2013 Game Previews

Toews scores in the season opener. (Credit: Wally Skalij, Los Angeles Times)

Something’s Gotta Give: Blackhawks Look to End Kings’ Dominance at Staples Center

Toews scores in the season opener. (Credit: Wally Skalij, Los Angeles Times)

Toews scores in the season opener. (Credit: Wally Skalij, Los Angeles Times)

To really capture how well the Los Angeles Kings have played at home lately, let’s go over some of the things that have happened since their last loss at Staples Center.

♦   The Columbus Blue Jackets – yes, those Columbus Blue Jackets – were competing for a playoff spot in the final week of the season.

♦   The St. Louis Blues still were considered a contender for the Stanley Cuhahahahaha sorry about that one.

♦   Not only did baseball season start, but every Major League team has played at least 54 games. The Cubs have even found a way to win 23 times. 23!

♦   April and May passed. Both months. All gone.

♦   Nakis got engaged. Really, he did. Congratulate him.

The Kings haven’t lost on home ice since falling 1-0 to Vancouver on March 23. They’ve won 14 straight at Staples Center, including going 7-0 in these playoffs. Jonathan Quick in that stretch? 13-0-0, 1.37 goals-against average, .946 save percentage.

If you’re wondering how the hell a team that’s 1-7 on the road in the playoffs can be preparing for Game 3 of the Western Conference finals, there’s your answer. Los Angeles has been so dominant at home that their only road win – Game 5 in St. Louis, of course – has been enough to get them this far.

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Take A Knee

OK, everyone. Listen up.

I know you’re just waiting to get home so you can crack that first beer, put on your lucky sweater or whatever other things you do to make you feel comfortable and help you settle in to watch a playoff hockey game. Angst is so high that you’re developing a rash that makes it look like you’ve spent the night in a St. Louis hotel room that looked like a Warhol painting when you projected a black light on it. You’re nervous. That’s normal, and I get it. You’re supposed to be. The team you root for is down in a series to its longest known rival and you’re facing what is a must-win 4th game on the opponent’s home ice. Who wouldn’t be nervous about that?

It’s a good thing you root for the hockey team that has shown over a large enough sample size that it is better than the one dressing in the home red sweaters tonight.

Here’s what we know. The Chicago Blackhawks won the Presidents’ Trophy. That means they collected more points, and even furthermore, won more games than any other team over the truncated 48 game season this year. That same team easily dispatched the Minnesota Wild in five games to advance to where they are now. What I think we’re all losing a touch of perspective on is exactly where that is. Let’s see how we got to here.

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Lick Yourself Off My Shoe: Hawks @ Blues Preview

(The quote above comes from the TV show Brass Eye. If you don’t know what that is, fix it. )

 

 

Anyway, the Hawks round off their Regular season with the always delightful trip to Missourah. As of this writing (wee hours of the morning for you nice folk in the US) we’re anticipating a team full of Black Aces to give the top guys a breather and keep important craniums away from wandering elbows, sticks, pads and knees.

Could make for a torrid introduction to the NHL for some of these lads..  the Blues will likely Hulk Out because

a) They always do.  They know of no other way. This is what happens when you ice a team that has the collective restraint, sense of fair play and intelligence of a rabid Hyena that’s has been licking the lead paint off a wheelbarrow full of pig shit.

b) The Blues actually do have something to play for: they currently squat in 4th, but could end up, depending on tonight’s game with the Hawks and the Battle Of California in LA, as low as 6th.  Which, obviously, runs the gamut from “Home Ice against San Jose” to “Heading out West to play the Kings”. Or, of course, the one we’re all hoping for: Vancouver.

The sheer Shitbaggery that would surely dominate that series would provide us with many, many chuckles along the way. While, sadly, they can’t both lose, I’m sure that a nightmarish 7-gamer with lots of 4OT would leave the winner looking like those skidmarks that Roman Polak just can’t eliminate from his undies, however hard he wipes (tip for Roman: try using TP rather than a dead rat)

So how does this hilarious situation come about?

A Hawks win coupled with San Jose beating LA in either OT or SO drops the Blue Notes to 6th. It’s a bit of a long shot, I know. I’m not expecting much from the Hawks players, except trying to fend off whichever  Blue is gnawing on their coccyx all night. Staying healthy is more important than fucking up the Blues post-season. They’ll have plenty of opportunity to do that themselves.

I’ll be back with a recap after the dust settles.. just hope there’s nothing to make me angrier than I normally am after having to watch Backes, Reaves, Jackman, Polak et al trying to set the Cause of Quality Hockey back a couple of generations.

