San Jose Sharks

96-97 Bicycle NHL Aces Playing Cards

CtA Season Preview: Pacific Division Edition

96-97 Bicycle NHL Aces Playing Cards

96-97 Bicycle NHL Aces Playing Cards

(We’re moving right along with the CtA season preview. Today we take a look at the Pacific Divison which has a ton of old guys.)

Pacific Division

2011-2012 Standings:
#3 Phoenix (97) -#7 San Jose (96) – #8 Los Angles (95) – Dallas (89) – Anaheim (80)

LOS ANGELES KINGS:

New Guys: Nobody. This team is pretty much the opposite of the 2010 Blackhawks. They get to keep the band together.

Gone: Nobody. Well, Ethan Moreau retired, but he doesn’t really count.

Young players to keep an eye on: The Kings have a number of fantastic young offensive players in their system, but with every position on the roster filled, it doesn’t look like there will be a need to carry any of them. Should a center go down, Andrei Loktionov would be a candidate to fill the roster spot. Slava Voynov is the kid on the blue line and should get more minutes in his second season. While he had a quiet playoff, he’s still one of the most intriguing young defenseman in the NHL and possess with an absolute blast from the point. Dwight King, who was stellar for the Kings when they got hit with the injury bug, will also enter his second season.

Outlook: Pretty damn good. The lockout should have taken care of any hangover problems and they have the entire Cup roster ready to make another run. Watch out.

Dallas Stars:

New Guys: 112 year old Jaromir Jagr, Derek Roy, Cody Eakin, Aaron Rome (eww) and Ray Whitney (also old).

Gone: Brad Richards (just rubbing it in), Mike Ribeiro (SUSHI), Sheldon Souray (has a ‘Baywatch’ wife), Steve Ott (gross) and Adam Burish (I thought he sucked but you all loved him).

Young Players to (probably not) watch: They have a couple good young prospects like goaltender Jack Campbell, Brett Ritchie and 6’7 fucking monster Jamie Oleksiak – but I’m not sure any of these guys fit into their immediate plans. There may be spots to be had on their (weak) blue line for players like Brenden Dillion and Patrick Nemeth. Personally, I love those hulking defenseman so I hope its Oleksiak.

Outlook: It’s sort of sad to see the Stars Twitterverse treating Jagr as if he were Sidney Crosby. But I guess it can’t be denied the Stars are sporting a different look this year and that should be refreshing to their fans. Roy and Eakin strengthen the Stars down the middle, yes, but that defense still looks awfully suspect. The Stars always seem to hover right around that 8th spot and I’m sure they’ll be right there again. Maybe the addition of a few seasoned vets like Jagr and Whitney will get them back into the playoffs……or maybe not. The best news for the team this offseason was the announcement that will be sporting a new uniform very soon. We can all agree this is a good thing.

Phoenix Coyotes:

New players: Steve Sullivan (still alive), Zybnek Michalek, David Moss and Nick Johnson.

Gone: Ray Whitney, Adrian Aucoin (only Columbus would have him) and Taylor Pyatt.

Young players to keep an eye on: Puck mover David Runbland should make the team. Otherwise, there aren’t many spots on the blue-line to be had and their offensive pipeline is nil.

Outlook: This team is boring as hell and I don’t want to really waste my team thinking about them. A lot depends on Mike Smith replicating his performance from last season. A dull team that competes every single night. Always dangerous. Continuing to watch Oliver Ekman-Larrson develop will be a pleasure. He should give fans in either Seattle or Quebec City something to cheer about for years to come.

Anaheim Ducks:

New Players: Bryan Allen, Sheldon Souray, Daniel Winnik and Brad Staubitz.

Gone: Lubomir Visnovsky (currently doing everything he can not to be an Islander), Sheldon Brookbank (now a Blackhawk) and the mustachioed George Parros.

Not Gone: Teemu Selanne. He’s sticking around for one more season. Admit it, you don’t give a shit about the Ducks and you wanted him to be a Jet. I sure did

Young players to keep an eye on: Devante Smith-Pelly and potentially Emerson Etem. Both are good, strong forwards on a team desperately in need of some depth behind their big three. Power forward Kyle Palmeri is another candidate to see time in the NHL.

