Not Crude Anymore: Oilers Visit Chicago

Photo: Larry MacDougal/Canadian Press

There are only two names you need to know to understand the meteoric performance of the Edmonton Oilers this young season. Both of these names have taken the team, and the league, by near-complete surprise; and in one case, has most people scratching their heads.

The names are: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Nikolai Khabibulin. The 18-year-old rookie and the inconsistent netminder 20 years his senior have been the catalysts for Edmonton rising near the top of the Western Conference standings.

The Edmonton Oilers’ patience has paid off. They come into the United Center tonight sitting atop the Northwest Division, and eager for some payback against a Chicago team that has manhandled them over the past several years.

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Demon Cleaner : Hawks #1 in Western Conference

( Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images)

Now THAT was a convincing victory. Despite a shaky start to the game, the Blackhawks came to play last night and easily took care of the Flames. The Blackhawks got outstanding performances from Marian Hossa (shocking), Duncan Keith and Ray Emery. The result was a 4-1 victory and a spot all alone in 1st place in the Western Conference. Duncan Keith appeared in his 500th NHL game and opened the scoring in the first after a rebound that hoped over Daniel Carcillo’s stick found its way to Keith who buried it home. The goal may not have happened had Miikka Kiprusoff decided to get up and get back into position after going down to make the first save, but that’s his decision. The Hawks went up 2-0 after a Brent Seabrook drive found its way through Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews traffic out front of Kipper on the power play. The Hawks PP was 1/4 on the night (cause for celebration). The game got interesting for a few minutes halfway through the 3rd after Olli Jokinen ripped a wrist shot over the blocker of Emery. Curtis Glencross provided a fantastic screen in front of Razor, who had no chance to stop the shot. The Hawks put it away after Boss Hoss set up Viktor Stalberg with a pass you’d have to see to believe. It was nice to see Stalberg finish on that one after missing on a couple of chances earlier in the game. He probably could have had 3 or 4 goals had things gone his way. The Blackhawks finished things off after Kane potted an empty netter. Overall, a good effort by the Hawks on home-ice. Their record at the UC improved to 6-1-2 and they have a chance to make it 7-1-2 tomorrow against an Edmonton team who seems to be coming back to earth after a very impressive start to the season.

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Firestarter : Blackhawks v. Flames

The Flames actually wore this abomination on their uniforms once.

Remember a few years ago when the Calgary looked like they were going to become a big rival of the Blackhawks? The Hawks faced the Mike Kennan-led Flames in their first playoff series since 2002 in the opening round of the 2008-2009 postseason. The series (which the Hawks won 4-2) started with Marty Havlat scoring just 12 seconds into overtime in Game 1 and ended with the Hawks knocking out the Flames 4-1 in Calgary in Game 6.  The Hawks went on to lose in the Western Conference final that year to Detoilet but won the Stanley Cup the following season.  They have appeared in 7 playoff series since defeating the Flames. Calgary has not been to the postseason since – their last postseason goal was scored by criminal Todd Bertuzzi. Sucks to be them.

Yup, it’s been all downhill for the Flames since that point and things aren’t getting any better. Jarome Iginla continues to be one of the best hockey players of all-time, yet is still inexplicably surrounded by dogshit. One of the great mysteries of all time will be why the Flames never got this man a true center to play with.  The Flames are 6-7-1 coming into the game tonight and are coming off a 3-0 loss to a surprisingly good Minnesota Wild team. Nothing about this Flames team is special (except Iginla), their PK is right in the middle of the pack and their PP only converts on 15% of its chances (a number the Hawks pathetically envy). The Flames hold the distinction of having the worst FO% in the league (46%) and won just 35% of their draws against the Wild on Tuesday night. One bright spot for Calgary tonight will be their 2007 1st round pick Mikael Backlund appearing in his 1st game of the season after missing time with a broken pinky finger. Apparently, Backlund will center a line with  Iginla on it – lucky him!

