The Daily (Weekly) Phil Esposito (4/22/11)

"Suck it Phoenix"

Photo: zimbio.com

Its been a while for the Espo. Between schoolwork and the lack of games being done in the playoffs I figured its easier that we do a multiple of days so we can get some content in these posts.

On Monday there were ten former Blackhawks to take the ice. One was a goalie who stepped in relief earlier in the series is continuing his great playoff series with a win. There was one point scored which was an assist by Radim Vrbata.

Tuesday saw just four ex-Hawks take the ice. They all were part of the same game in L.A. where the Sharks competed an amazing comeback, coming back from 4-0 deficit to win in OT. In that game the one point from the former Hawks game from the L.A. centerman who helped to get Niemi pulled early.

Wednesday there were eight former feather heads to play. There was a total of one goal and four assists for five points between the seven skaters. The goalie played a great game but picked up a loss.

Finally last night which was phenomenal after that amazing win by our boys, saw eight former Hawks to play scoring three points which were all from Habs. The one goalie played a decent game to pick up a win.

The Three Stars of the last four days are:

1st Star – Danny Cleary – one goal, two assists
2nd Star – Radim Vrbata – two assists
3rd Star – Brian Boucher – One win, 63 saves in two games

Enjoy!

Click the jump for updates from the m/d/11 games

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5-OH!: We’ll-See-You-in-Chicago Boxing with Blackhawks/Canucks

"All right, first one to get the whole stick up his ass gets the window seat on the way back to Chicago." (Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

And just like that, it’s a series.

Go ahead, lie to me. Tell me you saw this coming. I just may be gullible enough right now to believe you.

Thursday night’s 5-0 bitch-slapping of the Canucks in Vancouver was about as beautiful of a performance as … well, as Tuesday night’s. The back-to-back wet farts by Roberto Luongo with his team a single victory away from eliminating its arch rivals is a classic occurrence from a guy who can’t seem to keep himself composed.

Luongo took off his “Oh Shit” face long enough during interviews Tuesday night and Wednesday to tell everyone how calm he was, how he was going to leave the 6 GA branded on his ass in his rear-view mirror. Then he came out Thursday looking like an AHL castoff. He would have had a better chance stopping pucks if he stood up his tube of L.A. Looks hair gel in the crease.

Much like we were asking where the Blackhawks were the first three games of the series, Canucks fans have to be wondering where the living hell the composed, fluid, throat-grabbing Canucks have disappeared to during the last two. It’s been a meltdown of epic proportions, resorting back to being thugs in the face of adversity.

Alain Vingeault looked up to the scoreboard so damn often I simply thought he slept funny and his neck was stuck. It ain’t gonna change, buddy. You’re still getting your ass kicked. And on top of that, he couldn’t keep his players composed.

Notorious assholes Kevin Bieksa and Alexander Edler decided to forget they were playing hockey in order to get chippy, and things just got worse for the Canucks. Once again, it was phenominal to see. I wrote over and over again this Vancouver team was different from the past two postseasons. Apparently I was wrong. Get this team down, and they fold up quicker than one of those slap braclets many of you are too young to remember.

When Vancouver wins this series (keeping with tradition, so you can breathe now), we’ll at the very least be able to look back at these performances and say, “OK, at least we made a valiant effort to defend the Stanley Cup.

But that flight to Chicago for Game 6 – can you believe it; Game Fucking 6?! – for the Canucks will be so tight they may crumble with a minor bout of turbulence. There may not be as much laughter and tomfoolery as there was on the trek between Game 2 and Game 3.

It’s back to Chicago and the raucous United Center for a game I never thought would come. It seems a while ago I walked past Canucks fans holding brooms heading into the UC from Game 4. Now I hope the ‘Hawks bring me a step closer to shoving them directly up their asses.

A few thoughts before Boxing …

How many of you thought the ‘Hawks were completely screwed after Brian Campbell took that penalty 16 seconds into the game? (/Bartl raises his hand)

Duncan Keith was an ass hair away from a hat trick, as Patrick Kane nipped the puck on past Luongo to put the ‘Hawks ahead 3-0

Although the Blackhawks were 1 for 273 on breakaways Thursday, Marian Hossa made the one look damn sexy. Luongo looked like he was trying to figure out his ride home while Hossa skated in.

How do Canucks fans decide which Sedin jersey to buy? “I’m just gonna get the one for the guy who’s better loo… no, they both look the same. OK, I’ll get the one of the guy who’s got the most career poi… well, that’s pretty much the same, too. Hmm, how about I get the one of the guy who has the least amount of leadersh… well, that’s pretty damn similar, too. Just give me the one of the guy with red ha… damn it, they both have red hair. All right, give me the one of the biggest headcase … (Clerk says) Here’s your Luongo jersey, sir.”

