2013 Playoffs

CupWin

Thank You, Blackhawks

CupWin

Bartl, fiance Nichole and Pops following the Game 6 victory… between many rounds of beers.

“Now break their hearts. Score again, and break their fucking hearts.”

I wasn’t deep into celebrating Bryan Bickell’s tying goal with 1 minute, 16 seconds remaining, when my father uttered those words with such conviction that I actually became frightened. He clapped a few times, raised his hands, then went right back into business mode.

“Do it again and break their fucking hearts.”

See, my dad isn’t one to offer up such passion when it comes to sports. He knew his only son’s sanity rode on the outcome of the Stanley Cup Final, and that’s really the only reason he came to peace with his inevitable hangover and joined me at a local establishment.

It’s also the only reason he cared at all. The Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup doesn’t enhance his life any, but it brings such joy to his kid that his enthusiasm shot past obligation and into a genuine state of jubilation. He just couldn’t help himself.

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I Love This Team: Your 2013 Stanley Cup Champions, the Chicago Blackhawks

CT hawks-bruins55.JPG

You’re not going to get much more than this from me tonight. I’m celebrating until my body won’t let me celebrate anymore.

It’s almost fitting Dave Bolland,  who we have ragged on time and time again, scored the goal that would give the Blackhawks a 3-2 win and the team’s second Cup in four seasons.

It marked the perfect moment for a team that seemed to have a mantra of, “Don’t quit on us. We won’t let you down.” We were all guilty of quitting on this team at one point or another, and they all put their middle fingers in the air and proved that they weren’t going to give up on themselves, no matter what we thought.

You’ll get more details from us tomorrow, but enjoy this for now. How amazing is this?

Mostly, I’m so proud to share this site with Nakis, Adam and Mighty Mike, who have been instrumental in helping provide you readers with great insight. They’ve been even better “internet friends.” What  a season, and you’ll be hearing from us plenty over the next couple of months as the offseason is right around the corner.

I’m still trying to soak this all in. Unbelievable.

GO ‘HAWKS!

 

 

Blackhawks 6 – Bruins 5 (OT): Break Point

Up and down points to Blackhawks
(NHL.com credit Bruce Bennett)

The outcomes of this game after regulation could not have been more different from a Chicago perspective.

In 60 minutes, the Blackhawks scored five goals against the Boston Bruins vaunted defence. Only one of which came at an advantage (with Handzus’ at a disadvantage). They controlled possession for roughly 65% of the regulation time. They even scored a powerplay goal to give a shot in the arm to a unit that couldn’t find the opposing blue line to save its life. At the end of that regulation, the game was tied.

If Chicago loses this game, a three game uphill climb required sherpas that not even the deep pockets of Wirtz Beverage Co. can afford.

Instead, we’re looking at a best of three series with the Blackhawks holding home ice advantage.  There’s a lot to look at here, but let’s just soak in some highlights and glances because we’ve got two days to prepare for a tilt at the UC that is going to put one team a victory from hoisting the chalice.

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(Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

Beantown Beating: Blackhawks Shut Out in Game 3 as Bruins Take 2-1 Lead in Stanley Cup Final

(Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

(Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

This one didn’t go the Blackhawks’ way from the very beginning.

Marian Hossa was scratched at the last moment in favor of Ben Smith, who probably had half of a hot dog down in the press box before being summoned to the dressing room, and things didn’t get any better from there as the ‘Hawks fell 2-0 at TD Garden in Monday’s Game 3.

Zdeno Chara apparently received stitches after cracking his head on the ice in the pregame warmps and still played, so that’s a little bothersome. Either way, Hoss wasn’t out there and the bad news kept coming. Daniel Paille scored just over two minutes into the second period, then Patrice Bergeron added another later in the period to give the Bruins all they would need.

I don’t believe in calling any game a must-win until the other team has reached three victories, but let’s just say Wednesday is a “win-or-they’re-up-shit’s-creek-without-paddle” game.

Let’s see what we’ve got here…

♦   We’ve heard all of the DEY NEED TO DECLINE DA PENALTIES! DEY CAN DO DAT LIKE IN DA FOOZBALL GAME, RIGHT?!” jokes, but we’re at the point where the Blackhawks might be at more of a disadvantage when up a man. Credit is due to the Bruins’ aggressive and often relentless penalty kill, but let’s get serious here; a team that is built on speed and finesse continues to stand around while completely wasting two minutes of everyone’s time.

