Take A Knee

OK, everyone. Listen up.

I know you’re just waiting to get home so you can crack that first beer, put on your lucky sweater or whatever other things you do to make you feel comfortable and help you settle in to watch a playoff hockey game. Angst is so high that you’re developing a rash that makes it look like you’ve spent the night in a St. Louis hotel room that looked like a Warhol painting when you projected a black light on it. You’re nervous. That’s normal, and I get it. You’re supposed to be. The team you root for is down in a series to its longest known rival and you’re facing what is a must-win 4th game on the opponent’s home ice. Who wouldn’t be nervous about that?

It’s a good thing you root for the hockey team that has shown over a large enough sample size that it is better than the one dressing in the home red sweaters tonight.

Here’s what we know. The Chicago Blackhawks won the Presidents’ Trophy. That means they collected more points, and even furthermore, won more games than any other team over the truncated 48 game season this year. That same team easily dispatched the Minnesota Wild in five games to advance to where they are now. What I think we’re all losing a touch of perspective on is exactly where that is. Let’s see how we got to here.

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PSA: A Growing Cause

Fur for Funds (pennant strategically placed for a reason)

Hi there.

Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve posted under my pseudonym here and I can’t really even give any good reasons other than the standard “I’ve been kinda busy.” That doesn’t mean I haven’t been watching these playoffs we’re all angsty about as of today. There will be more on that later as I do the preview for tonight’s game. But let’s put hockey aside, at least a little, for now.

This isn’t my job, because if it were I’d be dead broke albeit kinda happy. What I do for a living is work for the Children’s Hospital here in Chicago in their foundation. I’ll spare you most of the details other than to say that I do really enjoy what I do here and I enjoy the feeling of going home after work knowing that I’ve done some good for my city. This isn’t meant to sound like a virtual pat on my own back, but rather just an explanation of what is to follow.

Playoff beards are a part of hockey. It’s a tradition, perhaps a bit of a goofy one, but it’s something that we’ve all grown accustomed to as we watch the playoffs progress. Well, a co-worker and I are growing our beards to raise some money for the hospital while looking rather ridiculous in process. Every last dime that’s donated to our fund goes straight to the hospital and to kids who need it. If you’re able to help us out, that’s awesome. We would greatly appreciate any support, even if it’s just a dollar on your debit card or whatever, and so would the kids that you’ll be benefiting. I can’t promise you a Blackhawks win tonight, even though I’m still confident they’ll come away from this series with four victories before they get four losses. What I can promise you, is that you’ll feel a little better about something you’ve done and so will the kids whose money you’ll be directly affecting them with.

This has been your public service announcement interlude portion of the program and I’ll be back later today with a similarly concise post that will hopefully inspire some confidence in the actual hockey team we support that’s playing later tonight. Thanks again for reading what we do here, and if you can contribute, thank you even more for doing that.

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Woah, They’re Halfway There: Game 3 Boxing with Red Wings (3) and Blackhawks (1)

Nope. (Credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

Nope. (Credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

Anyone expect this? Even the most unreasonable of Red Wings fans would be lying if they said they did.

Yet, here the Blackhawks are, trailing 2-1 in a series with their bitter rival and forced to win three of the next four games just to survive a series that seemed to be a mismatch. The joke’s on us, so far.

I’ve been known to be a bit of a Chicken Little, and I readily admit I think I actually enjoy it just so if I’m wrong it feels even better. I sense doom and I speak loudly about it immediately. It takes me some time to take a step back, be rational and think things through. I’ve done that, I think, and have realized the ‘Hawks didn’t play a terrible game in Monday’s 3-1 Game 3 loss at Joe Louis Arena.

Jimmy Howard made 39 saves, but he was beaten a total of four times. Unfortunately, three of those hit the post or crossbar. They sustained an attack in the Red Wings’ zone on multiple occasions. Patrick Sharp had plenty of good looks, he just shot them all into Howard’s chest. And, after giving up two goals 31 seconds apart in the second period, they actually came back to tie the game. And in another unfortunate incident, the zebra blew the call and disallowed the second goal because of Andrew Shaw committing phantom interference (more on that later).

Now, am I worried? I think if any ‘Hawks fans says they’re not it would be at least a 75 percent lie. The ‘Hawks are down 2-1 to an inferior team (sorry, Detroit fans, but you know it just as well as us Blackhawks fans do) and face as close to a must-win as possible in Game 4 on Thursday. Concern at this point is reasonable.

Panic? Let’s not go there yet. That would set in with a loss Thursday. However, I wouldn’t necessarily blame anyone for being uptight right now, partly for these reasons:

♦   As I posted on Twitter, if Shaw hadn’t been acting like a reckless, irresponsible asshole throughout this whole series, the tying goal would have stood and the ref wouldn’t have waived it off. I’m fully convinced that Shaw’s out-of-control antics to that point combined with how close he was to Howard had the ref calling a close play against Shaw rather than looking at it with an open mind. I mean, did you see how quickly the ref waived that off?! That was a call against Shaw, plain and simple. It was assumed Shaw fucked with Howard because he’s been skating around the ice at 10,000 mph trying to decapitate people. He has 18 penalty minutes through the first three games and has officially gone from annoying guy you want on your team to a detriment. Q needs to put at stop to this shit, and fast. It’s the fucking playoffs. Get some control.

