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…
Admit it. You haven’t been excited about a Blackhawks/Stars game since Ed Belfour and Brett Hull wore the Star. Even when they had Brad Richards and James Neal they weren’t all that exciting to watch.
So what makes the game tonight different? Well, Dallas (39-27-5) currently occupies the 3 seed in the Western Conference standings with a ever so slim 2 point lead over Phoenix and the Sharks only 3 points behind. With the Blackhawks currently the 6th seed, Dallas would be the opponent in the 1st round.
While it’s very true few – if any – of us expected the Blackhawks to be in this position after being atop the NHL standings not so long ago, putting some distance between them and the rest of the crowding teams at the bottom of the Western Conference playoff picture is a welcome relief.
The ‘Hawks pulled out a 4-3 shootout win over St. Louis at the United Center on Tuesday night, moving five points ahead of seventh-place Phoenix and six up on a few trying to claim the eighth spot.
With 11 games to play, it seems like a comfortable distance, and the Blackhawks are coming close to being locked into the No. 6 seed and a date with the Pacific Division winner in the first round – possibly red-hot Dallas, which the ‘Hawks get to see Friday.
This much time without Jonathan Toews makes that seem like a decent consolation prize to avoid the likes of Nashville and Detroit in round one.
Most everything else will come in Boxing, but here’s a couple things I noticed…
♦ Johnny Oduya may not get the credit, but his keep-in is what led to Viktor Stalberg’s goal in the second period. For a guy who was being cursed out before even donning the Indian head, he’s been playing pretty damn well.
♦ What is Coach Q to do on Friday after Ray Emery allowed three goals on six shots in his sixth straight start, then Corey Crawford came on to play well in relief and earn the win? Does Q simply take Emery’s performance as another bad night against the Blues (he’s 3-1-1 with a 15 goals-against in his current stretch, though eight have come against St. Louis)? Or does Q take Crawford’s performance as him regaining his confidence and hoping he can ride that against Dallas?
The problem with the latter move is that it may in turn get Emery thinking too much. Then if Crawford goes in the poop tank, can Emery step right in again? It’s a decision Q has to make, and it will tell whether or not the crease is indeed Emery’s, or if Crawford still has a chance of being the No. 1 heading into the playoffs.
♦ Brandon Bollig bothers me. While I believe Ryan Reaves indeed is living remnants of some bacterial growth found on an unrefrigerated seven-year-old block of cheese, his hit on Jamal Mayers was nothing deserving of Bollig immediately dropping the gloves and getting an instigator. He gave St. Louis a chance to completely put the game away. Tell me what’s so great about this guy that people enjoy him, but despised John Scott.
OK, I’m tired. Boxing…
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…
Gotta love these Original Six matchups.
The last time the ‘Hawks faced the Rangers they were on a 9 game losing streak and starting straight into the abyss. They marched into Madison Square Garden and put 4 goals up in the first 10 minutes of the game – including a penalty shot goal by Jonathan Toews just over a minute into the game. Tonight, they will face the Rangers after a horribly dispiriting 5-1 loss to St. Louis on Tuesday. In that game, the Blackhawks went 0-5 on the PP and couldn’t even manage a single shot on 3 of them. It was awful and you are a true fan if you managed to stay with that game through the end. But not everything is fucked right now. The ‘Hawks have won 3 out of their last 4 including impressive road wins in Ottawa and Detroit.
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: