Blackhawks

Hjammer Down

AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward

Note from Bartl: I am very proud to welcome the newest addition to Cheer the Anthem: Chris Deme, who is the creator of the famous Facebook page Joel Quenneville’s Mustache. Chris is finishing up this year of law school at the moment, but he will be adding his thoughts on a regular basis. Please give him a warm welcome, as we are all very excited to have him on here at CtA!

Mentioning the name Niklas Hjalmarsson around Hawks fans these days is sure to start a debate, not only about Hjammer’s current state, but also his future on the Hawks.  It almost seems like a “Civil War” is brewing amongst Hawks fans about what to do with him, with half of Chicago wanting to give him the ax, while the other half are ready to drop to their knees and beg Bowman to stick with him.  As a law student, I’ve been trained to examine both sides of every issue or argument, so I’m notorious for playing devil’s advocate in everything I do.  That being said, let’s take a look at both sides of this debate.

Let’s start with Hjammer’s numbers, because as the saying goes, numbers don’t lie.

•  Age: 24

•  Cap Hit: $3.5 million through 2014

•  Goals: 0

•  Assists: 2

•  +/-:  4

•  Blocked Shots: 62

•  Hits: 19

•  Average TOI: 20:23

Pros:

Hjalmarsson is 24 years old, which means he still has time to improve.

Hjalmarsson, along with teammate Sami Lepisto, lead Blackhawks defensemen with a +4.

Hjalmarsson’s blocked shots currently rank 4th in the NHL just behind Josh Gorges, Ladislav Smid, and Niklas Kronwall.  He has improved his shot-blocking skills each season.  In 2009-2010, Hjalmarsson posted 137 blocked shots.  After the departure of shot-blocking specialist Brent Sopel the following year, Hjammer posted a team-leading 166 blocked shots (13th in the NHL).  This season, Hjammer is on pace for just shy of 200 blocked shots.  He has undoubtedly taken over as the shot-blocking specialist on the team.

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Sorry, Chicago: Boxing with Blackhawks and Coyotes

Much like Carcillo on this punch, the 'Hawks whiffed against the Desert Dogs. (Credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

I read on Twitter the Blackhawks were 8-1-0 in their last nine games when returning home from a road trip of four games or more.

Well, that sure went to hell fast.

The awful parts of the Circus Trip resurfaced on the United Center ice in a 4-1 embarrassment against Phoenix. I’m not trying to treat a shit performance at the end of November like life or death, but this was such a listless performance that it’s hard to ignore.

Quickly before I get to Boxing…

Niklas Hjalmarsson and Nick Leddy played like a pile of dog shit. They both had better views of a couple goals tonight than the damn goal scorers themselves.

Mike Smith needs to be challenged more. Viktor Stalberg had a chance in the first period and didn’t get a shot off as he skated right past the net, Marian Hossa hopped around more than he shot the puck, as he and Jonathan Toews ended up with one shot apiece. I could have thrown some magazines on my shins and beat the ‘Hawks tonight.

Corey Crawford has to get better – and fast.

The Blackhawks were too aggressive when they should have held back, and not aggressive enough when they should have attacked. It was a backwards performance that resulted in a horrible performance in what was supposed to be at least a return home with a decent effort. Instead, we were witness to a bad line change, another delay of game penalty, bad decisions and shaky goaltending.

With Friday brings the possibility of redemption, and it can’t get here soon enough.

Boxing…

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After Up and Down Circus Trip, Crucial December Awaits

(Dale MacMillan, Getty Images)

The Blackhawks’ annual Circus Trip made Barnum and Bailey’s act look as entertaining as a trapeze artist with no arms.

The two-week jaunt had everything. They curb-stomped rival Vancouver 5-1, looked like an AHL team while getting outscored 14-4 in Alberta, partied in Vegas before it got better with a tough 1-0 loss in San Jose on Blackout Wednesday, then ended well with edge-of-your-seat, back-to-back victories in the Golden State.

The unpredictability of sports is what constantly draws fans in, and this last trip exhausted most every emotion possible while watching this ‘Hawks team.

Coming out of it 3-3-0 is what most of us hoped, even if Brent Seabrook was healthy for all of it. Chalk that up as a victory, despite the fact two of the three losses were as ugly as a bearded lady.

Take the six points. Move on. There’s plenty more next month to get crazy over. And yes, I realize there’s still one more game left in November, but when have we ever stopped looking ahead?