♦   Brent Seabrook is playing some bad hockey. It’s been noted that his passing skills have taken a nose dive, but his overall decision-making is suspect and he’s skating like he’s wearing slippers. How does he not keep Nyquist to the outside on that goal? That can’t happen.

♦   Jonathan Toews has three assists in his last nine playoff games. Aside from that, he’s 18 for 41 on faceoffs over the last two games. The Captain did play an overall solid Game 3 and had his chances, but he’s got to put one in, if only for his own sanity. This has to be driving him nuts.

♦   0 for 4 on the power play Monday. 3 for 22 for the playoffs. Luckily, the kill is a perfect 29 for 29.

The rest is in Boxing. Right-click the image, then click ‘view’ to enlarge…

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The Five Best* Hockey Songs, Ever

*Actual “Best” may be smaller than pictured.

Hockey and Music: they’re inextricably entwined. Whether it be Great Goal Songs, Terrible Goal Songs or the Worst Goal Songs in the History Of Bad Goal Songs; arena music programmers who think they’re the first person to think of playing “Song 2″ or “Welcome To The Jungle”, misguided fans singing along to a song that is actually about getting out of the desolate hell-hole they live in or the fact no-one seems to remember that convicted kiddy-fiddler Gary Glitter still gets royalties from “Rock n’Roll Part 2″; music is an integral part of the Hockey experience.

(And, of course, there’s  Täint Nügget.)

However, there is also a subculture of bands and musicians that have written and recorded (and based their entire careers, in some cases) on songs about Hockey. After the jump, we look at the Five Best Hockey Songs..

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“Series On” : Blackhawks-Red Wings Game Two Recap

So it turns out the reports of Detroit’s demise in this series were grossly exaggerated. Many Blackhawks fans were understandably eager to bury Detroit after Game One, unfortunately it just doesn’t work that way in the playoffs. The advanced stats pretty much confirmed the eye test – the Hawks were terrible while the Red Wings were fantastic.

You, the fan, have every right to be annoyed with the Blackhawks lack of urgency this afternoon, but give the Red Wings the (significant) credit they deserve, too. They silenced the United Center (quiet as I’ve ever heard it) by slowing down the Hawks in the neutral zone using THE LOCK and seemed to get in the way of just about every shot the Hawks attempted. Unlike Game One, nobody in a red sweater had room to maneuver and Jimmy Howard never had to bail out the guys in front of him. The Wings played the perfect road game and will go back to Detroit with home ice advantage and the belief that they can play with the Blackhawks.

Mike Babcock said it best after the game: “Series On.” It sure is.

Let’s get to the nitty gritty bullets asterisks:

* Andrew Shaw was atrocious. I counted three plays where he had possession but failed to get the puck into the Detroit zone. One Shaw giveaway led to a shorthanded breakaway for the Wings.

* Jonathan Toews complained about the officiating after the game. He had reason to be pissed off about the non-call on Henrik Zetterberg for mauling him while he was down, but somehow I don’t think anyone is buying the ‘poor officiating cost us’ angle tonight. Plus, everybody knows the Blackhawks power play is horrendous anyway.

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10 Things You DIDN’T Know About Bryan Bickell

We’ve all seen Bryan “Bingo” Bickell, third line winger extraordinaire, future husband and over-priced Free Agent, owner of the most riveting feed on Twitter

But how much do we really know about him? Luckily, your pals here at Cheer The Anthem are on hand to make up some stuff about him. Read on for “10 Things You DIDN’T Know About Bryan Bickell”

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Hawks Fans Around The World, Stand Hand-In-Hand

Hawks Fans.. they’re everywhere. Obviously there are plenty of North Americans currently working, studying or serving overseas. However, there’s also us: the few, the proud, the “Actually Foreign” Hawks fans. We battle Ass-O’Clock game times and massive indifference from friends and colleagues to follow our team. Some of us have never been to Chicago, let alone the UC, yet we consider ourselves as much a part of Hawks nation as anyone.

My own story starts with Da ’85 Bears (as so much else does) and has its twists and turns that led me to the ’09 WCF and the sealing of the deal.  But this isn’t about me. Obviously this is a subject close to my heart, so I reached out to a bunch of my fellow Toilers-In-Timezone-Hell with a few questions. Which are below.  These good folk are from Ireland, Scotland, Sweden & Germany. With the exception of Sweden, Hockey is either a minority sport or practically non-existent.  Their words are their own, the italicized questions are mine.  Next time you’re watching the Hawks, raise a glass to them. And if you’re in our neigbourhoods, look us up.

 

(Author’s note: these interviews were conducted in the early stages of the Minnesota series)

 

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Just As We Remembered: Game 1 Boxing with Blackhawks (4) and Red Wings (1)

(Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

(Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

Going into Wednesday’s contest, 10 of the last 11 meetings between the Blackhawks and Red Wings had been decided by one goal, with the only exception being the Easter Funday blowout in Detroit. And while the Western Conference semifinals opener seemed destined to be decided by the same margin, the ‘Hawks pulled away with three goals in the third for a 4-1 victory and a 1-0 series lead.

It was less than two minutes after Marian Hossa opened the scoring that Damien Brunner knotted everything back up. And while the Blackhawks carried the play for most of the contest, Detroit headed into the third with a chance to steal home-ice advantage.

