My Dear Friends, we are about to enter the part of the Season known as “Nut-Cutting-Time”. I hope you’re ready.
Tonight the Hawks host the Bruins at the UC, Home Ice advantage restored for a best-of-three. But tonight is also the last night where there is any “We’ll get ‘em next time, gang” for the team that loses. It’s going to be Elimination/Total Victory game(s) after this. There will be a Game 6, for sure, and I stick by my original prediction that this series goes the distance. But we’ll cross that Bridge of Pain as and when we come to it.
It’s trite to say a non-elimination game is a “Must-Win” in the Playoffs, because every game is a “Must-Win”. The Hawks have stared down three straight against the Wings already this post-season. But I’m going to call this one of those games. I’m an eternal optimist and believe that this Hawks team can beat anyone, anywhere, anytime. However, if we head back to Boston on the wrong end of a 3-2 series.. well, I fear the worst. I want Boston desperate, afraid and knowing that their season hangs in the balance at TD Gardens. This series has been so ridiculously tight, with such tiny margins between victory and defeat, that every odd bounce of the puck or speculative shot from a 4th Liner assumes massive importance. And I would much rather have the Bruins worrying about that in Game 6, knowing that the very best they can hope for is having to win in an insanely pumped up UC in Game 7.. against a Hawks team that has the chance to be the first to win a Cup on Chicago ice since 1938.
Rather them than me.
Tonight, the Hawks need to remember that Speed Kills, that Chara has a turning circle similar to the USS Eisenhower and that depth scoring is going to make the difference. Crow must blank all the Narrative BS (and he will). Q needs to roll those lines that devastated an entire league this year.
If that happens, then it’ll be the Bruins fans nervously stocking up on Depends, Monday Night.
So, all of this is a rather roundabout way of saying “Let’s Go, Hawks”
Get it done, gentlemen.
The outcomes of this game after regulation could not have been more different from a Chicago perspective.
In 60 minutes, the Blackhawks scored five goals against the Boston Bruins vaunted defence. Only one of which came at an advantage (with Handzus’ at a disadvantage). They controlled possession for roughly 65% of the regulation time. They even scored a powerplay goal to give a shot in the arm to a unit that couldn’t find the opposing blue line to save its life. At the end of that regulation, the game was tied.
If Chicago loses this game, a three game uphill climb required sherpas that not even the deep pockets of Wirtz Beverage Co. can afford.
Instead, we’re looking at a best of three series with the Blackhawks holding home ice advantage. There’s a lot to look at here, but let’s just soak in some highlights and glances because we’ve got two days to prepare for a tilt at the UC that is going to put one team a victory from hoisting the chalice.
This one didn’t go the Blackhawks’ way from the very beginning.
Marian Hossa was scratched at the last moment in favor of Ben Smith, who probably had half of a hot dog down in the press box before being summoned to the dressing room, and things didn’t get any better from there as the ‘Hawks fell 2-0 at TD Garden in Monday’s Game 3.
Zdeno Chara apparently received stitches after cracking his head on the ice in the pregame warmps and still played, so that’s a little bothersome. Either way, Hoss wasn’t out there and the bad news kept coming. Daniel Paille scored just over two minutes into the second period, then Patrice Bergeron added another later in the period to give the Bruins all they would need.
I don’t believe in calling any game a must-win until the other team has reached three victories, but let’s just say Wednesday is a “win-or-they’re-up-shit’s-creek-without-paddle” game.
Let’s see what we’ve got here…
♦ We’ve heard all of the DEY NEED TO DECLINE DA PENALTIES! DEY CAN DO DAT LIKE IN DA FOOZBALL GAME, RIGHT?!” jokes, but we’re at the point where the Blackhawks might be at more of a disadvantage when up a man. Credit is due to the Bruins’ aggressive and often relentless penalty kill, but let’s get serious here; a team that is built on speed and finesse continues to stand around while completely wasting two minutes of everyone’s time.
