Chicago Blackhawks

Got Fuel To Burn, Got Roads To Drive : Blackhawks 5 – Oilers 1

Before we start, take a look at this hilarious video (courtesy of our pal @LevNaginsky ) of Corey Crawford being, uh……hilarious. Corey Crawford is now providing you quality goaltending and zany physical comedy. What a guy.

We will now proceed with your regular wrap:

Things went exceeding well tonight for the Blackhawks despite Joel Quenneville selecting the second, third, and fourth lines by picking names out of a hat and Iron Man Corey Crawford dressing for the fifteenth consecutive fucking game. The Hawks jumped all over the Oilers right off the bat and didn’t take their foot off the neck of the Oilers until they were up by four goals. This game felt out of reach for the Oilers only halfway through the first period when Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane struck within three minutes of each other to give the Hawks an early lead. They would go on to dominate the rest of the period and could have led by even more had Devan Dubynk not made several big saves.

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q death done

The Big Foist: Hawks @ Oilers Preview

playin' Checkers on a Chessboard

From the Genius that brought us “John Scott as Power Play Forward” and “Daniel Carcillo On The 2nd Line“, Joel “Stache” Quenneville is proud to present “Michal Handzus: Winger“. I think he’s doing it on purpose at this stage, just to annoy.

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Anxious Mo-Fo: Hawks 2 Canucks 1

DAT CRAWSTINK CANT STEAL NO GAMES MY FRENT!

Chances are, if you spend any time hanging out where the Meatballs be at, you’ve heard this or something similar. This was a common theme even before Crawford’s new contract further fanned the flames of ill-informed fautuousness (Alliteration is fun!)

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Love Dance: Hawks @ Canucks Preview

Hope you enjoyed that moment while it lasted, Ryan.

 

Remember these guys? You could be forgiven if they’d slipped your mind of late. Despite fighting out some of the bitterest Playoff Series of the last five years and usually managing to pack plenty of incident into their Regular Season games, the Hawks and Canucks only played three times last year. They split a pair of SO victories and a Hawks team sleepwalking to the Presidents Trophy had one of their rare off-nights, dropping a 3-1 decision in British Columbia. The Nucks were then swept out of the first round while the Hawks.. well, we know what they got up to in the Post-Season.

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StanBo Knows : Versteeg Again A Blackhawk

Mike Devine comes to town and Kris Versteeg becomes a Blackhawk again. Coincidence? I think not…..

The Blackhawks won a hockey game tonight, but nobody is going to give a shit about that in the morning. Following the 5-4 shootout victory, it was announced that the Blackhawks and Panthers had agreed to a trade that will bring former Blackhawk Kris Versteeg back to Chicago in exchange for former 1st round pick Dylan Olsen and the sizable but awkward Jimmy Hayes. It was also announced that the Blackhawks would send winger Jeremy Morin back to Rockford. That move shouldn’t surprise anyone as it has become apparent that Joel Quenneville was in the process of making Morin his own personal “Where’s Waldo.”

Nobody saw this coming. Versteeg, who jumped around the top three lines during his first stint with the Hawks, will likely slots in on the third line with Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell. One would imagine he’ll get a chance to play on both the PP and PK as well. If nothing else, the days of Sheldon Brookbank skating on the third line are over. Shaw and Bickell may not be Bolland and Havlat, but they aren’t anything to sneeze at either. Make not mistake, the third line just became a lot more formidable.

The best part of this whole goddamn thing? The Florida Panthers have retained half of his salary through the 2015-2016 season. Stan Bowman is the goddamn best.

Dylan Olsen still has upside and maybe Jimmy Hayes flourishes in the right situation. But right now, it looks like Bowman acquired a proven NHL forward for a winger who didn’t quite fit and a defenseman whose momentum within the organization seems to have stalled after appearing in 28 games during the 2011-2012 regular season. Good luck to both of them. Oh, Stanbo might want to check for any foul odors emanating from any stairwells in his home over the next week or so……

You’d have to be one hell of a miserable bastard not to feel good right now. Sweet dreams, Hawks fans.

