St. Louis Blues

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Do The Jerk: Blues 3 Hawks 3 (Blues Win SO)

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Well, that didn’t feel good, now did it? The Hawks’ first loss to a Central Division rival this Season and it had to be the Blues. Never mind that it came at the end of a hard-fought game full of incident, a pulsating OT period and a coronary-inducing six-round shootout,  losing to St. Louis always stings.  Because they’re assholes.  This feels like another one that got away and another example of the Hawks failing to kill off the opposition before the third period when given plenty of opportunity.

After pretty much torching the Blues for the first two periods, the Hawks were 2-1 up going into the 3rd, due to a fortunate goal from Adam (Score Some) Cracknell after a Keith blowout at Center Ice and two in quick succession in the 2nd from Toews and Saad. Then Cracknell got his second of the night (and season) when Seabrook tipped his long shot past Crawford and Noted Manly Man Backuusss popped up from wherever he’d been hiding until then to score from close range.  Viktor Stalberg tied it with 4 1/2 to go, overtime came and went in a flurry of Hawks shots, and then the SO marched through joy and despair and back again till Shattenkirk ended it after Handzus missed his shot.  Bullets..

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Where Is The Love, People? Blues @ Hawks Preview

 

 

So, the St Louis Blues are in town tonight. This is an occasion that has, traditionally, led to an outpouring of emotion from the Chicago fanbase like this, this and, oh, Dear Lord, this.

There’s a possibility that some of these remarks might be interpreted as being Dismissive, Disrespectful and Downright Unfriendly towards our friends and neighbours from the Show-Me State.

Well, we here at Cheer The Anthem believe that it’s time to Stop The Hurt: we’re bigger and better than that and we’re going to use this Game Preview to take a look at St Louis and the Blues with all the Affection and Respect that they so thoroughly deserve.

And then some.

What you Need to Know about the Foe

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Credit: Chris Swede, Chicago Tribune

Eat Crow: Home-Opener Boxing with Blackhawks (3) and Blues (2)

Credit: Chris Swede, Chicago Tribune

Credit: Chris Swede, Chicago Tribune

First things’s first: I can’t begin to explain how excited I am to be doing Boxing again. Sitting in Section 326, Row 12, Seat 9 sporting my Duncan Keith No. 3 Michigan State sweater made me forget about everything that transpired over the last six months. It felt great to be back watching hockey at the United Center, and I can’t wait to get back there Sunday.

As for the game, the Blackhawks’ onslaught of first-period odd-man rushes yielded only a single goal when Patrick Kane put a sweet move on Brian Elliott to complete a 3-on-0 as the Blues napped after a turnover. Somehow, after seemingly dominating the majority of the period, the ‘Hawks were outshot 9-7 and headed into the second period short a man after Marian Hossa took a tripping penalty with less than 20 seconds left.

Goals from Brent Seabrook in the second (originally credited to Keith) and Viktor Stalberg in the third were enough to hold off St. Louis, which made things interesting with a pair of goals in the final period.

Other things…

The Blackhawks are off to a 3-0-0 start, which would seem pretty arbitrary during an 82-game season. With this campaign already being at the 45-game mark, earning six quick points could go a long way. And if you told me they’d be unbeaten after facing Los Angeles, Phoenix and St. Louis to open the season, I would have asked who replaced your sanity with the optimism of Richard Simmons.

So, it looks like the Kane trade talk can pipe down for, like, another couple days, eh?

Corey Crawford was damn good. He made the saves he was expected to make, and then plenty more. He snuffed out St. Louis’ comeback attempt when the momentum shifted and played big during the Blues’ final burst to end the game. There shouldn’t be any question that Crawford gets the start Thursday in Dallas.

Brandon Saad shook off a slow start and questionable decision-making to have a second solid game. He seemed very timid in the first period but by the third he was very aggressive getting into the Blues’ zone.

I know I need to accept that Joel Quenneville will continue to dress someone for the sole purpose of him playing roughly five meaningless minutes, but why Brandon Bollig deserves to wear an NHL sweater at this point is beyond me. I mean Christ, even the Blues scratched Ryan Reaves.

Let’s get to the season’s first Boxing, including my channeling into the mind of Jonathan Toews. There’s one image for the summary, another for the box score. Click on each to enlarge….

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Central Division

CtA Season Preview: Central Division Edition

CENTRAL

(Over the next few days CtA will take at look at the offseason moves and potential young impact players of each team around the league. We’ll being going division by division, starting today with the teams we all know and hate in the Central. We’re damn glad to be back with you folks.)

