Powerless: Boxing with Blackhawks and Canucks

Credit: Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune

This was one of those games that just didn’t have a good feel to it from the get-go. Very, very little went right, and the Blackhawks’ powerless play once again left massive logs of poop on the ice.

The ‘Hawks spent roughly the first three minutes of the game in their own zone, and it may have taken even longer for them to make consecutive tape-to-tape passes. Was it fatigue from three games in four nights? The travel from Florida? Spending time with pops?

Whatever it was, Sunday night was a shit-filled performance in the first meeting since the playoffs as the ‘Hawks fell 6-2 to the Canucks.

So much for the theory of, “When the ‘Hawks power play finally scores one, the goals will come in bunches.” The Blackhawks went a putrid 0 for 5 with the man advantage while looking as if they should have just started declining penalties. Five guys standing around, blinding throwing passes and playing as if they’ve never practiced the power play before won’t get anyone anywhere. It’s becoming borderline humorous. I can’t even get excited anymore when the opposition takes a penalty.

Oh, and if Steve Montador gets another second of power-play time, I’m going to strangle myself with dental floss.

♦   Your argument for that may be something like, “Lighten up. Vancouver came in with the sixth-ranked penalty kill and they have one of the better killing units in the league.” Well, the Blackhawks came in with the fourth-ranked kill and allowed the Canucks to go 5 for 6 with the man advantage as the ‘Hawks stood there with their jaws dropped as if they were watching Victoria’s Secret models undress.

The ‘Hawks struggled with their power plays mainly due to the Canucks’ active kill. They attack the puck while the other three play a solid zone to be able challenge the next pass. Too many times the Blackhawks were flat footed on their kill, watching and gazing at what a power play should actually look like.  Vancouver enters the zone hard or places a solid dump-in where a teammate can get it while the others get into position.

♦   I think the saddest part of the evening was watching the Canucks get into the heads of the Blackhawks by playing smart and physical to disrupt the ‘Hawks attack. While the amount of flopping done by the Sedins makes me want to petition Brendan Shanahan to institute the death penalty for diving, Vancouver drew penalties and then converted. It seems simple, but it’s a simplistic part of hockey the Blackhawks have been overlooking all season.

Here’s Boxing …

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The Bigger They Are: Canucks Visit Chicago

Photo: NHL

You remember the Vancouver Canucks, right? Colors are green, blue and white; big funny-looking whale on their jersey; coach keeps whining about other teams not playing fair? Not ringing a bell?

Well, in the playoffs last year they blew a 3 games to none lead against the Blackhawks before FINALLY squeaking by in overtime of game 7? And we had to serve up a giveaway on a silver platter with nobody between them and the goalie for them to win?

No? Nothing?

Their goalie’s an overrated head case, fans have a massive inferiority complex, and the entire province of British Columbia wanted to lynch me after I called Daniel and Henrik Sedin “The Tampon Twins?”

Okay, you got it now. Good. Well, they’re in town tonight. And it’s a great time for them to visit.

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Now Leaving Del Boca Vista: Boxing with Blackhawks and Panthers

Credit: Joel Auerbach, Getty Images

Much like the Boston game Oct. 15, the Blackhawks seemed to shift into neutral while sitting on a one-goal lead in the third period they hoped to close out.

And much like that contest, the opposition was able to tie it up and bring it to a shootout. At least they got two points out of this one, beating Florida 3-2 following the game of Candyland

I’m going to try something new and get even deeper into the Boxing theme here. Let me know if it works:

Jabs (Quick hits)

♦   Duncan Keith missing tonight didn’t have much affect against a mediocre team like Florida, and hopefully it won’t matter much against Tampa Bay, either. The Lightning have totaled three goals in their last two games. Sean O’Donnell and Nick Leddy seem a capable pair to be able to make up for Keith’s absence.

♦   Corey Crawford played a fantastic game tonight and kept the ‘Hawks ahead for as long as he could once they knocked back the throttle a bit. Allowing 43 shots obviously isn’t good, but the Panthers totaled 42 against Winnipeg four nights before. They fire the puck, so no need to panic, really.

Haymakers (Solid plays from the ‘Hawks)

♦   Jonathan Toews made a hell of a play to step in front of the pass and go hard to the net to score his goal. Vintage Captain.