Two Beads At the End: Jets 1 Hawks 4 Choads 2

There’s an English soccer chant that goes something along the lines of “CAN WE PLAY YOU EVERY WEEK?”. That’s how I feel about the Winnipeg Jets. They’re bad. Bad with a capital “Beej”. Four more games as hopelessly mismatched as this would be just dandy, thanks (he said, dooming the Hawks to lose the rest of the series)  I’ve got some grousing to do, so I’ll get through what was a fun, if forgettable, game as quickly as I can.

 

  • Brookbank at forward. It’s dumb. Q has his reasons (Brookbank deserves to stay in the side but Roszie needs the rotation) but they make sense only to Q.. if you’re playing a guy for 8.14 minutes (and more than half of that in the 3rd when the game was safe) and in an unfamilar position, it’s really doing nobody any good (for the record, Brookbank played 0.47 in the 1st and 2.45 in the 2nd). This may be a one-off, if so fine. If not…
  • Patrick Sharp looked to be having “One of those evenings”, drawing iron twice, before another handsome goal from close range. His linemates, Toews & Hossa, were operating at a level so far above Winnipeg that they were on the other side of the Pole.
  • Patrick Kane is very, very good at stickhandling. you heard it here 1,254,821st
  • “Big Buff” as Foley dribblingly called him all night, did a very good impression of an extremely large headless chicken.
  • Seriously, can we play the Jets every week? Please?
  • OK, to the angry bit. Yes, it’s the Pardy-Through-the Looking-Glass incident. You’ve all seen it and read about it, I won’t dwell overmuch on the utterly disgraceful lack of respect shown by the couple who grabbed the helmet and dumped the beer. What appalled me was the blatant disregard for Pardy’s safety: here we have a player who has just gone head-first into and through the glass at high speed, so clearly the thing to do is to yank his helmet off his head as hard as you can, because there’s no way that he might have already suffered a serious neck or head injury. For that alone I hope that the guy gets a lifetime ban from the UC. In the UK or Australia he would have been arrested for such conduct.
  • The other angry bit, from the same incident, also touches on Player Safety: even while Pardy was draped over the boards with fans and players trying to hold the giant sheet of glass away from his head, his teammates, particularly Anthony Peluso, decided that now was the time to jump Brandon Bollig.  Aside from being yet another example of the asinine trend of players trying to fight after hard but legal hits, this was ridiculous. I hope Claude Noel or someone else in the Jets org has taken the time to sit him down and talk to him about ‘Timing’.

OK, so much for that. It’s off to Dallas on Saturday. Peace.

Nature Without Man: Flames 3 Hawks 2 (OT)

I think we all saw this coming. There were gleeful prognostications on Twitter all day about what sort of firestorm was going to come down on Reto Berra in his very first NHL start.

Making his debut against the Hawks? Wow, that poor kid was going to get shelled, broken and possibly sent scurrying back to the AHL.

Well, he got shelled all right: 44 shots, the Hawks highest total this year. However, he stopped 42 of them, was the 1st Star of the game and is doubtless feeling very good about himself this morning.  So it goes.

This was a tedious and ultimately forgettable game and not something to get worked up about: dropping a point to Calgary in November is unlikely to come back to haunt us in the Spring (right?). After a 18 shot but no result 1st for the Hawks, Patrick Kane got it started in the 2nd with a nice wrister and we anticipated the floodgates opening. However, Mike Calamari tied it up; tipping in a shot from Wideman then, in the 3rd, Calgary took the lead via Curtis Glencross. Marian Hossa continued his nice recent run of form; finally scoring in the dying seconds of a PP after the Hawks had squanderd a minute and a half of 5 on 3 time.

To OT and a Kris Russell slapshot ended things.

It pinches to lose to dumpster fires like the Flames, but these things happen. What else we got?

Oh yes, TOI.  Jeremy Morin got 7.21. Smith, Pirri and Bollig between 10-11 minutes. Meanwhile Toews, Kane, Sharp and Hossa were all over 20 minutes. I wish I knew what Q is thinking. Three of those four are Olympic locks and, well, you know the rest. I guess its “First World Problems” if that’s the biggest issue; but the sudden sidelining, due to bits falling off them, of one or more of those guys for any long period of time could have serious consequences.

In Q’s favour, the D was more balanced with only Leddy (19.51) and Brookbank (16.54) not breaking the 20 minute mark.

It’s the Jets up next on Wednesday. As good an opportunity as any to wipe last night from the memory.

