Dec 262011

By Rich Lindbloom

Mark 8:28 “But what about you,” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

While realizing this is a sensitive subject, I can’t help reflecting on that babe born in a manger some 2000 years ago. “What child is this?” that inspired so much incredible art and beautiful music that we are blessed with at this time of year. (Although, if I hear Feliz Navidad one more time my head will explode.) As with Moses, Jesus was born in very humble surroundings.  Both men shunned earthly kingdoms. Both men were on a mission to lead lost sheep to the Promised Land.  I’ve always found it somewhat amazing that the first people on this earth to see Jesus, were the lowliest of the low. A group of shepherds tending their flocks on a deep and dark night near Bethlehem, go to the stable after being terrified by an angel that told them not to be afraid. “I bring you news of great joy for all men.”

Fast forward 33 years, to a moment when Jesus looks Peter directly in the eye and poses the question in Mark 28:28. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide for the Galilean fisherman. That verse is one of my favorites in the bible. Although most people choose to ignore the question, it is one that begs for an answer. In my simple mind, there are three options; he was a lunatic because he claimed to be God, he was a liar because he claimed to be God or he was who he said he was, Immanuel- God with us. I told this to a friend one time and he said “There’s a fourth option. Rich Lindbloom is a lunatic.”  Certainly Bob was very close to the truth with that assessment!

It was around this time in Toews and Kanes rookie season that we battled the Edmonton Oilers on a cold winter’s night. Anyone fortunate enough to be in the house for that game left the United Center with high hopes for the Blackhawks.  We seemed to be emerging from the darkness so to speak. I’ll never forget Martin Lapointe starting the celebration that took place after the Hawks killed off a 6-4 in the final minute. Maybe Lapointe must have felt more akin to us inhabitants up in the 300 section, maybe not. However I do recall him looking up at us Cousin Eddies and applauding us. No one left early for the exits on that night. I could be wrong, but I believe it was the first night that the Hawks congregated at center ice and raised their sticks as a salute to the fans who clearly appreciated their efforts. While not 100% certain, anyone present that “cold winter’s night that was so deep,” knew the Hawks were ascending.

Let me ask you; at this point in the season who would you say the Blackhawks are this year?

As we approach the midpoint of this season, it would seem we’re all breathing slightly easier about the 11/12 Chicago Blackhawks. Despite a current of uneasiness underlying our optimism, the Hawks currently boast of the highest point total in the NHL. Yet, if you asked most fans if they’d rather have the current team, or the team that won the Cup in 09/10, they’d most likely choose the Dustin Byfuglien led Hawks!

Ok,ok – so it was Jonathan Toews who led us that year also. On one of the Hawk web sites a Hawk blogger wrote, “For unto to us a child is born…” Indeed, the people walking in darkness have seen a great light. How the Hawk brass ever decided that a 19 year old would be made captain of a team will remain a great mystery. While Tazer is a long way from being the promised Messiah, there is no doubt Blackhawk fans were blessed in the 2006 NHL entry draft when the Hawks selected #19 with the third pick. The first pick that year was Erik Johnson, followed by Jordan Staal and then Toews. (A guy named Frolik was the tenth pick.) I remember when the Bulls got stuck with the third pick many moons ago and had to settle for a guard who led the Bulls to a modicum of success. It seems the greatest players have a thirst for victory that is unquenchable. Will any of us ever forget Tazer’s goal from his knees in the last minute against Vancouver last year? Mere mortals don’t make those type of plays.

However, a play that may have gone unnoticed recently was pointed out to me by a friend at work. I believe it was the Anaheim game where Toews made an uncharacteristic turn over in the games waning moments. (The captain cost me two valuable points in my Fantasy League with his blunder- but I’ve forgiven him, sort of.) The turn over lead to the goal that broke Ray Emery’s shut out. Now I didn’t see it happen, and Rubin said he couldn’t be sure, but he said it appeared that Toews said something to Razor as the team congratulated him at game’s end. Toews, the last person in line to pat our “Keeper of the Gate,” appeared to be apologizing to Emery. Rubin said it was pretty apparent that Toews said it was his fault the shutout slipped away. I’m pretty sure Emery let it slide! Indeed, “For unto us a hockey player is born…”

Razor, which ironically rhymes with Tazer, has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the season. Emery took over for a struggling Corey Crawford and has sparkled between the pipes for the last six games. Most Blackhawk fans went from hope to belief as Ray seemed to get better with each game. Coach Q wisely road the hot hand and I believe I wasn’t the only fan who was sort of hoping he’d start against the Canadians. Not so much that I was worried about Crow, but I wanted to head into the Christmas break with a win. It seemed like our “eager beaver” in the net was the safe option.

Actually, the thought of comparing Emery to a beaver came to me while walking the dogs around Izaak Walton’s beautiful lakes the other day. The dogs started sniffing around in earnest, when all of the sudden a beaver came swimming towards us. As he got about 10 feet from the shoreline, he did an about face and slapped his tail in an apparent attempt to scare us off. It was as if he was saying, “Not in my kitchen!” That’s the way Emery has played for us on our current winning streak. As it turned out, Corey played against “a bunch of players wearing a Montreal Canadien uniform,” as John at Fifth Feather so aptly put it. Crawford’s paddle save on Pacioretty was just what the doctor ordered to rejuvenate some confidence in the goalie who bailed us out so many times last season. Emery, Crawford? Whoever minds the pipes for us – just remember to keep slapping that tail.

Big John Scott did a little slapping of his own when he took great offense to Engelland’s filthy dirty, despicable and cowardly cheap shot on Marcus Kruger. The ref who was about 15 feet away from the play might not have seen it, but Scott who was about at our blueline saw it. That did not bode well for Engelland. The Penguin defenseman received a three game suspension for the hit, but that probably paled in comparison to the justice Fluffy meted out. Normally Murdersaurus will quit throwing punches when he’s bested his opponent. However in this skirmish, Scott landed four more punches after the linesman tried to break it up. Two were wicked upper cuts to Engelland’s ribs. Rocky lives! I’ve thought of another new nickname for Scott, one befitting his undefeated record as a Hawk pugilist – “The Law.” It emanates from the Bobby Fuller Four song, “I fought the law and the law won.” Scott was the number one star of the game in my book.

A close second star in the game was Viktor Stalberg. Other than a terrible hair cut, (It rivals Keith’s for worst hair on the Hawks), Stalberg has been a speed skating machine lately. Can you say crashing the net? Bickell. Please take notice! At any rate, Stalberg has been another one of those very pleasant surprises the last month or so. Kris Versteeg who?

There certainly is a growing optimism as we head into the second half of the season. There seems to be a lot more positives than negatives. In this season where light and darkness are so starkly contrasted, you might say a bright light has replaced the dim shadows of Capocalypse. Many of us were wondering this summer, “what team is this,” as we pondered how much the Hawks had improved. Personally, it’s starting to grow on me – it seems to have a much better personality than last years. Not to take anything away from last year’s efforts, but this team appears to be developing a swagger, a bit of a killer instinct. Like the birth of that babe over 2,000 years ago – a bright light on a dark night.

“The first Noel, the angels did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay…’

Rich Lindbloom

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