Also make sure to keep an eye on events in Dallas, Denver and Columbus. The Wild pissed on their chips last night to the tune of a 6-1 shellacking at home by the Oilers, therefore setting up a day of hellish twists and turns in the race for 7/8th seed. Enjoy their pain.

 

Pizza Hutt

Room for a Wafer-Thin Mint, Ken?

 

Let’s Go, Hawks

 

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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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.

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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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whiteout

A Demain, Yotes.. a Preview Of Sorts

dog-versus-coyote-09

“last one to the Finish has to kiss Backes”

 

 

So, Phoenix. Hum.

For a brief period last year they replaced Vancouver, Detroit and even St Louis. as the Hawks’ “Public Enemy #1″. Whether it was Mike Smith’s overreacting to being hit behind the net by Andrew Shaw , Shane Doan showing why he’s the Greatest Captain in the History of Ever by elbowing everything that turned its back on him, or their annoying fans, with their bogus traditions and temper tantrums whenever they were gently ribbed about the team being relocated (ok, maybe showing up at the game in a Nordiques sweater and singing “Do You Know The Way To The Colisee” might have been undiplomatic), they generally failed to win many friends with the Hawks. Oh.. wait, there was another incident wasn’t there? It’ll come to me..

Now, Aucoin, Whitney and Torres are all gone. Smith has shown some sparks of his old Diva ways but has also been decidedly pre-2012-Mike-Smith. Which is to say “Bad”. Shane Doan is still a douche but also hurt. It’s kind of hard to generate any heat, here.

The Yotes are on the brink of elimination from the Playoff race and the Hawks can help to ease them over the precipice tonight, in what could well be the final-ever meeting of these two teams.

Final meeting? Yes.

Because there’s always that elephant in the room when talking about Phoenix. Or a logo that kind of looks like an elephant, anyway.

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no-country-for-old-men 4

You Ain’t Any Kin To The Snare Drummer Are You?

no-country-for-old-men 4

Yes, that’s a Stan Freberg quote in the title.  Who’s Stan Freberg you ask? He’s a genius that’s who he is.

Anyway.. tonight the Stars enter the UC tied with the Hawks for “Hottest Team In The West”, their run of 5 straight wins suddenly catapaulting them into the conversation for the last Playoff places.

This is especially notable because Dallas appeared to be blowing off this year by trading away the majority of their geriatrics at the Deadline: Jaromir Jagr was sent to Boston for prospects and a pick,  Brenden Morrow went to Pittsburgh (for Joe Morrow giving headline writers many cheap “Two-Morrow” based puns to work with), Michael Ryder is now raising both the average age and height of the Habs forward corps and the stripling of the group, Derek Roy, got shipped to Vancouver for Kevin Connaughton and pick.

They were the biggest sellers at the Deadline and appeared to be looking at a rebuild (and also trying to offload all those cases of Geritol on the Black Market) And then they went on a tear. Suddenly the likes of the Wild, Wings and Yotes are glancing nervously at this Dallas streak before letting their gaze wander to their golf clubs.

So what to expect tonight? Who knows. Last time out, the Hawks hung 4 on Lehtonen and then did exactly the same to the Running Man Writer.  Lehtonen has had a tendency to turn into a brick wall against the Hawks in years gone by, which suggests he’s due one.  However, as of this writing, word is that Bachman gets the start.

As for the Men Of Four Feathers, no word yet on whether it’ll be Crow or Razor in net (although I have a feeling that, coming off a shutout against the Blues, it’ll be Crawford) and Patrick Sharp is listed as “Doubtful” which is just fine by me. He has more important battles than this to come.

A Hawks win tonight moves the “Magic Number” to clinch the Western Conference to 1. While it would be lovely to get it all wrapped up nearly two weeks early so that they can wrap Kane, Toews and Hossa in bubblewrap for the few remaining games. it’s also not worth getting hurt over.

Staying healthy is the watchword from here on in.

Let’s Go Hawks.

jackman 3

Hawks @ Blues: Preview Caption Competition

The Hawks head to the Land Of Toasted Ravioli for the penultimate time this season and, let’s face it, on the final day they’re likely to ice a team that consists of Tommy Hawk, an Inanimate Carbon Rod (no Q, Stan didn’t re-sign John Scott) and Nakis; if he shows up at the game with his skates.

Rather than bang on about what an absolute Monsoon of Asshats the Blues are, I’d like, instead, to highlight something warm and fluffy about them.

