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An Ache in Your Soul is Everybody’s Goal

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(Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)

The levels of fandom lead to emotions such as these, especially in this city.

Cubs fans can take losses knowing nothing is expected of them for years to come. White Sox fans know they’re stuck with an average big league club and a depleted farm system, and any signs of positivity they get are just a bonus.

When the Bulls bow out in the first round of the playoffs, their fans can shrug it off in what-could’ve-been fashion knowing their best player was lost to injury – again.

Bears fans? Blame Jay Cutler, root for the backup, watch a promising start “fade to black,” schedule your fantasy draft, rinse, repeat.

Tapping into Blackhawks fandom doesn’t afford you the luxury of burying yourself in any of those aforementioned situations anymore, though. The regular-season losses are analyzed down to the 18th skater more often than accepted as ho-hum. Playoff defeats are heartbreaking to the point of downright tragedy.

All of that comes with expectations, which the Blackhawks meteorically have risen since their surprising run to the Western Conference Final in 2008-09 and subsequent two Stanley Cup titles. There’s no more acceptance of losing a playoff series without a mandatory period of depression – no matter how long or short. Even those singing the praises of an exciting season and thrilling run to a fourth conference final in six years aren’t going to seek out a highlight of Sunday’s final goal. It hurts too much.

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Playoff Beered: Final Update

 

REPEATER

It wasn’t meant to be like this. As you may recall, being already hairy of face, I decided to brew a Playoff Beer in lieu of growing a beard. The beer was brewed the day of Game 1 against St Louis and bottled the day before the 2nd Round against Minnesota began. The idea was, of course, to use it to toast another Cup, but of course that isn’t going to happen now. So I poured it all down the drain.

 

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Stalled Parade: Kings 5 Hawks 4 (OT) Game Over, Man.

And so it ends, and I’ve had to use the Eleventh Dream Day song title in the headline that I really didn’t want to use. While I’m sure we’re all feeling like we’ve just been punched hard in the stomach by a bastard with fists of lead, there should be no shame tonight. These two excellent Hockey teams have put on an exhibition of a series and in the end it came down to the coinflip that is OT. The Kings won that, and the Hawks title defence is over, desperately short of the Final.

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How To Survive Game 7

A Cheer The Anthem Public Health Announcement

 

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

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

 

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How A Resurrection Really Feels Hawks 4 Kings 3 (Gonna Game 7)

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AAAARRRROOOOOOOOOOOOO!

 

Ok, so, these Hawks have made it back from a 1-3 hole against an amazing Kings team to force a Game 7 in Chicago on Sunday. In other news, it’s 5am here, the rest of the CtA crew are drunk in a bar and I’ve got work in three hours.. so this will be a pretty short recap..

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(Scott Strazzante/Chicago Tribune)

Going Going, Back Back to Cali Cali: Blackhawks 5, Kings 4 (2OT) – Kings Lead Series 3-2

(Scott Strazzante/Chicago Tribune)

(Scott Strazzante/Chicago Tribune)

Couldn’t say it any better than Notorious BIG.

Game 5 was, without a doubt, the most nerve-wracking hockey I’ve watched since overtime of Game 7 against Detroit last year. And that’s probably only fitting given that the Blackhawks need to overcome the exact same deficit they faced in that series.

From up two goals (twice), to farting away the lead, to an absolutely intense first OT to the winner by Michal Handzus, it brought out every emotion humans are capable of showing. I can’t imagine that Game 6 will be any different.

Rather than writing about the Blackhawks’ playoff demise, we’re able to get to some analysis ahead of the return to the Staples Center on Friday. Here’s what I’ve got…

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CubanKing

Western Conference Final Game 5 – Do or Die

CubanKing

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Slipped In The Shower Stall: Hawks 2 Kings 5 (LA Leads 3-1)

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So, here we are.  For the first time since the 2nd Round against Detroit last year, the Hawks are staring down the barrel of an elimination game on Wednesday. Things are prety grim right now and if folk are feeling les-than-chipper about the Hawks prospects, well, can’t say I blame them.

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(Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune)

When We Gave it Away For the Sake of a Dream: Kings 6, ‘Hawks 2 – West Final Tied 1-1

(Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune)

(Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune)

When the fan base was weighing in on the better matchup for the Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final, it seemed the majority chose the Kings over the Anaheim Ducks.

The third period of Game 2 showed why a series with the Kings wasn’t something I wanted to go through.

After the ‘Hawks controlled the majority of the first two periods, Los Angeles took advantage of a couple of early power plays in the third on its way to a five-goal period to even the series heading to Hollywood for Game 3 on Saturday.

The Blackhawks capitalized on a pair of timely changes, as Nick Leddy took an outlet pass and put a nifty backhand past Jonathan Quick before Ben Smith scored merely seconds after he got on the ice to give the ‘Hawks a 2-0 lead into the final two minutes of the second. Brent Seabrook had a prime chance to put them up three, but Quick’s sliding save across the crease kept L.A. within a pair.

