Welcome to playoff hockey, everyone. The Blackhawks and Wild proved no matter who is in the lineup or where the game is being played, once the puck drops on the Stanley Cup Playoffs it’s time to forget about the regular season and ignore the seeds. Teams are just flat out going to go after each other for 60 minutes and possibly more for however many games it takes until the superior team is left standing.
Luckily the Blackhawks came out on top when Bryan Bickell potted the winner in overtime to give them a 2-1 victory over Minnesota in Game 1 at the United Center. It sure as shit wasn’t easy, though.
First, news came that Nicklas Backstrom suffered an injury in warmups, forcing Josh Harding, who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in the offseason and played in only five games, to start in goal for the Wild.
All Harding did was go out and stop 35 shots in a truly inspiring performance while nearly winning Game 1 all by himself. And while it’s difficult to cheer against a guy like that, Bickell’s winner brought a sigh of relief as the ‘Hawks avoid a major letdown.
A few thoughts before Boxing…
♦ The ‘Hawks winning this game saved Corey Crawford from getting a massive storm of shit after he allowed a weak goal to Cal Clutterbuck on Minnesota’s first shot of the series. Crawford, though, really played a fantastic game after that slip-up, finishing with 26 saves – none bigger than the blocker stop on Zach Parise in overtime that scared the flying shit out of everyone.
♦ Harding, again. Good for you.
♦ The pass Johnny Oduya made off the glass that sailed roughly 125 feet and dropped perfectly in front of Viktor Stalberg was disgusting. You could see him deliberately lining it up like a billiards player setting up the winning bank shot with the final ball falling beautifully in the corner pocket across the table. Stalberg’s pass and Bickell’s awesome move finished it off.
♦ Eddie Olczyk praised Viktor Stalberg. On the air. To the public. In other news, the devil is playing pond hockey in hell after a sudden temperature drop.
♦ The ‘Hawks did take a few dipshit penalties tonight, including one by Oduya in OT. However, Marian Hossa’s goal came on the power play, making the Blackhawks 1 for 11 over their last five games.
♦ The ‘Hawks lead a playoff series for the first time since the 2010 Stanley Cup Final.
Boxing. Right-click the image, the click ‘view’ to enlarge…
It’s playoff time, finally, and we here at Cheer the Anthem couldn’t be more excited. Before the Blackhawks thump the Wild’s skulls for ‘em, Bartl, Nakis, Brown and Mighty Mike have decided to answer a few of our own questions heading into Game 1 tonight.
I wish I could say we gathered around and did this over beers at a local bar, but Mike played the whole “I live in London and can’t make it” excuse that’s getting really old. Damn foreigners.
Kidding aside, here’s what your resident idiots had to say about the upcoming series against Minnesota:
It’s always fun when preparing for a Playoff matchup, to get the thoughts and opinions of the other side. And then to completely ignore them anyway and go on with our own fevered imaginings of glory.
To this end I asked a few questions of Ger Devine, one of the writers at Minnesota Wild blog Gone Puck Wild . I should add that (for the observant among you) this gentleman is also my wee brother. Yes, there’s a family-feud a-brewing in Clan Devine. Anyway, Ger seems to be taking his meds these days and strung together a great article on the Hawks the other day. To the questions:
Finally, the playoffs are here. Bartl and Nakis preview the first round series with the Minnesota Wild, though we won’t be able to make any jokes about Dany Heatley’s drunken driving escapades as he’s out for the season. We’ve got the Blackhawks in 6. You’ll have to listen to find out our other warped thoughts.
Or visit this link if the embedded one doesn’t appear for you.
Well done, Blues, well done. You saw the cream of the Just-Outside-The-AHL-Playoffs tonight, but you didn’t flinch and ground out a gritty victory. I hope you enjoyed it. Hard Times are a-coming.
In other news, The Wild will be the Hawks first-round opponents.. but more o’ that later. Hope those who went to Gonna Drinken 2 aren’t suffering too badly this morning and we’ll be back with much, much more before the Real Fun begins.
(The quote above comes from the TV show Brass Eye. If you don’t know what that is, fix it. )
Anyway, the Hawks round off their Regular season with the always delightful trip to Missourah. As of this writing (wee hours of the morning for you nice folk in the US) we’re anticipating a team full of Black Aces to give the top guys a breather and keep important craniums away from wandering elbows, sticks, pads and knees.
Could make for a torrid introduction to the NHL for some of these lads.. the Blues will likely Hulk Out because
a) They always do. They know of no other way. This is what happens when you ice a team that has the collective restraint, sense of fair play and intelligence of a rabid Hyena that’s has been licking the lead paint off a wheelbarrow full of pig shit.
b) The Blues actually do have something to play for: they currently squat in 4th, but could end up, depending on tonight’s game with the Hawks and the Battle Of California in LA, as low as 6th. Which, obviously, runs the gamut from “Home Ice against San Jose” to “Heading out West to play the Kings”. Or, of course, the one we’re all hoping for: Vancouver.
The sheer Shitbaggery that would surely dominate that series would provide us with many, many chuckles along the way. While, sadly, they can’t both lose, I’m sure that a nightmarish 7-gamer with lots of 4OT would leave the winner looking like those skidmarks that Roman Polak just can’t eliminate from his undies, however hard he wipes (tip for Roman: try using TP rather than a dead rat)
So how does this hilarious situation come about?
A Hawks win coupled with San Jose beating LA in either OT or SO drops the Blue Notes to 6th. It’s a bit of a long shot, I know. I’m not expecting much from the Hawks players, except trying to fend off whichever Blue is gnawing on their coccyx all night. Staying healthy is more important than fucking up the Blues post-season. They’ll have plenty of opportunity to do that themselves.