 

Blackhawks-Jets Recap : Winnipeg Fans Still Boooing

Yesterday afternoon 15,004 booing idiots in Winnipeg got an idea of what they can expect for the next decade from their toughest opponent and newest rivals from #CONFERENCEIII and they likely left the arena with a sick feeling in the pit of their stomach. It can’t be comforting to know that the Jets have to face this Blackhawks team six times a year for the foreseeable future. Oh well.

The Blackhawks came out looking rusty after a three day layoff and the Jets actually led this game for a five minute span after Tobias Enstrom opened the scoring with help from a nifty screen by former Blackhawk Michael Frolik. Corey Crawford protested that Frolik interfered with him – but the officials decided the goal would stand after a short discussion. It didn’t really matter though, because Niklas Hjalmarsson tied the game just a few minutes later with a heavy one-timer after Marcus Kruger’s first career face-off victory. The game was tied at one when the first period ended.

Any fears that the Hawks would have a fight on their hands during the first of the back-to-back dissipated when Brandon Bollig, Patrick Sharp and Nick Leddy struck three times in the opening six mintues of the second period. Ondrej Pavelec was pulled and the Jets really never mounted any serious rally. To be blunt, the final thirty five minutes of the game were boring as hell with the exception of a missed Patrick Kane penalty shot.

Ben Smith tallied the lone goal in the lifeless third period which was played only because the rules said it had to be.

All things considered, we’ll take the 5-1 beating.

STARZ TIME! LISTEN UP:

* Nobody has been more dismissive of Bollig over the last year or so than I. That being said, I’d be not to tip my hat to him today. Bollig had the first multiple point game of his career and the wrist shot he unleashed on his goal was spectacular. Over the past few weeks, Joel Quenneville has trusted Bollig on the PK and notably gave him his regular shift with under two minutes to go in the Ottawa game on Tuesday night. Bollig’s carved out a spot for himself on this roster.

* Speaking of Q, earlier this week he was gushing about how well he thought Jeremy Morin had been playing. So why did Morin only get two shifts duirng the first period? Did I miss something in the Ottawa game on Tuesday night? Regardless, Morin got out of the doghouse a bit in the final two periods and didn’t look out of place at all. I don’t get it.

* If you were listening to Pat Foley call Sharp’s breakaway goal you’d think Sharp merely slipped the puck in to an empty net. If you saw the play, you’d know Sharp turned Ondrej Pavelec inside out to create that empty net. Absolutely disgusting move by Sharp. Don’t get me wrong, I love Foley – but he didn’t have his best stuff yesturday.

* I’ll take Nick Leddy teeing up bombs from left point all the live-long fuckin’ day. Keep ‘em coming.

* Crawford settled down and played a real strong game after getting theatrical with the official following the first Winnipeg goal. I didn’t think Frolik interfered with him. Whatever.

* Kane very nearly claimed the shiny new donkey offered by Mr. Burns as a reward for the head of Colonel Montoya. Damn crossbar.

* Jets fans didn’t endear themselves at all today to Chicago hockey fans. They booed Patrick Kane. They booed Corey Crawford. They booed Corey Crawford when he was hurt. They booed Jonathan Toews. By the end of the game, you guessed it, they were booing the Jets. Odd bunch up there in Winnipeg.

* Really sit back and enjoy the Calgary game this evening because you know the Bears/Packers game tomorrow night is going to be like pulling teeth. Ugh.

Khabbi

The Khabbi: a Halloween Special

Khabbi

I was supposed to recap the Hawks/Sens game but real life got in the way. However, the main talking point has been the performance (or lack of same) of a certain bibulous backup. Such ineptitude can really only be expressed through the medium of verse and, considering its Halloween and all… I give you

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One Reporter’s Opinion: Sens @ Hawks Preview

Damn You, Chris Neil, if you’ve messed up that face..

Those of you who play Fantasy Hockey may be familiar with this feeling: when a player that you have high, high hopes of, a player that’s slipped under other’s radar, falls to you in the Draft and you rub your hands with glee; thinking about how smart you are, about how your secret weapon is going to propel you to glory and then… pfffft… not a disaster but nothing special either.  Know that feeling? Do I?

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The Glory Of Man (Child) Hawks 5 Wild 1

After a harrowing 5-3 loss to Minnesota at the UC on Saturday, the Hawks headed for the Twin Cities for a second go-round with one of the hottest teams in the league. The first game was one where it felt that every single rub of the green went against Chicago, coupled with a goalie standing on his head. Tonight it was very much the reverse.