Then, Johnny Oduya potted the go-ahead goal, Marcus Kruger added some insurance and Brent Seabrook saved a sure Wings goal that could have shifted the momentum. The ‘Hawks have now won eight straight meetings with the Red Wings and don’t appear to be slowing down.

Some thoughts before Boxing…

♦   The long layoff didn’t seem to bother the Blackhawks as they looked like they had never left the ice. They basically dominated Detroit through the final two periods and finally put them to rest with a three-goal outburst. Fact is, the Red Wings simply can’t keep up with this ‘Hawks team, and their defense likely moonlights as a team of matadors. Aside from the depth gap, the speed gap was evident even with ….

   … Viktor Stalberg being scratched. By now everyone knows as much as everyone else outside of Vik and Q – which is nothing. And frankly, I really don’t care. Yes, I was shocked that Stalberg appeared headed for a benching because I think he at the very least held his own against Minnesota. But really, it’s obvious something must have happened. True story here – A friend of mine told me a month ago he was getting his haircut at the same time and place as Stalberg, and Stalberg was bitching to his hair dresser about his playing time. He hasn’t been happy for awhile, and it’s possible things boiled over. We’ll see what happens for Game 2.

   As someone who attended Michigan State, Justin Abdelkader scored the second-favorite goal of my life (I think you can guess which is No. 1). But man is he a piece of shit. “It’s amazing how a uniform can change the way you feel about a guy.”

♦   I need to know how it’s even fucking possible that of the 11 draws Kruger took, him and I ended up winning the same amount.

♦   Patrick Sharp was a beast at both ends of the ice, and his pass from the boards to a streaking Oduya was beautiful. Keep it up, Handsome One.

Nakis will be by in the afternoon with some more observations so for now, here’s Boxing. Right-click the image, then click ‘view’ to enlarge…

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It’s Blackhawks vs. Red Wings As Conference Foes, One Last Time

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There was a time in my younger years when I would watch Rudy and come away from each viewing believing I could be him.

We already had plenty in common. I was a “five-foot-nothin’, a-hundred-and-nothin'” wanna-be athlete who could hold his own in any team sport simply because of desire and want-to. I would push the limits of my “speck of athletic ability” and would stand up to the many, many doubters who believed bigger, faster, stronger should mean just, go, away to shrimps like myself.

“Why not me?,” I’d say. “Why can’t I be the next Rudy?” I believed it, I really did. I could recite nearly the entire flick and could watch it on loop without ever considering removing the tape from the VCR.

Then, I grew up. I began hating Notre Dame and everything associated with it, just like every human over the age of 12 should. I heard Rudy butcher that famous speech so many times it could make Knute Rockne begin hating himself for even recruiting The Gipper, let alone be motivated to win anything for him. “Rudy sucked at football, and his family should have been imprisoned for even turning him on to that cult that congregates in South Bend. Quit getting killed and focus on getting a degree, idiot,” I began to think.

I gave up the me-against-the-world mentality on the field and transferred it to the professional world, going into the locker room with a pen and pad rather than a uniform, staying in sports full-time the only realistic way I could. If you can’t beat ‘em, write about ‘em. And while I wouldn’t trade my career for anything, that change from ultra-competitive former athlete to behind-the-scenes realist has made me view sports more objectively now rather than with the natural passion – like Rudy – that led me to choose this path in the first place.

And I still haven’t figured out if that’s good, bad or inconsequential.

That doesn’t mean a Blackhawks loss doesn’t sting, or that the 2010 Stanley Cup run didn’t bring me to tears, because it does, and it did. And it surely doesn’t mean that if the ‘Hawks are ever eliminated from this postseason that the words, “It’s OK, Blackhawks! Great season! Let’s get ‘em next year!” will ever come off my keyboard. That’s just insulting.

But you also won’t hear me chanting, “DE-TROIT SUCKS!” while I sit in my seat at the United Center for Game 1 on Wednesday, even though I’ll be enjoying those words coming from the mouths of others. Part of losing a bit of that natural passion that I mentioned above keeps me from doing such things, or from blindly supporting my teams no matter how terrible they perform and getting into fights with the opposition’s fans simply because they’re wearing a different shirt than I, though it does come out of me once in awhile.

That objectivity that comes with my job has me putting aside the hate I grew up having for Detroit and taking a step back to instead appreciate what it means for two Original Six rivals to meet in the playoffs for the last time as conference foes.

This Western Conference semifinal between the Blackhawks and the Red Wings isn’t must-see just because of the rabid fan bases that can barely stand the sight of each other’s iconic logo, or are jealous over the other’s success, no matter how recent or distant, though that’s, of course, a huge part of it. For me, it’s more about NHL realignment leaving us with just two regular-season meetings between these bitter rivals and making sure this potential playoff matchup never happens short of the Stanley Cup Final again.

As it is, with it being possible, this marks only the seventh time in the last 42 years anyone has been able to witness a Chicago-Detroit playoff series. Just the rarity of this occurrence makes it special, in turn making these four, five, six or (gulp) seven games all the more historic. I’ve come to realize that I don’t only respect Detroit for its success as an organization, but also for what its existence has done for the game and how it brings out the passion in Blackhawks and Red Wings fans because of wars waged on the ice over the years.

