Boxing 2010-11

Game 89. See You There, Vancouver: Boxing with ‘Hawks/Canucks, Game 6

Looks familiar. (Chicago Tribune)

Epic.

Game 6 had it all. Pregame storylines, dismay, euphoria … then overtime, with the Blackhawks season either continuing or crumbling with the next goal.

Alain Vineauglt displayed his 10-pound sack by benching Vezina Trophy finalist Roberto Luongo in favor of 25-year-old Cory Schneider in a game Vancouver absolutely needed to head back home happy. And even the most daring of moves left Luongo skating off the ice with his hair gel being the only thing waiting at his locker not passing judgment.

Much like the ‘Hawks have been doing thing this entire series, they fought from behind. Down 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2, the Blackhawks tied it each time. Then Ben Smith flicked the end of Game 88 past a sprawling Luongo to guarantee a win-or-go-home Game 89. While Blackhawks fans are celebrating just getting back into this series, hoping to complete a historic comeback in Game 7, Canucks fans are already sending out their mourning letters to their beloved squad, demanding – not hoping for – a victory before all faith is lost.

There’s plenty of bad we can go over. Farting pucks all over the ice, the three third-period shots – two if you don’t count Michael Frolik’s penalty shot – the Canucks seemingly dominating most of the game, and the heart-wrenching which goes along with overtime playoff hockey knowing your team will meet its demise with the opponent’s next goal.

Things need to be fixed before Tuesday, and part of me believes the Blackhawks were lucky to get out of Chicago with a victory knowing Vancouver played nearly its best hockey of the entire series. On top of that, 1:43 of 5-on-3 went to waste, with the kick in the dick coming when Coach Q used his only timeout to draw up a bunch of shit which obviously didn’t work. The fact the Blackhawks’ only lead came after Smith’s goal is indicative of how a good portion of Game 6 played out. While it feels good to celebrate now, Game 7 won’t go as well if the same screw-ups happen as they did Sunday.

For the second time in this series, each member of the Dave Bolland line notched a goal. Bolland played a key role in two, destroying Dan Hamhuis to force the turnover on Bryan Bickell’s goal, then potting his own off Kaner’s feed from Schneider’s piss-poor clearing attempt.

The Blackhawks still will be facing elimination in the next game. But so will Vancouver, which seems improbable after the first three games of this series. The pressure is still on the Canucks, who need to avoid a collapse of epic proportions and the most embarrassing “History Will Be Made” video ever.

I’ll do the rest of my talking in Boxing…

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5-OH!: We’ll-See-You-in-Chicago Boxing with Blackhawks/Canucks

"All right, first one to get the whole stick up his ass gets the window seat on the way back to Chicago." (Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

And just like that, it’s a series.

Go ahead, lie to me. Tell me you saw this coming. I just may be gullible enough right now to believe you.

Thursday night’s 5-0 bitch-slapping of the Canucks in Vancouver was about as beautiful of a performance as … well, as Tuesday night’s. The back-to-back wet farts by Roberto Luongo with his team a single victory away from eliminating its arch rivals is a classic occurrence from a guy who can’t seem to keep himself composed.

Luongo took off his “Oh Shit” face long enough during interviews Tuesday night and Wednesday to tell everyone how calm he was, how he was going to leave the 6 GA branded on his ass in his rear-view mirror. Then he came out Thursday looking like an AHL castoff. He would have had a better chance stopping pucks if he stood up his tube of L.A. Looks hair gel in the crease.

Much like we were asking where the Blackhawks were the first three games of the series, Canucks fans have to be wondering where the living hell the composed, fluid, throat-grabbing Canucks have disappeared to during the last two. It’s been a meltdown of epic proportions, resorting back to being thugs in the face of adversity.

Alain Vingeault looked up to the scoreboard so damn often I simply thought he slept funny and his neck was stuck. It ain’t gonna change, buddy. You’re still getting your ass kicked. And on top of that, he couldn’t keep his players composed.

Notorious assholes Kevin Bieksa and Alexander Edler decided to forget they were playing hockey in order to get chippy, and things just got worse for the Canucks. Once again, it was phenominal to see. I wrote over and over again this Vancouver team was different from the past two postseasons. Apparently I was wrong. Get this team down, and they fold up quicker than one of those slap braclets many of you are too young to remember.