Outlook: Bruce Boudreau will coach his first full season with the Ducks. They got some help on the back end in free agency, but this is still a team with a few glaring problems. My theroy is that Jonas Hiller struggled because he stopped wearing that badass black helmet with the gold cage. Or maybe it was the vertigo. This is a team that teases a fire sale every year, but if they stumble this season it could finally happen. I want Bobby Ryan.

San Jose Sharks:

New Players: Brad Stuart (former Red Wing) and Adam Burish.

Gone: Torrey Mitchell and Daniel Winnik.

Young players to watch: Uh, none? There’s that tool who wears #69. They have Chicago area native Tommy Wingels who played well for them last season. They also have Sebastian StalbergVik’s brother. In retrospect, they probably shouldn’t have traded Charlie Coyle.

Outlook: This is a team that has a bunch of good players but just never seems to be able to but it all together. Are Stuart and Burish what they’ve been missing all along? I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. I’m always conflicted when I think about the Sharks. I want to pull for Marty and Nemo and Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski are certainly likable players. But at the end of the day the fuckbaggery of Joe Thornton and guys likes Marc -Edouard Vlasic are enough to make me forget all that other stuff. Remember Thronton’s repeated targeting of the head of Jonathan Toews? Vlasic’s love of the slash behind the play? Then add the whole Hjammer offersheet thing. Yeah, screw the Sharks.

Fresh Chum For The Sharks: Chicago Visits San Jose

Photo: AP

It’s difficult to believe that less than a month ago, Chicago took down the San Jose Sharks at the United Center; and furthermore that the game was our second straight victory over San Jose this year. The only game we lost to the Sharks was in the Tank back in November on the Circus trip, and that was a 1-0 loss.

We can skate with this team. Well… we could skate with this team. Of late we can’t skate with Edmonton, or Colorado, or any one of a host of other teams that we should skate circles around. We’re having trouble beating the bottom feeders these days.

The Sharks are in first place in the Pacific Division. Oh Nellie, here we go…

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Get It Together: Blackhawks Try To Bounce Back Against San Jose

Photo: AP

Out of the frying pan and into the fire, so to speak. After a humiliating loss to the Red Wings on Saturday, the Blackhawks get to suit up against yet another Western Conference rival on a hot streak in the form of San Jose. The new year has been good to the Sharks, with 6 wins and a shootout loss to their credit thus far.

In those six victories, they never allowed their opponents to tally more than twice. Defense is a big key to the Sharks’ game — they are 5th-best in the league in goals against. There is just one regular member of the Sharks roster who has a negative plus/minus. One. It’s Jason Demers, in case you’re interested.

But that’s not to say the Sharks have lost their once-potent offense. The usual one-two punch of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau is still as effective as ever, with the three-four punch combination of Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture close behind. Those four account for over 130 points of the Sharks’ offense. This is not a team that is prone to sitting back and protecting a lead.

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Thanks, Pops: Boxing with ‘Hawks and Sharks

"You're not so bad yourself there, Hoss." (Credit: Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

Daddy likes the sauce.

Patrick Sharp potted his second consecutive overtime winner and first as a father, sealing a 3-2 Blackhawks win over San Jose on Sunday night at the United Center.

While Sharpie’s handsome winner and Andrew Brunette’s deflection with a little over a minute remaining to tie the game were fantastic, the ‘Hawks played like they were wearing slippers for the first 40 minutes. Getting outshot 33-13 through the first two periods is just downright embarrassing, and it caused Q to switch up his lines – and rightly so – to start the third.

Whether it was that which sparked the rally or the Sharks playing not to lose, the Blackhawks were able to improve to 6-1-1 in their last eight games and are taking advantage of a favorable schedule like we all hoped.

