2013 Commentary

Whack_a_Can

The Ballad of Bollig and the Bloggers

Whack_a_Can

dance

Coming Next Season

Well, it’s been a few weeks since we’ve posted anything here, hasn’t it? Now, you may be thinking that that’s because we’re a bunch of lazy gits who can’t be arsed writing about the very tiny amount that is happening in the Hockey World right now.

You couldn’t be more wrong.

In fact, we have been slaving away on all the cool new features that we are going to implement on Cheer The Anthem next year. After the Jump there’s a sneak preview of what you can look forward to on your favourite they’re ok i guess I don’t completely hate everything they do Blackhawks site in the coming Season.

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Hawks Fans Around The World, Stand Hand-In-Hand

Hawks Fans.. they’re everywhere. Obviously there are plenty of North Americans currently working, studying or serving overseas. However, there’s also us: the few, the proud, the “Actually Foreign” Hawks fans. We battle Ass-O’Clock game times and massive indifference from friends and colleagues to follow our team. Some of us have never been to Chicago, let alone the UC, yet we consider ourselves as much a part of Hawks nation as anyone.

My own story starts with Da ’85 Bears (as so much else does) and has its twists and turns that led me to the ’09 WCF and the sealing of the deal.  But this isn’t about me. Obviously this is a subject close to my heart, so I reached out to a bunch of my fellow Toilers-In-Timezone-Hell with a few questions. Which are below.  These good folk are from Ireland, Scotland, Sweden & Germany. With the exception of Sweden, Hockey is either a minority sport or practically non-existent.  Their words are their own, the italicized questions are mine.  Next time you’re watching the Hawks, raise a glass to them. And if you’re in our neigbourhoods, look us up.

 

(Author’s note: these interviews were conducted in the early stages of the Minnesota series)

 

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SHITTER

In The Shitter: Flames @ Hawks Preview

Tonight, for the final Home game of the 2012-13 Regular Season, the Blackhawks host the Calgary Fla.. oh, fuck it.

The Flames are dead and buried, the Hawks are home and hosed, there is nothing to care about and we don’t even get to gaze adoringly at Iggy and heave deep, heartfelt, sighs. Ryan Stanton is up , the rest of the Black Aces will get the call tomorrow. And St Louis, of course.  There’s always them.

So, rather than make (redundant) jokes about Jay Feaster, I thought I’d take a quick look at the final days of the Season for the three teams fighting it out for the last two Playoff places in the West. Or, as I call it

 

SHITTER

 

There are many, many different permutations and combinations that could see some of these teams either finish as high as 6th or hit the golf course early.  It’s exactly the sort of Bowel-Loosening situation that I, for one, am glad the Hawks avoided entirely this year.  I still flinch when I think back to two years ago.  I won’t try to elucidate every potential outcome, just a few of the more intriguing possibilities. One of these bunches of schmucks are going to be the Hawks’ first-round opponent, after all.

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Pure Original (Six)

 

 

One of the less-remarked upon aspects of the waning days of this oh-so-brief Regular Season is that, possibly as soon as later tonight, all of the Original 6 teams could well end up in the Playoffs.

“Pshaw” you say, “Surely that is a frequent occurrence? These Six Teams are from the strongest Hockey Markets, have Storied Histories and a slew of names on the Cup and in the HOF”

You couldn’t be more wrong. And stop talking like Noel Coward. Without looking it up, how often have the entire O6 gotten into the Playoffs together since the ’67 expansion?  If you said “Three Times”, have a cigar, you Big Cheater.  And the last time this happened? ’95-’96.  Twelve Seasons ago (not including the Lost Season)

There are myriad reasons for this being the case. One of which is that several of these teams have gone though years and years of being Terrible. Another is that some of the Expansion teams hit the ground running and either tried to Enchant (’80s Oilers), Maim (’70s Flyers) or Ruin Hockey (’90s Devils) . Various Conference systems have militated against it too.  All that could change tonight with a Detroit win against the Kings. The following is by no means an attempt to Jinx them in any way, shape or form. Honest.

The World was a very different place in 1996, and so was the Hockey World.  In an attempt to help you to understand the yawning void between 1996 (the year I recorded my first record with my band yet still, somehow, failed to get any Action with the Ladies) and now, (where I write “Comedy” about Hockey and still, inexplicably.. oh.. FML..) I’m going to do some comparisons and contrasts about those years. Hang onto your Hypercolor shirts and Jesus Jones records.. we’re heading back to the ’90s.

 

hype

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Van 5

The Five Types of Vancouver Fans.. Hawks @ Nucks Preview

Here Come The Nucks..

While they may have gone off the ‘Hawks radar a little this season, there’s no doubt that we’ll all be reminded of just how much we dislike this team tonight, especially as Vancouver will come out all guns blazing to try to thwart Chicago in their pursuit of the Greatest Prize in Sports, the Presidents’ Trophy.

