Brandon Bollig is a great hockey man, said no one ever. Some would consider him a real key to a great team. If you do, your strategy may look a bit like this:
I should really be sitting here writing about the Hawks’ prospects in Game 7 against the Wild, trying to cheer you (and myself) up with the record at the United Center and assuring you that the next one will be different. Instead we’re eyeing up the Kings and Ducks and hoping for 5OTs before the Hawks head to California. Funny old game, Hockey, eh?
The last three games of this series have helped produce enough stomach acid to make Tums become a midday snack. The first 10 minutes provided some worry before it was Jonathan Toews to the rescue with a third-period goal that would stand up for a 2-1 victory in Game 5 as the ‘Hawks held serve at the United Center.
The penalty 31 seconds in, combined with the bad bounce that slipped past Corey Crawford and the pair of posts the Wild hit in the first period made for an uncomfortable beginning to a game the Blackhawks needed before heading back to Minnesota. They gradually began dominating the possession into the second period and final got the final nail on a play that Patrick Sharp made the smart move to fire the puck at the net for a waiting Toews.
I’m sure most of us predicted when the series began that we’d be seeing some handshakes tonight, but at least the ‘Hawks were able to rebound from a pair of stinkers up north to apply the right amount of gas to get them through an important game in the latter part of a series. They have a tendency to do such things.
I’ve very tired, so just a couple of things….
* Despite years of wondering what kind of lineup Q will ice from shift to shift, I still was bewildered at what I saw in Game 3 and 4 and the matter of putting Kris Versteeg on the top line to start Game 5. What’s even more mind boggling is that when Q puts together the combinations that seem to be the most logic, the ‘Hawks produce. Yet, Q continues to roll questionable lines when it seems completely unjustified.
For instance, is it any surprise the Blackhawks’ game picked up when he put Toews, Sharp and Marian Hossa together tonight? The Red Wedding line that produced so well during the regular season? Is it any wonder that when you put Bryan Bickell in the right spots with the right people that his game goes up a notch? Or when Peter Regin is dressed like everyone had been clamoring for and he puts in solid work on the bottom six despite not having played since April 12?
These are things I’ll never understand about Q and his propensity to change lineups for the sake of change and nothing else. Instead, we had to suffer through Game 3 and 4 and part of tonight wondering when the hell he’s going to stop trying to out-think himself.
* Crawford didn’t have his best in Game 4, but as has been the case for years, he puts his balls on the ice when the tough really gets going. He had a near-perfect performance in Game 5 and helped the ‘Hawks weather the storm when the Wild were pushing hard for the tie.
* Woof, did Duncan Keith have a couple of bad turnovers or what? At least twice I remember him hitting the meet of a Wild stick on a pass attempt he had no business making.
Good morning. I’m sure you want to read about that pile of crap as little as I want to write about it, but that’s what we’re all here for, so I’ll get to it.
This is going to be brief as we’ve all got better things to be doing.
Welcome to the FIRST EVER Cheer the Anthem Cartoon Recap, where we’ll delve into the slimy contours of last night’s “hockey” “game” between the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild.
I was really hoping to have an exciting victory to start this. But, as I’ve said many times:
The relationship between Q and Blackhawks media (bloggers, twitter, and beats alike) has turned into the Oracle of Delphi. I’ve given up trying to understand these things ahead of time; just take them as they come and hope for the best. Yesterday’s killed me, though: Leddy out; Beat Hero Zus still in; and welcome back, Bollig.
Have you looked at last night’s Fenwick chart? Do you remember who was in net for the Wild? I know the CNBC crew fully committed to making sure Bryzgalov’s confidence stayed topped up throughout the game, but he was not doing anything crazy good. The Hawks were just toothless.
And then Bollig got his moment.
This is why he’s the Whack-a-Can constant, people. I know, I know, his passing lane to Kane was shut down but god dammit Bollig! How do you have a 2 on 1 and not put the shot on net.
