Columbus Blue Jackets

6 Games In 10 Days: Columbus Is First Hurdle

Photo: Getty Images

In the past these previews have been about the opposing team and any personnel changes we expect to see from the Blackhawks. So here goes. We’re playing the Columbus Blue Jackets, and they suck. They are without leading scorer Rick Nash and #1 goaltender Steve Mason, so this should be an even easier game to win. No lineup changes for the Blackhawks, Corey Crawford starts.

Now let’s talk about what everybody’s interested in: the playoff race, and the Blackhawks’ chances.

Some teams have clinched Division titles or playoff spots, so they aren’t relevant. Neither are the teams that are (for all practical purposes) mathematically eliminated from the race in the West. That leaves the following teams:

4th:  Phoenix  (95 points, 4 games remaining, 37 non-shootout wins)
5th:  Los Angeles  (94, 5, 35)
6th:  Nashville  (94, 4, 36)
7th:  Anaheim  (93, 5, 40)
8th:  Chicago  (90, 6, 36)
9th:  Dallas  (87, 6, 33)
10th:  Calgary  (87, 4, 29)

Now, I’m not a stats wonk, I don’t do probability calculations and all of that nonsense. So I’m just going to run down the rest of each team’s season and lob my guesses at where we may end up.

Phoenix will likely beat Colorado, lose in OT with the Kings, and split the last two against the Sharks. That gives them an extra 5 points, total of 100.

LA has suffered significant injuries in the last week, I’m going to say they beat the Coyotes in OT, push the Ducks into OT once and fall in a shootout, and then lose the rest. 3 more points, total of 97.

Nashville will lose to Detroit, but win out their last 3. 6 points, total of 100.

Anaheim will split with the Sharks, lose to the Stars, and beat the Kings twice, once in OT. 6 more points, total of 99.

Chicago I’ll save for a minute.

Dallas will beat both the Kings and the Ducks, I’ll say they split against the Avalanche, and beat Columbus and Minnesota. 10 points. 97 total.

Calgary will lose to Vancouver, but take their other 3. 6 points, total of 93.

If that proves out (HA! Yeah, right…) the standings (minus Chicago) will look like this:

4th:  Phoenix (100 points, 39 non-shootout wins)
5th:  Nashville  (100, 39)
6th:  Anaheim (99, 40)
7th:  Dallas (97, 38)
8th:  Los Angeles (97, 36)
9th:  Calgary (93, 32)

So now, to the Blackhawks.

Remaining games: Blue Jackets, Lightning, Canadiens, Blues, and Detroit (*spitting noise*) twice.

We have to beat Columbus. Hear me guys? WE HAVE TO BEAT COLUMBUS! We pushed the Lightning to OT in their building last time, I think we’re going to pull it out this time. We will beat the Canadiens, they’re sliding of late. 6 more points, 3 more NSW. That would put us at 96 points, 39 NSW. Not good enough.

We’ll need another win from among the last three against the Blues and Red Wings. And this is what it all comes down to.

In the next ten days we will find out who is going to be playing for the Blackhawks next year. Who is going to step it up when we’re down two goals early in the 3rd in a possibly-season-ending game? Who is going to dog Henrik Zetterberg until he goes to the bench and cries? Who is going to back-check the Wings so hard they can’t tell which goal they’re supposed to be shooting at? Who is going to knock Todd Bertuzzi out of the game and into the hospital in the first minute of the first game of that home-and-home? Who is going to take the punishment in front of the net and notch a tip-in goal for every bruise they get across their backs? Who is going to block shots like he’s protecting a 5-year-old girl wearing street clothes in the net behind him? And who is going to absorb 35, 45, 55 shots and THEN win it in the shootout?

We all know the names of the guys who will be there. But who will join them? Bryan Bickell? Troy Brouwer? Viktor Stalberg? Jake Dowell? Ryan Johnson? These guys all have the mojo, they just haven’t found it the last 20 games. If it shows up between now and April 10th, we have a shot at this.

If not… well, this post-season will be difficult to watch without a team to cheer for.

6pm puck drop tonight out in Columbus. Comcast SportsNet has the TV coverage, broadcast radio is WGN AM-720, and XM subscribers can hear the game on channel 204.

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Too Many Men on the Site

Unpleasant Outcomes: Blackhawks Host Blue Jackets

Photo: FoxSports

NOTE: Don’t forget to check out Bartl’s Q&A with Columbus Dispatch beat writer Aaron Portzline

The Columbus Blue Jackets arrive in Chicago on a hot streak (5-1-1 since we thumped them on Feb. 1) and looking for a little payback. Last time out we made their goaltenders look like ice dance partners as we let loose a little beat-down in a 7 – 4 win. Rest assured, the Blue Jackets have not forgotten that.

