Feb 072011

The Phantom of Rogers Arena

The Phantom of the Rogers Arena

Floating, falling, sweet intoxication!
Touch me, trust me savour each sensation!
Let the dream begin
let your darker side give in
to the power of the music that I write –
the power of the music of the night. –
 Charles Hart

I’m guessing most Blackhawk fans have never been to a musical – if you haven’t, skip this paragraph and go right to the one where it starts out, “We got a rope, we got a tree, all we need is a referee.” For those of you who have, I’m sure you would agree that the human voice has the uncanny power to evoke emotion sequestered away in the dark recesses of our hearts. If you just spend a moment reading the lyrics to the song Music of the Night from Phantom of the Opera, you’ll discover one of those gems whose worth can never be told. The song actually helped me get over the Blackhawk victory that was snatched away somewhere in the depth’s or Rogers Arena Friday night. While I tossed and turned, reflecting on the “phantom” calls that contributed to our demise, I finally surrendered “to my darkest dreams.”

On to the “We got a rope…” segment. Was it just me, or did some of you go to bed with your panties in a thither Friday night around midnight? Personally, I still had smoke coming out of my ears, intoxicated with rage. Some things are just not meant to be, I guess. And the other things, well we have referee Eric Furlatt, the Phantom of Rogers Arena to thank for. For what it’s worth, the Hawks are now 0-4 in games Mr. Furlatt has presided over. I made the mistake of asking “Mr. Objectivity,” Chris Block, what he thought about the officiating. While he agreed it was a poorly called game, he refused to place the entire blame on the zebra’s. By now I guess I should know better than to ask Chris’s opinion on the zebra’s.

He actually made me pause for about 3 seconds and reflect on his gracious assessment of the referee’s impact on the highly entertaining game; “It’s not like there were five or six times they could have called something on the (logo challenged) Canucks and chose not to. The refs just had an off night. Happens more often than you’d think in rivalry games. Everyone’s on edge.” After my third e-mail to Chris all starting with “But ,but, but…,” I found his objective replies causing me to reflect as the Phantom sang, “silently the senses abandon their defenses.”

Maybe Chris would not be so forgiving if he had watched Vern Buffy, John Ashley, Bruce Hood, Kerry Fraser, Ron Wicks and Andy Van Hellemond for so many years. I read a quote by John Ashley’s daughter that somewhat mollified my disdain for the men with the orange arms. In an attempt to paint a human side to the officials, Ashley’s daughter Kristen recalled a time her father asked an usher to keep an eye on his daughter while he worked. He would say, ”Watch the game, cheer for everybody and don’t tell anybody who you are,” she said. “He was always objective. He liked to watch a good hockey game. (That reminds me of someone shouting out, “Hey ref, it was a great game, too bad you missed it.”)  He never cared who won or lost. That wasn’t his job. He really had a great appreciation for the players and officials who were talented.” While I’d like to think the zebra’s are impartial, I did do a quick search to see where Eric Furlatt was born. Much to my surprise it was in Quebec, not British Columbia. Just another conspiracy theory emanating from my mind, shot full of holes. Regardless – I’ll have my eye on # 27 the next time he skates against the Hawks.

While I take absolutely no solace in the lame brained analyst’s comments “that it all evens out,” there was great comfort to be found in the effort the Hawks put forth on Friday. In what was supposed to be a “statement” game for the Western Conference leading Canucks, I believe it was the Hawks who basically said, “We’re the defending Stanley Cup Champs and don’t you forget it.” With a 45 to 32 shot advantage I don’t think I’d be exaggerating by saying we carried the play that day. Also, I’m just curious – could the goal that counted for the Canucks have been reviewed to determine if it indeed had left the zone?

The great Italian goaltender was phenomenal and still let in 4 goals – three of which actually counted.  I’m absolutely certain the Vancouver fans went home thinking, “Geez, I hope the Hawks don’t finish in 8th place. That might not be good.” Actually, that would be the Vancouver hopeful’s worst nightmare. The Sedin freaks, registered a mere assist at even strength. The lockdown defensive corps of the Nucks looked as vulnerable as any blue line we’ve faced this year. I’m not insinuating the officiating determined the outcome of the game, but I was surprised when Eric Furtall was not named at least # 3 star.

Many fans pointed to the blown 5-3 opportunity as the straw that broke the camel’s back. I’d love to know the statistics on what percentage of the time a team scores with a two man advantage. I’m taking a wild guess that it’s around 40%. It is definitely not automatic and contrary to popular opinion is not the end of the game. Another question that entered my mind was is Nick Leddy ready to man the point on the PP? On the PK side of the ledger, I believe Brent Sopel would have blocked Samuelson’s blast on the first PP. I don’t mean to be picking on Brian Campbell here but he appeared to debate for a second whether or not to try and get in the way. Sopel took great pride in sacrificing his body for the betterment of his team. On Vancouver’s second PP goal, I started to blame Turco at first but as I watched the replay it was obvious he was screened and never even saw the pass from Samuelson to Thing Two.

For someone rumored to be skating on a bum wheel, Kaner had a very active game. It appears he’s coming out of hibernation, which doesn’t bode well for the opposition. I’m going to make a bold prediction and say that Hossa is set to explode. He continues to be presented with, or create himself, golden opportunities to light the lamp. I’m so sure of this I’d advise the people behind the goal judge to start wearing sun block. I think Kopecky might have hit two posts and was robbed by Roberto’s glove hand from about 5 paces. Is it just me, or does it appear that the #82 car gets treated like a red headed step child as far as the officials go. I’m pretty sure the opposition just about has to resort to amputation to get a penalty assessed to them when assaulting the Hawks version of Rodney Dangerfield.

Three players who are gaining the fans respect are Stalberg, Dowell and Skille. This line is as fast as fourth lines come and they are starting to throw their bodies around. If Coach Q asked him to, I’m pretty sure Skille would strap explosives to himself. It sure would be nice to see this line rewarded with a lucky break or two. Although I had to laugh in the Columbus game when neither Skille or Stalberg really wanted to grab hold of Jared Boll – and I can’t say I really blame them!

One thing I’m sure of; if we put forth 90% of the effort we did in Vancouver, there are not many teams that can whoop us. The logjam in the Western Conference has 9 teams fighting for their playoff lives. (I’m very generously including St Louis, who’s starting to get healthy again, in that total.) What will it take to grab one of the 8 spots when the second season starts in April?

As pitchers and catchers get set to report on February 13th, I’m reminded of one of the greatest sport’s quotes I’ve ever heard. It was from a slugger on a girl’s High School softball team in Beecher, Illinois. Her team was in the State Playoffs and she hit a walk off homer in the bottom of the seventh. Afterwards she told a reporter, “It was a good pitch; low and away. I just went down there and got it.” If the Blackhawks decide to just “go down there and get it,” I believe the fans in Vancouver are in for some dark, sleepless nights come April. Hopefully we’ll be singing Cool and the Gang’s Celebrate Good Times. If not, well we can always fall back on the outdated music from The Phantom of the Opera to assuage our tormented souls;

Slowly, gently night unfurls its splendor
Grasp it, sense it, tremulous and tender
Turn your face away from the garish light of day
And listen to the music of the night

Rich Lindbloom

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