Captain Rights the Ship: Eventual Boxing with Blackhawks/Blues

(Chicago Tribune)

Sorry to tease you a bit here, but there’s a bit of an issue loading up the Boxing images. That should be corrected by about lunch time, so I just wanted to get this up to let you know to check in around then.

I’ll be updating this post with the images. I don’t know what the damn problem is, but I’m getting it sorted out.

See ya back here soon, and sorry for the delay.

Playoffs On The Line: Lose to the Blues, it’s Curtains

Photo: Getty Images

Okay, here’s the problem. I said a long while ago that we had better have ourselves a nice cushion before these last three games, because it would take a miracle to get points out of any of them. Remember that?

Start praying for a miracle.

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Will They Bring The “Give-A-Shit”? Hawks & Habs Tonight

As the anthem is sung, the whistle is blown and the puck is dropped, we all sit back and wonder which Blackhawks team will take the ice. That’s basically what it comes down to this evening against Montreal: will they bring the “give-a-shit” tonight? Or are they going to lose to a clearly-inferior team — again?

We saw this earlier in the season, and we just wrote it off. Now, it’s the playoffs on the line. It matters. The question remains because the ‘Hawks haven’t answered it convincingly enough, consistently enough, all year. Tonight we will ask the same question. Only the Blackhawks know the answer.

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The Daily Phil Esposito (4/5/11)

"You guys let go of the wrong guy to the Sharks..."

Photo: zimbio.com

There were four former Blackhawks who played Monday night. The one goalie was Antti Niemi who recorded another win making his record 34-17-6 on the season. The other three skates didn’t really do much, but Michael Handzus scored the only point with a second period goal on Niemi.

The Three Stars I guess look like this:

1st Star – Has to be Antti Niemi with his 34th win of the season
2nd Star – Michael Handzus had the only point
3rd Star – Ben Eager for not sucking.

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

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November Flashback: Proving 2010-11 Expectations Were A Bit Overblown

Back on Nov. 7, I wrote a column for Sam Fels’ wonderful creation The Committed Indian before the Blackhawks dropped to 7-8-1 with a 2-1 loss to Edmonton.

In my column titled, “10 Reasons Why the Blackhawks Can Repeat,” I shared my optimistic viewpoints skewed by a Stanley Cup run last season. I’ve decided to go back and breakdown what I wrote in November to what’s actually happened so far in 2010-11.

If you hate my guts, you’re going to want to share this with any and all of the electronic options available to you at the end of the post. I was wrong way more than I was right, though I don’t feel I’m anywhere near alone in most of these thoughts dating back five months.

Below are each of the reasons I wrote Nov. 7, with a detailed explanation and update to current times.

Have a blast.

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The Weekend Edition of the Daily Phil Esposito (4/4/11)

"You guys miss me in Chicago yet?"

Photo: http://www.gritsandpucks.com

On Friday, eight former featherheads took the ice. The only point was a goal scored by Sammy Pahlsson against the Blackhawks in that pitiful effort of a game against the Jackets.

Saturday had nineteen former Blackhawks taking the ice scoring four goals and two assists for six points. The goalies went

There were also eight former ‘Hawks who played on Sunday scoring just one goal as the only point of the day. That came from Bryan McCabe.

Something new which I will be including into my posts from now on will be the Three Stars of the Night Former Blackhawk Style. This post will have the Three Stars of the weekend.
1st Star – Dustin Byfuglien – Reached a Career High in Goals this weekend.
2nd Star – Danny Cleary – Game Winning Goal in overtime Saturday.
3rd Star – Tuomo Ruutu – One assist and all around good play over the weekend.

Enjoy!

Click the jump for updates from the weekend’s games

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Crunched in crunch time: Boxing with Blackhawks/Lightning

"I'm finishing my coffee. Yep, enjoyin' my coffee." (Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

Much ado is made about whether or not the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks will qualify for the postseason. But let’s ask ourselves an important question:

If the ‘Hawks do make the playoffs, would it be worth the inevitable embarrassment of getting bitch-slapped by Vancouver? Because that’s what’s going to happen – especially with efforts like Sunday’s.

The 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay is a microcosm of what the Blackhawks are going to be as postseason participants. We’ve been waiting all damn season for the ‘Hawks to live up to their “talent,” and through 78 games we’ve been mostly disappointed. Is there any sign of this being a different team when the Blackhawks hit the ice for the first-round series against the Canucks?

The answer is no. Sunday proved there’s going to need to be a lot of prayer to whatever higher power you answer to in hopes said higher power just ordered a Jonathan Toews FatHead.