The longevity is the reason multiple generations of Chicago and Detroit fans have been able to respectfully dislike each other. When I hear “DE-TROIT SUCKS!” throughout this series, or when I see a Red Wings fan stand up and loudly cheer for one of their team’s goals, it’s the history between these great franchises I’ll be thinking about – and how moving forward those things will become more rare.

I hope others share my sentiment of respecting Detroit, no matter how unpopular it may be, and don’t just view this series as another opportunity to trash-talk Red Wings fans. I hope everyone can realize how historic this playoff clash will be, and how you’ll be telling someone years from now about the days you attended Blackhawks games when the Wings visited Chicago more than once per season.

I plan on being one of those people down the road, rambling on about what I witnessed. And even though I may have lost some of the fire and raw emotion that should come with this series, I’m thankful I can appreciate the history that comes with this rivalry – and what we’ll be missing out on in the future.

Let’s go, ‘Hawks.

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The 5 Types of Red Wings Fans

 

 

It’s time, once again, to renew hostilities with the despised Winged Wheel. I’m busy laying in the booze and soundproofing my room (my neighbours don’t like it when the Police, Fire Brigade, Bomb Squad and a Priest all turn up simultaneously in the middle of the night). However, I took some time out of my busy schedule to look at some of the chief characteristics of their fans, just so we can look forward to not seeing so much of them in the future.  Without further ado, here they are:

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Things To Do In St. Louis When You’re Dead

 

So much for that. The confident pick of many Hockey writers & pundits, St. Louis were tipped to win the Central and march out of the West. Apparently they were strong, unified and had totally bought into Ken Hitchcock’s system; which brought them so close to a Presidents’ Trophy last year.  And Jaro Halak and Brian Elliott were going to continue as the hottest goaltending tandem in the League.

Instead, here we are, deja vu time. Rumours of locker room problems, indications that the team has quit on the coach and, oh, yeah: out of the Playoffs again. St Louis’ wait for a cup will have to continue.

I’m not going to write a lengthy eulogy, better writers than me are surely sharpening their..um.. internet pens (?) to do so. Instead, I’m going to look at things that the Blues can do with all this free time they’ve suddenly got. Through the medium of crappy photoshops, of course.

 

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Movin’ On: Game 5 Series-Clinching Boxing with Blackhawks (5) and Wild (1)

(Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune)

(Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune)

How relieving was it to witness a handshake line you knew wouldn’t be the last of the Blackhawks’ postseason?

For the first time since their Stanley Cup run in 2010, the ‘Hawks are headed to the Western Conference semifinals after eliminating the Minnesota Wild with Thursday’s 5-1 victory at the United Center. And even though there are plenty of things that need to be improved and refined before the second-round series with either Detroit or San Jose, the rather quick series we all expected should give the ‘Hawks some time to get everything together.

Getting this out of the way quickly, it sucked to see Josh Harding’s season end the way it did. He labored through all or part of five games while battling MS, and that’s enough for me to call him an inspiration. To get chased in an elimination game had to sting. Poor guy.

To the more exciting stuff, Jonathan Toews finally got on the score sheet after a nifty pass to Marian Hossa helped open the scoring then later adding an assist on Patrick Sharp’s power-play goal. The top line of Toews, Hossa and Brandon Saad entered Thursday with three combined points in the series – all from Hossa – but totaled six in Game 5 alone.

And it was a great thing those guys showed up because the second line was hamstrung once again by the ineffectiveness of Michal Handzus, who won just 41.8 percent of his draws in the series. Maybe Q considered replacing him with Marcus Kruger, but he lost 12 of his 15 faceoffs Thursday and won 40.9 percent throughout the series. Dave Bolland should be back for the second round, but I wouldn’t exactly consider him an upgrade given his shitty season that saw him win 46.1 percent at the dot in 35 games. I’m just going to say this once: The Blackhawks won a Stanley Cup with Sharp as their second-line center. OK, that’s it. Won’t say it again.

And how about that power play, eh? Fuck me. The ‘Hawks finished 2 for 13 in the series thanks to Sharp’s 5-on-3 goal, but luckily they killed off all 17 of Minnesota’s chances. It still baffles me how a PP so deep with talent can’t score, and guys like Michael Frolik and Kruger are the catalysts for one of the best kills in the NHL. It would be nice to see the power play giving the special teams units more balance in Round 2.

I know to this point I’ve pretty much been Buzz Killington, but we all knew the ‘Hawks have some deficiencies moving forward. And since we’re all looking at the big picture – in other words, Stanley Cup or bust – I’m not going to pat everyone on the wiener and celebrate a first-round win against an overmatched opponent. But how about some good?

Corey Crawford. I want to know how many people chanting “Cor-ey! Cor-ey!” at the UC were earlier this season demanding he be benched permanently in favor of Ray Emery. There were way too many of those meatballs all season, and Crawford basically stuck it right up their asses in this series. It had to be a great moment for Crawford and another boost to the confidence of a goaltender who continues selling more people on his potential to lead these ‘Hawks to a Cup.

Oh, and Hossa. Fuck, and yes.

All right, Boxing time. Right-click the image, then click ‘view’ to enlarge…

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Boooo-urned. Hawks 3 Wild 0 (series 3-1)

 

That was… effective, I guess. The Wild, as in the previous game, came out flying around the ice trying to hit anything that moves and throw the Hawks off their game.  Again, it worked to a degree: this game was closer than the scoreline suggests and Corey Crawford had himself a mighty fine night. But the upshot? Goal in each period, a shutout and an increased likelihood that the only shiny metal things in the hands of Zach Pari$e and Ryan $uter this year also have the word “Slazenger” on them.