One specific example came when Patrick Kane held the puck around the boards and drifted high rather than pass the puck into an area down low that would force the Bruins to shift and potentially open up more ice – or even put himself in better position to find a lane and put the puck on net. He skated it toward the blue line, telegraphed a soft saucer pass everyone knew was coming, and the puck ended up out of the zone. These types of decisions have led to multiple shorthanded chances for the Bruins, especially Brad Marchand. The Blackhawks are basically killing Boston’s penalties for it.

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HELLSPAWN

I, Too, Love Shin Pads: Day-After Thoughts from Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final

(Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune)

(Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune)

Thank you, Andrew Shaw, for making your winning goal that much more entertaining.

And, thanks to Adam, we may have a new nickname for him:

HELLSPAWN

After Shaw deflected a Dave Bolland deflection off a Michal Rozsival shot (got that?), he professed his love for Bolland, thanked his shin pads and then dropped an F-bomb in his NBC interview with Pierre McGuire, sending the United Center crowd – including this exhausted individual – home happy.

Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, which eventually ended with the Blackhawks beating Boston 4-3, proved at least one thing: We’re being treated to a Final featuring two extremely good teams that didn’t need luck to get there. There were points I battled through the stress of what was happening to realize I should be excited just to be witnessing such great hockey featuring a team I support. Then, of course, I went back to biting my fingers off.

Aside from Shaw’s goal that brought more relief than anything, there’s a few other things I’ll take from this one heading into Game 2…

♦   Corey Crawford and Tuukka Rask both played outstanding games, but I’m going to focus more on Crawford, mainly because Rask essentially pointed out the deficiencies in front of him rather than accepting the loss as a team. I think there’s little doubt that, unless the Blackhawks win the other three games 10-9, Crawford will be adding a Conn Smythe to his resume should Chicago hoist the Cup. The numbers look like this: 13-5, 1.73 GAA, numerous huge saves.

Crawford came up big while helping the ‘Hawks kill off a too-many-men penalty in both the first and second overtimes. Sure, the Bruins beat him and drew iron a couple times, but Crow made the saves he needed to and even added some flare to a couple, especially that snagging glove save early in the game. The Blackhawks’ defense definitely wasn’t at its best Wednesday, and Crawford helped make up for it.

♦   On that note, I’d personally like to thank Kaspars Daugavins for whiffing on his OT chance with Crawford basically down and out after fending off another chance.

♦   This, also courtesy of Adam, of Marian Hossa in the second OT:

Photo: Marian Hossa during the 2nd OT last night. May be the only time it's ever applicable to cite Ken Harrelson's TWTW stat.

♦   Not only did Shaw score the winner, but Bolland’s goal that cut the Boston lead to 3-2 in the third was all him. Torey Krug, the rookie defenseman out of Michigan State who has been playing fantastically thus far in the playoffs, attempted to fire the puck to the middle of the ice, only to Shaw, who carried back into the zone. Krug then glided along side Shaw with his stick on the ice attempting to block a potential pass, but Shaw saucered it beautifully across to Bolland, who one-timed it past Rask.

♦   Bolland also got credited with an assist on the game-winner. To add some perspective into the rarity of a two-point night from Bolland, he totaled three points in his previous 25 games combined, including the playoffs.

♦   I feel like Hossa should just repeatedly say, “Fuck off Fuck off Fuck off Fuck off Fuck off Fuck off” whenever an opponent tries to take the puck from him. The man is a beast.

♦   I’ve read a few places about the Blackhawks being a step behind and the Bruins carrying the play for long stretches, but I think the same can be said by flipping those team names. I understand the Blackhawks had to overcome a pair of two-goal leads, but the ‘Hawks were a +51 in CORSI, and weren’t the only ones looking exhausted in the overtime sessions. Boston being up on the scoreboard through the first two and a half periods wasn’t necessarily indicative of the ice being tilted. The Bruins got two snipes from Lucic and a power-play goal on another snipe from Bergeron. They took advantage of some good chances in regulation. The Blackhawks had just as many chances as the Bruins they didn’t convert. That was a pretty damn good hockey game on both ends, but both teams have things to improve heading into Game 2.

♦  It will be interesting to see how severe the Nathan Horton injury is and how much it will affect Boston if he misses time. It appears to be a shoulder issue, which may spell bad news for the Bruins. Horton had an assist to give him 18 points for the playoffs, and he has been a huge contributor with Lucic and Krejci on the top line. He’s listed as day to day right now, but there are reports saying he could be done. If Horton is out, it will be interesting to see how Julien mixes his lines moving forward.

♦   So, the Blackhawks won with Brandon Bollig taking Viktor Stalberg’s place in the lineup. Still don’t necessarily agree with the move, but, as Nakis found out and then posted to Twitter, it seemed like Stalberg had fallen into acceptance with Q’s decision by Tuesday afternoon. We’ll see what Q rolls out at the next practice.