Edler’s elbow to Brouwer was such a bush-league play that he should get a suspension purely based off the fact that he’s a gigantic piece of shit.

Oh, and Corey Crawford had a 36-save shutout. Boo-ya-ka-sha!

OK I’m done. Here’s Boxing:

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Game 5, Still Alive: Blackhawks Get Another Shot At Canucks

Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Blackhawks fans went to the United Center on Tuesday, hoping with all their might that the fate of their team would be different that the previous three games. Hoping that some spark would be lit under the Men of Four Feathers. Hoping that whatever magic the Blackhawks had conjured from time to time during the regular season would waft through the rafters at the U.C. again.

And sweet barking cheese, did they get what they came for.

Bryan Bickell began the fun less than two minutes into the game, and the Blackhawks’ faithful were treated to six more blasts of Chelsea Dagger before the night was over. It was nearly everything they could have asked for, and everything Canucks’s fans were dreading: a monumental and embarrassing collapse that thwarted their team’s progression to the second round.

So the question now becomes, what were the ingredients of this victory, and how can they do it again in the hostile confines of GM Place tonight?

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Seabrook travels; Luongo staying calm; Canucks brass gets earful

 

Credit: Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune

Just stopping by quick to throw out a couple storylines heading into tomorrow’s Game 5 in Vancouver …

Despite suffering a concussion in Game 3 from Raffi Torres’ horrendous hit, Brent Seabrook will travel with the Blackhawks to Vancouver and could play in Game 5, according to Coach Q.

I’m not sure how I feel about this, given the recent history of players hitting the ice too quickly after a concussion. See: Crosby, Sidney. And especially since the Blackhawks just gave Seabrook a big-money extension. It was clear Seabrook was dazed and skating off balance when he came back on the ice for his next shift. He then sat out the rest of the game. That means there’s a problem, and it probably hasn’t fixed itself in four days.

Even putting that aside and looking at it from a must-win point of view, Seabrook sat out the Game 4 rout. That doesn’t mean I feel Seabrook is useless and the Blackhawks can win without him again, but why risk the chance of long-term injury when it doesn’t seem completey necessary? Of course, we said that about Dave Bolland and then saw what happened.

It can go either way, but I would rather have Seabrook sit and see how he feels for a potential Game 6.

CLICK THE JUMP FOR MORE NOTES

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Night of the Living Dead: It’s-Not-Over-Yet Boxing with ‘Hawks/Canucks

"You can say fuck, shit, piss. Whatever you want." (Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune)

If that was the last time we see the Blackhawks on the United Center ice this season, what a way to go out.

Tuesday night’s 7-2 demolishing of Vancouver in Game 4 might have been the most fun I’ve had watching something I couldn’t muster the excitement for all day. For one night – and hopefully not the only night – the ‘Hawks took it too their opponent in a fashion which we’ve all been dying to see.

And it came without Brent Seabrook, who sat out due to the douchebaggery of one Raffi Torres.

Tuesday, the Canucks were the ones missing passes, not staying in position and chasing the entire game. Vancouver was out of its game, and it was extremely pleasant to witness.

Oh, so that Dave Bolland guy came back. Yeah, it took him all of two periods to become the Blackhawks’ leading scorer in the playoffs. His line completely hampered the Sedin Twins defensively, then took it the Canucks offensively as him, Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik ended up a plus-4.

All three scored a goal, and Bolland and Frolik combined on a couple superb plays. Bolland’s goal was all Frolik’s doing, as he skated into the zone and forced the turnover Bolland cleaned up. Bolland then took the hit to make a beautiful pass, springing Frolik for the breakaway and de-pantsing of Roberto Luongo.

From there, Vancouver did exactly what they’ve been avoiding all series and decided to get chippy rather than play hockey. It’s what we’ve seen the past two postseasons from the Canucks, and it’s amazing how quickly they can get back to their bad habits when the ‘Hawks took it to them. Will it carry over to Game 5? Who knows. But despite holding a 3-1 series lead, it sure seems they were so rattled they couldn’t control their emotions on the ice.

From a team we’ve seen so poised through the first three games, it was shocking Vancouver didn’t just take its beating and stayed within themselves. Instead, the Canucks may have given the Blackhawks even more momentum heading to Vancouver. We’ll see if that’s true or not.