Quick thoughts before Boxing…

♦   It’s true Jonathan Toews didn’t play his best game tonight, and there might be a reason: His 26 minutes, 55 seconds of ice time were a career-high, as Ben Smith sat and watched. Granted, Toews playing this many minutes simply can’t happen night after night, but Q called on his Captain to play the necessary minutes to get the ‘Hawks back into it. Toews went 14 for 23 on the faceoff dot, including winning the draw leading to Brunette’s equalizer. That’s why he’s the best player in the world at this moment. He doesn’t need to show up on the score sheet to affect the outcome of a game.

♦   Speaking of Brunette’s goal, the ‘Hawks executed the play just as it was drawn up. Brunette darted straight for the blue paint after the puck was dropped. Two quick passes and a one-timer toward the net gave the ‘Hawks exactly the type of goal they were looking for to beat Antti Niemi, whose solid performance went for naught.

♦   Joe Thornton and Ryane Clowe are complete ass hats. Thornton should have gotten another minor for shoving Toews around the ice after his high stick, and I’m still in shock Clowe didn’t have to start OT in the box after punching everything in a ‘Hawks sweater.

♦   Ray Emery is the reason the ‘Hawks even had a chance to tie and win that game late. He’s 3-0-1 in starting the last four games, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he started Wednesday in Minnesota against the surging Wild. Corey Crawford isn’t going to get off the bench soon if Emery keeps this up.

♦   FREE STUFF ALERT! I’m going to be giving away two free tickets in Sec. 326 to Friday’s game against Anaheim. No catches, the tickets are a free holiday gift as an appreciation for stopping by and reading us here at our new home since moving here in June. The random drawing will be held Tuesday, and one winner will get both tickets. Contest rules will be posted Tuesday morning on Cheer the Anthem’s Facebook page, so if you haven’t “liked” it yet, you better do it now. Only those who “like” the page have a shot at winning the tickets. Good luck!

Boxing is all I’ve got from here…

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Back From The Brink, And Into The Shark Tank

Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Most of you noticed the cavernous silence coming from Cheer The Anthem following the pair of weekend losses that shall be known henceforth as “The Alberta Ass-Whooping of 2011.” Between the two games, we were out-scored 14 – 4. That’s a High School JV football game.

The net effect was like a nature special with hyenas tearing apart a carcass: what could we say? Edmonton in particular was like watching a game of dodgeball between a class of fourth-graders and the University of North Carolina basketball team. Lambs to the slaughter.

Weekends like those are when being a blogger sucks the worst. You can’t talk up the positives, because there weren’t any; you don’t want to jump on the bring-up-the-IceHogs-and-fire-the-coaches bandwagon, because you know in a week they’ll be lighting up goalies like artificial Christmas trees. So what do you say?

Nothing. There’s nothing to say. All you can do is look forward, and that time is here. It’s game time again, tonight at the Shark Tank. San Jose awaits.

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It’s not show friends, it’s show business: Boxing with ‘Hawks/Sharks

"Have a seat, please." (Chicago Tribune)

Finally, the Blackhawks got to Antti Niemi.

The 6-3 win Monday night boosted the ‘Hawks up to the 4th spot again in the West and ended a three-game losing streak which had many talking “Must Win” against San Jose. I don’t care how bad ass or bleak things look, every game is “Must Win.” Get used to it.

Patrick Sharp had four assists in the second period alone, tying Jim Pappin’s franchise record set in 1973 – with two of them coming on the power play to Marian Hossa, who put both through Niemi’s five-hole. Hossa’s goals gave him at least 20 for the 11th straight season. Boom.

And who better than Jonathan Toews to provide the goal which ran Niemi. The Captain seems to have his hand in everything, setting a career-high with 71 points in the victory.

Seeing Niemi trudge toward the bench was bittersweet, in a way. Him getting the hook tonight gave me little satisfaction. Yes, it was nice to get back at him for the three defeats earlier this season. However, I would’ve felt the same way if it was Antero Niittymaki getting pulled. Going out for revenge at this point in the season is senseless. Sharp admitted it was nice to get to Niemi, but everyone made a point to say the win is what matters. There’s just always going to be a soft spot for a guy who really, truly wanted to stay in Chicago.

