Archive for the ‘NHL’ Category

by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

NFL vs. NHL Lockout Edition…Who Ya Got?

At this moment, there are two lockouts being rammed down our throats.  Both are insanely stupid and could cost one league it’s credibility for a while and the other may cost the other league far more than that.  The NFL refs and the NHL lockout are both maddening, but which one is stupider?  Let’s look at this match-up in detail…..

Money issues….The NFL is refusing to pay their refs what they want since they classify them as part-time employees.  With a record $9 billion and change in revenues, the money they are quibbling over is just stupid.  The percentage the refs want in relation to those revenues is measly at best.  In the case of the NHL, the issues at hand are basically identical to the issues in the 2004-05 lockout that cost us an entire season.  The owners want to reduce the players’ cut of revenue from 57% to 49% and then eventually to 47%.  The reduction last time was from 70% to the current level.  The players can’t stomach getting another royal bowel-ripping and are holding tough.  This is some serious shit here.  BIG EDGE…NHL

Contract Terms….The NFL’s issue here is that they refuse to make the refs full-time employees like the MLB, NHL and NBA all do.  Hence, they keep their salaries low, which returns us to point #1, Money.  The NHL owners want to limit the length of player contracts to 5 years, which still didn’t stop these asshats from signing players to contracts as long as 14 years this summer.  Here’s a hint, fellas, stop fucking yourselves in the ass with contracts like those.  It’s hard to see your side of things when you do shit like this.  Due to the sheer stupidity factor, the NHL takes this one as well.  EDGE…NHL

Damaging Your Sport Factor….The NFL refs have been so bad they’re affecting point spreads in Vegas and are a jokewriter’s dream.  The internet is seeing some pretty good compilation videos of refs mistakes.  Being a national punchline isn’t something you strive for when having labor issues.   But no matter how bad the NFL is looking, that harm will vanish when the real refs come back.  But the NHL lockout may cripple the sport in irreparable fashion.  Nobody knows how many fans will never come back if a second season in 8 years is stolen from hockey fans.  No sport has ever cancelled an entire season, let alone two.  The damage will be unprecedented.  ROSIE O’DONNELL-SIZED EGDE….NHL

It seems by my count the NHL’s lockout wins the battle of  “How stupid are we?”.  There is simply no way the NFL’s ref dispute can compete with such blatant dumbfuckery that the NHL owners are showing here.  In fact, this may be the dumbest sports labor issue ever.  Well done, you band of ringmeats.

Another Clown Claims the Crown

Nearly each season in Survivor, we are gifted with a contestant that hatches some can’t-miss plan.  They usually involve making multiple alliances or a bit of back-stabbing that will end up with a blindside vote at tribal council.  Some plans are brilliantly conceived and are beautifully executed with accordant results.  Those plans are always the brainchildren (is that a word?) of the more educated players.  Some plans are hatched by guys like Zane.  This is Zane.

If I told you Zane here was born and bred in Kentucky, didn’t have a high school diploma, was a veteran of the paper hat and nametag work scene, currently works as  a tire re-treader and was the one to hatch a can’t-miss plan immediately after losing the immunity challenge, which way would you answer?

A…Plan comes off without a hitch.  Zane  the mastermind is installed as the new kingpin of his tribe.  He is now in a position of power.  Shit just got real.  ZANE real.

B…Plan mostly works.  Zane escapes unscathed at tribal, but doesn’t fulfill the endgame of the plan.  He’s still solidly placed in an alliance that controls the game.

C…Plan fails.  Someone else gets voted off at tribal , Zane survives by the skin of his teeth and is now on shaky ground with a weak alliance.  His place in the game is very precarious.

D…Plan explodes in his inbred face.  Zane looks every bit the idiot he’s portrayed himself as and is voted off with extreme prejudice.

Before you guess, let me fill you in on what Zane’s plan was.  During the immunity challenge, Zane, a recent (less than 3 days) ex-smoker caused his team to fall behind in the challenge, a deficit they never made up, losing the challenge and forcing them to vote someone out that night.  Back at camp, Zane decided to take the blame for the loss and insist he was fine with being voted out.  The whole tribe was kind of shocked and looked glad that they had a patsy volunteer for the chopping block.  It’s often tough at your first tribal council, not knowing who is the biggest liability.  Zane made it easy.

So far, so good, I assumed.  I mean, surely this was the groundwork for one helluva plan.  I couldn’t wait to see how this Mozart played the keys of the strategy piano and engineered his salvation.  What was the masterstroke of the can’t miss plan?

He went to the other tribe members and tried to initiate a blindside of Russell by using his Kentucky hillbilly charms on them.  He tried to make himself the lovable loser and went for the pity.  This fucking idiot decided to go for pity 3 days into the game.  Let’s say his gambit DID work.  How long did he hope to milk that angle?  You don’t win Survivor on 39 days of pity.  You get voted out real fast when the pity stops.  Instead of laying low and rallying support to dump the incredibly unpopular Russell, he jumped into the breach and went ass-up.  The bitch of it was he was openly laughing about his gamesmanship and how his plan was sure to work before tribal.

Let’s get back to our quiz.  I bet you guessed D.  Well, you’d be right.  At tribal, the vote went 5 against Zane and only Zane’s lone vote against Russell.  Walking away from tribal, Einstein Jr remarked, “Son of  a bitch” and was flabbergasted in his closing remarks to close the show.  This wasn’t as stupid as how James (twice) got voted off with immunity idols in his pocket, but it sure deserves a spot in the team photo.  Well done, Zane Einstein!!  You are an official Survivor legend!!

by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

The Riz’s Big Week

As of this writing, The Riz has played 9 games for the Cubs as the most hyped prospect since Mark Prior burst onto the scene in 2002.  So far, The Riz has put up a .323/.344/.710 slash line with 3 home runs (all of which were impressive for different reasons that I’ll get to) and a kickass OPS of 1.053.  Even though some are calling him Our Savior (I’m not copyrighting that one), he’s not.  He is just a kid still learning how to play the game and tap into that skill set he has.  Being a savior means you and you alone are responsible for a team’s success.  Theo Epstein is not a savior.  Nor are Jed Hoyer or Jason MacLeod.  They, along with The Riz and other young talents on the way, are all pieces of a big picture.  But I digress….back to getting my Riz-boner going.  Let’s take a quick look at his homeruns…

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This was The Riz’s first Cubs home run.  There was undue pressure on this kid to be the Next Big Thing and all us Cubs fans were anxious to see if he could live up to even a bit of the hype.  Getting this first homer out-of-the-way was a load off his mind.  He also hit it a ton and we all watched it soar majestically into the RF seats.  It gave us a lead and we won the game.  Hitting a game-winner for your introduction to Cubs fans absolutely met our expectations.  On to homer two…

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Coming against one of baseball’s better young pitchers, Tommy Hanson, this homer gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead in a game they’d end up winning 4-1.  The Cubs don’t play very well in Atlanta, even when they have a good team, which they clearly don’t this season.   While hitting the homer was important, it carried two impressive factors….the sound and where it went.  Listen again to the sound the bat makes when The Riz makes contact.  That is some serious shit.  It’s a CRACK! that resounded through the park and made you turn your head to ask, “”WHO HIT THAT BALL SO FUCKING HARD?”  Most players don’t produce such a crack-of-the-bat reaction.  The Riz does.  The second factor is where that ball went and how it got there.  Not all players can hit to the opposite field with power, especially at 22 years old.  As CFer Michael Bourn starts back on the ball, he breaks into the “That bitch is gone” jog really quickly.  Bourn didn’t think that ball would carry so, as evidenced by where he was playing The Riz,….more straightaway than shifted over.  I don’t think anyone had scouted the oppo field power.  They now know.  Onto home run number three…

MLB isn’t letting us embed this one.

While this one was pulled, it was a different sort of shot than homer #1.  The first was a soaring, majestic bomb that took a couple seconds to leave the yard.  This was a goddamned bullet that screamed out of Turner Field with a flight-speed velocity that rivaled Katie Holmes’s sprint away from that whackjob she provided the beard for.  This ball traveled so fast that it rivaled myself looking for the new Kate Upton dance video.  (I’m not obsessed, I’m just in lust)  This homer also produced that great CRACK! sound that his second homer made.  In short, this kid can fucking RAKE at 22 years old.

“But Tony,” you say, “what about the glovework?  Can The Riz field or is he just a one-dimensional slugger?”  Well, here’s  a clip answering that question…

That run that The Riz cut down turned out to be kind of large….the Cubs won that game 3-2.  That was the game he hit homer #1, btw.  He’s doing it all!!  Seriously, he looks very comfortable at the big league level so far.  He’s not giving away at-bats.  He’s not been overmatched by anything yet.  He hasn’t been pressing and is letting the game come to him while he gains even more confidence and experience.  His makeup is as important as his baseball skillset and both have been fully displayed thus far.  Here’s hoping he keeps it going.

Minnesota Goes for It.

