The Blackhawks have been reeling for a few weeks and we haven’t seen their best hockey since before Christmas. One of the prevailing excuses for why that is has been that this is the mid-season doldrums. Maybe the Hawks have been bored. They know they’re almost guaranteed a playoff spot if they play mediocre hockey until the end of the season. But something about that seemed like too easy of an out for a team that’s struggled to score goals lately.
Today, we had ample opportunity for some evidence for that theory. A rivalry matinee game with a STL team that has been pummeling opponents lately, all coming after an OT win on Friday night. How would the Blackhawks play?
Well, they played well enough to beat the Blues on the road. A disgusting one-timer from Brandon Saad to Marian Hossa in the third period put the Hawks in the lead for good after blowing two leads throughout the game.
At moments, they looked like a team with Stanley Cup aspirations. At others, they looked like the pedestrian team that gets manhandled by Minnesota. The good news is that those moments were fleeting and the mistakes the Hawks made were mostly because the Blues are a damn good team. They force their opponents to make mistakes and Chicago showed enough resilience and effort to overcome them.
We’re podcasting later, so let’s get a quick breakdown… More >
Now Rise, Chicago
We tithed to them when poor
We tithed to them when weak
We tithed to them in honor’s name
To lift up the arctic’s meek.
Gen’rous host, a role we played
By the Lake or River’s shore,
Bound for glory we did know
Three games we could afford.
Without a thanks they took them
And turned upon us swift.
No honor have the ‘Peggers
Who spurn such gracious gifts.
The time has gone for charity.
The time has gone for grace.
The time has come to show them
Their proper lowly place.
Now Rise Chicago, cast aside
Your kind and gentle heart.
Unsheathe your sword and bellow
Like the God of War thou art.
Now Rise Chicago, do not rest
Until the light bleeds red.
Now Rise Chicago, do not rest
Until their dreams are dead.
Cheer the Podcast Episode 21 (2.1.15) – We wrap up the California trip, bring on our first guest, ESPN.com’s Corey Pronman, to discuss the Adam Clendening-Gustav Forsling deal and the Blackhawks’ prospect pipeline, and we talk about the second half of the lengthy Hawks’ roadie.
Some have suggested that, when examined in the cold hard light of arithmetic, Patrick Kane is nothing special. If you look at how he affects his linemates’ possession metrics, he is revealed for what he truly is: a scion of the eye test. Patrick Kane shines in the mind’s eye, his exploits better suited for hockey’s chansons de geste than for the slogging accumulation of shot attempts at the commodified game’s industrial heart.
Last night, in the second period, Patrick Kane exposed the limit of this kind of thinking. He’s done this before – a certain playoff hat-trick comes to mind – but last night’s coup de grace was more poignant for its utter banality. Three points is three points, even for two teams firmly assured of playoff berths, but the contest lacked any utilitarian drama. What interest attended the game came only from larger metaphysical questions. Not that we’re supposed to care about these things anymore. Just rack up the points, shift-by-shift and possession-by-possession. Until, that is, Patrick Kane receives a pass from Patrick Sharp and cracks the game open in an instant.
There is no point describing the interval, reducing the moment to a set of actions that anyone, reading them after the fact, could convince themselves lay within their grasp. They do not. Because Patrick Kane is beautiful.
He is not pretty. He is not a physical presence. He is an aesthetic moment on the ice. And Anaheim possesses no counter.
That was the answer to Anaheim’s pre-game pondering. Can they compete against the league’s elite? The Blackhawks are not pretenders. This core has won the Cup twice, in campaigns demanding a tithe from every account, tangible and intangible. Just last year they skated within one bad bounce of returning to the Final in a series that promptly etched itself in folklore.
And what of the metrics for that? Who cares. They are legend. They are beautiful.
And the Ducks? After last night, a certain thought must be gaining volume. They are losers.
The smart take is patience. The smart attitude is to understand one January game in the context of an eighty-two game campaign, exhale slowly, and place both Wednesday’s loss and tonight’s affair in perspective. This isn’t the Premier League. What matters is making it to the post-season and winning sixteen games. It doesn’t matter if you win sixteen in a row, start as a wild card, or win in some ungodly L.A.-sanctioned combination.