Tonight’s game is in the Rogers so that means

1) A Three-In-The-Fucking-Morning puck-drop for me. Thanks a bunch, Western Time Zone.

2) Lots of towel waving from Vancouver fans.. and on that subject, let’s take a look at our “Friends” in British Columbia in a little more detail.

tit 6

Canucks fans come in all shapes and sizes.. some are wonderful people, others, less so. Here’s some of the more frequently-encountered types.

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Van 5

Distinguishing Features: Firmly believes that the Canucks have never, ever lost due to being “Not As Good At Hockey” as the Other team. Instead it’s the fault of, in no particular order, the NHL, the Refs swallowing their whistles, the Media, the Refs calling too many penalties,  a Top-Secret Cabal made up of Americans and jealous Canadians that is determined to manipulate the entire NHL to ensure that the Canucks never, ever win the Stanley Cup and, possibly, Space Aliens.

Redeeming Features: The lengths that they will go to back up their pet conspiracy theories is highly entertaining, in a car-crash sort of way (like watching Buffalo).

Secret Hope: That one day, while presenting the Cup to yet another undeserving team that only won lots of Games in the Playoffs, Gary Bettman’s mask slips off to reveal that he is, in fact, an alien from the Planet Zanussi, sent here to destroy the minds of Mankind. (Actually, they may be on to something here..)

Secret Fear: That they’re likely to end up as a footnote in some Med-Student’s dissertation on the Long-Term-Effects of Cannabis.

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Credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune

So, About that Power Play…

 

Credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune

Credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune

Editor’s Note: This column appears in tonight’s edition of The Committed Indian. Help Sam Fels feed his drinking habit by purchasing one outside of the United Center for $3, or sign up for a digital copy on the website. Don’t be cheap.

Second Note: This was originally written for Friday’s Indian, but Sam had to push it back to tonight’s issue. So, this obviously doesn’t include the Blackhawks going 2 for 3 on the power play against Nashville. Stats in the column are as of Thursday afternoon.

There aren’t many secrets here. It’s not like Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff are holding on to some sort of magical strategy while purposely sending the players out on the ice at a disadvantage, only to later surprise everyone with a full-proof plan that results in unlimited goals with the man advantage.

The Blackhawks’ power play sucks, and there’s no amount of high-sucrose recipes in this world that can sugarcoat it enough. They’ve gone 0 for 19 over their last nine games and haven’t potted a power-play goal since Patrick Kane’s tally in the third period of a 2-1 loss to Anaheim on March 29.

At the time of writing this Thursday afternoon, the ‘Hawks are tied with the New York Rangers for 20th in the league converting just 15.4 percent of their power-play chances. Take out the Blackhawks scoring six power-play goals through the first four games, and the percentage drops to 12.9 since Jan. 26.

And we’ve seen everything, too. The constant inability to enter the offensive zone while the other team has one fewer guy can make anyone’s urge to kill rise dramatically. Once in the zone? Who knows. Gaining possession after a dump-in hasn’t exactly been something of a regular occurrence. And if that does happen, you can usually count on a lack of movement as the Blackhawks wait for that back-door pass through the crease to open up. The problem is that it rarely ever does, yet that doesn’t stop them from attempting to pass through opponents’ sticks that unfortunately aren’t invisible.

This isn’t exactly new. We watched the Blackhawks do much of the same last season when they finished 26th in the league with a similar 15.2 percent conversion rate.

Yes, there’s been plenty that’s frustrating about watching the ‘Hawks blow chance after chance with the man advantage, and the popular notion is that this ineptitude while cause more harm to the Blackhawks when they get into the playoffs against better competition and need to convert on these prime opportunities. However, based on the power-play statistics of some recent Stanley Cup winners, that may not exactly be the case.

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fisk

Boys In The Bubble: A Look at the Western Conference Playoff Picture

 

fisk

As the Regular Season enters its final 10 days, there are some teams sitting home, hosed and focusing on Seedings for the Playoffs. There are also those who are All-But-A-Meltdown away from clinching their berth in the Post-Season. Some are out and awaiting the embalmer already. For them, the fight is over.  However, the West being the West, we’re left with a number of teams currently in and and around the final Playoff positions, teams who’s fans are nervously eyeing the standings and schedule, feverishly calculating “Magic Numbers” and “Four-Point Games” while keeping tabs on ROW and GD tie-breakers.

BOY does it feel good to not be among those those teams!

The Hawks position ,having clinched about five minutes after the Lockout ended, allows us to cast a jaded eye over the unfortunates currently engaged in the re-enactment of the Battle of the Marne that’s happening further down the table. I suppose I should sympathise, as there, but for the Grace of Hoss, go the Hawks (as I’m sure we all remember from the last couple of seasons). But, on the other hand, I could make a bunch of jokes and take some cheap shots at the contenders… Choices, choices..