Hockey’s free agency started on Sunday the 1st and there were two huge free agents available….New Jersey’s Zach Parise, a center, and Nashville’s Ryan Suter, a defenseman.  Both are seen as the type of players who would inject some serious talent into whatever team landed them.  The Hawks had designs on both, especially Parise.  While the salary cap number for either player would be high, on the right team, it would likely be worth it.  Parise is a rugged power forward who can play on all special teams and has a nose for the puck.  Suter is a slick puck-moving d-man who may not be the physical d-man the Hawks need, any time you can add a Ryan Suter to your team, you’re better for it.  The evil bastards known as the Detroit Red Wings were thought to be a lock as the landing place for Suter, which didn’t bode well for the Hawks.  Parise was getting huge offers from various teams.  So what happened?

The lowly (well, maybe not anymore) Minnesota Wild, proud owners of 11 post-season wins since their inception in 2000, managed to land both prizes by giving them matching 13 year/$98M deals.  For those of you who suck at math like I do, that breaks down to a cap hit of $7.538 million per season.  While that much money would serve as an enticement to anyone to go live in Minnesota, the Wild had a couple built-in advantages.  Parise is from Minnesota and has plenty of family there, including his dad, former NHLer J.P. Parise. Suter’s wife hails from Minnesota and Suter himself is from nearby Wisconsin.  Add in the fact that these guys discussed playing together like LeBron and Wade and Chris Bosh did and it wasn’t in the cards for any other team to have a serious shot at these guys.

Too bad, although Detroit missing out on Suter makes me happy.

N.L. All-Star Kudos

Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey recently made the N.L. All Star team for the first time at age 37.  His struggles have been all over the media the past few months with the release of his new book.  I read it and was really impressed by his determination and sheer guts.  Born without an ulnar collateral ligament, kind of an important piece of anatomy for a guy who wants to throw a baseball for a living, living in sheer poverty for years, being sexually abused on numerous occasions as a youth and struggling to make it as a big league pitcher, Dickey never gave up on his dream.  Most other people would have found a job somewhere and taken care of his young and growing family.  Dickey persevered.  Dickey fought.  Dickey did the unthinkable and became a knuckleball pitcher.

For the baseball newbies, going from a conventional pitcher…fastball, curveball, another off-speed pitch….to a full-time knuckler is like nothing else I can imagine.  Not only did he become a knuckleballer, he’s one of the best pitchers in the game this season and earned that trip to Kansas City next week for an honor not many players earn the way he did.  When he enters that players clubhouse and dresses in his All Star uniform and later takes the field with and against young star players like Mike Trout, Chris Sale and Starlin Castro and future Hall of Famers like Chipper Jones and Derek Jeter and knowing he made it on his own terms and that he belongs with those guys, he’ll have me cheering for him as I have been since I finished his book.

I don’t like cheering for a member of the New York Mets, but I’ve no problem cheering for a guy like Dickey.  He’s earned more respect than most of us could ever hope to get.  Well done, R.A.

by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

Patrick Kane needs to learn how to drink

Over the Cinco de Mayo weekend, Deadspin cover boy Patrick Kane visited the University of Wisconsin at Madison campus and proceeded to get so liquored up that pics of him and accompanying stories of debauchery swept this glorious thing we call the internet. What, you missed them? Well, here’s a sample of KANER’s weekend fun…

So what’s the big deal, you ask? Surely there’s nothing wrong with a 23 year old multi-millionaire superstar athlete having a good time cruising the co-ed population and drinking enough to kill a large yak, right? Well, yes and no.

Here’s what’s no big deal….Kane is of legal drinking age and his team is out of the playoffs. He didn’t do anything wrong aside from acting like a drunken buffoon. (As of today, Madison police said no charges will be filed against Kane and they are unaware of any complaints filed by anyone against him. Kane was rumored to have choked a co-ed at some point during his weekend.) Even with his appalling fashion sense, I’m sure he got a little somethinsomethin as long as the whiskey dick wasn’t overwhelming. Hell, I wish I had gone with him.

Here’s what is a big deal….Kane represents a first-class hockey organization and this isn’t the first time he’s acted like a wank. He has been a Deadspin favorite for years now and is always good for some drunken hijinks. The Vancouver limo pics are a personal favorite of mine.

He’s guilty not only of hogging here, but also of being a pattern dickhole. The incidents like this have been piling up over the past few years. Remember the parade on June 11, 2010? I was there when Kane was crocked out of his mind and slurred his way through his turn at the mic. Not a big deal as the first championship for anyone, especially the guy who scored the Cup-winning goal, is bound to be an occasion where you totally overserve yourself. Pattern behavior like this isn’t good.



CHUG-A-LUG!!

When you are a superstar like Kane is, you need to make smarter choices, especially in this day and age when EVERYONE has a cameraphone and is all too happy to snap away when a guy like Kane acts like this. You simply can’t continue to give the masses who want to tear you down ammo to blast you with. Until he starts making smarter choices and either tones this WAY down or opens his own private bar and drinks alone like the George Thorogood song suggests, I’m sure Kaner will be social media’s favorite drunken clown.

As for his future, the TRADE KANE!! faction is up-in-arms again, imploring the team to get rid of him ASAP for any return he can bring. Those people should not only be beaten with a rubber hose, they are hypocrites of the highest order.

First off, trading Kane right now would be stupid for a couple of reasons. One, you will not get anywhere near full value for him. When you have a 23-year-old who is an elite playmaker and possesses a resume like Kane does, you don’t deal him when his value is compromised. We went through this last season when Kane was slumping. Giving away an asset like this, only to watch him find his game again for the next decade or so would be grossly incompetent.

Secondly, you are hurting your team on the ice in a huge way. We need another top 6 forward as it is and with Hossa’s return uncertain, we may need two. Dealing Kane would leave a hole as big as the hangover I’m sure he had after the weekend in Cheeseland. For a team with its championship window still wide open, this would be a catastrophic blow and isn’t in the best interests of the team or the fans.

As for the hypocrite part of my statement, the fans screaming to trade Kane are the same fans who cheer Bobby Hull unreservedly. Hull, in his day, was the biggest lush ever seen on Rush Street. He was a carouser of the highest order and would make Kane look like a Boy Scout on a mild sugar high in comparison. Add in the numerous domestic abuse charges Hull encountered and the little incident where he said, “Hitler had some good ideas. He just went a little bit too far” (kinda makes Ozzie Guillen’s comment about Fidel Castro look like a love song, doesn’t it?) and Kane again looks like a pussy cat. You can’t ignore what Hull did and condemn Kane for far less. He’s not the “bad guy” some idiots in the media claim him to be, either.

While Kane is still young and immature, it’s far too early to give up on him. He has a vast amount of skill that is still untapped and is readily apparent. The guy who scored a goal-scorers goal to win the Stanley Cup is not to be whisked out of the organization. We need him here to do this again….

by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

Junior Seau, CTE and where this all may lead

On Monday, future NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau put a gun to his chest and pulled the trigger, ending his own life at age 43. This is eerily similar to how former Bears defensive back Dave Duerson took his own life in February of 2011. Duerson left a note saying he intentionally left his brain intact so it could be studied for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, commonly known as CTE. It’s a degenerative brain disease that has been linked to violent contact sports like football and hockey. Repeated blows to the head in these, and other, sports are suspected to directly lead to CTE, which in turn causes the victim to suffer from memory loss, depression, confusion and aggressive behavior. Obviously, suicidal tendencies are also a symptom and unfortunately, sometimes the last symptom.

With the recent deaths of hockey players considered “enforcers”, Rick Rypien, a CTE victim who committed suicide, the possible suicide of Wade Belak, a depression sufferer, and the overdose of Derek Boogaard, also a depression sufferer and CTE victim, the hockey community has been seriously questioning the role of enforcers in the game as its becoming apparent the constant punches to the head may be directly linked to CTE. Considering the relative youth of these 3 players…Rypien was 27, Boogaard was 28 and Belak was 35…the crippling effects of CTE manifesting itself in such young men is truly frightening. If getting into fights on the ice is linked to CTE, what the hell is the game of football doing to others?

Virtually every play in football ends with a high-speed collision between at least two people…at least one of which is moving at full speed. From the first time a youngster puts on the pads and taps into that neanderthal gene that says “RRRAAAAAHHHHHRRRRRR!!!! HULK SMASH!!!!” they are subjecting themselves to the very real possibility of injuring their brain on a constant basis until the day they stop playing the game, be it one play later or when they retire from pro football. The damage done to a brain from a violent concussion can never be trusted to fully heal and the medical data supporting that conclusion gets bigger with every study done on the brain.

When do parents around the world finally say, “Not my child” and refuse to allow them to participate in sports where the risk for brain injury is so great? I’m not advocating one side over the other here, just asking that very important question….”When”? I’m certain that many parents out there won’t give a shit about anything that’s come to light and will keep enrolling their kids in these sports and will continue to scream encouragement from the stands when little Johnny plants a crushing hit on the son of another set of parents. They’ll yell “SHAKE IT OFF, RUB SOME DIRT ON IT AND GET BACK OUT THERE” even when it’s their kid on the sideline, woozy and nauseous from receiving a similar hit, even when their coaches insist they watch from the sideline until they’re cleared by a doctor to return to game action. I’m not sure where this is leading for the future of these sports, but I’m sure controversy will abound.

The Cubs and the Farm System

On a lighter note….Yeah, the Cubs suck hard this season and probably will in 2013 as well. While this is nothing new for us Cubs fans, what is new is there’s an actual plan to improve via the farm system. Let’s take a look at my top 5 prospects…

1. Anthony Rizzo, 1B The prize of the Adrian Gonzalez to Boston deal, the Cubs somehow heisted The Riz (That’s MINE and I expect royalties when he wins his first MVP and everyone calls him that) from the Padres for Andrew Cashner. Only 22 years old, he’s tearing it up at AAA to the tune of a .372/.422/.638 slash line and is only being held back by the issue of service time (free agency eligibility begins after 6 major league seasons and teams sometimes try to delay the eligibility clock by bringing young players up in June or July) and the fact that Bryan LaHair is playing well at the major league level. He’s a Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor, so you know the kid is a fighter, too. I think he’s the most big league-ready of our youngsters and will give the Cubs a big run producer for a decade or so. ETA…June 2012

2. Brett Jackson, OF Jackson is a big, left-handed hitting OFer with superb defensive skills, is faster than rent in the ghetto and actually has the ability to draw a walk, something the Cubs haven’t stressed in the past. He’s prone to the strikeout, but so were plenty of other difference-makers with a similar tool set. I’m hoping he can be Jim Edmonds with more speed and less power. I don’t expect 40 homers from him, but 40 steals per season are in his sights. He’s excelled at every level he’s been at and at 23 is ready to hone his craft in Wrigley. There’s an available OF spot for him, but he’s in the same service time boat as The Riz. This kid is going to get every chance to be the dynamic leadoff hitter we have lusted after like we’ve lusted after a video of Kate Upton doing the Cat Daddy.

God help the rest of baseball if Jackson exceeds that level of awesomeness. ETA….June 2012

3. Javy Baez, 3B The last 1st round pick of the Jim Hendry reign of terror, he’s from the last MLB draft where overslotting and overpaying those players was possible. Drafted 9th overall in 2011, he’s 6′ 1″, 205ish, and still filling out since he’s only 19 years old. Scouts raved about how the ball jumps off his bat to all areas of the field. Defensively, he’s already a plus player and has the ability to play SS as well as 3B. Attitude may be an issue, though. He was recently scolded for admiring a home run and responded, “I can do whatever the fuck I want!” He’d better hit about 35 homers with a .300+ average in Wrigley if he’s going to be a cockbite. Hey, they can’t all be saints. ETA….2015

4. Matt Szczur, OF
Pronounced “Caesar”, Szczur is a super athlete who played both baseball and football at Villanova before choosing baseball after being drafted in the 5th round of the 2010 draft. He probably would have chosen baseball anyway, but the Cubs gave him $100K to sign and another $500K to skip the NFL scouting combine. For $600K, I shudder to think what I’d do. He’s struggling a bit at High-A Daytona, but he was a project with a high ceiling when we drafted him and we can afford to let him learn his craft at his own pace. He’s athletic and was very durable in college while playing two sports. He’s gone from 5th round future to fast-track prospect making a name for himself in the organization. ETA….2014, maybe 2015

5. Trey McNutt, P The top pitching prospect in the system, McNutt, only 22, has two outstanding plus pitches…an overwhelming fastball and a big ol’ power curve that are almost major-league caliber as it is. Refining a 3rd pitch and sharpening his control a bit will be the keys for McNutt (yeah, you love that name) to make it as a starting pitcher in The Show. He is thought so highly of that the Cubs refused to include him in the Matt Garza trade and laughed in Boston’s collective faces when they wanted McNutt (don’t act like you’re not giggling) in compensation for Theo. Standing 6′ 4″, he’s an imposing figure on the mound and may even put a few more pounds on his 205 pound frame. We need more home-grown arms to compete, but McNutt is a good start. ETA…2013

Rocky Horror Live Cast Showing

Ok, off sports for a second. This past Friday night, I took my girls and two of their friends to the Arcada Theatre’s live cast showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. If you’ve never seen this, it’s a Bucket List thing, especially if you like rude, vulgar, offensive and colorfully dressed people who worship a movie that bombed like it was dropped on Nagasaki in 1945. These goofs (said lovingly, of course) dress up in costume and act along with the movie in it’s entirety. But that’s not the fun part!! The fun part is the audience callbacks. During the whole movie, the dialogue in the movie is “answered” by the in-the-know members of the audience. Here’s a decent example of this. Gotta listen kind of close, but you can make out the callbacks.

The enjoyment level for virgins (Oh yeah, first-timers are called “virgins” and are marked with a lipsticked “V” on each cheek and some offensive words or artwork on foreheads or bald heads. Then, the cast tries to offend them pre-show. The guy who tried to offend me had the tables turned on him. Silly cross-dresser!!) depends on how good the audience is. It’s much more fun to hear everything crisp and in-time (My name is Janet. “SLUT!!”) rather than a bunch of people who aren’t into the flick. It’s very audience participatory-dependent for fun, because the movie itself pretty much sucks, which is why it bombed years ago. After the show, the cast is more than happy to pose for pics and shoot the proverbial shit with you. This is me and my boy, Frank. I think it’s a boy. I didn’t have the sack to look under it’s panties…

Bring your kids if you don’t mind taking a chance on scarring them for life. How can you, really, when it’s just a bunch of grown-ups prancing around in drag?

 

Well, the Hawks bowed out quite meekly in the first round of the playoffs this week. With Mike Smith stealing the two wins that Corey Crawford didn’t gift-wrap coupled with some key players (Patrick Sharp, I’m looking at you) last being seen on a milk carton and losing one of the game’s best two-way players in Marian Hossa, it all added up to a big wet fart that smelled worse than it felt. As disappointing as things turned out, it’s a damn sight better than what we saw before the resurgence of 5 years ago. To paraphrase some old Roman dude, “I’ve come to bury the Hawks, not to praise them.” Here’s my end-of-season/playoff report card. No punches pulled, no gilding the lily, no tarting it up.

FORWARDS

Jonathan Toews…Until a concussion cost Captain Serious 23 games, he was showing the hockey world again what a special player he continues to be. Averaging basically a point-per-game (for you hockey noobs, that’s a great rate of scoring), winning over 60% of his faceoffs (this is a FANTASTIC percentage), continuing to be a dynamic defensive player and cementing his place as an elite player and leader, Johnny was in the conversation for the Hart Trophy, awarded to the league’s MVP. Even though he likely wasn’t 100% upon his return, he was a factor in the series vs. Phoenix. Hopefully, his noggin is okay and his career isn’t affected by the concussion. GRADE….A

Patrick Kane
…Coming off wrist surgery in the off-season, there was some question about his being ready for the season. All he did was play all 82 games, one of only two Hawks to suit up every night. Shuttling between wing and center all year, he had a down year, points-wise, but if his wingers could have buried half the chances he served them, his point total would be much higher. He’s a work-in-progress defensively, but did show lots of improvement in that area and stepped up in Toews’s absence into a leadership role. Only 23, he’s a key player in our future. GRADE….B

Marian Hossa…Big Hoss led the Hawks in scoring with 77 points this year and played his usual excellent two-way game. One of the game’s best defensive forwards (he only had 20 penalty minutes this year, remarkable for such an active player in his defensive end), he did have some stretches where he wasn’t very visible, but over the 81 games he played, he was a serious plus. We can only hope he’s fully recovered from Raffi Torres’s dirty playoff hit. A true core player, we need him to come back healthy. GRADE….A

Patrick Sharp….Until a playoff vanishing act that would make Houdini ask “How did you do that?” Sharpie led the team in goals with 33 and was his usual dynamic sniping self. I wish I had an answer for his playoff no-show, but I don’t. Chalk it up to being a new dad and not getting any sleep. That’s what I’m going with. GRADE…B-

Viktor Stalberg
…Quite possibly the handsomest guy on the Hawks, the incredibly skilled Swede had a career season with 22 goals and 43 points and did it for under a million bucks. He looked better as the season wore on and he gained confidence. At times, he was the best player on the ice on either team. His elite speed created numerous scoring chances all season and we can only hope he continues to trend upward in 2012-13. He could be a real difference maker for us. GRADE…C+

Dave Bolland…Why is it that we all expect more from this guy? Only 25, it seems like he’s been a Hawk forever. He played 76 games and scored 19 goals, but after the job he did in the 2010 playoffs, I think anything he ever does might be a disappointment. It may not be fair, but I don’t make the rules. If we can deal him and his $3M+ cap hit, so be it. We can replace a guy who probably will never be that 2nd line center we desire. GRADE…C-

Andrew Brunette…Brought in to provide a big body in front of the net and leadership presence, he did one admirably and failed at the other. He proved too slow to keep up with the speedy Hawk forwards and never really found a place to call his own on any line. We all had hoped to squeeze whatever last drops of hockey goodness he had out of him, but that well proved to be dry. He shan’t return. GRADE…D-

Marcus Kruger….While he may never gain enough size to be a great player, he showed he can be pretty damned good on the 4th line as a defensive center. Smart, quick and always in the right spot, he has proved to be pretty durable and has a nice head for the game. We certainly can do worse than him and at only 22 years old, his future is with the Hawks. GRADE….C

Bryan Bickell….Easily the most frustrating Hawks player this season. Big, tough, fast with a great wrist shot, he pulled a Claude Rains for most of the season before coming to life against Phoenix. Every Hawks fan wanted this guy gone before the trade deadline and if they say they didn’t, they’re lying to you. He has too much talent to give up on so quickly and will be back next year, hopefully finally seeing what hard work all year can do. GRADE…D