I’ll be back with a recap after the dust settles.. just hope there’s nothing to make me angrier than I normally am after having to watch Backes, Reaves, Jackman, Polak et al trying to set the Cause of Quality Hockey back a couple of generations.
Also make sure to keep an eye on events in Dallas, Denver and Columbus. The Wild pissed on their chips last night to the tune of a 6-1 shellacking at home by the Oilers, therefore setting up a day of hellish twists and turns in the race for 7/8th seed. Enjoy their pain.
Let’s Go, Hawks
Tonight the Blackhawks arrived at the United Center and competed in a contest they couldn’t have possibily cared less about. Despite the games meaninglessness, they managed to walk away with a 3-1 victory. They finished 18-3-3 at home. They are 18-3-2 on the road. They will have home ice throughout the playoffs. What am I getting at here? YOU SHOULD ENJOY IT. Really, think about it – the Toews/Kane era may be as good as it ever gets. After the sour note we ended last season on, it was goddamn satisfying watching them put everything together to dominate the Western Conference this year. This was the type of season we envisioned this team having once it became clear THE CORE was truly something special. Are they head and shoulders above the rest of the NHL? Absolutely not… but I can’t help but feel that optimism should carry the day here.
Things that happened during this mandatory attendance game:
Tonight, for the final Home game of the 2012-13 Regular Season, the Blackhawks host the Calgary Fla.. oh, fuck it.
The Flames are dead and buried, the Hawks are home and hosed, there is nothing to care about and we don’t even get to gaze adoringly at Iggy and heave deep, heartfelt, sighs. Ryan Stanton is up , the rest of the Black Aces will get the call tomorrow. And St Louis, of course. There’s always them.
So, rather than make (redundant) jokes about Jay Feaster, I thought I’d take a quick look at the final days of the Season for the three teams fighting it out for the last two Playoff places in the West. Or, as I call it
There are many, many different permutations and combinations that could see some of these teams either finish as high as 6th or hit the golf course early. It’s exactly the sort of Bowel-Loosening situation that I, for one, am glad the Hawks avoided entirely this year. I still flinch when I think back to two years ago. I won’t try to elucidate every potential outcome, just a few of the more intriguing possibilities. One of these bunches of schmucks are going to be the Hawks’ first-round opponent, after all.
While we’re all waiting for the playoffs, I guess we can handle putting another trophy in the case with a dominating victory against an overmatched team.
The Blackhawks took it to the Oil all night, clinching their first Presidents’ Trophy since 1990-91 – when they went on to lose to the fourth-place Minnesota North Stars in the Norris Division playoffs. Let’s hope this season ends up a little better, eh?
Due to the late start I’m pretty wiped out, so I’ll just make a couple of points before Boxing…
♦ Ray Emery going off the ice after re-aggravating his lower-body injury got me to thinking. “Well, it’s coming down to the end of the season so of course a guy who is pretty injury prone will start to suffer from his bangs and bruises. He’ll sit for the last couple games and be OK if Q needs him in the playoffs.”
Then I thought again. “But wait, this is only a 48-game season. And he’s hurting and can’t get through a game. And he’s probably coming back next year because he had such a stellar basically half-season. And he’s starting to break down at the most important time. I’m not happy about this, seeing as the the solid goaltending between him and Corey Crawford has been such an important part of the Blackhawks’ success. What if we don’t have both of them for the playoffs?”
However, that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily worried about Emery. Crawford’s disgusting save on Jordan Eberle shows what he’s capable of doing during a playoff run. I’ve always been on the side believing Crow should be the playoff starter, and Emery’s injury just may secure that anyway.
♦ Patrick Sharp, glad to have ya back, sir. And also, please don’t almost get hurt again and scare the fucking shit out of us. Thanks.
♦ Not a bad debut from Drew LeBlanc. Patrick Kane tried to get him a goal there in the third and he also had a couple nice passes that could’ve gone for goals.
♦ Speaking of Kane, hell of a job potting that breakaway after Michal Handzus sprung him for one of his three assists. Kane then had a beautiful cross-ice pass on Johnny Oduya’s goal later. He’s good.
All righty, that’s it. Here’s Boxing. Right-click the image, then click ‘view’ to enlarge…
One of the less-remarked upon aspects of the waning days of this oh-so-brief Regular Season is that, possibly as soon as later tonight, all of the Original 6 teams could well end up in the Playoffs.
“Pshaw” you say, “Surely that is a frequent occurrence? These Six Teams are from the strongest Hockey Markets, have Storied Histories and a slew of names on the Cup and in the HOF”
You couldn’t be more wrong. And stop talking like Noel Coward. Without looking it up, how often have the entire O6 gotten into the Playoffs together since the ’67 expansion? If you said “Three Times”, have a cigar, you Big Cheater. And the last time this happened? ’95-’96. Twelve Seasons ago (not including the Lost Season)
There are myriad reasons for this being the case. One of which is that several of these teams have gone though years and years of being Terrible. Another is that some of the Expansion teams hit the ground running and either tried to Enchant (’80s Oilers), Maim (’70s Flyers) or Ruin Hockey (’90s Devils) . Various Conference systems have militated against it too. All that could change tonight with a Detroit win against the Kings. The following is by no means an attempt to Jinx them in any way, shape or form. Honest.
The World was a very different place in 1996, and so was the Hockey World. In an attempt to help you to understand the yawning void between 1996 (the year I recorded my first record with my band yet still, somehow, failed to get any Action with the Ladies) and now, (where I write “Comedy” about Hockey and still, inexplicably.. oh.. FML..) I’m going to do some comparisons and contrasts about those years. Hang onto your Hypercolor shirts and Jesus Jones records.. we’re heading back to the ’90s.