Who cares. I spend my days apart from my wife and son, churning through business, rushing to be back in their arms, worrying about status and accomplishments and money and things, wanting only to bask in their love without a care, all against a barely contained roaring dread that at the end I will know with certainty that I could have made a greater mark on the world if only I had actually studied for the fucking SAT. To get through life with any semblance of happiness, I exercise the smart take. I am patient. I don’t expect perfection.
From my hockey team? Fuck perspective. I don’t want fifty-five solid minutes squandered in the final engagement, a good job good effort handshakes for everyone. I don’t want enough wins.
I want all the wins.
And I feel this need more keenly tonight. Some say we should bask in this golden age of Blackhawk hockey. Cups are now a real possibility every year, rather than a dream aching in the chest. But I do not want to bask.
I can glimpse the twilight in the offing. All is temporary. And just as I clutch my son tightly at night in the knowledge that one day too soon he will spurn my embrace and one day more, but not enough, distant I will be unable to hold him, I cannot simply enjoy this moment. In the near future the glory will lapse. The Hawks will be nothing more than a decent hockey team.
So I want more than a win tonight. I want vengeance. I want to scrub the coppery taste of loss from my mouth. I want Toews to take a moment this evening, look out at the executives and middle managers clinging tightly to a sepia-tinted fiction of Blue Collar America while they CHEER THE ANTHEM and toss a one-liner to Hossa. Then unleash hell.
After all, Ducks are disgusting creatures: http://www.nature.com/news/2009/091223/full/news.2009.1159.html
Woof. The Blackhawks blew three leads last night against a struggling Kings squad en route to a 4-3 loss. A controversial Tyler Toffoli goal tied it with under 7 minutes left in the third and a few minutes later Jake Muzzin ripped a shot that deflected past Hawks goalie Corey Crawford to seal the deal.
Chicago got off to a good start, with a blast from David Rundblad getting blocked right onto the tape of Patrick Kane who buried less than two minutes into the game. Jeff Carter returned fire to tie it later in the period on a wrister that Crawford should have had. But the Blackhawks Patrick Sharp buried on the power play to send the visitors to the locker room ahead 2-1.
The only tally of the second was Jeff Carter again and, again, one that Crawford should have stopped.
Andrew Shaw also scored for the Hawks in the third period to make it 3-2. A nifty play from Teuvo Teravainen made that happen.
And so it begins: the Hawks head out on the annual Western swing, a road trip that is overblown in importance (points are points) but nonetheless throws up enough quality of opponent to keep the players interested (until they get bored and inevitably lose to the Jets). It’s a shorter trip this time, only playing the Californians with no jaunts to Arizona or Western Canada before heading back to Central opponents in Minnesota, Winnipeg and St Louis. Last time out the Hawks clocked the Kings and Ducks yet barfed one up to the Yotes before heading to Sochi. The year before saw the first dropped points of the season to the Wild and the Nucks and, of course, a sweep thereafter. 2012? Let’s not go there.
We’re coming off the All-Star Break and gearing up for a swing out West. Since there’s little to write about right now, here’s an article I wrote for the print edition of The Committed Indian a few weeks ago, concerning another NHL gimmick and what might not be a bad idea for its future. As ever, thanks to Sam and the guys for letting me contribute and you can subscribe to the digital version right here. Or just pick it up at the UC on game nights. Do yerselves a favour, innit?)
The Blackhawks made news today by recalling Ice Hogs center Dennis Rasmussen from Rockford ahead of their six game road trip which starts in Los Angeles on Wednesday night. The Hawks placed the surprisingly productive winger Kris Versteeg, who has been out since being injured during the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day, on LTIR to make room for the 6’3 Swedish forward. The beats indicated last week that a forward would likely be recalled in wake of Dan Carcillo’s six game suspension, which was handed down by the league last Tuesday. Rasmussen has 8 goals and 8 assists in 44 games so far in his first North American season. He signed with the Hawks as a free agent in June.