Recapping the first 40 minutes of this game seems like a great way to get you to click on the ads (do we have ads?). The last 20 minutes were where all the action took place and none of it was beneficial to the Chicago Blackhawks. I wrote down some bullets before I slept on this last night and after reading them this morning I don’t feel too different. Let’s get to them.
When we look back on this game, years from now, the scorecard will suggest that it was a 4-1 ass-kicking. Having just watched said game, however, we all know that that is far from the truth.
Apologies for the (very) delayed recap, but sometimes Friday nights turn into Saturday mornings very quickly. I’ll be pretty brief, as I’m sure you’ve read mostly everything you need to know. Just a couple of highlights.
* Patrick Kane’s disgusting backhand flip of a game-winner has deservedly been played all over since it happened, along with his yelling of “Showtime!” celebration. The guy just seems to be in the right spot at important moments, and even when he’s not in the right spot, he gets himself there by improvising as he did on the backhand goal. He and Marian Hossa also showed that good things happen when you have your stick on the ice, as they accepted feeds from Ben Smith and Brandon Saad, respectively, to pot goals in open nets.
* Corey Crawford was again spectacular, snuffing out numerous Wild opportunities in the first and second periods before being the victim of a couple bad bounces and overall shitty play from….
* Brandon Bollig. Another awful night. On the second goal, he turned the puck over at the center line leading to a Wild possession. Bollig then got beat badly to the net by Brodziak, who had a clear shot past Crawford. I hope Bollig stubs his toe so badly that he cannot play another game for the rest of the playoffs.
That’s it for now, he’s Boxing. I’ll be back with another edition after Game 2. GO ‘HAWKS!….
After what seems like ages (and also no time at all) the Hawks start their 2nd Round tonight, at home this time, thanks to the Wild knocking out the Avs. I’ve still not really got an opinion on which matchup I’d have preferred, but let’s have a look at the hand we’ve been dealt.
OK, for those of you who don’t know; I’m not growing a Playoff Beard (already got one) and am instead brewing a Playoff Beer.
I brewed this Oatmeal Stout two weeks ago, before Game 1 against St Louis. It’s been bubbling away happily to itself for the duration. By happy coincidence, it finished fermenting and was ready for bottling today, on the eve of Round Two.
Cheer the Podcast Episode 12 (4.30.14): With the Blues vanquished the guys reconvene to discuss the Game 7s in progress as they ‘cast, bury the Blues, see what lies ahead in Round 2, answer a few e-mails (including a special local country club celebrity, allegedly), check in on everyone’s favorite stairwell pooper and this episode’s outro involves Craig Berube and Jeremy Roenick.
Audio after the jump.
If this seems familiar , then yes, you’re right. Once again, the Blues are out of the Playoffs; having let down themselves, their fans and the legions of sports “experts” who picked them as Winners.
Far better people have eulogised their failure, so we here at Cheer The Anthem are just going to speculate on exactly what various personnel from the Blues will be getting up to during their long, long summer vacation.
(Through the medium of remedial-level photoshops, of course).
Thank you, Boys, for slamming the door shut and setting fire to the place on your way out of that series. I know that many Hawks fans are already turning their eyes to the Avs-Wild series and our eventual Second Round match-up, but let us take this Blackhawks Sabbath Day. Savor the victory: we dispatched the Blues with four straight wins. In the First Round. That feels goooooood . . .
We should also take a moment to remember what losing that series would have meant. Sure, we’ve all been there before – a first-round exit after winning the Cup is bad, no matter what. Losing to the Blooooooos, though? During this entire series, the potential to lose bubbled up inside me, crowding out any rational thought, any notion that I should keep this game in perspective. How could I? These people eat kittens. They traded for Steve Ott.
But we didn’t lose. We defeated them. Those cretinous pretenders-to-the-throne return to their rightful place, complete with Mr. Big Time Deadline Acquisition. The Spirit of Chicago flies on.
Now that the Blues have been safely despatched, the burning question for Hawks fans is the identity of their 2nd Round opponents. Will it be the young, speedy and bloody lucky Avs with their stellar goaltending, or the tenacious, gritty and annoying Wild with their.. uh, goaltending? Which is the more desirable matchup?
