Anyone can win it all by getting hot at the right time.

I hope the Blackhawks fit that bill.

Jonathan Toews has almost single-handedly brought the ‘Hawks to the brink of the postseason. Without him, this column would be more of a eulogy. With the Captain on our side, you have to believe the Blackhawks can beat anyone in a seven-game series, simply based off the fact Toews won’t let this team fold up.

Corey Crawford has been a pleasant surprise this season, and has been a huge reason for a good chunk of victories.

It’s the shell of Duncan Keith that worries me. It’s the stupid penalties that get me flustered. And it’s the lack of urgency which resonated for most of the latter part of the season that makes me wonder if the ‘Hawks can compete with a much better Vancouver team than they beat the past two postseasons.

It’s unfortunate Game 82 has become so important. But if the Blackhawks can survive to see Game 83, anything can happen.

Captain Rights the Ship: Eventual Boxing with Blackhawks/Blues

(Chicago Tribune)

Sorry to tease you a bit here, but there’s a bit of an issue loading up the Boxing images. That should be corrected by about lunch time, so I just wanted to get this up to let you know to check in around then.

I’ll be updating this post with the images. I don’t know what the damn problem is, but I’m getting it sorted out.

See ya back here soon, and sorry for the delay.

November Flashback: Proving 2010-11 Expectations Were A Bit Overblown

Back on Nov. 7, I wrote a column for Sam Fels’ wonderful creation The Committed Indian before the Blackhawks dropped to 7-8-1 with a 2-1 loss to Edmonton.

In my column titled, “10 Reasons Why the Blackhawks Can Repeat,” I shared my optimistic viewpoints skewed by a Stanley Cup run last season. I’ve decided to go back and breakdown what I wrote in November to what’s actually happened so far in 2010-11.

If you hate my guts, you’re going to want to share this with any and all of the electronic options available to you at the end of the post. I was wrong way more than I was right, though I don’t feel I’m anywhere near alone in most of these thoughts dating back five months.

Below are each of the reasons I wrote Nov. 7, with a detailed explanation and update to current times.

Have a blast.

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Crunched in crunch time: Boxing with Blackhawks/Lightning

"I'm finishing my coffee. Yep, enjoyin' my coffee." (Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

Much ado is made about whether or not the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks will qualify for the postseason. But let’s ask ourselves an important question:

If the ‘Hawks do make the playoffs, would it be worth the inevitable embarrassment of getting bitch-slapped by Vancouver? Because that’s what’s going to happen – especially with efforts like Sunday’s.

The 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay is a microcosm of what the Blackhawks are going to be as postseason participants. We’ve been waiting all damn season for the ‘Hawks to live up to their “talent,” and through 78 games we’ve been mostly disappointed. Is there any sign of this being a different team when the Blackhawks hit the ice for the first-round series against the Canucks?

The answer is no. Sunday proved there’s going to need to be a lot of prayer to whatever higher power you answer to in hopes said higher power just ordered a Jonathan Toews FatHead.

Go ahead, call me pessimistic. You’d be 100 percent correct. But if you’re in any way optimistic following Sunday’s wet fart of a performance, get your head examined.

Here’s what the West standings look like heading into Monday:

Yes, I’m aware a series with the Canucks is not a sure thing and the Blackhawks can move up. And I’m also aware the ‘Hawks have had their way with Vancouver in previous postseasons. This isn’t previous postseasons.

On top of that, what makes anyone believe the ‘Hawks can beat Detroit or even San Jose if they can move up to 6th or 7th?

The effort against Tampa Bay was that of a team not realizing the magnitude of what’s happening. The Blackhawks treated all 60 minutes like a Sunday morning drive to church – relaxed, while hoping some figment of their imagination will make everything sweet and wonderful. Forget putting a foot on the gas pedal, because the Blackhawks were taking a handsome cab ride with Rusty guiding the way.

Mike Smith (yeah, I know, Mike Smith) wasn’t in the least bit challenged the entire night, and an early power-play goal off Niklas Hjalmarsson’s dipshit delay-of-game penalty culminating with Brent Seabrook thinking about the next episode of Chicago Code as Vincent Lecavalier converted did the Blackhawks in.

And before you say anything, I don’t care if Dave Bolland and Patrick Sharp are out. It’s no excuse. The effort put forth Sunday wouldn’t have beaten the Charleston Chiefs.

Onto Boxing, if you dare …

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Fill ‘er up: Ran-out-of-Gas Boxing with Blackhawks/Bruins

"I was just looking for the other half of my face." (Credit: BRIAN SNYDER, REUTERS)

You had to know this was coming.

