What the Blackhawks have done the last 10 games in the Western Conference, the Toronto Maple Leafs have done in the East. With who’s-THIS-fucking-guy goaltender James Reimer between the pipes, the Leafs have surged to a 6-1-3 record over their last ten games. After having been written off for another year by pretty much everyone as recently as the All-Star Break, they are now within 4 points of a playoff spot.
Tonight the Leafs play host to the similarly-resurgent Chicago Blackhawks, setting up a Clash of the Titans in the NHL’s broadcast media Coliseum: an Original-Six matchup on CBC’s Saturday night edition of Hockey Night in Canada. The only thing that would make this more perfect is if it were at Maple Leaf Gardens. But alas, time marches on.
“Hear about the Hurricanes?” Ask this question, even in Raleigh, and the answer usually comes back, “No! Was anybody hurt? Are they coming here? Do I need to board up the house?” Ask 100 random people on the streets of Chicago who Eric Staal is, about 3 will know he’s the Captain of the Hurricanes. I doubt you’ll find more than 2 who can answer that question correctly within a 10 block radius of the RBC Center.
Carolina’s about chitterlings, NASCAR, basketball and good ol’ Southern hospitality. Not exactly hockey country. Easy to explain why, like most teams south of the Mason-Dixon line, the ‘Canes are in the bottom half of the league for nightly attendance, filling only 17 out of every 20 seats on average. Shame, too: because even with a team put together with a $10 million salary cap cushion, they are in 7th place in the Eastern Conference and will likely make the playoffs.
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:
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
Shhhh… Come closer…
I’m not going to say this too loud. I’m preposterously superstitious, and the jinx factor is as strong as using the word “sh****t” when a goalie is going into the third period with no goals against. So lean in…
The Blackhawks have a winning streak going. Five games and counting.
You just can’t make it easy can you, Blackhawks?
When Tomas Kopecky decided to be, well, Tomas Kopecky, and flick the puck over the boards for absolutely no justified reason, I thought for sure the league’s 26th-ranked penalty was going to let Minnesota tie it.
It was a welcome surprise to not only see a solid kill, but then have Jonathan Toews make a perfect pass to Marian Hossa for the game-clinching shorty.
From 9th to 5th in a matter of a couple hours. Five straight wins allows for such things. Most importantly, Monday’s 4-2 victory against the Wild came in regulation to avoid handing over an extra point to a team the Blackhawks are fighting in the constantly fluctuating Western Conference standings.
I’m very tired tonight, so I’m going to let Boxing do most of the talking. Enjoy, ya’ll.
With all the attention on the NHL trade deadline today (when the Blackhawks picked up defenseman Chris Campoli from the Ottawa Senators for pathetic minor-league flame-out Ryan Potulny and an exchange of draft picks) it was easy to forget that the ‘Hawks have a game tonight. The Men of Four Feathers are in Minnesota to take on the Wild, a team with an identical record but by virtue of the screwy tie-breaking system sit just ahead of them in the Western Conference standings.
This is a must-win game, the fourth in a stretch of 22 must-win games for the Blackhawks. But we’ll add another requirement to the Blackhawks’ job tonight: win in REGULATION.
The funny thing is the points awarded to each the Blackhawks and Coyotes somewhat relates to the scoring of a boxing match.
The Blackhawks won periods one and three, dominating like we haven’t seen nearly enough of this season. Phoenix took the second period when the ‘Hawks left their talent in the locker room.
Two points for Chicago, one for the Coyotes.
I guess the main point, however, is that we need not necessarily worry about HOW the points are earned right now – just that they’re earned. Obviously handing over a point to a team we’re chasing in the West isn’t anywhere near ideal, but progress was made – even if it’s not the amount we really wanted.
Oh right, the astoundingly good things. Well, I’d like to know how many true fans of other teams can look at one player on their roster and say, “I know that he’s not going to let me down tonight,” each time their team hits the ice. Blackhawks fans are fortunate enough to have Jonathan Toews be that guy. It never gets old to praise the Captain, and he proves worthy of it each night. The fact that he’s not discussed more is a testament to just how ridiculously solid he has been this season, almost as if he’s willing this team to get into the playoffs.
Oh, and Marian Hossa is once again nearing man-crush status. He’s scored a goal in three straight games for the first time since Oct. 15-18.