Andrew Shaw….Easily the best story of the year. Signed to an entry-level deal during the season after being a 5th round draft choice after being undrafted in THREE previous drafts, Shaw blasted into Chicago like a breath of fresh air with an attitude and instantly became a fan favorite. His hustle won fans. His grit won fans. His determination won fans. Everything this kid did won us over more and more. Andrew Shaw proved that there is more to playing the game than measurable talent. Heart and desire, while cliché, matter. Pluswhise, #shawfacts ruled Twitter for a time, which speaks volumes about his impact. GRADE…A+

Michael Frolik….Works his ass off, battles in the corner, fills lanes with an active stick, couldn’t buy a goal if he had a bag of gold dust for a nutsack. All that is well and good, but for $3M per year, we need him to find his 20 goal-a-year form he showed early in his career. GRADE….D++

Jamal Mayers
….One of the “grit guys” Bowman brought in for a one-year deal, he provided what he was signed for. His character and work ethic were solid all season. Not sure if he’ll be back, but he was a solid player for us. GRADE….C+

Daniel Carcillo
….Carbomb, brought in as another “grit guy”, but one with actual hockey skills showed he can really play the game well. Of course, the fact that he’s a tremendous turd, a reckless player and a target for refs every time he’s on the ice proved costly and ended up costing him the season with a wrecked knee he did to himself with a dirty hit on another player. Re-signed for 2 years while in rehab, I’m not sure where he’s going to fit next season. GRADE…Incomplete

Jimmy Hayes….Did fairly well in limited time, he’s another youngster with a nice future here. You can’t teach size and Big Jimmy has it in spades. I look forward to his big ass in front of the net for a long time. GRADE….C

DEFENSEMEN

Duncan Keith….Brilliant at times, pedestrian at others, looked like a clueless fuck at others. If Bickell is the most frustrating Hawk player, Duncs is easily #2, simply because we KNOW how good he can be. Remember when he was the best defenseman in the world? Of course you do, because it was only two years ago when he won Olympic gold and was a stalwart for Team Canada, won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman and had his name engraved on the Stanley Cup. There isn’t anything he can’t do on the ice, but he has struggled with consistency. He needs to become at least 85% of that player again. GRADE….B-

Brent Seabrook….This season, Seabs became the undisputed best d-man on the team. Big, fast and a bruising hitter, he blossomed into the player we hoped he’d become. He finally started to unleash that bomb of a shot of his more often and piled up the ice time without any significant reduction in effectiveness. A true blueline stalwart, Seabs would thrive in any era. GRADE…A

Nick Leddy….At an age where his peers are still playing college hockey (Leddy turned 21 late in the season), he was thrust into a role that was too big for him. Even so, he played in all 82 games and scored 37 points, a solid season in those respects. What he needs is about 15 lbs of muscle and plenty of ice time and experience to become the player he can be. Fans really shit on him all season, deservedly so at times, but those same people will be cheering wildly for him once he improves on those rough areas. GRADE….C

Niklas Hjalmarsson
….He’s regressed since his first two seasons, when he looked every bit the next mainstay on the blueline. When we matched San Jose’s offer sheet, it was seen by most as a necessary move to keep a building block. Since then, he’s done nothing to warrant the move, giving the second-guessers plenty of ammo. For the money he makes…over $3M per year….we need more than ONE goal and a buttload of shotblocks. Simply put, if he’s moved this off-season, it won’t make many Hawks fans sad unless he blossoms elsewhere. Then, the third-guessers will go hog wild. GRADE….D-

Sean O’Donnell….Brought in to be a depth defenseman, he only played 51 games and looked to have almost nothing left. He did have some solid games, but simply couldn’t sustain any sort of solid play. He won’t return. GRADE….F

Johnny Oduya…..A fantastic addition at the trade deadline, he was a disaster in the playoffs and it’s up in the air as to whether he’ll return. I like the guy, but we have other d-men that have a similar skill-set….fast, agile, not very big or physical. If he stays, someone else has to go and vice-versa. At least he was sort of cheap in that trade. GRADE….C

Steve Montador….A concussion wrecked his season and he never looked comfortable before that. Hopefully, he’s healthy and can find a groove with us because we need him to be the player we signed him to be. He was actually more effective as a forward on the power play. That’s as surprising as the fact that one of my daughters puts ketchup on her hot dogs. *throws up in my own mouth* GRADE….D-

Dylan Olsen
….Another young guy who didn’t get a whole lot of consistent playing time, he should get a long look in camp to take one of the bottom pairing spots. He’s gotta be better than O’Donnell, right? GRADE….Incomplete, but with promise

Sami Lepisto
….Spent much of the season in Q’s doghouse. Not sure why, since he was better than O’Donnell who got into 51 games. He must have made fun of Q’s coachstache. GRADE….D-

GOALTENDING

Corey Crawford….I’m not sure where to start with this guy. When he’s on, he’s dynamite and impregnable. Like he was in games 3 and 4, he kept us in the games and looked as confident as a cow a vegan convention. Of course, he could turn on a dime and shit the bed like he did in those same two games. For a team to win the Cup, the goalie needs to be able to steal a game here and there. Antti Niemi did it in 2010….game 1 against San Jose comes to mind….and Crawford needs to be able to do the same. A summer of busting his ass with a goalie coach should help greatly, but how dedicated he is remains to be seen. GRADE….C+

Ray Emery….His return from a possible career-ending hip injury was rewarded by a roster spot with the Hawks and was our team’s nominee for the Masterson Trophy, given to the NHL player that “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey.” Having a guy that respected on the roster is always a good thing and when he stepped in during a Crawford slump that lasted forever, he played well enough to steal a game or two for us when we were desperate for some wins. His overall numbers weren’t outstanding, but he did his job as a backup…be a pro, be ready to play, don’t bitch about not playing, and mentor the kid who you’re backing up. He is a credit to the game of hockey. GRADE…B

I’m not sure what the off-season will bring, but in the meantime, I’ll be enjoying another 6 weeks or so of the NHL playoffs. All we can hope for is a solid off-season for Bowman and the regained health of out walking wounded. Things are never as bad as they seem when you’re at your lowest and the playoff loss certainly applies here. Getting 101 points in the beastly-tough Western conference isn’t like we were terrible all over the ice and up and down the roster. A few key additions and subtractions will help our chances this time next season. Onward!!

First off, I’ve come up with a cool hockey-themed name for my column. For you hockey novices, let me explain…a bag skate is a hockey practice where the coaches keep the pucks in the bag. All they do is skate, skate and then they skate some more. It’s a punitive measure that usually follows a terribly shitty effort in a game the night before. You can usually tell somewhere in the 3rd period when a team will be going through the dreaded bag skate the next day. Busting your ass is a sure way of avoiding a bag skate. There’s no smartass parallel I’m trying to make here…I just like how it sounds, so The Bag Skate it is.

Pre-Game

Tonight, the Hawks face their biggest game of the year in game 4 against the suddenly “We think we’re good” Phoenix Coyotes. Well, most of the Coyotes. Grade A cocklunch and assphlange Raffi Torres is obviously not playing for a while, due to his being suspended for that dirty hit on Hossa in game 3. I don’t really need to go over what happened again. Suffice to say, the bad blood between these two teams has grown exponentially since game 1. The Hawks don’t need to go out and “get even”. That’s what stupid fans would want us to do, and I’ve seen plenty of that shit on plenty of boards. Fans of other teams blathering, “That wouldn’t happen with my team.” Good for your team. Chances are, they haven’t won the Cup ever or for a very long time. I’d prefer the Hawks to retaliate with a series win.

Puck drop, 20:00 left in the first Anyone else nervous? BTW, rookie/junior superstar Brandon Saad starts on the Toews line. Nothing like playing with an elite player to boost a kid’s confidence.

18:30…The Bolland line with a great shift! We need a big night from the secondary guys tonight with Hossa out. The big guys need help with the heavy lifting.

17:48…Hawks to the power play. God help the Coyotes if we actually can score here. God help us, period.

16:20…Near miss by the Hawks. Damn, that would have been sweet.

16:02…Refs fuck the Hawks yet again. Blatant high-stick in Sharp’s face right in front of all 4 officials goes uncalled. Someone give Q another $10K for another fine when he calls the officiating a disgrace again.

14:36…Brandon Bollig and Paul Bissonnette tangle here. Yet another talentless hack employed by Phoenix for the express purpose of being a pile of crap. Get some talent and then talk to me. What a punk. Both get 5 for fighting. Bitchonnette should get 2 more for that haircut he has.

11:55
…Toews with an awesome chance. Not a great angle from in tight and he tried to go short side rather than his customary 5 hole. Would have been a tough shot to make for sure.

11:40
….Foley railing on Torres, saying the league needs to tell him that if he pulls this shit again, his future is in doubt. Yeah, sounds good, but we all know the NHLPA would never allow that to happen.

10:43….First good save by Crawford, as Phoenix can’t get much going in the early part of the game. Good thing to see!!

9:15
…Hawks are controlling the game big-time so far. We need this effort all night and the rest of the playoffs.

6:14…Even Kane taking the body!! Attaboy!!

5:27
….Frantic pace with not many whistles so far. This style benefits the Hawks as we’re by far the faster team. Phoenix can’t stay with us so far and seem to be back on their heels. Speed kills!!

