By Rich Lindbloom
“When everybody trying to sleep,
I’m somewhere making my midnight creep.
Every morning the rooster crow,
Something tell me I got to go.
I’m a back door man. – Willie Dixon
Well, it’s been a bumpy ride now, hasn’t it? The road less travelled would certainly be an apt description of our seemingly alternate route to the playoffs. Whether or not it makes “all the difference” as Robert Frost claimed, remains to be seen. In an earlier piece this year, I stated the Hawks’ primary goal should be to just make the playoffs. (I was actually hoping for a lot more, but beggars can’t be choosers.) Little did I realize what an arduous process that would prove to be. Around 7pm last Sunday, in the final game of the NHL season, a Hawk nation breathed a collective sigh of relief and finally exclaimed, “Mission Accomplished.”
Actually, saying “Mission Accomplished” might be as premature as Dubya’s statement when our troops rolled into Baghdad. However, over the course of a season littered with numerous obstacles, some perhaps self inflicted, I can’t help but think, “Well done boys.” We overcame assimilating half of Rockford’s team, significant injuries, questionable coaching decisions, phantom calls and inauspicious bounces. Somewhere in a deep, dark and damp cellar In Vancouver, some tempest tossed Canuck fan is nervously muttering to himself. As he pours over all the now meaningless league leading stats the Canucks amassed this year, he breaks out in a cold sweat as visions of Big Buff resurface in his addled brain. We may not have Big Buff this year, but we do have another black man that could figure prominently into our success during the playoffs – more on that later.
Quite incredulously, many fans throughout the NHL are claiming we got into the playoffs through the backdoor, sneaking around like a Hoochie Coochie man from some juke joint in Mississippi. In my mind, we didn’t back our way into anything, we earned it. Finishing with 97 points, just two points out of fifth place is not exactly tip toeing in with your shoes in your hand trying to remember where the squeaky floor boards are. (Although it appears more than one sports writer was perched behind the back door with a rolling pin, waiting to clobber the Hawks.) In no way, shape or form did we “squeak” into the playoffs.
While perusing the Vancouver website NucksMisconduct, you could feel the underlying tension in their analyses of this first round matchup. ‘We are a much different team than the one you faced last year.” (So are we.) “Luongo has been working with a new goaltending coach, and isn’t coughing up the rebounds like he used to.” Obviously, he shouldered a yeoman’s blame for the paddlin’ the Hawks administered last year. There shouldn’t be a goal tender controversy in Vancouver. Luongo had an incredible year, amassing the league’s second best GAA at 2.11. Yet, the Canuck fans can be brutal on their pipemeister. I haven’t read any fan posts talking about Schneider yet, but you know that name is on the tip of their traitorous tongues.
While most Canuck fans will acknowledge our top two lines are perniciously potent, they are quick to point out the lack of depth on the Hawks 3rd and 4th lines. Let me think, Maxim Lapierre, Cody Hodgson, Jeff Tambellini, Victor Oreskovich, Tanner Glass and Chris Higgins are not exactly household names, at least not in Chicago. Although I must admit, I was surprised to read how many first round draft picks are included in that hodgepodge. The one who scares me most, Jannik Hansen, was drafted 287th in the 2004 draft. While he hasn’t been called the “Great Dane” yet by the Canuck fans, the cat has speed to burn. Losing a player like Malholtra at this juncture was incredibly unfortunate. It definitely has the Canucks scrambling to find a new team chemistry. Reminds me of two of Murphy’s Laws; “Anything that can go wrong will, and at the worst possible time.”
From what I’ve read, Vigneault juggles those six almost as much as Coach Q does with our grinders. And by all means Coach V, keep Kesler and Raymond separated. While unsung heroes will no doubt make their presence felt, this series will more likely come down to our best two lines against your best two lines, mano y orca. Which brings me to the player, who judged by your heckling of him, is causing you intermittently fitful sleep.