When Vancouver wins this series (keeping with tradition, so you can breathe now), we’ll at the very least be able to look back at these performances and say, “OK, at least we made a valiant effort to defend the Stanley Cup.

But that flight to Chicago for Game 6 – can you believe it; Game Fucking 6?! – for the Canucks will be so tight they may crumble with a minor bout of turbulence. There may not be as much laughter and tomfoolery as there was on the trek between Game 2 and Game 3.

It’s back to Chicago and the raucous United Center for a game I never thought would come. It seems a while ago I walked past Canucks fans holding brooms heading into the UC from Game 4. Now I hope the ‘Hawks bring me a step closer to shoving them directly up their asses.

A few thoughts before Boxing …

How many of you thought the ‘Hawks were completely screwed after Brian Campbell took that penalty 16 seconds into the game? (/Bartl raises his hand)

Duncan Keith was an ass hair away from a hat trick, as Patrick Kane nipped the puck on past Luongo to put the ‘Hawks ahead 3-0

Although the Blackhawks were 1 for 273 on breakaways Thursday, Marian Hossa made the one look damn sexy. Luongo looked like he was trying to figure out his ride home while Hossa skated in.

How do Canucks fans decide which Sedin jersey to buy? “I’m just gonna get the one for the guy who’s better loo… no, they both look the same. OK, I’ll get the one of the guy who’s got the most career poi… well, that’s pretty much the same, too. Hmm, how about I get the one of the guy who has the least amount of leadersh… well, that’s pretty damn similar, too. Just give me the one of the guy with red ha… damn it, they both have red hair. All right, give me the one of the biggest headcase … (Clerk says) Here’s your Luongo jersey, sir.”

Edler’s elbow to Brouwer was such a bush-league play that he should get a suspension purely based off the fact that he’s a gigantic piece of shit.

Oh, and Corey Crawford had a 36-save shutout. Boo-ya-ka-sha!

OK I’m done. Here’s Boxing:

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Night of the Living Dead: It’s-Not-Over-Yet Boxing with ‘Hawks/Canucks

"You can say fuck, shit, piss. Whatever you want." (Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune)

If that was the last time we see the Blackhawks on the United Center ice this season, what a way to go out.

Tuesday night’s 7-2 demolishing of Vancouver in Game 4 might have been the most fun I’ve had watching something I couldn’t muster the excitement for all day. For one night – and hopefully not the only night – the ‘Hawks took it too their opponent in a fashion which we’ve all been dying to see.

And it came without Brent Seabrook, who sat out due to the douchebaggery of one Raffi Torres.

Tuesday, the Canucks were the ones missing passes, not staying in position and chasing the entire game. Vancouver was out of its game, and it was extremely pleasant to witness.

Oh, so that Dave Bolland guy came back. Yeah, it took him all of two periods to become the Blackhawks’ leading scorer in the playoffs. His line completely hampered the Sedin Twins defensively, then took it the Canucks offensively as him, Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik ended up a plus-4.

All three scored a goal, and Bolland and Frolik combined on a couple superb plays. Bolland’s goal was all Frolik’s doing, as he skated into the zone and forced the turnover Bolland cleaned up. Bolland then took the hit to make a beautiful pass, springing Frolik for the breakaway and de-pantsing of Roberto Luongo.

From there, Vancouver did exactly what they’ve been avoiding all series and decided to get chippy rather than play hockey. It’s what we’ve seen the past two postseasons from the Canucks, and it’s amazing how quickly they can get back to their bad habits when the ‘Hawks took it to them. Will it carry over to Game 5? Who knows. But despite holding a 3-1 series lead, it sure seems they were so rattled they couldn’t control their emotions on the ice.

From a team we’ve seen so poised through the first three games, it was shocking Vancouver didn’t just take its beating and stayed within themselves. Instead, the Canucks may have given the Blackhawks even more momentum heading to Vancouver. We’ll see if that’s true or not.

And how nice was it to finally get to Luongo. I respect the hell out of him and think he’s an all-world goaltender, but damn to see that guy skating off the ice with his tail between his legs is an awesome site – more because of what it did for the Blackhawks and the fans, especially.

We’ll see if any of the Canucks fans who have been chiming in on the site use the strained back muscle or whatever it was as an excuse, but if it was that bad then he should have sat. Again, take your beating and move onto Game 5 rather than risk it. Instead, he came out, got lit up, then hit bench with a 6 tattooed on him.

