Except Death: Wings 1 Hawks 2 (Hawks Win Series 4-3)

 

I got handed this wrap fairly late in the day, due to Nakis scoring tickets for the game. I was happy to get it, as I was pretty sure I could write a heartfelt send-off to the Hawks’ season if needed.

Luckily, it wasn’t required.

I’m not going to get into a detailed recap of the game because I’m assuming you were watching it. It was probably the most evenly-matched game of this epic series, both sides throwing the kitchen sink at each other. However, with a minute and a half to go in the 3rd, with the game tied at 1-1, Niklas Hjalmarsson scored on an amazing solo effort to advance the Hawks to the WCF and.. wait, what? Waved off? WHAT THE FUCK?

I’m, fairly sure we all felt the same thing: a terrible, terrible call by Stephen Walkom got the (likely) winning goal consigned to the bin and we all automatically assumed that the Hockey Gods were going to let the Wings win this and leave us in the circle of Hell that Leafs fans occupy when they complain about Kerry Fraser in 1993.

However, Brent Seabrook popped up in OT to deflect one in off a sliding Kronwall, to win the series and speed the Hawks to a WCF against the Kings.

Kronwall was devastated after the horn and Jimmy Howard was the first to comfort him. Classy move. I, however, am going to show zero-class by laughing my ass off at Kronwall’s cries for the rest of time. Couldn’t have happened to a bigger douchecopter. Some quick bullets, then..

  • Guess the PP working was too good to be true. The only time it wasn’t terrible was when the Hawks managed to win the draw and keep it in the zone.
  • The UC was pretty rocking all night. Loudest anthem I’ve heard (and Jim C seemed to be giving it some extra welly, too) Guess that’s what happens when you get Holiday Road in the pre-game mix.
  • Johnny O didn’t have the greatest of nights. Q needs to have a think about his D pairings with the prospect of the Kings’ forecheck looming.
  • Patrick Sharp is a handsome, handsome man.
  • Justin Abdelkader is a turd. He dialled the stoopid up to 11 in this, a must-win situation. On the other hand, penisloaf that he is, Nik Kronwall was playing out of his skin. Wings fans will probably scream about Shaw slew-footing Filpulla (I haven’t seen the replay, but I’m assured that he did) for a few years but Filps has been nigh-on invisible all series anyway. Dats was Dats. I’m actually looking forward to watching him do those things that he does so well next year, when he’s in the East and it doesn’t matter.
  • OK, that call.. I was so furious over the goal getting scrubbed that I didn’t have any rage left for Saad getting a penalty for being mugged. I’m the last person in the world to whine about refs; but that call was so egregious that it warrants some sort of formal review. When even Detroit fans are calling bullshit on a call that gave them a lifeline, you know something stinks. I got way too close a look at the anger that Leafs fans feel about Fraser. The main issue, though, is that the war room in Toronto either couldn’t or wouldn’t countermand the on-ice call when it so blatantly should’ve. If it’s a “Couldn’t”, then maybe that needs to be looked at by the League. Will never happen, though.
  • Thanks, Seabs. Way to come good at the death. I’m starting to think that his issues may be to do with either his health or conditioning. The man was literally pouring sweat while being asked stupid questions by Pierre, well after the horn.  I was worried that he was going to die. Also, nice bone-cruncher from Bolland to start the rush. Moar, plz, Dave.
  • Corey Crawford is having himself one hell of a post-season. His numbers compare favourably to Tim Thomas in 2011 and Jon Quick from last year.  No more calls for DAT EMORY GUY, please, meatballs.
  • Finally, some team is going to pay a ton of money to Bryan Bickell and Nick Leddy this summer. That team should be the Chicago Blackhawks. Ditto for Marcus Kruger. He and Frolik were absolute studs, yet again.

So, we’re all delirious with joy, the WCF series against the Kings doesn’t start till Saturday and Hossa is in his Heaven.

Get back to celebrating the Hawks finally knocking the Wings off their perch in our final meeting as rivals.

We’ll get to the Californians soon. The war of words between blogs should make for a fun time.

Oh, and just in case you needed yet another reason to smile:

 

 

peace

 

mmD

5 Ways To Survive Game 7

A Cheer The Anthem Public Health Announcement

 

As my esteemed colleague Bartl pointed out, Of Course It’s A Game 7. Be honest, did you not believe, in the septic recesses of what used to be your heart, that this would be the case from the moment this series was on? It has come to pass, and it’s going to be a tough night. Luckily your frents at Cheer The Anthem have complied this handy 5-step program to ensure that you make it through this experience with at least a shred of sanity, dignity and personal well-being left.

So, here’s our 5 Steps To Surviving Game 7 (because Prime Numbers Rule)

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Toews-Wings

Of Course it Would Go 7. Of Course.

Toews-Wings

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.