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The Blue Jackets are Who We Thought They Were: Boxing with ‘Hawks and BJs

"See that chick in the 8th row?" ... "Dude, after the game. I have ass to kick still." (John Grieshop, Getty Images)

Couldn’t say it much better than Dennis Green during his famous rant.

The BJs showed us and the Blackhawks exactly what we expected: That they’re a dog shit team which the ‘Hawks needed to steamroll after some sub par performances recently.

The Blackhawks dominated every aspect of their 6-3 thumping of Columbus on Thursday night, and they’ll head into back-to-back home games this weekend on a positive note.

Just a couple things before Boxing …

♦   Q said he hoped the ‘Hawks came out “angry” tonight after the past couple of farts they left on the ice. Whether it was anger or the overall stench of the Blue Jackets that had the ‘Hawks rolling, I don’t care. Take the easy two points and see if you can institute all the good done over the weekend at home.

♦   The Blackhawks have given up 13 goals over their last three games. Eight of them have come while they were shorthanded. The penalty kill now sits at 76.5 percent – bad enough for 23rd in the league. That’s not exactly neat.

♦   Hopefully John Scott missed the team flight and is getting in some sort of trouble in Columbus so he’s placed in jail and we don’t have to worry about him dressing this weekend.

♦   Of the Blackhawks’ 50 goals this season, only two have come from defensemen (Steve Montador’s goal Thursday doesn’t count since he was playing forward at the time) and both have come from Nick Leddy. I’m surprised by this, though that may mean the ‘Hawks aren’t taking their shots from the point to get the puck on net to create some more chances and “garbage” goals. If they were doing that, you’d think a few more would have gotten through by now. I mean, we’re 16 games into the season …

Enjoy Boxing …

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Blackhawks Visit Columbus: Who Will Suck Less?

Photo: John Grieshop/Getty Images

It was less than one week ago that I was typing, “The Blackhawks are in first place in the Western Conference…” A lot can change in a week, huh? Not that we’ve dropped too far in the standings, but if we keep playing like we have been we’ll find ourselves battling the Columbus Blue Jackets for the coveted spot in the Western Conference basement. And wow, is Columbus ever in the basement.

This is the second meeting between these two teams, and I wrote in the first game preview that Columbus had a 1-8-1 record. Well, not a lot has changed: they have added 1 win and 3 losses. They are the proud owners of 5 (that’s “five”) points. As a matter of rub-it-in trivia, even if they had twice as many points, they would still be in last place in the West.

If you were wondering why there are so many teams bunched up so closely at the top of the Western Conference standings, it’s because every other team has been beating on Columbus like a red-headed step-pinata.

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The Rose Goes In The Front, Big Guy…

For those of you who missed the timeless sports-classic film “Bull Durham,” go back to FourSquare, this article isn’t for you. But for those who didn’t, it’s my contention that we have our own Ebbie Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh right here in the Chicago Blackhawks dressing room.

His name is Nick Leddy. And instead of throwing bean-balls at the mascot, he is throwing close games right in the dumpster. His flubs against Tampa Bay led directly to the Bolts’ third goal, and the game-winner in OT.

“You lolligag around the infield…”

Actually, lolligagging is a word that really can’t be used to describe Leddy’s game. In fact, quite the opposite. He’s very quick, which leads him to believe that he can tear around any area of the ice with impunity. When he goes on these little escapades, he leaves his position to be covered by a winger — who is then a target to be exploited by the other team, since that winger is not trained to play that position. Leddy creates a defensive weakness with his end-to-end rushes. That’s unnecessary, and it’s only a matter of time before other teams exploit that weakness when it arises.

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It’ll Get Fixed … Right?

(Credit: Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE)

Sorry, no Boxing tonight. I went out, I’m tired and it takes a long time. It’ll be back Thursday, I promise …

Trying to sugarcoat the past few games is a waste of time, we know that. But I’m going to take a quick step back.

The Blackhawks went down to Florida and got three points on a brief trip in which they very easily could have come out with zero. Then they came home and shit the bed against Vancouver. It pissed us off, royally.