5:07
…Another great flurry for the Hawks. Stalberg looks like he has a bounty on the first goal scored. #Saints

4:03
….Kane nearly beats gutless faker Mike Smith to a loose puck. That would have brought some serious catcalls down on that play-acting punk.

3:13
…Goalpost for Phoenix. Why does it go this way…a team is getting utterly dominated and they get a great chance like that? Thank you for that PING!!

1:15
….Phoenix has another stiff, this one named Kyle Chipchurra….is he some sort of chocolate-chipped Mexican doughy treat? I loves me some chipchurra after my burrito and horchata.

End of the first period
…Hawks dominate the first period and outshoot the Coyotes 11-5. Trying to do this column and tweet the game at the same time is almost beyond me. I may have to apply for hazardous duty pay for my typing fingers. Blocked shot tally….Phoenix 9, Hawks 0. Can’t block what aint there. That’s a great sign. Flipping over to the Bos/Wash game for a quick looksee….tied at 1 and, of course, the pricks run a commercial as soon as I flip to them…bastards are spying on me again.

Second Period

18:58…GREAT SAVE BY CRAWFORD!!!

17:52….Phoenix has come out strong in the 2nd. Push-back is a big part of what we need to do here until we get control of things again.

14:48….Bickell steps on a stick and dumps himself. Actually a good no-call there by the four blind mice.

13:54…Crowd seems a bit underwhelming so far. You know what would get them going? A goal.

12:23….Great save by Smith on snake-bitten Michael Frolik. The puck trickled in a bit late and the whistle blew. Would have been nice for that to have counted, but it was pretty close and the whistle is the end of the play. At least it got the crowd into it.

12:04…Another Hawks power play. Excuse me while I shit myself with joy!!

11:13….This makes my balls hurt watching them get nothing going.

9:22…Hawks currently outshooting Phoenix 16-8. The trend is your friend, but sometimes friends stab you in the back.

8:00.
..This game is flying by so far. Good thing, I’m tired and want to hit the sack.

6:14…Brendan Morrison wins a board battle. THE SEVENTH SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE!!

5:30….Another great save by Smith, this one on Bickell. Hawks are going to break thru soon.

1:56…Coyotes head to their first power play after Mikkel Boedker falls down. Nice dive there.

End of the second period….Hawks continue to dominate everywhere but the scoreboard, outshooting them 23-10 so far. This isn’t even close, save for the acting candyass keeping the game scoreless. I gotta figure Phoenix is going to come out even stronger in the 3rd than they did in the 2nd, so we’d better be ready for it and match the intensity. I don’t want to go to bed all pissed off like I did Tuesday night. I hate swearing in my sleep. The cocky doucher doing the shoot the puck promo missed all 3 of his tries badly….LOL. This chick just joined the list of “Top 5 Whorishly Dressed Women” to ever do this promo….well done, you tramp!!

Third Period

19:56….Hawks kill off the penalty. That was much appreciated, boys!!

18:57…..Someone tell the Hawks the 3rd has started. Phoenix kept the puck in our zone for over a minute. Did they set tee times and not tell anyone?

17:45….The longer we don’t score, the less I like our chances. These are the types of games goalies steal for inferior teams.

16:43…Foley needs to stop calling Ray Whitney “The Wizard”. Unless he’s in OZ or playing SS for the Cardinals, he’s nothing of the sort. STFU, Pat.

12:57….Yep. The Coyotes score and lead a game they have no business being in, 1-0. Out-played, out-shot, out-everythinged and they’re up 1-0. I hate this sport.

12:13….2-0 Coyotes. No effort at all in the crucial 3rd period and we’ve been dominated thus far. Keith and Seabrook get caught standing in the crease like they had tickets to watch the game. Good bye, playoffs. This series is over. Saturday night will be academic unless something drastic happens.

10:40….Way to pick up your fallen comrade, Marian Hossa, by the way. Nice heart you guys are showing in response to Torres and his blatant thuggery. Ought to be ashamed of yourselves.

9:35….Brendan Morrison of the Hawks scores on a deflection to make it 2-1. Forgive me if I don’t get fully engorged, but that was a weak goal Smith should have had. I’ll get excited if we can tie it up. As it is, I see Phoenix scoring again within 2 minutes. Sorry to piss down your leg and tell you I pissed down your leg.

7:53…..To the Hawks credit, they’ve picked it up since rolling over and playing dead to start the 3rd. Too little too late?

7:23….Hawks head to the power play. I think this may be the most crucial power play of the season.

5:23…What a popcorn fart of a power play at a crucial time. I think I’ll go pick my nose with a rusted butter knife….

5:13
….Another Hawks penalty, this one by Sharp for a trip. This is the most crucial penalty kill of the season. I love when things even out.

3:18
…Toews with a solid short-handed chance there. We can always count on him to play his ass off. OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN!!

2:25…Getting beaten by nobodies. I hate this sport.

1:26…HOLY FUCKING SHIT THE HAWKS TIE IT UP AT 2 APIECE ON THE DELAYED PENALTY!!! And it was the snake-bitten one again…Michael Frolik!!! I love this sport!!!

End of regulation.
Headed to overtime for the 4th straight time in the series. I don’t know if this is good in the long run for whoever advances, but it sure is fun to watch. Well, it’s fun when I’m not swearing at the TV or shaking with nerves.

Overtime

19:40….Hawks fans chanting for Hossa. That’s a nice thing to do. #WinItForhossa, indeed.

17:45…Hawks lose quickly on another goal by a real slug, Mikkel Boedker. What a fucking joke, going down 3 games to 1 to a team we have no business losing even once to. And it was all set up by Nick Leddy taking a horrible angle on the rush by the slug. This one, just like game 3, was given away to a team that can’t hold our jocks. Have I mentioned I hate this sport?

So, the season is basically over. With Marian Hossa playing the part of the Gipper, the Hawks couldn’t summon up the courage to win even one of the two games at home for him. Way to be good teammates. You let a talentless thug like Raffi Torres change the series and couldn’t respond. You let a team with NINETEEN SHOTS ON GOAL beat you tonight. A team that can’t skate with us beat us. A team that can’t score goals beat us. To top it off, we lost on two awfully horribly weak goals. Unacceptable on all counts. I, and all Hawks fans, expected more out of this team. In short, this is how I feel about this team as I go to bed tonight…

EVEN JESUS IS PISSED AT YOU ASSHOLES TONIGHT!!

Tonight, the Blackhawks begin their quest for their second Stanley Cup championship in three years. For the team that wins it all sometime in June, they will complete a two-month grind that tests the limits of endurance, the quality of the team’s character and the sheer incompetence of NBC analysts Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury. These guys are so bad they make Ken Harrelson seem almost listenable and anyone who has ever heard that douchenozzle knows what a feat that is. Seriously, how anyone can listen to that whining, cloying homer is beyond me. I guess some people enjoy having their ears raped by a talentless hack.


Please, kill me before he speaks again.

Speaking of talentless hacks, let me kick off my 1st round preview of the Hawks/Coyotes series.

Offense

On paper, the Hawks are the dominant offensive team in the series. Led by Patrick Sharp’s 33 goals, the Hawks boast 4 other players with 20+ goals and Dave Bolland came close with 19. In contrast, the Coyotes have only 3 players with 20 or more goals, led by Radim Vrbata’s career high of 35. However, they spread their scoring around a bit better than the Hawks do, with 6 players between 11 and 17 goals. But for sheer firepower, the Coyotes can’t match the top two lines the Hawks can roll out there, especially if Toews returns (we’ll cover that later in the preview). The Hawks high-powered offense scored 248 goals as opposed to only 216 for Phoenix. At nearly half a goal more per game, the Hawks filled the net better all year than the Coyotes did. Good luck to the Coyotes in shutting down all that offense the Hawks have. The Hawks don’t need to worry about much more than the top line of the Coyotes.


Sharpie is a key offensive player and a helluva handsome dude. Guys like us are rarities!!

EDGE…Blackhawks

Defense

Since the Johnny Oduya trade, the Hawks overall defense improved greatly. Oduya was a stabilizing influence on the blue line and was the slick puck-moving defenseman we hope Nick Leddy can become. His presence allowed Leddy and others to play less minutes, including Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, which will help greatly in the long run. The addition of youngster Dylan Olson and the return of Sami Lepisto give the Hawks tremendous depth on the back end, which is incredibly important during a long playoff run. (As an aside, the 21 year old Leddy finished 2nd among Hawks d-men in scoring with 37 points, behind only Duncan Keith’s 40 points, a lofty accomplishment for someone who became a whipping boy for the short-sighted idiot faction out there. You know, the same jerkoffs who screamed for Kane to be traded at less-than-peak value). We have a solid 8-man rotation going right now. The Coyotes may not be as deep here, but any team with Keith Yandle and youngster Oliver Ekman-Larsson has a top pair that is as good as anyone’s. The rest of their defense is fair at best, with former Hawks suckwad Adrian Aucoin heading up the less-than-fantastic Coyote defense. They better get some seriously effective minutes from Yandle/Ekman-Larsson if they want to take this series. EDGE….Blackhawks

Goaltending

The old adage says a hot goalie can win a playoff series all by himself. While that may be a slight exaggeration, the way Mike Smith has been playing for Phoenix, it may hold about as true as it gets. He had a breakout year at age 29, not a huge surprise for a goalie. He set career bests in every category and has looked very bit the type of guy who can carry a team for stretches all by himself. On the flipside, Corey Crawford has been up and down like a $10 crack whore in the hood on the day public aid checks arrive.