As reported on Puck Daddy the Blues’ David Backes and Barret Jackman recently took time out from, respectively, making “Tiger Face” in front of a picture of Jonathan Toews and collecting roadkill to make a delicious stew, to appear at a Charity Event, Adopt-A-Pet’s “The Great American Pooch Smooch & Kitty Kiss”., which is used to encourage people to overcome the various stigmas associated with rescue animals.

 

JACKDOG

 

All very worthy, and well done them etc. Seriously. Rescue Animals are awesome.

However, the photos from this event are.. well.. they’re Comedy GOLD. Manna from Heaven to snarky assholes like me.

So, without further ado, I’d like to invite a bit of Audience Participation (God Help Us All)

This picture of Barret Jackman getting to 1st Base with a dog led to me suffering a bout of “Too.. Many.. Jokes” syndrome, leaving me temporarily incapable of coming up with les mots juste for the image.

JAJCJCAACJ

However, I’m sure some of you Evil Swine can come up with something to caption this picture. How does Sparky feel? Is Jackman aroused? Did mentioning “Jackman” and “Aroused” in the same sentence put you off your breakfast?

Here’s a couple of examples, I’m sure you can do much better..

jackman 3

 

jackman 1

Feel free to post your Captions in the comments, on Facebook and either @cheertheanthem or @brightblack76 on Twitter. I’ll photoshop up the best ones and display them here..

 

Have at it!

And if you’re in need of a pet, try your local shelter. There’s nothing wrong with the animals they put up for re-homing, it’s frequently just their previous owners who should be euthanized.

Let’s Go Hawks!

 

 

 

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Where Is The Love, People? Blues @ Hawks Preview

 

 

So, the St Louis Blues are in town tonight. This is an occasion that has, traditionally, led to an outpouring of emotion from the Chicago fanbase like this, this and, oh, Dear Lord, this.

There’s a possibility that some of these remarks might be interpreted as being Dismissive, Disrespectful and Downright Unfriendly towards our friends and neighbours from the Show-Me State.

Well, we here at Cheer The Anthem believe that it’s time to Stop The Hurt: we’re bigger and better than that and we’re going to use this Game Preview to take a look at St Louis and the Blues with all the Affection and Respect that they so thoroughly deserve.

And then some.

What you Need to Know about the Foe

StL sky

 

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Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews, Josh Harding

Weather or Not, Here They Come: ‘Hawks Shoot for 10th Straight Win vs. Wild

Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews, Josh Harding

Supposed to get a shitload of snow in March? Why not. It’s Chicago. I’d also like to point out that anyone who mentions how “beautiful” the snow is obviously owns a fucking garage. And tell me how beautiful it is when you take your first giant step into the shit-covered slop that awaits you in the street the next day.

Despite Mother Nature’s continuous attempts to piss us off, we still have our beloved Chicago Blackhawks, who will be going for Jordan in a row for their season-starting point streak when the Minnesota Wild visit the United Center tonight.

While we’ve all basked in the beauty of The Streak, we’ve also been given a mathematical breakdown on just how rare it is.

Oh, and another record-setting streak is on the line, too.

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Sunday Matinee: ‘Hawks-Red Wings Primer

Jimmy holds grudges.

Jimmy holds grudges.

As Adam wrote in his wrap Friday night, the streaks inside the streak get lost on us – and understandably so.

The Blackhawks will be going for a ninth straight victory for the first time since Dec. 7-28, 2008 – the year hockey was invented, according to some of the fanbase. It’s easy to forget this team has picked up two points in each game for as long as they have when The Streak simply focuses on gaining at least one.

And that’s one of my problems with the streak, as I’ve mentioned before. There’s so much more going on with this team than just that arbitrary streak. The stars are playing like stars, the bottom six is contributing more than anyone expected, and both goaltenders are thriving when their number is called.

Does it get better than this? Yes – by extending The Streak with a win over those douchenozzles up north (or northeast, as some have liked to point out).

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CHI v EDM

Prerequisite: Blackhawks v. Oilers Pregame Warmup

Nail Yakupov Shortly After Opening N64 on Christmas

And the beat goes on… Just 24 hours after shutting out Columbus and extending their points streak to 18 to open the lockout abbreviated campaign, the Blackhawks once again go to the ice at the United Center against a bottom 5 team in their conference. A game the Blackhawks would like to have prior to heading on to proper competition in St. Louis on Thursday. The Oil have been a bit of an up and down group, something you’d expect out of a young team like this. Tonight they’ll be without Taylor Hall after his indefensible knee dust up with Cal Clutterbuck. It’s the last game he’ll miss before returning to action.