So Q decided he was going to change things up. It resulted in a 3-0 loss in St. Louis, and now we’re about to hang up our proverbial skates with 67 games to play, which is more ridiculous than any line combination Q could ever dream up.

I’ll quickly concede the fact Q shuffles his lines irregularly, at times when it seems unnecessary. This does not qualify as one of those times.

There’s plenty of discussion pointing to the fact that it’s only November, and Q should not be panicking by shifting players around in “unfamiliar” positions with “unfamiliar” players. That right there is the exact point – it’s only November. If there’s a time to make some changes to feel things out after a dog shit stretch, it’s right now. And that’s especially true heading into a road game against team in turmoil playing its first game with a brand new coach.

If Q was pulling the slot machine with his players hoping to pull gold from his ass against a seasoned conference opponent, I could understand a bit of flack heading his way. Despite a stretch in which the ‘Hawks played like shit, I could at least understand the concern.

But to present a quick newsflash to everyone, there’s going to be another dog shit stretch this season – maybe two, or three, or … well, you get the point. Go ahead and change your diapers upon hearing that, but it’ll happen. The best of teams lose games, and most often in succession. During an 82-game season, slumps are going to happen.

With that said, sometimes change breaks a slump. Moreover, especially with a changed roster like the Blackhawks’, teams don’t walk into camp simply tossing combinations together while saying, “Yep, this is going to be it for the next 82 games. Fuck everyone.” Things changed in camp, things change during the season.

Every coach in this league changes line combinations. Most recently, the New York Islanders snapped a six-game losing streak by completely changing personnel and beat Washington 5-3. Jack Capuano felt the need to do what he could in order to spark his squad. It worked, and that’s awesome.

Sometimes, things don’t work. Tuesday’s loss was an example of that. However, that doesn’t mean Q needs to be chastised for it. The ‘Hawks played three consecutive games in which their game wasn’t up to expectations. For Q to toss something together in hopes of surprising an already stunned Blues team learning Ken Hitchcock’s system in two days is not earth-shattering. It’s closer to normal than if he sat on his hands.

I won’t defend certain things. John Scott being in the lineup is never a good idea, and that’s not something I’ll ever be on Q’s side about. The power play? Absolutely pathetic, and someone needs to be held responsible for these disgusting displays, because it’s now a chronic problem which needs to be fixed for the Blackhawks to be the elite team they hope to be this season.

But to get upset at Q for making some line changes to test things out heading into the 15th game of the season against a team with its collective head spinning in circles due to more drastic change than a line combination is panic in itself. Say Q is panicking all you want, but you’re then in turn exceeding his “panic” by miles.

There’s a time and a place for everything, and early November seems to be that time when Q should be allowed to test his squad with some different looks. It’s normal, every coach does it. There’s no bubble around Chicago under which things work drastically different than any other NHL city.

OK, the changes for Tuesday didn’t work out. The ‘Hawks are now 8-4-3 and lead the Central Division. Relax, please. I have some confidence Q isn’t going to troll out the same lines Thursday…. right?

And if he does? Well, it’s only November.

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Moving On: Blackhawks Try To Shake The Blues In St. Louis

Photo: Anne-Marie Sorvin, US Presswire

Enough about the Vancouver game, I’m trying to block it from my memory. The Blackhawks had better do the same, because like most years of late, they will have their hands full with their division-rival opponent at the other end if I-55, just for a different reason this time.

St. Louis’ 6-7-0 record does not speak to their current situation. They are a team in a state of upheaval, and it’s every man for himself when the puck drops tonight.

This is going to be a fast, brutal game. The Blackhawks will have to keep their heads to stay in it.

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From the Ritz to the Rubble : Vancouver fallout and more

( Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

So, there isn’t any reason to rehash the shitshow from last night. Bartl already tried to drive most of you to suicide and I’m sure many of you have spent your day much as I have mine – trying to figure out exactly what the hell happened last night.

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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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