Lindbloom: Big Dogs on the front porch

By Rich Lindbloom

I think it’s the eyes, but that picture of Sean O’Donnell bears a striking resemblance to our goofy Newfie, George. George is in the doghouse at the moment for helping himself to a good portion of my son’s 11 pound bag of Halloween candy. Needless to say, he wasn’t feeling all that hot this morning. When I came home at lunch, well, let’s just leave it at – I had to wash the kitchen floor-twice. To make matters worse, he’s been on a strict diet since we adopted him in August. George apparently had enough of The Biggest Loser program we had him on. I’m thinking about putting a padlock on the fridge and stressing to him that potpourri is not edible.

We obtained George this past summer from a family in Steven’s Point, Wisconsin. The owner was heartbroken to have to give him up, and was determined to find a good family for the behemoth. It turned out that the owner was not only a Blackhawk fan, but had actually coached Joe Pavelski of the Sharks in a youth league. Needless to say, our visit to see if our family would be a good fit with George, turned into about a 3 hour stay. We’ve had three Akita’s so I thought we were quite familiar with big dogs. We quickly discovered George is in a weight class all his own. George, by far, is the strongest beast I’ve ever walked. He also has the loudest bark I’ve ever heard and doesn’t he love to hear himself.  When I saw that picture of O’Donnell the other day, it made stop and reflect for a moment on the acquisitions the Hawks made during the offseason, players who added some brute strength to watch over our skill players. If I were Corey Corey Crawford, I’d probably keep some dog biscuits handy. It’s nice to have some big dogs hanging around the porch!

There actually was a picture in the Tribune that sort of epitomized our offseason additions. Last Saturday, Kevin Westgarth -6’4” 238#’s, was trying to pry the puck away from Crawford towards the end of the tightly contested affair with the Kings. He was on his knees, surrounded by O’Donnell, Montador, Mayers and Scott. (Coach Q must have thought he died and went to heaven) It became rather apparent to me after glancing at the photo, that there is little doubt we are a much tougher team this year. Scott and Mayers especially seemed to take a sadistic delight in Westgarth’s compromising position. It appeared Big John shoved him back down twice when he tried to extricate himself from this precarious entanglement. Montador, 6’-210#’s and O’Donnell, 6’2”-238#’s both logged over 12 minutes against the Kings, helping to withstand a couple of the Rugby scrums in front of Crow’s cage. I really like Nick Leddy, but I don’t think he’s quite the deterrent Monty and O’D are when the opposition finally decides to bulldozer the puck past the goal line.

No doubt we’re stronger on the blue line. Keeping Keith’s minutes under 25/game could pay big dividends come spring. One thing for sure, if our forwards back check with the determination that Kruger and Frolik exhibited against the Kings, we might be safe with Scott back there. In a hockey game we tend to get mesmerized by the huge hits, speed and incredible offensive skill. Watching a forward like Bolland or Hossa get back might be an area that gets overlooked and underappreciated. Time after time in the Kings game, back checkers thwarted the Kings attack, leading to a cavalcade of offsides and icing. Which reminds me, the Blackhawk suicide prevention hotline was flooded with a cavalcade of dumbfounded fans when they saw our fourth line composition against the Kings.

Coach Q’s Random Line Generator caught even the most hardened observer of Q’s curious ways to take a deep breath in the Kings contest. It wasn’t exactly three 7’s that popped up – more like a casaba melon, a zucchini and a meatball. When Coach Q saw Bickell, Mayers and Scott pop up, I think even he was taken aback. The only possible explanation on why he didn’t pull the lever again is he’s a fan of the movie Master of Disguise. As Pistachio would say, “That’s crazy, so crazy it just might work.” As I sat in the lazy boy, I actually thought Q had lost his marbles. However, this line put intense pressure on the Kings in a limited role, with Scott delivering two crushing checks. Mayers has been highly effective all season and has removed any doubt we might have had about a fourth line leader. Have you ever noticed Jamal giving less that his all out there? How does Bryan Bickell manage to get so many breakaways? Bryan has speed and he’s pretty effective when he uses it.

Coach Q seemed to regain his senses when he settled in on a starting goalie. Breaking away from his pattern of starting Ray Emery in back to back games, Q went to the well in a very important game. It was a bit risky because of all the criticism and concern about Crawford being generated in the press. Hopefully Crow doesn’t read all the in depth analysis of his sudden ineptitude, it’s beginning to reek of the incessant criticism of Cristobal Huet. (By the way, the Fribourg Gotteron guardian, as they call a goaltender in Switzerland, has a sparkling 93.8 save % and 1.78 GA average this season.) Four out of the five goals against Anaheim were either from shots actually in his crease or a foot away from it – one might ask in Mr. Big’s defense-“Where’s the beef?” The other shot was an ICBM from one of the greatest snipers in the game, Teemu Selanne, a blast from the top of the circle past a partial screen by Perry. Anyone who thinks that was a routine save needs to have their head examined. Ring the bell on that blast.