CENTRAL DIVISON
2011-2012 Standings:
#2 St. Louis (109) – #4 Nashville (104) – #5 Detroit (102)- #6 Chicago (101) – Columbus (65)

Detroit Red Wings:

New Guys to hate: Damien Brunner, Mikael Samuelsson (again), Jordin Tootoo (you already hated him) and Carlo Colaiacovo (ahahaha).

Elsewhere: Niklas Lidstrom, Tomas Holmstrom (HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE), Juri Hudler and Brad Stuart.

Young players to keep an eye on: Brunner, Brandon Smith (Ben Smith will have his revenge) and Gustav Nyquist. Brunner is a wild-card, but he played with Z overseas and seemingly all the reports from Europe had he and Zetterberg developing a thing. Lets hope not. Nyquist, a guy I think is going to be pretty damn good, had 35 points in 34 games at Grand Rapids. We’ve all heard about Smith by this point. It’s a ‘show me’ season for him. It’s also possible we’ll see a little bit of Jakub Kindle this season.

Outlook: Yes, they look vulnerable in their own end, but they have Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. They’ll find a way into the post-season. Once they get there, those cracks in the D are likely to be fatal and we’ll start the ‘Shea Weber to Detroit’ watch. Man, that’s going to be horrible.

St. Louis Blues:

New Guys to hate: Vladimir Tarasenko (please go away), Jaden Schwartz and Jeff Woywitka.

Elsewhere: Carlo Colaiacovo and John Davidson.

Young players to keep an eye on: Tarasenko, Schwartz and Ian Cole (fuck Ian Cole). The thought of seeing Tarasenko 6 times each year for the next several years makes me want to run into a dark room and cry. He and Schwartz have the potential to be Toews/Kane lite. It’s hard to judge how effective young players are going to be, but there isn’t a team on the league that wouldn’t want this tandem. What I’m trying to convey here is that I’m really freaked out about that and you should be too. Ian Cole is a douche on Twitter and probably on the ice as well.

Outlook: Their style is boring as all hell, sure, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a very good hockey club. If they get the same goaltending they got last year then there’s no reason they can’t have that same kind of success. Much like the defending champion LA Kings, the Blues have almost everyone coming back from last season, so getting into rhythm shouldn’t be much of a problem, and that’s a good thing in a short season. Barrett Jackman still plays a meaningful role on this team and you’d have to think that comes back to bite them eventually. Hopefully.

Nashville Predators:

New Guys to hate: Scott Hannan and Ryan Ellis.

Elsewhere: Ryan Suter, Andrei Kostitsyn, Alexander Radulov and Andres Lindback.

Young players to keep an eye on: Ellis and (hopefully) Austin Watson. I honestly have no idea if Watson will play for Nashville or not this year, but Ellis will, and they need someone (and probably more than just one) to help fill the void left by Ryan Suter. Roman Josi is another young defenseman who Nashville will ask to contribute.

Outlook: They still have one of the best goaltenders in the game and Barry Trotz is a coach who always gets the most out of the roster afforded him, but the loss of Suter was absolutely devastating to this teams on ice product. Will they continue to be a thorn in everyone’s side or do they begin to fade away? I’m betting on the latter.

Columbus Blue Jackets:

New Guys to pity: Brandon Dubinksy, Artem Anisimov, Sergei Bobrovsky, Nick Foligno, Tim Erixon and Adrian Aucoin (resist the urge to kill).

Mercifully Elsewhere: Rick Nash and Mark Methot. Methot is now hilariously being talked about as Erik Karlsson’s partner in Ottawa this year. Poor Erik Karlsson.

Young players to keep and eye on: Truth be told, Columbus has a lot of good young talent – most of it on the blue line. John Moore, David Savard and Tim Erixon are all solid prospects and could (will) all see time in Columbus this season. Unfortunately, their best defensive prospect, Ryan Murray, is out for the next 6 months, so you won’t be seeing him this season. It appears Boone Jenner will be given a shot to make the big club, although that jump just feels unlikely. Will this be a breakout year for Ryan Johansen? How the hell should I know?

Outlook: I don’t think this Columbus team sucks as bad as everyone is making them out to suck. However, that doesn’t mean they still don’t suck really bad. Rick Nash is obviously not going to be replaced by anyone, James Wisniewski is counted on to play a significant role and their goaltending is, uh, well……..

See Ya Later?: Boxing with ‘Hawks and Blues

Boom goes the dynamite.

Watching this game, I kept imagining what it would be like for the Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues to meet in this year’s playoffs.

It’ll likely be extremely nerve-wracking, but no one can deny how hard-fought of a series it would be.

For the second straight meeting, a 3-1 deficit was erased before a shootout decided the outcome, and the ‘Hawks once again came out on top 4-3.

