So much for that. The confident pick of many Hockey writers & pundits, St. Louis were tipped to win the Central and march out of the West. Apparently they were strong, unified and had totally bought into Ken Hitchcock’s system; which brought them so close to a Presidents’ Trophy last year. And Jaro Halak and Brian Elliott were going to continue as the hottest goaltending tandem in the League.
Instead, here we are, deja vu time. Rumours of locker room problems, indications that the team has quit on the coach and, oh, yeah: out of the Playoffs again. St Louis’ wait for a cup will have to continue.
I’m not going to write a lengthy eulogy, better writers than me are surely sharpening their..um.. internet pens (?) to do so. Instead, I’m going to look at things that the Blues can do with all this free time they’ve suddenly got. Through the medium of crappy photoshops, of course.
That was… effective, I guess. The Wild, as in the previous game, came out flying around the ice trying to hit anything that moves and throw the Hawks off their game. Again, it worked to a degree: this game was closer than the scoreline suggests and Corey Crawford had himself a mighty fine night. But the upshot? Goal in each period, a shutout and an increased likelihood that the only shiny metal things in the hands of Zach Pari$e and Ryan $uter this year also have the word “Slazenger” on them.
Also have to mention the first exit of the Post-Season as the Canucks were swept by the Sha-Arks. I had the series down as a battle of two teams that had probably missed their Cup-window, but I certainly thought that the Nucks were still closer to their peak than San Jose. Plus the whole “Choking” thing. I was wrong, as usual. I don’t think there can be any doubt that there are going to be big changes in Vancouver in the new season. I would guess that Vigneault will be gone soon, but the biggest question there is what to do about Honk & Donk. That team is built around them when, arguably, it should be built around Kesler. Anyway, I digress..
- The Miracle Of Childbirth seems to inspire Patrick Sharp. Remember this? That handsome, handsome man got himself a pair (and came damn close to a hat-trick) as team-mate Duncan Keith rejoined the side after attending the birth of his son, Colton (impressively ‘Canadian’ name there, Duncs)
- Corey Crawford had himself a shutout and some great frigging saves. He flat out robbed Zach Parise (again) and generally looked like the happy, aggressive, confident Crow we all know and love. Although he did go a-wandering to play the puck a few times. Let’s keep that to a minimum, hey?
- Subject of goalies, Josh Harding got hurt in a collision with the Captain late in the 1st Period. He played on in clear discomfort and did not return after the intermission. The current word is “Lower Body Injury” which, obviously, tells us nothing. Darcy Kuemper came in as relief and.. well.. I believe the expression rhymes with “Ticked The Frog”. Wild fans that I know have a high opinion of this kid, and I’m not going to dump on him here.. but boy he had a night to forget. He had to have both of those goals and turned into a rebound machine.
- Bingo Bickell got his 3rd goal of the Playoffs on a shot from an acute angle that I’m sure even he didn’t expect to go in. They all count, though, and more please. If his swansong in an Indianhead involves lifting another Cup (with his name actually going on it this time) then so be it.
- Patrick Kane is a fucking genius. Every time he touched the puck I got tense in anticipation. He appears to be using some sort of Matrix-style bullet-time that isn’t available to mere mortals. Saw a lot of time with Toews tonight. I like.
- Marian Hossa gave us some Beast-Mode, too, especially when picking off a Koivu attempt to spring Pari$e to start the rush that led to the first goal. Toews was getting stuck in but is still pointless.. then again we saw practically nothing out of the Wild’s top line either so there’s a cancelling-out element going on there.
- On the subject of “Pointless”, GorillaSalad’s TOI: 3.55 PIM: 2.00. Can we please have Ben Smith now?
- And while we’re talking about turds, Cal Clutterbuck (or David Schwimmer: The Porn Years) is a worthless POS. Someone on Twitter used the unfortunate expression “You’ve Been Clutterbucked” after another of his John Woo style leaping elbows. Which makes sense. His borderline hitting reminds one of Detroit’s Finest Ass-Tick. I think he had 1,736 hits last night according to the Wild’s scorer, although I may be out by 50-60.
- Ryan $uter has the slit-like eyes of a lifelong glue-sniffer.
