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.
I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t have a feeling this was coming, with the Blackhawks playing their third game in four nights and all. I just didn’t think they’d get smoked for roughly 45-50 minutes.
A loss to Vancouver is never exciting and always annoying, but the Blackhawks’ 3-1 defeat in America Jr. marked only their sixth of the season in actual hockey. Out of 45 games. That’s, like, good and stuff.
A couple things before Boxing …
♦ The first person to ever use the phrase, “He’s a giant rectal wart who washes his vagina with a Brillo Pad while listening to Bette Midler’s Greatest Hits and eating a dog’s asshole,” when referring to a human in a derogatory manner must’ve been thinking of Ryan Kesler. Oh, wait, I’m the first person to ever use that particular phrase? OK. Yeah, I was thinking of Ryan Kesler.
♦ Dave Bolland left with a groin injury, per Q. I’m completely over this guy. He can’t stay on the ice because he’s constantly injured, and when he is on the ice he’s awful. I give up.
♦ Ryan Kesler snacks on used diapers. Regularly.
♦ If not for Corey Crawford, the Blackhawks would have been down 8-0 at the end of the first period. He played a fantastic game and bailed the ‘Hawks out with a stellar save on numerous occasions. The Blackhawks played horribly in front of him. He’s the only reason the Blackhawks had any semblance of a chance before Daniel Sedin - brotherfucker – put a great move on Crawford on the breakaway at the end of the second period.
♦ Gorilla Salad scored the Blackhawks’ lone goal. Ouch. Cory Schneider snuffed out some great chances from the ‘Hawks in the third, but he was nice and rested for most of the first two periods as the Blackhawks mustered just four scoring chances through 40.
♦ Q said Michal Handzus being scratched was a “coach’s decision.” My guess is because the Canucks can keep up with the Blackhawks speed-wise and Handzus can’t beat a snail in a 40-yard dash.
All right, I’m done. Here’s Boxing. Right-click the image, then click ‘view’ to enlarge….
Here Come The Nucks..
While they may have gone off the ‘Hawks radar a little this season, there’s no doubt that we’ll all be reminded of just how much we dislike this team tonight, especially as Vancouver will come out all guns blazing to try to thwart Chicago in their pursuit of the Greatest Prize in Sports, the Presidents’ Trophy.
Tonight’s game is in the Rogers so that means
1) A Three-In-The-Fucking-Morning puck-drop for me. Thanks a bunch, Western Time Zone.
2) Lots of towel waving from Vancouver fans.. and on that subject, let’s take a look at our “Friends” in British Columbia in a little more detail.
Canucks fans come in all shapes and sizes.. some are wonderful people, others, less so. Here’s some of the more frequently-encountered types.
Distinguishing Features: Firmly believes that the Canucks have never, ever lost due to being “Not As Good At Hockey” as the Other team. Instead it’s the fault of, in no particular order, the NHL, the Refs swallowing their whistles, the Media, the Refs calling too many penalties, a Top-Secret Cabal made up of Americans and jealous Canadians that is determined to manipulate the entire NHL to ensure that the Canucks never, ever win the Stanley Cup and, possibly, Space Aliens.
Redeeming Features: The lengths that they will go to back up their pet conspiracy theories is highly entertaining, in a car-crash sort of way (like watching Buffalo).
Secret Hope: That one day, while presenting the Cup to yet another undeserving team that only won lots of Games in the Playoffs, Gary Bettman’s mask slips off to reveal that he is, in fact, an alien from the Planet Zanussi, sent here to destroy the minds of Mankind. (Actually, they may be on to something here..)
Secret Fear: That they’re likely to end up as a footnote in some Med-Student’s dissertation on the Long-Term-Effects of Cannabis.
So, Phoenix. Hum.
For a brief period last year they replaced Vancouver, Detroit and even St Louis. as the Hawks’ “Public Enemy #1″. Whether it was Mike Smith’s overreacting to being hit behind the net by Andrew Shaw , Shane Doan showing why he’s the Greatest Captain in the History of Ever by elbowing everything that turned its back on him, or their annoying fans, with their bogus traditions and temper tantrums whenever they were gently ribbed about the team being relocated (ok, maybe showing up at the game in a Nordiques sweater and singing “Do You Know The Way To The Colisee” might have been undiplomatic), they generally failed to win many friends with the Hawks. Oh.. wait, there was another incident wasn’t there? It’ll come to me..
Now, Aucoin, Whitney and Torres are all gone. Smith has shown some sparks of his old Diva ways but has also been decidedly pre-2012-Mike-Smith. Which is to say “Bad”. Shane Doan is still a douche but also hurt. It’s kind of hard to generate any heat, here.