It’s not as if the ‘Hawks haven’t played back-to-back games before – in fact, they came into the game 8-3-1 in the second game of back-to-backs this season – but it was pretty evident the Detroit game took a ton out of the Blackhawks. The Boston Bruins dictated the pace and took it to the ‘Hawks in a 3-0 shutout from Tim Thomas.

Jonathan Toews ended up a minus-3 for only the fifth time in his career as the Blackhawks mustered only five shots on goal in the first period, giving Thomas basically 20 minutes off to start the game. There was basically zero energy, and Corey Crawford gets the credit for the ‘Hawks coming out of the first unscathed.

Boston simply played its game, and there was nothing the Blackhawks could do about it, even though they literally tried to rip off the Bruins’ faces in the process. Shawn Thornton needed 40 stitches after Fernando Pisani’s skate cut him across the forehead.

(Quick sidenote: Any chance this heats up the NHL’s talks of mandating visors? I say yes.)

Dallas lost to Phoenix in a shootout, meaning they’re six points back of the eighth-place Blackhawks. Chalk Tuesday up as tough loss, and move onto Columbus on Friday fresh and ready to go.

Here’s your Boxing…

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Get on Your Hossa: Overtime Boxing with Blackhawks/Red Wings

Credit: Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

Marian Hossa deserves every bit the credit for this victory, and not just because he scored the game-winner.

The Blackhawks’ 3-2 overtime victory Monday against Detroit came to fruition mainly because of Hossa’s 23:54 of purely superb play on both ends of the ice. I’ve said it over and over again, but watching this guy play is a thing of beauty and we’re lucky to be able to witness it.

If Hossa had scored on that breakaway after jabbing the puck off the boards between two Red Wings, we may be talking about this being his best game of the season. It would have been nice to see him put more of a move on Joey MacDonald, but it shouldn’t take away from the original play he made to get into that position.

Hossa’s overtime winner was more than deserved after Patrick Kane fought off the entire communist party to control the puck then drew the penalty from Henrik Zetterberg at the end of regulation.

Oh, and I hope Todd Bertuzzi is having his toenails ripped out one by one with metal tongs while having farts blown in his face by Yokozuna as Failure to Launch plays on loop in the background. Ultimate torture.

Here are a few more thoughts before Boxing…

↔  To state the ridiculously obvious, the two points earned are insanely important. However, they became a hell of a lot more important when the Ageless Wonder Teemu Selanne decided to net an effing hat trick in Anaheim’s 5-4 win against Colorado later in the evening. A Blackhawks loss in the OT would have put them two points back of the Ducks for 7th. Despite the victory, the ‘Hawks are stuck in eighth.

↔  MacDonald played a hell of a game, don’t get me wrong. My issue with what most have deemed an exceptional performance lies in the fact the Blackhawks were rather non-existent around the net on point shots. MacDonald had clear looks at nearly every shot put on him. The one time someone made him smell their ass, Toews was the culprit and the puck sneaked through on a Brent Seabrook shot and hit the post. If the ‘Hawks put more traffic in front, MacDonald may not have had the performance everyone is lauding.

↔  Niklas Lidstrom may play until his 84 years old — and everyone would still fear him.

↔  Bertuzzi’s hit was unquestionably a scumbag move from a scumbag player who’s been a scumbag for his entire career. If you think I’m overreacting because Ryan Johnson played the duration of the game and still was a factor at center, look at the replay. Bertuzzi came at Johnson with his elbow up and no regard for the consequences of his actions. There was no “hockey play” made. Will he be suspended? Probably not, since he’s been somewhat clean for the past couple of years. However, the NHL is doing everything possible to rid the league of hits such as these. They need to do something about it.

And with that, here’s Boxing…

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Maybe he’s just very well… ‘Red': Blackhawks visit Red Wings

"There are no delicatessens under Communism." (Getty Images)

With eight games remaining and the Blackhawks clinging to eighth place, they’ve managed to put themselves in one of the most hated positions any of us could possibly dream: The Red Wings will be a major hurdle in the ‘Hawks chances to make the playoffs.

Tonight begins the first of three meetings against Detroit before the regular season ends. That’s about as appetizing as a shit sandwich topped with wet farts.

Just for some quick added pessimism, the last Stanley Cup champion to miss the next year’s playoffs was the 2006-07 Carolina Hurricanes.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, here’s a positive: Pavel Datsuyk won’t play tonight, and Johan Franzen sat out Saturday’s 4-2 Wings win against Toronto. Jimmy Howard is day-to-day after injuring his shoulder against the Maple Leafs, and with Chris Osgood on long-term IR, it looks as if Jimmy MacDonald will be in net tonight.

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Nine more lives: Boxing with Blackhawks/Panthers

"With Sharp gone, I can get used to being the most handsome guy on the ice." (Chicago Tribune)

It wasn’t exactly the entertainment I was accustomed to during my five nights in Las Vegas, but I’m not going to complain about two much-needed points.

