Here Come The Nucks..
While they may have gone off the ‘Hawks radar a little this season, there’s no doubt that we’ll all be reminded of just how much we dislike this team tonight, especially as Vancouver will come out all guns blazing to try to thwart Chicago in their pursuit of the Greatest Prize in Sports, the Presidents’ Trophy.
Tonight’s game is in the Rogers so that means
1) A Three-In-The-Fucking-Morning puck-drop for me. Thanks a bunch, Western Time Zone.
2) Lots of towel waving from Vancouver fans.. and on that subject, let’s take a look at our “Friends” in British Columbia in a little more detail.
Canucks fans come in all shapes and sizes.. some are wonderful people, others, less so. Here’s some of the more frequently-encountered types.
Distinguishing Features: Firmly believes that the Canucks have never, ever lost due to being “Not As Good At Hockey” as the Other team. Instead it’s the fault of, in no particular order, the NHL, the Refs swallowing their whistles, the Media, the Refs calling too many penalties, a Top-Secret Cabal made up of Americans and jealous Canadians that is determined to manipulate the entire NHL to ensure that the Canucks never, ever win the Stanley Cup and, possibly, Space Aliens.
Redeeming Features: The lengths that they will go to back up their pet conspiracy theories is highly entertaining, in a car-crash sort of way (like watching Buffalo).
Secret Hope: That one day, while presenting the Cup to yet another undeserving team that only won lots of Games in the Playoffs, Gary Bettman’s mask slips off to reveal that he is, in fact, an alien from the Planet Zanussi, sent here to destroy the minds of Mankind. (Actually, they may be on to something here..)
Secret Fear: That they’re likely to end up as a footnote in some Med-Student’s dissertation on the Long-Term-Effects of Cannabis.
The Chicago Blackhawks look to make history Tuesday night as they host the Vancouver Canucks. Should the Blackhawks win this game, they will tie the NHL record for the longest point streak to open a season. The current record of 16 games is held by the 2006-2007 Anaheim Ducks.
All indications are that long-time Chicago laughing target Roberto Luongo will not get the start tonight. It appears we have bruised his ego enough for one career. Cory Schneider will get the nod tonight. Schneider has been one of the most up-and-down goalies in the league this season. His GAA’s over his seven starts are as follows: 11.27, 1.85, 0.00, 4.00, 1.00, 1.01, 4.08. A lot of this can be attributed to some absolutely embarrassing defensive play in front of him.
Look for a newly invigorated Vancouver team, enjoying the energy of a returning Ryan Kesler. Despite their OT loss against the Blues on Sunday, the Canucks have been playing high quality hockey lately.
As always, look for everyone’s favorite “tough guy” Kevin Bieksa to try some of his trademarked pathetic chirping and then cower by the refs once he gets the attention of one of the bigger guys.
Alex Burrows is still a tool.
(Now we’ll take a look at the division the Canucks win every year in a cakewalk and managed to feature exactly one playoff team last year.)
#1 Vancouver (111) Calgary (90) Colorado (88) Minnesota (81) Anaheim (80)
New guys: Jason Garrison (I wanted him), Cam Barker (you’re all horrible people for making fun), Jim Vandermeer (?) and Derek Joslin.
Gone: Samuel Pahlsson (yup, that one), Sami Salo (one ball joke) and Aaron Rome.
Not yet gone: Roberto Luongo
Young players to keep an eye on: There really isn’t a whole lot here. With injuries to guys like Ryan Kesler and David Booth, hulking winger Zach Kassian will get a shot to play in the Vancouver top six. Chicago Wolves defenseman Kevin Connauton scares the shit out of me – but at least it looks like he’s at least another season away from leaving Rosemont. Should Kesler or Booth miss more time than expected, puny 5’8 center Jordan Schroeder could be called upon to fill the void. Due to all the injuries, 2011 1st round pick Niklas Jensen will get a shot to make the roster out of camp, but that appears to be a long shot.
Outlook: Think a team with Barker and Vandermeer can’t make the playoffs? Think again. Edmonton and Minnesota aren’t pushovers anymore, sure, but the Northwest still belongs to the Canucks. Their depth looks questionable, but as soon as it *really* starts to hurt, they can pull the trigger on a Luongo deal and probably improve multiple spots. Garrison should more than make up for the loss of Sami Salo and I can’t imagine the Sedin’s letting this team nose-dive. As much as you don’t want to hear this, it looks like Vancouver probably gets home ice for at least the opening round.
New guys: Nail Yakupov (clearly a cancer in the dressing room) , Justin Schultz (this guy could have played anywhere in the NHL and chose Edmonton), and Mark Fistric (became an Oiler just the other day).