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flo 1

West Germany: Hawks @ Panthers 22/10/13

flo 1

read the original at http://achewood.com/

 

Here we go then: the Hawks head away from the UC for the first (sort of) extended trip away and it’s off to the Sunshine State with Mothers in tow (which should at least spare us the endless golfing anecdotes from Pat & Eddie later on). Not that Florida is the sort of place I’d care to take my own mother.

Rumour has it that the real reason that Joachim Nordstrom was sent back down to Rockford is that the Hawks did not feel that an impressionable young Swede should be exposed to Florida or, at least, not until he’s warmed up with a couple more trips to St Louis.

 

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Bolland

Revisiting Bolland’s Return to Chicago; Nordstrom Sent Down Before Trip to Florida

Bolland

Before I start looking ahead, I wanted to take a look back at Saturday’s 3-1 win over the Leafs, when Dave Bolland made his first trip to the United Center as a visitor and the whirlwind of emotions that went along with it.

We’ve been through this before when key members of the 2010 Cup team returned to the UC after being jettisoned, but Bolland hitting the ice in a Leafs sweater felt very different – for me, at least. Him being dealt on draft night probably was the least surprising transaction Stan Bowman has made after Bolland had a rather disappointing 2013 regular season.

He battled injuries – which was becoming all too familiar – and his inability to supplant himself as a consistant second-line center who could win draws became tired. There’s no question Bolland is talented, and his playoff performances from seasons past along with his lively personality kept some on his side. But when it came down to it, we all knew he had to go. It was merely a formality.

Had Bolland not scored the clinching goal in Game 6 against Boston, which may end up going down as the most famous goal in Blackhawks history – surpassing that of Patrick Kane in 2010 – due to the situation, the sadness we felt watching him go likely wouldn’t have reached the heights it did. But he did work his ass off to get in front of the net and beat Tuukka Rask 17 seconds after Bryan Bickell’s equalizer, and he did give us that famous celebration of tossing his gloves to the ice before Frolik jumped into his arms. We’re not going to forget that. Ever. And that’s why seeing him on the ice Saturday wearing Toronto colors felt more strange than maybe it should have.

Does that video tribute get played, sans the goal obviously, had he not delivered one of the greatest moments in franchise history? Doubtful. The standing ovation that followed? Maybe, but I can’t imagine the game is stopped to give him that much attention. The fact is, his 399 games donning the Indian head, including the playoffs, will be defined by the last few seconds he wore it.

That’s all well and good, and he gave us one of the best sports memories of our lives, but we have to realize his previous deficiencies were what sent him packing for Canada. It was tough Saturday, and I’m glad it’s finally over.

Now, for the week ahead….

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pirri

Shit From An Old Notebook: Blues 3 Hawks 2 (SO).. also with the Community Rankings

These are never easy to write. It’s one thing losing to a strong St Louis team after a close, hard-fought game. That stings. Losing after a close, hard-fought game where the Blues also got away with behaving like meth heads fighting over the last rat roasting on the garbage fire? That really hurts. But that’s not the worst of it..

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Crads

You Need The Glory: Blues @ Hawks

 

 

At the moment no one in St Louis gives a shit about the Blues. Now they know how the rest of the NHL feels, all the time. The Best Fans In Baseball are too busy laying in the meth and practicing pushing wheelchair-bound ushers down stairs ahead of  Saturday’s playoff game to expand their precious bender-scratch on Hockey. (It’s a meaningful Playoff game, too, with the StL side not being the ones facing elimination, a situation entirely alien to Blues fans.) Luckily this game is in Chicago so  Hawks fans are supposed to outnumber Blues supporters.

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Joel Quenneville responses Game 3

Community Rankings CHI @ CAR

manga

Check your TentaclePornRel here..

Time for more fun with numbers and your views on proceedings in sunny Carolina the other night.

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@BvrlyBrewmaster's daughter summed it up best.

Recap : Blackhawks 3 – Hurricanes 2

@BvrlyBrewmaster's daughter summed it up best.

