2010-11 Game Previews
First thing’s first: We’ve already won. Win or lose tonight, the Blackhawks have scored a victory. After falling behind 3 games to none, they have fought their way back in a manner worthy of the defending Stanley Cup Champions. They have played hard, they have given their fans a thrill second only to the Cup victory last year, and they have overcome significant adversity in doing so.
The Chicago Blackhawks, and their fans, can accept the outcome of tonight’s game with our heads held high. It’s been a fantastic series, and it will be coming to an end tonight.
That having been said, let’s go out there tonight and demolish those whiny, overrated choke-weasels.
Short one here before game time, as Chez Currell is a bit chaotic this afternoon.
Brent Seabrook passed his NHL concussion protocol late this morning, and will be dressed and ready to help this freight train deliver a win to the Blackhawks’ faithful at the Madhouse tonight. Canucks fans seem to think this spells doom for Chicago, since Seabrook has been the team’s rallying cry these last two games. Let’s let them keep thinking that, shall we?
Blackhawks fans went to the United Center on Tuesday, hoping with all their might that the fate of their team would be different that the previous three games. Hoping that some spark would be lit under the Men of Four Feathers. Hoping that whatever magic the Blackhawks had conjured from time to time during the regular season would waft through the rafters at the U.C. again.
And sweet barking cheese, did they get what they came for.
Bryan Bickell began the fun less than two minutes into the game, and the Blackhawks’ faithful were treated to six more blasts of Chelsea Dagger before the night was over. It was nearly everything they could have asked for, and everything Canucks’s fans were dreading: a monumental and embarrassing collapse that thwarted their team’s progression to the second round.
So the question now becomes, what were the ingredients of this victory, and how can they do it again in the hostile confines of GM Place tonight?
We went into this series cautiously optimistic, perhaps even over-confident due to our record against the Canucks. We had faith in our team, we believed in them. Some of us will until the teams meet at center ice to shake hands. But I can’t hold out any more hope; the Canucks will beat us tonight, we’re getting swept.
The Blackhawks had to do two things to win this series: they needed to conceive of a plan to beat the Canucks; and they needed to execute that plan. Unfortunately they never got past step one, as whatever plan they came up with was either ill-conceived or ineffective. They never played their game, and the Canucks have (for the most part) manhandled them every step of the way. But make no mistake: this series wasn’t lost in the last week. They started losing this series the day after the parade on Michigan Avenue to celebrate the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup Championship.
So what the hell happened? How did we get here? How did we go from first to the first team ejected from the playoffs in one short year? Lots of answers here, not all of them within anyone’s control, none of them entirely responsible, but clearly all of them contributing.
Little did I know when I wrote the post-game wrap-up after Game 1 that my analysis would cause such a kerfuffle! It appears that I managed to offend the delicate sensibilities of the Vancouver faithful by blaspheming their beloved super-stars with a pithy nickname. Well, my countrymen, you all have a lot thinner skins than I thought you did. Heat, kitchen, you figure out the rest. This is hockey, not badminton. If my choice of words was a little below the belt (*groan*), that’s nothing: you should see how I refer to Sidney Crosby.
So as a new day dawns and a new game approaches, verily I say unto thee, fear not. Regardless of the snit our worthy opponents to the north have themselves in because of my “unprofessional” (is somebody paying me and I don’t know it?) references to feminine hygiene products, I’m going to keep telling it like it is, colorful language and all.
For two straight years the Chicago Blackhawks have knocked the Vancouver Canucks out of the playoffs. The in the 2008-09 season, the loss rested squarely on goaltender/captain Roberto Luongo’s shoulders, as his post-season collapse was the main reason the ‘Nucks polished up their Taylor Made’s early that year. In 2009-10 the defeat was particularly insulting, as Vancouver had re-tooled the team specifically for the purpose of getting past the ‘Hawks and into the Stanley Cup Finals. But Chicago bested them again.
This season, the Canucks have dominated the league almost from the get-go. They sat first in the league at the end of the regular season, the only injury of consequence is Manny Malhotra, and both the team and the fans are primed and ready for a Cup-winning run to avenge the losses the past two years.
Vancouver had better get used to disappointment. Chicago is going to put them down, yet again.
This was what we were all dreading. Scrambling for a playoff spot against the hated Detroit (*spitting noise*) Red Wings in the last two games of the season. Shame on the Blackhawks for letting it go this far. Shame on the players, the coaches, management, and everybody else for putting themselves, and their fans, in this position. That game you all took the night off back in November? It matters now. That night in January when you couldn’t hit the net with a grenade launcher and 10 minutes to aim? It matters now. That third-period breakdown in March? It matters now.