- The PK was nails, again. But 6 penalties? This is not a recipe for success against teams that are actually good at Hockey. Please to be cutting that shit out.
- Finally, how about those fans? Most of the Wild fans that I know are reasonably level-headed (by Hockey Fan standards). What to make of the mistimed booing, “Craaaaw-fuuuurd” chants and general asshattery last night? No idea, but then I remember that these are likely many of the same idiots who booed Harding when he came in cold during the Edmonton shellacking. So screw ‘em.
We’re back in Chicago tomorrow night with the “Who gives a fuck about the West” start time of 8.30 Central (2.30am here.. hooray) and the chance for a handshake line. Last time we were on the right side of one of those? I’m sure you all remember.
That’s more like it, hey?
After Game 1 being a close run thing, the Hawks simply placed a skate on the neck of the Wild tonight and never really took the pressure off. It was a game more one-sided than the scoreboard suggested and a welcome display of superiority pretty much everywhere on the ice.
Josh Harding got his second straight start and once again had a fine game, which he needed to have, as his “Defence” allowed 48 shots. Getting outshot almost 2-1 is never a recipe for success and, sure enough, the Wild came unstuck under this relentless barrage. Two goals from Michael Frolik and Patrick Sharp plus an hilarious ENG from Wild-Killer “Bingo” Bickell (stick tap to JR Lind) were enough to get the Hawks there. Setoguchi managed his standard “Annoying Playoff Goal” and something called Scandella also scored for the Wild but it never felt that they were in it. Bullets? Bullets
- On a night where (Sharp aside) the Hawks’ superstars were kept off the scoreboard, it came down to the supporting cast to get it done. And they did. That third line of the Hawks just looks better and better with every passing game.
- Who was that standing there with his thumb up his ass while Frolik scored shorthanded? Was that Ryan $uter? It was. His (and Brodin’s) ice-time stayed below 25 minutes. Which is a good thing, I guess. Didn’t matter.
- On the subject of Reasons Why The Lockout Happened, that sequence where Zach Pari$e took approximately 398 shots from both sides of the net while Corey Crawford soaked it all up with a smile was absolutely hilarious. In a close game I’d be questioning why someone wasn’t clearing out the crease, but in this context it’s just funny.
- That pass from Kane to Sharp for the 4th goal? That’s how you make a whole bunch of big guys protecting their crease completely irrelevant in a split second. Patrick Kane, folks. He’ll be here all week. Try the veal.
- Andrew Shaw was a wonderfully itchy rash on the taint of the Wild all night. I think I love that horrible little thug.
- Mikko Koivu decided that the best way to motivate his team was a Backes-Style march-to-the-box. Pointless, a -3 on the night and 6 PIMs out of his team’s total of 10. That’s Leadership right there, folks.
- Bickell and Stalberg may indeed be pricing themselves out of town with their play so far in this series, but you know what? Who cares. I’m sitting back and enjoying the ride.
So it’s off to Minnesota for Game 3. I’m interested to see what Mike Yeo does in terms of line matching. Does he let his top people get neutralised by the Hawks stars while the likes of Bickell and Stalberg run riot on the “Bum Of The Month Club” that is the Wild’s supporting cast? Or does he try to shut down Toews and co. with his 3rd line? The results of which should be predictable and hilarious.
I don’t believe in jinxes but I know that some of you do.. so I won’t use the word itself. Let’s put it this way. It rhymes with “Weep”. Which a lot of people in Minnesota will be doing over the next few days.
Well done, Blues, well done. You saw the cream of the Just-Outside-The-AHL-Playoffs tonight, but you didn’t flinch and ground out a gritty victory. I hope you enjoyed it. Hard Times are a-coming.
In other news, The Wild will be the Hawks first-round opponents.. but more o’ that later. Hope those who went to Gonna Drinken 2 aren’t suffering too badly this morning and we’ll be back with much, much more before the Real Fun begins.
(The quote above comes from the TV show Brass Eye. If you don’t know what that is, fix it. )
Anyway, the Hawks round off their Regular season with the always delightful trip to Missourah. As of this writing (wee hours of the morning for you nice folk in the US) we’re anticipating a team full of Black Aces to give the top guys a breather and keep important craniums away from wandering elbows, sticks, pads and knees.