The Blackhawks welcomed me back home with a 4-0 snoozer I largely blame on the Panthers being, well, bad. With that, the ‘Hawks are now tied for 5th in the West with nine more games which will be much tougher and more exciting than Wednesday’s.

Against Florida, the ‘Hawks got away without needing a Dave Bolland nor a Patrick Sharp nor a 100-percent healthy Brian Campbell. Don’t get used to it with Anaheim, Detroit and Boston looming. Pardon the pessimism, especially knowing each game is a must-win given the standings, but the Blackhawks will need more against those squads.

With that said, the defense played like they should have in a home game against a team looking up at New Jersey and the New York Islanders in the East. Corey Crawford did what he needed to, aside from re-enacting Al Pacino’s scenes from Scent of a Woman each time he touched the puck.

A couple other quick thoughts before Boxing:

→   I was very impressed the way Viktor Stalberg responded to the top line promotion, playing actively and drawing a penalty by taking it hard to the net on the first shift of the game. He later took a feed from Jonathan Toews on the doorstep for a goal in the first minute of the third period. Sweet.

→   Did anyone else have heart failure when Marian Hossa went back to the locker room after taking a spill?

→   For the first time all season, the idiots at the UC who constantly yell “SHOOOOOOOOT” each time a Blackhawk has the puck were right to direct it at Nick Leddy.

→   Not sure what the hell happened to Tomas Vokoun when he went ice fishing along the boards on the Tomas Kopecky goal, but that net couldn’t have been more wide open. Hossa, to Michael Frolik, to Kopecky on a great passing play started by Brent Seabrook, who can’t get credited for an assist unfortunately.

→   Speaking of Seabrook, he played a hell of a game which included the rocket that ended up being the game-winner.

→   Oh, and the Captain did his thing again.

Onto Boxing …

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STATS Game: Rest Corey Crawford

What’s the best thing about Corey Crawford starting every game for the past month? The meatballs haven’t been able to voice their blind hatred for Marty Turco.

OK, OK … it’s not the best thing. Crawford’s 10-2-3 record and 2.66 goals-against average takes that title. But despite those numbers, I’m still going to lobby for him to don the baseball cap Thursday in Dallas.

Here’s part of the reason why:

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It’s not show friends, it’s show business: Boxing with ‘Hawks/Sharks

"Have a seat, please." (Chicago Tribune)

Finally, the Blackhawks got to Antti Niemi.

The 6-3 win Monday night boosted the ‘Hawks up to the 4th spot again in the West and ended a three-game losing streak which had many talking “Must Win” against San Jose. I don’t care how bad ass or bleak things look, every game is “Must Win.” Get used to it.

Patrick Sharp had four assists in the second period alone, tying Jim Pappin’s franchise record set in 1973 – with two of them coming on the power play to Marian Hossa, who put both through Niemi’s five-hole. Hossa’s goals gave him at least 20 for the 11th straight season. Boom.

And who better than Jonathan Toews to provide the goal which ran Niemi. The Captain seems to have his hand in everything, setting a career-high with 71 points in the victory.

Seeing Niemi trudge toward the bench was bittersweet, in a way. Him getting the hook tonight gave me little satisfaction. Yes, it was nice to get back at him for the three defeats earlier this season. However, I would’ve felt the same way if it was Antero Niittymaki getting pulled. Going out for revenge at this point in the season is senseless. Sharp admitted it was nice to get to Niemi, but everyone made a point to say the win is what matters. There’s just always going to be a soft spot for a guy who really, truly wanted to stay in Chicago.

Speaking of goaltenders, Corey Crawford gets yet another win despite pretty much everyone lobbying for him to get a rest. Though he got the W tonight, he’s given up 16 goals in the last five games. And if he lost to Niemi, wouldn’t you believe Crawford’s confidence would have been completely shot, especially heading into the playoffs? Well, David Haugh sure as hell believes it.

Here’s what sent me into a rage:

Yet of all the Hawks, rookie goaltender Corey Crawfordperhaps can benefit most from having success on a night defined by Niemi’s failure. Crawford was coming off one of his roughest weeks mentally. Had Niemileft town with a 4-0 record against the Hawks, Crawford could have spent the next month awaiting the playoffs suffering by comparison.

(Begin rant)Want to talk about suffering? How about seeing Haugh’s byline next to anything Blackhawks-related. When you’re being read simply so people can laugh at whatever loads of bullshit you want to make up that day, that’s when you need to stop writing about a sport you know nothing about. (End rant)

Patrick Kane hit a milestone with his 100th career goal, Viktor Stalberg even got in a nice whack in to contribute.