I’m not going to sit here and write the Blackhawks are going to come back and win this series. I still don’t believe it will happen. But a win in Game 5 will get me – and Canucks fans alike – thinking heavily about it.

Tuesday was the Night of the Living Dead. The Blackhawks are staggering, but they’re not gonna give it up that easy.

I’ll just go ahead and discuss the rest in Boxing. Enjoy – even if you’re a Canucks fan.

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Dim the Lights: Down 0-3 Boxing with Blackhawks/Canucks

Credit: Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune

I know what you optimists are thinking, and you can stop right now. The Blackhawks are not the 2010 Flyers, and these Canucks are not the Boston Bruins. It ain’t gonna happen.

Even when the ‘Hawks were at their best in this series, it wasn’t enough. Vancouver took advantage of the few opportunities they were given to beat the Blackhawks 3-2 and pull within one victory of ending their rivals’ season.

This series may not end Tuesday, but it likely will be the last time you see the Blackhawks play at the United Center this season. Pardon the utter lack of faith, though I cannot fathom how you could disagree. The Canucks didn’t play their best game, and they still beat the Blackhawks when they played, well, a lot better than they had. It’s tough to argue with that.

A few thoughts before Boxing …

I’d first like to throw out a shit sandwich to anyone who believed dressing John Scott was a good idea. A dipshit penalty, one horrendous decision by Coach Q to put him out for nearly an entire power play, and 5:20 of ice time later, Scott sat the bench for the rest of the game. That should be the last time we see Scott in an Indian-head sweater.

Although the Blackhawks didn’t convert on 1:17 of 5-on-3, I wouldn’t say they pissed that time away. Roberto Luongo made two terrific saves on Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane at the doorstep to snuff out the Blackhawks’ attack. Though it would have been nice to go up two goals at that point and create some sort of cushion, it’s probably the best the power play looked in the series aside from …

Duncan Keith scoring off the draw five seconds into the first power play of the night. It marked the Blackhawks’ first lead of the series and last of the night, which makes me want to cause physical harm to myself.

Even though both ‘Hawks goals came on the power play, they finished 2 for 7 and couldn’t take advantage of Vancouver consistently taking penalties.

We all wondered where the Blackhawks’ “stars” were the previous two games. Keith scored, Toews had two assists and Kane added another. Marian Hossa? Well…

Here’s your Boxing:

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Slipping Away: Game 2 Boxing with Blackhawks/Canucks

Credit: Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune

The Blackhawks are doing just enough to piss off everyone. There’s hope, then it’s ripped away. And with the glimmer flickering its last gasps, it’s all over.

Vancouver 2, Blackhawks 0. The way things have gone, I implore you to find a reason it will change on home ice.

The obvious fact: The Canucks are flat out better than the Blackhawks. That wasn’t a state secret coming into this series. The not-so-obvious fact? Vancouver has put together a fantastic gameplan to slow down the Blackhawks and take away their speed. The Canucks have controlled the neutral zone, taking away the ‘Hawks’ ability to skate into the zone with much threat for most of the series.

Vancouver’s aggressive forecheck has done the ‘Hawks in on numerous occasions, forcing the Blackhawks into turnovers and rushing the decision-making while keeping the ‘Hawks’ speed at bay. On top of that, notice how the Canucks clear the puck from their zone. It’s flipped into the air into the center of the ice, avoiding icing and making the Blackhawks chase. More often than not, the puck is not rung around or banged off the side boards to simply clear the line.

The puck floats, bounces harmlessly into the Blackhawks’ zone waiting for a defenseman to finally get his stick on it. This time is allowing the Canucks forwards and defensemen slip into the neutral zone and set up. This might as well be 1989, because the Blackhawks haven’t been able to complete a two-line pass with any sort of efficiency. The ‘Hawks are being shut down and taken out of their game.

And that’s the reason the fourth line came up with all three goals Friday night. The ‘Hawks skilled players are being neutralized by Vancouver, and that’s the reason you’re not seeing Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, etc., do anything of substance in this series. If the Canucks are allowing goals to only the fourth line – which sees limited minutes  – against their bottom six, Vancouver seems to feel its in good shape. And its the correct gamplan, seeing as the Canucks hold a 2-0 advantage heading to Chicago.