Could make for a torrid introduction to the NHL for some of these lads.. the Blues will likely Hulk Out because
a) They always do. They know of no other way. This is what happens when you ice a team that has the collective restraint, sense of fair play and intelligence of a rabid Hyena that’s has been licking the lead paint off a wheelbarrow full of pig shit.
b) The Blues actually do have something to play for: they currently squat in 4th, but could end up, depending on tonight’s game with the Hawks and the Battle Of California in LA, as low as 6th. Which, obviously, runs the gamut from “Home Ice against San Jose” to “Heading out West to play the Kings”. Or, of course, the one we’re all hoping for: Vancouver.
The sheer Shitbaggery that would surely dominate that series would provide us with many, many chuckles along the way. While, sadly, they can’t both lose, I’m sure that a nightmarish 7-gamer with lots of 4OT would leave the winner looking like those skidmarks that Roman Polak just can’t eliminate from his undies, however hard he wipes (tip for Roman: try using TP rather than a dead rat)
So how does this hilarious situation come about?
A Hawks win coupled with San Jose beating LA in either OT or SO drops the Blue Notes to 6th. It’s a bit of a long shot, I know. I’m not expecting much from the Hawks players, except trying to fend off whichever Blue is gnawing on their coccyx all night. Staying healthy is more important than fucking up the Blues post-season. They’ll have plenty of opportunity to do that themselves.
I’ll be back with a recap after the dust settles.. just hope there’s nothing to make me angrier than I normally am after having to watch Backes, Reaves, Jackman, Polak et al trying to set the Cause of Quality Hockey back a couple of generations.
Also make sure to keep an eye on events in Dallas, Denver and Columbus. The Wild pissed on their chips last night to the tune of a 6-1 shellacking at home by the Oilers, therefore setting up a day of hellish twists and turns in the race for 7/8th seed. Enjoy their pain.
Let’s Go, Hawks
Tonight the Blackhawks arrived at the United Center and competed in a contest they couldn’t have possibily cared less about. Despite the games meaninglessness, they managed to walk away with a 3-1 victory. They finished 18-3-3 at home. They are 18-3-2 on the road. They will have home ice throughout the playoffs. What am I getting at here? YOU SHOULD ENJOY IT. Really, think about it – the Toews/Kane era may be as good as it ever gets. After the sour note we ended last season on, it was goddamn satisfying watching them put everything together to dominate the Western Conference this year. This was the type of season we envisioned this team having once it became clear THE CORE was truly something special. Are they head and shoulders above the rest of the NHL? Absolutely not… but I can’t help but feel that optimism should carry the day here.
Things that happened during this mandatory attendance game:
Tonight, for the final Home game of the 2012-13 Regular Season, the Blackhawks host the Calgary Fla.. oh, fuck it.
The Flames are dead and buried, the Hawks are home and hosed, there is nothing to care about and we don’t even get to gaze adoringly at Iggy and heave deep, heartfelt, sighs. Ryan Stanton is up , the rest of the Black Aces will get the call tomorrow. And St Louis, of course. There’s always them.
So, rather than make (redundant) jokes about Jay Feaster, I thought I’d take a quick look at the final days of the Season for the three teams fighting it out for the last two Playoff places in the West. Or, as I call it
There are many, many different permutations and combinations that could see some of these teams either finish as high as 6th or hit the golf course early. It’s exactly the sort of Bowel-Loosening situation that I, for one, am glad the Hawks avoided entirely this year. I still flinch when I think back to two years ago. I won’t try to elucidate every potential outcome, just a few of the more intriguing possibilities. One of these bunches of schmucks are going to be the Hawks’ first-round opponent, after all.
One of the less-remarked upon aspects of the waning days of this oh-so-brief Regular Season is that, possibly as soon as later tonight, all of the Original 6 teams could well end up in the Playoffs.
