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.
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…
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..
- 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.
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…
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.
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…
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:
It’s always fun when preparing for a Playoff matchup, to get the thoughts and opinions of the other side. And then to completely ignore them anyway and go on with our own fevered imaginings of glory.
To this end I asked a few questions of Ger Devine, one of the writers at Minnesota Wild blog Gone Puck Wild . I should add that (for the observant among you) this gentleman is also my wee brother. Yes, there’s a family-feud a-brewing in Clan Devine. Anyway, Ger seems to be taking his meds these days and strung together a great article on the Hawks the other day. To the questions:
Finally, the playoffs are here. Bartl and Nakis preview the first round series with the Minnesota Wild, though we won’t be able to make any jokes about Dany Heatley’s drunken driving escapades as he’s out for the season. We’ve got the Blackhawks in 6. You’ll have to listen to find out our other warped thoughts.
Or visit this link if the embedded one doesn’t appear for you.
Well done, Blues, well done. You saw the cream of the Just-Outside-The-AHL-Playoffs tonight, but you didn’t flinch and ground out a gritty victory. I hope you enjoyed it. Hard Times are a-coming.
In other news, The Wild will be the Hawks first-round opponents.. but more o’ that later. Hope those who went to Gonna Drinken 2 aren’t suffering too badly this morning and we’ll be back with much, much more before the Real Fun begins.
(The quote above comes from the TV show Brass Eye. If you don’t know what that is, fix it. )
Anyway, the Hawks round off their Regular season with the always delightful trip to Missourah. As of this writing (wee hours of the morning for you nice folk in the US) we’re anticipating a team full of Black Aces to give the top guys a breather and keep important craniums away from wandering elbows, sticks, pads and knees.
Could make for a torrid introduction to the NHL for some of these lads.. the Blues will likely Hulk Out because
a) They always do. They know of no other way. This is what happens when you ice a team that has the collective restraint, sense of fair play and intelligence of a rabid Hyena that’s has been licking the lead paint off a wheelbarrow full of pig shit.
b) The Blues actually do have something to play for: they currently squat in 4th, but could end up, depending on tonight’s game with the Hawks and the Battle Of California in LA, as low as 6th. Which, obviously, runs the gamut from “Home Ice against San Jose” to “Heading out West to play the Kings”. Or, of course, the one we’re all hoping for: Vancouver.
The sheer Shitbaggery that would surely dominate that series would provide us with many, many chuckles along the way. While, sadly, they can’t both lose, I’m sure that a nightmarish 7-gamer with lots of 4OT would leave the winner looking like those skidmarks that Roman Polak just can’t eliminate from his undies, however hard he wipes (tip for Roman: try using TP rather than a dead rat)
So how does this hilarious situation come about?
A Hawks win coupled with San Jose beating LA in either OT or SO drops the Blue Notes to 6th. It’s a bit of a long shot, I know. I’m not expecting much from the Hawks players, except trying to fend off whichever Blue is gnawing on their coccyx all night. Staying healthy is more important than fucking up the Blues post-season. They’ll have plenty of opportunity to do that themselves.
I’ll be back with a recap after the dust settles.. just hope there’s nothing to make me angrier than I normally am after having to watch Backes, Reaves, Jackman, Polak et al trying to set the Cause of Quality Hockey back a couple of generations.
Also make sure to keep an eye on events in Dallas, Denver and Columbus. The Wild pissed on their chips last night to the tune of a 6-1 shellacking at home by the Oilers, therefore setting up a day of hellish twists and turns in the race for 7/8th seed. Enjoy their pain.
Let’s Go, Hawks
Tonight the Blackhawks arrived at the United Center and competed in a contest they couldn’t have possibily cared less about. Despite the games meaninglessness, they managed to walk away with a 3-1 victory. They finished 18-3-3 at home. They are 18-3-2 on the road. They will have home ice throughout the playoffs. What am I getting at here? YOU SHOULD ENJOY IT. Really, think about it – the Toews/Kane era may be as good as it ever gets. After the sour note we ended last season on, it was goddamn satisfying watching them put everything together to dominate the Western Conference this year. This was the type of season we envisioned this team having once it became clear THE CORE was truly something special. Are they head and shoulders above the rest of the NHL? Absolutely not… but I can’t help but feel that optimism should carry the day here.