Justin Williams had a puck go off his sake and trickle past Corey Crawford near the end of the second, and from there it was all Kings.

The Kings’ explosion shouldn’t really surprise anyone. This a team that stormed back from 0-3 down to San Jose to win the series and 2-3 against the Ducks before dominating Game 7 on the road. As much as we commend the Blackhawks for never being out of a game, series, whatever, L.A. has the same pedigree – and maybe even more dangerous when backed into a corner.

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Game Day Illustrated: Kings v. Blackhawks Game 2

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Pinwheels: Kings 1 Hawks 3 (Hawks lead series 1-0)

 

OK.. one down.. and a strange one at that. The stats suggest that the Hawks were totally outgunned by the Kings, with the LA team having a 26-20 advantage in shots and a 57.4% Corsi share. Sure didn’t look like that, though. In my opinion, the Hawks played a smart, speedy game, keeping the Kings from their usual “Monstrous Forecheck=Pucks Played Into Space” method. The Kings were scrabbling and attempting long-range and half-chance efforts almost all night. Meanwhile, the Hawks were a continual threat to break at speed and in numbers. making sure that the Kings were defending in their own zone rather than 200 feet away.

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Southern Pacific: Hawks/Kings WCF Guest Preview

Due to their series going to seven games and the short turnaround time between the end of the 2nd Round and the Western Conference Final, it was unclear whether the Hawks would be playing the Los Angeles Kings or the Anaheim Ducks for the privilege of a second successive SCF appearance. Therefore, when coming up with this preview, I decided to play it safe by enlisting the help of a couple of people who have good knowledge of, and a healthy disdain for, both teams.  Here are our good buddies (and San Jose Sharks fans)  Staci from the Canafornians and Derek from Fear The Fin , answering some questions about the Hawks formidable opponents.

 

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Cheer the Podcast Episode 13

Cheer the Podcast Episode 13 (5.18.14): The Minnesota Wild are now in the rear view and the Kings are the only obstacle between the Blackhawks and a 2nd straight Final appearance. The guys reflect back on the Minnesota series and it taking more than originally thought while looking ahead to those LA Kings. Brandon Bollig’s social media escapades get a brief mention, and the role we hope to not play again in those. We also delve into the unpredictable happenings of the Eastern Conference playoffs, basically going as far to say that the West Finals are for the Cup.

This weeks outro may prevent Jim from ever running for President.

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Brandon Bollig You Are a Majestic “Lion”

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Brandon Bollig is a great hockey man, said no one ever. Some would consider him a real key to a great team. If you do, your strategy may look a bit like this:

 

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PM Sellers, folks. He's the best.

Among The Pines: Blackhawks 2 Wild 1 (Hawks win series 4-2)

PM Sellers, folks. He's the best.

PM Sellers, folks. He’s the best.

I should really be sitting here writing about the Hawks’ prospects in Game 7 against the Wild, trying to cheer you (and myself) up with the record at the United Center and assuring you that the next one will be different.  Instead we’re eyeing up the Kings and Ducks and hoping for 5OTs before the Hawks head to California. Funny old game, Hockey, eh?

 

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Interregnum Illustrated: Hawks-Wild Game 5

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Boxing Wild Game 5

High Five: Boxing with Blackhawks (2) and Wild (1) – ‘Hawks lead Series 3-2

(Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune)

(Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune)

 

The last three games of this series have helped produce enough stomach acid to make Tums become a midday snack. The first 10 minutes provided some worry before it was Jonathan Toews to the rescue with a third-period goal that would stand up for a 2-1 victory in Game 5 as the ‘Hawks held serve at the United Center.

The penalty 31 seconds in, combined with the bad bounce that slipped past Corey Crawford and the pair of posts the Wild hit in the first period made for an uncomfortable beginning to a game the Blackhawks needed before heading back to Minnesota. They gradually began dominating the possession into the second period and final got the final nail on a play that Patrick Sharp made the smart move to fire the puck at the net for a waiting Toews.

I’m sure most of us predicted when the series began that we’d be seeing some handshakes tonight, but at least the ‘Hawks were able to rebound from a pair of stinkers up north to apply the right amount of gas to get them through an important game in the latter part of a series. They have a tendency to do such things.

I’ve very tired, so just a couple of things….

*  Despite years of wondering what kind of lineup Q will ice from shift to shift, I still was bewildered at what I saw in Game 3 and 4 and the matter of putting Kris Versteeg on the top line to start Game 5. What’s even more mind boggling is that when Q puts together the combinations that seem to be the most logic, the ‘Hawks produce. Yet, Q continues to roll questionable lines when it seems completely unjustified.

For instance, is it any surprise the Blackhawks’ game picked up when he put Toews, Sharp and Marian Hossa together tonight? The Red Wedding line that produced so well during the regular season? Is it any wonder that when you put Bryan Bickell in the right spots with the right people that his game goes up a notch? Or when Peter Regin is dressed like everyone had been clamoring for and he puts in solid work on the bottom six despite not having played since April 12?