Yes, Crawford has been about this scary at times. Not pretty, I know….

Even with his second consecutive 30 win season, his problems are pretty evident. When he’s confident, he’s amazing. When he lets a bad goal in, you can almost see him shrink in size and his confidence evaporate. Smith has been on his game far more often this season, but he will have to step it up yet another level for Phoenix to beat the Hawks.

EDGE….Coyotes

Coaching

Dave Tippett has been fantastic at guiding the broke-ass Coyotes to their first-ever division title and the 3 seed in the Western Conference. Somehow, he guided them to 97 points with extremely limited resources. In his 8 seasons as a head coach, he’s made 7 playoff appearances but has never won the Cup, but did get to the Western finals in 2008 with Dallas. Joel Quenneville has been the right guy for the Hawks job since his hiring early in the 2008-09 season, making the playoffs each season and winning the 2010 Stanley Cup. Both are head coaches any team would be fortunate to have in their employ. Whichever teams loses the series won’t do so because the coach is at fault. EDGE….Even

Special Teams

When it comes to the phrase “Power play”, both team are full of shit on that count. The Hawks ranked 26th and the Coyotes ranked even worse at 29th out of 30 NHL teams. These respective units are about as scary as the Charlie Brown Halloween special.


Even a rock is more than what these power plays have provided.

Neither one should make much of an impact in the series. As for the penalty kill units, Phoenix ranked a solid 8th overall while the Hawks were 27th. The Hawks were pretty solid for some long stretches at times, but they really shit the bed for other periods. This could be a strength for Phoenix, but overall it looks like a wash. EDGE….Even

Intangibles

The single biggest intangible in the series, and possibly the entire NHL playoffs, is the health of Hawks team captain Jonathan Toews. An elite player like Toews can make a difference in any series, as evidenced by the Conn Smythe trophy residing in his trophy case alongside his World Junior championship, Olympic gold medal and Stanley Cup title. He excels in every facet of the game and is even better as a leader. If he’s back at full strength, Phoenix doesn’t stand much of a chance. The whole of the NHL should be wary of us if Toews is 100%. If he can’t play, then this series just became a dogfight. The biggest intangible Phoenix may have is the home-ice advantage, but one road win by the Hawks will erase that.


This is very tangible. And with Johnny, it’s attainable.

EDGE….Blackhawks

Prediction

In my column last week, I predicted the Hawks to win this possible series in 5 games. (I didn’t sacrifice a live chicken like I said I would last week, but I did demolish a bigass steak on Easter, so I’m hoping that’s close enough) I honestly didn’t think Phoenix would win the Pacific as they needed two huge wins and some help from other teams to do so, but they pulled it off with some very solid clutch hockey. Now that it’s come down to it, I’m going to stick with my prediction, especially since it’s looking like Toews is going to return to the lineup. I just can’t see Phoenix winning 4 of 7 with the Hawks at full-strength.


VICTORY STEAK FOR EVERYONE!!!

THE PICK….Hawks in five games.

The SaniTERRYum X: A Call to Chicagoan Arms

Drinking Bell’s Oberon, munching on El Ranchero chips with salsa, and watching Kyle Korver and my Bulls outhustle and beat up on the annoying New York Knickerbockers, it’s difficult for me to be mad at much. But I’m mad at New York. I always have been. I’m not totally sure why. I have a great time when I’m there. It has a ton to offer. The faithful hatred probably has everything to do with my sense of pride for my hometown of Chicago, and us getting the shaft in comparison to The Big Apple. That being said, nothing is more gratifying, sports wise, than a victory over New York and the Knicks. 

There was something redeeming in not only beating the Knicks last night but the way we beat them in every facet of the game that showed how difficult it will be for whoever we face in the playoffs to beat us in a seven game series. 25-5 advantage on second chance points. 51-33 on the boards. Kyle Korver and Company diving for loose balls. Rip Hamilton is not only playing, but he’s balling and dipping into the fountain of youth a bit. DRose or no DRose, we’ll need sustained efforts similar to last night’s W to advance deeply in this year’s playoffs. The Knicks will barely sneak in and be promptly eliminated. 

Carmelo Anthony does not deserve the calls he gets from the refs. His skill level is high, but since coming into the league, he has done more whining than winning. He doesn’t strike me as someone who respects the game. He’s an individual scorer who ends up being a detriment to team goals. Tyson Chandler is still the same player he was when he wore number 3 for us just with a bigger bank account now. Amar’e Stoudemire is a seven footer who doesn’t play defense or rebound (?), and his health is a big question mark. I really hope we square off at The Garden and the United Center in the first round, so the Bulls can expose them for what they really are: a bunch of overpaid, underachieving assholes. What’s the over/under on time it takes for benches to clear and punches to land in that series? Beyond an impending sweep of the Knicks later this month though, I want to know who the better sports town truly is. 

Excluding the Yankees (who I’ve always actually been a huge fan of) and taking the high road on expletive usage, the time has come to run a full-on analysis of Chicago vs. New York sports successes…and failures. I have always been somewhat of an antagonist when it comes to first and second city relations, but I’m setting my Napoleon Complex aside to determine if we here in Chicago even deserve to be in the discussion, let alone take over all you New Yorkers. 

For me as a fan, championships are all that matter. Playoff appearances are nice, but no one remembers anyone but the ultimate champion. As I said before, we’re going to take the Yanks out of the equation here, because that’s really not fair. They’re the most storied franchise in all of sports. Here we go though, let’s count the championship banners: 

New York Mets: 2
New York Baseball Giants: 5
Brooklyn Dodgers: 1
New York Football Giants: 8
New York Jets: 1
New York Rangers: 4
New York Knicks: 2
New York Islanders: 4

As you can see, New York’s numerical population gives them a slight advantage having 3 (4 counting the Yankees) baseball teams, 2 hockey teams, and 2 football teams. Even though they have had almost double the sports teams as us, New York’s output is a total of 27 championships…exactly as many as the Yankee Empire has accumulated over the years. This isn’t coincidence. There’s no such thing. 

And now, The Chi:

Chicago Bulls: 6
Chicago Blackhawks: 4
Chicago Bears: 8
Chicago Staleys: 1
Chicago Cardinals: 2
Chicago Cubs: 2
Chicago White Sox: 3

26 total championships for us here in Chicago. Always coming up one short to The City That Never Sleeps. So it’s agreed then, we shall stop sleeping, Chicagoans. Take a cue from Kyle Korver’s performance last night, and hustle 24/7. We’ve got some catching up to do, Chicago. 

Ah, fuck it. Nevermind. This is a battle I’ll never win…

by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

After back-to-back shootout losses against the laughably awful Minnesota Wild (their name is as awful as their quality of hockey), the Hawks have recently accomplished the following…1) clinching a playoff spot without having Captain Serious in the lineup for 20 games 2) showing they can beat anyone with the lineup they have if they play smart, tough and fast hockey 3) knocking AWPDS out with an elbow, courtesy of Duncan Keith (I don’t condone what he did, but since it was in retaliation for basically years of cheap shots by those punkass bitches, so be it) 4) giving me plenty of ammo for my columns and 5) raising ticket prices for next season already. All that’s left to settle is who they’ll meet in the first round. Let’s look at the possible match-ups and how desirable they are.

Nashville

This is the ONE team no sane Hawks fan wants to face in the first, second or any round. The only way we get these guys is with a win in regulation against Detroit in the season finale. Anything else, we’ll finish 6th in the conference and draw the Pacific champ, which we’ll get to in a minute. Why don’t we want these guys? Besides the fact they beat us like they paid a nickel for us, they have possibly the best goaltender in the West in Pekka Rinne. Gotta love hockey names, eh? Anyhoo, Rinne and Nashville have taken 4 of the 6 regular season games from us and even though we beat them 5-4 in the last meeting, they stormed back from a 4-0 deficit and looked damn-near unstoppable while doing so.

Their offense is good enough to compete with anyone, a radical switch from their usual M.O. In years past, if you got up a goal or two on them, they were as good as beaten. But with the addition of former KHL (the elite Russian pro league) MVP Alexander Radulov, they’re as deadly as a box of rabid cats with straight razors tied to their tails. He’s a real difference maker and has a terrible haircut. That’s a bad mix.

It’s best if we let Detroit face them in the first round and watch as one knocks out the other. Hopefully, we get past our own first round series at the same time. In short, this team scares the ever-loving piss out of me. They’ll be quite the confident bunch if we meet up with them at any time in the playoffs. Nashville is led by one of the best coaches in the game, Barry Trotz. He always has his teams ready to play and well-prepared. Not to mention he is the happiest-looking guy in hockey…

You can almost see the sunshine beaming out of his ass, right?

Prediction…If we get these guys in the first round, I think they take us in 5 games. Yeah, they scare me that much.