And how nice was it to finally get to Luongo. I respect the hell out of him and think he’s an all-world goaltender, but damn to see that guy skating off the ice with his tail between his legs is an awesome site – more because of what it did for the Blackhawks and the fans, especially.

We’ll see if any of the Canucks fans who have been chiming in on the site use the strained back muscle or whatever it was as an excuse, but if it was that bad then he should have sat. Again, take your beating and move onto Game 5 rather than risk it. Instead, he came out, got lit up, then hit bench with a 6 tattooed on him.

I’m not going to sit here and write the Blackhawks are going to come back and win this series. I still don’t believe it will happen. But a win in Game 5 will get me – and Canucks fans alike – thinking heavily about it.

Tuesday was the Night of the Living Dead. The Blackhawks are staggering, but they’re not gonna give it up that easy.

I’ll just go ahead and discuss the rest in Boxing. Enjoy – even if you’re a Canucks fan.

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So Do Our Minutes Hasten To Their End: Game 4 Tonight

Photo: Getty Images

We went into this series cautiously optimistic, perhaps even over-confident due to our record against the Canucks. We had faith in our team, we believed in them. Some of us will until the teams meet at center ice to shake hands. But I can’t hold out any more hope; the Canucks will beat us tonight, we’re getting swept.

The Blackhawks had to do two things to win this series: they needed to conceive of a plan to beat the Canucks; and they needed to execute that plan. Unfortunately they never got past step one, as whatever plan they came up with was either ill-conceived or ineffective. They never played their game, and the Canucks have (for the most part) manhandled them every step of the way. But make no mistake: this series wasn’t lost in the last week. They started losing this series the day after the parade on Michigan Avenue to celebrate the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup Championship.

So what the hell happened? How did we get here? How did we go from first to the first team ejected from the playoffs in one short year? Lots of answers here, not all of them within anyone’s control, none of them entirely responsible, but clearly all of them contributing.

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The Daily Phil Esposito – Weekend Playoff Edition (4/18/11)

Photo: http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com

There were plenty of great games to watch over the last four days and it seems like former Blackhawks played a role in each and every one of them.

On Thursday there were nine former ‘Hawks to take the ice. The eight skaters came up pointless, but the goalie, Mr. Niemi picked up another playoff win giving him seventeen in his career.

Friday saw just three former featherheads to take the ice, and they were able to muster up one goal after a terrible misplay by the opposing goalie.

There were thirteen ex-‘Hawks to take the ice on Saturday. The goalies spilt decisions, while the eleven skaters scored a total of one goal and four assists for five points.

In yesterday’s action there were two former Blackhawks who took the ice scoring one point on an assist.

The three stars of the weekend are:

1st Star – Radim Vrbata: one goal and an assist
2nd Star – Craig Adams: one goal
3rd Star – James Wisniewski: one assist, plus two

Click the jump for updates from the last four day’s games

 

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No Suspension for Torres; Toews Downplays Canucks’ Dominance

 

Word came out today that Vancouver Canucks’ notorious jackass Raffi Torres will not be suspended for his crushing hit on Brent Seabrook in Game 3 on Sunday. And before any of the Canucks fans who have been chiming in on this site begin foaming at the mouth, read what one of your own had to say about Torres and his hit.

Seabrook sounded off on Torres, saying the hit deserved a suspension. Ignoring the fact Seabrook is obviously biased toward the decision being the recipient of the hit, remember that Torres just recently came off a suspension for a cheap shot on Oilers’ rookie Jordan Eberle.

In a brief Twitter discussion I had today with the The Globe and Mail’s  James Mirtle, he had this to offer regarding the NHL and their policies toward these types of hits:

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Dim the Lights: Down 0-3 Boxing with Blackhawks/Canucks

Credit: Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune

I know what you optimists are thinking, and you can stop right now. The Blackhawks are not the 2010 Flyers, and these Canucks are not the Boston Bruins. It ain’t gonna happen.

Even when the ‘Hawks were at their best in this series, it wasn’t enough. Vancouver took advantage of the few opportunities they were given to beat the Blackhawks 3-2 and pull within one victory of ending their rivals’ season.

This series may not end Tuesday, but it likely will be the last time you see the Blackhawks play at the United Center this season. Pardon the utter lack of faith, though I cannot fathom how you could disagree. The Canucks didn’t play their best game, and they still beat the Blackhawks when they played, well, a lot better than they had. It’s tough to argue with that.

A few thoughts before Boxing …

I’d first like to throw out a shit sandwich to anyone who believed dressing John Scott was a good idea. A dipshit penalty, one horrendous decision by Coach Q to put him out for nearly an entire power play, and 5:20 of ice time later, Scott sat the bench for the rest of the game. That should be the last time we see Scott in an Indian-head sweater.