♦ Fels already beat me to it, but I was thinking the same thing as him when Jordan Hendry went down: Stan Bowman is most likely going to overpay for a defenseman today. It’s going to happen, we just have to hope it’s no one like a Troy Brouwer who will be the price. I never, ever, ever, ever in a million years thought I’d say this, but releasing Nick Boynton may have come at the wrong time. While I absolutely and genuinely think he brings nothing positive to the ice, it would be nice to have that extra defensive body who has at least had experience playing with these guy be available. If Bowman ends up farting away a top-6 forward or harming the future by dealing a top prospect for a rental defenseman, The Curse of Nick Boynton will continue …
♦ Hi, penalty kill. Any chance this improves in my lifetime? Combine the extreme problems the ‘Hawks had tonight – which all but led to them blowing a pair of two-goal leads – with Hendry’s injury, and Bowman has 60 minutes of film to justify being as desperate as virgin one-legged midget come the deadline. It’s going to take some restraint from him to not make a reaction trade to tonight’s events. Hopefully he slept on it rather than making calls immediately after the ‘Hawks left the ice.
♦ Corey Crawford is second in the NHL in goals-against average. If any of you out there, even those who believe Crawford was ready to play in the league, say you believed this would happen this year, you’re lying and it’s not funny.
Boxing will take you from here ….
Today is the kick-off to the most grueling part of the Blackhawks’ season: five games over seven days, starting with three opponents hovering just above them in the Western Conference standings. Today’s opponent is the Phoenix Coyotes, who recently wrapped up an 8-game winning streak that included a 3 – 2 shootout win against Chicago. It was this stretch of solid play that propelled them to fourth place in the West.
This is a big one for the Blackhawks, and we owe these pukes. But how do we derail this train?
Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook has signed a contract extension for 5 years and a reported $29 million. This takes one of the biggest restricted free-agent headaches off the Blackhawks’ plates as the off-season approaches.
This puts the focus on GM Stan Bowman to acquire the penalty-killing defenseman he has been in search of, and he has roughly 24 hours to put a deal together. Stay tuned to BlackhawkUp for details.
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Some quick items to pass along as you head into your weekend.
The Blackhawks took the day off from practice, as they get ready for a 5-game-in-7-day stretch that starts this Sunday at home against the Phoenix Coyotes. From there it’s up to Minnesota to face the Wild, back home to host the Calgary Flames and Carolina Hurricanes, then up for a rare trip to Air Canada Center to take on the Maple Leafs in Toronto in a nation-wide broadcast of CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada on March 5th.
It has just been announced that Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Nick Boynton has been placed on waivers by the team as of noon EST today. Boynton joined the ‘Hawks late last season and has played 41 games this season, amassing 1 goal, 7 assists, 36 penalty minutes and a +1 rating.
He and his $500K salary are eligible to be claimed by any team in the league until noon EST tomorrow.
Follow us on Twitter and keep up with us on Facebook to get all the latest news as the trade deadline approaches.
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
Put a log on whatever fire is currently lit under the Blackhawks’ collective ass.
The Blackhawks finally realized that a regulation NHL hockey game lasts 60 minutes, rather than pretending this was Kindergarten and there was nap time after the milk gets passed out.
A few thoughts before we get into Boxing:
♦ You’ll hear this a lot, I’m sure, but Duncan Keith played his best game of the season. I’d love to know why he decided to save it for this long, but we got back our Norris Trophy winner for a night. Keith was all over the place, made smart passes and looked more aggressive and smart than I’ve seen him in awhile.
♦ Niklas Hjalmarsson played only three minutes in the third period after suffering an upper-body injury.
♦ Hi, Marian Hossa, I like when you’re awesome. Pekka Rinne may as well have been Ray Charles on that breakaway, because he had no chance. I like this Hossa. I want more of this Hossa. Please can I have more of this Hossa?
♦ No more bitching about calls from that Vancouver game a few weeks ago. I’ve heard people bring it up once a week since how the Blackhawks got hosed. That makes two phanton goaltender interference calls that negated goals for the opposition, and we won both games. We’re all even. Drop it now.
♦ Why Viktor Stalberg continues to see less than 10 minutes per night boggles my mind. What’s he done so wrong? This looks like another instance similar to when Q got something in his head about Jordan Hendry and he got scratch more than an instant lotto ticket for two months.
♦ Corey Crawford played very well tonight, and his save on Martin Erat right off the initial faceoff to open the game kept Nashville from taking early momentum. If that goal goes in, I might be writing something completely different tonight.