Little Dee probably said it best above……

2 points is 2 points? I guess that would be the line if you’re the glass half full type. A cynic might counter by pointing out the ‘Hawks have now failed to put away leads in three different games. Me? I’m hoping we can chalk this up to a team that just couldn’t be moved to give every drop on a Tuesday night in October against a complete non-entity.

As much as we all may hate to say it – Edzo was exactly right (at least for tonight) when he said in the pre-game show that the Blackhawks seem to be having trouble getting that killer third goal when they’ve managed to get a two point lead. It’s not encouraging by any means, but I’d caution against freaking about this prematurely. Keep in mind there are teams out there that would love to have this kind of problem. At the end of the night, the ‘Hawks got that second point back and Carolina getting out with one doesn’t affect the ‘Hawks one iota. All’s well that ends well?

On the plus side tonight, the bottom six put in tough minutes and generally fared quite well. Just look at those Corsi numbers in the link. Bravo.

Corey Crawford was terrific once again and was nails in the shootout. Marian Hossa netted his second goal of the season. Hossa, who hadn’t stood out to date, seemed to come to life after being worked by Brett Bellemore behind the Carolina net in the first period. The lesson here? Don’t anger the Hoss.

The only guys who you can really say had bad games were Michal Rozsival and Joakim Nordstrom. Nordstrom’s #fancystats were fine, but he failed to advance to the puck to the neutral zone before Ron Hainsey scored the tying goal for the Hurricanes. Rozsival took two terrible penalties and looked a step behind most of the night. I’m starting to understand this platoon strategy in the sixth spot more and more.

(Non-Dallas) Stars:

*This was the 2,500th victory in Chicago Blackhawks history. Plan the parade?

* Will Nordstrom’s first consequential mistake cost him a spot in the lineup on Thursday night? I’m guessing yes.

* Brandon Pirri was a healthy scratch. What kind of asset management is this? This isn’t the 2010-2011 campaign, Q. You have the luxury of playing around a little bit and figuring out what guys like Brandon Pirri and Jeremy Morin can bring to the table . Why not use this opportunity?

* The Hurricanes began the shootout with Nathan Gerbe. Okay then….

* How about that pass from ‘Zus to set up the Patrick Sharp breakaway? Jonathan Toews set up Patrick Kane with a similar outlet pass in the second period, but Kane was unable to convert.

* Speaking of Kane: THE SPIN-O-RAMA RETURNS!

*Toews was 6-for-15 at the dot. Andrew Shaw was 3-for-10. That’s disgusting.

*St. Louis on Thursday night. Embrace the rage/hatred flowing through you. The hate is good.

UPDATE: Community Ratings sheet has been added. VOTE!

“Why Then I(s)le fit you”* Isles 2 Hawks 3

Well, that was harder than it should have been. Two points secured, a lot of dominance from the Hawks (the Stats make hilarious reading), some good things, some bad things., some things to learn. My brother the Stats Guru was assuring me, prior to the game, that this Islanders team is the real deal and are going to tear it up in the Metropolitan Division. Colour me unconvinced, but they do have a very impressive sucker-punch and they got to use that a couple of times tonight. Also, John Tavares is very good at Hockey.  Let’s get into it ..

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Brent Seabrook responses Game 1

Community Ratings Results: Blackhawks vs. Capitals (10.1.13)

Stick Tap to all of you

First of all, the whole staff here at CtA would like to thank everyone who participated in the Community Rankings. We really value your input and think this should be, at the very least, an interesting feature going forward. We’ll not only compile the results for this post, but we can also revisit them when we do previews for opponents later in the season.  I’m also personally compiling a spreadsheet of the stats, both advanced and standard, for each player from each game. While I’m still not sure exactly what I’m going to do with those, I’ve got a few ideas rolling around in my head.

All the stats below the players are derived from the NHL.com box score and ExtraSkater.com’s advanced box. If you would like more information on the advanced stats, I encourage you to visit ExtraSkater’s glossary or Arctic Ice Hockey. Right, let’s get to the results.

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Boxing-10.1.13-Capitals

Title Defense Begins: Boxing with Blackhawks (6) and Capitals (4), plus Community Player Ratings

Banner Night

Shot from Bartl’s seat at the United Center

It’s funny, really. For months, I had been looking forward to a new hockey season and anxiously awaiting the Blackhawks to begin their title defense and quest for a repeat. But the irony is that I had a difficult time letting go of last season and the memories that came with it.