Although the Blackhawks didn’t convert on 1:17 of 5-on-3, I wouldn’t say they pissed that time away. Roberto Luongo made two terrific saves on Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane at the doorstep to snuff out the Blackhawks’ attack. Though it would have been nice to go up two goals at that point and create some sort of cushion, it’s probably the best the power play looked in the series aside from …

Duncan Keith scoring off the draw five seconds into the first power play of the night. It marked the Blackhawks’ first lead of the series and last of the night, which makes me want to cause physical harm to myself.

Even though both ‘Hawks goals came on the power play, they finished 2 for 7 and couldn’t take advantage of Vancouver consistently taking penalties.

We all wondered where the Blackhawks’ “stars” were the previous two games. Keith scored, Toews had two assists and Kane added another. Marian Hossa? Well…

Here’s your Boxing:

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Slipping Away: Game 2 Boxing with Blackhawks/Canucks

Credit: Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune

The Blackhawks are doing just enough to piss off everyone. There’s hope, then it’s ripped away. And with the glimmer flickering its last gasps, it’s all over.

Vancouver 2, Blackhawks 0. The way things have gone, I implore you to find a reason it will change on home ice.

The obvious fact: The Canucks are flat out better than the Blackhawks. That wasn’t a state secret coming into this series. The not-so-obvious fact? Vancouver has put together a fantastic gameplan to slow down the Blackhawks and take away their speed. The Canucks have controlled the neutral zone, taking away the ‘Hawks’ ability to skate into the zone with much threat for most of the series.

Vancouver’s aggressive forecheck has done the ‘Hawks in on numerous occasions, forcing the Blackhawks into turnovers and rushing the decision-making while keeping the ‘Hawks’ speed at bay. On top of that, notice how the Canucks clear the puck from their zone. It’s flipped into the air into the center of the ice, avoiding icing and making the Blackhawks chase. More often than not, the puck is not rung around or banged off the side boards to simply clear the line.

The puck floats, bounces harmlessly into the Blackhawks’ zone waiting for a defenseman to finally get his stick on it. This time is allowing the Canucks forwards and defensemen slip into the neutral zone and set up. This might as well be 1989, because the Blackhawks haven’t been able to complete a two-line pass with any sort of efficiency. The ‘Hawks are being shut down and taken out of their game.

And that’s the reason the fourth line came up with all three goals Friday night. The ‘Hawks skilled players are being neutralized by Vancouver, and that’s the reason you’re not seeing Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, etc., do anything of substance in this series. If the Canucks are allowing goals to only the fourth line – which sees limited minutes  – against their bottom six, Vancouver seems to feel its in good shape. And its the correct gamplan, seeing as the Canucks hold a 2-0 advantage heading to Chicago.

Not to take anything away from Ben Smith, who played an outstanding game. The same goes for Viktor Stalberg, who not only scored but after 84 games decided it was time to be a bit physical. Kane looks scared shitless, and only for the last six minutes of the game decided to fight through checks. Toews? Hossa? Sharp? Coach Q needs to watch some tape and figure out how to get these guys in position to score against Vancouver’s aggressive – yet very skilled – play.

Enough can’t be said about Corey Crawford. He is facing the Dustin Byfuglien treatment the Blackhawks laid on Roberto Luongo the last two postseasons. The Canucks are parking people in front of the net and disrupting Crawford’s line of site through the first two games. But he stoned the Sedins on a 2 on 0 and faced enough odd-man rushes to make my farts seem pleasant, yet stood tall and kept the ‘Hawks in the game the best he could.

The rushes came from the ‘Hawks using their defenseman to pinch more frequently and carry the puck into the zone as often as possible in order to put some sort of pressure on Luongo. Problem was, it didn’t work. Vancouver broke free for numerous scoring chances, and luckily they took 400 offsides penalties or this game might have ended 10-3.

Friday’s game was lost in the second period. Sharp’s retaliation trip led to Vancouver’s power-play goal in the first minute, then a deflection goal with 13 seconds remaining took away the momentum after Smith pulled Chicago to within one.

There’s a whole ton of shit that needs to be figured out in two days, and it’s going to be a chore to actually do it. My feeling is the Blackhawks are going to need more than just the motivation of the home crowd, because the Canucks seem confident enough not to give a rat’s ass what color the jerseys are.

With all of that said, this series is far from over as much as it may seem like it. There’s still a decent amount of positives to take from these two games. If the top six show up, there’s a lot that can be done.

Onto Boxing, if you can stomach it.

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