A question of this magnitude is beyond the feeble minds of this blog, so we’ve enlisted one of our celebrity pals to bring his unique point of view and razor-sharp insight to the matter.
Over to you, Jay
All right, full disclosure: After Game 2, I had a meltdown. Nakis and myself were cursing the world and couldn’t see the Blackhawks winning this series. I calmed myself a bit and rested my DOOM to look forward to Game 3.
Then Game 4 happened. Win.
After Jonathan Toews scored in OT of Game 5, I had made a complete 180 and went from completely despondent to a no-way-the-‘Hawks-lose mentality. I should have known, should have looked back to last year’s Red Wings series and even the 1-2 hole in the Cup Final against Boston. I should have taken stock in the Blues blowing that 2-0 lead to the Kings. I didn’t, and I’m so happy that the Blackhawks proved Nakis and myself wrong. Every bit of it is glorious.
What makes it even better? The fact that the Blues have basically become the Cubs of the NHL. I don’t feel sorry for them in the least bit. And even though I thought they were better than last year, they never cease to amaze with their ability to completely fold. After Patrick Sharp’s goal to make it 3-1 on Sunday, I sat in my seat at the United Center and felt a breeze from the Blues bench all the way up in the 300 level from the wind being blown out of St. Louis’ sails. The Blues weren’t able to crush the ‘Hawks spirit like they’d hoped, and now the Blackhawks are moving on to Round 2, while the Blues are heading back to Meth Country.
Let’s talk about a couple of things…
* I’m going to start with Corey Crawford first, because he’s fucking deserves it. As the ‘Hawks continued with their conga line to the penalty box in the second period, Crawford continued to turn away the Blues and wound up helping the Blackhawks kill 10 minutes of shorthanded time. It was the type of performance Crawford deserves much, much more credit for than he’ll ever get in this town, and it’s a goddamn shame. Not only should he have won a Conn Smythe for his balls-to-the-wall effort in leading the ‘Hawks to last year’s Cup, he played pretty outstanding in five of the six games of this series. And this is from a guy who already got his new paper, with his contract extension yet to even kick in. He deserves more patting on the ass, not this kind of shit I see on Facebook immediately following another stellar effort:
* Coach Q said Duncan Keith may have played his best game since Q started coaching in Chicago. It’s pretty difficult to argue with that assessment. Keith was the one who saved a clearing attempt on Toews’ goal, and his shot may have gone in even if Andrew Shaw didn’t deflect it. Then, he got one of his own. No, you shouldn’t win a Norris Trophy for your offense, but Keith had two goals and five assists in the series and played out of his mind in the defensive zone as well. And remember, he played with Sheldon Brookbank for three games while Brent Seabrook was suspended, even though some didn’t think Keith could survive without his buddy.
* When Toews decides it’s time for him to take over, the opponent is generally fucked. Three goals and four assists in the series, OT goal in Game 5, game-winning goal in the Game 6 clincher. The Captain had three goals in the entire playoffs last season and totaled just three assists in the first nine games – and the ‘Hawks still won the Cup.
* Barret Jackman showers in Ryan Reaves’ pee stream.
* I went to St. Louis one time and walked into a tavern. I noticed everyone was slurping a variety of liquids off the bar. A man and woman sitting at a table nearby had their waitress come over and pour a bucket of beer down in front of them, and they proceeded to put mouth to table and drink it up without batting an eye. Though I felt this was all very strange, I sat down and ordered a Bacardi and diet. The bartender came over, poured a can of diet coke and some Bacardi simultaneously on the bar in front of me, stirred it around with a straw and then told me the price.
“OK man, I’ve got to ask – why is everyone just slurping their drinks off the bar.”
The bartender replied, “Sorry, we don’t have any cups in St. Louis.”