Gone: Taylor Chorney.
Young players to keep an eye on: All of them. Yakupov, Schultz, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and the list just goes on and on. All of these damn guys are probably going to be superstars (if they aren’t already) and constitute a fine young core for Edmonton. How the hell they plan on paying all these #1 picks in the future is beyond me – but that’s their problem. Should injury strike their defense, 6’3 Swede Oscar Klefbom (a fine hockey name) could see his first NHL action. 2011 2nd rounder David Musil would be another option here.
Outlook: Is this team closer to the ’07-’08 Blackhawks or the ’08-’09 Blackhawks? It’s impossible to say. Some analysts have suggested that the lockout could benefit younger teams. If that’s the case, then the Oil should be in decent sharp – even with Nikolai Khabibulin in net. In my view, the weakest area on this team is the blue line. Yes, Schultz is a great young prospect, but this isn’t a unit many teams are going to fear as they move into the Oilers zone. The offensive potential is pretty much unlimited. If the trio of #1 overall picks click right away, those defensive problems may not matter much. Edmonton is one of the tougher teams to judge this year. Could go either way. Sorry, total cop-out.
New guys: Zach Parise (now sporting a Mr. Monopoly monocle at all times) , Ryan Suter (ditto Parise), Zenon Konopka, Jake Dowell and Torrey Mitchell.
Gone: Guillaume Latendresse, Erik Christensen and Mike Lundin.
Young players to watch: The Wild have a pool of prospects that should make any Blackhawks fan who supports realignment strongly reconsider. They are stocked pretty much everywhere. Center-icemen Mikael Backlund and Charlie Coyle, along with defenseman Jonis Brodin and Matthew Dumba, are elite prospects. While it’s unlikely any of them except Backlund (and maybe Dumba) see time in the NHL this year, all are worth keeping an eye on in the future. Guys that have seen NHL time like Brett Bulmer and Jason Zucker could be called upon again if needed. Mario Lucia, Zach Phillips, Johan Larsen and Matt Hackett round out their prospect poll. Not too shabby. In fact, it’s absolutely terrifying.
Outlook: As good as this team may one day be, expectations are probably set a little too high for this season. While you can’t blame Minnesota fans for being excited with the arrival of Parise and
Konopka Suter, there are still a lot of question about this teams defensive depth and nobody knows how quickly this semi-overhauled roster will take to gel. The improvements are impossible to ignore, but this is still a team that looks scarier for what they might one day become – as opposed to what they currently are.
*We should mention that their owner, Craig Leipold, was a big driver of this lockout on the owners side. So fuck him and his team. Hating Minnesota is going to be a lot of fun.
New guys: PA Parenteau (the rare player who wants to leave the Islanders), Greg Zanon and John Mitchell.
Gone: Peter Mueller (getting a second chance with Dale Tallon) and Jay McClement.
Young players to keep an eye on: Colorado’s defense is a disaster, so guys like Ty Barrie, Stefan Elliott and/or Duncan Siemens could get a look once this team is out of the playoff race – which will probably be about three weeks from now. Often injured prospect Joey Hishon may finally get a look if they can’t lure back Ryan O’Reilly from Russia. Mark Olver went to Northern Michigan University, which makes him awesome.
Outlook: This team sucks and will be even suckier if they can’t re-sign O’Reilly. Sure, Gabriel Landeskog is a monster and they have a number of talented forwards, but like we mentioned already, that defense is just terrible. The goaltending behind it is almost as bad. Not a playoff team. Moving on.
New guys: Sven Bartschi (remember this name), Roman Cervenka, Dennis Wideman (contain your laughter) and Jiri Hudler (condolences to Hudler on the recent passing of his father).
Gone: Olli Jokinen (obligatory waffle gif), David Moss and Scott Hannan.
Not gone because Jay Feaster is delusional: Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff.
Young players to keep an eye on: Bartschi and Markus Granlund (coming over from Finland). The Flames also drafted John Gaudreau, but he’s a few years away. T.J. Brodie is an option on the blue line if they don’t want to torture themselves with Anton Babchuk and Corey Sarich.
Outlook: This team has some talent, yes, but still drag around entirely too much dead weight. The guys over at Hockeenight are always making fun of Flames for giving out no-trade clauses to any and all comers – and its’s completely true! It’s like this roster was carefully booby trapped to guard against any and all rebuilding efforts. Even if they wanted to give up the chasing the dragon and start over, they couldn’t do it.
Oh, and Mike Cammalleri is still a douche.