And with that … BOXING:

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Capital Punishment: Boxing with Blackhawks/Capitals

Credit: Chicago Tribune

Once again, Jonathan Toews summed it up:

“That’s two overtime losses in the last couple of games. We can’t be happy with just getting one point in each of those games. If you look at the games ahead and we keep getting to overtime, it doesn’t do us any good. It’s just about getting beyond that point of satisfaction and finding a way to win.”

And just like that, the Blackhawks are back down to 7th in the Western Conference - one point up on eighth and two up on ninth – after a 4-3 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals. Games like this aren’t going to cut it. And the fact of the matter is that the ‘Hawks were lucky enough to salvage that one point on a 6-on-4 power play with an empty net.

We can make excuses. No Dave Bolland. Limited action from Brian Campbell. But the ‘Hawks gave up a short-handed goal and got pretty damn lucky with good bouces on all three of their goals. The Capitals scored on defensive breakdowns and were much more solid the entire day.

Oh, and the Blackhawks didn’t get ONE SINLGE SHOT on net in nearly four minutes of overtime. Crap.

I’ll send you on your way to Boxing with this thought: Please, for the love of God, play Marty Turco tomorrow, Q. Please. Crow needs a break heading into another two-game trip. The game is too big and means too much to be strolling out a tired goaltender. It won’t mean you’ve lost faith in Crow, Q. It means your guy needs a break. Give it to him.

If I could do some hockey betting on this, I’d say Q still starts him. Damnit.

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Trapped at Del Boca Vista: Boxing with Blackhawks/Panthers

"Mr. and Mrs. Seinfeld, please, turn the air conditioner ... on!

Well, what are you gonna do? Shit happens, move on and be done with Tuesday.

Everyone knew the Blackhawks were going to lose, and sadly I said before this past weekend even started this will be the game it happens. I’m not trying to show off, but it’s a game like this streaking teams often fall victim to.

3-2, Panthers. Onto Tampa Bay.

Corey Crawford needed the entire night off, not just the last two periods. I’ve been clamoring for this, and if he starts Wednesday I’m going to sic Jack Klompus on Coach Q. While each goal can be attributed to a defensive lapse, Crawford gave up a couple of juicy rebounds which he normally snags. The game was lost too quickly for me not to believe Crawford’s start tonight was the major contribution to it.

Marty Turco got a nice easy go of it as Florida sat back with the lead and proved why it has the 3rd-ranked penalty kill in the NHL. When I say Turco should start, it’s because he’s the next in line and not because I’m licking his bunghole over a few saves. If what’s left of Rick DiPietro’s rotting corpse was wearing the baseball cap, I’d be asking for him to start. Crawford needs a break.

Speaking of goaltenders, Tomas Vokoun withstood a two-period barrage from the Blackhawks and he deserves a ton of credit for nearly single-handedly winning the game for the Panthers.

Boxing will do the rest. Enjoy

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Captain’s Log: Sixth straight victorious Boxing with Blackhawks/Flames

"Want a little captain in ya? Not you, fatty. I meant the hottie four rows up." (Chicago Tribune)

My best bud sent me a text during an intermission: “Jonathan Toews is on a drug. It’s called ‘Jonathan Toews.'”

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

The addiction has seem to spread to the Blackhawks, who are playing their best hockey of the season following a 6-4 win against Calgary on Wednesday. The best part? The Flames were just as good. There’s no question the better team won.

Both of Toews’ goals were gorgeous, with the first even more handsome after Patrick Kane hit Patrick Sharp cross-ice, leaving Toews wide open in the crease. The second? Just the captain being the captain.

Marian Hossa capped it with a goal in his fifth straight game.

There was plenty more in between, including a mini-breakdown at the beginning of the third period, but Boxing will do the rest of my talking. Have at it:

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Behind Enemy Lines: Q&A with the Calgary Herald’s Vicki Hall

Photo: CNNSI.com

Welcome back to the return of Behind Enemy Lines! Today, Vicki Hall of the Calgary Herald answers a few questions regarding the Flames’ surge up the Western Conference standings, the previous three matchups this season and the resurgence of Jarome Iginla.

It’s clear Vicki put a lot of thought into her answers. If this is one interview you read all the way through, make sure it’s this one.

Bartl: The fluctuating Western Conference standings reordered again Tuesday with Calgary’s win against St. Louis, moving the Flames back ahead of the Blackhawks. Can you shed some light on how Calgary has responded to what’s at stake with each game as it shoots to return to the postseason?

Hall: The Flames have basically been fighting for their playoff lives since Christmas. Seriously. They languished in 14th place at the time and had little, if any, chance of clawing back into the race. Somehow, they’ve done just that by breaking the season into three-game segments and pledging to win at least two out of every three. They’ve accomplished that goal, thus far, but much work remains.

Click the jump for the rest of the Q&A

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