It’s finally that time of year, folks. The regular season is now meaningless history. History will be made, starting now. The two month grueling process of hell, otherwise known as the Stanley Cup Playoffs, begins its 2012 chapter.
The Blackhawks start their run in Phoenix. Everyone was begging for the 3-6 seed matchup for the past month. Well, folks, you got your wish. We get to face the Yotes.
Game 1 will need to be a statement game. Mike Smith has been very stingy against the Hawks (and the rest of the league, for that matter) in every game this year. The Hawks will need to score, and they will need to score early tonight.
Jonathan Toews practiced with the team yesterday afternoon and expects to play tonight. I hate to be cynical, but I’ll believe it when I see it. His status seems to change by the hour, which is understandable with finicky head injuries. Assuming Toews comes back, it could give the Hawks the spark they need to score early.
The Yotes are a physical team and will get after you and crash the net. The defense needs to make a statement tonight too. The Hawks cannot let the Yotes win the battles in front of Corey Crawford, leading to an easy tap-in. When you’re facing a tough goaltender like Smith, you cannot give up easy goals. The Hawks’ defense needs to make Phoenix work hard for their goals. If they don’t, they will not win this game or this series.
The Hawks play a quick, open game of hockey, which is the exact opposite style that Phoenix plays. They tend to grind it out. Due to this, Phoenix will look to physically out-battle the Hawks and, excuse my language, knock the Hawks on their asses to slow the game down (see: Minnesota Wild vs. Blackhawks, regular season games 80 & 81). The Hawks can’t afford to get caught up in the post-whistle stupidity and goonery. The Hawks need to keep their cool and play at their level, rather than that of Phoenix.
Lastly, if Toews does indeed come back, the Hawks will need to keep an eye on him. Phoenix will be going after him physically. You can bet your house on it. It will be really important for them to find the right balance of sticking up for their captain, and not getting carried away playing grab-ass. Blackhawks fan-favorite Raffi Torres is nearing the one-year anniversary of his demolition of Brent Seabrook. Just hope he doesn’t try to celebrate the anniversary with a gift for Toews.
Game starts at 9:00 PM Central on NBCSN.
It is a tradition that has become both a fan-favorite and an essential glue of solidarity between NHL fans and players. The playoff beard. Many fans grow one. Many fans wish they could grow one. Almost all NHL players grow one while they are in the hunt for the Cup. While many of us (myself, included) partake in this superstitious ritual, I would venture to guess that there are some out there who do not know the roots of its tradition.
Nowadays, if someone mentions the New York Islanders, it’s likely going to be a conversation about how terrible they’ve been in the past decade, how Rick Dipietro might be one of the biggest busts in recent memory, how they may or may not get a new stadium, or how John Tavares simply deserves to be surrounded by a better team. It’s easy to forget that the Islanders of the 1980s had one of the most dominant and storied dynasties in NHL history.
In 1980, the Islanders, with the likes of Clark Gillies, Gord Lane, Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier, and Ken Morrow, found themselves in the playoffs after an impressive 110 point season. As a sign of solidarity, many of the players decided to grow beards during their Cup run. Well, as fate would have it, the 1980 Islanders won the Cup. In fact, they won the next three Cups after that as well. The Islanders won an impressive 19 consecutive playoff series, while growing the playoff beards. A tradition was born.
Although the beard-growing tradition took a break after the Islanders dynasty ended, it made resurgence in the 1990s and is now a league-wide phenomenon.
Yeah, I know. Everyone says you can throw out the regular season once the playoffs start. Things begin anew and what happened in the past should stay there.
That’s probably how the Blackhawks should feel after going 1-2-1 against Phoenix, including dropping the final three meetings. While most – including myself – still believe the Blackhawks can – and should – win this series, the Coyotes were a giant pain in the ass in 2011-12.
And a quick “Did You Know?” … Joel Quenneville and Dave Tippett were teammates with the Hartford Whalers from 1983 through 1990. As you can see, Tippett also once had as fine of a ‘stache as his boy Q. That’s cute. If I was their teammate and saw them together, I’d call the duo “Q-Tip.” Jokes. I get jokes.