One specific example came when Patrick Kane held the puck around the boards and drifted high rather than pass the puck into an area down low that would force the Bruins to shift and potentially open up more ice – or even put himself in better position to find a lane and put the puck on net. He skated it toward the blue line, telegraphed a soft saucer pass everyone knew was coming, and the puck ended up out of the zone. These types of decisions have led to multiple shorthanded chances for the Bruins, especially Brad Marchand. The Blackhawks are basically killing Boston’s penalties for it.
This is going to be short and less-than-sweet. Because it’s Father’s Day or something.
Exhilarating Hockey, played at a breakneck pace and showing total domination from a fearless Hawks team. Possibly the best they’ve played this year. True Championship-Quality, right there. Then the 2nd Period started.
Thank you, Andrew Shaw, for making your winning goal that much more entertaining.
And, thanks to Adam, we may have a new nickname for him:
After Shaw deflected a Dave Bolland deflection off a Michal Rozsival shot (got that?), he professed his love for Bolland, thanked his shin pads and then dropped an F-bomb in his NBC interview with Pierre McGuire, sending the United Center crowd – including this exhausted individual – home happy.
Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, which eventually ended with the Blackhawks beating Boston 4-3, proved at least one thing: We’re being treated to a Final featuring two extremely good teams that didn’t need luck to get there. There were points I battled through the stress of what was happening to realize I should be excited just to be witnessing such great hockey featuring a team I support. Then, of course, I went back to biting my fingers off.
Aside from Shaw’s goal that brought more relief than anything, there’s a few other things I’ll take from this one heading into Game 2…
♦ Corey Crawford and Tuukka Rask both played outstanding games, but I’m going to focus more on Crawford, mainly because Rask essentially pointed out the deficiencies in front of him rather than accepting the loss as a team. I think there’s little doubt that, unless the Blackhawks win the other three games 10-9, Crawford will be adding a Conn Smythe to his resume should Chicago hoist the Cup. The numbers look like this: 13-5, 1.73 GAA, numerous huge saves.
Crawford came up big while helping the ‘Hawks kill off a too-many-men penalty in both the first and second overtimes. Sure, the Bruins beat him and drew iron a couple times, but Crow made the saves he needed to and even added some flare to a couple, especially that snagging glove save early in the game. The Blackhawks’ defense definitely wasn’t at its best Wednesday, and Crawford helped make up for it.
♦ On that note, I’d personally like to thank
♦ This, also courtesy of Adam, of Marian Hossa in the second OT:
♦ Not only did Shaw score the winner, but Bolland’s goal that cut the Boston lead to 3-2 in the third was all him. Torey Krug, the rookie defenseman out of Michigan State who has been playing fantastically thus far in the playoffs, attempted to fire the puck to the middle of the ice, only to Shaw, who carried back into the zone. Krug then glided along side Shaw with his stick on the ice attempting to block a potential pass, but Shaw saucered it beautifully across to Bolland, who one-timed it past Rask.
♦ Bolland also got credited with an assist on the game-winner. To add some perspective into the rarity of a two-point night from Bolland, he totaled three points in his previous 25 games combined, including the playoffs.
♦ I feel like Hossa should just repeatedly say, “Fuck off Fuck off Fuck off Fuck off Fuck off Fuck off” whenever an opponent tries to take the puck from him. The man is a beast.
♦ I’ve read a few places about the Blackhawks being a step behind and the Bruins carrying the play for long stretches, but I think the same can be said by flipping those team names. I understand the Blackhawks had to overcome a pair of two-goal leads, but the ‘Hawks were a +51 in CORSI, and weren’t the only ones looking exhausted in the overtime sessions. Boston being up on the scoreboard through the first two and a half periods wasn’t necessarily indicative of the ice being tilted. The Bruins got two snipes from Lucic and a power-play goal on another snipe from Bergeron. They took advantage of some good chances in regulation. The Blackhawks had just as many chances as the Bruins they didn’t convert. That was a pretty damn good hockey game on both ends, but both teams have things to improve heading into Game 2.