Also have to mention the first exit of the Post-Season as the Canucks were swept by the Sha-Arks. I had the series down as a battle of two teams that had probably missed their Cup-window, but I certainly thought that the Nucks were still closer to their peak than San Jose. Plus the whole “Choking” thing.  I was wrong, as usual. I don’t think there can be any doubt that there are going to be big changes in Vancouver in the new season. I would guess that Vigneault will be gone soon, but the biggest question there is what to do about Honk & Donk. That team is built around them when, arguably, it should be built around Kesler. Anyway, I digress..

Bullets:

  • The Miracle Of Childbirth seems to inspire Patrick Sharp. Remember this?   That handsome, handsome man got himself a pair (and came damn close to a hat-trick) as team-mate Duncan Keith rejoined the side after attending the birth of his son, Colton (impressively ‘Canadian’ name there, Duncs)
  • Corey Crawford had himself a shutout and some great frigging saves. He flat out robbed Zach Parise (again) and generally looked like the happy, aggressive, confident Crow we all know and love. Although he did go a-wandering to play the puck a few times. Let’s keep that to a minimum, hey?
  • Subject of goalies, Josh Harding got hurt in a collision with the Captain late in the 1st Period. He played on in clear discomfort and did not return after the intermission. The current word is “Lower Body Injury” which, obviously, tells us nothing. Darcy Kuemper came in as relief and.. well.. I believe the expression rhymes with “Ticked The Frog”. Wild fans that I know have a high opinion of this kid, and I’m not going to dump on him here.. but boy he had a night to forget. He had to have both of those goals and turned into a rebound machine.
  • Bingo Bickell got his 3rd goal of the Playoffs on a shot from an acute angle that I’m sure even he didn’t expect to go in. They all count, though, and more please. If his swansong in an Indianhead involves lifting another Cup (with his name actually going on it this time) then so be it.
  • Patrick Kane is a fucking genius. Every time he touched the puck I got tense in anticipation. He appears to be using some sort of Matrix-style bullet-time that isn’t available to mere mortals. Saw a lot of time with Toews tonight. I like.
  • Marian Hossa gave us some Beast-Mode, too, especially when picking off a Koivu attempt to spring Pari$e to start the rush that led to the first goal. Toews was getting stuck in but is still pointless.. then again we saw practically nothing out of the Wild’s top line either so there’s a cancelling-out element going on there.
  • On the subject of “Pointless”, GorillaSalad’s TOI: 3.55 PIM: 2.00. Can we please have Ben Smith now?
  • And while we’re talking about turds, Cal Clutterbuck (or David Schwimmer: The Porn Years) is a worthless POS. Someone on Twitter used the unfortunate expression “You’ve Been Clutterbucked” after another of his John Woo style leaping elbows.  Which makes sense. His borderline hitting reminds one of Detroit’s Finest Ass-Tick. I think he had 1,736 hits last night according to the Wild’s scorer, although I may be out by 50-60.
  • Ryan $uter has the slit-like eyes of a lifelong glue-sniffer.
  • The PK was nails, again. But 6 penalties? This is not a recipe for success against teams that are actually good at Hockey. Please to be cutting that shit out.
  • Finally, how about those fans? Most of the Wild fans that I know are reasonably level-headed (by Hockey Fan standards). What to make of the mistimed booing, “Craaaaw-fuuuurd” chants and general asshattery last night? No idea, but then I remember that these are likely many of the same idiots who booed Harding when he came in cold during the Edmonton shellacking. So screw ‘em.

We’re back in Chicago tomorrow night with the “Who gives a fuck about the West” start time of 8.30 Central (2.30am  here.. hooray) and the chance for a handshake line. Last time we were on the right side of one of those? I’m sure you all remember.

 

 

 

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And It’s a Series: Game 3 Overtime Boxing with Wild (3) and Blackhawks (2)

Credit: Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune

Credit: Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune

 

Let’s get a few things straight right off the bat.

The Minnesota Wild probably played the best game they had. They were physical – three times as much as they were in the first two games – took it to the Blackhawks right from the outset while Mike Yeo made the adjustments he didn’t in the first two games at the United Center.

Yet still, the ‘Hawks were in it while playing one of their worst games we’ve seen in awhile.

Sunday’s 3-2 overtime loss was more annoying than discouraging, and it definitely wasn’t deflating. Anyone who thought the Blackhawks were going to go 16-0 in these playoffs turned a blind eye toward reality and believed in perfection when the the ‘Hawks have proved to supply anything but throughout this campaign – and more importantly, this series.

Secondly, if there’s anyone reading this that wants to blame Corey Crawford for any of those three goals, I’d like you to watch that game over again when the emotion subsides. If you were excited when Duncan Keith scored late in the third to force OT, you better realize it was Crawford’s performance that held off the onslaught of Wild shots to allow the ‘Hawks to even have an opportunity to win that game. Three perfectly place shots did him and the Blackhawks in. There’s not much else to say about that. If you’re blaming Crawford, you need to reassess things.