♦   Patrick Kane once again showed just how well he can read a play to make the correct pass, firing it across the ice through the defense to set up Marian Hossa. Anyone shocked it was Tomas Kopecky who came into the play late to leave the slot wide open to allow that pass?

♦   Crawford was solid all night. Tough to pinpoint a single moment, but he was turning away a relentless amount of shots from the Panthers’ firing squad.
Counter-punches (The opposition)

♦   Both goals were tough on Crawford, who didn’t have much of a chance on either. Weiss’ goal took a tough bounce away from Crow, and Jovo’s goal was simply a great play by him.
Low Blows (Not-so-good stuff)

♦   The Blackhawks looked absolutely awful on their lone power play opportunity, once again making an otherwise talented team look silly. The ‘Hawks have scored 31 of their 38 goals at even strength, and they have one less short-handed goal (3) than they do with the man advantage. Just strange for a team with so much offensive talent.
The Decision

♦   Kaner really has that move down, saving a point for the ‘Hawks after they put it in cruise control once again. The Blackhawks need to learn how to finish these games out rather than riding a one-goal lead and hoping to hold on with conservative play. Nonetheless, Crawford stoned both shots in the shootout to pick up the win.

Onto Boxing…

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Florida Golf Outing Interrupted By Hockey Game

Photo: Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Every year the Blackhawks do a father/son trip, usually involving some kind of bonding excursion. This year it took the form of a golf outing while dodging alligators in the Florida heat. The event spilled over into the social media arena, with Daniel Carcillo dissing the Lepisto twosome for bird-watching instead of shooting birdies. But fun and games aside, we have two difficult contests to get through when we’re not wading through the Everglades looking for a #4 Titleist, starting with the new-look Florida Panthers.

This past March, we were chuckling to ourselves as we prepared to face a Panthers team assembled out of the remnants of the league-basement Florida squad from the previous year, and the bargain bin cast-offs picked up at the end of the free agent signing period. It was a joke on skates, the money-saving brainchild of former Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon, and everyone expected a rout.

Everyone except the Panthers, it turns out: they caught the Blackhawks flat-footed and scrapped their way to a 3 – 2 victory. But a much different, and much more dangerous Florida team awaits the ‘Hawks tonight. Hopefully the Blackhawks’ players don’t leave their A-game on the fairway.

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Hawks take their talents to Miami: News, Notes & More

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Talking hockey while wondering why people still read Phil Rogers……

♦Lets start with the power play, shall we? As I’m sure you’re all aware, it badly sucks. A PP which contains Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp is 4 of 45 though 11 games – that’s a 8.9 % conversion rate, good for 29th in the league ahead of only a putrid Blues squad. Some people have blamed personnel. Some people blame assistant coach Mike Kitchen. Who the hell really knows? One thing is for certain, somebody told them to start firing away before the game Monday night. The PP (especially in the 3rd period) had a ton of pucks heading towards the net. Had the Hawks been facing another goaltender, the story coming out of Monday nights game easily could have been that the Hawks power play had finally broken through. Is there a brightside here? Well, if your powerplay is going to go 4 for 45 – it’s not a bad time to do it while your team is on a 7-2-2 roll.  The PP will look to get going tomorrow against a Florida Panthers  penalty kill led by – Tomas Kopecky? Seems like the perfect opportunity to get things rolling.

♦On the flip side of that coin, the Hawks penalty kill is kicking every sort of ass there is.  Toews, Hossa, Dave Bolland, Michael Frolik and Jamal Mayers have been exceptional and led the PK to a 91.7% success rate – 3rd best in the league behind an unstoppable Pittsburgh Penguins team  and the  Buffalo Sabers (I’ll chalk that up to Ryan Miller).  The PK was one of the most frustrating aspects of the 2010-2011 squad and it’s a great relief to see that they’ve turned it around (especially if they are going to take 5 penalties a night like Monday).  Quick note: Bolland leads the league in shorthanded goals with 2.

♦Speaking of Bolland, there is a must see video in this article about Bryan Bickell’s goal monday night showing Bolland discreetly tripping Kevin Klein in the slot and opening space for Bickell to finish. Another classic Rat moment. I enjoy these immensely.

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Haunted Madhouse: Boxing with Blackhawks and Predators

(Credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

When Nashville scored in the first minute off a fluky goal, I couldn’t help but think Halloween had something to do with it. But the Blackhawks turned the “holiday” into Hawk-o-ween with 5-4 overtime victory over the Predators and the Barry Trotz’s non-existent neck.