Anyway, here’s a quick rundown of the season series:
October 18 at Jobing.com Arena
Dave Bolland scored a short-handed goal 2:27 into the third period to put the ‘Hawks up 4-2, and they’d go on to win 5-2 to improve to 3-1-1 on the season. Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews, Jamal Mayers and Bryan Bickell also scored.
Taylor Pyatt and Ray Whitney had goals for the Yotes.
The Blackhawks controlled the action most of the way, outshooting Phoenix 15-4 in the first period and 35-16 for the game.
Corey Crawford made 14 saves to earn the win, while Jason LaBarbera took the loss.
Hopefully those who celebrate are having a nice Easter Sunday, and you’re about to find out what day the Second Season begins in the Second City. You’ll be seeing a lot of posts around these parts in the coming week with a wide variety of things being covered as the playoffs begin.
For the Blackhawks, the quest for the Stanley Cup begins in Phoenix after Saturday’s 3-2 shootout win over Detroit.
Yes, Patrick Kane made a filthy move in the shootout. It had me taken aback, and his smiling face skating back to the Blackhawks’ bench gave me a nice giggle.
But did that meaningless shot simply mask the disappointment we should be feeling after the ‘Hawks blew a late lead for the second consecutive game? If Kane doesn’t make that move and the Blackhawks lose that shootout, aren’t we going around asking questions about how the ‘Hawks are going to survive in the playoffs, especially if Jonathan Toews isn’t quite ready?
Instead, we’re all “excited” to be playing the Pacific Division champion Phoenix Coyotes, who ended the season with 97 points, four fewer than the ‘Hawks. Avoiding Nashville sounds fun and all, but there’s still the fact the Blackhawks let a chance at home-ice advantage in the first round slip away over the past week.
Now the ‘Hawks get to face Mike Smith, who is pretty much the hottest goaltender in the world right now. Forget that he doesn’t have playoff experience. Some guy named Niemi didn’t have any either. The ‘Hawks were less than a minute away from avoiding him and a Phoenix team that has won five straight games barely breaking a sweat.
Chicago never had the lead in their game against Minnesota last Sunday, which isn’t how the Blackhawks play their best game. However they did fight back to erase 3 deficits and force the Wild to a shootout. A shootout which the Blackhawks lost, eventually. But beyond showcasing the pugilistic talents of the bottom-six forwards, this game showed that this Blackhawks team may have a lot more perseverance and “guts” than we saw earlier this season.
The playoffs are right around the corner. The Blackhawks had better get a heaping helping of guts on the menu, and start making quick work of trifling teams like Minnesota, pretty quick. Like, perhaps, tonight.
First thing’s first: with their 5-4 win over Nashville last night, the Chicago Blackhawks have clinched a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s the first time since 1995 that the club has managed this feat for 4 consecutive years.
And there was much rejoicing.
The story of how they got that win, however… Well, I’m going to quote Pat Foley (always a dangerous move, I realize) and say that, “It doesn’t have to be an oil painting.”
Every time the Blackhawks go up against Boris Badenov and the Nashville Predators I find myself sitting there wondering, Why the HELL does Chicago have such problems with this team? Other teams kick the crap out of them regularly, as evidenced by Nashville’s losses to Pittsburgh and cellar-dweller Edmonton just last week. Why, oh WHY, do the Blackhawks usually end up either on the short end of a close game, or being humiliated by a staggering margin against these pukes?
In the 5 games between these teams this season, the Blackhawks have come away with a only one win — and that one went into overtime. Chicago has better records this year against St. Louis, Vancouver, and Detroit (*spitting noise*). They’re laughing at us in Music City, counting the ‘Hawks as an easy win, and hoping that they manage to land Chicago as a first-round playoff opponent instead of the Red Wings.
Nashville fans are laughing at us. That has to fucking stop. Tonight. And that means the Blackhawks had better deliver a crushing blow to this Predators team, and make it clear that taking Chicago lightly will be a costly mistake.
Watching this game, I kept imagining what it would be like for the Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues to meet in this year’s playoffs.
It’ll likely be extremely nerve-wracking, but no one can deny how hard-fought of a series it would be.