♦ It will be interesting to see how severe the Nathan Horton injury is and how much it will affect Boston if he misses time. It appears to be a shoulder issue, which may spell bad news for the Bruins. Horton had an assist to give him 18 points for the playoffs, and he has been a huge contributor with Lucic and Krejci on the top line. He’s listed as day to day right now, but there are reports saying he could be done. If Horton is out, it will be interesting to see how Julien mixes his lines moving forward.
♦ So, the Blackhawks won with Brandon Bollig taking Viktor Stalberg’s place in the lineup. Still don’t necessarily agree with the move, but, as Nakis found out and then posted to Twitter, it seemed like Stalberg had fallen into acceptance with Q’s decision by Tuesday afternoon. We’ll see what Q rolls out at the next practice.
♦ As anticipated, the Blackhawks didn’t practice Thursday due to the 239572305-minute game Wednesday. And Hossa wasn’t exactly pleased that his neighbors decided to do some work ass early in the morning.
There’s so much we could go over, but I’ll leave the rest to you if you’d like to add more discussion in the comments. See you Saturday.
I will have my thoughts from last night’s thriller later this afternoon, as promised, but first I wanted to share a couple of great Andrew Shaw moments after he scored the winner in the third overtime to beat the Boston Bruins 4-3 on Wednesday.
Via Deadspin, Shaw was mic’d up by NBC for the game. After confessing his love for Dave Bolland, he also had some strong feelings about his equipment that assisted him on the winner. And it was awesome:
Not long after, via Puck Daddy, Shaw went ahead and dropped an F-bomb in his interview with Pierre McGuire on national TV:
I’m very sorry, but you’ll have to wait until at least around lunch time Thursday to get my thoughts on Game 1. I was at the United Center and feel like I played along with these teams. And after a one-hour drive in rain back to the suburbs, I’m running on fumes.
So, I’ll leave you – for now – with this pic of Shaw celebrating. Oh, and Holiday Road, courtesy of Mighty Mike:
Yesterday I posted a vitriolic (and damn funny) roast on the Hawks and the WC from Days of Y’Orr. Today, we’ll balance that with a contribution from one of our friends, Emilie, who is the Managing Editor at Hockey Wilderness; the SBN blog for future Conference III rivals the Minnesota Wild. She makes some pretty persuasive arguments for why opposition fans should be backing the Hawks. Take it away, Em
In this episode of The Wine Cooler, Bartl and Nakis discuss our minds being boggled by Bollig apparently taking Stalberg’s spot in Game 1 and plenty of talk about the Boston Bruins and what we can expect from this series. Essentially, a lot of being extremely nervous… because, well, #BecauseItsTheCup.
It’s been a funny old season, not least because the Eastern and Western Conferences have (until now) been kept apart, in much the same way that a St Louis Marriage Counselor (Police Officer to you & I) steps in between Durleen and Wayde when they get to tussling over the last of the meth.
We know all about the West, of course, having spent the year kicking them all in (often repeatedly). However, in a spirit of enquiry, I reached out to excellent Bruins blog Days of Y’Orr to see what, exactly, they think of the Western Conference over there in the East and how they think this series will shake out.
What follows is all theirs.. be warned.
As the Blackhawks prepare to face the Bruins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday, we’ve all taken a stab and some of the questions surrounding this Original Six Final. Sure, the series will be frustrating at times and you’re going to want to bite your fingers off because you’ll be so nervous pretty much every second, but … well, I guess I pretty much covered it.
Anyway, here’s what we’ve got regarding the series as of now, as Bartl, Nakis, Mighty Mike, JesusMarianHossa and Chris Deme weigh in:
The Blackhawks were the best team in the NHL during the regular season and have lost only one game at home in the playoffs. Why are you optimistic the Blackhawks can win the Stanley Cup?
Mighty Mike: You’ve answered your on question: The Blackhawks were the best team in the NHL this season. A couple of hiccups against Detroit has done little to persuade me that they’re not still the best team in the league. They have the skill and the savvy to beat anybody. They would do well to keep that in mind when the going gets rough (and it surely will).