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A Farewell To Kings: Blackhawks Finish Circus Trip In L.A.

Photo: Jeff Gross/Getty Images

The Chicago Blackhawks played arguably their best period of hockey in the third period against Anaheim, coming back from a 4-2 deficit to put the game in the win column with a 6-5 victory. Jonathan Toews notched 2 goals and 3 assists to go along with Patrick Sharp’s hat-trick. Corey Crawford had a solid outing stopping 24 shots, while Jonas Hiller had his night spoiled by getting the hook when the ‘Hawks onslaught got the best of him.

Whatever happened in the locker room between the 2nd and 3rd, it needs to happen before tonight’s game. If the ‘Hawks bring that kind of energy against the Kings, they’ll be in pretty good shape.

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Done with ‘Gobble-Gobble,’ Time For ‘Quack-Quack’

Photo: Kevin Sullivan/The Orange County Register

The tryptophan coma everyone talks about following Thanksgiving dinner is actually a myth, you know. To get enough tryptophan into your system to turn you narcoleptic would require that you eat something like 1,750 pounds of turkey in one sitting. And despite some valiant attempts on my part, I was only ever able to consume about one third of that.

Let’s hope the Blackhawks aren’t sleepy after their Turkey Day festivities, as they have the fifth game of the Circus Trip facing them this afternoon when the team heads into Anaheim to face the Ducks. The lead-up to this game has been uninspiring, with the Blackhawks trying to break a 3-game losing streak — the second one this month — and struggling to deal with the absence of key members of its young core.

This visit to the Pond might be just what the doctor ordered.

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Back From The Brink, And Into The Shark Tank

Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Most of you noticed the cavernous silence coming from Cheer The Anthem following the pair of weekend losses that shall be known henceforth as “The Alberta Ass-Whooping of 2011.” Between the two games, we were out-scored 14 – 4. That’s a High School JV football game.

The net effect was like a nature special with hyenas tearing apart a carcass: what could we say? Edmonton in particular was like watching a game of dodgeball between a class of fourth-graders and the University of North Carolina basketball team. Lambs to the slaughter.

Weekends like those are when being a blogger sucks the worst. You can’t talk up the positives, because there weren’t any; you don’t want to jump on the bring-up-the-IceHogs-and-fire-the-coaches bandwagon, because you know in a week they’ll be lighting up goalies like artificial Christmas trees. So what do you say?

Nothing. There’s nothing to say. All you can do is look forward, and that time is here. It’s game time again, tonight at the Shark Tank. San Jose awaits.

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Fuel To The Fire: Blackhawks Try To Set Calgary Ablaze

Photo: AP

Has Jarome Iginla been traded yet? No? Just checking…

What about now?

It seems that whenever things go south in Calgary the entire hockey media north of the border asserts, en masse, that a deal is imminent. It’s the solution for everything — like duct tape, or chicken soup, or re-booting. Or at least, that’s what the hockey elite in Canada seem to think.

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Thank you Sir, May I Have Another: Boxing with Blackhawks and Canucks

"Everybody! Quick! Come see how good looking I am." (Credit: ANDY CLARK, REUTERS)

THAT’S the way you start a road trip, fellas.

With clowns and elephants occupying the United Center, the ‘Hawks began their annual Circus Trip with a 5-1 thumping of hated Vancouver, giving the Canucks a bit of payback for the ass-whipping they handed them in Chicago.

So, how do you counter the league’s top-ranked power play unit? Don’t give them any power play chances. Seems easy enough. Both ‘Hawks penalties came on coincidental minors, and the Canucks never had the man advantage all night.

Hockey Broad and I traded comments on the Circus Trip Roundtable, with both of us agreeing the ‘Hawks needed to stay out of the box with the penalty kill being less-than-stellar recently. Mission accomplished.

Next up is the Calgary Flames on Friday, and I’ll be watching that game from some sports book in Las Vegas, as I’m headed out for a little vacation. Jim will have your recaps while I’m away, so the next Boxing you’ll get will be after next Wednesday’s visit to San Jose.

Some quick thoughts first …

♦   A lot of what we covered in our roundtable was exactly what happened tonight. We discussed how Duncan Keith would step up with Brent Seabrook out, and he did – minus his awful pass which led to a breakaway. Special teams needed to improve, and it did. Corey Crawford’s recent struggles? Eh, fuck those. Lots of good all around.

