Feb 172011

It's a mad, mad, mad, mad playoff race

Sylvester – “Now you listen mommy, you listen to me close. You stay right there because I’m coming mom. I’m coming to get you right now.”
Sylvester’s mom – “Will you shut up and listen!”
Sylvester – “Mom its all right. Everything is going to be all right. Your baby’s coming to get ya. Sit there, relax. Take it easy.”
Lennie – “Well?”
Sylvester’s mom “So, he’s coming here. And I’m not to worry about a thing because everything is going to be all right!”
Sylvester’s mom [talking to his sister] – “Exactly like your father: a big, stupid, muscle headed moron.”

By Rich Lindbloom

No, that is not a picture of Jack Skille racing down to Florida. It’s a scene from one of the funniest movies ever made – by a long shot – It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.” The segment of the movie I’ve zeroed in on here is when the beach bum beatnik, Sylvester, races to “save” his momma. For those of you who can recall Sylvester literally “flying” down the road, it was one of the funniest car scenes ever filmed. With tears streaming down his cheeks and total disregard for any traffic signs or lights, our hero is on a mission to rescue his momma. “Your baby’s coming momma, your baby’s coming,” he cries over and over. It made me wonder. While we cling to our tenuous playoff hopes with every last ounce of optimism we can muster, who’ll be the Sylvester that comes to rescue the Blackhawks? While on the subject of “big, stupid, muscle headed morons…(JK Q)

I thought about calling this piece “Win One For the Qu-ipper,” but was beaten to the punch by the BlackhawkUp website. (That Boxing with Bartl feature is beginning to become addicting. As Rod Stewart would sing, “Every box score tells a story, don’t it?”) I wasn’t sure which way I was going to go with my assessment of Coach Q’s illness. There’s the empathy angle where we all remember that there are things in life more important than hockey – perhaps “sending flowers or something” as Toews said. What kind of a fruitcake wants flowers – c’mon Captain Brown Nose – sneak him in a Honkers Ale. Another angle would be “You don’t think this team is ripping our insides apart to? Suck it up big boy!” I was reminded of that scene in Remember the Titans when Coach Boone screams, “You’re killing me Petey. You’re killing me!”

Hopefully Coach Q didn’t have access to a TV last night, at least for the first 10 minutes. Or, if they had a TV at least had a cardiac resuscitator nearby.  After a shaky start to the latest must-win game, the Hawks laced them up a little tighter and for the most part controlled the play. We wouldn’t have been forced to hold our breath yet again in the third if it weren’t for the Wild’s net minder, Jose Theodore. Instead, the ushers handed out oxygen masks as we headed to our seats to start the final frame. Luckily I wasn’t charged with child abandonment or neglect for leaving Taylor alone with the Fels brothers during the second intermission. I think I can trust Adam – but that Mad House Enforcer guy I’m not so sure. I did tell her before I left if they tried anything to just keep screaming out “Stranger, danger. Stranger, danger!”

I know I was not the only one screaming “stranger danger” when Big Bad John got some ice time during crunch time at the end of the game. In a page out of Herb brooks strategy against the Russians in 1980, I thought Haviland did a nice job at the end, keeping shifts quite short. Actually the fourth line didn’t hurt us that bad. In a moment that reminded me of reading my kids the classic children’s book, “Go Dog Go,”  I remember saying under my breath, “Go Stal’s Go,” as he flew up the right side of the ice and around a surprised defenseman towards the end of the game. Stalberg was quite active in the limited (a little over 4 minutes) amount of ice time he had last night. Way to bust your butt Viktor – good show.