JesusMarianHossa: Because I’m a fan of the team and even gambling interests can’t get me to actively root against them. The part of the question that says “they were the best team in the regular season” would also satisfy as a reason for optimism. If you’re looking for any real insight here, it’s that the Blackhawks were #2 in Score-Adjusted Fenwick for the 2013 regular season. They just beat the team that was #1, and the only team I really “feared,” in five games.
Deme: Speed kills. The only team Boston has played in the Playoffs that rivals the Blackhawks’ speed is Toronto, and the Bruins barely escaped that series. The Hawks are fast, they have remarkable depth contribution, and Corey Crawford is playing the best hockey of his career. They have a fantastic shot at being a royal pain in the ass for the Bruins.
Nakis: With the exception of the perennially shitty power play, the Blackhawks have looked fantastic in every aspect of the game during these playoffs. Crawford is playing great; the defense has been nails and is transitioning the puck better than any team in the league; the forecheck has been vicious and the penalty kill is on another planet entirely. If there is any pessimism in me, it’s due almost entirely to the identity of their opponent.
Bartl: Simply put, other than the hiccup in the Detroit series, the Blackhawks really haven’t given me a reason NOT to be optimistic heading into the Final. Even then, they were still playing well overall. When the stars haven’t scored, the depth has shown. When the stars have scored, Kane nets a hat trick and sends the Hawks to the Cup Final. The top defensive pairings are playing well, Crawford is at the top of his game and there’s little reason to believe the ‘Hawks can’t hoist the Cup again.
This one nearly killed me.
As this game progressed, and the elation of the early lead was slowly replaced with gnawing tension, I got drunker and drunker and shut down all distractions like Twitter. Focus. Concentrate. Will it there.
Then joy as Kane potted what surely must be the winner.. turning to despair when Bickell iced it, Toews lost the draw and the puck clipped off Mike Richards in a crowded crease to tie it up. 1OT passed in a blur of terror, a state that was repeated until.. well, you all saw it.
Patrick Kane, folks. Patrick “Fuck This Sound, I’ma win this mofo” Kane. Nice.
Today marks the First Anniversary of the passing of Dan Appelt, better known online as Badgerdano. For those not familiar with either name, Badgerdano was a regular at the old Second City Hockey site, in fact, had been there almost from the start, and was a witty and popular commentator and the origin of a meme that persists to this day. You know when you’ve been Badgerdano’d
SCH was the place that myself, Nakis and JesusMarianHossa first crossed paths (and occasionally butted heads). Badger was an integral part of the community there, a welcoming voice to newcomers, an incisive analyst of whatever the Hawks were up to at the time and always ready to get in on (or, frequently, instigate) the inevitable mickey-taking that was part of the fun. I should probably add that he was known to be, on occasion, “Quite Supportive” of all things UW. Just a little bit.
Tonight was all set up to be a write-off for the Hawks: even perennial “Glass-Half-Full” types like myself were prepared to accept a Keith-Less Chicago getting beat by the Kings and their formidable Home record. We were saying things like “Holding Serve at Home will win this series”.. which is making Tennis analogies in Hockey and clearly all wrong. But I think it’s safe to say that we were planning on resuming hostilities at the UC with the series tied.
Not the case, as it happened.
The Hawks played out of their skins from Puck Drop. There were few battles uncontested and the men in white were everywhere, hassling and harrying. There was also the confidence to keep the passing short and smart. Mainly, the game got played at a pace that the LAK Defense simply cannot live with. Kane’s goal is a prime example of this. Yeah, sure he just tapped a Bickell redirect of a long shot from Hjammer over the line.. but he had also (along with Toews) been part of a sequence of play leading up to it that had left the Kings reeling. That sort of White-Hot Offense from Chicago will beat anyone. The goal felt inevitable.
