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…