Actually, Hossa also blew by people, pretty much all night long. Pretty much whenever he wanted to. Fifth Feather quite accurately noted that “Hossa was a machine sent from the future to destroy last night.” At the end of the second period, Hossa was about 10 feet out of the Wild zone with a defenseman desperately trying to garner some speed in an attempt to stave him off. I said loud enough to anyone who wanted to listen to my lamebrain insights, “He’s gone, he’s by him.” Halfway into the zone Marian turned toward the net, with the d-man suddenly reduced to grasping straws. Only a great save by Wild’s “Leave it to Beaver” goaltender, Theodore, prevented the score from becoming 2-0. I mentioned to Jeff Bartl that I really couldn’t recall seeing Havlat do much of anything last night. It was just a general feeling I had. It was reinforced by a great observation by Jeff that at one point Brouw-dog nailed him pretty good and he slowly left the ice after that hit.

Perhaps the surprise of the night was our third lines contributions. I say this warily because of a correspondence with Chris Block of thethirdmanin.com. I won’t go into the brass tacks; his assessment was not for the faint of heart. Basically he said, “We’re in a weird stage now when any change gives fans hope. – … They’re scrambling. It could work for a game or two purely by chance. (or abnormally intense effort – my thought) but it’ll eventually be exposed. Just like the defensive pairings.” As I said in response, “Well now, that was one great big dose of reality!” Then I put in a Jason Bourne movie.  At least for a night though, the three bombardiers Brouwer/Kopecky/Bickell made life miserable for the Wild defenders. Sam Fels makes a good point when he said it doesn’t make sense to put your three bangers on the same line. However, as Franklin D. Roosevelt once said: “Above all, try something.”

I think I’ve heard the definition of faith is believing in something when common sense tells you not to. With that being said, on to my delusional assessment of our defensive pairings. Go ahead all you knowledgeable fans; get those pins ready to stick in the Lindbloom Voo-Doo doll. While I don’t think it will last, the Keith/Leddy tandem, despite all logic, isn’t the end of the world. Leddy is quite adept with the puck. He made a move in the third on Wednesday night where he appeared to be retreating to our zone. In a shifty move, he saw an opening and headed west, surprising the Wild forecheckers. The Wild players were forced to pick up their jock straps before giving pursuit. As Elmer Fudd would say, “Which way did he go, which way did he go?”

His knucklehead partner, the venerable #2 car, whose sweater I still proudly wear, also acquitted himself quite well last night. He’s one of my leading candidates to become the Hawks “Sylvester” type rescuer. (Reportedly Keith called Coach Q after the game and said, “Your defenseman’s coming Joel. Your defenseman’s coming. Everything’s going to be all right. Stay right where you are. Relax!”) Although, there is a striking resemblance between Seabs and Sylvester.  At the very least, separating Keith and Seabs has cut down by 50% the bad decisions they’ve made when paired together. By the way, is there a Hawk fan out there that still, with the current roster, doesn’t think that Hendry is our 6th d-man?

One thing I’m sure of is Antti Miettinen is one fast cat. For one of the few times I can recall seeing, the Wild right wing pulled away from the Duncster with a burst of speed in the third period. You don’t see that very often. Fortunately, the glaring weakness that #50 has struggled with over and over again this season – the shot from around the right faceoff circle – was not a problem last night. (ok, ok so I can only recall two goals that got by him from there, Havlat and Vrbata (?) – but they were both crucial goals.) Mr. Big was huge again for us last night. A very deserved #1 star. Once again it appeared Sarah Kustock wanted to pinch Corey’s chubby cheeks during her post game interview.

In closing, is it just me, or is our #2 PP unit actually our #1 PP unit. When looking at the line up it seems to me 22/36/81/2/51 is every bit as formidable as 82/19/88/10/7. Not a bad problem to have, eh?  I look at those numbers sometimes and say, ‘Explain to me again why were fighting for our playoff lives?”

I doubt that many of you are convinced that we have a knight in shining armor that will come to our rescue with the enthusiasm of a Sylvester. As he sped down the highway at breakneck speed with little regard for his or other’s safety, he thought about one thing – saving his momma. Which Hawk will step up and eventually grab hold of the wheel that steers us into the playoffs?