I wrote that prior to Game 1, when I pointed out the reasons I would enjoy this series so much. And it all still stands. The final playoff series as Western Conference foes between the Blackhawks and Red Wings continues adding significance to this historic rivalry that is being taken away from us due to realignment.

You can look at it a couple of ways. Either the Wings are making you realize you’re not going to miss them due to the difficult times they’ve brought upon you as a fan – be it 2009 or this exhilarating yet frustrating series – or you’re getting more disappointed at the thought that Detroit is heading to the East and won’t be able to regularly deliver these types of games and series versus the Blackhawks that are more than entertaining. You’re either happy to see this rivalry be toned down, or you’re becoming more and more upset these teams are being separated.

I, for one, am feeling the latter.

No matter, it’s all going away after Wednesday. These teams would have to meet in a Stanley Cup Final that few would be able to survive physically in order to bring out this kind of excitement from the rivalry. It’s sad to think about, and even more depressing to consider how a loss tomorrow would not only be a gut punch, but it would also feel something like this.

And for that, I’m nervous. I’m nervous that I’m going to be sitting in Section 326, Row 12, Seat 9, resting my head in my palms as the United Center empties for the final time this season and Jonathan Toews leads a handshake line while dejected rather than elated. I’m not being negative, I’m being realistic. It’s not as if Detroit hasn’t won on the road in this series.

But with that also brings a level of excitement that only a Game 7 in a series between bitter rivals can manufacture. The Anthem rendition will probably make for the loudest couple of minutes I’ve heard the UC in quite some time, maybe ever. I can imagine my face hurting from smiling so much and my voice trying to send out one last cheer before it fades away along with the Red Wings’ season. I see the Blackhawks at center ice, saluting the crowd before heading off to the locker room as Western Conference finalists while the horn blares in the background.

These feelings, both positive and negative, are ones that can be guaranteed only with a deciding game with the magnitude of this one. Blackhawks-Red Wings, Original Six, conference foes, one last time. It almost makes you feel like tomorrow actually is Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, not that one of these teams still will need to win eight more to claim the chalice.

Of course this series would go to a Game 7. Of course it would. It’s like fate. Like the hockey gods are giving fans of both teams the ultimate send-off. Soak in the moment, because it won’t happen again.

Boxing-Round 2-Game 6-Hawks 4-Red Wings 3

And It All Comes Down… To This: Game 6 Boxing with Blackhawks (4) and Red Wings (3)

"I learned this face from my pit bull that will one day rip my throat out in my sleep." (Credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

“I learned this face from my pit bull that will one day rip my throat out in my sleep.” (Credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

Exercise your sphincters, everyone. Game 7 is Wednesday.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t extremely confident we’d see it. OK, so maybe I was a bit of a Chicken Little. But don’t tell me I didn’t have reason to be. I did, and I’m pretty over the moon about being proven wrong.

After a Game 5 skull thumping, the Blackhawks took the lead, let it go through a dynamic Red Wings surge, then regained it for good with three unanswered goals in the third period to send us back to the United Center with a 4-3 victory in Game 6 at The Joe.

The United Center is going to be rockin’ on Wednesday, and I’ll be in attendance for the final game between the Blackhawks and Red Wings as conference foes for the right to play in the West finals.

Some stuff before Boxing…

   So we’ve been talking about how the Blackhawks have dominated the 5-on-5 play with the Corsi numbers pretty one-sided in the ‘Hawks favor throughout the series. Well, these numbers aren’t exactly fantastic, especially those of Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya, who made up the team’s worst pairing of the night. Still, the Blackhawks came away with the win. Interesting twist.

♦   Corey Crawford made 35 saves and ended up having a pretty fantastic game. However, the goal from Patrick Eaves can’t happen. He saw the shot off Drew Miller’s stick cleanly, yet he left a juicy rebound Eaves pounced on. Michal Rozsival holds some responsibility, too, for not tying him up. The second goal? I’m not going to deny the puck being on edge created a knuckling effect, but… c’mon guy. Crow’s gotta have that.

♦   Hello, Brent Seabrook. Nice to see you again.

♦   Marian Hossa’s power-play tally marked his fifth goal in 11 playoff games in 2013. That matches the amount he had in his first three postseasons with the Blackhawks, which totaled 32 contests.

♦   Bryan Bickell is making damn sure someone overpays to sign him this offseason.

♦   I think Jonathan Toews is back in the groove, sans his penalty. I’m saying it now – Toews scores the first goal Wednesday. I just feel it. I have no reasoning for it, except that he’s a fucking machine and will be out to gather heads in Game 7.

♦   That third-period surge was… wow. First Michal Handzus makes Brendan Smith pay for overplaying on Hjalmarsson, who found Handzus wide open in front of the net to beat Jimmy Howard far side. Then Bickell pots the lead goal before Michael Frolik became the first player to score on a penalty shot in the playoffs since… Michael Frolik, in 2011 vs. Vancouver.