Go ahead, call me pessimistic. You’d be 100 percent correct. But if you’re in any way optimistic following Sunday’s wet fart of a performance, get your head examined.

Here’s what the West standings look like heading into Monday:

Yes, I’m aware a series with the Canucks is not a sure thing and the Blackhawks can move up. And I’m also aware the ‘Hawks have had their way with Vancouver in previous postseasons. This isn’t previous postseasons.

On top of that, what makes anyone believe the ‘Hawks can beat Detroit or even San Jose if they can move up to 6th or 7th?

The effort against Tampa Bay was that of a team not realizing the magnitude of what’s happening. The Blackhawks treated all 60 minutes like a Sunday morning drive to church – relaxed, while hoping some figment of their imagination will make everything sweet and wonderful. Forget putting a foot on the gas pedal, because the Blackhawks were taking a handsome cab ride with Rusty guiding the way.

Mike Smith (yeah, I know, Mike Smith) wasn’t in the least bit challenged the entire night, and an early power-play goal off Niklas Hjalmarsson’s dipshit delay-of-game penalty culminating with Brent Seabrook thinking about the next episode of Chicago Code as Vincent Lecavalier converted did the Blackhawks in.

And before you say anything, I don’t care if Dave Bolland and Patrick Sharp are out. It’s no excuse. The effort put forth Sunday wouldn’t have beaten the Charleston Chiefs.

Onto Boxing, if you dare …

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Standings Update and Tampa Preview: Nail-Biting Continues

Photo: chicitysports.com

Okay, last night was good. Lots of teams that we needed to lose, actually lost. Those include Anaheim, Dallas and Nashville. And there was much rejoicing.

The standings of relevant teams in the Western Conference now look like this:

4th:  Los Angeles  (96 points, 4 games remaining, 36 non-shootout wins)
5th:  Phoenix  (96, 3, 37)
6th:  Nashville  (95, 3, 36)
7th:  Anaheim  (93, 4, 40)
8th:  Chicago  (92, 5, 36)
9th:  Calgary  (89, 3, 30)
10th:  Dallas  (87, 6, 33)

Why Los Angeles is ahead of Phoenix is a little stymieing, but it doesn’t involve the Blackhawks at this point, so screw it. One day I’ll invest the 2 minutes necessary to research the answer, but not right now.

The other games of consequence tonight are actually pretty big ones for us. Calgary takes on Colorado, and Dallas is at Anaheim. Victory for the Men of Four Feathers coupled with losses by the Flames and Stars make it nearly impossible for either of those teams to make the post-season, in-effect guaranteeing the Blackhawks a ticket to the playoffs. So while you’re cheering the ‘Hawks, keep an eye on those two tilts.

Tonight the ‘Hawks take the ice against a potent and crowd-energizing Lightning team boasting two how’d-they-do-that offensive powerhouses in Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis, as well as 41-year-old comeback kid goaltender Dwayne Roloson. But the secret behind this team is two-fold: first, Stamkos and St. Louis are nearly all of the Lightning’s offensive punch; and secondly, Roloson is rarely exceptional — he’s very often only as good as he has to be on any given night.

Evidence? How about most of the roster being in a negative plus-minus, many of whom in double-digit negative? How about one (count him, one) 20-goal scorer aside from the afore-mentioned howitzers? How about winning games by decidedly unimpressive margins in nearly every outing? And how about a team GAA closer to 3 than 2, and a save percentage a fingernail above 90%?

This team is beatable. And we proved that in Tampa less than a month ago, we just couldn’t recover from the loss of Dave Bolland early in the matchup thanks to Pavel Kubina’s elbow to the head.

Umm, guys? Yeah… Okay, good. You remembered. Just one request: blood splatter. We want to see blood splatter.

No lineup changes for the Blackhawks, Corey Crawford is your goaltender for the next week unless he runs off with Britney Spears or something. Lightning defenseman Randy Jones is the only player absent from the visitors’ bench.

Family-friendly 6:00pm puck drop at the United Center this evening. National coverage of the game is available on the NHL Network, although Chicagoland will see the game on WGN. Broadcast radio is WGN AM-720, and XM subscribers will hear the game on channel 207.

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6 Games In 10 Days: Columbus Is First Hurdle

Photo: Getty Images

In the past these previews have been about the opposing team and any personnel changes we expect to see from the Blackhawks. So here goes. We’re playing the Columbus Blue Jackets, and they suck. They are without leading scorer Rick Nash and #1 goaltender Steve Mason, so this should be an even easier game to win. No lineup changes for the Blackhawks, Corey Crawford starts.