Western Conference playoff picks:
Los Angeles-St.Louis-Vancouver-Chicago-Phoenix-Detroit-Minnesota-San Jose
(That concludes the Western Conference portion of our season preview. We’ll be back in the next day or so with a look at the East.)
Supposedly this game was so infuriating for Vancouver fans, their most-followed blog, Nucks Misconduct, couldn’t even bother to recap it, skipping right to previewing the Dallas game.
To credit one Canuck, Roberto Luongo played a hell of a game. Corey Crawford did him one better, though, and the Blackhawks ended the season series with a 2-1 overtime win Wednesday night at the United Center.
The ‘Hawks kept coming at Luongo, and he turned away some great chances. Crawford, after letting in a softy on the game’s first shift, ended up standing tall in the third period and OT to help the ‘Hawks escape with their fifth consecutive victory.
That’s as far as I’ll go to compliment those jagoffs, though. It still boggles my mind how any human being with any sort of sense can actually cheer for people like Kevin Bieksa and Alex Burrows. At least the Sedin twins are decent hockey players when they’re not falling all over themselves when they hit an ice shaving or an opponent blows wind through their pansy goatees.
Bieksa and Burrows are likely the two biggest pieces of squirrel feces on this entire planet, and they proved it again tonight. Canucks fans – and the Canucks themselves – can bitch all they want about Duncan Keith’s hit, but Daniel Sedin’s earlier hit was just as dirty and uncalled for. If Keith would’ve went down like a ton of bricks, it would’ve been and looked just as badly.
However, that said, Keith’s hit was dirty. He brought the elbow up and knocked him in the jaw. If he plays Sunday, call me surprised. Since he’s not a repeat offender, one game should about do it.
Also on the who-might-not-play front, Marcus Kruger didn’t play after leaving in the second period. Kane went 3 for 18 on draws Wednesday, so that part doesn’t make it sit well that Kruger may not be out there against a Predators team can bury teams if they win the majority at the dot.
Onto happier things, Johnny Oduya fired the puck on net after a Dave Bolland setup, and Andrew Shaw gave it a little nudge after doing his job – going hard to the net – for the game-winner. Hell of a game, but I wouldn’t mind being saved a heart attack by not seeing the Canucks in the postseason.
Don’t look now, but the Blackhawks are only three points back of the No. 2 seed, currently held by Vancouver, with nine games to go.
Boxing for ya…
The last 3 years the Blackhawks have faced the Canucks in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Why should this year be any different? The way it’s shaping up right now, it’s a decent possibility that Vancouver will be the Blackhawks’ first-round opponent. Tonight’s game will give us a preview of what we can expect.
Tonight will also be a test of the Blackhawks’ mettle: can they continue their first period dominance? Can they beat teams that are ahead of them in the standings the way they have beaten teams below them? And can they continue their recent solid play in the absence of Captain Jonathan Toews?
Buckle up, people. This game’s going to be close: either be a hard-fought win, or a very disappointing loss. No blowout in sight this evening.
A thought crossed my mind last week. We sit here writing about this and that, and our readers loyally glance over our opinions and our pieces each and every day, but we (or at least I) have never opened up the floor to the fans to ask questions.
Earlier this week, I posted an update on Joel Quenneville’s Mustache giving fans an opportunity to ask any questions they want about the Blackhawks, hockey, or life in general.
I spent the next few days answering some of these questions, and picking a few of them to share with the world on Cheer the Anthem. So, without further ado, here are your questions:
And so, it begins: the home stretch of the regular season, kicked off by a 9-game road trip over the next 20 days, during which we take on 8 different Western Conference opponents starting tonight with our old friends the Vancouver Canucks.
So how have LuLu Belle and the Tampon Twins been lately, anyhow?
Well, LuLu is playing so well that his coach doesn’t trust him to play the Big Bad Blackhawks who made him cry; and just before the All-Star break the Tampons were held to a single point, going minus-4 between them against the one-point-out-of-last-place Lightning. Not exactly what you call inspiring performances.
THAT’S the way you start a road trip, fellas.
With clowns and elephants occupying the United Center, the ‘Hawks began their annual Circus Trip with a 5-1 thumping of hated Vancouver, giving the Canucks a bit of payback for the ass-whipping they handed them in Chicago.
So, how do you counter the league’s top-ranked power play unit? Don’t give them any power play chances. Seems easy enough. Both ‘Hawks penalties came on coincidental minors, and the Canucks never had the man advantage all night.
Hockey Broad and I traded comments on the Circus Trip Roundtable, with both of us agreeing the ‘Hawks needed to stay out of the box with the penalty kill being less-than-stellar recently. Mission accomplished.