For the second straight meeting, a 3-1 deficit was erased before a shootout decided the outcome, and the ‘Hawks once again came out on top 4-3.
Before getting into the good stuff, I’ll make it known that allowing a goal within a minute after scoring is goddamn annoying, and for it to happen twice makes me want to punt my cat. And blowing a two-goal lead with less than 10 minutes remaining in the third period makes me want to punt my girlfriend’s cat. Neither are acceptable – even with Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith out of the lineup. If you can get a two-goal lead in the third period with both of them out, then you should be able to hold it with both of them out. End of story.
With that said, no real harm done, as the ‘Hawks came away with two points, and giving St. Louis the extra one doesn’t matter one bit given the ‘Hawks have no chance to catch them anyway.
The Blackhawks did their part with a chance to clinch a playoff spot, but San Jose shit the bed once again and got shut out in Phoenix, delaying the inevitable for another couple of days. While the No. 6 seed may not make you feel all tingly inside, whoever comes out of the Pacific Division clusterfuck won’t exactly scare me. If the ‘Hawks pull the “upset” and St. Louis gets by whatever Pacific remnants are left in the eighth spot, us fans will be driving to road playoff games in the second round.
A couple notes before Boxing…
♦ Only 20 shots on goal for the Blues tonight, marking the 10th straight game the Blackhawks have allowed less than 30 reach the net. The ‘Hawks are 20-8-2 when allowing 25 shots or less.
♦ With that said, Corey Crawford can’t allow three to get past him and stop only 17, especially given the first one was pretty soft. He made up for it in the shootout though, which makes it forgivable.
♦ The ‘Hawks are 10-2-2 since beating Toronto on Feb. 29, and that’s with the power play going an are-you-absolutely-fucking-kidding-me 5 for 43 (11.6 percent). Can you image if the Blackhawks were simply goddamn serviceable with the extra man? Christ. Two more missed chances tonight, making the ‘Hawks 0 for 15 over their last four games.
Boxing for ya…
How did the Blackhawks beat the St. Louis Blues two weeks ago? By pounding them into submission? By Jamal Mayers making dents in B.J. Crombeen’s melon? By Brandon Bollig trying to tenderize Ryan Reeves? So many will say ‘yes’, and assert that a physical game will be imperative to beating St. Louis tonight. I’m going to disagree.
Chicago beat the Blues by first of all, recovering from a 3-goals-against meltdown by Ray Emery in the first period; and secondly, by throwing 46 shots at the Blues’ goal while limiting their shots against to just 24.
Tonight will be no different. If the Blackhawks use their speed, press their forecheck, take advantage of a demonstrably slower St. Louis defense, and not waste time and energy throwing the body, they will win. How do I know? One week prior to that game, the Blackhawks managed only 20 shots on goal against St. Louis while allowing 31 shots against. Chicago lost 5-1. And Bollig and Reaves went at it in that game too, precious little good it did.
Martin Brodeur isn’t using his goalie stick as a cane quite yet.
The 39-year-old did it all Tuesday night, making 37 saves and four more in the shootout as the Blackhawks fell 2-1 in New Jersey. Brodeur gets most of the credit for this one, and it’s well-deserved.
Save for the first 10 minutes when Corey Crawford withstood a barrage from the Devils, the ‘Hawks were the better team for roughly 55 minutes. It took a big screen from Bryan Bickell and a point shot from Brent Seabrook to finally get one past Brodeur in the third period to tie the game.
The Blackhawks blew two key power play chances that could’ve ended up swinging the game in their favor, but the Devils got an extra one past Crawford in the shootout and the ‘Hawks ended up taking only one point.
The 5-on-3 for roughly 1:20 in the second period created a couple chances that Brodeur snuffed out, then another missed chance game at the end of regulation which yielded nothing. To the Blackhawks’ credit, they were able to kill off a 4-on-3 to start overtime when Marian Hossa went into the box with under a minute in regulation.