* Enough jokes. On to Round 2 we go. Here’s Boxing…
There’ll be a recap along at some point.. until then
First off, please accept our apologies for the delayed recap. Adam and I watched the game at Stanley’s last evening and were grossly over-served. So you can blame them. Although I will say that we enjoyed ourselves and almost certainly abused the all you can eat catfish deal. Perhaps the most satisfying thing about the entire evening was watching all of the depressed and dejected Blues fans milling around Sedgwick’s (a St. Louis bar) next door as we stumbled out. I wanted to taste and bottle their tears. One group standing around had guys sporting Barrett Jackman, Kelly Chase and David Perron sweaters. That has to be the most pathetic collection ever assembled in one place.
Anyhow, if you told me last Saturday evening that the Blackhawks would be coming home for Game 6 with a chance to knock the Blues out, I probably would have laughed in your face and sworn under my breath. You’d think I’d have learned by now after watching the Vancouver series in 2011 and the Detroit series last year never to count this team out, but I still sunk into despair as the series headed back to Chicago. Two heartbreaking losses. Two losses pissed away in the closing minutes and seconds. A top pair defenseman banished for brutality for two absolutely must win games, and all of this with a coach making a few seemingly bizarre personnel decisions. The people who clung on to hope seemed almost delusional to me. Instead, as the series once again heads back to Chicago, fans can realistically picture the Blackhawks heading to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since before the Olympic break. Of course, they’ll have to finish the Blues off first.
Hello hockey friends (Jim Nantz voice). I’d like to take a minute and introduce myself, my name is John Faker, yes that’s my real name. I have been a Blackhawks fan for as long as I can remember. My love for hockey started with my father who used to play pond hockey growing up in northern Indiana and gave me his old wooden stick when I was a kid. My best friend Ryan and I used to spend countless hours shoveling snow off the ice of the lake I lived on so we could smash into each other and score into homemade goals. I do not claim to be an expert on hockey, but I, like you, watch a ton of hockey, especially the Blackhawks. Today I would like to share with you an observation I recently noted on twitter . I’m fortunate to be followed by most of the guys from this site (and that they put up with my rambling) and when they saw this they asked me if I would like to write about it.
Patrick Kane has amazing hands. Every time I watch him he does something so ridiculous I just have to shake my head. How does a guy who is 5’10” consistently skate around NHL players twice his size and do the things that he does? A lot of his skill has to do with his wrists and hands. Patrick Kane has always had a great wrist shot, and when he came into the league he used it very effectively. Take his first NHL goal as an example.
One thing to notice on this shot is where Kane’s stick is when he starts the shooting motion. Notice the line on his feet and where the stick and puck are when he shoots the puck.
That is not exactly what you would call a big windup. What this tells us is that Kane gets most of his power from his wrists. Even with such a little backswing, Kane can explode the puck into the top corner over the glove of the goalie. Granted this is a 2 on 1, but the shot itself and the mechanics are pretty impressive for Kane being such a small guy. One of the things unknown to a lot of Blackhawks fans is just how muscular Patrick Kane is. If you want to shoot the puck like that when you are 5’10” you have to have incredible upper body strength and wrists. Patrick Kane is one of the strongest guys on the Blackhawks. The last thing you should note is the wrist that is at the bottom of the stick, the one that generates all the power. It’s his left wrist. Keep this in mind, but more on that later.
When I started thinking about Kane and how well he shoots the puck, one goal immediately came to mind, April 4th, 2010 against Calgary:
The really telling replay starts at :35. This is a Patrick Kane shot with a considerable amount of backswing. Watch as the puck launches like a missile up to the top corner of the net. I don’t know if there is a goalie in the league that could have stopped that shot. Here are a few more goals from Kane with that explosive release.
Starting at 4:00 of this video:
Corey Schneider is a pretty decent goalie and this isn’t an odd man rush. But Kane puts so much force on that shot that Schneider doesn’t really have a chance. Again, Kane’s stick at the start of the shot is a bit in front of his feet. Wrist strength people.
A Goal against Buffalo from October 2010. Kaner pretty much just flips this at the net and it still has ridiculous velocity and 2010 Ryan Miller doesn’t have a chance.