Make no mistake, this was an excellent performance from the Hawks, missing one of their biggest pieces. We are headed back to Chicago with a chance to do as the Hawks did unto the Wild.. which is to say Win in 5.
The sun is up here in London, it’s pissing it down with rain and I’m foregoing sleep entirely tonight, as I have to go to work in two hours. Therefore, let’s get the bullets going.. but before we do, the 3 Stars tonight (according to NHL.com) were, apparently, Hossa, Kane and Penner. Which is all kinds of horseshit.
This was long overdue, and of course it’s already outdated. Literally the minute we finished, the NHL announced Duncan Keith has been suspended for Game 4 for his high-stick on Jeff Carter after Carter tried to chop off his glove-less hand.
We discuss the play, though, along with The Great David Haugh’s criticism of Patrick Kane in the Chicago Tribune and much more about Game 3 heading into Game 4.
But of course, no talk on the actual Keith suspension. Thanks, NHL, for waiting until 6pm CST to announce it. Assholes.
Nothing like quoting The Beatles to get a very important point across: Forget this one, and move onto Thursday.
Go ahead and say you expected the Blackhawks to sweep, even after winning the first two at the United Center. Go ahead. You’re a fucking liar, and that’s it. The Kings have played a completely different game at home over the last two months, and there was all but a ball hair’s chance the ‘Hawks would take both at Staples Center.
Not much surprised me in Tuesday’s 3-1, Game 3 loss in L.A. The Kings had an extra bounce in their step, they were more aggressive with the forecheck than they were through the first two games and coach Daryl Sutter used the last change on home ice to pit his top lines against the Blackhawks’ bottom defensive pairing when he could.
Damn near every ‘Hawk and then Q stated that they simply didn’t match everything they had prepared for and expected to see from the Kings. That’s on them, and they know it. Yet still, L.A. played probably the best game we’ll see and the Blackhawks were threatening to tie – and probably should have tied – the game late. Not only that, but the winning goal turned out to be a fluke off of Slava Voynov’s broken stick.
Shit happens, man. Bounces go a certain way, and they’re not always favorable. And given the way the Kings have dominated during their now 15-game winning streak at home – they came into tonight with a 38-18 scoring edge during that run – we should be pretty content that it took a couple of bad breaks for the ‘Hawks to wind up on the losing end.
The Blackhawks should be just fine, so relax.
A couple other things before Boxing…
♦ I’m currently working a night shift, so I heard a caller on Les Grobstein’s overnight show on 670 The Score on my way home talking about how Patrick Kane has been awful and he needs to be more physical and yada yada yada he finally hung up. Here’s the thing every Blackhawks fan needs to get through their fucking heads: Kane is not ever, ever, going to be a physical player. That’s not what he’s here to do. He’s a finesse player with open-ice stick-handling skills that are other-worldly, making the Blackhawks more dangerous when they can create space for him to operate.
Q said after the game the ‘Hawks didn’t get him the puck enough, mainly due to the Kings’ pressure that prevented them from cleanly breaking out of the zone and forced many passes to miss sticks. Kane was essentially taken out of the game, and that’s a credit to the Kings. Also, the ‘Hawks winning 10 fewer faceoffs didn’t exactly help matters for puck possession.
Stop worrying about Kane. Worry about how the ‘Hawks will adjust to get him the puck more.
♦ Duncan Keith apologizing to Jeff Carter was pretty classy, if you ask me. He clearly got caught up in the moment and didn’t mean to hit Carter up high. And to do that after Carter purposely tried to slash his bare hand while picking up his glove took even more character, because had it been me I probably would have meant to hit Carter in the face for being a jagoff.
♦ As Nakis pointed out on Twitter, Brandon Saad cannot be losing that puck at the blue line late like he did. Get the puck deep, kid.
♦ Jonathan Quick was the only reason the ‘Hawks didn’t tie that game. He stopped Bryan Bickell on the doorstep multiple times over the final minutes, including the desperation arm save. The Blackhawks had their chances and, like what happens to many opponents at Staples Center, Quick snuffed them out.