Speaking of goaltenders, Corey Crawford gets yet another win despite pretty much everyone lobbying for him to get a rest. Though he got the W tonight, he’s given up 16 goals in the last five games. And if he lost to Niemi, wouldn’t you believe Crawford’s confidence would have been completely shot, especially heading into the playoffs? Well, David Haugh sure as hell believes it.

Here’s what sent me into a rage:

Yet of all the Hawks, rookie goaltender Corey Crawfordperhaps can benefit most from having success on a night defined by Niemi’s failure. Crawford was coming off one of his roughest weeks mentally. Had Niemileft town with a 4-0 record against the Hawks, Crawford could have spent the next month awaiting the playoffs suffering by comparison.

(Begin rant)Want to talk about suffering? How about seeing Haugh’s byline next to anything Blackhawks-related. When you’re being read simply so people can laugh at whatever loads of bullshit you want to make up that day, that’s when you need to stop writing about a sport you know nothing about. (End rant)

Patrick Kane hit a milestone with his 100th career goal, Viktor Stalberg even got in a nice whack in to contribute.

And with that … BOXING:

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Fishing For Two Points: Blackhawks Host Sharks

How many times can we use the phrase, “must-win” in a single year? What about “do-or-die?” Or “crunch time?” It seems I’m typing those phrases almost daily now, and this is no exception. With the Blackhawks’ OTL to the Capitals on Sunday, Chicago dropped into 7th in the Western Conference standings, just two points from having to fluff the throw pillows before playoff games.

And look who we’re playing! The San Jose Sharks, who sit first in the Pacific Division, four points ahead of us, and who are looking for a sweep in their season series against the ‘Hawks.

Long and short: if we thought Washington was a hard-fought game, this one is going to be even worse.

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Man The Fight Chair: Sharks Swim Into Chicago

If there’s one thing this team has been able to do in recent years, it’s fight through adversity. When faced with ugly circumstances, this team has faced each challenge head-on, often coming out on top, but never going down without a fight. Remember last season, when we fell behind to Calgary 5 – 0 in the first period, but fought back to win 6 – 5 in overtime? I hope we see that kind of who-says-we-can’t attitude tonight when the Blackhawks take on the San Jose Sharks at the UC. 12 of the players from that game will be on the ice tonight.

The Sharks are coming off a loss to lowly Minnesota, which follows being shut out by Los Angeles on Monday. Offensively San Jose is an open book. Their top-six forwards, plus defenseman Dan Boyle, are scoring threats. The rest of the team are no more useful than figure skaters in hockey gear. Keep those seven guys under wraps, and the Blackhawks can win.

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STATS Game: Blackhawks vs. Sharks, By the Numbers

Let me know if I should keep doing this or not …

Well, it’s the regular season and that means  Joe Thornton may actually be visible on the ice tonight. And unless you’ve been preoccupied with your plot to murder Nick Boynton, you know that Jonathan Toews won’t be suiting up for a couple weeks.

So, before the Blackhawks take on the Sharks for the third time this season after dropping the first two at The Tank, let’s breakdown the matchup with some statistics from the recent regular season history between the two teams.

THE FACTS

The BLACKHAWKS are …

… 20-15-3 (2nd, Central)
… 12-9-0 at home
… 6-4-1 in December
… 6-3-1 in their last 10 (Lost 1)
… 6-2-1 against the Pacific Division
… 16-7-2 when scoring first
… 16-3-1 when leading after 2nd period

The SHARKS are …

… 19-13-5 (3rd, Pacific)
… 9-8-2 on the road
… 8-5-1 in December
… 5-4-1 in their last 10 (Lost 2)
… 5-4-1 against the Central Division
… 13-2-3 when scoring first
… 15-2-2 when leading after 2nd period

THE MATCHUP

POWER PLAY: Blackhawks, 24.6% (1st) ; Sharks, 23.1% (6th)
PENALTY KILL: Blackhawks 79.0% (26th) ; Sharks 82.3% (13th)

» The Blackhawks are 0-for-20 on the power play in the last 7 vs. the Sharks
» The Sharks are 7-0-2 in their last 9 visits to the United Center

Click the jump for more STATS

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Clever headline regarding getting bitten by a shark

Sorry loyal readers, but there won’t be any “Boxing” for the Blackhawks’ 2-1 loss to the Sharks on Saturday night. I was part of a world-record crowd in Ann Arbor during that day for The Big Chill at the Big House to watch the Michigan Wolverine manhandle my Michigan State Spartans, then had some internet issues on Sunday.