“Pshaw” you say, “Surely that is a frequent occurrence? These Six Teams are from the strongest Hockey Markets, have Storied Histories and a slew of names on the Cup and in the HOF”
You couldn’t be more wrong. And stop talking like Noel Coward. Without looking it up, how often have the entire O6 gotten into the Playoffs together since the ’67 expansion? If you said “Three Times”, have a cigar, you Big Cheater. And the last time this happened? ’95-’96. Twelve Seasons ago (not including the Lost Season)
There are myriad reasons for this being the case. One of which is that several of these teams have gone though years and years of being Terrible. Another is that some of the Expansion teams hit the ground running and either tried to Enchant (’80s Oilers), Maim (’70s Flyers) or Ruin Hockey (’90s Devils) . Various Conference systems have militated against it too. All that could change tonight with a Detroit win against the Kings. The following is by no means an attempt to Jinx them in any way, shape or form. Honest.
The World was a very different place in 1996, and so was the Hockey World. In an attempt to help you to understand the yawning void between 1996 (the year I recorded my first record with my band yet still, somehow, failed to get any Action with the Ladies) and now, (where I write “Comedy” about Hockey and still, inexplicably.. oh.. FML..) I’m going to do some comparisons and contrasts about those years. Hang onto your Hypercolor shirts and Jesus Jones records.. we’re heading back to the ’90s.
Here Come The Nucks..
While they may have gone off the ‘Hawks radar a little this season, there’s no doubt that we’ll all be reminded of just how much we dislike this team tonight, especially as Vancouver will come out all guns blazing to try to thwart Chicago in their pursuit of the Greatest Prize in Sports, the Presidents’ Trophy.
Tonight’s game is in the Rogers so that means
1) A Three-In-The-Fucking-Morning puck-drop for me. Thanks a bunch, Western Time Zone.
2) Lots of towel waving from Vancouver fans.. and on that subject, let’s take a look at our “Friends” in British Columbia in a little more detail.
Canucks fans come in all shapes and sizes.. some are wonderful people, others, less so. Here’s some of the more frequently-encountered types.
Distinguishing Features: Firmly believes that the Canucks have never, ever lost due to being “Not As Good At Hockey” as the Other team. Instead it’s the fault of, in no particular order, the NHL, the Refs swallowing their whistles, the Media, the Refs calling too many penalties, a Top-Secret Cabal made up of Americans and jealous Canadians that is determined to manipulate the entire NHL to ensure that the Canucks never, ever win the Stanley Cup and, possibly, Space Aliens.
Redeeming Features: The lengths that they will go to back up their pet conspiracy theories is highly entertaining, in a car-crash sort of way (like watching Buffalo).
Secret Hope: That one day, while presenting the Cup to yet another undeserving team that only won lots of Games in the Playoffs, Gary Bettman’s mask slips off to reveal that he is, in fact, an alien from the Planet Zanussi, sent here to destroy the minds of Mankind. (Actually, they may be on to something here..)
Secret Fear: That they’re likely to end up as a footnote in some Med-Student’s dissertation on the Long-Term-Effects of Cannabis.
So, Phoenix. Hum.
For a brief period last year they replaced Vancouver, Detroit and even St Louis. as the Hawks’ “Public Enemy #1″. Whether it was Mike Smith’s overreacting to being hit behind the net by Andrew Shaw , Shane Doan showing why he’s the Greatest Captain in the History of Ever by elbowing everything that turned its back on him, or their annoying fans, with their bogus traditions and temper tantrums whenever they were gently ribbed about the team being relocated (ok, maybe showing up at the game in a Nordiques sweater and singing “Do You Know The Way To The Colisee” might have been undiplomatic), they generally failed to win many friends with the Hawks. Oh.. wait, there was another incident wasn’t there? It’ll come to me..
Now, Aucoin, Whitney and Torres are all gone. Smith has shown some sparks of his old Diva ways but has also been decidedly pre-2012-Mike-Smith. Which is to say “Bad”. Shane Doan is still a douche but also hurt. It’s kind of hard to generate any heat, here.
The Yotes are on the brink of elimination from the Playoff race and the Hawks can help to ease them over the precipice tonight, in what could well be the final-ever meeting of these two teams.
Final meeting? Yes.
Because there’s always that elephant in the room when talking about Phoenix. Or a logo that kind of looks like an elephant, anyway.