Next up is the Calgary Flames on Friday, and I’ll be watching that game from some sports book in Las Vegas, as I’m headed out for a little vacation. Jim will have your recaps while I’m away, so the next Boxing you’ll get will be after next Wednesday’s visit to San Jose.
Some quick thoughts first …
♦ A lot of what we covered in our roundtable was exactly what happened tonight. We discussed how Duncan Keith would step up with Brent Seabrook out, and he did – minus his awful pass which led to a breakaway. Special teams needed to improve, and it did. Corey Crawford’s recent struggles? Eh, fuck those. Lots of good all around.
♦ Speaking of that, Marian Hossa is just sick. And it was also nice to see him get into a little scuffle. He’s so reserved at times that you wonder if he’s just floating around the ice without a care in the world. But for him to show that emotion, everyone better watch the fuck out.
♦ Crawford – what a night. Saw the puck well throughout the game, and he made a hell of a save on Jannik Hansen’s short-handed breakaway when Keith farted the puck away.
♦ Vancouver’s lone goal appeared to start when Nick Leddy made a poor decision to pinch when one member of the Ambiguously Incestuous Duo had a clear advantage to a loose puck. Sedin lofted it over Leddy along the boards to his brother (shocking), who then found Hansen with a nice pass through Niklas Hjalmarsson. Eh well, I guess.
♦ Speaking of the Sedins, I know that the shit I give them around here is largely biased due to the rivalry. But really, truthfully, honestly, how do Canucks fans cheer for these dirty, cheap assholes? Whichever red-headed step child shoved his stick into Crawford’s crotch as Crawford held the puck near his neck waiting for an obvious freeze should be tarred and feathered and not allowed to see an NHL rink for 10 games. Truly classless, much like their constant diving and shithole antics that make me wonder how these shitheads don’t get called for more penalties. It really, really sucks that they’re good hockey players, because they really disgrace the game at times.
♦ Glad Steve Montador decided he wanted to be Gordie Howe. He’s already halfway to his career high in goals.
The rest is in Boxing …Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.
You had to believe that after the 6-2 punishment the Vancouver Canucks gave the Blackhawks back on November 6th, all the sports media in B.C. probably spend the next several days pounding their chests and stomping around like the kid in the teen angst movies that ends up getting beaten like a mule, spit on and run up a flagpole for good measure.
Hope you had your fun while it lasted, fellas. Now it’s our turn. Time to go into their rink, humiliate them in front of their slack-jawed fans, then take a meatloaf-sized crap at center ice and climb into the limousine.
This was one of those games that just didn’t have a good feel to it from the get-go. Very, very little went right, and the Blackhawks’ powerless play once again left massive logs of poop on the ice.
The ‘Hawks spent roughly the first three minutes of the game in their own zone, and it may have taken even longer for them to make consecutive tape-to-tape passes. Was it fatigue from three games in four nights? The travel from Florida? Spending time with pops?
Whatever it was, Sunday night was a shit-filled performance in the first meeting since the playoffs as the ‘Hawks fell 6-2 to the Canucks.
♦ So much for the theory of, “When the ‘Hawks power play finally scores one, the goals will come in bunches.” The Blackhawks went a putrid 0 for 5 with the man advantage while looking as if they should have just started declining penalties. Five guys standing around, blinding throwing passes and playing as if they’ve never practiced the power play before won’t get anyone anywhere. It’s becoming borderline humorous. I can’t even get excited anymore when the opposition takes a penalty.
Oh, and if Steve Montador gets another second of power-play time, I’m going to strangle myself with dental floss.
♦ Your argument for that may be something like, “Lighten up. Vancouver came in with the sixth-ranked penalty kill and they have one of the better killing units in the league.” Well, the Blackhawks came in with the fourth-ranked kill and allowed the Canucks to go 5 for 6 with the man advantage as the ‘Hawks stood there with their jaws dropped as if they were watching Victoria’s Secret models undress.
The ‘Hawks struggled with their power plays mainly due to the Canucks’ active kill. They attack the puck while the other three play a solid zone to be able challenge the next pass. Too many times the Blackhawks were flat footed on their kill, watching and gazing at what a power play should actually look like. Vancouver enters the zone hard or places a solid dump-in where a teammate can get it while the others get into position.
♦ I think the saddest part of the evening was watching the Canucks get into the heads of the Blackhawks by playing smart and physical to disrupt the ‘Hawks attack. While the amount of flopping done by the Sedins makes me want to petition Brendan Shanahan to institute the death penalty for diving, Vancouver drew penalties and then converted. It seems simple, but it’s a simplistic part of hockey the Blackhawks have been overlooking all season.
Here’s Boxing …