Before getting into the good stuff, I’ll make it known that allowing a goal within a minute after scoring is goddamn annoying, and for it to happen twice makes me want to punt my cat. And blowing a two-goal lead with less than 10 minutes remaining in the third period makes me want to punt my girlfriend’s cat. Neither are acceptable – even with Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith out of the lineup. If you can get a two-goal lead in the third period with both of them out, then you should be able to hold it with both of them out. End of story.

With that said, no real harm done, as the ‘Hawks came away with two points, and giving St. Louis the extra one doesn’t matter one bit given the ‘Hawks have no chance to catch them anyway.

The Blackhawks did their part with a chance to clinch a playoff spot, but San Jose shit the bed once again and got shut out in Phoenix, delaying the inevitable for another couple of days. While the No. 6 seed may not make you feel all tingly inside, whoever comes out of the Pacific Division clusterfuck won’t exactly scare me. If the ‘Hawks pull the “upset” and St. Louis gets by whatever Pacific remnants are left in the eighth spot, us fans will be driving to road playoff games in the second round.

A couple notes before Boxing…

♦   Only 20 shots on goal for the Blues tonight, marking the 10th straight game the Blackhawks have allowed less than 30 reach the net. The ‘Hawks are 20-8-2 when allowing 25 shots or less.

♦   With that said, Corey Crawford can’t allow three to get past him and stop only 17, especially given the first one was pretty soft. He made up for it in the shootout though, which makes it forgivable.

♦   The ‘Hawks are 10-2-2 since beating Toronto on Feb. 29, and that’s with the power play going an are-you-absolutely-fucking-kidding-me 5 for 43 (11.6 percent). Can you image if the Blackhawks were simply goddamn serviceable with the extra man? Christ. Two more missed chances tonight, making the ‘Hawks 0 for 15 over their last four games.

Boxing for ya…

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Blues Clues: Blackhawks Try To Solve St. Louis

Photo: Associated Press

How did the Blackhawks beat the St. Louis Blues two weeks ago? By pounding them into submission? By Jamal Mayers making dents in B.J. Crombeen’s melon? By Brandon Bollig trying to tenderize Ryan Reeves? So many will say ‘yes’, and assert that a physical game will be imperative to beating St. Louis tonight. I’m going to disagree.

Chicago beat the Blues by first of all, recovering from a 3-goals-against meltdown by Ray Emery in the first period; and secondly, by throwing 46 shots at the Blues’ goal while limiting their shots against to just 24.

Tonight will be no different. If the Blackhawks use their speed, press their forecheck, take advantage of a demonstrably slower St. Louis defense, and not waste time and energy throwing the body, they will win. How do I know? One week prior to that game, the Blackhawks managed only 20 shots on goal against St. Louis while allowing 31 shots against. Chicago lost 5-1. And Bollig and Reaves went at it in that game too, precious little good it did.

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Breathing Room: Boxing with ‘Hawks and Blues

Credit: Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune

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…

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Chicago Gets The Blues: St. Louis Visits The UC

Photo: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

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…

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The “St.” Is For Stingy: Blackhawks Visit Blues

Photo: Associated Press

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?!?

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Logjamin’: Competitive Central Division on Pace to Make History

Zetterberg, Toews, Weber, Oshie

One day, the Blackhawks are sitting atop the Central Division standings, at times boasting the most points in the NHL. The next, they wouldn’t even have home-ice advantage in the first round if the playoffs began at that moment.

It’s a difficult time to keep up with the constant shifts in the standings, but such is life in the competitive Central – which is currently on pace to make a bit of history while providing us fans with some entertaining hockey down the stretch.

This is the 13th season since the NHL went to six divisions and the current playoff format in 1998-99 (the 2004-05 season marked the lockout). In the 12 completed seasons, at least one division has sent four teams to the playoffs 10 times.

In a game Blackhawks fans likely won’t forget soon, Minnesota beat Dallas on the final day of the 2010-11 regular season to prevent the Pacific from becoming the first division to send all five teams to the postseason.

Essentially, the playoff format has three division winners and five “wild-card” teams. The only seasons one division didn’t claim three “wild-cards” were 2000-01 and 2005-06.

The 2008-09 season marked the one time two divisions accomplished the feat. The Atlantic and the Central, when Detroit (No. 1 seed), the ‘Hawks (4), St. Louis (6) and Columbus (8) qualified four of their five teams – the only time since current realignment the Central has done it.

Overall, a single division qualifying a quartet is quite common. The rarity lies in what the Central currently is on pace to accomplish – place all four teams within the top six seeds.

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