As I watched the video montage on the ice, I couldn’t help but think of the not so distant past, sitting at a little dive bar in the Chicago suburbs, listening to my Dad say, “Good. Now score again, and break their fucking hearts,” after Bryan Bickell’s goal in Game 6 before Dave Bolland obliged 17 seconds later. I wasn’t thinking about the game that was going to be played minutes later and the reality that came with it.

It didn’t take long to get back into the mode of worrisome fan, though. The Blackhawks didn’t make it easy on themselves, but they came away with a 6-4 victory over Washington in Game 1 of their Stanley Cup title defense.

A couple quick things…

—  It’s the first game of a long season. Some of the play was sloppy and there are kinks to be worked out, and that’s likely what you’re going to see for a few more games.

— With that said, also don’t read too much into the Blackhawks sagging back on the penalty kill. While it was frustrating to see Mike Green stand in the middle of the ice and score a goal while also having one of his shots deflected in by Mikhail Grabovski, the ‘Hawks quite obviously were more concerned with preventing cross-ice passes while not over-committing to Green, Nicklas Backstrom, or Alex Ovechkin. Granted, Ovi scored and the Caps finished with three power-play goals, but that’s one tough unit. I wouldn’t expect to see the ‘Hawks employ that strategy very often.

— Along the same lines of not overreacting, let’s not start getting on our knees in front of Brandon Bollig because he scored a goal. I’m sure the MOAR BOLLIG! people are salivating right now, but maybe we should let things play out. Like, for instance, realizing that his offensive-zone penalty gave his goal right back 6 1/2 minutes later. I’m interested to see where he winds up in the Community Player Ratings.

Michal Handzus’ pass to Brandon Saad was beautiful.

— How about that new hybrid icing, eh? If I’m not mistaken, I don’t think there was a single icing call the entire game.

Braden Holtby played like dog shit. Thanks.

— Here is the first edition of Community Player ratings for you readers to share your opinions on how things went last night. I’d like to make a very important point: All of your responses are anonymous. We have no idea which person casts which vote. So, if you rate Bollig a 10, you won’t have to personally deal with any of us at CtA or any of your fellow readers chastising you.

We will leave the voting open for 24 hours, and then we will post the results Thursday to show how you collectively rated everyone’s performance. Happy voting! Boxing after the jump…

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chicago-blackhawks-vs-washington-capitals

Blackhawks vs. Capitals: Raise Your Glasses We’re Raising a Banner

For me, it doesn’t get much better than those Caps throwback sweaters

Puck Drop: 7:05 p.m. CST (with the banner, folks are saying 7:28 p.m.)

Where You Can Find It: NBC Sports Network (174 on Comcast, DirecTV 220, 1640 AT&T U-Verse)

Beat Writers & Bloggers for the Opposition: @kcarrera, @WashTimesMike, @russianmachine, @JapersRink

If Time on Ice gets itself together, I’ll post the CORSI/Fenwick link at game time.

You made it! We ALL made it!

With the lockout extending last season late into the summer our wait wasn’t quite as long this summer as previously, but I’m just as ready as the rest of you for hockey season to begin. Tonight on West Madison Street the Chicago Blackhawks will put 2013’s abbreviated campaign behind them by raising four new banners to the rafters before taking on the Washington Capitals. It’ll be a sweet taste of euphoria that reminds us just how high the highs can be in the NHL, but as I’m sure the players will relay to each other, that feeling must be short lived in order to focus on the task at hand. That task, being the 2013-14 NHL season.

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(Photo courtesy of Jostens)

Season Preview: Central Division? ConferenceIII? The Blackhawk Division?

We know how you feel, Bryan.

We know how you feel, Bryan.

We’ve finally arrived at the Division you all really need (want) to know all about: the plainest sounding goddamn division in the NEW AND IMPROVED NHL. We’re going to assume that you mostly know what’s going on with the Blackhawks. Jimmy Hayes, Ben Smith and the intriguing Joakim Nordstrom made the team while Jeremy Morin and Brandon Pirri find themselves back in Rockford yet again. Once can’t help but feel a little sorry for Morin and Pirri, in the weeks following the Stanley Cup, it seemed most people just assumed they’d both be Blackhawks this year. They’ll probably get a look at some point down the line, but it can’t bode very well for either of them that they’ve been passed over yet again.