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Blue Jacket Bashing: BlackhawkUp and Fire That Cannon Exchange Blows

Photo: AP

Far be it from a Blackhawks’ fan to back down from a fight. So when Mary O’Malley, lead writer at the Fansided Network’s Fire That Cannon blog came knocking, I wasn’t about to let her walk away.

After all, she’s not just a Columbus Blue Jackets fan, she’s a GIRL!

So we shot a few e-mails back and forth, and here’s the result.

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Behind Enemy Lines: Q&A with Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline

Aaron Portzline,  the beat writer for the Columbus Dispatch, was kind enough to answer a few of Bartl’s questions before tonight’s Blackhawks-Blue Jackets matchup at the United Center. Much like Wednesday, playoff positioning is the story as we get into the stretch run. You can check out Aaron’s coverage on the Puck-Rakers Blog on the Dispatch’s website. Enjoy!

Click the jump for the Q&A with Aaron Portzline

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Blown away: Boxing with ‘Hawks/BJs

Hey, did anyone realize it’s snowing outside? I wasn’t sure until every single person’s Facebook status told me. My windows that are clear and easy to look out of must be broken.

At least the Blackhawks got their six-game road trip off to a good start, even if they didn’t play like they’ll need to Friday in Vancouver.

The penalty kill continued to shine, the ‘Hawks actually took advantage of a 5-on-3 and Jonathan Toews was, well, Jonathan Toews.  The 7-4 victory wasn’t always a walk in the park, but Marty Turco’s big stop on Jakub Voracek to keep the game tied 3-3 was all I needed to validate a rather surprising start.

I’m going to let Boxing do most of the talking tonight, as it makes it’s triumphant return. Without further ado…

Click the jump for Boxing with ‘Hawks/Blue Jackets, 2/1/11

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Enough Putzing Around: Blackhawks Visit Columbus BJs

Didn't want to draft me, huh Kaner? Wait until we get back to Chicago...

Sure, the Blackhawks had a great time down in Raleigh rubbing elbow pads with the rich and famous. Sure, Patrick Sharp was named MVP of the All-Star Game with a goal and four (that’s right, I saw the replays, FOUR) assists. Sure, Patrick Kane tossed a did-he-just-do-that saucer pass to former mate Dustin Byfuglien that he buried so deep in the net the refs had to use repelling gear to retrieve it. Sure, Jonathan Toews did a spin-o-rama move before potting one of his own. Sure, even former Blackhawk Martin Havlat had a decent night, and every current and former Blackhawk on the ice on Sunday ended up on the scoresheet. And sure, aside from all the shenanigans in Dixie, Brian Campbell got engaged.

Hopefully our arms aren’t still sore from patting ourselves on the back, are they boys? Because vacation’s over. Enough putzing around. It’s time to go to work. Now listen up.

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Turco’s turn: Solid performance, Hossa’s return, Boxing with BJs

"Oh, nice. The meatballs didn't attempt to fill my water bottle with diarrhea tonight. Sweet."

"Oh, nice. The meatballs didn't attempt to fill my water bottle with diarrhea tonight. Sweet."

Before  Corey Crawford’s bandwagon breaks an axle, I’ll get it out of the way that this post isn’t me clamoring for  Marty Turco to get more starts in net. However, this is me solidifying my position when I state fans shouldn’t immediately gasp when he gets the nod.

Turco’s 26-save effort in the Blackhawks’ 4-1 win against the Columbus Inappropriate Acronyms won’t earn him any Vezina votes, but I also have a strange feeling it won’t get him any more beats from the fading hearts of his naysayers. It’s unfortunate, though most likely true.

While Turco sat on his ass as Crawford won over the fanbase in a city so fond of the “backup,” he maintained his stance of being a consummate professional in every sense of the label. He’s said and done all the right things while he watched a kid outplay him and take a job he specifically came here to do and succeed at.

That may not seem valuable to those who kill themselves with each loss and resurrect with the smallest glimmer of hope. What’s lost is that Turco’s professionalism, patience and team-first attitude specifically led to his performance in net Sunday night. That, and a better defensive effort in front of him.

Keep in mind, Turco has face 107 more shots than Crawford in only three extra starts. Though Crawford has indeed played better than Turco, being outplayed isn’t so bad considering the facts.