♦  As anticipated, the Blackhawks didn’t practice Thursday due to the 239572305-minute game Wednesday. And Hossa wasn’t exactly pleased that his neighbors decided to do some work ass early in the morning.

There’s so much we could go over, but I’ll leave the rest to you if you’d like to add more discussion in the comments. See you Saturday.

The Celebratory Words of Andrew Shaw

Andrew Shaw celebrates his game-winning goal in the third overtime against the Bruins in Game 1.

I will have my thoughts from last night’s thriller later this afternoon, as promised, but first I wanted to share a couple of great Andrew Shaw moments after he scored the winner in the third overtime to beat the Boston Bruins 4-3 on Wednesday.

Via Deadspin, Shaw was mic’d up by NBC for the game. After confessing his love for Dave Bolland, he also had some strong feelings about his equipment that assisted him on the winner. And it was awesome:

Not long after, via Puck Daddy, Shaw went ahead and dropped an F-bomb in his interview with Pierre McGuire on national TV:

Oh, Shawzer.

Let’s Play 1.5: Blackhawks win 3 OT Marathon, Take 1-0 Series Lead on Bruins

I’m very sorry, but you’ll have to wait until at least around lunch time Thursday to get my thoughts on Game 1. I was at the United Center and feel like I played along with these teams. And after a one-hour drive in rain back to the suburbs, I’m running on fumes.

So, I’ll leave you – for now – with this pic of Shaw celebrating. Oh, and Holiday Road, courtesy of Mighty Mike:

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Cheer the Anthem’s Stanley Cup Final Roundtable: Bring on the Bear

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As the Blackhawks prepare to face the Bruins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday, we’ve all taken a stab and some of the questions surrounding this Original Six Final. Sure, the series will be frustrating at times and you’re going to want to bite your fingers off because you’ll be so nervous pretty much every second, but … well, I guess I pretty much covered it.

Anyway, here’s what we’ve got regarding the series as of now, as Bartl, Nakis, Mighty Mike, JesusMarianHossa and Chris Deme weigh in:

The Blackhawks were the best team in the NHL during the regular season and have lost only one game at home in the playoffs. Why are you optimistic the Blackhawks can win the Stanley Cup?

Mighty Mike: You’ve answered your on question: The Blackhawks were the best team in the NHL this season.  A couple of hiccups against Detroit has done little to persuade me that they’re not still the best team in the league. They have the skill and the savvy to beat anybody. They would do well to keep that in mind when the going gets rough (and it surely will).

JesusMarianHossa: Because I’m a fan of the team and even gambling interests can’t get me to actively root against them. The part of the question that says “they were the best team in the regular season” would also satisfy as a reason for optimism. If you’re looking for any real insight here, it’s that the Blackhawks were #2 in Score-Adjusted Fenwick for the 2013 regular season. They just beat the team that was #1, and the only team I really “feared,” in five games.

Deme: Speed kills. The only team Boston has played in the Playoffs that rivals the Blackhawks’ speed is Toronto, and the Bruins barely escaped that series. The Hawks are fast, they have remarkable depth contribution, and Corey Crawford is playing the best hockey of his career. They have a fantastic shot at being a royal pain in the ass for the Bruins.

Nakis: With the exception of the perennially shitty power play, the Blackhawks have looked fantastic in every aspect of the game during these playoffs. Crawford is playing great; the defense has been nails and is transitioning the puck better than any team in the league; the forecheck has been vicious and the penalty kill is on another planet entirely. If there is any pessimism in me, it’s due almost entirely to the identity of their opponent.

Bartl: Simply put, other than the hiccup in the Detroit series, the Blackhawks really haven’t given me a reason NOT to be optimistic heading into the Final. Even then, they were still playing well overall. When the stars haven’t scored, the depth has shown. When the stars have scored, Kane nets a hat trick and sends the Hawks to the Cup Final. The top defensive pairings are playing well, Crawford is at the top of his game and there’s little reason to believe the ‘Hawks can’t hoist the Cup again.

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Regicide: Hawks 3 Kings 2 (Series 3-1)

Tonight was all set up to be a write-off for the Hawks: even perennial “Glass-Half-Full” types like myself were prepared to accept a Keith-Less Chicago getting beat by the Kings and their formidable Home record. We were saying things like “Holding Serve at Home will win this series”.. which is making Tennis analogies in Hockey and clearly all wrong. But I think it’s safe to say that we were planning on resuming hostilities at the UC with the series tied.

Not the case, as it happened.