Going forward, I’d like Brent Seabrook to being playing hockey. I’d like for Jonathan Toews to end his four-game playoff streak without a single point. I’d like for Patrick Kane to continue embarrassing people with how well he’s playing, yet I’d also enjoy if all of his assists didn’t go to defensemen when the ‘Hawks have one of the best collections of offensive talent in the entire world. I’d like for the power play, which possesses that same other-worldly offensive talent, yet with a man advantage at that, be better than 1 for fucking 9 in the series.

And I’d like if the Blackhawks won Game 4 on Tuesday to save me from being insanely pissed off when I sit in my seat for Game 5 at the UC.

Is any of this too much to ask? I didn’t think so. Now, here’s Boxing.

Right-click the image, then click ‘view’ to enlarge…

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Reality Bites: Wild 2 Hawks 5

ahahhahahhhahhaaaa

 

That’s more like it, hey?

After Game 1 being a close run thing, the Hawks simply placed a skate on the neck of the Wild tonight and never really took the pressure off. It was a game more one-sided than the scoreboard suggested and a welcome display of superiority pretty much everywhere on the ice.

Josh Harding got his second straight start and once again had a fine game, which he needed to have, as his “Defence” allowed 48 shots. Getting outshot almost 2-1 is never a recipe for success and, sure enough, the Wild came unstuck under this relentless barrage. Two goals from Michael Frolik and Patrick Sharp plus an hilarious ENG from Wild-Killer “Bingo” Bickell (stick tap to JR Lind) were enough to get the Hawks there. Setoguchi managed his standard “Annoying Playoff Goal”  and something called Scandella also scored for the Wild but it never felt that they were in it. Bullets? Bullets

 

  • On a night where (Sharp aside) the Hawks’ superstars were kept off the scoreboard, it came down to the supporting cast to get it done. And they did. That third line of the Hawks just looks better and better with every passing game.
  • Who was that standing there with his thumb up his ass while Frolik scored shorthanded? Was that Ryan $uter? It was. His (and Brodin’s) ice-time stayed below 25 minutes. Which is a good thing, I guess.  Didn’t matter.
  • On the subject of Reasons Why The Lockout Happened, that sequence where Zach Pari$e took approximately 398 shots from both sides of the net while Corey Crawford soaked it all up with a smile was absolutely hilarious. In a close game I’d be questioning why someone wasn’t clearing out the crease, but in this context it’s just funny.
  • That pass from Kane to Sharp for the 4th goal? That’s how you make a whole bunch of big guys protecting their crease completely irrelevant in a split second. Patrick Kane, folks. He’ll be here all week. Try the veal.
  • Andrew Shaw was a wonderfully itchy rash on the taint of the Wild all night. I think I love that horrible little thug.
  • Mikko Koivu decided that the best way to motivate his team was a Backes-Style march-to-the-box.  Pointless, a -3 on the night and 6 PIMs out of his team’s total of 10. That’s Leadership right there, folks.
  • Bickell and Stalberg may indeed be pricing themselves out of town with their play so far in this series, but you know what? Who cares. I’m sitting back and enjoying the ride.

So it’s off to Minnesota for Game 3. I’m interested to see what Mike Yeo does in terms of line matching. Does he let his top people get neutralised by the Hawks stars while the likes of Bickell and Stalberg run riot on the “Bum Of The Month Club” that is the Wild’s supporting cast? Or does he try to shut down Toews and co. with his 3rd line? The results of which should be predictable and hilarious.

I don’t believe in jinxes but I know that some of you do.. so I won’t use the word itself. Let’s put it this way. It rhymes with “Weep”. Which a lot of people in Minnesota will be doing over the next few days.

 

Peace.

 

 

 

Boxing-Round 1-Game 1-Hawks-2-Wild-1

One Down: Game 1 Overtime Boxing with Blackhawks (2) and Wild (1)

(Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune)

(Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune)

Whew.

Welcome to playoff hockey, everyone. The Blackhawks and Wild proved no matter who is in the lineup or where the game is being played, once the puck drops on the Stanley Cup Playoffs it’s time to forget about the regular season and ignore the seeds. Teams are just flat out going to go after each other for 60 minutes and possibly more for however many games it takes until the superior team is left standing.

Luckily the Blackhawks came out on top when Bryan Bickell potted the winner in overtime to give them a 2-1 victory over Minnesota in Game 1 at the United Center. It sure as shit wasn’t easy, though.

First, news came that Nicklas Backstrom suffered an injury in warmups, forcing Josh Harding, who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in the offseason and played in only five games, to start in goal for the Wild.

All Harding did was go out and stop 35 shots in a truly inspiring performance while nearly winning Game 1 all by himself. And while it’s difficult to cheer against a guy like that, Bickell’s winner brought a sigh of relief as the ‘Hawks avoid a major letdown.

A few thoughts before Boxing…

♦   The ‘Hawks winning this game saved Corey Crawford from getting a massive storm of shit after he allowed a weak goal to Cal Clutterbuck on Minnesota’s first shot of the series. Crawford, though, really played a fantastic game after that slip-up, finishing with 26 saves – none bigger than the blocker stop on Zach Parise in overtime that scared the flying shit out of everyone.

   Harding, again. Good for you.

   The pass Johnny Oduya made off the glass that sailed roughly 125 feet and dropped perfectly in front of Viktor Stalberg was disgusting. You could see him deliberately lining it up like a billiards player setting up the winning bank shot with the final ball falling beautifully in the corner pocket across the table. Stalberg’s pass and Bickell’s awesome move finished it off.