A couple quick things before Boxing …

♦   While Pekka Rinne made a few great saves which kept this game from possibly getting out of hand, the Blackhawks found his weakness between his arm and above the pad. He made some great saves on Marian Hossa when the puck never left the ice, but Patrick Kane beat him past the hip on his goals, including his second when Rinne was caught too far toward his net and didn’t take away the angle. Overall great game from him, but the Blackhawks exposed a weaker part of his game.

♦   It’s gotta be noted the powerless play went 0 for 7 tonight, including a missed opportunity on a third-period 5-on-3 which could’ve resulted in doom had the ‘Hawks not come away with two points. The ‘Hawks are 0 for 18 over their last four games, and they’re converting on an 8.9 percent clip – 29th in the league, one spot above St. Louis’ 8.3 percent.

Yes, there was some good puck movement out there, and Rinne had plenty to do with the 0-fer tonight, but if we’re going to crunch stats and talk about every other statistic under the sun, we can’t ignore the results. With a 7-2-2 record, there’s not much to complain about except for the PP, but I don’t think I’m out of line saying the ‘Hawks need to start converting rather than looking pretty and not scoring, because it will come back to bite them down the line.

♦   Duncan Keith’s injury may damning if anything is broken on that hand.

♦   A great game from Kaner, giving him 11 points on the season – which may be surprising considering the stat I give you in Boxing.

♦   Three goals in two games for Viktor Stalberg, who completely fooled Rinne and stuck it under the arm on the short side for the winner.

♦  Two breakaway saves from Corey Crawford – who got away with an iffy performance tonight – and Jonathan Toews went 20 for 25 on faceoffs. Neato.

♦  Two quick site notes: As I posted earlier, Jim Nakis, AKA “HjammerTime” on the SCH comment boards, is our newest writer on CtA. Please give him a warm welcome.

Secondly, I keep receiving plenty of emails about an iPhone app. Here’s what you do. Pull up Safari and type in cheertheanthem.noticeorange.com. Bookmark that page and it works just like an app. That should solve it until we get our own app built, which may take some time with Apple being assholes.

And Boxing …

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BOO!!! Blackhawks Look To Put A Fright In The Predators

Photo: Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Wouldn’t it be a riot if the players got to dress up for Hallowe’en games? If I were better at PhotoShop I’d have prepared a whole album full of images for you for this preview of the Blackhawks vs. Predators game, but instead we’ll just have to use our imaginations.

Nashville Head Coach Bary Trotz’s (Boris Badonov) team marches into the United Center tonight for these clubs’ first meeting of the season. These teams split the 6-game series last year 3 each, the biggest difference being the margin of victory. When Nashville won, it was a one-goal game. When Chicago won, it was (for some strange reason) *exactly* three goals. Go figure.

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Introducing the Newest Addition to Cheer the Anthem

As you may have noticed from the past two recaps, we have a new writer on staff to share more thoughts we hope you won’t find too ridiculous.

Jim Nakis has come on board to provide everyone with some witty, humorous and above all knowledgeable Blackhawks banter for your enjoyment. Some of you may know Jim better as “HjammerTime” on the Second City Hockey comment boards. The best thing about Jim other than the fact he can write well about the Blackhawks? He’s an Arctic Monkeys fan.

I speak for Jim in that he is hoping you enjoy his contributions, and I speak for both Tim and I when I say we know you will.

Welcome aboard, Jim!

Boxing returns tonight/tomorrow morning. Get some.

“Kruger! My son tells me your company stinks!” : Hawks win in both goals and no goals

( Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune / October 29, 2011 )

So life and work got in the way of me seeing any of the game last night. Praise Jeebus for DVR! The Blackhawks faced off against a miserable Columbus Blue Jackets team just a night after laying an egg in Carolina. They got back in the win column, having the good fortune of facing some guy named Allen York (an R.P.I. teammate of Brandon Pirri) in the Columbus net. The Hawks were able to come away with a 5-2 victory. Time is short so just a quick recap today:

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Columbus Mismatch: Blue Jackets Visit Chicago

Photo: Chris Schneider/AP

The Columbus Blue Jackets’ season so far: 10 games, 1 win, 8 losses, 1 OTL, for a total of 3 (that’s “three”) points, and they’re 0-5-0 on the road.

