By Rich Lindbloom
“We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about.” – Charles Kingsley
Well now; raise your hand high if you saw that one coming. After Sunday’s disheartening loss, fans trudging towards the exits were heard saying they were not going to waste their money to watch a lost cause in Game 4. Actually it was more like, “F___ it. I’m selling my tickets.” Certainly, the Blackhawk faithful we’re expecting a reenactment of Custer’s Last Stand. While most of us expected a valiant effort, we were somewhat resigned to the fact we would succumb to yet another disastrous third period. Jeff Bartl of Blackhawk Up put it best; “Tuesday nights demolishing of Vancouver in Game four might have been the most fun I’ve had watching something I could not muster excitement for all day.” Our bleak chances were as cold and dismal as spring in the Big Chi.
With Seabs still not sure what team he was on, and Big Bad John in, the lumberjacks from British Columbia were certain to holler “Timber!’ as the defending Stanley Cup Champs went down to an ignominious defeat. Not to mention the considerable consternation as to the debatable decision to play “The Rat.” What could that little pest possibly bring to the ice after over 45 days of inactivity? Hell, Frank Pellico was probably in better shape. As the National Anthems were belted out once again by Jim Cornelison, I noticed something though. Actually I felt it.
Before this point I don’t think I was in the minority of fans who had resigned themselves to the fact that the great tradition of shaking hands at the end of the game was imminent. I had expected a tepid crowd, remnants of the Hawk faithful, whose callous hearts had already been hardened by this frustrating season. When our baritones voice finally ended with “…and the home of the brave,” the enthusiasm of the crowd was palpable. Surprisingly the crowd was fired up. And then it happened …
Before I go into a description of one of the greatest games I’ve ever witnessed, I have to tell you a story about a rainbow. In truth, like so many near death experiences when back packing with Montana Bob, me and four of my knucklehead friends were perilously close to getting lit up like Luongo was in Game 5. We were in The Tetons, a spectacular mountain range in western Wyoming. This particular day we hiked up to a pass called Paintbrush Divide. When we reached the top, we sat down on some furniture made out of rocks. It never failed to amaze me how comfortable a rock can be when you’ve been hiking for 5-6 miles. There is an art to it, not any old rock will do. Eventually though you can usually find one that will conform to the contours of your fanny.
From our lofty perch, our eyes feasted on an incredible storm out in the distance in Idaho. As we observed the storm from what we thought was a safe distance, we were treated to a major electrical storm and midnight black clouds. Any experienced hiker would have had enough sense to head down to the relative safety of our tents. However, we were mesmerized. Suddenly, we began to feel static electricity all around us. “Do you think we should head down?”, one of my dimwitted friends asked. Duhhh! At that precise moment the storm left its hovering state, heading directly towards us like an out of control freight train. Scurrying down the switchbacks, we finally reached our tents. We were drenched and more than a little concerned at the ferocity of the storm as it bulldozed through Paintbrush Divide.
When the rain, wind and lightning finally abated, we cautiously poked our heads out of the tent. As we emerged, one of the most indescribable rainbows I’ve ever seen appeared. It started at the pass and went all the way down to the lake at the mountains base. It almost seemed like you could reach out and touch it. It was at least 20 times larger than any rainbow I ever saw. What an exhilarating couple of hours. I swear, it had nothing to do with the mushrooms we had for breakfast.
My point is, in a very stormy season, those fans who came to pay their last respects to a Blackhawk team that fought mightily this year in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, were treated to a rainbow of their own. I think it’s safe to say the bigger the storm, the more magnificent the rainbow. If that were to be the last game at the United Center this year, those in attendance will be smiling no matter what the outcome of tonight’s game is. The effort the Hawks put out left us optimistic, hopeful and quite proud to be wearing the red sweater. The improbable victory seemed to erase with one fell swoop, all the sins of this tumultuous season.
In my opinion, it started not with Bickell’s complete undressing of Bieksa and Luongo, but with a two minute penalty called on a player who I thought should not be dressed. As Erhoff tried to rough up The Rat, in a page out of a Chuck Norris movie, Davey unleashed what appeared to be a 360 degree roundhouse elbow to #5’s schnazz. I was about 50 feet away and cheered like Bolland had scored a OT goal. “Don’t take no crap Davey,” I hollered as the orange arm went up so fast it almost came out of its socket. (Maybe Bollsy isn’t all with it yet and thought it was Pavel Kubina) That play set the tone of the game, a game where I have to be honest and admit we got away with some extracurricular activity. To me, the goal and 3 assists were secondary to Bollands indomitable spirit – a spirit that seemed quite contagious among the other 17 skaters wearing the Indian. Warning to the Canucks – do not poop in Bolland’s Cheerios. I also immensely enjoyed Ryan Johnson’s, Walter Payton like, straight arm.
As in last year’s playoffs, Bolland’s line mates also had a huge impact on the game. I said to a friend sitting next to me right before Frolic scored in the 2nd period, “Man, Frolic has been skating his butt off tonight.” Moments later he electrified the crowd with an absolutely stunning breakaway. He missed another breakaway in the third, settling for two huge assists and a goal. Frolic has been taking a licking all series long but I haven’t once seen him shy away from one of the Canuck hooligans. Great to see him rewarded in that game. All that I’m going to say about Bickell’s performance was that a lot of fans who think he needs to be jettisoned next year, are having second thoughts.