So without further ado. here’s your handy Cheer The Anthem Guide To The Bubble. Teams are listed with current Pos/GP/P

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Credit: Jasen Vinlove, USA TODAY

Hated Respect for Detroit; Just Hate for St. Louis

Credit: Jasen Vinlove, USA TODAY

Credit: Jasen Vinlove, USA TODAY

Winning the last-ever Central Division title has a nice feel to it, especially when the Blackhawks were able to clinch it by coming back Friday against a Detroit team we all love to loathe. And when dessert is a sweet victory over the talentless apes wearing Blues sweaters, well, that makes for a nice weekend in my book.

But after Corey Crawford turned away 30 shots in Sunday’s 2-0 victory in St. Louis, it got me to thinking a little bit about where the rivalries with these teams will stand once Detroit heads East as realignment takes effect next season.

While the Red Wings have always been hated, there’s still a level of respect that goes into watching guys like Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk - and going further back to the likes of Nicklas Lidstrom, Dominik Hasek and Steve Yzerman – grace the ice with their play. It just so happened they wore a different sweater.

Granted, those sweaters are evil and ugly and make you want to vomit up the three squares of your day, but any one of us ‘Hawks fans would have liked to have any of them wearing the Indian head. Hell, Hasek may have played most of his career in Chicago had it not been for Ed Belfour.

The Blues? Other than Vladimir Tarasenko, there’s not one breathing pile of diarrhea on skates I would take from that team. Even if any of them wanted to play in Chicago for free, I would have them deported back to that hellhole of a city that shouldn’t be allowed to call itself part of America.

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III is a Magic Number.. CtA talks to III Communication

 

real

For most of the Hockey world, next year’s realignment is something in the background while the dramas of the Regular season unfold. We’ve really only paid a lot of attention to it when playing “Final” games against former rivals now bound for pastures new.

Not so for a pair of writers in Nashville, however: for the last month or so the brand new site “III Communication” has been evangelising the forthcoming, as yet unnamed, Conference that the Preds, along with the Hawks, Blues, Avs, Jets, Wild and Stars will be playing in next year. They’re really excited about it and you will be too. Using a innovative mixture of humour, insight and general knowledge, III Communication has previewed and reviewed everything that occurs to the seven teams, handed out awards (for Threero of the week) and extracted pure gold (well, sort of) from Sports Yapper so we don’t have to.

JRLind and TMurda are the shadowy geniuses behind the site and they were kind enough to answer a few questions for me last week.

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Iggymugshot

Iggy: A Morality Play

That’s right, CtA now has a Photoshop/parody guy. We are more than excited to welcome Michael Devine, who will be posting as regularly as he would like on this site and gracing us and you readers with some hilarity.

Firstly, go follow him on Twitter @brightblack76. Then, double-check to make sure you’re following him, because you’re missing out if you’re not. He already has some stuff up here for you to check out when you get the chance.

Michael, who also has gone by mightymikeD, describes himself as such: “Irish, lives in London and goes through horrific sleep-deprivation to watch Hawks games at Ass O’Clock in the Morning!”

And you thought YOU were a die-hard fan.

Have you been wondering how Stan Bowman is “wooing” Jarome Iginla to come to Chicago? Well, without further bullshit, here’s Michael’s first contribution to CtA:

“Iggy: A Morality Play”

Iggymugshot

Scene: Morning. A luxury Chicago hotel room. Jarome Iginla wakes up. He appears to be in the bathtub. His head is pounding and there is a funny taste in his mouth. He groans and looks at his watch, realises, with horror, that he is late for his flight and tries to climb out of the bath.

Iggy: “Oh, heck, Bob’s going to kill me. Without me being there the guys will just be milling around aimlessly in the terminal and Kipper has probably got himself deported!”

He catches sight of himself in the bathroom mirror and freezes in horror.

Iggy: “What in the fudge? Why am I wearing make-up? What are these bruises on my arms? WHY DO I HAVE “PK RULEZ YO” WRITTEN IN LIPSTICK ON MY CHEST??!?”

There is a loud knocking at the door. Iginla hurries to get dressed. His clothes appear to be missing except for his suit pants, although they have been cut off inexpertly at thigh-height, and his tie; which has some odd stains on it.

Iggy: “I’m coming, I’m coming. Oh, fiddlesticks, where is my shirt?”

The knocking continues, louder and more insistent. Iginla gives up and opens the door.
Stan Bowman stands there, smiling strangely.

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"This sweater looks much better on me, doesn't it guys?"

Blackhawks send Bollig to Ice Hogs

"This sweater looks much better on me, doesn't it guys?"

“This sweater looks much better on me, doesn’t it guys?”

I’ll tell ya where he’ll go. Someplace warm. A place where the beer flows like wine. Where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. I’m talkin’ bout a little place called… Rock-ford.

No word yet on a possible call up. Does this mean Jimmy Hayes or Ben Smith comes up? Is Steve Montador actually going to play hockey again? We have no idea.

So, what was your favorite memory of the Brandon Bollig era?

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
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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
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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.