Click the jump for  more recap and Boxing with ‘Hawks/Inappropriate Acronyms

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Road To Recovery: Two ‘Hawks Return From Injury To Take On BJs

Merry Christmas, Chicago. Santa brought us some healthy wingers.

Though sniper Patrick Kane is still a few days away from returning from an ankle injury, wingers Viktor Stalberg and Marian Hossa have been cleared by the doctors and will be in the lineup tonight. Stalberg has been out since December 15th, when Ryan O’Byrne lived up to his pugilistic Irish stereotype and laid a hit on Stalberg worthy of a Tom & Jerry cartoon. Hossa, believe it or not, is returning from an undisclosed injury resulting from his collision with Nick Boynton during a practice session in late-November. The initial prognosis of a 2 – 3 week recovery period was obviously off by a factor of at least 50%. We’ll have to talk to the team doctors about that shit.

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Bupkis for the weekend: ‘Hawks drop a pair to annoying division rivals

I hate you. (Chicago Tribune)

Admittedly, I spent most of this weekend focused on on a college reunion for the Michigan State vs. Northwestern game and wasn’t focused on the Blackhawks. The problem with that? I still saw enough shitting the bed that annoyed me.

The winning streak was nice, but the shortcomings we’ve been pointing out during those wins ultimately came back to bite us in the ass Friday night against the St. Louis Blues during the 4-2 loss in Chicago Jr. Then, Columbus did its best impression of the ‘Hawks, coming back from two goals down Saturday to beat us 3-2 at the UC.

Here’s my brief Sunday morning recap of what I saw. And this is all assuming you watched the games, so if you’re looking for a traditional recap check the Blackhawks’ official site….

♦  David Perron  continues to shove his stick directly up my ass for dropping him on my fantasy team by killing the ‘Hawks. The asshole has all of his four goals and four of his five points in two games against the Blackhawks. I only have myself to blame. Well, actually…

♦  Nick Boynton  is officially playing like the guy who’s been a castoff for a few teams over the past few seasons, sat in Rockford for most of last season and was a healthy scratch whenever possible during the ‘Hawks Cup run. How  Jen Patterson  wants any part of this guy is beyond me, especially if she’s ever seen him lace up his skates. Boynton is constantly out of position, and because of that is flailing around the ice most of the time wondering where he should go next.

He pinches when he shouldn’t pinch, he falls for the slightest of fakes and is so slow  Hans Moleman  could run him down. He played like a complete pile of dog shit in both games this weekend, and the best part of the Blackhawks having the next three days off is that I don’t have to watch Boynton attempt to be a hockey player.

♦  I’m not sure how many of you thought you’d ever say this, but  Tomas Kopecky  being out Saturday seemed to hurt the ‘Hawks. His absence did allow for Kane/Toews/Sharp to get back together for the night and allowed  Dave Bolland  to get back with  Marian Hossa  and  Troy Brouwer.  But as much shit as Kopecky gets, he still plays solid, pretty fundamental hockey, which seemed to be lacking toward the end of the second and into the third.

♦  Speaking of Bollandany excuses for his poor performance to date can officially be thrown out the window. Talk all you want about him centering players who aren’t as talented like  Fernando Pisani  and  Bryan Bickell,  but Saturday he skated with one of the league’s top goal scorers and a guy who should have been playing on the top two lines all season long. Bolland’s 41.4 faceoff percentage is atrocious, and he simply looks like a kid skating around that needs a haircut.

Bolland has one goal and one assist in 10 games and I’m about ready to start calling out QStache to make him a healthy scratch to set him straight. It’s becoming a nightmare to watch.

♦  Patrick Sharp  is playing out of his mind. He’s tied with  Steven Stamkos  for the NHL lead in goals and continues to be a very handsome man.

♦  On the other hand, Hossa has slowed down and has now been held without a point in three straight games.

♦  Both  Marty Turco  and  Corey Crawford  played well in their starts this weekend — especially Crawford. The kid gave us every opportunity to win and each of the three goals he gave up came on defensive lapses. Turco’s performance was solid in St. Louis, but he needs to stop the Blues’ third goal hands down. I understand there was traffic, but that’s the second time this season — including the home opener against Detroit  — that he let a weak shot trickle five-hole for the game-winner.

♦  Don’t look now, but Kopecky has more points than  Jonathan Toews   and  Patrick Kane.  This includes Saturday night’s game when Toews had a goal and an assist in a game when Kopecky sat out. Kane hasn’t scored a goal in five games. I’m assuming this won’t continue for the rest of the season. However, if it does, the short blonde guy swinging from a noose off the Michael Jordan statue will be me.