Cheer the Podcast Episode 20 (1.23.15): Well, we finally talk Teuvo, hate on Tim Erixon, wonder what the hell is wrong with Johnny Oduya, question the use of Andrew Shaw, and discuss whether or not David Rundblad is any good. Listen up:
It always feels good to beat the Penguins, but something about it feels so much better when they’re wearing the sweaters that the franchise wore while they swept the Blackhawks in 92.
Another shootout victory this year has them 6-1 in the skills competition, a far cry from a lot of losses and few wins last season. With that said, the journey to get there was both good and also frustrating.
Before Patrick Kane and Jonathon Toews scored and Corey Crawford stopped both Pens shooters, the Blackhawks blew a two-goal lead as snipers Zach Sill and Steve Downie would rally to get Pittsburgh a point. What a shitty sentence to have to type. Those two guys suck.
Really this was a tale of two halves of hockey. Chicago absolutely owned the first period. There were numerous stretches of play (minutes at a time) in the Pens zone but only one goal to show for it – a bomb by David Rundblad after Marian Hossa walked Sidney Crosby at the blue line.
The first part of the second period saw the Blackhawks score on the power play! Hossa put a laser beam inside the far post while Bryan Bickell put on a good screen in front of Marc-Andre Fleury.
The wheels fell off then for awhile in the second period. A dogshit, brutal turnover by the WWF jobber tag-team of SHAWZY AND ROZY allowed former Blackhawk Andrew Ebbett to find a wide open Zack Sill for a one-timer. That was Sill’s first goal this year in 32 games. Some folks will point to Sill being Teuvo Teravainen’s man, but in reality, he was providing low support on former Blackhawk superstar Craig Adams because Michal Roszival is terrible.
A short time later another bum-ass turnover by Roszival and poor low-zone coverage from Brad Richards allowed Steve Downie to bang in a rebound and tie it at two. Blech.
We better break this thing down before I start vomiting about Roszival…
I’m not sure when or why it happened.. it may have been the Yotes beating the Hawks in the 1st round in 2012, maybe it was the Torres hit on Hossa and the idiotic attempts to defend it.. more likely it was the complete inability of their oversensitive fans to take a joke about moving to Quebec. Then there’s the flopping and histrionics of Mike Smith. Maybe it’s the intense jealousy because the “AAAARRRROOOOOO” goal celebration has been rightly restored to Chicago. Whatever, in recent years the Coyotes have gone from “Minor Irritant” to “Douchenozzles” and are now sliding back into irrelevance again.
Hanging six on the Yotes, especially with the aforementioned Smith in goal for all of them, was fun at any rate.
Happy new year to you and your family from Cheer The Anthem!
The Winter Classic, at its best, is an outstanding event showcasing hockey. Last year at the Big House we saw two iconic teams, Red vs. Blue, snow falling all around the stadium, and it was a grand spectacle. It was exactly what the marketers and money people for the NHL and sponsors wanted to see. Hell, I’m so sick of the Maple Leafs and I loathe Detroit and I was glued to my television. And granted, I’m not the person the NHL is marketing this game to. I’ve watched Edmonton play Arizona this year so I’m watching no matter what, but man, the presentation of last year’s Classic had everything for good television watching.
This year, the Winter Classic was the worst of any they’ve had. More >
I’ve got a test on Aggression for my Social Psychology module on Friday, so I spent a lot of today watching videos of chimps killing each other and Nazi propaganda films, also reading about the Rwandan Genocide, the Stanford Experiment and Abu Ghraib. Reckoned that sitting through an hour of the Devils skating around couldn’t be any worse, so you’re stuck with me for the recap. No Fatso, of course, but Jaromethuselah Jagr was there to bring the average age up by 3,619 years. Jaromethuselah has been very quiet against the Hawks of late, getting zero goals in the 2013 playoffs as a Bruin and recording exactly one shot in the Hawks’ two games against him last year. So, how did it all pan out?
A satisfying beat down of the Blues happened Wednesday night. It was 1-1 heading into the third period until Kris Versteeg buried a Jonathan Toews pass at the 59 second mark. The floodgates opened after that as Patrick Kane added two more tallies (both assisted by Versteeg). There’s not a whole lot to discuss with this one, it was a systematic ass kicking. Just a couple of points in the breakdown: More >
I assume one of the guys has recap duty.. so wait for them for “intelligent” analysis.