♦   Speaking of that, Marian Hossa is just sick. And it was also nice to see him get into a little scuffle. He’s so reserved at times that you wonder if he’s just floating around the ice without a care in the world. But for him to show that emotion, everyone better watch the fuck out.

♦   Crawford – what a night. Saw the puck well throughout the game, and he made a hell of a save on Jannik Hansen’s short-handed breakaway when Keith farted the puck away.

♦   Vancouver’s lone goal appeared to start when Nick Leddy made a poor decision to pinch when one member of the Ambiguously Incestuous Duo had a clear advantage to a loose puck. Sedin lofted it over Leddy along the boards to his brother (shocking), who then found Hansen with a nice pass through Niklas Hjalmarsson. Eh well, I guess.

♦   Speaking of the Sedins, I know that the shit I give them around here is largely biased due to the rivalry. But really, truthfully, honestly, how do Canucks fans cheer for these dirty, cheap assholes? Whichever red-headed step child shoved his stick into Crawford’s crotch as Crawford held the puck near his neck waiting for an obvious freeze should be tarred and feathered and not allowed to see an NHL rink for 10 games. Truly classless, much like their constant diving and shithole antics that make me wonder how these shitheads don’t get called for more penalties. It really, really sucks that they’re good hockey players, because they really disgrace the game at times.

♦   Glad Steve Montador decided he wanted to be Gordie Howe. He’s already halfway to his career high in goals.

The rest is in Boxing …

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Now It’s Our Turn: Blackhawks Visit Canucks

Photo: headtothe.net

You had to believe that after the 6-2 punishment the Vancouver Canucks gave the Blackhawks back on November 6th, all the sports media in B.C. probably spend the next several days pounding their chests and stomping around like the kid in the teen angst movies that ends up getting beaten like a mule, spit on and run up a flagpole for good measure.

Hope you had your fun while it lasted, fellas. Now it’s our turn. Time to go into their rink, humiliate them in front of their slack-jawed fans, then take a meatloaf-sized crap at center ice and climb into the limousine.

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Not Quite Yet, Kids: Boxing with ‘Hawks and Oilers

(Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

The Edmonton Oilers are going to be playoff contenders, though the jury is still out on when that time will come. The Blackhawks showed them glimpses of what it’s going to take to get there.

The ‘Hawks captured a 6-3 victory Sunday night at the United Center, sending themselves off on a good note heading into the annual Circus Trip – kind of.

Brent Seabrook hit the boards hard and suffered the always-vague lower-body injury which could prevent him from traveling with the team for its six-game jaunt. Q said Seabrook will be evaluated more Tuesday and is going with a “day-to-day” amateur diagnosis.

This could present a multitude of problems for a defense already dressing John Scott. The onus will fall on Sami Lepisto and Sean O’Donnell to fill the void left by the absence of one of the NHL’s best defensemen. That means two players who couldn’t even crack the lineup ahead of a no-talent gorilla will have to attempt to do enough of a Seabrook impression to help anchor the blue line.

I guess we’ll find out more soon if that’s the case …

♦   Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: These kids are good. Hall took advantage of mistakes by both Duncan Keith and Nick Leddy to win the puck and create scoring chances with hard rushes to the net, and also was robbed by Corey Crawford after putting himself into a scoring position in the slot. Eberle’s goal was a pretty move just after coming out of the box, and RNH showed exactly why he was the No. 1 overall pick and stuck with the big club.

The Oil remind me greatly of the 2007-08 Blackhawks – Lots of young talent and not enough veteran support which left them teetering on the brink of breaking out. Nikolai Khabibulin was in net – for 49 starts, anyway – for those ‘Hawks, who got it together the next year when Khabi put together a 25-8-7 season. While Edmonton won’t be getting home-ice advantage in the postseason no matter Khabi’s solid play so far, I fully expect the Oilers to be contending for the No. 8 seed if they can manage to avoid 2-4 road trips like this one down the line. The talent is there.

♦   The ‘Hawks moved to 7-1-2 at home, earning 16 of a possible 20 points at the UC. Part of last season’s shitfest had to do with the fact the Blackhawks were less-than-stellar on home ice, even when the schedule seemingly was doing them favors. Not the case this season – so far.

♦   Another power-play goal. I think I’ll wet my pants.

Onto Boxing….

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