I really should just stop right there and just save you the time, let the game speak for itself. This team sucks, and there’s precious little argument about that.

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Hawks fall 3-0 in the land of Kenny Powers

Photo: Karl B DeBlaker / AP

Hi folks. Bartl is gone for the weekend so this was a perfect chance to break in the new guy-me. I’m Jim, the newest and least worthy writer here at Cheer the Anthem. Boxing will return next week so in the meantime you’re stuck with me. Lets get right to it:

After dominating the opening shift, the Hawks spent the rest of the next 7 minutes getting schooled by the Hurricanes in their own zone. A little over 3 minutes in, Marcus Kruger lost a draw and then failed to tie up Tim Brent, which led to a fluky goal by Tim Gleason. Gleason ripped a low shot past Corey Crawford which was redirected off the skate of Nick Leddy. Immediately following the next faceoff, Sean O’Donnell committed an inexcusable giveaway which very easily could have ended with the Hawks trailing by 2, but the Hurricanes couldn’t convert on the  chances. With five and a half minutes remaining in the opening frame, Daniel Carcillo’s stick came up and clipped Jordan Staal’s face, which led to a high sticking double minor – mistakenly assessed to Patrick Kane. The Hawks penalty kill did not disappoint and successfully killed off the Carolina power play which was short its best player in Staal. Corey Crawford was solid all period and was the only reason the Hawks escaped down only one.

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Boiled Peanuts and Frogmore Stew: Blackhawks Head South

Photo: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

With the Blackhawks’ poor luck with shootouts of late (or at least, until the victory over Anaheim on Tuesday), one would think it hard to find a team doing worse than Chicago in that category. Fortunately for us, the ‘Hawks visit that team tonight. Carolina, despite having only 9 games under their belt, has 3 games in the ‘OTL’ column.

The bad stats don’t end there, with 5 of their top 6 scorers sitting south of zero in the plus-minus category, and their backup goaltender boasting a 4.46 GAA.

Let’s leave it as, things could be better in the land of NASCAR.

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STATS Game: Blackhawks at Hurricanes

I did this a few times last season when I could, so I thought I’d share some facts heading into tonight’s contest at the RBC Center versus the Carolina Hurricanes.

While the Blackhawks are getting solid contributions from all four lines, the Hurricanes are scrambling after three straight losses. Here are their likely forward lines for the tilt:

Chad LaRose – NAME THAT STAAL … Eric Staal – Jiri Tlusty
SKINNERRRRR! – Jussi Jokinen – Tuomo Ruutu
Alexei Ponikarovsky – Brandon Sutter – Patrick Dwyer
Brett Sutter – Tim Brent
(yes, that Tim Brent) / Derek Joslin - Zach Boychuk

Here are some stats/facts …

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Wild, Wild West Side: Victorious Shootout Boxing with Blackhawks and Ducks

(Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

As a season-ticket holder, I thank the Blackhawks for the extra hockey the past three home games. As a fan, I’m wondering what the hell is wrong with earning the two points without having to deal with the frustration of the goddamn shootout.

I don’t think I’m alone in thinking the ‘Hawks were lucky to come away with two points after a 3-2 shootout win at the UC on Tuesday night. Patrick Kane saved the night with two gorgeous assists and the shootout winner, though he didn’t make things easy with a bad giveaway which led to Teemu Selanne’s goal.

Dave Bolland took a bad penalty at the end of the first period, then Sean O’Donnell mixed in a delay-of-game before Marian Hossa was given an iffy penalty with 2:10 left in regulation. Fortunately, the Ducks converted on only one of these power plays, leaving the door open for the Blackhawks to earn the pair.

And before Jonathan Toews and Kaner netter goals in the shootout, Hossa ripped one off the post as the horn sounded off a great faceoff win by Toews. How he was able to win it perfectly while putting just the right touch on it so the 2.4 seconds didn’t run off, allowing Hossa to get a missile off is truly amazing to me.