Things that happened during this mandatory attendance game:
Tonight, for the final Home game of the 2012-13 Regular Season, the Blackhawks host the Calgary Fla.. oh, fuck it.
The Flames are dead and buried, the Hawks are home and hosed, there is nothing to care about and we don’t even get to gaze adoringly at Iggy and heave deep, heartfelt, sighs. Ryan Stanton is up , the rest of the Black Aces will get the call tomorrow. And St Louis, of course. There’s always them.
So, rather than make (redundant) jokes about Jay Feaster, I thought I’d take a quick look at the final days of the Season for the three teams fighting it out for the last two Playoff places in the West. Or, as I call it
There are many, many different permutations and combinations that could see some of these teams either finish as high as 6th or hit the golf course early. It’s exactly the sort of Bowel-Loosening situation that I, for one, am glad the Hawks avoided entirely this year. I still flinch when I think back to two years ago. I won’t try to elucidate every potential outcome, just a few of the more intriguing possibilities. One of these bunches of schmucks are going to be the Hawks’ first-round opponent, after all.
While we’re all waiting for the playoffs, I guess we can handle putting another trophy in the case with a dominating victory against an overmatched team.
The Blackhawks took it to the Oil all night, clinching their first Presidents’ Trophy since 1990-91 – when they went on to lose to the fourth-place Minnesota North Stars in the Norris Division playoffs. Let’s hope this season ends up a little better, eh?
Due to the late start I’m pretty wiped out, so I’ll just make a couple of points before Boxing…
♦ Ray Emery going off the ice after re-aggravating his lower-body injury got me to thinking. “Well, it’s coming down to the end of the season so of course a guy who is pretty injury prone will start to suffer from his bangs and bruises. He’ll sit for the last couple games and be OK if Q needs him in the playoffs.”
Then I thought again. “But wait, this is only a 48-game season. And he’s hurting and can’t get through a game. And he’s probably coming back next year because he had such a stellar basically half-season. And he’s starting to break down at the most important time. I’m not happy about this, seeing as the the solid goaltending between him and Corey Crawford has been such an important part of the Blackhawks’ success. What if we don’t have both of them for the playoffs?”
However, that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily worried about Emery. Crawford’s disgusting save on Jordan Eberle shows what he’s capable of doing during a playoff run. I’ve always been on the side believing Crow should be the playoff starter, and Emery’s injury just may secure that anyway.
♦ Patrick Sharp, glad to have ya back, sir. And also, please don’t almost get hurt again and scare the fucking shit out of us. Thanks.
♦ Not a bad debut from Drew LeBlanc. Patrick Kane tried to get him a goal there in the third and he also had a couple nice passes that could’ve gone for goals.
♦ Speaking of Kane, hell of a job potting that breakaway after Michal Handzus sprung him for one of his three assists. Kane then had a beautiful cross-ice pass on Johnny Oduya’s goal later. He’s good.
All righty, that’s it. Here’s Boxing. Right-click the image, then click ‘view’ to enlarge…
One of the less-remarked upon aspects of the waning days of this oh-so-brief Regular Season is that, possibly as soon as later tonight, all of the Original 6 teams could well end up in the Playoffs.