One quick thing before Boxing…
If Ray Emery was healthy enough to play tonight, would Coach Q have started him over Crawford? Emery didn’t exactly set the world on fire when he came on in relief of Crawford in the 6-1 loss to Nashville on Sunday, but Q has been known to ride the man who relieved the other for at least a couple starts. Nonetheless, Crawford likely earned himself a start no matter how Emery feels for Thursday’s home tilt against league-leading St. Louis.
Crawford was one of the big reasons why the ‘Hawks came away with even a point tonight given the performance of Brodeur at the other end. Hopefully that carries over to Thursday.
Boxing coming up…
Having just done a brief tour of some of the less scenic parts of New Jersey, I can tell those of you who haven’t been there to skip it. New Jersey is to New York City what Gary, Indiana is to Chicago — except with half the smell and twice the abandoned buildings. Got the picture?
Hey, the truth hurts. And with the Blackhawks’ ranks depleting faster than they can call up reinforcements from Rockford, the truth is more painful than usual these days. But we’ll go there later.
Right now, the matter at hand is a New Jersey Devils team that, fortunately, won’t land in the basement of the Atlantic Division thanks to an Islanders team with a nice lottery position. But a team that is nonetheless in big trouble as its latest bout of losses presents the real possibility of missing the playoffs. Surging teams in the form of Buffalo and Washington may just use the last 6 games of the season to kick New Jersey straight to the golf course.
Will offensive titans Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, and Zach Parise be able to light the lamp enough to make up for Martin Brodeur’s fading talents between the pipes? Hopefully not tonight…
Supposedly this game was so infuriating for Vancouver fans, their most-followed blog, Nucks Misconduct, couldn’t even bother to recap it, skipping right to previewing the Dallas game.
To credit one Canuck, Roberto Luongo played a hell of a game. Corey Crawford did him one better, though, and the Blackhawks ended the season series with a 2-1 overtime win Wednesday night at the United Center.
The ‘Hawks kept coming at Luongo, and he turned away some great chances. Crawford, after letting in a softy on the game’s first shift, ended up standing tall in the third period and OT to help the ‘Hawks escape with their fifth consecutive victory.
That’s as far as I’ll go to compliment those jagoffs, though. It still boggles my mind how any human being with any sort of sense can actually cheer for people like Kevin Bieksa and Alex Burrows. At least the Sedin twins are decent hockey players when they’re not falling all over themselves when they hit an ice shaving or an opponent blows wind through their pansy goatees.
Bieksa and Burrows are likely the two biggest pieces of squirrel feces on this entire planet, and they proved it again tonight. Canucks fans – and the Canucks themselves – can bitch all they want about Duncan Keith’s hit, but Daniel Sedin’s earlier hit was just as dirty and uncalled for. If Keith would’ve went down like a ton of bricks, it would’ve been and looked just as badly.
However, that said, Keith’s hit was dirty. He brought the elbow up and knocked him in the jaw. If he plays Sunday, call me surprised. Since he’s not a repeat offender, one game should about do it.
Also on the who-might-not-play front, Marcus Kruger didn’t play after leaving in the second period. Kane went 3 for 18 on draws Wednesday, so that part doesn’t make it sit well that Kruger may not be out there against a Predators team can bury teams if they win the majority at the dot.
Onto happier things, Johnny Oduya fired the puck on net after a Dave Bolland setup, and Andrew Shaw gave it a little nudge after doing his job – going hard to the net – for the game-winner. Hell of a game, but I wouldn’t mind being saved a heart attack by not seeing the Canucks in the postseason.
Don’t look now, but the Blackhawks are only three points back of the No. 2 seed, currently held by Vancouver, with nine games to go.
Boxing for ya…
The last 3 years the Blackhawks have faced the Canucks in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Why should this year be any different? The way it’s shaping up right now, it’s a decent possibility that Vancouver will be the Blackhawks’ first-round opponent. Tonight’s game will give us a preview of what we can expect.
Tonight will also be a test of the Blackhawks’ mettle: can they continue their first period dominance? Can they beat teams that are ahead of them in the standings the way they have beaten teams below them? And can they continue their recent solid play in the absence of Captain Jonathan Toews?
Buckle up, people. This game’s going to be close: either be a hard-fought win, or a very disappointing loss. No blowout in sight this evening.