Let’s talk about the rest in Boxing…

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Tuesday Dinner: Blackhawks Hope To Serve Roast Duck

Photo: Getty Images

One of the curiosities of last season was the holy-crap performance of aging veteran Teemu Selanne. Despite having four decades in his rear view mirror, he notched 31 goals and a whopping 80 points in 73 regular-season games, adding a goal-per-game performance in the playoffs. Selanne and 4 other Ducks players were all north of 65 points on the 2010-11 season, and Selanne plus the other 4 will all be in the lineup tonight at the United Center: forwards Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Bobby Ryan, and defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky.

But I’m sure Anaheim Head Coach Randy Carlyle is hoping his offensive stars will start to shine soon, as the Ducks are near the bottom of the barrel in scoring, just barely nudging past 2 goals per game on average. Those five players account for fully two-thirds of the Ducks total offense to date. Pay close attention to those players, you shut down the Ducks offense — almost.

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Boxing Returns Tuesday: Bad Bounces Beat Blackhawks

Photo: AP

On Saturday evening, Jeff was having his weekly psychotic episode. These almost always include (but are not limited to) alcohol, friends, and the Michigan State Spartans football game. This one was particularly bad, as the Spartans went down 14 – 0 in the first 7 minutes of the game, rallied to a 31 – 14 lead — which they then blew in the fourth quarter, only to win against #6 Wisconsin on the already-legendary Hail Mary pass with no time left on the clock.

I’ve spoken to the doctors, and Jeff may be well enough to take visitors as early as tomorrow afternoon. But in the mean time, your fix of “Boxing” will be delayed until after the Ducks game on Tuesday.

I know, you’re disappointed, for the second time. As the Blackhawks were not able to pull together the same fate as MSU: they also came from behind, they also blew a late-game lead, but lost 5 – 4 in a shootout to Colorado. This defeat was much the same as Thursday’s victory, but the bounces went against the Blackhawks this time.

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Potential: Blackhawks Finish Home-And-Home With Avalanche

Photo: Randy Guttierrez/AP

The Blackhawks’ season looked, at the outset, to be fraught with peril: shaky backup goaltending, injuries to key forwards, defensive pairing mix-and-match, questions about conditioning, and the ever-present ticking time bomb that exists in the form of newly-acquired winger Daniel Carcillo. The first six games of the season find the Blackhawks with a 4-1-1 record, and showing the potential for another Stanley Cup run. Thursday’s game was a good example of that potential.

Watching the Blackhawks take on the Avalanche it was apparent that these were two closely-matched teams: young and fast, with quick and dangerous snipers up front and scary-good goaltending on the back end. Thursday’s game saw lots of end-to-end action, goaltenders peppered with shots — and standing on their heads to keep their teams in it, and a lot of quick transitions at the blue line.

Tonight, we are going to see that same Avalanche team again; and again, the Blackhawks are going to have to play the same fast, disciplined game to get past them.

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Calmer Than You Are, Dude: Boxing with Blackhawks and Avalanche

(Ron Chenoy/US PRESSWIRE)

Whew, now that was fast-paced hockey.

The Blackhawks were able to calm themselves after the Avs’ initial first-period rush, get into the flow of the game and come away with a 3-1 victory in Colorado, going 2 for 2 on the brief road trip.

I’m tired, so just a few quick observations before Boxing …

♦   With the entire game going pretty much back and forth at warp speed, both Corey Crawford and Semyon Varlamov saw nearly everything thrown at them, neither giving up a bad goal on the night. The Blackhawks put two difficult shots past Varlamov, while Crawford wasn’t able to get in front of an unfortunate bounce. Varlamov should be spending the night in jail after his ridiculous save on Marcus Kruger.

“Bick-Bo-Fro … douchebag”: A bit of a left turn from the “quid pro quo” comment from The Hangover, but this line has been something special thus far. Poor, poor Michael Frolik. Varlamov robbed him of his first goal on a beautiful chance right in front. Bickell has played his ass off and Bolland, well, …. please for the love of holy Christ stay healthy.

♦   Dan Carcillo’s fantastic pass set up Jonathan Toews’ goal, marking yet another solid feed from Carcillo. He got rewarded with his 2nd point as a ‘Hawk, though it’s not for the shortage of some great opportunities he’s set up which simply haven’t gone in the net.

♦   Duncan Keith disrupted a play in the neutral zone, which ended up leading to Patrick Sharp’s handsome goal. After Keith forced the turnover, the ‘Hawks were able to get into transition, pepper Varlamov with a couple of in-tight chances before Sharp sniped the short side to beat him. It was the second straight solid game for Keith, who has been taking plenty of heat lately.