To be very brief, the loss wasn’t all that bad to swallow. Sure, things could have gone better. However, the Blackhawks ran into a very good  Antti Niemi and  Corey Crawford played very well. Sometimes the amount of goals just don’t work out in your favor.

Jordan Hendry got on the scoresheet and — for a brief moment — out of Q’s doghouse, but that was more out of necessity than anything.

Viktor Stalberg got robbed of a goal and the officiating was suspect all night, but that is one of the few complaints I have.

Oh, and the dipshits who constantly boo  Brian Campbell because he played six minutes in a Sharks uniform.

Once again, I apologize for the lack of “Boxing” or more in-depth recap, but that will be coming tonight after the Avs game.

Spinner will be along shortly with the weekend Espo and Tim will have your preview for tonight’s game around 3pm.

Till then…

Everybody Into The Pool: Blackhawks Swim With Sharks

Photo: CBS

We have yet to see the San Jose Sharks in the United Center, but the oddities of the NHL schedule have the Blackhawks climbing aboard a plane to visit the HP Pavilion on Saturday to take on Todd McLellan’s squad once more. Hope the boys brought more than just their Speedos.

Our last time swimming with the Sharks they smelled chum in the water, sunk their teeth into Marty Turco and wouldn’t let go, potting goals from Dany Heatley, Joe Pavelski, Jamal Mayers and Patrick Marleau. Antti Niemi had the last laugh against his former team, making 30 saves and coming away with a 5 – 2 win.

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Thanksgiving Boxing with Blackhawks/Sharks, 11/24/10

What. Do I got a boogy hangin'? (Associated Press)

Well, not much to be thankful for after that shit. I’d have rather eaten my roommate’s toe jam.

I know this may sound vague, but that game was just bad to watch. At no point did I feel confident about a ‘Hawks victory. And if any of you clowns start talking about  Antti Niemi and how the Blackhawks got a first-hand glimpse of why we miss him, I may hang myself with dental floss.

Granted, he played well. However, a few other goalies who haven’t been in net when the ‘Hawks won the Stanley Cup have also played well against us this season. So, let’s move on from that.

It’s quite clear  Nick Boynton needs to remove his penis from  Jen Patterson long enough to play some serviceable hockey. What has  Jordan Hendry done to be in QStache’s dog house? Why does he continue to troll Boynton and  Jassen Cullimore on the ice when Hendry hasn’t done to warrant the constant healthy scratches? It’s starting to become mind-boggling.

More dipshit penalties, such as  Bryan Bickell’s absolute comeback killer with a holding-the-stick call, then a follow-up unsportsmanlike conduct for a double minor which is the clear result of him being a fucking whining bitch. Sit in the box and shut the fuck up. You already did something stupid, don’t do more stupid stuff.

The best thing was  Patrick Sharp’s awesome deflection past Niemi. Good to see him back in the groove with three goals in four games. Neato stuff there.

Marian Hossa got another assist, giving him four in two games. However, he’s scored one goal in 12 games. That needs to end soon.

Oh, and did the ‘Hawks leave  Patrick Kane in Vegas to pick up hookers and drink his own piss hoping to drink the same 39 beers twice? It would be nice to see some consistency. Games like his 1 G, 2 A performance against Vancouver are too few and far between. Kane has 22 points, which is one off Sharp’s pace, but imagine if he played every single game like he played last season when he was trying to overcome the “20 Cent” label. Christ Almighty.

