By Rich Lindbloom
Before you make a terrible decision and decide to read the following series of unfortunate events, I must warn you. The review I’m about to record is not for the feint of heart. If you’re looking for a feel good, pick-me-upper, I urge you to turn to the blender, the one with booze in it. If you are easily depressed, inclined to think the glass is half-empty or prone to wallow in crushing pessimism, please turn to another page in this program. Perhaps there is a “Talking to the Ice Crew” segment, maybe a top ten reasons Pavel Kubina should be beheaded feature or a comic page with Toews making funny faces.
If you must continue reading, and again I urge you not to, you will read about considerable worry, hopelessness and even death over the result of a pork chop. This is a review of a good hockey team gone bad. Tales of injuries, halfhearted efforts, neutral zone breakdown, party animals and unfortuitous bounces. All of these maladies are woven together with a tenuous string of hope that we’ve all clung to during this ill-fated season. I write about these things, because that is what I do. You the reader do have a choice; for the last time I urge you – pick something more uplifting out.
April Fools! Actually, in the following paragraphs you’ll find the keys to our survival chances in the playoffs. In addition you’ll learn how to cope with the ensuing stress. I know the knowledgeable hockey writers such as the tormented Chris Block tend to take a realistic approach to our situation. The above opening could actually be placed in front of most of his dire assessments of our playoff fortunes. Lest you think this is criticism of the Obituary writer of thethirdmanin.com, think again. Chris has exhibited the patience of Job when answering my inane hockey queries. To contrast our hockey knowledge, I’d be classified in the Hope Floats category while Chris could have written the book “Freakonomics.” When he says this playoff season, if we get that far, is a one and done, even Longshot Lou would not place a wager against him.
The song “Up on a Tightwire” by Leon Russell, aptly describes this tense season; “Up on a tightrope, one side’s hate and one is hope.” All season long it seems we’ve been precariously balanced between minimal success and a fall from a lofty height – with no safety net. The makeshift lot of street urchins assembled to fill in the blanks around our “Untouchables,” is in no way comparable to the knuckleheads we lost to Capocalypse. We all knew this was going to be an iffy season, or two. Like so many NHL teams, the injury bug has wreaked havoc with our already stretched too thin roster. Despite all the significant injuries we find ourselves with a not awful 42-27-8 record. Some more good news is we’ve beaten a lot of the better teams, most recently the Wings and Sharks when we had too – when we played what I like to call sacrificial hockey. The type of hockey Keith Magnuson so epitomized.
Actually, the Bruin and Red Wing games were good examples of this Dr. Jekyl, Mr. Hyde season. The Bruins game was everything negative written about the Hawks this year times ten. We were constantly harassed by fleet footed Bruin thugs chasing down pucks in our zone. Watching the Bumble Bees beat us to the puck reminds me of a story my friend Ears told me back in the 70’s.
The story involved an altercation between two brothers, a pork chop thief and a loaded gun – a certain recipe for disaster in the Robert Taylor Homes. Apparently the one brother came home after work with an empty stomach and had his heart set on the leftover chop. When he discovered his equally hungry, brother had already devoured the chop, in a fit of rage he got his gun and shot the brother. “I loved my brother, but that was my pork chop,” confessed the starving culprit. True Story. So what does this have to do with Blackhawk hockey?
If the Hawks don’t start looking at the puck, like the one brother viewed his pork chop, the Hawks will be Q’ing in early April. Get the smoker out. We need to develop an Achmed the Terrorist mindset when it comes to protecting the puck – “You touch my puck I keeeilll you!” In my mind, it seemed a lot of our woes began in neutral ice. If we continue to let the fleet footed suicide bombers dance through center ice with impunity, it is bound to result in an overworked masked man. Mr. Big continues to batten down the hatches, with his only discernible weakness being 100mph redirects. How Corey will respond to his initial playoff pressure will largely determine how far the Hawks can advance in their Cup defense. In a way, all the must win games from the beginning of February and on could actually prove beneficial. Doesn’t it seem like we’ve been in the playoffs for a month now? There’s always a silver lining in those dark clouds that hover above us.