♦  I understand  Duncan Keith  is leading the NHL by averaging nearly a half hour of ice time (29:44), but he’s slapping that puck around like he’s thinking, ”I won the Norris, so I can do whatever I want.” Now, to be clear, I don’t think Keith is the type of guy who thinks that way. However, he’s sure as hell playing like it. He’s attempting to force pucks in places they have no business going even if there weren’t three opponents in the way, and I’m failing to remember a time when I thought to myself, “Man, Duncs played really well tonight.”

♦ This is just hilarious.  Adam Burish  apologizes for being a shitty video-game character.

Ok, I’m about done here. A combined edition of “Boxing” will be up tomorrow morning, then you can expect something from Tim either tomorrow or Tuesday.

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Looking Sharp: ‘Hawks take two with help from a very handsome man

Hug me, cuz I'm beautiful. (Getty Images)

Patrick Sharp is a very handsome man. He’s a pretty decent hockey player, too.

The man behind the looks had a pair of two-goal games in Friday’s 5-2 win against Columbus and Saturday’s 4-3 win against Buffalo. Sharp’s performances also block that big spotlight beaming on Saturday’s win that the ‘Hawks pretty much should have lost.

But as my buddy Boston Joe told me earlier today when Michigan State struggled through a win against Illinois, “Good teams win.” The ‘Hawks still play like the champions they are when needed.

That was no more evident than during Friday’s dismantling of the BJs. After the loss to Nashville and with  Marty Turco sitting for two straight games, the ‘Hawks needed to take advantage of a rusty Columbus team that hadn’t played in nearly a week.

Sharp put 13 shots on net Friday. To put that into perspective, the ‘Hawks had 21 shots Saturday as a team. He’s simply playing like a man possessed. To me, it’s clear when someone is playing like they have something to prove when the kid in them comes out. After each of Sharp’s goals Saturday — which includes the game-winner late in the third period — he celebrated like he scored his first goal in pee-wee hockey. It was beautiful to watch, and he’s showing he knew he had to put his name on the scoresheet even more this season with all of the departures during offseason. He’s neat.

All right, onto the meat of this…

♦  Marian Hossa is a goddamn beast. A goal and an assist Friday, another goal Saturday. Him and Sharp have both potted five goals now and are clearly playing like men among boys. Not only is Hossa putting himself on the scoresheet, he’s doing all the things we need to appreciate more: Kill penalties, backcheck like a mother fucker, control the puck and provide scoring opportunities for his teammates. Hossa is the ultimate example of unselfishness, he’s got a six-game points streak and I have a gigantic man crush.

♦  There’s been a  Dave Bolland siting! He’s been playing like  Fat Albert on roller skates up until tonight, when he made a great move on  Patrick Lalime to tie the game 3-3. Bolland also was 13-for-19 on faceoffs tonight after farting on the dot most of the previous five games. Hopefully we see more of Saturday’s Bolland from here on out.

♦  Both of  Brent Seabrook’s assists tonight were gorgeous. He made a great pass on a 4-on-4 to spring Bolland and earlier fed a beautiful lead pass to Hossa for his goal. We haven’t seen the 2009-10 Seabs until tonight, which isn’t surprising given he’s been playing nearly a half-hour per night. But Saturday his passing skills led to two big goals.

♦  John Scott is a 6’8″, 258-pound paperweight.

♦  Anyone else surprised the Sabres didn’t at least try and stir up shit with  Niklas Hjalmarsson tonight? I really felt we’d see some punches thrown or at least a monster hit from someone. Eh, whatever.

♦  O Campbell, Where Art Thou?  Jassen Cullimore belongs in Rockford or on a couch somewhere. He played 18:54 in sheer terror and had me begging for  Brent Sopel’s ugly ass by the 10-minute mark. Also, the ‘Hawks were out-shot 41-21 against Buffalo and let 32 go through against Columbus. PooP.

♦  What a week for  Nick Boynton. He takes a dipshit delay-of-game penalty that doomed the ‘Hawks against the Preds, took another dipshit penalty at the end of the game tonight against Buffalo and played a role in the hotness that is  Jen Patterson getting fired from Comcast Sportsnet. Asshole.

♦  Back to some better stuff,  Marty Turco played really well in both victories this weekend. He may scare the shit out of you and may lead you to brief moments of heart failure, but Turco makes the saves when they’re need the most. The ‘Hawks have made life difficult for their goaltenders so far this year, and Turco has stepped up.

I know there’s more stuff I can add, but I don’t want to make this too long. “Boxing” upcoming… when I feel like it.

‘Til then…

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