OK, time for Boxing. Two images, click to enlarge …

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Dogs In The Desert… For Now: Blackhawks Visit Coyotes

Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

As the Winnipeg Jets celebrate their reincarnation north of the border, the team that represents the ashes of the old incarnation of that squad still sits, parched, in the dusty climes of Phoenix, awaiting whatever fate Fuhrer Bettman decides they should have. Stuck in the mobius loop of lousy-team-low-revenue-no-buyers-can’t-attract-good-players-so-lousy-team, Bettman faces mountains of humiliation should the team be forced to move from a location he personally hand-picked for NHL expansion. So, he isn’t approving any deals that involve moving the team to places where snowmobiles are used as transportation for part of the year.

The proud, arrogant little bastard should be beaten to death at center ice before puck drop at the All-Star Game. Fans of hockey all over the world would pay $5000 a ticket to watch that.

But I digress…

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Cruising While Not in Control: Boxing with Blackhawks and Bruins

(Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune )

“It’s tough to give up a goal, especially when you’re up 2-1. It seemed like we were playing back a bit and not really pushing the pace. When you get that one-goal lead you don’t want to cheat and push too much but at the same time it would have been nice to make it 3-1.” — Patrick Kane

My best friend flies airplanes for a living. We don’t need to trade jobs for me to know you don’t turn the autopilot on until you’re completely in control.

The Blackhawks did just that in Saturday’s 3-2 shootout loss to Boston, burning a point and crashing before being stonewalled by Tim Thomas in the pissing contest.

The up-and-down effort let Boston tie it on a Nathan Horton goal in the third period while Chicago went the final 17-plus minutes without a goal which could have sealed a nice win over the defending Stanley Cup champs.

Marian Hossa missed the game with an upper-body injury, and I’m becoming increasingly pissed by the fact it never seems certain he will ever play.

Anyway, I’m not in the mood to go over this play by play, so let’s just get to Boxing. Click the two images to enlarge…

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Behind Enemy Lines: Boston Globe Bruins Beat Writer Fluto Shinzawa

Quick preview today, as Fluto Shinzawa (@GlobeFluto) of the Boston Globe was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding tonight’s Blackhawks-Bruins matchup at the United Center.

Bartl: The Bruins have gotten off to a slow start coming off the Stanley Cup victory, which is something the fans in Chicago know quite well. Do you buy into the theory of a “Stanley Cup Hangover,” or is their current play on the ice something which can be easily corrected?

Shinzawa: Yes, I believe in the hangover. Season is far too long. Bruins started last year with exhibition games in Northern Ireland and Czech Republic. Ended on June 15. Too little time to recharge mental batteries. More mental than physical. That said, they’re not far off. They need to play with emotion to be at their best. That engagement has been spotty.

Bartl: Aside from the slow starts from indiviual players, David Krejci is battling an injury suffered in practice Tuesday and will not travel to Chicago. How will his absence have an effect on the matchup with the Blackhawks?

Shinzawa: Tyler Seguin will play in Krejci’s place. That line has been so-so. They should get plenty of reps as they try to find their rhythm. Julien likes rolling four lines. That won’t change with Krejci out.

Bartl: The ‘Hawks started slow Thursday, but ended up dominating most of the game from the eight-minute mark on. What must Boston do to slow down the Blackhawks’ attack in order counter that with an attack of their own?

Shinzawa: Bruins will want to be physical against Chicago. Get pucks deep, establish forecheck, limit opposing puck possession.

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Leavin’ on a Jet Plane: Boxing with Blackhawks and High-Speed Aluminum Tubing

"Center" of attention. (Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

It’s not like me to be so happy about a victory over a team that would probably finish second in a suburban men’s league, but there was a lot of good going on tonight. The fact I’m building up this solid effort (from the eight-minute mark on, anyway) is because it’s the third game of the season, and things seem to be clicking in places we may not have expected.

Thursday night’s 4-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets wasn’t perfect by any means, though what transpired for the better part of the contest was the Blackhawks simply flattening an outmatched team and ruining the return of Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien.

Ray Emery wasn’t fantastic, and he looked, well, like a guy who is just getting over the flu at times. Both first-period goals were re-directed by Jim Slater, and they likely would’ve gotten past most goaltenders. The third? Well, that’s where he slipped up a bit, but as I’ve stated before, there’s a reason a backup is a backup.