I’ma go wit this
Can’t wait for California to slide into the ocean. Fuck the Ducks, the Kings and (sorry, pals) the Sharks.
Love, kisses and apocalypses
Funny old game, Hockey. Also occasionally deadly boring and generally forgettable. Last night was a prime example of this. Once upon a time, a game in Vancouver would have been circled on the calendar in red ink with “Buy moar booze” written underneath it. Now, however, it’s just another late night. Let’s talk about it a little, shall we, and then get on with our lives.
I’m gonna be honest here, that was a boring ass hockey game. Yes, it was a 4-3 victory that included a late goal by Patrick Kane, but there were long stretches of nothingness and sloppy hockey. An early 2-0 lead for the Blackhawks in the first period was vaporized by dumbass penalties and that made this game much more difficult than it should have been. Regardless of the style of game, a W is a W and this is as good a start as any to a lengthy road trip. Let’s break this one down and get some sleep… More >
CHICAGO — Jeremy Morin sat on his haunches at the back of the cage. Every muscle tensed. His fists were clenched, held stiffly in front of his shins. When I happened to make eye contact with him, he let out a low growl. The young man’s rage distorted the air around him.
Bryan Bickell, on the other hand, slept soundly in the next cage over. Whenever Morin wasn’t growling, Bickell’s soft snoring filled the room. A snapshot of Bickell’s baby was taped to the wires beside his head.
Contrary to popular belief, Joel Quenneville’s “dog house” is more than a metaphor. Never before glimpsed by anyone outside the Blackhawks organization, there is a bona fide detention center. It is a small, dead-end cinder block hallway buried deep in the United Center’s bowels.
Several years ago (no one will specify when), an equipment manager heard that an animal testing lab at the University of Chicago was upgrading its enclosures. He bought seven cages destined for the scrap heap, brought them to this hallway, and bolted them to the wall. According to unconfirmed reports, Joel Quenneville smiled.
Morin and Bickell were not alone on the day I was granted access. Brad Richards occupied a spot down the hall. He sat against one side of his cage, watching pensively as a handler showed me the water bottles and feeding trays. Brandon Saad was on “part-time” – he could roam freely between practice sessions, but had to return immediately after dinner.
I tried to speak to Richards several times, but my handler wouldn’t allow it. The old timer’s eyes were hollow and doubtful. He seemed more rueful than angry.
“I think it’s good for them,” my handler was saying. “It shows them what Q’s looking for. Sometimes, they need this kind of motivation.”
It was then that I noticed small notes taped to the cage doors. They were titled “Requirements for Release.” I hurried closer to read them but each simply said “More.”
I turned to ask about the vagueness of this when Quenneville himself entered the hallway. Morin’s rage evaporated. His body uncoiled. He slumped into a heap and turned towards the wall behind him.
Quenneville merely grunted. Walking past, he motioned for me to follow. At the end of the hallway he pressed a single cinderblock, causing a hidden door to swing open with a loud hiss.
“Are you sure, Q?” asked the handler. Q said nothing. I followed him through the doorway.
We were in darkness. Then the lights snapped on and a gleaming contraption of steel, tubes, wires, gauges and switches loomed before us. My handler scurried in, rounded the machine’s base, and began pressing buttons. Steam hissed. Beeps and bloops and whirring echoed off the walls.
I asked what this monstrosity was. “Machine,” replied Quenneville.
“What does it do?” I asked.
“Machine,” said Quenneville. “Kiwi fruit.”
The machine was thirty feet tall and twice that at its widest. It took my handler several minutes to power it up. When he was done he was out of breath. He came back to stand beside me.
“Some of those gauges are hard to turn,” he said, panting.
“What is this thing?”
“It’s the Blender.”
HAWKS 6 5 – CANADIENS 1 0 [SOOOO CLOSE!]
Late Sunday night, after the shutout loss to the Winnipeg Jets, Corey Crawford [SHUTOUT] called his mother. He had an unusual request. “You and the other moms still have those minivans, right?” he asked. “Can you get everyone together and meet us at the border? We don’t want to take the plane to Montreal.”