These are things I’ll never understand about Q and his propensity to change lineups for the sake of change and nothing else. Instead, we had to suffer through Game 3 and 4 and part of tonight wondering when the hell he’s going to stop trying to out-think himself.

*  Crawford didn’t have his best in Game 4, but as has been the case for years, he puts his balls on the ice when the tough really gets going. He had a near-perfect performance in Game 5 and helped the ‘Hawks weather the storm when the Wild were pushing hard for the tie.

*  Woof, did Duncan Keith have a couple of bad turnovers or what? At least twice I remember him hitting the meet of a Wild stick on a pass attempt he had no business making.

*  Nick Leddy struggled all night, basically looking nervous and apprehensive. His confidence seems shaken, which is what happens when you are a healthy scratch in your hometown for a playoff game. Still, he needs to get his shit together before Game 6.
Hopefully we get a handshake line on Tuesday. Here’s Boxing…

 

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Bite The Hand: Hawks 2 Wild 4 (series 2-2)

look at this prick

Good morning. I’m sure you want to read about that pile of crap as little as I want to write about it, but that’s what we’re all here for, so I’ll get to it.

This is going to be brief as we’ve all got better things to be doing.

 

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Cartoon Recap: Blackhawks – Wild Game 3

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Welcome to the FIRST EVER Cheer the Anthem Cartoon Recap, where we’ll delve into the slimy contours of last night’s “hockey” “game” between the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild.

I was really hoping to have an exciting victory to start this. But, as I’ve said many times:

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Pregame

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The relationship between Q and Blackhawks media (bloggers, twitter, and beats alike) has turned into the Oracle of Delphi. I’ve given up trying to understand these things ahead of time; just take them as they come and hope for the best. Yesterday’s killed me, though: Leddy out; Beat Hero Zus still in; and welcome back, Bollig.

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First Period

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Second Period

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Have you looked at last night’s Fenwick chart? Do you remember who was in net for the Wild? I know the CNBC crew fully committed to making sure Bryzgalov’s confidence stayed topped up throughout the game, but he was not doing anything crazy good. The Hawks were just toothless.

And then Bollig got his moment.

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This is why he’s the Whack-a-Can constant, people. I know, I know, his passing lane to Kane was shut down but god dammit Bollig! How do you have a 2 on 1 and not put the shot on net.

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Third Period

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Wild 4 – Blackhawks 0: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Remember Me?

Recapping the first 40 minutes of this game seems like a great way to get you to click on the ads (do we have ads?). The last 20 minutes were where all the action took place and none of it was beneficial to the Chicago Blackhawks. I wrote down some bullets before I slept on this last night and after reading them this morning I don’t feel too different. Let’s get to them.

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Blackhawks Game Day Illustrated – Let’s Do It Again!

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Sweet Smell: Wild 1 Hawks 4

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When we look back on this game, years from now, the scorecard will suggest that it was a 4-1 ass-kicking.  Having just watched said game, however, we all know that that is far from the truth.

 

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Boxing Wild Game 1

Calmer Than You Are, Dude: Game 1 Boxing with Blackhawks (5) and Wild (2)

(Chris Sweda/ Chicago Tribune)

(Chris Sweda/ Chicago Tribune)

 

Apologies for the (very) delayed recap, but sometimes Friday nights turn into Saturday mornings very quickly. I’ll be pretty brief, as I’m sure you’ve read mostly everything you need to know. Just a couple of highlights.

Patrick Kane’s disgusting backhand flip of a game-winner has deservedly been played all over since it happened, along with his yelling of “Showtime!” celebration. The guy just seems to be in the right spot at important moments, and even when he’s not in the right spot, he gets himself there by improvising as he did on the backhand goal. He and Marian Hossa also showed that good things happen when you have your stick on the ice, as they accepted feeds from Ben Smith and Brandon Saad, respectively, to pot goals in open nets.

Corey Crawford was again spectacular, snuffing out numerous Wild opportunities in the first and second periods before being the victim of a couple bad bounces and overall shitty play from….

Brandon Bollig. Another awful night. On the second goal, he turned the puck over at the center line leading to a Wild possession. Bollig then got beat badly to the net by Brodziak, who had a clear shot past Crawford. I hope Bollig stubs his toe so badly that he cannot play another game for the rest of the playoffs.

That’s it for now, he’s Boxing. I’ll be back with another edition after Game 2. GO ‘HAWKS!….

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Motherland: Wild @ Hawks Preview

After what seems like ages (and also no time at all) the Hawks start their 2nd Round tonight, at home this time, thanks to the Wild knocking out the Avs.  I’ve still not really got an opinion on which matchup I’d have preferred, but let’s have a look at the hand we’ve been dealt.

 

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Playoff Beered Update!

REPEATER

OK, for those of you who don’t know;  I’m not growing a Playoff Beard (already got one) and am instead brewing a Playoff Beer.

I brewed this Oatmeal Stout two weeks ago, before Game 1 against St Louis. It’s been bubbling away happily to itself for the duration. By happy coincidence, it finished fermenting and was ready for bottling today, on the eve of Round Two.

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