♦   Not going to deny Red Wings fans can put that penalty shot call on the list of questionable ref decisions along with the non-call on Hjammer’s hit on Johan Franzen in Game 3. The referring has been pretty suspect throughout the series, but don’t forget the goal-that-wasn’t when Andrew Shaw “tied” Game 3. Shitty calls have been pretty evenly spread.

Next up: Game 7. But Boxing first. Right-click the image, then click ‘view’ to enlarge…

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Holiday Road: The 2013 Regular Season

 

While we’re all nervously awaiting tonight’s event, here’s a quick look back at the happier days of the Regular Season, set to the new Unofficial Hawks Anthem, Lindsay Buckingham’s Holiday Road.

Credit for the popularisation of this number goes to our good friends at Hockeenight. Stick Tap to Fork, CT, Morph and Slak.

This is my first ever attempt at video editing, so be gentle, hey? It kept me occupied for a couple of hours today, which was good for my fingernails and liver if nothing else.

 

 

 

 

Let’s Go, Hawks!

 

New Dawn Coming: Wings 1 Hawks 4 (series 3-2)

Redemption, of a sort

It’s 4.30am here in London. The game has only been over for about thirty minutes.  It’s getting light outside and the birds are singing.  There’s a new day on the way, I’m exhausted and have work in a few hours.

But the Hawks are still alive.

 

In fact, not only are they still alive, tonight we got to see the Regular Season “Sweep All Before Them” Hawks kerbstomp a Wings outfit that was out of ideas by the end of the 1st Period.  Make no mistake, from the opening face-off Detroit were never in this game.  The 4 shots they managed on Stalberg’s Hooking penalty in the 1st was the closest they came to taking charge. Once that penalty was killed, they lapsed into mediocrity and stupidity (and oh, how nice it was to have that boot on another foot tonight)

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Flipping Out

That’s you, that is..

The Hawks find themselves in something of a sticky situation, having dropped three straight to the Red Wings and facing an Elimination Game at the UC tonight . This has left sections of the fanbase a little on-edge, shall we say.

Tonight is going to suck, whatever happens: even if the Hawks stomp the Wings in impressive fashion, that merely prolongs the agony . We’ve seen the suffering, the angst and the despair on the message boards and blogs. We feel this pain and we empathize.  But we have a commitment to helping you through these terrible hours and days, and the first stage of dealing with it to to know where you stand. Therefore, your friends here at Cheer The Anthem have come up with this handy quiz, in order to find out just how close to the ledge you are.

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Yes, Toews. You guys really are down 3-1. (Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune)

The Fat Lady is Warming Up: Blackhawks Fall 2-0 in Game 4, On Brink of Elimination

 

Yes, Toews. You guys really are down 3-1. (Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune)

Yes, Toews. You guys really are down 3-1. (Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune)

Editors Note: Sorry for no Boxing for this one. The site I pull the box scores from was down. Hopefully there’s a game Monday, and I’ll be able to have Boxing for that one.

Here’s a quick rundown of some regular-season occurrences that have proven to mean nothing during this series.

♦   The Blackhawks didn’t lose to the Red Wings in four meetings.

♦   The ‘Hawks weren’t held to just one goal in back-to-back games all season.

♦   The Blackhawks weren’t shut out in any of the 48 games.

♦   The ‘Hawks won the President’s Trophy. Detroit needed to win its final four regular-season games just to make the playoffs as a No. 7 seed.

And here are two that need to matter now:

♦   The Blackhawks won at least three straight games five times this season.

♦   Detroit lost at least three in a row three times.

We begged, we pleaded, we hoped for the classic Chicago-Detroit playoff meeting before the Wings dart off to the Eastern Conference next season. Not just because of nostalgia, but because the Blackhawks were far and away the better team in terms of talent and overall depth.

Then, we told you to calm down after the Game 3 loss. And then we told you not to fret, because the Blackhawks are a great hockey team.

Now?

Well, we may want to hold off a bit on those “DE-TROIT SUCKS!” chants during Game 5 at the United Center on Saturday.

The Blackhawks turned the rest of this series into Game 7 with an are-you-fucking-kidding-me 2-0 loss at The Joe in Game 4, pissing away a solid first period and allowing a Jakub Kindl goal after one of three Jonathan Toews penalties in the second to fall behind 3-1 in the series.

Many predicted this to be a five-game series, and many of us still may be correct, unfortunately. This deficit would be disappointing no matter what, but the fact that the Blackhawks are forced to win three straight against their bitter rivals before they head to the East with no chance for redemption makes it that much worse.

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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.

Boxing-Round 2-Game 3-Red Wings 3-Hawks 1

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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Boxing-Round 1-Game 5-Hawks 5-Wild 1

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.

 

 

 

Boxing-Round 1-Game 3 -Wild 3-Hawks 2OT

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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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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