The Hawks played out of their skins from Puck Drop. There were few battles uncontested and the men in white were everywhere, hassling and harrying. There was also the confidence to keep the passing short and smart. Mainly, the game got played at a pace that the LAK Defense simply cannot live with.  Kane’s goal is a prime example of this. Yeah, sure he just tapped a Bickell redirect of a long shot from Hjammer over the line..  but he had also (along with Toews) been part of a sequence of play leading up to it that had left the Kings reeling. That sort of White-Hot Offense from Chicago will beat anyone. The goal felt inevitable.

Make no mistake, this was an excellent performance from the Hawks, missing one of their biggest pieces. We are headed back to Chicago with a chance to do as the Hawks did unto the Wild.. which is to say Win in 5.

The sun is up here in London, it’s pissing it down with rain and I’m foregoing sleep entirely tonight, as I have to go to work in two hours. Therefore, let’s get the bullets going.. but before we do, the 3 Stars tonight (according to NHL.com) were, apparently, Hossa, Kane and Penner. Which is all kinds of horseshit.

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Boxing-Hawks-Kings-Game3

Speaking Words of Wisdom, Let it Be: Game 3 Boxing with Kings (3) and Blackhawks (1)

 

(Credit: Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

(Credit: Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

Nothing like quoting The Beatles to get a very important point across: Forget this one, and move onto Thursday.

Go ahead and say you expected the Blackhawks to sweep, even after winning the first two at the United Center. Go ahead. You’re a fucking liar, and that’s it. The Kings have played a completely different game at home over the last two months, and there was all but a ball hair’s chance the ‘Hawks would take both at Staples Center.

Not much surprised me in Tuesday’s 3-1, Game 3 loss in L.A. The Kings had an extra bounce in their step, they were more aggressive with the forecheck than they were through the first two games and coach Daryl Sutter used the last change on home ice to pit his top lines against the Blackhawks’ bottom defensive pairing when he could.

Damn near every ‘Hawk and then Q stated that they simply didn’t match everything they had prepared for and expected to see from the Kings. That’s on them, and they know it. Yet still, L.A. played probably the best game we’ll see and the Blackhawks were threatening to tie – and probably should have tied – the game late. Not only that, but the winning goal turned out to be a fluke off of Slava Voynov’s broken stick.

Shit happens, man. Bounces go a certain way, and they’re not always favorable. And given the way the Kings have dominated during their now 15-game winning streak at home – they came into tonight with a 38-18 scoring edge during that run – we should be pretty content that it took a couple of bad breaks for the ‘Hawks to wind up on the losing end.

The Blackhawks should be just fine, so relax.

A couple other things before Boxing…

♦   I’m currently working a night shift, so I heard a caller on Les Grobstein’s overnight show on 670 The Score on my way home talking about how Patrick Kane has been awful and he needs to be more physical and yada yada yada he finally hung up. Here’s the thing every Blackhawks fan needs to get through their fucking heads: Kane is not ever, ever, going to be a physical player. That’s not what he’s here to do. He’s a finesse player with open-ice stick-handling skills that are other-worldly, making the Blackhawks more dangerous when they can create space for him to operate.

Q said after the game the ‘Hawks didn’t get him the puck enough, mainly due to the Kings’ pressure that prevented them from cleanly breaking out of the zone and forced many passes to miss sticks. Kane was essentially taken out of the game, and that’s a credit to the Kings. Also, the ‘Hawks winning 10 fewer faceoffs didn’t exactly help matters for puck possession.

Stop worrying about Kane. Worry about how the ‘Hawks will adjust to get him the puck more.

♦   Duncan Keith apologizing to Jeff Carter was pretty classy, if you ask me. He clearly got caught up in the moment and didn’t mean to hit Carter up high. And to do that after Carter purposely tried to slash his bare hand while picking up his glove took even more character, because had it been me I probably would have meant to hit Carter in the face for being a jagoff.

    As Nakis pointed out on Twitter, Brandon Saad cannot be losing that puck at the blue line late like he did. Get the puck deep, kid.

   Jonathan Quick was the only reason the ‘Hawks didn’t tie that game. He stopped Bryan Bickell on the doorstep multiple times over the final minutes, including the desperation arm save. The Blackhawks had their chances and, like what happens to many opponents at Staples Center, Quick snuffed them out.

♦    Corey Crawford was damn near just as good. That stop on the bouncing redirect was sick.

The rest is in Boxing. Hopefully by the time you’re reading this you’ve taken a step back and realized that if the Blackhawks play this same game Thursday and the Kings come out with any less jump than tonight, the ‘Hawks likely will head home up 3-1.

Right-click the image, then click ‘view’ to enlarge…

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