♦ Corey Crawford was damn near just as good. That stop on the bouncing redirect was sick.
The rest is in Boxing. Hopefully by the time you’re reading this you’ve taken a step back and realized that if the Blackhawks play this same game Thursday and the Kings come out with any less jump than tonight, the ‘Hawks likely will head home up 3-1.
Right-click the image, then click ‘view’ to enlarge…
To really capture how well the Los Angeles Kings have played at home lately, let’s go over some of the things that have happened since their last loss at Staples Center.
♦ The Columbus Blue Jackets – yes, those Columbus Blue Jackets – were competing for a playoff spot in the final week of the season.
♦ The St. Louis Blues still were considered a contender for the Stanley Cuhahahahaha sorry about that one.
♦ Not only did baseball season start, but every Major League team has played at least 54 games. The Cubs have even found a way to win 23 times. 23!
♦ April and May passed. Both months. All gone.
♦ Nakis got engaged. Really, he did. Congratulate him.
The Kings haven’t lost on home ice since falling 1-0 to Vancouver on March 23. They’ve won 14 straight at Staples Center, including going 7-0 in these playoffs. Jonathan Quick in that stretch? 13-0-0, 1.37 goals-against average, .946 save percentage.
If you’re wondering how the hell a team that’s 1-7 on the road in the playoffs can be preparing for Game 3 of the Western Conference finals, there’s your answer. Los Angeles has been so dominant at home that their only road win – Game 5 in St. Louis, of course – has been enough to get them this far.
So, Jonathan Quick is human after all.
The reigning Conn Smythe winner allowed more than three goals for the first time in 35 playoff games as the Blackhawks took an early lead and never let go in a 4-2 victory Sunday in Game 2 at the United Center.
Andrew Shaw, Brent Seabrook, Bryan Bickell and Michal Handzus scored goals for Chicago, which now heads West with a 2-0 edge. And even though I was confident heading into this series, I didn’t see the ‘Hawks taking both at home – mainly because of how well Quick had been playing.
The things is, Corey Crawford is beginning to steal the show.
It’s not to say Quick didn’t deserve all the hype, by any means. He put the low-scoring Kings on his back last season and guided them to the Stanley Cup. Despite the team’s 1-6 road record in this postseason entering Sunday, Quick had held the opposition to two goals in each defeat. Twelve of L.A.’s previous 14 playoff games had been decided by one goal. You can’t ask much more from a goaltender to keep you in a game.
Finally, he didn’t have it. And since the offense rarely has it, the Kings are pretty much fucked when Quick doesn’t have it. The Blackhawks got to him early and kept adding insurance, finally leading to Quick’s departure.
Meanwhile, Crawford continues to shove solid performances up the asses of his doubters. The only goal he allowed in Game 1 was basically an own goal caused by the idiocy of Dave Bolland, and the second goal in Game 2 came on the first power play the Blackhawks failed to kill in 27 short-handed situations at home. The Jeff Carter snipe? Hey, it was a nice shot.
Crow has a 1.68 goals-against average this postseason, giving up one or zero goals eight times in 14 games. He even came to the aid of his captain when Jonathan Toews got caught up in some some shoving Sunday. If his doubters aren’t convinced yet, then I’m not sure what it’s going to take short of killing Ray Emery.
Does that mean he’s going to outplay Quick for the rest of this series? We’ll see. Crawford got to face a Los Angeles offense without Mike Richards on Sunday due to Bolland’s hit in Game 1, and the Kings are 7-0 at home in the playoffs while outscoring opponents 18-8. They’ve been down 0-2 before, in the first round against St. Louis, and came back. And if you’re expecting Quick to get pulled again, it’s probably more likely you’ll see Dwight King make the world happy by playing with a paper bag over his ugly fucking face. This series definitely isn’t over.