Los Angeles

As of this writing on Friday night, this is who we’d get in the opening round.
They took 3 of 4 from us and looked pretty damned good while doing it. If Pekka Rinne is the best goalie out there, the Kings’ Jonathan Quick is in the top 5. Appearing in a staggering 68 games so far, Quick has posted 35 wins, a whopping TEN shutouts and a sub-2.00 GAA. YIKES!! He hasn’t been easy for anyone to beat and he already has two of those ten shutouts against us. I love him as an American hockey player, but I don’t want to be chanting U-S-A! while watching him stonewall us out of the playoffs.

Let’s hope Quick doesn’t get fatally wounded by his own troops like this Stonewall did.

Their offense isn’t as stout as other teams, but they sure have a few skill players to watch out for. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter have had a nice reuniting out on the Left Coast and I’m sure the bars and nightclubs have seen their business go up as well. Drinkee, drinkee!! Add in Hawks-killer Dustin Brown, Dustin Penner and Drew Doughty, they aren’t exactly barren. They’re coached by one of my first favorite Hawks players, Darryl Sutter, one of the 6 Sutter brothers who played in the NHL. He’s never won the Cup, but he knows the game and won’t lose a series because he’s not prepared.

Prediction…This may not be the best match-up either for us, but hockey teams from L.A. don’t exactly have a record of success in the playoffs. As good as Quick is, we have a great playoff defensive center in Dave Bolland who should be able to shut down the Kings’ top line. Hawks take this series in 6 games.

San Jose

GM Doug Wilson (still one of my all-time favorite Hawks) nearly tweaked this perennial playoff team right out of the post-season this year, but they’ve been hotter than a junkie’s spoon lately and have roared back into contention. They are essentially tied with L.A. and will decide the division winner in tonight’s game, the finale for each. Offensively, they’re led by a guy who is 6′ 4″, 230 and is a real under-achieving bitch. Joe Thornton has a well-earned rep as a playoff choker…who else recalls how he pissed the bed against us when we swept them in the 2010 playoffs? For such a big guy, he’s severely lacking in balls. I’m not worried about any team that will lean on this guy in a short series.

Defensively, Dan Boyle, a very good player, leads an unexceptional corps of average d-men. Aside from Marc-Edouard Vlasic, hereafter referred to as PickleBitch, and the ugliest man in hockey, Douglas Murray,

Ugly is not a good look for a wanna-be pretty boy.

I couldn’t pick a Sharks d-man out from a lineup of car salesmen, though the trail of slime would tip me off as to who the car salesmen are. Hawks playoff hero Antti Niemi is a quality goalie for sure, but he can have his moments where you know you can beat him. I’ll love him forever for those 16 wins he gave us on the way to Lord Stanley, but the team now in front of him can’t hold a candle to what we had in front of him. They’re coached by Todd McLellan and that’s not exactly going to make an opponent shit themselves in fear now, is it? He’s about as intimidating as that spider my daughter crushed with a shoe last week.

Prediction
….This may be the most favorable match-up for us. I simply can’t believe a team led by Thornton, PickleBitch and McLellan can beat us in a short series. It’s always great fun to watch Thornton crash and burn under pressure. I’m going with the Hawks in 5 games here.


Phoenix

The current 8th seed, they have an outside chance of winning the Pacific. The mere fact that this incredibly broke team, owned by the NHL until a buyer can be found, is actually in the playoffs is astounding. They’re so broke, they make the state of Illinois look like we have $100 bills growing on trees in our solid gold backyards. Seriously, they’re so broke…HOW BROKE ARE THEY??…that they literally have to have the coaches pay for pre-game meals and drinks. That’s broke. That’s like ghetto broke. Can we send them some coupons for 2 for 1 meal deals at their local Denny’s or something?

This collection of no-names are led by a solid captain in Shane Doan and a dynamic young defenseman in Keith Yandle. They have in their employ players named Lauri, Oliver and Raffi….sounds like a deranged TV puppet show for kids or something.

“That’s right, King Friday, we’re going to have to get medieval on these bitches.”

On the blueline, they’re solid, though unspectacular besides Yandle. But the real story on this team is the play of goalie Mike Smith. He had his string of 234:25 consecutive scoreless minutes snapped earlier this evening (I’m writing on Friday night this week due to my daughter being in her high school musical, West Side Story, the past two nights. I GOT A SOCIAL DISEASE!!). That’s pretty impressive for a guy who’s on his 3rd NHL team in 6 years. The guy charged with keeping this motley crew together is Dave Tippett, who has done a magnificent job with the most limited resources in pro sports today. This guy doesn’t even have an office at the team’s practice rink…he uses a TV tray and a folding chair in the rink’s party room. Well, he does unless little Johnny has a birthday bash going that afternoon. I didn’t make that shit up, either. Like I said earlier…broke.

Prediction….As great a story as they’ve been, even Cinderella had her midnight. Just getting into the playoffs was a great accomplishment in the tough Western conference, but if they meet us, I don’t see us losing to a team where the coach is taking them out for Slurpees after a win like some pee wee team. Hawks in 5 games.

Of course, things all hinge on the health of Jonathan Toews. All us Hawks fans are hoping and praying for his return in the first round. I am taking a page from the movie Major League and looking to sacrifice a live chicken. Hey, every little bit helps and it can’t hurt. Well, except for the chicken. It’s going to suck for the chicken.



“DON’T JUST SIT THERE, STOP THIS ASSHOLE!!!”

by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

This week, the Hawks have dropped the two games they’ve played so far. They got their asses waxed at home by a damn good Nashville team on Sunday, then salvaged a road point in New Jersey on Tuesday in a shootout loss. With 5 games to go, including the game against St Louis that I’ll be doing the ol’ running diary thing tonight, we are within striking distance of clinching a playoff spot. A win tonight would not only help immensely, but it would certainly show the rest of the league we’re a legit threat come playoff time. Jonathan Toews has been skating with the team and says he’s close to being ready for some contact. Let’s hope he continues to improve like he has in the past 10 days.

Puck Drop, 20:00 left in the first period… I’ll never like Jim Cornelison’s version of the National Anthem as much as Wayne Messmer’s, but I bet Jim isn’t half the greedy dick Wayne turned out to be. At a Cubs Convention once, Wayne wasn’t interested in hearing me express how much his version had moved me over the years. He only cared about trying to sucker me out of $20 for a CD of his version. Blow me, pal.

18:26…Tremendous save by Jaroslav Halak in close. That would have gotten the crowd in a tizzy right away. The quick-strikes we’ve gotten lately really get the team off on the right foot. Too bad we didn’t cash that in.

17:52….Hawks going to the power play. I’ll never get the following empty two minutes of my life back. Over/Under on shots we get on net here….0.5. Yeah, it’s been that bad. I wish they could figure this out sometime this century, but you simply can’t polish a turd.

17:08…The Blues penalty kill isn’t what we need to see here. They’ve killed more penalties than neighborhood watch guys have killed kids with hoodies lately. Send the indignant hate mail about that comment to my buddy Lou. He’ll appreciate the chance to spread his wings and answer you in kind….

15:52…The over came in there…one shot on that power play. Pay the winners!!

15:08….Great save by Crawford. That’s what he needed to keep his confidence level up. Brandon “One Punch” Bollig planted Kent Huskins like a springtime daisy after the shot. Pluswhise, Huskins caught a stick from Crawford in his face right before he got hammered. It’s double-dutch action at the UC!!

12:08….So far, both teams look pretty physical. We expect that from St. Louis, and it’s nice to see the Hawks respond in kind. Shaw and Bollig both seem to relish this aspect of the game. Tracey Myers, the CSN in-game microphone jockey, must be good at her job because she is one tough lady to get an eyeful of. Eeeesshh.

9:55…How about a goal by the 4th line tonight? It seems like forever since they’ve potted one.

9:22….HAWKS SCORE!! Bryan Bickell buries his bitchin’ wrister from above the dot to make it 1-0!! When this guy is motivated, he’s deadly. Nick Leddy and Dave Bolland get the assists. Nice to see Leddy continuing to play well. With his wheels, he can be a real weapon.

9:13….Blues score 9 seconds later to tie it up at 1. Jesus, that was unacceptable. Losing the ensuing faceoff after our goal set the whole thing up. No letdowns like that, asspipes!! Leddy played the rush well and turned Steen wide there, but he still got that shot away with some steam on it. Sphincter tightness….returning.

5:30…Hawks have responded to the Blues goal with some nice energy. You hate to see a letdown like that, but when the team responds with even more energy and speed, it’s a good sign. They need to keep this up and sustain some pressure.

3:53
…Wicked glove save by Crawford on Jason Arnott. Sphincter tightness…relaxing.

3:38
…Patrick Sharp with a sick wrister on goal and a better save by Halak. What a luxury for the Blues to have two killer netminders like Halak and Brian Elliott to choose from each game. Quite the nice problem to have….it’s like wondering which sports car to drive over to your supermodel girlfriend’s house…the Porsche or the Ferrari.

2:33….Scrum in front of the Hawks net. Vlad Sobotka of St. Louis touched it off with a post-whistle hack on Crawford. Nice to see Crawford reach up and take a swipe at him in response. Don’t take any shit from a guy with a last name like a bargain-bin vodka.

0:25….Dumb penalty by Shaw. You gotta be smarter than hitting a guy from behind like that. Go after the puck, kid. Even though St Louis isn’t the best team out there on the power play, giving a team this good a freebie isn’t how you win hockey games. I’m sure Q will let him hear about it at the break.