This is really quite simple. The Columbus Blue Jackets, albeit lately playing well, are the worst professional hockey team among the 30 that make up the National Hockey League. They score the 2nd fewest goals in the NHL, give up the 2nd most goals in the NHL, have the 26th ranked powerplay, the worst penalty kill, generally don’t score first and might have the single worst general manager since Mike Milbury turned the Islanders into the Pirates of this league. In short, the Columbus Blue Jackets are absolutely terrible and probably should be competing for the Calder Cup instead of the Stanley Cup.
We got that covered? Great.
Alexander Ovechkin has 29 goals this season for Washington.
The next closest guy on the stats sheet has only 18.
How do you defend the Washington Capitals? I’ll give you three guesses…
See, the Blues didn’t think it was enough to pound us 5-1 at their rink last week. They’ve just signed a 19-year-old rookie phenom draft pick, and they’re coming into our house hoping to do it again.
Jaden Schwartz, having finished up a 30-game, 41-point sophomore season with Colorado College, inked an entry-level deal on Monday and will be in the lineup tonight against the Blackhawks. Of the 15 goals Schwartz pumped in for the Tigers this year, 5 were on the power play, and 4 were game-winners. And guess what? All of those numbers were down from his freshman year!
You should insert your favorite Spaceballs joke here, by the way…
It’s been a busy few weeks for the Men of Four Feathers: a losing streak, a winning streak, injuries, rookie call-ups, goaltenders and deadline trades have all kept Blackhawks fans on the edge of their seats.
While taking a break from the mayhem, the boys from Cheer The Anthem sat down early this week to toss around their opinions on these subjects, as well as traffic on the Edens, acetylene torches and the Bermuda Triangle in the March edition of the Round Table…
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Back on December 3rd, the Blackhawks got 4 goals past St. Louis netminder Brian Elliot. The next time he let 4 goals get past him in one game was February 22nd.
Now: want to know the bad news? He’s not the best goaltender playing for the Blues right now. Jaroslav Halak hasn’t let more than 2 goals get past him since February 9th. He’s 6-1-0 in his last 7 starts, with a 1.40 GAA and .949 save percentage in that stretch.
Awww, damnit. The Blackhawks get a win streak going, and what do you know? Another hot goaltender. Must we go through this EVERY BLOODY TIME?!?
A thought crossed my mind last week. We sit here writing about this and that, and our readers loyally glance over our opinions and our pieces each and every day, but we (or at least I) have never opened up the floor to the fans to ask questions.
Earlier this week, I posted an update on Joel Quenneville’s Mustache giving fans an opportunity to ask any questions they want about the Blackhawks, hockey, or life in general.
I spent the next few days answering some of these questions, and picking a few of them to share with the world on Cheer the Anthem. So, without further ado, here are your questions:
Like the Blackhawks, the Ottawa Senators sit in sixth place in their conference. The difference is, Ottawa has won 6 of their last 7; Chicago… hasn’t. The Senators are on a tear, and they’re looking to repeat their filibuster of Boston when the Blackhawks take the ice tonight.
What has caused this surge? The main reason for it is a name you likely have never heard before: Erik Karlsson.
Anyone who has paid attention to my moan-and-groan missives and incessant grousing over the last 2 years with Cheer The Anthem knows that I am one of the most vocal opponents of the “lower body injury” non-disclosure standard. It’s ridiculous, it’s insulting to fans, and it prevents a vitally important function of the media at large: namely, being the watchdog on behalf of the fans and players to ensure that the teams aren’t rushing players back on to the ice before they are fully healed.
When I get a bee in my bonnet like this, I go hunting in search of evidence to support my conclusion — like any hot-headed blogger would do. Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up! But occasionally, I find out that I’m wrong. This is one of those times.
Under the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996, it is a violation of Federal law for a sports team to disclose the health information of one of their players (pronounced: “employees”) to anyone without the employee’s consent.
So if we want full disclosure, guess what? Too bad.