Crawford mère was confused but she didn’t let on. Of course everyone still owned their minivans. Of course they could rustle up une petit caravanne, drive down to the New York border, and ferry a professional hockey team to its hotel. It would be a great way to spend some extra time with her son [SHUTOUT] and his teammates.
Corey [SHUTOUT] told his mom to figure out the details, except for one thing: “Shawzer said it can only be hockey moms.”
Crawford mère nearly pointed out that Mr. Shaw’s request was superfluous. There is not a mother in Châteauguay who was not, at some point, a hockey mom. Then she thought better of it. The emotions roiling Mr. Shaw were obvious, even third-hand.
[STET] Mr. Shaw needed his mom. Like the rest of his team, Mr. Shaw has been playing far below expectations. Asked to fill the “2C” role on a Stanley Cup favorite, Mr. Shaw has run into the natural limits of his game. He loses the majority of his face-offs. Defensive responsibility baffles him. Playmaking ability taunts him from just beyond his grasp. [STET]
Tonight was different. [SHUTOUT] The Blackhawks dominated the Canadiens in every respect. [Well, Except the 1st Period.] Brad Richards opened the scored [!!!!] , putting in a rebound on his eighth attempt. Patrick Kane tallied a natural hat-trick, including the game winner. Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad also joined in the fun. [Sigh. But Versteeg scored twice! My son’s faith is rewarded! Rundblad had TWO assists!]
Looking at those relaxed, happy faces in the visitor’s dressing room tonight, it seems that Crawford [SHUTOUT] was right. This team needed a few hours nestled in the supportive bosom of les mères de Châteauguay.
Captain Jonathan Toews™ [Who did score] told the press scrum that Les Mères “helped us remember why we play the game.” Captain Jonathan Toews™ channeled those memories into four points, all assists. He went on, saying “We needed to remember our love of this game, to play with our heart, not our heads. We needed to relax. Try not to force things. Canada. Moms. Hockey moms. Hockey moms Canada this game is in our blood it is character we have character goals will come goals heart.”
Patrick Kane tallied a hat trick, including the game winner. He paid Les Mères their due respect. “I think every kid growing up playing hockey . . .” he began, then trailed off. Captain Jonathan Toews™ leaned over and finished his sentence: “remembers those van rides to games, how your Hockey Mom would center you.”
“Yeah,” Kane continued. “I also watched my favorite highlights of myself, but Canada Hockey Moms.”
Asked what inspired his life coaching breakthrough, Crawford [SHUTOUT] told the press corps it was “empathy.” After the Winnipeg loss, Corey sensed the rising tide of self-doubt in his teammates. He remembered all the times growing up that he doubted his own ability. He thought about the off-season following the Blackhawks’ first round exit against Phoenix. What did he do then? He called his mom. [SHUTOUT]
[Go fuck yourself, Emelin.]
Peter Holland scored 2 minutes into the third period to put the Leafs ahead for good 3-2 on Saturday night. It was Holland’s first goal on the season and it helped to set up the real story of the night’s contest: James Reimer was sensational. Optimus Reim stopped 45 of 47 shots, including 26 (!!!) in the third period. The telling statistics to gauge the Hawks’ effectiveness in this game, though, are going 2-4 on the power play (good) and not scoring on 36 even strength shots (bad).
This game was the same story of domination without anything to show for it on the scoreboard. It’s incredibly frustrating to be on the short end of a goalie win, it’s even more frustrating when it happens seemingly every loss. The Committed Indian posted a pretty relevant tweet last night talking about the sustainability of the opposition’s SV%. And, while true, the Hawks are unfortunately not playing the same opponent every night. It’s not just one goaltender that has Chicago’s number. We’re looking at 4 or 5 in this short season so far. Yes, we should still expect the floodgates to open, but we’re 11 games in, it needs to happen soon.
Let’s break it down…
In the happy glow surrounding Marian Hossa’s 1,000th NHL point, we should really have been bracing ourselves for the Hot Takes on his HOF candidacy from the Hockey Meeja. Sure enough, The Hockey News’ Blowhard-In-Chief, Ken Campbell, was quick to get the crayons out today to let us know that he has his doubts.