   Eddie Olczyk praised Viktor Stalberg. On the air. To the public. In other news, the devil is playing pond hockey in hell after a sudden temperature drop.

   The ‘Hawks did take a few dipshit penalties tonight, including one by Oduya in OT. However, Marian Hossa’s goal came on the power play, making the Blackhawks 1 for 11 over their last five games.

   The ‘Hawks lead a playoff series for the first time since the 2010 Stanley Cup Final.

Boxing. Right-click the image, the click ‘view’ to enlarge…

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round table

Idiots of the Round Table: Cheer the Anthem’s Minnesota Wild Preview

round table

It’s playoff time, finally, and we here at Cheer the Anthem couldn’t be more excited. Before the Blackhawks thump the Wild’s skulls for ‘em, Bartl, Nakis, Brown and Mighty Mike have decided to answer a few of our own questions heading into Game 1 tonight.

I wish I could say we gathered around and did this over beers at a local bar, but Mike played the whole “I live in London and can’t make it” excuse that’s getting really old. Damn foreigners.

Kidding aside, here’s what your resident idiots had to say about the upcoming series against Minnesota:

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The Wine Cooler, Presented by Bartl and James – Episode 4: Things are Gettin’ Wild!

Bartels&Jaymes

Finally, the playoffs are here. Bartl and Nakis preview the first round series with the Minnesota Wild, though we won’t be able to make any jokes about Dany Heatley’s drunken driving escapades as he’s out for the season. We’ve got the Blackhawks in 6. You’ll have to listen to find out our other warped thoughts.

Listen to internet radio with The Wine Cooler on Blog Talk Radio

 

Or visit this link if the embedded one doesn’t appear for you.

 

 

Partay

Congratulations, St Louis. Blackhogs 1 Blues 3

 

Well done, Blues, well done. You saw the cream of the Just-Outside-The-AHL-Playoffs tonight, but you didn’t flinch and ground out a gritty victory. I hope you enjoyed it. Hard Times are a-coming.

 

dong 3

Partay

Victory Party Behind The Purina Building

 

 

 

In other news, The Wild will be the Hawks first-round opponents.. but more o’ that later. Hope those who went to Gonna Drinken 2 aren’t suffering too badly this morning and we’ll be back with much, much more before the Real Fun begins.

scott 3

Lick Yourself Off My Shoe: Hawks @ Blues Preview

(The quote above comes from the TV show Brass Eye. If you don’t know what that is, fix it. )

 

 

Anyway, the Hawks round off their Regular season with the always delightful trip to Missourah. As of this writing (wee hours of the morning for you nice folk in the US) we’re anticipating a team full of Black Aces to give the top guys a breather and keep important craniums away from wandering elbows, sticks, pads and knees.

Could make for a torrid introduction to the NHL for some of these lads..  the Blues will likely Hulk Out because

a) They always do.  They know of no other way. This is what happens when you ice a team that has the collective restraint, sense of fair play and intelligence of a rabid Hyena that’s has been licking the lead paint off a wheelbarrow full of pig shit.

b) The Blues actually do have something to play for: they currently squat in 4th, but could end up, depending on tonight’s game with the Hawks and the Battle Of California in LA, as low as 6th.  Which, obviously, runs the gamut from “Home Ice against San Jose” to “Heading out West to play the Kings”. Or, of course, the one we’re all hoping for: Vancouver.

The sheer Shitbaggery that would surely dominate that series would provide us with many, many chuckles along the way. While, sadly, they can’t both lose, I’m sure that a nightmarish 7-gamer with lots of 4OT would leave the winner looking like those skidmarks that Roman Polak just can’t eliminate from his undies, however hard he wipes (tip for Roman: try using TP rather than a dead rat)

So how does this hilarious situation come about?

A Hawks win coupled with San Jose beating LA in either OT or SO drops the Blue Notes to 6th. It’s a bit of a long shot, I know. I’m not expecting much from the Hawks players, except trying to fend off whichever  Blue is gnawing on their coccyx all night. Staying healthy is more important than fucking up the Blues post-season. They’ll have plenty of opportunity to do that themselves.

I’ll be back with a recap after the dust settles.. just hope there’s nothing to make me angrier than I normally am after having to watch Backes, Reaves, Jackman, Polak et al trying to set the Cause of Quality Hockey back a couple of generations.

Also make sure to keep an eye on events in Dallas, Denver and Columbus. The Wild pissed on their chips last night to the tune of a 6-1 shellacking at home by the Oilers, therefore setting up a day of hellish twists and turns in the race for 7/8th seed. Enjoy their pain.

 

Pizza Hutt

Room for a Wafer-Thin Mint, Ken?

 

Let’s Go, Hawks

 

(Brian Cassella/Tribune Photo) "Wow, we're really fucking good."

Only The Beginning : Hawks 3 – Flames 1

(Brian Cassella/Tribune Photo) "Wow, we're really fucking good."

(Brian Cassella/Tribune Photo) “Wow, we’re really fucking good.”