There were numerous other heroes, with Duncan Keith playing an inspired game. I don’t know about you, but I kind of like a fired up # 2 car. It didn’t take him long to try to send a message to Torres – not that he’d get it. Hjarlmarsson put in a solid defensive effort, and a beautiful crushing check on Bieksa before Stalberg had his way with the Vancouver’s villainous #3. Actually, “vancitydan” from Nucksmisconcuct.com that said it best, “Be physical Stals. Don’t be suicidal.” Dan also relayed a two word description of the game from a Vancouver perspective – “Bad Dog!”
Brian Campbell, of whom it’s rumored needs to ice his foot to get it in his boot, took a very welcome offensive approach to the game. He skated over 25 minutes and was a +4. Campoli skated 23 minutes and continues to play “Not in my kitchen,” hockey. He seems to be in the middle of a lot of extracurricular skirmishes. As a whole, it seemed like the Hawk defensemen treated the area in front of Crawford as their turf. (What I like to call Bloods and Crips hockey) It’s about time we started crosschecking some of the other teams nozzles from the crease.
In fact, and I realize it was not a good penalty, I sort of applauded Sharp for upending, I think it was, Higgins on Sunday in Luongo’s kitchen. Patrick has been playing with an edge all series – must be a little bit of that Philadelphia Flyer in him. Note to the Canucks – “Don’t let Sharpie crank one up from 20 feet and hope that Lu can stop it,” – bad game plan. As I watched the Hawks pour it on, (didn’t hear anything from Vigneault about running up the score this time), an old song came to mind, Oh Black Betty. It’s one of those you, like a Sharp slapper, tend to crank up a little when it comes on the radio.
“Black Betty had a child
The damn thing gone wild,…” – Ram Jam
Probably the only person hated more in British Columbia than Tim (tampon) Currell, is Patrick Kane. Now I’ll admit #88 has his moments, in fact I’m pretty sure it was Kaner who Iggy Pop had in mind when he sang Real Wild Child. Let’s put it this way, you’re either from Chicago and love the guy or from the rest of the league and hate him. He’s talented, cocky, extremely handsome and on a rare occasion, out of control. However, his saucer pass to a streaking Brian Campbell started what I like to term the “Black Betty Beatdown” on Tuesday. (bam a lam) Despite the lumbering Vancouver defensemen trying to cut him down to size, he remains as dangerous as Mighty Mouse out on the ice. Luongo made two incredible saves on him Sunday night, or this series might be tied 2-2. Keep avoiding those, (obvious attempts to injure), checks Patrick. You’re more valuable to us on skates than on a stretcher. For you, discretion is the better part of valor. Use your stick like Mikita used to do to get even.
Jonathan Toews hasn’t done much on the score sheet, but made a bold statement after Game 3. Basically he expounded on what Tim Currell of Blackhawk Up said before the first three games. While talking about the Canucks, Cap’n Serious said “…We’re not exposing them for what they really are… A lot of people outside this locker room are giving them too much credit and maybe we are as well.” The press was shocked and Vancouver blogs had a lot of fun with that statement. To me it rings of one thing – a great captain. So typical of #19. He was obviously trying to rally his team; it seems a couple of his teammates heard him.
The much beleaguered John Scott acquitted himself favorably in over 8 minutes of ice time. Was it just me, or did it seem like the Canucks were on their best behavior when #32 was on the ice? Raffe Torres seemed to make a beeline to the bench whenever his shift ended. Don’t get me wrong, hockey players are probably second only to cowboys in the rodeo when it comes to bravery and toughness. And something tells me Torres would mount a bull. However it was clear Big Bad John had a positive influence on his miscreant ways.
Coach Q kept pretty mum about the hit that sidelined Seabs, until Scott left the penalty box after he got done serving his first 10 minutes “for talking,” misconduct. Scott skated to the bench and was about to leave the ice when Q sternly motioned for him to stay on the ice when he saw Torres come out for a late shift. Like an elephant, apparently Coach Q is still stewing about losing his #2 defenseman. Just wondering what Edmonton has in store for Torres next year. Torres is a decent player, but the league needs more Jordan Eberle’s, not head hunters.
In closing, the misunderstanding that almost led to a full scale donnybrook in Vancouver’s zone in the 3rd period, actually revealed a startling truth about this game – it’s us against them. As the players exchanged high fives, swear words and an occasional punch, Big Bad John was in the thick of it. While the refs were busy saving Lapierre’s life, I glanced across the ice and looked at the diminutive octogenarian located in Section 101. RoseLee has always told me she watches hockey because of the speed and skill, not the fights. It must have been the mother hen syndrome in her but she was standing on her tip toes, hoping to see Big Bad John and the boys try to resolve the misunderstanding. As I have been known to say on occasion, “Now that’s hockey!” It leaves me “enthusiastically” looking forward to game 5 tonight.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I think we need to head back up to the top of Paintbrush Divide tonight. I hear there’s a storm a brewing in Idaho. We may not find a pot of gold under that rainbow, but hopefully another Game 4 effort.
“We have not the reverent feeling for the rainbow that a savage has, because we know how it is made. We have lost as much as we gained by prying into that matter.” – Mark Twain