Joel Quenneville has decided to keep eight defenseman to start the year. Mike Kostka beat out the now Vancouver Canuck Ryan Stanton for the last spot. Sheldon Brookbank is still around in the 7th slot.

That’s where the Blackhawks are at. What about the other teams in the Central?

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Season Preview: Pacific Division

Let’s take a quick look at the Realigned Divisions, starting with the Westernmost, the excitingly-named “Pacific” (or “Pacific + Bits of the old NW”)

This looks like being a very hard-fought (if not especially exciting) Division: Four of the Seven teams made last year’s Post-Season, Anaheim finished Second in the Western Conference for the Regular Season and LA went to the Conference Final. Phoenix were on the Playoff Bubble and hope to be back there again. The less said about the Albertans the better.. and then there’s the Curious Case of the Canucks, of which more in a moment.

Battle Of California

The three Californian teams will all be spoken about as contenders this year. Anaheim, whose remarkable run last year was ended by a fairly heavy regression to the mean, traded away the permanently disgruntled Bobby Ryan, picking up a decent return from Ottawa in highly-rated young winger Jacob Silfverberg, 1st round pick Stefan Noesen & a 1st rounder next year. Teemu is, of course,back and Dustin Penner has crawled wheezing from LA to Orange County. Their Blue Line looks like a problem area, with Beauchemin dinged up, Sheldon Souray out for at least a couple of months and after that.. Mark Fistric? Luca Sbisa? Yuck. Luckily their cup runneth over in goal with Hiller in a contract year, Fasth building on his breakout season and that John Gibson hovering in the wings.

San Jose.. It’s hard to know what to make of the Sha-Arks, as ever. Thornton & Marleau are in the last years of their deals and not getting any younger. However, if Pavelski & Couture can repeat their form of last season that’s still a potent line up. Hell, maybe even Marty Havlat will stay healthy for longer than ten minutes? Sadly, they haven’t bothered with any defense again this year which means Antti Niemi will need to be on top form, again.

Meanwhile, in a certain smog-choked hellhole, the Kings are already being picked by many as this year’s Champions. They have changed little on their roster, save shipping off Dustin Penner to Anaheim and taking Gorilla Salad off the Hawks’ hands in return for some magic beans. There’s little doubt that, if they play to their strengths, they are one of the best teams in the League. Their big weakness is their Ent-Like defense with Willie Mitchell & Robin Regehr lumbering around behind Drew Doughty.  They continue to praise Slaya Voynov to the heavens, but from what I’ve seen the kid still has a great deal to learn about play in his own end. (Hell of a shot, though). And Jon Quick is Jon Quick.

Dead Men Walking

Phoenix finally resolved their ownership issue and future location for once and all five years. They will be hoping for a return to the post season after missing out last year. They can keep on hoping. Their only “major” addition has been Mike Ribeiro, for four years at $22.5 M which, were it not for Toronto & Philly, would likely be the laughing-stock deal of the summer. Ribeiro was at a Point-Per-Game last year, for the first time since 2007-08. He was also on the Caps PP with Ovechkin and Backstrom. Good luck with Radim Vrbata, Mike. Shane Doan is another year older and slower and more elbow-y. The rest of the Yotes are made up of the usual collection of pluggers and plodders. One feels that, unless Mike Smith has one of his “Outlier” years, this will be a tough season for the Desert Dogs.

Edmonton re-upped Jordan Eberle (for way too much money) and RNH (see above, though more justifiable in the Nuge’s case). These sort of shenanigans now mean that the Oilers have less Cap Room than the reigning Champions. Sam Gagner’s fresh new broken jaw will sideline him indefinitely so they had better be praying that Hall, RNH, Yakupov et al can stay healthier than they have been in recent seasons. Not that it will do Edmonton any good: they have no defense or Goaltending and will be aiming at the Draft Lottery again. As for Calgary… Just close the door and walk away, sadly shaking your head. Full-on Tank Mode for the Flames with Jay Feaster likely to be out of a job by Christmas and Brian Burke embarking on a long-overdue rebuild.