I’m saying this so maybe you’ll remember in November of this coming season, in January of 2012, in March next year when you think back on how big of a pinch you put yourselves in back in 2011. Because two points is two points no matter when you earn them, and now you REALLY have to earn them. If you don’t, you’ll be the laughing stock of the league — winning the Stanley Cup one year and playing golf in April the next, justifying every sore-loser idiot whiner who accused the club of “buying” the championship last summer.
So gentlemen, suit the fuck up, and by God if I see one smile on that bench I’m going to wipe it off your face permanently. It’s time to go to work. Tonight. Sunday. Detroit. Four points — and by God, we will need every one of them. Get your shit together, and make it happen.
Okay, here’s the problem. I said a long while ago that we had better have ourselves a nice cushion before these last three games, because it would take a miracle to get points out of any of them. Remember that?
Start praying for a miracle.
As the anthem is sung, the whistle is blown and the puck is dropped, we all sit back and wonder which Blackhawks team will take the ice. That’s basically what it comes down to this evening against Montreal: will they bring the “give-a-shit” tonight? Or are they going to lose to a clearly-inferior team — again?
We saw this earlier in the season, and we just wrote it off. Now, it’s the playoffs on the line. It matters. The question remains because the ‘Hawks haven’t answered it convincingly enough, consistently enough, all year. Tonight we will ask the same question. Only the Blackhawks know the answer.
Okay, last night was good. Lots of teams that we needed to lose, actually lost. Those include Anaheim, Dallas and Nashville. And there was much rejoicing.
The standings of relevant teams in the Western Conference now look like this:
4th: Los Angeles (96 points, 4 games remaining, 36 non-shootout wins)
5th: Phoenix (96, 3, 37)
6th: Nashville (95, 3, 36)
7th: Anaheim (93, 4, 40)
8th: Chicago (92, 5, 36)
9th: Calgary (89, 3, 30)
10th: Dallas (87, 6, 33)
Why Los Angeles is ahead of Phoenix is a little stymieing, but it doesn’t involve the Blackhawks at this point, so screw it. One day I’ll invest the 2 minutes necessary to research the answer, but not right now.
The other games of consequence tonight are actually pretty big ones for us. Calgary takes on Colorado, and Dallas is at Anaheim. Victory for the Men of Four Feathers coupled with losses by the Flames and Stars make it nearly impossible for either of those teams to make the post-season, in-effect guaranteeing the Blackhawks a ticket to the playoffs. So while you’re cheering the ‘Hawks, keep an eye on those two tilts.
Tonight the ‘Hawks take the ice against a potent and crowd-energizing Lightning team boasting two how’d-they-do-that offensive powerhouses in Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis, as well as 41-year-old comeback kid goaltender Dwayne Roloson. But the secret behind this team is two-fold: first, Stamkos and St. Louis are nearly all of the Lightning’s offensive punch; and secondly, Roloson is rarely exceptional — he’s very often only as good as he has to be on any given night.
Evidence? How about most of the roster being in a negative plus-minus, many of whom in double-digit negative? How about one (count him, one) 20-goal scorer aside from the afore-mentioned howitzers? How about winning games by decidedly unimpressive margins in nearly every outing? And how about a team GAA closer to 3 than 2, and a save percentage a fingernail above 90%?
This team is beatable. And we proved that in Tampa less than a month ago, we just couldn’t recover from the loss of Dave Bolland early in the matchup thanks to Pavel Kubina’s elbow to the head.
Umm, guys? Yeah… Okay, good. You remembered. Just one request: blood splatter. We want to see blood splatter.
No lineup changes for the Blackhawks, Corey Crawford is your goaltender for the next week unless he runs off with Britney Spears or something. Lightning defenseman Randy Jones is the only player absent from the visitors’ bench.
Family-friendly 6:00pm puck drop at the United Center this evening. National coverage of the game is available on the NHL Network, although Chicagoland will see the game on WGN. Broadcast radio is WGN AM-720, and XM subscribers will hear the game on channel 207.
Visit the NEW Blackhawk Up Store with new designs!
Follow BlackhawkUp.com @blackhawksup and on Facebook
Download Blackhawk Up’s FREE iPhone and Droid apps
Visit FanSided’s NHL page, Too Many Men on the Site