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toews-thornton-fight

History in the Making? Hossa, Seabrook to Play as Blackhawks host Sharks

toews-thornton-fight

Tonight, as you all know by now, the Blackhawks will attempt to set the NHL record for most consecutive games with at least a point *to start the season (edited to reflect reality). It’s cool factoid, yeah, but ultimately it means very little if a Cup doesn’t accompany it.

First, the Sharks. It’s been something of a strange season so far for this bunch. After starting out as one of the hottest teams in the NHL, the Sharks have cooled considerably. Just 1-4-3 in their last 8 games, the Sharks will look to recapture some of their earlier momentum and avoid a season sweep against a suddenly and unexpectedly healthy Blackhawks team.

San Jose plays some of the best defensive hockey in the league, but can’t seem to find the back of the net consistently. The Sharks rank 22nd in the NHL is goals scored, averaging just 2.5 goals per game.

The Sharks will roll with the following tonight:

There is good news, fantastic news and awe-inspiringly splurgtastic news tonight for the home team.

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Photo by Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune

Blackhawks Look to Make History Against Canucks

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The Chicago Blackhawks look to make history Tuesday night as they host the Vancouver Canucks. Should the Blackhawks win this game, they will tie the NHL record for the longest point streak to open a season. The current record of 16 games is held by the 2006-2007 Anaheim Ducks.

All indications are that long-time Chicago laughing target Roberto Luongo will not get the start tonight. It appears we have bruised his ego enough for one career. Cory Schneider will get the nod tonight. Schneider has been one of the most up-and-down goalies in the league this season. His GAA’s over his seven starts are as follows: 11.27, 1.85, 0.00, 4.00, 1.00, 1.01, 4.08. A lot of this can be attributed to some absolutely embarrassing defensive play in front of him.

Look for a newly invigorated Vancouver team, enjoying the energy of a returning Ryan Kesler. Despite their OT loss against the Blues on Sunday, the Canucks have been playing high quality hockey lately.

As always, look for everyone’s favorite “tough guy” Kevin Bieksa to try some of his trademarked pathetic chirping and then cower by the refs once he gets the attention of one of the bigger guys.

Alex Burrows is still a tool.

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Credit: Jim Young, Reuters

After Dominating Sharks, Blackhawks Look to Keep Rolling Against Kings

Credit: Jim Young, Reuters

Credit: Jim Young, Reuters

Let’s start this out with a quick stat.

The Blackhawks’ 14-game point streak to begin a season is tied for the third longest in NHL history with the 1943-44 Montreal Canadiens, behind only the 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks (16) and 1984-85 Edmonton Oilers (15).

As for the other three teams mentioned? They all went on to win the Stanley Cup.

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This Is Not the Trap Game You Are Looking For: Blackhawks @ Predators Warmup

One half of 21 years and almost $200M of the Preds’ defense

It’s been over two weeks since the Hawks have seen home ice and this will be the last time they don their white sweaters until the final day of February. Having already gathered 8 of 10 points on this road trip, the Blackhawks could come away with nothing in the Music City tonight and still consider this trip quite a success.

And that’s what worries me.

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It's there for the taking, let them self-destruct

Roughness Unnecessary: Blackhawks @ Coyotes Warmup [UPDATE]

It's there for the taking, let them self-destruct

It’s there for the taking, let them self-destruct

It’s been covered ad nauseum by beat writers and bloggers alike so I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time on the topic du jour, Raffi Torres. He’s a fourth line player and comparatively we don’t spend a whole lot of our thoughts on Jamal Mayers anymore. Matt McClure wrote a thoughtful piece at The Committed Indian on retaliation and I’d encourage reading that if you’re so inclined. Otherwise, this will be the last I mention of #37 in burgundy and white.

Onto the actual hockey game being played in Glendale tonight.

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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…

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CBJ Looking Ahead

Wipe Your Feet: Blackhawks-Blue Jackets Preview

Scott Howson in his natural habitat of failure

Scott Howson in his natural habitat of failure

Go ahead and accuse me of looking past a team and jinxing the Blackhawks but I’m not buying it. The Columbus Blue Jackets, ever the doormat of the Central division, did little to improve their already pathetic hockey team during the lockout. Gone is Rick Nash to the Rangers in return for Brandon Dubinsky, who many wanted in an Indian Head during Chicago’s struggles to fill their gap on the second line down the middle. Dubinsky has yet to dent the scoresheet in four games in a Columbus uniform; in fact the two NHL ready players the Jackets received for Nash have a total of one point through the young season.

Make no mistake about it, the Blackhawks should walk out of Nationwide Arena today with two points and not think twice.

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