As I am sure most of you remember, late in the 2011 season Patrick Kane hurt his left wrist. For the last few games of the season and the Vancouver “Slayed the Dragon” series (dammit Campoli), Kane just didn’t look like himself. We were told that he would be fine after an offseason of rest and it was nothing to worry about. Of course later that summer on July 19th, it was announced that Patrick Kane had surgery on his wrist. We all remember the 2011-2012 season and how a lot of the narrative was that Patrick Kane under performed. Kane had 23 goals and 43 assists and the 66 points were a career low. Most Blackhawks fans who watched that season knew that something was not right with Kane and his wrist. Kane wasn’t helped by shooting 9.1%, about 2% below his career average, but taking a closer look shows a bit more.
October 2011 against Boston:
There are two shots here, the initial shot and then the goal and both look incredibly weak. For both shots Kane is wide open.
Late October, 2011 against Nashville:
The thing to watch here for me is instead of launching the puck forward and up he kind of just pushes against his stick. He does the same thing in the video above. It shows me that he doesn’t have a whole lot of strength in his wrist and is making up for it with his arms. The puck still goes in the net, but it could be due to Pekka Rinne being surprised by a change up and expecting the typical Kane top shelf wrister.
December 2011 against Calgary:
Kane seems to make this move all the time against Calgary, get the puck near the wall and skate to open ice in the slot. Kane has a large area to work in when he beats the initial defender but the shot doesn’t seem to have any follow through. The whole motion looks abbreviated compared to his earlier career. This is a pretty sure sign the injury was bothering him. When an athlete plays hurt they sometimes change the little things (like their golf swing, baseball swing, or throwing motion) so when they do that repeatable motion, it doesn’t hurt as much. At this point Kane had been injured for 8 months (injured in April 2011).
This goal is from April of 2012 against the Wild.
Hossa puts the puck right on Kane’s stick and you can see Kane just doesn’t have the same zip as those earlier goals. There seems to be a bit of hesitation and the whole shot motion doesn’t look as quick or smooth as the videos previously linked. It is possible that this is late in an extended shift, but when have we ever seen Kane hesitate with a wide open net? The late offseason surgery definitely took its toll on Kane that year.
The amazing thing about most of these goals is that even though the shots are weak and hesitant, Kane still scores. Patrick Kane is an amazing talent that everyone should never take for granted.
*cough* Barry Rozner *cough*
During the lockout, one of the things on the back of my mind was Kane’s wrist injury and how the long offseason should help him to really get that strength back that he lost over the previous year. You can see a bit in these videos of Kane playing in Switzerland that the “pushing” motion had gone away and he was launching the puck again. This is a pretty good sign that his wrist was much stronger than the previous season.
1:54 of this weird fan video:
It was very evident that after the lockout Kane had gained his strength back. I think the big thing for Kane was trying to get back to his old healthy shot mechanics. He was most likely compensating for his injury and a few bad habits were developed between April 2011 and January 2013. Even in the 2013 season there were still small lingering effects of the injury. Kane was awesome, don’t get me wrong, but it’s hard to break bad habits.
Here is a shot last season against Anaheim:
It’s not hugely noticeable, but there is a bit of the pushing motion still there. I think this is more of trying to get away from the bad mechanic and getting back to his normal one.
Here is a good example from March 2013 against Colorado:
Patrick Kane has hardly any “backswing” and he puts a ton of stank on this puck. Someone should call some hospitals for the right post because it got brained.
The one that really made me notice that Patrick Kane’s shot was back to normal was the OT winner Wednesday night against the St. Louis St. Paul dumpster sandwich Blues.
If you watch one of the replays, beginning at 2:00 of this video, how much does that look like the goal against Calgary from April 2010 up the page? The puck just takes off like a missile and freezes Ryan Miller. Patrick Kane is an amazing hockey player. I think that Kane’s wrist injury hindered him for quite a while. Wrists injuries can be tricky; most Bears fans might remember Brian Urlacher saying in 2009 that if his wrist had been injured a millimeter the other way, his career would be over. I think that it took a long time for Kane to recover from that injury, especially with how important his wrists are to his game. I think the best news for Blackhawks fans is that Patrick Kane is fully healthy and playing the best hockey of his career.