The Yotes are on the brink of elimination from the Playoff race and the Hawks can help to ease them over the precipice tonight, in what could well be the final-ever meeting of these two teams.
Final meeting? Yes.
Because there’s always that elephant in the room when talking about Phoenix. Or a logo that kind of looks like an elephant, anyway.
Editor’s Note: This column appears in tonight’s edition of The Committed Indian. Help Sam Fels feed his drinking habit by purchasing one outside of the United Center for $3, or sign up for a digital copy on the website. Don’t be cheap.
Second Note: This was originally written for Friday’s Indian, but Sam had to push it back to tonight’s issue. So, this obviously doesn’t include the Blackhawks going 2 for 3 on the power play against Nashville. Stats in the column are as of Thursday afternoon.
There aren’t many secrets here. It’s not like Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff are holding on to some sort of magical strategy while purposely sending the players out on the ice at a disadvantage, only to later surprise everyone with a full-proof plan that results in unlimited goals with the man advantage.
The Blackhawks’ power play sucks, and there’s no amount of high-sucrose recipes in this world that can sugarcoat it enough. They’ve gone 0 for 19 over their last nine games and haven’t potted a power-play goal since Patrick Kane’s tally in the third period of a 2-1 loss to Anaheim on March 29.
At the time of writing this Thursday afternoon, the ‘Hawks are tied with the New York Rangers for 20th in the league converting just 15.4 percent of their power-play chances. Take out the Blackhawks scoring six power-play goals through the first four games, and the percentage drops to 12.9 since Jan. 26.
And we’ve seen everything, too. The constant inability to enter the offensive zone while the other team has one fewer guy can make anyone’s urge to kill rise dramatically. Once in the zone? Who knows. Gaining possession after a dump-in hasn’t exactly been something of a regular occurrence. And if that does happen, you can usually count on a lack of movement as the Blackhawks wait for that back-door pass through the crease to open up. The problem is that it rarely ever does, yet that doesn’t stop them from attempting to pass through opponents’ sticks that unfortunately aren’t invisible.
This isn’t exactly new. We watched the Blackhawks do much of the same last season when they finished 26th in the league with a similar 15.2 percent conversion rate.
Yes, there’s been plenty that’s frustrating about watching the ‘Hawks blow chance after chance with the man advantage, and the popular notion is that this ineptitude while cause more harm to the Blackhawks when they get into the playoffs against better competition and need to convert on these prime opportunities. However, based on the power-play statistics of some recent Stanley Cup winners, that may not exactly be the case.
As the Regular Season enters its final 10 days, there are some teams sitting home, hosed and focusing on Seedings for the Playoffs. There are also those who are All-But-A-Meltdown away from clinching their berth in the Post-Season. Some are out and awaiting the embalmer already. For them, the fight is over. However, the West being the West, we’re left with a number of teams currently in and and around the final Playoff positions, teams who’s fans are nervously eyeing the standings and schedule, feverishly calculating “Magic Numbers” and “Four-Point Games” while keeping tabs on ROW and GD tie-breakers.
BOY does it feel good to not be among those those teams!
The Hawks position ,having clinched about five minutes after the Lockout ended, allows us to cast a jaded eye over the unfortunates currently engaged in the re-enactment of the Battle of the Marne that’s happening further down the table. I suppose I should sympathise, as there, but for the Grace of Hoss, go the Hawks (as I’m sure we all remember from the last couple of seasons). But, on the other hand, I could make a bunch of jokes and take some cheap shots at the contenders… Choices, choices..
So without further ado. here’s your handy Cheer The Anthem Guide To The Bubble. Teams are listed with current Pos/GP/P
Well, I took a pre-game nap that overran slightly so watched a lot of this match-up from a slightly dazed viewpoint. Whether that enhanced my Critical Faculties (yeah, right) or impeded them, I know not.
What I saw was a Hawks team that is playing it smart: content to mooch along doing what they do until it’s neccessary to suddenly up the intensity and blow the opposition out of the water. Which worked out quite nicely.
This was an effective performance by the Hawks and stretches their current streak to 6 games. Dallas and Phoenix losing, combined with the Beej becoming the 2nd hottest team in the West (4 game win streak) has caused another round of musical chairs around the lower seedings. Be thankful, very thankful that the Hawks are miles above that particular shitfight. It’s going to be very, very ugly.
Anyway, to bullets before I head off to work
Yes, that’s a Stan Freberg quote in the title. Who’s Stan Freberg you ask? He’s a genius that’s who he is.
Anyway.. tonight the Stars enter the UC tied with the Hawks for “Hottest Team In The West”, their run of 5 straight wins suddenly catapaulting them into the conversation for the last Playoff places.