Speaking of dark clouds, the buzzards apparently continue to circle above Dave Bolland’s scrambled noggin’. Can we realistically emerge victorious from Round One without our Mighty Mouse? His speed , defense, scoring touch and unsurpassed irritation skills would be sorely missed. The Rat was a huge part of our playoff success last year. I first became quite worried about his prognosis when I saw the picture of the Hawks with President Obama at the White House. Everyone was smiling but Bollsy. He had a blank stare that seemed to say, “Where am I?” I realize at this point in the season anyone with half a brain would call me a moron for suggesting this, but I almost wouldn’t mind seeing Coach Q dress Big John against Tampa Bay tonight. Maybe just for warm ups. It would be worth it just to see Kubina mess his pants when he stepped out on the ice and saw the Jolly Green Giant in uniform. The Hanson brothers didn’t wait for the game to start, did they?
It took me awhile, but for the first time this year I noticed the chinks in Nick Leddy’s armor. Watching the Bruin forwards use and abuse #8 made me almost as nervous as the first time I took Taylor to the Western Open at Cog Hill. She was one year old and I quickly surmised she couldn’t read the “Quiet please” signs the officials hold up around the green. I spent most of the afternoon in the middle of the forest jamming a binky into her mouth. The feelings of panic when I saw a Bruin forward chase down a puck in the corner against Leddy were quite similar to when Taylor would spit the binky out. I must say my admiration for Tom Watson grew that day. He walked up to us as he walked from green to tee and smiled and said hello to her. The other two golfers he was with gave me a look of scorn that seemed to say, “What kind of imbecile brings an infant to a PGA event?” The same idiot who thinks the Hawks will make a wave in the playoffs, all indications to the contrary.
If Keith, Seabs, and Campbell can continue to log yeoman’s minutes on the blue line, we have a chance. I still believe Brouwer who has seemed to go AWOL again, will be a big part of our success. It sure was nice to see Stalberg get a chance at the shootout. Sam Fels has been asking for this option over Sharpie for a few months now. Hossa, Toews and Kane are still a lot for any team to contend with – they tend to take the Herb Brook approach to the game. Attack, attack, attack. As Herb would say, “We’re going to take their game and shove it right back in their face.” Tonight would be a good test of that strategy against the potent Lightning attack. Remember, the best defense is a good offense.
Truthfully though, our good fortune in the playoffs is tenuous at best. Is it just me, or are some of you fans thinking we’d be better off euthanizing this season? Haven’t we been put through the wringer enough already? Do we really want to witness a 4-0 beat down at the hands of the invincible Canucks? It’s a bit like that Shakespeare line, “The stroke of death is as a lover’s pinch, which hurts and is desired.”
For those of you determined to gut it out, would you like to know what the cure is for the unceasing worry that has permeated this season? Are you tired of heading to bed in a dismal mood, with your only hope being that one of the other playoff contenders also lost that night? Have you exceeded your capacity for third period meltdowns? Let me share with you a remedy I discovered last week.
Take a vacation in Destin, Florida. Lying on the beach, basking in the warmth of the sun, while watching the waves crash upon the shore is a great remedy for ails you. I found myself engrossed in books, my wife’s seductive new bikini and beach volley ball. We even grilled some pork chops, although we made sure there were no leftovers. The legend of “Rocket Rich,” continues on the sand courts below Pompano’s! If necessary, if the pain persists, get a few rounds of that frozen concoction that helps you hang on. Remember, whether the Hawks decide to give their Cup defense a go or not, it’s five o’clock somewhere.
If none of that works I have one last suggestion. While driving home at break neck speeds yesterday, I passed a truck whose mud flaps caught my eye. They simply said, “Think Flowers!”