I have some more stuff in a Turkey Day edition of “Boxing.” Sorry again for the delay in these, and thanks to those who enjoy it so much to send messages telling me how much you love it. As Tim said yesterday, sometimes life gets in the way. You’re alive and reading it now, so you’ll be fine.

Click on the images to enlarge. See you again Friday for Gordan Bombay Appreciation Night.

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Minnows In This Tank: Blackhawks Visit Sharks

Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez, Associated Press

Well! What a difference 6 months makes.

6 months and one day ago, Antti Niemi was stellar between the pipes for Chicago as the Blackhawks swept the San Jose Sharks from the Western Conference Finals on their way to winning the Stanley Cup.

Now, Niemi is struggling in net for the Sharks, and both teams are shadows of their former selves. Chicago is hovering just one point above the 8th spot in the West; and if the playoffs were to start today, the Sharks would be scouting good tee times. So while on the surface this game appears to be a heated re-match of last year’s playoff encounter, in reality it will likely come down to which team sucks less.

The Sharks have been streaky this year: win two, lose two. Win three, lose three. They are coming off a loss and two OT defeats in their last three games, due in no small part to feeble goaltending. Neither Niemi nor starter Antero Nittymaki could get their team through overtime in their previous two efforts, and neither Colorado nor Dallas needed more than 3 shots to dent the twine for the game-winner. With Niemi’s 3.93 GAA, that honestly should come as a surprise to nobody.

Offense has been San Jose’s bread and butter for some time now, with Uber-Players Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley leading the charge on the team’s first line. They are getting goal support from other players too this year, with Ryane Clowe, Joe Pavelski and defenseman Dan Boyle close behind in the points race. That explains why the Sharks have scored five or more goals in 5 of their 9 wins so far this season.

Defense hasn’t been stellar so far, with half of their core lineup hovering at or below the +1 mark, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic bringing up the rear with a -10 on the season. Former Blackhawks draft pick Kent Huskins is a bright spot, with two assists and a +7 in 19 games.

The slow start to the year has San Jose fans puzzled, and the blogosphere talking trade. One thing is for sure: this is not last year’s Sharks.

So much the better, because this is not last year’s Blackhawks either. This time last year, the Blackhawks were wrapping up an 8-game winning streak that would leave their record at 16-5-2. This year, the Hawks longest winning streak is 4 games, and their record is 11-10-2.

Confidence should be high in the locker room, however: the Blackhawks’ had 13 players with at least one point in Saturday’s 7 – 1 win over Vancouver, chasing long-time whipping-boy Roberto Luongo in the process. It was a night for the stars to come out and play: Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane, and Jonathan Toews all lit the lamp, and Marian Hossa had 3 assists on the night.

Also starting to shine more brightly is Troy Brouwer, who has two goals in as many games and is starting to assert himself more decisively. Recently-written-off Fernando Pisani has four points in five games; and don’t look now, but Viktor Stalberg is fifth on the team with six goals, and he hasn’t even adjusted to playing with Kane and Toews yet. If that line ever gels the way it potentially could, they could change games all by themselves.

Goaltending remains solid: both netminders are above .900 save percentage and below 3.00 GAA, and one more win puts Corey Crawford back at the .500 mark for the year.

The weak spot continues to be defense, where the play of (though it pains me to say it) Duncan Keith deserves to be singled out as particularly sub-par. At least once a period he’s making a bad pass, getting his pocket picked, or losing a battle against the boards that allows a scoring chance for the opposing team.

It’s almost to the point of asking, “What’s wrong with the kid?” Bad breakup with the fiancee? Family member sick? Paying too much for car insurance? This is *not* the Norris Trophy-winning defenseman we saw last year, and honestly, something needs to be done about it. I have a feeling that if Dunc gets his act together this team will start to see a substantial rebound. In my opinion, somebody needs to take the reins on that task. Coach Q…

Late start tonight: puck drops at 9:30pm Chicago time. It’s a national broadcast on the NHL Network, though Chicago viewers will see the game on WGN. Broadcast radio is WGN AM-720, and XM subscribers should tune in to channel 205

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