“Pshaw” you say, “Surely that is a frequent occurrence? These Six Teams are from the strongest Hockey Markets, have Storied Histories and a slew of names on the Cup and in the HOF”
You couldn’t be more wrong. And stop talking like Noel Coward. Without looking it up, how often have the entire O6 gotten into the Playoffs together since the ’67 expansion? If you said “Three Times”, have a cigar, you Big Cheater. And the last time this happened? ’95-’96. Twelve Seasons ago (not including the Lost Season)
There are myriad reasons for this being the case. One of which is that several of these teams have gone though years and years of being Terrible. Another is that some of the Expansion teams hit the ground running and either tried to Enchant (’80s Oilers), Maim (’70s Flyers) or Ruin Hockey (’90s Devils) . Various Conference systems have militated against it too. All that could change tonight with a Detroit win against the Kings. The following is by no means an attempt to Jinx them in any way, shape or form. Honest.
The World was a very different place in 1996, and so was the Hockey World. In an attempt to help you to understand the yawning void between 1996 (the year I recorded my first record with my band yet still, somehow, failed to get any Action with the Ladies) and now, (where I write “Comedy” about Hockey and still, inexplicably.. oh.. FML..) I’m going to do some comparisons and contrasts about those years. Hang onto your Hypercolor shirts and Jesus Jones records.. we’re heading back to the ’90s.
I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t have a feeling this was coming, with the Blackhawks playing their third game in four nights and all. I just didn’t think they’d get smoked for roughly 45-50 minutes.
A loss to Vancouver is never exciting and always annoying, but the Blackhawks’ 3-1 defeat in America Jr. marked only their sixth of the season in actual hockey. Out of 45 games. That’s, like, good and stuff.
A couple things before Boxing …
♦ The first person to ever use the phrase, “He’s a giant rectal wart who washes his vagina with a Brillo Pad while listening to Bette Midler’s Greatest Hits and eating a dog’s asshole,” when referring to a human in a derogatory manner must’ve been thinking of Ryan Kesler. Oh, wait, I’m the first person to ever use that particular phrase? OK. Yeah, I was thinking of Ryan Kesler.
♦ Dave Bolland left with a groin injury, per Q. I’m completely over this guy. He can’t stay on the ice because he’s constantly injured, and when he is on the ice he’s awful. I give up.
♦ Ryan Kesler snacks on used diapers. Regularly.
♦ If not for Corey Crawford, the Blackhawks would have been down 8-0 at the end of the first period. He played a fantastic game and bailed the ‘Hawks out with a stellar save on numerous occasions. The Blackhawks played horribly in front of him. He’s the only reason the Blackhawks had any semblance of a chance before Daniel Sedin - brotherfucker – put a great move on Crawford on the breakaway at the end of the second period.
♦ Gorilla Salad scored the Blackhawks’ lone goal. Ouch. Cory Schneider snuffed out some great chances from the ‘Hawks in the third, but he was nice and rested for most of the first two periods as the Blackhawks mustered just four scoring chances through 40.
♦ Q said Michal Handzus being scratched was a “coach’s decision.” My guess is because the Canucks can keep up with the Blackhawks speed-wise and Handzus can’t beat a snail in a 40-yard dash.
All right, I’m done. Here’s Boxing. Right-click the image, then click ‘view’ to enlarge….
Here Come The Nucks..
While they may have gone off the ‘Hawks radar a little this season, there’s no doubt that we’ll all be reminded of just how much we dislike this team tonight, especially as Vancouver will come out all guns blazing to try to thwart Chicago in their pursuit of the Greatest Prize in Sports, the Presidents’ Trophy.
Tonight’s game is in the Rogers so that means
1) A Three-In-The-Fucking-Morning puck-drop for me. Thanks a bunch, Western Time Zone.
2) Lots of towel waving from Vancouver fans.. and on that subject, let’s take a look at our “Friends” in British Columbia in a little more detail.
Canucks fans come in all shapes and sizes.. some are wonderful people, others, less so. Here’s some of the more frequently-encountered types.
Distinguishing Features: Firmly believes that the Canucks have never, ever lost due to being “Not As Good At Hockey” as the Other team. Instead it’s the fault of, in no particular order, the NHL, the Refs swallowing their whistles, the Media, the Refs calling too many penalties, a Top-Secret Cabal made up of Americans and jealous Canadians that is determined to manipulate the entire NHL to ensure that the Canucks never, ever win the Stanley Cup and, possibly, Space Aliens.