The arm chair quarterbacks have mentioned quite a bit about Corey’s newfound aggressive style, bad positioning and weak lateral movement. Unfortunately, even a sterling performance by #50 did little to silence the critics; “He’s still struggling with rebounds,” or “He really didn’t have to make any tough saves,” or “he was lucky Trent Hunter missed the net.” Please! When you’re starting goalie allows one goal on the road, in a huge game against a team with two excellent lines, can we give just a little credit where credit is deserved? I realize he had the benefit of possibly the best Hawk defensive effort of the season in front of him; at least until the last 5 minutes of the game when we shifted into hold your breath mode. But in my eyes, Mr. Big was huge between the pipes. On a somewhat humorous side note, how many penalties do you think the refs could actually call if they could sort it out on those last minute goal mouth scrambles! Crosschecks, interference, punches to the head and a whole lot of unsportsmanlike conduct seem to be taking place. The tough area of the ice-no doubt. Bruno’s tally was one of those goals where bodies were flying everywhere and Bolland was doing his best impression of a monkey while hanging onto the cross bar in Quick’s crease.

Andrew Brunette made a strong move around the net, past a disgruntled Willie (the wimp) Mitchell. (Doesn’t it sound a bit like Willie should be stealing hub caps rather than playing in the NHL?) The goal was Toews-ian in effort. One of the funniest quotes I read after the game came in reply to a question a reporter asked Bruno about the scouting report on the miserly Jonathan Quick. “Well, I know he’s a goalie.” Anybody besides me starting to grow fond of #15? I have to chuckle when I see him busting butt to get back on defense. He reminds me so much of The Little Engine who thought he could, chugging along that uphill track. ‘I think I can, I think I can!” Chugging along may be the best description of Bruno’s inimitable skating technique. Bruno says, “Love that Good and Plenty…”

Toews had high praise after the game for Brunette although he stumbled a little bit when trying to decide what name to call him. Jonathan might have had the best month of his career tallying 9 goals and 9 assists while going +7 in 15 contests. His intense focus reminds me of that movie, Run Silent, Run Deep. I’m guessing he didn’t even know his helmet was off when he scored his second in the Duck game. It’s been noted still waters run deep, and it appeared the Captain wasted little time celebrating the hard fought victory vs. the Kings. This is just speculation, yet I’m pretty sure the “Serious One” started to immediately think of the upcoming opponents. Specifically, I believe he started thinking about the huge game against the Blues and his arch nemesis, David Backes. You might recall Backes knocked Toews on his derrière in a late hit that the referee missed in their last game. Backes even appeared to take an evil delight in his miscreant ways. Like an elephant though, you can be certain that Tazer will remember the villainous #42. I’m not sure that Jonny can take David, which may give Coach Q another reason for inserting John Scott into the lineup on Tazer’s left wing.

John Scott might have a hard time displacing Stalberg on the Captain’s line. Although there was a brief moment on the benches when the captain appeared to be annoyed at Stals. (Would the camera man at WGN please keep the camera on the action rather than the bench while play is going on? Or at least show some babes in the stands – hockey players are ugly for the most part, what with the scars and missing teeth and unshaven mugs.) It was right after an offsides on the right side of the ice. Stals anticipated a pass or a dump in and apparently ruined whatever it was Toews was attempting to create. It appeared Viktor was explaining to Toews his thought process when Captain Serious gave Stals a dose of his seriousness. I believe Toews said something like, “What the hell are you doing on this side of the ice? You’re a damn left winger – think Stals, think!” Viktor gave a nervous smile and continued to skate full speed ahead for the rest of the game.

Actually our Newfie George and Viktor remind me of each other in a twisted way. When our 128 pound goof ball does something goofy, we tend to acceptingly say, “George, you’re such a George.” When Stals narrowly missed tapping in Kaner’s feed, all I could think of was, “Stalberg, you’re such a Stalberg.” He is what he is, although I certainly like this year’s version more than last year’s. Same goes for the Blackhawks team this year. We seem hungrier and have been able to hold serve in the third period with a lot more regularity. And as I mentioned earlier, we’ve got some big dogs on the porch.

Well out of the frying pan and into the fire. With three tough contests this week, especially the Wanna Be Wolves and Blues, there’s no time for rest. Tazer, possibly reflecting on the squeal like a pig weekend in Alberta, knows what it will take to rack up some points; “We know how good we can be if we go out and work. But without sticking to our game plan and playing the way we expect each other to play, there’s not much there.”

I’m afraid most of the players on the Hawks would begin decomposing if they ever realized what Tazers expectations are! Hey, I think I almost just wrote an entire article without mentioning a song. Fortunately, one just popped into my mind by The Talking Heads that pretty much describes #19;

“Can’t seem to face up to the facts
I’m tense and nervous, can’t relax
Can’t sleep, bed’s on fire
Don’t touch me I’m a real live wire.

Psycho Killer Qu’est-ce que c’est, fa fafafa,fa fa fa fa.”

Viktor, if I were you I’d play your position. Backes, be prepared to taste a dose of the Captains seriousness. Excuse me for looking ahead, but I can’t wait to see the Hawks vs. Blues on Saturday, that one could get ugly. For a change, it’s nice to have some Big Dogs guarding the porch.

photo link: Chicago Tribune

Now that’s hockey!

Rich Lindbloom

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