Patrick Sharp’s nifty backhander in the shootout sealed the 5-4 W up for the Blackhawks last night. Good. But this game shouldn’t have gone to a shootout. Despite being about a billion times more exciting than the muck and grind 1-0 loss on Tuesday, there are still some deficiencies that Chicago needs to address.
Who cares about that crap, though? Marian Hossa scored his 1000th career point on a goal in the third period! He should be in the hall of fame, his 81 should be raised in Chicago, and there should probably be a parade for him. He’s the best. I love Marian Hossa. I hope he plays forever.
Let’s break this thing down…
We mentioned in the St. Louis game recap that the Blackhawks either set up a dumb, chase-Oshie-around box-and-one type of coverage or Jonathan Toews got lost on Dmitri Jaskin’s game winner last night. Take a look at what actually happened on Jaskin’s second career NHL goal:
This is simple enough. The Blues had been making some changes: a D-pair (Bouwmeester and Pietrangelo) has just entered the surface to hold the puck in the zone, and a new forward (Jaskin) is waiting at the bench. Bouwmeester flips the puck to the net, and the Hawks have the Blues outnumbered down low 3 v 5. However, as Toews is sucked deep to the front of the crease, attacking the same forward (Patrik Berglund) as Niklas Hjalmarsson, Johnny Oduya floats comfortably behind the four battling in front. TJ Oshie is wide open, and (yes, goaltending experts) good rebound control by Antti Raanta puts the puck safely into the corner. Both wingers are properly set up at the top of the circles.
Here is where the breakdown begins. Toews, for reasons unknown, skates behind the net. The puck stays with Berglund along the near-side boards. Schwartz heads to the bench for a line change. The box-and-one seems kind of evident now, as you see Toews is nowhere close to being in position, while the other four players are in a box. Coverage is not bad here because the Blues are still in the process of making the change, leaving Toews’s responsibility safely to the outside. But then…
Berglund rims the puck around the boards. Toews shifts to the front of the net, and both Saad and Oduya chase to the far-side boards. If this is a true box-and-one, Oduya should stay at home picking up Oshie, and Saad should bust it to the boards to battle and try and get the puck out to Toews, who should be in the slot at this point. Kane properly moves towards the top of the circles to get after his point man. Berglund floats back to the front of the net. Even on a rim-around pass to the opposite point, the likelihood of Oduya tracking this puck down is low. He makes a mistake, but the opportunity to take a chance exists because it looks as if Toews is going to stay home in front of the net. The breakdown continues as neither Oduya nor Saad win the race to the puck and Pietrangelo fires it on goal…
As the puck is shot on goal, Jaskin enters the picture right off of the bench. Saad and Kane both have their point men pretty well-covered (yes, Kane is not RIGHT ON TOP OF HIS MAN, but Ol’ Jabe is not open). But now, we see Toews chase Oshie into the corner. Again, a mind-boggling play considering that Oshie has one point on the year, an accidental assist from earlier in the game, and he can’t score from there with 7.6 seconds left. He’s not dangerous in that position. Hjalmarsson has Berglund covered in front just fine, but Oduya does not pick up Jaskin.
Let’s go even further into this and say that Toews is marking Oshie. Let’s say Oduya picks up Jaskin and the play goes on the same way. TJ Oshie scores here. Toews is two steps behind the man he’s covering, and Oshie is looking to get to the front of the net. It’s bad coverage either way by the captain, and I think he and Oduya confused each other.
And here’s the goal. Jaskin is wide open. It’s clear Oduya never looked at him and tries to go back to his place in the box on D. Hjalmarsson does see him, but it’s too late when he releases from Berglund. Jaskin skated by Kane, who had an obligation to grab Bouwmeester, thinking his center would cover the slot area. Saad is in the right spot. But we see Toews, again chasing behind Oshie. This time, stick up in the air and straight legged. I’m convinced that if Jaskin doesn’t get that rebound, Oshie does. And if Raanta miraculously stops a shot here, Patrik Berglund is wide open in front too.
All in all, absolutely miserable defensive zone coverage late in the period. The Blackhawks need better from Toews in his own end. He can help make up for Oduya’s deficiencies by being in the right spots.