Judging by your vitriolic comments, one would think Kaner sleeps at the Roxy when visiting your fair city. Not many outside of the Hawk nation know the real truth behind those pictures in the infamous limo. Patrick Kane was merely an innocent bystander, caught up in the pranks of Versteeg and Madden. “They told me we were going out for pizza,” explained #88. One thing led to another and Patrick was caught up in a situation that spiraled out of control. Not knowing how to get back to the hotel, he was held captive against his wishes. The Hawk organization took immediate steps to rectify the situation, informing Steeger and Madden their days wearing the Indian were numbered. Despite losing two talented Hawk players, I applaud the Hawk brass for making an example of those two bad apples. Your incessant labeling of him as a hoochie coochie man is sophomoric. Actually, Kaner does have a little soul in him, which reminds me of a recent incident with my daughter Taylor.
We pulled into Dick’s Sporting Goods and as we did Barry White’s song Can’t get enough of your love, babe, came on the radio. Incredulously, Taylor was about to get out of the car. “Stop, where do you think you’re going?’ I asked her. “This is one of the greatest songs of all time!” She shook her head and left me alone while I sang, “Girl, I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know why, I can’t get enough…” Barry White oozed soul that a crackah could only dream of. The number of babies that were created do to this song has never been tabulated!
Which brings me to the soul brother who could figure prominently in our Cup defense. I have to back track just a bit to set the table, but bear with me. At work I used to stop buy the round table discussions held out in our plant by the “rainbow coalition” of workers at lunch. Most of these guys had worked there for over 30 years – and in a weird sort of way they seem like family. There was one older white guy who wasn’t really on board with the term political correctness. His defense when he would be unmercifully picked on was, “Rich, those black folk, all they want to do is sing and dance, sing and dance.” Now he wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I had to muffle a laugh when I first heard him say this. And, there is more than the appearance of truth to that assessment.
This thought came to mind as I watched the latest Binny’s commercial. Remember the big guy who danced in the aisle during critical timeout’s last year. He helped work us into a frenzy when the song “Shipping out to Boston,” played. In the latest Binny’s commercial, the big guy teaches the new “Beermeister,” (Dan?) who happens to be black, how to do the Irish jig. Within seconds Dan picked up the dance and did it with an ease of a Soul Train dancer. I remember thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding me,” it has to be genetic! At any rate, for the first time this year the big guy surfaced in the third period of the Tampa Bay game. The crowd went nuts recalling all those great memories last year. Now this is just me thinking, but if I were the Hawk brass I’d pair those two up for the critical time outs during our playoff run. They just might get the whole U. C. doing the Irish jig.
I know I’m getting off track here, but I have to tell you about another song that one of my offspring gave a thumbs down to. (I can only shake my head.) While driving Greg and his friends to school the other morning, the Mississippi Muddy Waters classic, I’m a Man! gave me a jolt comparable to a double espresso. Every time Muddy Waters would sing “I’m a man,” Johnny Winters piercing, stab in the dark gee-tar note would scream out like finger nails on a chalk board. It reminds me of one of the greatest goals, in one of the greatest hockey games I’ve ever witnessed. It was the 7th Hawk goal and the clincher at the United Center back in the 2008-09 playoffs. Patrick Kane came off the left dash boards somehow unimpeded, hoisting a wicked backhand into a small opening in the upper left hand corner of Luongo’s net. One of the nastiest shots I ever saw. Every time I hear Winters note in that song, I’m reminded of our “hoochie coochie man’s” piercing dagger.
Small opening’s – that’s all it takes. As Johnny Winter once sang, “I know every now and then it’s kind of hard to tell, but I’m still alive and well.” Admittedly, I almost jumped off the wagon after our loss to the Wings on Sunday. There’s no room for Doubting Thomas’s on this wagon anymore. It’s time to go all in. We’re about to see some great hockey, by two intense rivals, that is sure to be contested at a dizzying pace. Hold on tight.
I’ve heard the number one played song in Vancouver at the moment is Ottawa native Bruce Cockburn’s, Wondering where the lions are. “Had another dream about Blackhawks at the door, they weren’t half as frightening as they were before, and I’m wondering where the lions are…” Who are you trying to kid Vancouver, this series is not going to be a stroll in Queen Elizabeth Park. You are about to be “Tazered.”
As Kaner was overheard singing, “Shake for me girl, I want to be your back door man.”