And if we don’t make it … well the end to the movie, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, may also hold the secret to accepting our fate. In the last scene in the movie, Spencer Tracy ends up lying in traction in a hospital bed, broken, defeated and knows he’s going to spend some time in the sin bin. He solemnly states, “I’d like to think that sometime, maybe 10 or 20 years from now, there’d be something I could laugh at … anything.” The next scene unleashes perhaps the funniest moment in cinematic history. In fact, it might be a good movie for Coach Q to check out while he recuperates. I guarantee you Coach Q would never think of benching Sylvester.

Indeed, “Your baby’s coming momma!” Or was that “Your big, stupid muscle headed moron is coming”?  At any rate, it sure was a treat to see the live hockey back at the United Center after a two week hiatus.

Rich Lindbloom

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  4 Responses to “Lindbloom: It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad playoff race”

  1. oops. John Scott on the PP#2? (stranger things have been happening, i know)

    I still don’t get why some (2nd City H., 5th Feather, and commenters) feel like Leddy is in over his head? Maybe he IS in over his head, but I haven’t seen signs of drowning…in fact, he’s pretty close to the shore from what I’ve seen.

    good stuff.

  2. oops, make that 22/36/81/2/51!! The 6 is next to the two on my keyboard.
    Go hawks – let us breathe easy tonight.

    I asked two weeks ago as a by and by if Leddy was a PP option. seems like more people are conisdering it. The only draw back is a thug like Boll could end his career if he their chasing down a puck into the corner.

  3. [Rich – I corrected your 32/36 error. I didn’t pick up on that when reading/attempting to edit this]

    I can’t speak to what’s said or written other venues, but I think the Hawks should consider themselves fortunate the 19-year old has come up and played as well as he has for some time now. The problem, however, is its a significant degree of uncertainty, what you can expect from him going forward. Remember, he played 30 games last season. This year, so far, he’s played in 43 (not included the WJC’s) at the pro level and we still have two months to go in the regular season. His minutes have been carefully managed for the most part. He’s not on the PK or the PP and his shifts are cut back many times in tight crunches. Every young player hits a wall and struggles. His time was been well managed and his largely been kept in situations to succeed. I don’t see a phenom. I see a dependable guy who make smart plays who’s yet keyed on by an opposing team. That will change here. Especially if he stays paired with Keith. That’s just begging for Leddy to be the focus of every opposing team. In that case, it takes the guy who is supposedly your best defenseman out of the game. And you’ll get more of Keith running around trying to overcompensate for Leddy.

    Leddy is a fine prospect and will likely be a very good NHL defensemen for some time. You can’t put a price on the experience he’s taken as a 19-year old. I’d hate to see him struggle during this push for a playoff spot, or have losses point back to mistakes or missed assignments attributed to him that could have a linguring effect on his progression. Depending on the type (maybe more specifically body-type) of defenseman Bowman brings in (if any) before the deadline, you might have to prepare yourself for the idea of it being Leddy’s spot that acquisition is taking.

    As far as the power play, he could be that guy one day but he needs game practice. I’m not sure when the 2010-11 Blackhawks season turned into a fantasy camp? He’s not going to get that with the Hawks, during a do or die every night like existence the team finds themselves in now. Nor should he, in my view.

  4. Professor,

    You told me something even before the Hawks convention that is still lingering in the cobwebs of my brain. i recall you saying that Leddy is too inexperienced to step into the NHL, and you hoped the hawks didn’t rush him in hoping he’d be the next Keith – as I recall you were afraid if things went bad, it could mess up his career. (I also recall you saying Keith was given a pass during his formative years because the Hawks were a sub par team.)

    As i read all the blogs and web sites, almost to a T, they’re afraid this could be a car wreck waiting to happen – the getting on Lake Shore Drive in the middle of a blizzard despite plenty of fore warning. I’ve just enjoyed what i’ve seen of him for the most part.

    Funny you should mention that if the Hawks can acquire a veteran defenseman that Leddy would probably be the odd man out. I was thinking the same thing this afternoon – I’d sit #8 before #6.

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