And now, Boxing:
The Nashville Predators sit in a 4-way tie for the 5th through 8th spots in the Western Conference, with the Blackhawks nipping at their heels only 2 points behind. A win for the ‘Hawks tonight puts them into that pile as well, with momentum on their side. Put simply, it’s another must-win game. Just like the last one, and like the other 21 left to be played after tonight.
I’m investing in a defibrillator. This is getting ridiculous.
Before I get into this, I would like to first say I know the difficulties that come with being a beat writer for a team. I’ve done it professionally. There’s a very thin line between being accepted and being banished, and it can often be extremely hard to tight-rope that line.
Never do you want to overstep your bounds. However, you also cannot let certain things detract from your job: Bringing the public to the forefront of issues going on within the team. There’s a reason journalism is competitive in terms of being “first to report.” Every ad for a big-market journalism job, especially in sports, says candidates must have the “ability to break news and develop sources.”
It’s just the way it goes. Do your Blackhawks beat writers do a good job overall? I’d say yes. Can they go deeper and ask tougher questions? Without a doubt.
Are they afraid of being banished by John McDonough? It’s something we’ll probably never get a straight answer about.
Welcome to a special follow-up edition of Behind Enemy Lines. Today we get the perspective of St. Louis Blues beat writer Jeremy Rutherford, who covers the team for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Jeremy had a busy weekend and it gets busier tonight, with the Blues playing their fourth game in five nights. He was kind enough to answer a few questions.
Click the jump for the Q&A with Jeremy Rutherford
Apparently, Jonathan Toews agrees with Blackhawks bloggers and tells the team things the beat writers should be asking about.
After a rather horrible first period, The Captain did his job and spoke up. The result? Four points in roughly 24 hours and a five-way tie for the No. 7 seed. Here’s what he had to say, according to the Chicago Tribune:
“Maybe I got after the boys a little bit too much, but we saw the guys responded to it,” Toews said after the Hawks’ 5-3 victory Monday over the Blues.
“What’s frustrating (is), we say things before the game that we have to do and we go out there and play the way we did in the first 20 minutes. It was unacceptable and the leaders in the locker room held the rest of the team accountable and everyone stepped up to the plate in the second 20 (minutes).”
Here’s what Bartl said in “Boxing”
Click the jump for Boxing with ‘Hawks/Penguins/Blues
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The St. Louis Blues will have a much different look about them when they take the ice this afternoon for a Presidents’ Day tilt with the Blackhawks. Despite the trades involving marquee players on the east coast garnering all the media attention, the Blues have easily been one of the most active teams in the last week.
Absent from the Blues are former 1st-round draft selection defenseman Erik Johnson and forward Jay Clement (shipped to Colorado) and the Blues’ CAPTAIN Eric Brewer (traded to Tampa Bay). Added to the lineup are forward Chris Stewart and young defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk from the Avalanche. 2010 3rd-round pick defenseman Brock Beukeboom was also acquired from the Lightning, but is not NHL-ready.
There were eleven former feather heads that took the ice Friday night and they were all skaters. Also they were able to net two goals and add two assists.
On Saturday sixteen former ‘Hawks took the ice. There were two goalies who both recorded impressive shut outs. One was in his debut after being traded the day before. There were two points recorded which were both goals coming from Former Stanley Cup Champion Hawks, Ladd and Byfuglien.
Sunday, “Hockey Day in America”, there were nine former Blackhawks to take the ice. They tallied four points which were all goals. Rene Bourque had a game to remember in the Heritage Classic. Really carried the flames to victory. Every game was competitive and exciting on “Hockey Day in America” and I was just happy to see the ‘Hawks pull one out.
Sunday was former Blackhawk, Phil Esposito’s 69th birthday. Esposito’s 18 year career started here in Chicago midway into the 1964 season. In 1965 he started the season centering future Hall of Famer Bobby Hull.
In 1967 he was traded to the Boston Bruins where he flourished. He led the league in points five times during the years 1969, 71, 72, 73, 74 when he recorded 126, 152, 133, 130, and 145 respectively. He also scored a career high, 76 goals in the 1970-71 season. He is considered one of the best players to ever play the game. Obviously I could go on about Esposito, but I will just continue with this weekend’s game action. So lastly, Happy Birthday Phil, we would have loved to have you in Chicago for your entire career, but we now have this post in your honor.