The Blackhawks surely won’t be mistaken for the Blues, though, mainly because they’re not all eating dog shit burritos garnished with Ryan Reeves’ pubes as Ken Hitchcock blocks the sun with his elephant ass while the team plays a round of Catch Jackman’s Farts With Your Taste Buds. While the defending Cup champs won’t roll over, the Blackhawks also aren’t going to let Staples Center intimidate them.
There’s plenty more I can write about this game – Brandon Saad playing like a fucking beast, Bolland playing like a bag of shit (again) and Patrick Sharp adding two more assists to his already solid playoff numbers – but I’m going to let Boxing do the rest.
Right-click the image, then click ‘view’ to enlarge…
I fully admit to being slightly pessimistic coming into game one. I told anyone who asked me I thought the Kings would probably take a game in Chicago. The Hawks were coming off a highly emotional series against their departing arch-rivals, the Kings played just the kind of game that gives the Blackhawks fits, their goalie was a freak, the Rolling Stones were fucking up the ice…….the list went on this way.
After watching the game this afternoon, I’m thinking that pessimism was pretty much completely unjustified. For starters, the Kings are coming off a long series, too. The sneering, Anaheim Ducks-like assault we expected never materialized and the Hawks came out flying, playing a more physical brand of hockey than we’ve seen from them all year. Sure, Jonathan Quick was fantastic, but he wasn’t unbeatable. The Hawks were indefatigable in their efforts to get pucks at Quick and didn’t allow themselves to be frustrated by his early mastery. Hell, the ice didn’t even factor in today. In short, despite facing a phenomenal goaltender and surrendering a fluky goal to the Kings early – things really couldn’t have gone all that much better today for the home team.
You should all feel good about what you saw. The Blackhawks controlled the play with very few exceptions and moved the puck efficiently in all three zones. The power play actually produced chances and Corey Crawford made all the saves his team needed him to make. The Hawks withstood the late Kings push and killed the last two minutes by playing keep away on a power play.
1-0 good guys.
To the good stuff:
To be perfectly honest, I’ve not seen much of the Kings this year, other than their visits to the UC: There’s an 8-hour time difference between here and California, so I tend to reserve my 3am game starts for Vancouver. Fortunately I know someone who has had ample opportunity to get a very good look at the reigning Champs, both as a Divisional Rival and during their 7-Game WCSF. So, without further ado, I’d like to present ElvisVF101 from the excellent Fear The Fin, the SBN blog of the San Jose Sharks. He was not only kind enough to answer my dumb questions, he’s also provided a wonderful preamble. The following is all his, italicised questions are mine. Enjoy
So you’re playing the LA Kings in a playoff series. I’m sorry for you on a multitude of levels. First off, prepare for massive massive frustration. The Kings are a darned good hockey team and you’re bound to lose a few games. This time of year, every loss feels like the apocalypse. Second, you’ll have to deal with Kings “fans.” I put “fans” in quotation marks because being a fan of the LA Kings means something a good deal different than being a fan of other teams. Fans of other teams are passionate about their teams and stick with them through thick and thin. They suffer through thick and thin with their team. If you’re a fan of any team in the “Greater” LA Area (and I put Greater in quotations because, believe me, there’s nothing Great anywhere in LA), your team’s success is like the latest fashion. You wear it while it’s hot, and then toss it aside when it no longer serves your purpose of looking cooler than anyone else in your own head. That makes them completely unlike Bay Area sports fans. Trust us. It’s totally true because we say it all the time, so it must be true. Third, you’ll have to endure aerial shots of LA. And LA is a dump. It’s a city of 9 million people in the middle of a desert basin with no water and it was where all the outlaws went during the Gold Rush. And it doesn’t look like anything’s gotten better since then. But LA’s, like, a major media market or something. It’s such an important media market that America’s largest and most profitable league has no team in the market and still does just fine.
But enough about the City of Angels. Not just the crappy movie, but the crappy town too. Let’s talk about their hockey team, the reigning Stanley Cup Champions. You have questions. And, unlike Sharks’ fans, when posed with the question “So when’s your team going to win something?”, we have answers:
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:
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)
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.
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…
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!