Redeeming Features: The lengths that they will go to back up their pet conspiracy theories is highly entertaining, in a car-crash sort of way (like watching Buffalo).
Secret Hope: That one day, while presenting the Cup to yet another undeserving team that only won lots of Games in the Playoffs, Gary Bettman’s mask slips off to reveal that he is, in fact, an alien from the Planet Zanussi, sent here to destroy the minds of Mankind. (Actually, they may be on to something here..)
Secret Fear: That they’re likely to end up as a footnote in some Med-Student’s dissertation on the Long-Term-Effects of Cannabis.
So, Phoenix. Hum.
For a brief period last year they replaced Vancouver, Detroit and even St Louis. as the Hawks’ “Public Enemy #1″. Whether it was Mike Smith’s overreacting to being hit behind the net by Andrew Shaw , Shane Doan showing why he’s the Greatest Captain in the History of Ever by elbowing everything that turned its back on him, or their annoying fans, with their bogus traditions and temper tantrums whenever they were gently ribbed about the team being relocated (ok, maybe showing up at the game in a Nordiques sweater and singing “Do You Know The Way To The Colisee” might have been undiplomatic), they generally failed to win many friends with the Hawks. Oh.. wait, there was another incident wasn’t there? It’ll come to me..
Now, Aucoin, Whitney and Torres are all gone. Smith has shown some sparks of his old Diva ways but has also been decidedly pre-2012-Mike-Smith. Which is to say “Bad”. Shane Doan is still a douche but also hurt. It’s kind of hard to generate any heat, here.
The Yotes are on the brink of elimination from the Playoff race and the Hawks can help to ease them over the precipice tonight, in what could well be the final-ever meeting of these two teams.
Final meeting? Yes.
Because there’s always that elephant in the room when talking about Phoenix. Or a logo that kind of looks like an elephant, anyway.
Editor’s Note: This column appears in tonight’s edition of The Committed Indian. Help Sam Fels feed his drinking habit by purchasing one outside of the United Center for $3, or sign up for a digital copy on the website. Don’t be cheap.
Second Note: This was originally written for Friday’s Indian, but Sam had to push it back to tonight’s issue. So, this obviously doesn’t include the Blackhawks going 2 for 3 on the power play against Nashville. Stats in the column are as of Thursday afternoon.
There aren’t many secrets here. It’s not like Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff are holding on to some sort of magical strategy while purposely sending the players out on the ice at a disadvantage, only to later surprise everyone with a full-proof plan that results in unlimited goals with the man advantage.
The Blackhawks’ power play sucks, and there’s no amount of high-sucrose recipes in this world that can sugarcoat it enough. They’ve gone 0 for 19 over their last nine games and haven’t potted a power-play goal since Patrick Kane’s tally in the third period of a 2-1 loss to Anaheim on March 29.
At the time of writing this Thursday afternoon, the ‘Hawks are tied with the New York Rangers for 20th in the league converting just 15.4 percent of their power-play chances. Take out the Blackhawks scoring six power-play goals through the first four games, and the percentage drops to 12.9 since Jan. 26.
And we’ve seen everything, too. The constant inability to enter the offensive zone while the other team has one fewer guy can make anyone’s urge to kill rise dramatically. Once in the zone? Who knows. Gaining possession after a dump-in hasn’t exactly been something of a regular occurrence. And if that does happen, you can usually count on a lack of movement as the Blackhawks wait for that back-door pass through the crease to open up. The problem is that it rarely ever does, yet that doesn’t stop them from attempting to pass through opponents’ sticks that unfortunately aren’t invisible.
This isn’t exactly new. We watched the Blackhawks do much of the same last season when they finished 26th in the league with a similar 15.2 percent conversion rate.
