|Kris Versteeg has been curating the warmup music during the playoffs (Photo by Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images).|
If you think that the United Center's musical selection during the players' pregame warmup has taken on a little different flavor lately, your ears are not deceiving you. Throughout the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the music that plays when the Blackhawks and their opponent take the ice has been selected by honorary DJ Kris Versteeg, pulled from his personal playlist.
The Blackhawks Blog caught up with "DJ Steeger" at practice to discuss how he chooses the best pump-up tunes, his teammates' reaction and more.
After dispatching the Minnesota Wild in six games, the Blackhawks will move on to the Western Conference Final (for the fourth time in six playoff runs dating back to 2009), where their opponent will be either the Anaheim Ducks or the Los Angeles Kings. But first, the Blackhawks Blog takes one last look at the second-round series that just concluded, from the heavy minute-eaters to the men behind the masks—and last, but certainly not least, the history-making overtime heroics of Patrick "Showtime!" Kane.
The Blackhawks continued their home dominance in the 2014 playoffs by recording a 2-1 win over the Minnesota Wild in Game 5 of their second-round matchup. With Brandon Bollig (suspension) and Andrew Shaw (injury) out, Peter Regin made a successful Blackhawks postseason debut, earning Third Star of the Game honors as well as the Championship belt; on the blue line, Michal Rozsival was rested, allowing Sheldon Brookbank to return to the lineup. And despite allowing the first goal of the game, Chicago worked their way back through a power-play goal by Bryan Bickell—the team's first since Game 1 of the series—and a great forechecking shift by the top line of Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp. Below, the Blackhawks Blog takes a look at four factors that led to success in Game 5.
The Blackhawks' trio of Winnipeg-born Olympians—captain Jonathan Toews, along with alternate captains Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp—made Chicago fans happy last Sunday by helping the team blow St. Louis' playoff hopes away in the crucial third period of Game 6 at the United Center.
Bolstering the solid goaltending of Corey Crawford, especially his play in the second period when the Blackhawks had to kill four consecutive minor penalties, the three Winnipeg natives contributed to the four-goal offensive explosion in the third period that broke open a 1-1 game.
One series down, three to go. The Blackhawks lost their first two games of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but took the next four from the St. Louis Blues to advance to the division finals against either Colorado or Minnesota. Chicago's triumph was driven by some big-game performances—among them a couple awards finalists in Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith—as well as a huge team effort on the defensive end. The Blackhawks Blog takes a look at how the numbers played out in this hotly contested First Round.
Bloomberg Businessweek published their analysis of the "Smartest Spenders in Sports" for 2014 and the Blackhawks sit at No. 1. All 122 franchises in the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB were ranked based on how much they spent on players for every win they earned during the past five seasons.
See how Blackhawks fans from all over are getting set for tonight's big game!
Now that the "real" season for the survivors is underway, the question for Blackhawks fans is: What's it going to take to repeat?
Since the hard salary cap went into effect in 2005, no one has repeated; Detroit was the last team to accomplish that feat, winning back to back in 1997 and 1998.
The beginning of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs signals the start of the Blackhawks' championship defense, and fans might remember the full array of beards during the 2013 title run—from scraggly, to sideburn-heavy, to healthy, flourishing bushes. This year, Bryan Bickell, Brandon Bollig, Nick Leddy, Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw and Ben Smith are participating in the Beard-A-Thon to raise money for Chicago Blackhawks Charities. Fans are also invited to grow one for the team, or pledge money in support of other beard-growers. As the team embarks on their long, hairy odyssey, they might look to historical figures and pop culture for inspiration:
Grizzly Bicks: As the Blackhawks' resident fisherman, Bryan Bickell is undoubtedly at one with mother nature. The untamed waves on top may not be his style, but growing a full-fledged Grizzly Adams beard shouldn't pose too much of a challenge for a weathered outdoorsman like Bicks.
Hossa the White: Much like Gandalf the White, Marian Hossa is no stranger to playing the hero, as he did against Nashville in the 2010 Stanley Cup run. And honestly, at times it seems like the combination of strength, power and hockey sense that Hossa showcases every game can be explained only by sorcery. What we're trying to say is, Marian Hossa is probably a wizard.
Rubeus Seabsgrid: Hogwarts' beloved gameskeeper in the Harry Potter series had a beard that could be intimidating or inviting, depending on the situation. Like Hagrid, Brent Seabrook is always there to lend help, and he's prone to showing up and making a huge impact at the most opportune times—for instance, in overtime of Game 7.
Captain Jack Serious: The captain has owned the mutton-chopped Wolverine look the last few years, so taking on a grubby pirate look may be a bit of a departure for Jonathan Toews. But what better way to shed his "Captain Serious" label than to take a page from Jack Sparrow, who isn't afraid to swashbuckle his way through life.
Brandon Bunyan: Brandon Bollig may have a natural beard-growing advantage over his teammates come playoff time, as he's an old hand at follicle maintenance. And what better beard guide for a blue-collar player than Paul Bunyan, legendary lumberjack of American folklore?
Uncle Smith: Speaking of American icons, all-American boy Ben Smith WANTS YOU! to join the Blackhawks in their march to the postseason.
Honest Nik: On the surface, there's nothing in common between Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States, and Niklas Hjalmarsson, Swedish defenseman for the Blackhawks. But both found success on the back of hard work—Lincoln was a self-educated lawyer, Hjalmarsson a shot-blocking machine—and adopting this iconic beard would certainly be a statement in the Land of Lincoln.
King Leoneddy: The soft-spoken Nick Leddy won't be mistaken for a brash warrior like King Leonidas anytime soon. But his dark, full beard has the potential to live up to the legend of the man who led Sparta into fearless battle time and time again.
Michal Hand-Zeus: The 1981 version of Clash of the Titans hasn't aged well, but Laurence Olivier's performance as Zeus is timeless. As one of the Blackhawks' elder statesmen, Michal Handzus can set the tone with a dignified, well-trimmed beard like the one Olivier sported as the ultimate Greek god.
Shaw-li: With his aggressive, stubborn style of playing belying his small stature, Andrew Shaw belongs among the mightiest warriors of Middle Earth. Gimli's fiery braided beard is one of the most impressive out there, a worthy goal for a goal-oriented player like Shaw to strive for.
MacSaad: Brandon Saad proved last year that he could grow a beard as robust as anybody on the Blackhawks, but this year's unending winter might require a bit more head protection. Saad's opponents may not be the extraterrestrial kind that Kurt Russell battled in the 1981 cult film The Thing, but he might considering growing a similar head of hair to help stay warm.