End of the first period
…Hawks outshoot the Blues 14-8 and both teams had some nice chances….I think I’ll get a slice of my wife’s birthday cake from yesterday…it’s chocolate frosted with peanut butter filling inside…..off-topic a bit, but I can’t wait for baseball to start next week; I don’t count the two games played in Japan….

Second Period

18:25…Hawks kill the bad Shaw penalty. Way to pick up the kid.

17:48.
..Pat Foley gives best wishes to Daily Herald hockey writer Tim Sassone. He’s had some sort of health issue and hasn’t been working in the past month or so. I didn’t get a call from those pricks to fill in, either. Their loss.

15:42…Beautiful 3-way passing play results in a great chance for Sharp. Halak was better there, making the save, but Stalberg really has been great so far tonight. He has some elite gifts, for sure, but consistency isn’t among them. Oh, for 82 games of how he’s playing tonight.

14:04….The CBOE seat auction is funny. You bid an outrageous sum to sit in some of the worst seats for a hockey game…right on the glass. I’ve sat right on the glass before and if you don’t mind not seeing the entire ice surface, they’re fantastic. Personally, I like being able to see the corners and stuff. Must be nice to be rich enough that you don’t care where you sit.

12:36….Stalberg AGAIN with some serious wheels and another excellent chance.

10:10
…Hawks are noticeably faster than the Blues. The Blues seem to be having trouble getting anything going thru the neutral zone and when we break out of our zone, we are getting some nice chances. Speed kills.

8:30
…Hawks can clinch a playoff spot with a win and a Phoenix loss in regulation against San Jose. I wasn’t sure before the game on what the exact circumstances were to clinch. Nice to see it’s close enough to touch.

7:40
….Blues head to the power play as we get caught with too many men on the ice. If there’s one penalty that pisses a coach off every time, it’s this one.

5:40
….Hawks kill their second penalty of the night. It’s little things like not giving up power play goals that bring a smile to my face.

4:41
….Sharp robbed by Halak. That’s been a rarity this period…a great scoring chance. Both teams have really tightened up defensively and are as watertight as a frog’s butthole. I’m assuming they’re watertight, or those frogs would fill up and sink. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

3:28
….Great sustained pressure by the Hawks there. The Kruger/Sharp/Stalberg line has been fantastic so far tonight. I hope Kruger puts 10-15 lbs of muscle this summer and takes his game up a level or two next fall.

3:07
…Dylan Olson with a bomb from the point. I’d love to see him unleash that beast on the power play. God knows we need something on that unit.

2:52
…GOALPOST!! Kane bulls-eyed the iron there. So close and yet so far…..

2:15
….Hawks head back to the power play (ugh) as Kane got taken down. He also got robbed by Halak on the delayed penalty. Christ, let’s cash one on guys….

1:03
…How hard is it to dump the puck in, then chase it and gain possession? YOU HAVE THE EXTRA MAN!! UTILIZE HIM!!

0:19….Text from Lou at the UC….the shitty in-house band has been named Taint Nugget. I think it’s perfection. Well done, section 333!!

End of the second period
…Hawks outshoot the Blues 10-3 in the second and are outshooting them 24-11 for the game….we seem to be clogging the lanes quite well tonight and breaking up plenty of rushes at the blue line….apparently, Mrs Illinois is doing the Shoot the Puck contest in the next few minutes!!….gotta love a promo where a hot chick is integral to the entire function…the hottie buries one!!…..hard to believe Mrs Illinois is gorgeous, right?….as much as I love Tony Esposito, he looks AWFUL in those Binny’s commercials

Third Period

18:45…GREAT early save by Crawford!! Alex Steen couldn’t believe that didn’t go in. Either could I, as that looked like money.

17:52…Kruger/Sharp/Stalberg start the period the way they’ve been playing all night. Just terrific.

15:45…HAWKS SCORE TO MAKE IT 2-1!!!! Another great rush by the Hawks and some hard work pays off as Andrew Brunette buries the loose change!!! About time we were rewarded for our hustle and hard work. Now, let’s hold this lead longer than 9 seconds.

15:35…Woo hoo!! More than 9 seconds!!

13:46….Jesus, Sharp AGAIN with a fantastic chance! And it was set up by our superior speed. This is becoming a clinic on how to skate.

11:43….Hawks have held the Blues to a meager 2 shots on goal so far here in the 3rd. They obviously can’t deal with our speed and are having a tough time getting any sort of sustained pressure. We need to stay out of the box and not give them any chances for momentum. We need to score again and keep all the pressure on them.

11:20…THERE IT IS!!! 3-1 HAWKS!!! AND IT’S SHARP AND STALBERG ON A TWO ON NONE RUSH!! These guys have been fucking AWESOME together tonight. That was a great strip by Sharp to set that rush up!! Suck it, Blows!!

10:25….Next time I get cocky, tell me to shut it. 3-2 now on a terrible goal off a Kane turnover. Crawford needs to get his ass down on that stuff. No reason for something like that to sneak in under him. Just terrible to let in such a weak goal like that. You don’t win the Cup by doing shit like that.

9:30….Got to keep up the pressure and not lay back and try to hold on. Stay with what’s been working so far tonight. Keep skating, boys.

8:15…Frolik high-sticked in the face right in full view of the official, no call. So glad the NHL has the highest quality refs. That was as blatant as can be and it got ignored.

6:13…Finally, we come back with some speed and get a good chance. Time to let it all hang out and close these guys down.

4:40
…Almost a fluke goal by the Blues there. Bad bounce almost somehow sneaks over Crawford, who made a tougher save than he thought he’d need to make. Whew!

3:01…Getting a bit chippy there in front of Crawford. I’d be doing the same thing if I were St. Louis. If they manage to tie this, it’s going to be on a dirty goal…it sure won’t be on a glorious chance.

1:32…Well, fuck me. Tied at 3 on a shitty, dirty crap goal. I called that bullshit. Total garbage. Hawks let St. Louis dictate the tempo and did indeed lay back and hoped time would just run out. You can’t do that against a top team and hope it works.

1:00…No excuse to blow a late two goal lead at home to a team that simply can’t keep up with our speed, no matter where they are in the standings. St. Louis has no business being in position to get at least one point tonight. Shame on us for not finishing the job. They have 18 shots and 3 goals, none of which were solid scoring chances.

End of regulation, heading to overtime….With a possible clinching in sight tonight, we need to win this one. While this OT should never have happened, it’s time to rise above that crappy final ten minutes and get that third point.

OT

3:45…Glorious 3 on 2 chance for us, but Halak made a nice save after the St. Louis d-man altered Hossa’s shot by going down, forcing a high shot. Taking away half the net sure helps the goaltender.

2:19…FANTASTIC save by Crawford!! That’s what I’m talking about!!

1:56…Michael Frolik, Mr. Snakebitten, denied twice in close. He couldn’t hit water if he fell out of the proverbial boat. He works so hard in all areas of the ice and just can’t get the payoff. I bet he’s forgotten what a red light looks like.

0:32…Kane gets robbed by Halak. That had game-winner written all over it. Those are the kinds of saves that Stanley Cup winners get from their goalies. Halak is the only reason I’m still writing and swearing at my TV. Dirty cocklunch.

End of OT, heading to the shootout…This is where we miss Toews a whole bunch. Our shootout crew without him is, how do I put this delicately….as shitty as 3 day old diapers. Come on guys, make me eat them words.

1st round
…Kane leads off for us. He beat Halak with a backhander a couple weeks ago in the shootout, let’s see what he does here. Great save by Halak on the backhand attempt. Grrrr….but it might have worked if he didn’t get in too tight. David Perron leads off for the Blues and gets blanked by Crawford!! Scoreless after one round.

2nd round
…Sharp gets denied by Halak’s glove hand. He’s a sniper, not a slick move guy, but our choices are sort of slim without Toews. TJ Oshie is next up for St. Loo and his dumb Ohio State ass gets stoned!! Scoreless after two rounds.

3rd round…Stalberg with a hugely weak attempt. Another guy without much of a shootout resume. If the Blows score here, it’s all over. Alex Steen with a fake slapper/quick move and gets denied by Crawford!! Still scoreless after 3 rounds!! We go to extra extra time!!

4th round….BOLLAND SCORES ON A SWEET MOVE TO HIS FOREHAND!!! Finally, the dike is broken!! (No, I’m not making a lesbian joke) 1-0 Hawks!! Ok, let’s see one more big save!!!! Patrick Berglund needs to score to keep St. Louis alive….he hits the GOALPOST!!! HAWKS WIN IN THE SHOOTOUT!!!

Some good, some bad tonight. We should have won that game in regulation, but after blowing what should have been an easy two points after dominating the best defensive team in the NHL again, we managed to scratch the win column. Our top two lines…Kane/Hossa/Brunette and Kruger/Sharp/Stalberg were easily the best players on the ice all night. That’s good. Even better…we moved to 95 points and are basically in the playoffs. 4 games left in the season, 3 of which are very winnable. We get Nashville next on Saturday and I don’t expect them to do anything different than they’ve done to us all season. But with two games against a bad Minnesota team and the finale against a suddenly struggling Detroit squad, we have a good chance of keeping some momentum going. And if we get Toews back, look out.