Of course that’s also the worst news for every other team in the NHL.
Monday night’s game, although a welcome win and a slight relieving of the pressure, felt like something of a false dawn: the Hawks were badly outplayed and required heroics from Crawford to hang in there. Last night was a different kettle of fish, altogether. The Hawks looked and felt closer to their usual selves and St Louis struggled to keep up with them most of the night. Obviously there were some lumps and bumps (and yes, another blown lead, but we’ll get to that) but when it mattered the Hawks came out on top, and now head back to St Louis tied and looking at a best-of-three to advance.
In Game 1 and 2, the Blackhawks were outplayed for long stretches, held a one-goal lead in the third period before eventually succumbing to late goals in overtime defeats.
Game 3 had plenty of similarities, but Corey Crawford stood tall in net and led the Blackhawks to a 2-0 victory in one of the better games he’s ever played. His 34-save effort got the ‘Hawks back into the series and gave us all the hope we’ve been looking for after two disheartening losses.
Puck possession and a general presence in the offensive zone were essentially non-existent from about the initial burst in the first period through the final minutes of the third, and the Blues continued to up the pressure and controlled most of the action. These stretches were all too familiar from the first two games in St. Louis, and it seemed the Blues would score that eventual cock-stomping goal we’ve all come to expect.
Crawford played well in Game 1 and admittedly not so well in Game 2, but he was exceptional Monday – and the ‘Hawks needed every last bit of it.
Jonathan Toews was able to slip one past Ryan Miller in the first period, and Crawford made it stand up until Marcus Kruger added an empty netter in the final seconds. It was another up-and-down performance from the ‘Hawks, with plenty of improvement still left in order to even this series Wednesday.
— Sheldon Brookbank played a lot better than I expected and didn’t seem out of place at all filling in for the suspended Brent Seabrook. He made one defensive-zone turnover that had us holding our breath, but other than that he was solid. He even took hit from behind by known piss drinker Maxime Lapierre, who proceeded to act as if he had just been the victim of the world’s greatest injustice. Fuck you, Maxime.
— Remember how so many of us still had confidence because the ‘Hawks played well enough to win the first two games but still lost? That’s exactly how Blues fans feel after Monday, except they are still one game up and have the chance to bury the Blackhawks into a 3-1 hole heading back to St. Louis. Crawford was the difference this time by being basically perfect, but a replica of this Blues performance and one blip of imperfection from Crawford on Wednesday easily could have the ‘Hawks coming up on the losing end.
— Brandon Bollig and Ryan Reaves combined for less than 10 minutes of ice time in Game 3 because they’re both worthless piles of shit who serve absolutely zero purpose yet continued to be dressed.
— Meanwhile, Jeremy Morin sat in the press box – again.
— So, about the power play. St. Louis gave the ‘Hawks four prime chances to provide some breathing room on the scoreboard in the second period, including a brief 5 on 3. The Blackhawks are now 1 for 14 in the series, and it’s starting to become a problem given that the Blues continue to take stupid penalties and the ‘Hawks can’t take advantage. At one point on the 2-man advantage, Patrick Sharp held the puck roughly eight feet from the net for seven straight seconds with nary a shot or pass for absolutely no reason. That type of stagnation, along with trying to generate offense from the point rather than in around the net, isn’t going to get it done.
— Michal Handzus was great on the kill again Monday. He’s still a fart in the wind 5 on 5, and there’s no reason for him to be centering the second line and dragging it down. It’s a tough line to toe when he’s playing so well when the ‘Hawks are shorthanded.
— Toews won 19 of 24 faceoffs. That’s, like, good and stuff.
So the Blackhawks got away with a less-than-stellar effort to get back in the series. Get another one Wednesday – hopefully without giving fans acid reflux – and it will be a best of three. Let’s take this one and move on.