Yes, there’s been plenty that’s frustrating about watching the ‘Hawks blow chance after chance with the man advantage, and the popular notion is that this ineptitude while cause more harm to the Blackhawks when they get into the playoffs against better competition and need to convert on these prime opportunities. However, based on the power-play statistics of some recent Stanley Cup winners, that may not exactly be the case.
As the Regular Season enters its final 10 days, there are some teams sitting home, hosed and focusing on Seedings for the Playoffs. There are also those who are All-But-A-Meltdown away from clinching their berth in the Post-Season. Some are out and awaiting the embalmer already. For them, the fight is over. However, the West being the West, we’re left with a number of teams currently in and and around the final Playoff positions, teams who’s fans are nervously eyeing the standings and schedule, feverishly calculating “Magic Numbers” and “Four-Point Games” while keeping tabs on ROW and GD tie-breakers.
BOY does it feel good to not be among those those teams!
The Hawks position ,having clinched about five minutes after the Lockout ended, allows us to cast a jaded eye over the unfortunates currently engaged in the re-enactment of the Battle of the Marne that’s happening further down the table. I suppose I should sympathise, as there, but for the Grace of Hoss, go the Hawks (as I’m sure we all remember from the last couple of seasons). But, on the other hand, I could make a bunch of jokes and take some cheap shots at the contenders… Choices, choices..
So without further ado. here’s your handy Cheer The Anthem Guide To The Bubble. Teams are listed with current Pos/GP/P
Well, I took a pre-game nap that overran slightly so watched a lot of this match-up from a slightly dazed viewpoint. Whether that enhanced my Critical Faculties (yeah, right) or impeded them, I know not.
What I saw was a Hawks team that is playing it smart: content to mooch along doing what they do until it’s neccessary to suddenly up the intensity and blow the opposition out of the water. Which worked out quite nicely.
This was an effective performance by the Hawks and stretches their current streak to 6 games. Dallas and Phoenix losing, combined with the Beej becoming the 2nd hottest team in the West (4 game win streak) has caused another round of musical chairs around the lower seedings. Be thankful, very thankful that the Hawks are miles above that particular shitfight. It’s going to be very, very ugly.
Anyway, to bullets before I head off to work
Yes, that’s a Stan Freberg quote in the title. Who’s Stan Freberg you ask? He’s a genius that’s who he is.
Anyway.. tonight the Stars enter the UC tied with the Hawks for “Hottest Team In The West”, their run of 5 straight wins suddenly catapaulting them into the conversation for the last Playoff places.
This is especially notable because Dallas appeared to be blowing off this year by trading away the majority of their geriatrics at the Deadline: Jaromir Jagr was sent to Boston for prospects and a pick, Brenden Morrow went to Pittsburgh (for Joe Morrow giving headline writers many cheap “Two-Morrow” based puns to work with), Michael Ryder is now raising both the average age and height of the Habs forward corps and the stripling of the group, Derek Roy, got shipped to Vancouver for Kevin Connaughton and pick.
They were the biggest sellers at the Deadline and appeared to be looking at a rebuild (and also trying to offload all those cases of Geritol on the Black Market) And then they went on a tear. Suddenly the likes of the Wild, Wings and Yotes are glancing nervously at this Dallas streak before letting their gaze wander to their golf clubs.
So what to expect tonight? Who knows. Last time out, the Hawks hung 4 on Lehtonen and then did exactly the same to the Running Man Writer. Lehtonen has had a tendency to turn into a brick wall against the Hawks in years gone by, which suggests he’s due one. However, as of this writing, word is that Bachman gets the start.
As for the Men Of Four Feathers, no word yet on whether it’ll be Crow or Razor in net (although I have a feeling that, coming off a shutout against the Blues, it’ll be Crawford) and Patrick Sharp is listed as “Doubtful” which is just fine by me. He has more important battles than this to come.
A Hawks win tonight moves the “Magic Number” to clinch the Western Conference to 1. While it would be lovely to get it all wrapped up nearly two weeks early so that they can wrap Kane, Toews and Hossa in bubblewrap for the few remaining games. it’s also not worth getting hurt over.