Tonight the Blackhawks arrived at the United Center and competed in a contest they couldn’t have possibily cared less about. Despite the games meaninglessness, they managed to walk away with a 3-1 victory. They finished 18-3-3 at home. They are 18-3-2 on the road. They will have home ice throughout the playoffs. What am I getting at here? YOU SHOULD ENJOY IT. Really, think about it – the Toews/Kane era may be as good as it ever gets. After the sour note we ended last season on, it was goddamn satisfying watching them put everything together to dominate the Western Conference this year. This was the type of season we envisioned this team having once it became clear THE CORE was truly something special. Are they head and shoulders above the rest of the NHL? Absolutely not… but I can’t help but feel that optimism should carry the day here.

Things that happened during this mandatory attendance game:

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SHITTER

In The Shitter: Flames @ Hawks Preview

Tonight, for the final Home game of the 2012-13 Regular Season, the Blackhawks host the Calgary Fla.. oh, fuck it.

The Flames are dead and buried, the Hawks are home and hosed, there is nothing to care about and we don’t even get to gaze adoringly at Iggy and heave deep, heartfelt, sighs. Ryan Stanton is up , the rest of the Black Aces will get the call tomorrow. And St Louis, of course.  There’s always them.

So, rather than make (redundant) jokes about Jay Feaster, I thought I’d take a quick look at the final days of the Season for the three teams fighting it out for the last two Playoff places in the West. Or, as I call it

 

SHITTER

 

There are many, many different permutations and combinations that could see some of these teams either finish as high as 6th or hit the golf course early.  It’s exactly the sort of Bowel-Loosening situation that I, for one, am glad the Hawks avoided entirely this year.  I still flinch when I think back to two years ago.  I won’t try to elucidate every potential outcome, just a few of the more intriguing possibilities. One of these bunches of schmucks are going to be the Hawks’ first-round opponent, after all.

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Boxing4-24-Hawks-4-Oilers-1Full

Leaders in the Clubhouse: Boxing with Blackhawks (4) and Oilers (1)

While we’re all waiting for the playoffs, I guess we can handle putting another trophy in the case with a dominating victory against an overmatched team.

The Blackhawks took it to the Oil all night, clinching their first Presidents’ Trophy since 1990-91 – when they went on to lose to the fourth-place Minnesota North Stars in the Norris Division playoffs. Let’s hope this season ends up a little better, eh?

Due to the late start I’m pretty wiped out, so I’ll just make a couple of points before Boxing…

♦   Ray Emery going off the ice after re-aggravating his lower-body injury got me to thinking. “Well, it’s coming down to the end of the season so of course a guy who is pretty injury prone will start to suffer from his bangs and bruises. He’ll sit for the last couple games and be OK if Q needs him in the playoffs.”

Then I thought again. “But wait, this is only a 48-game season. And he’s hurting and can’t get through a game. And he’s probably coming back next year because he had such a stellar basically half-season. And he’s starting to break down at the most important time. I’m not happy about this, seeing as the the solid goaltending between him and Corey Crawford has been such an important part of the Blackhawks’ success. What if we don’t have both of them for the playoffs?”

However, that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily worried about Emery. Crawford’s disgusting save on Jordan Eberle shows what he’s capable of doing during a playoff run. I’ve always been on the side believing Crow should be the playoff starter, and Emery’s injury just may secure that anyway.

♦   Patrick Sharp, glad to have ya back, sir. And also, please don’t almost get hurt again and scare the fucking shit out of us. Thanks.

♦   Not a bad debut from Drew LeBlanc. Patrick Kane tried to get him a goal there in the third and he also had a couple nice passes that could’ve gone for goals.

♦   Speaking of Kane, hell of a job potting that breakaway after Michal Handzus sprung him for one of his three assists. Kane then had a beautiful cross-ice pass on Johnny Oduya’s goal later. He’s good.

All righty, that’s it. Here’s Boxing. Right-click the image, then click ‘view’ to enlarge…

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shit

Pure Original (Six)

 

 

One of the less-remarked upon aspects of the waning days of this oh-so-brief Regular Season is that, possibly as soon as later tonight, all of the Original 6 teams could well end up in the Playoffs.

“Pshaw” you say, “Surely that is a frequent occurrence? These Six Teams are from the strongest Hockey Markets, have Storied Histories and a slew of names on the Cup and in the HOF”

You couldn’t be more wrong. And stop talking like Noel Coward. Without looking it up, how often have the entire O6 gotten into the Playoffs together since the ’67 expansion?  If you said “Three Times”, have a cigar, you Big Cheater.  And the last time this happened? ’95-’96.  Twelve Seasons ago (not including the Lost Season)

There are myriad reasons for this being the case. One of which is that several of these teams have gone though years and years of being Terrible. Another is that some of the Expansion teams hit the ground running and either tried to Enchant (’80s Oilers), Maim (’70s Flyers) or Ruin Hockey (’90s Devils) . Various Conference systems have militated against it too.  All that could change tonight with a Detroit win against the Kings. The following is by no means an attempt to Jinx them in any way, shape or form. Honest.

The World was a very different place in 1996, and so was the Hockey World.  In an attempt to help you to understand the yawning void between 1996 (the year I recorded my first record with my band yet still, somehow, failed to get any Action with the Ladies) and now, (where I write “Comedy” about Hockey and still, inexplicably.. oh.. FML..) I’m going to do some comparisons and contrasts about those years. Hang onto your Hypercolor shirts and Jesus Jones records.. we’re heading back to the ’90s.

 

hype

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