For those of you who are able to endure the lengthy explanation of the specifics, there are some idiosyncrasies about this law as it pertains to sports teams below the jump…
In a perfect world, Mikhail Grabovski would be skating out on to the ice at the United Center on Wednesday night wearing the Indian Head sweater. Such is not the case, as Chicago failed to acquire the playmaking forward that it needs at the trade deadline. Chicago fans will get a chance to see Grabs, however: he and the Leafs will be making a rare appearance at the UC, their first since November of 2009.
The bad news is that Toronto has been a team that, like the ‘Hawks, has had streaks of unstoppability during the season. The good news is, now is not one of those times. The Leafs have notched a win only once in the last 10 games, a losing streak severe enough to drop them to 10th place in the East and out of playoff contention.
Those familiar with the Maple Leafs are aware that February is usually when any successful Leafs squad starts to implode, and this year is no exception. They have wheeled the defibrillator and the oxygen cart into Damien Cox’s cube at the Star.
Having endured one and a half periods of the festering colostomy bag that was last night’s game against Los Angeles, I don’t feel the slightest bit guilty about being in a bitter and sardonic mood as we approach the puck drop for the Blackhawks’ tilt against the Anaheim Ducks. Gordon Bombay’s squad is 7-1-2 in their last 10 games, pushing 5 of those tilts to overtime (and prevailing in 3 of them). Anaheim has climbed out of the laughing-stock category with Columbus and Edmonton, and is just 6 points out of a playoff spot as today’s action begins.
All things considered, I think I’d rather have the ‘Hawks playing the Sharks.
Following yesterday’s media feeding frenzy over reports that Blackhawks Captain Jonathan Toews may have a concussion, he was unfortunate enough to be the center of Twit-rumor-ligula after photos surfaced of his black AMG Mercedes having had words with a steel support for the L train on Lake Street. The car got the worst of that disagreement, and witnesses claimed to see Tazer climb out of the car and receive attention from EMT’s who had arrived on the scene.
The Blackhawks released the following statement regarding the injury:
Jonathan Toews was in a minor one-car collision this morning in downtown Chicago while driving himself to the United Center. He was not injured.
So you can just imagine the insanity that broke loose on the Twitterscape, as the Blackhawks PR department (who would have known about the incident hours before the photos surfaced online) twiddled their thumbs while speculation about everything from the severity of Toews injury, to his level of sobriety, to Patrick Kane being in the passenger seat, to whether the Canucks had installed the bridge support there overnight ran rampant through the social media sphere.
Hint for next time fellas: ostriches with their heads in the sand just THINK they’re safe.
Anyhoo, Tazer is fine, he did apparently get a ride to the hospital in an ambulance as a precaution and at the behest of the team’s medical staff. The Tribune contacted him by text when the story started to get legs and his reply was, “I’m good.” From the looks of the photos, the airbag likely deployed. So Tazer’s ears are gonna ring a little while, and he’ll be sore in the chest for a day or two. Those things save your life, but they’re not pleasant to be around.
Toews was not slated to play tonight anyhow, he missed the game against Detroit with an upper-body injury as well. So, move along people, nothing to see here. Though I would bet that Toews’ insurance agent is not having a particularly good day. If the frame’s bent, they’ll total that puppy. An AMG SL65 coupe lists for around $200K. Ouch…
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It’s easy to forget about Dallas, mainly since the Blackhawks haven’t seen them since splitting a home-and-home with them to open the season in October. But also because in terms of the standings, the Stars haven’t been a factor. They’ve been cruising around in bubble-team land for most of the year, currently hovering a game back of the 8th spot in the Western Conference.
Then one remembers who tends goal for them, and you get that knot in your stomach. Kari Lehtonen, who fought off 37 shots in his team’s winning effort against Chicago to start the year, has always been a serious pain in the ass to get a puck behind. Going back to last season, when Chicago managed to drop 3 games to Dallas, the Blackhawks did a fine job of humiliating themselves twice on the visitor’s ice — the first by blowing a 3-0 lead and managing to lose 4-3 in a shootout, the second by getting shut out 5-0 while Lehtonen barely broke a sweat at the other end of the rink.
No matter where they sit in the standings, the Stars always give the ‘Hawks trouble. Tonight should be no different.