Staying healthy is the watchword from here on in.
Let’s Go Hawks.
Winning the last-ever Central Division title has a nice feel to it, especially when the Blackhawks were able to clinch it by coming back Friday against a Detroit team we all love to loathe. And when dessert is a sweet victory over the talentless apes wearing Blues sweaters, well, that makes for a nice weekend in my book.
But after Corey Crawford turned away 30 shots in Sunday’s 2-0 victory in St. Louis, it got me to thinking a little bit about where the rivalries with these teams will stand once Detroit heads East as realignment takes effect next season.
While the Red Wings have always been hated, there’s still a level of respect that goes into watching guys like Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk - and going further back to the likes of Nicklas Lidstrom, Dominik Hasek and Steve Yzerman – grace the ice with their play. It just so happened they wore a different sweater.
Granted, those sweaters are evil and ugly and make you want to vomit up the three squares of your day, but any one of us ‘Hawks fans would have liked to have any of them wearing the Indian head. Hell, Hasek may have played most of his career in Chicago had it not been for Ed Belfour.
The Blues? Other than Vladimir Tarasenko, there’s not one breathing pile of diarrhea on skates I would take from that team. Even if any of them wanted to play in Chicago for free, I would have them deported back to that hellhole of a city that shouldn’t be allowed to call itself part of America.
The Hawks head to the Land Of Toasted Ravioli for the penultimate time this season and, let’s face it, on the final day they’re likely to ice a team that consists of Tommy Hawk, an Inanimate Carbon Rod (no Q, Stan didn’t re-sign John Scott) and Nakis; if he shows up at the game with his skates.
Rather than bang on about what an absolute Monsoon of Asshats the Blues are, I’d like, instead, to highlight something warm and fluffy about them.
As reported on Puck Daddy the Blues’ David Backes and Barret Jackman recently took time out from, respectively, making “Tiger Face” in front of a picture of Jonathan Toews and collecting roadkill to make a delicious stew, to appear at a Charity Event, Adopt-A-Pet’s “The Great American Pooch Smooch & Kitty Kiss”., which is used to encourage people to overcome the various stigmas associated with rescue animals.
All very worthy, and well done them etc. Seriously. Rescue Animals are awesome.
However, the photos from this event are.. well.. they’re Comedy GOLD. Manna from Heaven to snarky assholes like me.
So, without further ado, I’d like to invite a bit of Audience Participation (God Help Us All)
This picture of Barret Jackman getting to 1st Base with a dog led to me suffering a bout of “Too.. Many.. Jokes” syndrome, leaving me temporarily incapable of coming up with les mots juste for the image.
However, I’m sure some of you Evil Swine can come up with something to caption this picture. How does Sparky feel? Is Jackman aroused? Did mentioning “Jackman” and “Aroused” in the same sentence put you off your breakfast?
Here’s a couple of examples, I’m sure you can do much better..
Feel free to post your Captions in the comments, on Facebook and either @cheertheanthem or @brightblack76 on Twitter. I’ll photoshop up the best ones and display them here..
Have at it!
And if you’re in need of a pet, try your local shelter. There’s nothing wrong with the animals they put up for re-homing, it’s frequently just their previous owners who should be euthanized.
Let’s Go Hawks!
Here we are, then.
The last waltz is playing, the house lights are coming up, Kyle Wellwood in Drag is preparing to give us a song..
The Inter-Divisional rivalry with the Wings is about to come to an end. I feel like a few words are in order
However, to paraphrase a smart old English dude called Bill,
“I come not to praise Detroit, but to bury them”
The shadow of that winged wheel has been cast over the Hawks for a long, long time. In fact, talk to a Detroit Fan (do go and talk to them: the men and women in our Prison System benefit from contact with the outside world) and they are likely to include the question “How many Cups have you won?” every third sentence.
And they have a point (no, not that shiv they made from a spoon)