the Fifth Line: Awards Season

Thank the hockey gods for giving us an interesting playoff race in the East.

What was once a moribund race has turned topsy-turvy, and only half the playoff spots have been claimed. There are five teams battling for the other four spots, and it’s possible that Boston or Pittsburgh could be the teams left out.


At least Bailey will be available for Dodgers games earlier than expected.

The West is no slouch in the drama department, either. Winnipeg, Calgary, and last year’s champions are all battling for the final two spots, and it’s the Kings who are at the disadvantage. It’s a cliche to say that nobody could’ve predicted this, but… nobody predicted this.

Rather than focus on the brackets, which are still completely in flux with only two games left, how about we recklessly opine about the annual awards? [Read more…]

the Fifth Line: the Home Stretch

Hey, wanna see something totally not at all depressing if you’re a Chicago fan?

Arizona and Buffalo, the two teams whose front offices are tanking the hardest, are teams that have been gutted in an effort to land a top-two draft pick. Their games against each other are so awful, and filled with fans cheering against their own team, that such games have been likened to existentialist avant garde performance.

Chicago’s offense has been so bad the last couple months, they’re playing at these teams’ level. [Read more…]

the Fifth Line: Championship Time Nears


Everything is accelerating now. Bubble teams are on their last ditch efforts to make the NHL playoffs, while playoff-bound teams jockey for position. Every little defect of a team is worried over, whether by paranoid fans or bookies.

Meanwhile, the NCAA teams have been seeded for the men’s national tournament. The Golden Gophers from Minnesota have already claimed the women’s national title. But we’ll get to them later. We start here in Chicago. [Read more…]

the Fifth Line: Coming Into Focus

Only a dozen games (or so) are left on the NHL schedule. Teams have until April 11th to get out of the bubble and into a playoff spot.

There are some constants with the Stanley Cup playoffs: the Kings finally show up, they and the ‘Hawks are never quite dead, the Penguins will have their lack of depth exposed, and the Sharks will choke.

This year, though, the Sharks might fall on their face before the playoffs. If that happens, it’s because they first shot themselves in said face before planting it on the ice.


Removing the “C” from this guy’s jersey really worked out, didn’t it?

[Read more…]

the Fifth Line: Frozen Madness

We approach the Ides of March, which means that the sports world is focused on basketball right, particularly the Madness of the NCAA tournament.

That’s okay. I understand. In fact, you ought to read this morning’s post from Kevin Triskett about the potential All-American selections, if you haven’t already. I’m a homer for Wisconsin sports, so you should check out his pick for player of the year. No worries, I’ll be here when you get back.

Captain Serious can wait a very long time, if necessary...

Captain Serious can wait a very long time, if necessary…

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, it’s time for hockey. With only about 15 games left this season, now is a good time to get your team heading in the right direction. If you want to know what direction that is, the New York Rangers are a good example. [Read more…]

the Fifth Line: Fancy a Trade?

I may have misspoke last week.

New Jersey Devils v Columbus Blue Jackets

Is… is that David Clarkson in a Blue Jackets sweater?

I figured the trade deadline this year would be a hum-drum affair, with teams adding depth but not making huge splashes.

I was right. But I was also very, very wrong. We’ll start with where I was spot-on: the final day of trading, March 2nd, was boring.

The Main Event

Maybe “boring” is a little bit strong. It was fascinating in the way a game chess grandmasters both trying to lose against each other might be fascinating. It was exciting in the way that visiting the dentist without him finding a cavity is exciting. [Read more…]

the Fifth Line: Schadenfreude

No need for a clever lead-in this week. All we need is a single image:


Well, shit.

Broken Kane

Let’s rip the Band-Aid off right away: Patrick Kane will be out for 12 weeks, and the Blackhawks are in deep trouble. Any team who loses a league-leading scorer is going to take a hit. And while it’s unlikely that Chicago misses the playoffs, they suddenly look at lot less dangerous come playoff time. The first two rounds of the playoff will be against teams from the league’s toughest division — Nashville is obscene, St. Louis is a gritty rival, Winnipeg has been Chicago’s Achilles’ heel this season. [Read more…]

the Fifth Line: Injurious Transactions

The big story this past week had been the healthy scratch and “sudden” injury to Winnipeg Jets star Evander Kane. I thought it would make a great jumping-off point to discuss injuries and their effects on short- and long-term planning. Maybe I’d have tongue-in-cheek awards for how teams have handled or been sunk by injuries.

Yesterday, however, the narrative changed. It was no longer about the injury, but about The Big Damn Trade.


“I’m going where?! But they’re going to get that McDavid kid, right?”

[Read more…]

the Fifth Line: Centrally Focused

I’m going to lay it out there: I’m focusing on the Western Conference today, primarily on the Central division. It’s not because I’m biased, but… well, okay, I am a little biased. But that’s not why my focus is on the Central. Look at the standings.

See the Eastern Conference standings? Boring. Eight teams are very solidly in the playoff hunt; the other eight teams would need pucks made of four-leaf clovers to join them. The best chance for a surprise is if the Florida Panthers can make up seven points in the standings versus the Boston Bruins.


In other words, Luongo would have to beat the Bruins for this to happen.

But the Western Conference is a series of rollercoasters when it comes to the standings — a veritable Wild West, if you will. And the Central division is the posse where all the gunslingers have a shot at the playoffs. Since this is a Chicago-centric publication, we naturally start with the men from the United Center.

[Read more…]

the Fifth Line: Reading the Future

There’s a sidewalk sandwich board that appeared out of nowhere near the D’Agostino’s on Addison. It offers up the services of the “Southport Psychic” for a low introductory price.

My initial thought was to wonder from whence this mysterious sign appeared. But then I thought, maybe I could use some of this psychic stuff to seem like a brilliant hockey prognosticator. Not that I want to pay anybody to say some words and make predictions for me. I could probably do this myself, right? Right.


My first prediction is that Pierrre McGuire will know exactly where you played junior/college hockey — even if you’ve never played hockey.

I found a dusty old deck of tarot cards I didn’t know I had, so now I’m going to plumb its mystical depths to make insightful readings for each division. I can already envision my future as a highly-paid giver of predictions and hot takes… [Read more…]