Diving For Dear Life

That leaves us with the ever-beloved Canucks and, for me, the most interesting storyline in this Division: namely, is this the year the Nucks miss the Playoffs? I would hazard a guess that it could be: we all know about the Presidents’ Trophies and exaggerated seedings won by beating up on a piss-weak NW Division. Last year we saw the Wild make a much better fight of it and the Nucks swept out of the 1st Round. This year they are going to be fighting hard with the formidable trio of Californians for the three automatic spots and they may well find themselves lacking.

What they’ve mostly got this summer is older. The Sedins are starting to show their age (although still a force to be reckoned with) Ryan Kesler and David Booth can’t stay healthy, they still think Kevin Bieksa is a top-pairing D-man, Luongo’s mind may well have been snapped by the goings on and they’ve got noted Locker-Room-Unifier John Tortorella behind the bench. There’s still plenty of threat there if it all comes together. If not, I believe the Canucks may well find themselves on the outside looking in when the Post-season starts, which will cost Mike Gillis his job and instigate a crisis in Vancouver where they have no Cap-Space or Prospects.

While we all stand back and chuckle, of course

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Your 2013-14 Season Preview.. Interactive Edition

 

Season Previews are like Assholes: Sports Blogs are full of them (you sure about this? .ed).

Nailing your colours to the mast as to how teams and players are likely to perform over the coming year is a risky business and leaves one open to the mockery of your peers when, inevitably, the Hockey Gods make sure that all your confident predictions go horribly wrong.

Therefore, we here at Cheer the Anthem have decided to skip this potential public shaming and would much rather that you do it instead: here is a comprehensive preview of all the other 29 teams in the League. All you have to do is fill in the blanks and you’re on the Path to Hockey Guru Status/Hiding Under A Rock .

More >

Euro-Weenies

North American Hockey fans seldom pay much attention to the various European leagues and when they do it’s usually as “The place that all those awesome Finnish goalies come from” or “Jesus God, those jerseys are ugly” or “Somewhere that Don Cherry REALLY hates”.  The events on the larger ice really don’t factor much in the tumult of an NHL season.

This year, however, is slightly different and the eyes of Hawks fans will be turning to Europe more often, for reasons that I’ll get to in a moment.

Being of the European Persuasion myself, I’m going to contribute a weekly wrap-up of events from a selected few Teams and Leagues over this side of the pond that may be of interest to Blackhawks fans (and some just for my own entertainment.. humour me)

SM Liiga / Jokerit (Finland)

This one is pretty obvious: there’s a certain Hawks prospect playing there who has created the sort of giddy anticipation last seen when Patrick Kane was drafted. We’ll be keeping a close eye on how Teuvo Teravanien is developing and hopefully providing more awesome “Highlight Videos With Crazed Finnish Callers” for your titillation. Another subplot is the fact that this is the famous old club’s last year in the SM Liiga before they jump ship to the KHL next season.

Slovak Extraliga /HC Dukla Trencin (Slovakia)

This is, of course, an Olympic year and Slovakia are in the USA’s group for the First Round. While no-one expects the Slovaks to cause an upset against the US or Russia, they are a potential landmine and should not be taken lightly. Their best players (and Tomas Kopecky) are mostly in North America or playing for Bratislava, who moved to the KHL last year, but we’ll keep an eye on any developments coming out of Slovakia. Dukla Trencin is the club that rocked the cradle of the Hossa brothers, the aforementioned Tomokop and the late Pavol Demitra (whom their arena is named for). Trencin is also the hometown of Zdeno Chara and Marian Gaborik.

Elite Ice Hockey League/Belfast Giants (Britain)

Shameless Homerism here: we’ll take a look at Ireland’s only Pro Hockey team as they compete in the British League. The Giants have had an extremely traumatic time off the ice over the last couple of years (of which more on another day) so we’ll follow them and see how the club is picking itself back up off the floor.

 Championnat De France Div 1/ Mulhouse Scorpions (France)

This one is personal: I have a weird affection for this happy-go-lucky bunch of schmucks who won promotion to the French Top Division, La Ligue Magnus last year, only to get kicked in by all comers, finish second-last and get relegated back down (yes, they have Promotion/Relegation in France.. damn Eurotrash!). Last time they were in this Division they won it, so I’ll be taking a look at their travails and hopefully give you an idea of Hockey in the real backwaters of Europe.

 

We’ll be kicking this off with some quick profiles of the teams, the leagues and the key players to keep an eye on.  If I can find time in between constructing my shrine to Teuvo, that is.

More soon.