Not to take anything away from Ben Smith, who played an outstanding game. The same goes for Viktor Stalberg, who not only scored but after 84 games decided it was time to be a bit physical. Kane looks scared shitless, and only for the last six minutes of the game decided to fight through checks. Toews? Hossa? Sharp? Coach Q needs to watch some tape and figure out how to get these guys in position to score against Vancouver’s aggressive – yet very skilled – play.

Enough can’t be said about Corey Crawford. He is facing the Dustin Byfuglien treatment the Blackhawks laid on Roberto Luongo the last two postseasons. The Canucks are parking people in front of the net and disrupting Crawford’s line of site through the first two games. But he stoned the Sedins on a 2 on 0 and faced enough odd-man rushes to make my farts seem pleasant, yet stood tall and kept the ‘Hawks in the game the best he could.

The rushes came from the ‘Hawks using their defenseman to pinch more frequently and carry the puck into the zone as often as possible in order to put some sort of pressure on Luongo. Problem was, it didn’t work. Vancouver broke free for numerous scoring chances, and luckily they took 400 offsides penalties or this game might have ended 10-3.

Friday’s game was lost in the second period. Sharp’s retaliation trip led to Vancouver’s power-play goal in the first minute, then a deflection goal with 13 seconds remaining took away the momentum after Smith pulled Chicago to within one.

There’s a whole ton of shit that needs to be figured out in two days, and it’s going to be a chore to actually do it. My feeling is the Blackhawks are going to need more than just the motivation of the home crowd, because the Canucks seem confident enough not to give a rat’s ass what color the jerseys are.

With all of that said, this series is far from over as much as it may seem like it. There’s still a decent amount of positives to take from these two games. If the top six show up, there’s a lot that can be done.

Onto Boxing, if you can stomach it.

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Recap (and Boxing) of ‘Hawks/Canucks Regular Season Series: Twins style

This seems fitting, doesn’t it? Granted Daniel and Henrik Sedin look much more alike than Schwarzenegger and DeVito, but this seems a pretty good movie to help with the breakdown.

The Blackhawks and Canucks split four regular-season meetings with each winning once each at home and on the road. Here’s a quick snipit of team statistics from each contest.

The most glaring aspect — which Brad Ziemer of the Vancouver Sun pointed out yesterday in our Behind Enemy Lines interview — is the Blackhawks were just 1 for 20 on the power play through the four games. The Canucks went 5 for 16. Ziemer said this series could come down to special teams, and he may be right.

Much like I did during last season’s playoffs against San Jose, I’ll breakdown each regular-season game relating to a quote. This edition, we’ll rely on Twins to provide us the memorable banter. And if you were lucky enough to get Boxing after one of these games, you’ll be able to take another gander at that as well.

And ….. go.

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Wild Finish Aligns the Stars: Boxing with Playoff-Bound ‘Hawks

"And you'll still be looking up to me when this show's over." (Blackhawk Up image)

Pure disgust to utter elation in a matter of four hours.

And now, back to reality.

Sunday was a microcosm of a Blackhawks season which had people jumping off cliffs, then scaling the mountain again in hopes of reaching the top. The Red Wings came into the United Center and farted all over the Blackhawks’ playoff hopes with a 4-3 heartbreaker.

Then, the Minnesota Wild brought the Febreeze with a 5-3 win against Dallas, sending the Blackhawks to the playoffs for the third straight season.

It’s pretty much pointless to discuss the Red Wings game in detail. That was in the prior season, the regular season which doesn’t matter anymore. To piss ourselves off about the fact the ‘Hawks came into the game with everything to play for and the Wings entering the game with nothing …. wait, I just said I wasn’t going to do this.

Our dear friends – the Vancouver Canucks – await in Round 1. Dustin Byfuglien’s fat ass won’t be around to wave in Roberto Luongo’s face again this year. And if you’re happy to see the Canucks simply based off the fact the ‘Hawks have won two straight playoff series against them, dig deeper. These are two very different teams. Let’s just hope Luongo is still the same postseason goaltender.

Wednesday at 9 p.m. CST, it’s on. Hopefully the Sedin Sisters just keep spooning each other and miss puck drop because they got caught up watching Junior while attempting to make the plot come to real life.