The one time he came out of the net and tried to pass the puck up ice to get he play started, he gave Byfuglien a gift which he nearly buried. This prompted my fellow season-ticket holder Neil to say of Emery, “He was just tryin’ to help a brotha out.” Wait, help a brotha … Ohhhh, I get it. They’re both African-Americans. I understand now. I’ll laugh.

Jonathan Toews committed a hometown turnover which led the first goal, and the amount of in-zone turnovers where beyond counting, though Winnipeg luckily had its share of those issues as well.

I’ll get more into what I felt was impressive in Boxing, but I have to say I came away very happy with the play of Dan Carcillo. CarBomb was all over the ice tonight, and in no way did I feel he was out of control. He made solid passes which nearly led to goals, and I think his all-out play and style fit well with the finesse of Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa on that line.

Carcillo’s assist game came on a play where he won the puck off the board and fed it to Hossa, who bulldozed through a check to find an open Kaner, who fired it in on a one-timer. If that line continues scoring goals in that style, Carcillo is going to end up being a great pick up and a great match with those two.

Onto Boxing we go. Click the separate images to enlarge…

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Emery in Net, Ladd and Byfuglien Return as Blackhawks host Jets

 

Photo: The Canadian Press/John Woods

When the backup goaltender debate was raging, the issue I raised (that everyone, and I mean *everyone* called me nuts for raising) was the prospect of injuries. What do you do if one of our top-two goaltenders gets hurt?

While it’s not looking like Corey Crawford isn’t healthy enough to go and more simply getting a night off, Ray Emery will start in net for the Blackhawks after battling the flu much of this week.

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Behind Enemy Lines: Previewing the Jets with the Winnipeg Free Press’ Ed Tait

No banners up at the MTS Center yet, dude. (Getty Images)

Remember these guys? Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien make their return to the United Center since being dealt in salary dumps following the 2009-10 Stanley Cup run. After one middling season in Atlanta, the two are a part of the NHL’s long overdue return to Winnipeg, with Ladd donning the ‘C’ and Byfuglien carrying some new paper.

Here to help me preview the Jets is Winnipeg Free Press beat writer Ed Tait, who discusses the atmosphere in Winnipeg, the Jets still being the Atlanta Thrashers, and the two former Blackhawks. Enjoy!

Bartl: First thing, can you talk about the atmosphere in Winnipeg for the season opener and how the fans and players alike are embracing having hockey back in the city?

Tait: The season opener was like no other sporting event I’ve covered. There was a variety of different emotions shown by fans and players, from pure euphoria to sadness during the pre-game memorial to Rick Rypien. I saw grown men crying tears of joy, the Canadian national anthem has arguably never been sung louder in these parts and the MTS Centre concourse was jammed with people three hours before the opening face-off. The whole event had the feel of opening night and Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final morphed into one. The cool thing for fans now is this: after this road trip to Chicago and Phoenix the next home game is against Pittsburgh and everyone has their fingers crossed Sidney Crosby is back on the ice.

Bartl: Eventually, the excitement of having hockey back will turn to wanting competitive hockey. Do the fans realize they’re still cheering for the Atlanta Thrashers, who have yet to win a playoff game? Will the fans be a bit lenient with them this season?

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Blackhawks on the Mend: Salak Recalled, Saad to OHL, etc.

Hopefully all of this injury shit is confined to the start of the season, when the ‘Hawks had five days to heel up and get back in gear.

♦   Corey Crawford practiced today with a sore groin, and he’s not certain if he can go against Winnipeg tomorrow night. Crawford downplayed it and said he’ll decide at the morning skate how healthy he is, but there’s no reason to rush back for the third game of the season. In fact, it wouldn’t have been a bad idea to sit Crawford either Thursday or Saturday against Boston anyway even if he was healthy.

The humorous part, though, is that Ray Emery also missed Wednesday’s practice with the flu. To counter that, the Blackhawks recalled Alexander Salak to either start or be the backup against the Jets. With all the hullabaloo over the backup goaltender, we all may get a chance to see what Salak is all about. Then if he posts a shutout, we can read 19 more blogs about whether or not Salak will replace Emery even after Emery is done vomiting. Yippy.

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