Click the jump for updates from this weekend’s games
How is it possible these Blackhawks make the playoffs?
Tell me. I want to know. How is anyone supposed to have any sort of faith in a team that hasn’t played up to its talent at any point this season?
Oh, and our Stanley Cup-winning goal scorer is once again a being thrown out there as a drunk piece of shit. I don’t care if these pictures are from over the summer, nor do I care if they were from three years ago. Patrick Kane’s immaturity is so ridiculous it’s beyond wonderment how or why Jonathan Toews hasn’t literally beat the shit out of him yet. Like Fels of SCH said, this story isn’t going away.
Kane can deny it all he wants, but there’s too much evidence against him for me to give him the benefit of the doubt. Why? If you need more reason, Andrew Ladd has more goals than him this season.
Anyway, to the game recap:
The Blackhawks sucked. Here’s your Boxing, where I’m more descriptive.
NOTE: Don’t forget to check out Bartl’s Q&A with Columbus Dispatch beat writer Aaron Portzline
The Columbus Blue Jackets arrive in Chicago on a hot streak (5-1-1 since we thumped them on Feb. 1) and looking for a little payback. Last time out we made their goaltenders look like ice dance partners as we let loose a little beat-down in a 7 – 4 win. Rest assured, the Blue Jackets have not forgotten that.
Far be it from a Blackhawks’ fan to back down from a fight. So when Mary O’Malley, lead writer at the Fansided Network’s Fire That Cannon blog came knocking, I wasn’t about to let her walk away.
After all, she’s not just a Columbus Blue Jackets fan, she’s a GIRL!
So we shot a few e-mails back and forth, and here’s the result.
Aaron Portzline, the beat writer for the Columbus Dispatch, was kind enough to answer a few of Bartl’s questions before tonight’s Blackhawks-Blue Jackets matchup at the United Center. Much like Wednesday, playoff positioning is the story as we get into the stretch run. You can check out Aaron’s coverage on the Puck-Rakers Blog on the Dispatch’s website. Enjoy!
Click the jump for the Q&A with Aaron Portzline
Coming home for the first time in three weeks, having their coach in the hospital and sitting in 11th place in the Western Conference after winning the Stanley Cup a year prior seemed enough to motivate the Blackhawks on Wednesday night.
It’s about time.
At this point, whatever it takes to get the job done is fine by me. Granted, no one wants to see Joel Quennivelle in the hospital. We can bitch about how he’s handled the team all season, but his absence was still missed.
The Blackhawks’ 3-1 win against the Minnesota Wild was the resurrection of sorts in a few different ways. The ‘Hawks played to their talent, beating a team they needed to beat despite getting hit in the jaw through the first 20 minutes. Marian Hossa was an absolute beast on the ice, and was simply stoned by Jose Theodore to keep him from netting a goal. Some of the shaky goaltending we’ve seen? Not tonight, as Corey Crawford single-handedly kept the ‘Hawks in the game and up a goal in that first period.
Despite all that, the Blackhawks are still four points behind eighth-place Calgary, which beat Dallas 4-2 last night. That may seem pretty bad upon first hearing that, but there’s good news. They’re also only four points out of fourth, as the No. 4 seed and No. 8 seed are all just a single point behind third-place Phoenix.
That’s tighter than Alyssa Milano during her “Who’s the Boss?” days.
And with that, I present your latest edition of “Boxing.” Get well, QStache.
Click the jump for Boxing with ‘Hawks/Wild
For a view on the Wild, read Bartl’s interview with Wild.com’s Glen Andresen.
The time for moaning and groaning is over. No more excuses. Sure, we’ve had a lot of illness and injuries. Sure, we don’t have a firm handle on who our “starting” goaltender is — like that designation matters. Sure, everyone’s on pins and needles because there might be another trade coming in the next two weeks. Sure, we’re elbow-deep in a tight playoff race with 10 other teams all shooting for the same five slots in a kill-or-get-killed race to an invisible finish line.
Does any of this matter? Verily I say unto thee, it does not. The name of the game is HOCKEY. Pass, shoot, score. Forget the press, forget the rumor mill, forget the standings. Forget everything but the fact that in five seconds it’s your shift, and you had better get your ass out there and give 110%. Head up, stick down, anticipate, don’t forget what’s behind you. It’s time to put the blinders on, fellas. It’s crunch time.