This is especially notable because Dallas appeared to be blowing off this year by trading away the majority of their geriatrics at the Deadline: Jaromir Jagr was sent to Boston for prospects and a pick, Brenden Morrow went to Pittsburgh (for Joe Morrow giving headline writers many cheap “Two-Morrow” based puns to work with), Michael Ryder is now raising both the average age and height of the Habs forward corps and the stripling of the group, Derek Roy, got shipped to Vancouver for Kevin Connaughton and pick.
They were the biggest sellers at the Deadline and appeared to be looking at a rebuild (and also trying to offload all those cases of Geritol on the Black Market) And then they went on a tear. Suddenly the likes of the Wild, Wings and Yotes are glancing nervously at this Dallas streak before letting their gaze wander to their golf clubs.
So what to expect tonight? Who knows. Last time out, the Hawks hung 4 on Lehtonen and then did exactly the same to the Running Man Writer. Lehtonen has had a tendency to turn into a brick wall against the Hawks in years gone by, which suggests he’s due one. However, as of this writing, word is that Bachman gets the start.
As for the Men Of Four Feathers, no word yet on whether it’ll be Crow or Razor in net (although I have a feeling that, coming off a shutout against the Blues, it’ll be Crawford) and Patrick Sharp is listed as “Doubtful” which is just fine by me. He has more important battles than this to come.
A Hawks win tonight moves the “Magic Number” to clinch the Western Conference to 1. While it would be lovely to get it all wrapped up nearly two weeks early so that they can wrap Kane, Toews and Hossa in bubblewrap for the few remaining games. it’s also not worth getting hurt over.
Staying healthy is the watchword from here on in.
Let’s Go Hawks.
Winning the last-ever Central Division title has a nice feel to it, especially when the Blackhawks were able to clinch it by coming back Friday against a Detroit team we all love to loathe. And when dessert is a sweet victory over the talentless apes wearing Blues sweaters, well, that makes for a nice weekend in my book.
But after Corey Crawford turned away 30 shots in Sunday’s 2-0 victory in St. Louis, it got me to thinking a little bit about where the rivalries with these teams will stand once Detroit heads East as realignment takes effect next season.
While the Red Wings have always been hated, there’s still a level of respect that goes into watching guys like Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk - and going further back to the likes of Nicklas Lidstrom, Dominik Hasek and Steve Yzerman – grace the ice with their play. It just so happened they wore a different sweater.
Granted, those sweaters are evil and ugly and make you want to vomit up the three squares of your day, but any one of us ‘Hawks fans would have liked to have any of them wearing the Indian head. Hell, Hasek may have played most of his career in Chicago had it not been for Ed Belfour.
The Blues? Other than Vladimir Tarasenko, there’s not one breathing pile of diarrhea on skates I would take from that team. Even if any of them wanted to play in Chicago for free, I would have them deported back to that hellhole of a city that shouldn’t be allowed to call itself part of America.
The Hawks head to the Land Of Toasted Ravioli for the penultimate time this season and, let’s face it, on the final day they’re likely to ice a team that consists of Tommy Hawk, an Inanimate Carbon Rod (no Q, Stan didn’t re-sign John Scott) and Nakis; if he shows up at the game with his skates.
Rather than bang on about what an absolute Monsoon of Asshats the Blues are, I’d like, instead, to highlight something warm and fluffy about them.
As reported on Puck Daddy the Blues’ David Backes and Barret Jackman recently took time out from, respectively, making “Tiger Face” in front of a picture of Jonathan Toews and collecting roadkill to make a delicious stew, to appear at a Charity Event, Adopt-A-Pet’s “The Great American Pooch Smooch & Kitty Kiss”., which is used to encourage people to overcome the various stigmas associated with rescue animals.
All very worthy, and well done them etc. Seriously. Rescue Animals are awesome.
However, the photos from this event are.. well.. they’re Comedy GOLD. Manna from Heaven to snarky assholes like me.
So, without further ado, I’d like to invite a bit of Audience Participation (God Help Us All)
This picture of Barret Jackman getting to 1st Base with a dog led to me suffering a bout of “Too.. Many.. Jokes” syndrome, leaving me temporarily incapable of coming up with les mots juste for the image.
However, I’m sure some of you Evil Swine can come up with something to caption this picture. How does Sparky feel? Is Jackman aroused? Did mentioning “Jackman” and “Aroused” in the same sentence put you off your breakfast?
Here’s a couple of examples, I’m sure you can do much better..
Feel free to post your Captions in the comments, on Facebook and either @cheertheanthem or @brightblack76 on Twitter. I’ll photoshop up the best ones and display them here..
Have at it!
And if you’re in need of a pet, try your local shelter. There’s nothing wrong with the animals they put up for re-homing, it’s frequently just their previous owners who should be euthanized.
Let’s Go Hawks!