Now let’s talk about what everybody’s interested in: the playoff race, and the Blackhawks’ chances.

Some teams have clinched Division titles or playoff spots, so they aren’t relevant. Neither are the teams that are (for all practical purposes) mathematically eliminated from the race in the West. That leaves the following teams:

4th:  Phoenix  (95 points, 4 games remaining, 37 non-shootout wins)
5th:  Los Angeles  (94, 5, 35)
6th:  Nashville  (94, 4, 36)
7th:  Anaheim  (93, 5, 40)
8th:  Chicago  (90, 6, 36)
9th:  Dallas  (87, 6, 33)
10th:  Calgary  (87, 4, 29)

Now, I’m not a stats wonk, I don’t do probability calculations and all of that nonsense. So I’m just going to run down the rest of each team’s season and lob my guesses at where we may end up.

Phoenix will likely beat Colorado, lose in OT with the Kings, and split the last two against the Sharks. That gives them an extra 5 points, total of 100.

LA has suffered significant injuries in the last week, I’m going to say they beat the Coyotes in OT, push the Ducks into OT once and fall in a shootout, and then lose the rest. 3 more points, total of 97.

Nashville will lose to Detroit, but win out their last 3. 6 points, total of 100.

Anaheim will split with the Sharks, lose to the Stars, and beat the Kings twice, once in OT. 6 more points, total of 99.

Chicago I’ll save for a minute.

Dallas will beat both the Kings and the Ducks, I’ll say they split against the Avalanche, and beat Columbus and Minnesota. 10 points. 97 total.

Calgary will lose to Vancouver, but take their other 3. 6 points, total of 93.

If that proves out (HA! Yeah, right…) the standings (minus Chicago) will look like this:

4th:  Phoenix (100 points, 39 non-shootout wins)
5th:  Nashville  (100, 39)
6th:  Anaheim (99, 40)
7th:  Dallas (97, 38)
8th:  Los Angeles (97, 36)
9th:  Calgary (93, 32)

So now, to the Blackhawks.

Remaining games: Blue Jackets, Lightning, Canadiens, Blues, and Detroit (*spitting noise*) twice.

We have to beat Columbus. Hear me guys? WE HAVE TO BEAT COLUMBUS! We pushed the Lightning to OT in their building last time, I think we’re going to pull it out this time. We will beat the Canadiens, they’re sliding of late. 6 more points, 3 more NSW. That would put us at 96 points, 39 NSW. Not good enough.

We’ll need another win from among the last three against the Blues and Red Wings. And this is what it all comes down to.

In the next ten days we will find out who is going to be playing for the Blackhawks next year. Who is going to step it up when we’re down two goals early in the 3rd in a possibly-season-ending game? Who is going to dog Henrik Zetterberg until he goes to the bench and cries? Who is going to back-check the Wings so hard they can’t tell which goal they’re supposed to be shooting at? Who is going to knock Todd Bertuzzi out of the game and into the hospital in the first minute of the first game of that home-and-home? Who is going to take the punishment in front of the net and notch a tip-in goal for every bruise they get across their backs? Who is going to block shots like he’s protecting a 5-year-old girl wearing street clothes in the net behind him? And who is going to absorb 35, 45, 55 shots and THEN win it in the shootout?

We all know the names of the guys who will be there. But who will join them? Bryan Bickell? Troy Brouwer? Viktor Stalberg? Jake Dowell? Ryan Johnson? These guys all have the mojo, they just haven’t found it the last 20 games. If it shows up between now and April 10th, we have a shot at this.

If not… well, this post-season will be difficult to watch without a team to cheer for.

6pm puck drop tonight out in Columbus. Comcast SportsNet has the TV coverage, broadcast radio is WGN AM-720, and XM subscribers can hear the game on channel 204.

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The Daily Phil Esposito (4/1/11)

Niemi Says no again...

The former Blackhawks came to play last night. They scored a total of twenty three points with twelve goals and eleven assists. April fools.

Now that we got the childish games out of the way, there were actually nineteen former featherheads to take the ice last night. Two of goalies combined for two wins, a shutout and 67 saves while the other lost his league leading thirty-first game of the season (That Drunk Guy). The sixteen skaters combined for three points including two goals and one assist. Two big games for teams in the West and the outcomes both favored the Hawks. However the one game that didn’t saw the Predators defeat the Avalanche for their eighth win in their past ten games.

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

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