Take A Knee

OK, everyone. Listen up.

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

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

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

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PSA: A Growing Cause

Fur for Funds (pennant strategically placed for a reason)

Hi there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nope. (Credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

Nope. (Credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Five Best* Hockey Songs, Ever

*Actual “Best” may be smaller than pictured.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s get to the nitty gritty bullets asterisks:

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

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

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10 Things You DIDN’T Know About Bryan Bickell

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

(Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

(Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

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

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

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

Some thoughts before Boxing…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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hull-howe

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

hull-howe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s go, ‘Hawks.

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The 5 Types of Red Wings Fans

 

 

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

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