You can check the schedule here for the first-round series, and we’ll be back each day with a more detailed breakdown of the series.

Until then, here’s a very special edition of Boxing detailing the only thing that matters… More >

Captain Rights the Ship: Eventual Boxing with Blackhawks/Blues

(Chicago Tribune)

Sorry to tease you a bit here, but there’s a bit of an issue loading up the Boxing images. That should be corrected by about lunch time, so I just wanted to get this up to let you know to check in around then.

I’ll be updating this post with the images. I don’t know what the damn problem is, but I’m getting it sorted out.

See ya back here soon, and sorry for the delay.

Crunched in crunch time: Boxing with Blackhawks/Lightning

"I'm finishing my coffee. Yep, enjoyin' my coffee." (Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

Much ado is made about whether or not the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks will qualify for the postseason. But let’s ask ourselves an important question:

If the ‘Hawks do make the playoffs, would it be worth the inevitable embarrassment of getting bitch-slapped by Vancouver? Because that’s what’s going to happen – especially with efforts like Sunday’s.

The 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay is a microcosm of what the Blackhawks are going to be as postseason participants. We’ve been waiting all damn season for the ‘Hawks to live up to their “talent,” and through 78 games we’ve been mostly disappointed. Is there any sign of this being a different team when the Blackhawks hit the ice for the first-round series against the Canucks?

The answer is no. Sunday proved there’s going to need to be a lot of prayer to whatever higher power you answer to in hopes said higher power just ordered a Jonathan Toews FatHead.

Go ahead, call me pessimistic. You’d be 100 percent correct. But if you’re in any way optimistic following Sunday’s wet fart of a performance, get your head examined.

Here’s what the West standings look like heading into Monday:

Yes, I’m aware a series with the Canucks is not a sure thing and the Blackhawks can move up. And I’m also aware the ‘Hawks have had their way with Vancouver in previous postseasons. This isn’t previous postseasons.

On top of that, what makes anyone believe the ‘Hawks can beat Detroit or even San Jose if they can move up to 6th or 7th?

The effort against Tampa Bay was that of a team not realizing the magnitude of what’s happening. The Blackhawks treated all 60 minutes like a Sunday morning drive to church – relaxed, while hoping some figment of their imagination will make everything sweet and wonderful. Forget putting a foot on the gas pedal, because the Blackhawks were taking a handsome cab ride with Rusty guiding the way.

Mike Smith (yeah, I know, Mike Smith) wasn’t in the least bit challenged the entire night, and an early power-play goal off Niklas Hjalmarsson’s dipshit delay-of-game penalty culminating with Brent Seabrook thinking about the next episode of Chicago Code as Vincent Lecavalier converted did the Blackhawks in.

And before you say anything, I don’t care if Dave Bolland and Patrick Sharp are out. It’s no excuse. The effort put forth Sunday wouldn’t have beaten the Charleston Chiefs.

Onto Boxing, if you dare …

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Fill ‘er up: Ran-out-of-Gas Boxing with Blackhawks/Bruins

"I was just looking for the other half of my face." (Credit: BRIAN SNYDER, REUTERS)

You had to know this was coming.

It’s not as if the ‘Hawks haven’t played back-to-back games before – in fact, they came into the game 8-3-1 in the second game of back-to-backs this season – but it was pretty evident the Detroit game took a ton out of the Blackhawks. The Boston Bruins dictated the pace and took it to the ‘Hawks in a 3-0 shutout from Tim Thomas.

Jonathan Toews ended up a minus-3 for only the fifth time in his career as the Blackhawks mustered only five shots on goal in the first period, giving Thomas basically 20 minutes off to start the game. There was basically zero energy, and Corey Crawford gets the credit for the ‘Hawks coming out of the first unscathed.

Boston simply played its game, and there was nothing the Blackhawks could do about it, even though they literally tried to rip off the Bruins’ faces in the process. Shawn Thornton needed 40 stitches after Fernando Pisani’s skate cut him across the forehead.

(Quick sidenote: Any chance this heats up the NHL’s talks of mandating visors? I say yes.)

Dallas lost to Phoenix in a shootout, meaning they’re six points back of the eighth-place Blackhawks. Chalk Tuesday up as tough loss, and move onto Columbus on Friday fresh and ready to go.

Here’s your Boxing…

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