By Rich Lindbloom
Opportunity; while it’s been said it only knocks once, in reality we are presented many opportunities throughout our lives. What we do with them, of course, is up to us. Marian Hossa was presented with a golden opportunity early in the second period against Buffalo that he didn’t waste-more on that later. For now, suffice it to say Hossa obliterated Enroth’s 5-hole. Before I go into my sagacious analysis of the last few games, I’d like to tell you about an opportunity that I let slip by recently. It’s haunted me for almost two months now.
It was the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving and I went to Jewel to pick up a few items. Unfortunately, the lines were about 10 people deep, even at the self checkout. To make matters worse, as the line was reduced to about 5 people in front of me, we were informed that there was a malfunction in the Visa machine and it had turned into a cash only line. It turned out I had enough to pay for the items I had and so continued to wait impatiently. As we finally approached the cashier, an older lady, who looked worrisome and worn down, put all of her items on the conveyor belt, all except a turkey. I asked her if she wanted me to put it on the belt for her and she said “Well…, yeah I guess so.”
I was a bit puzzled by her reply, but soon understood her reluctance to take it out of her shopping cart. She was watching the cashier total up her items and realizing she didn’t have enough money to pay for the turkey. This poor soul looked ashamed, dog-tired and defeated. The thought immediately came to my mind to pay for it, but I knew I didn’t have enough cash. And if I gave her my cash, I’d have to go to another 10 deep line where the credit card machine was working. Before I could figure out how to go about paying for it, she told the cashier that she’d have to come back. As she dejectedly walked away, I began to realize what a golden opportunity I had missed to brighten this ladies day. Not even a Blackhawk win that night would have come close to the joy, (for both of us), that could have come if I would have dug a little deeper. (As it turned out the Hawks lost to San Jose, 1-0, that night.) What a wasted opportunity to bring a little light into this dark world-dang it. There’s little doubt there will be plenty of chances to redeem myself at future checkout lines though.
Opportunities to play in the NHL are not quite as numerous as those that present themselves at the checkout line. Two players for the Hawks, who from all appearances are making the best of their opportunity, are the kids from the Big R. Andrew Shaw and Jimmy Hayes continue to make their presence known and sometimes felt. As noted by Forklift from the Hockeenight website, “Shaw continues to play like one bad shift will get him sent back to Toledo.” (good to see something else besides Tony Packo’s cabbage rolls come out of Toledo.) Shaw played over 20 minutes against Buffalo, notching a goal and an assist. He was robbed by the ref on a great assist to Kruger on a goal that was washed off. There is much discussion taking place on the secondcityhockey.com website in an effort to come up with a nickname for the feisty Lilliputian. Hack-shaw, Buzz-shaw, Shawz-all, Shawzee, Saw, Shawminator, Shagga the Daggah (long story on that one), Sha-wiiiiinnnnngggg, Oh Pshaw, Shaw’nuff, Ratreborn, The Tick and my favorite-Chicken Hawk. Here’s to hoping he’ll keep banging his face into the plexi-glass for awhile.
While Shaw likes to kiss the plexi-glass after a goal, #39 likes to “kiss the sky.” Chicken Hawk’s counterpart from Rockford, Jimmy Hayes, now has 4 goals and 3 assists in 10 games. Perhaps “Purple Haze” would fit the 6’6” 220# power forward-I can hear Frank Pelico playing the classic Hendrix song when Hazer scores! Rock on Pelican Man, now make it funky. It seems Hayes has the ability to score no matter what line he’s on. There is little doubt he has bolstered our 3rd or 4th line. Against Buffalo, he took a perfect feed from Andrew Brunette to tally his fourth. (Is it just me or does it feel like Bruno is finding his niche on this team.) In a rather humorous moment, Patrick Kaleta turtled, rather than drop the gloves with Hayes, denying the surprising rookie a Gordie Howe hat trick. Below is a photo of Kaleta after the game.
Hazer currently is on a line with Bolland and Brunette. If you would have told me our third line at this point of the season would be composed of a grandpa, a rookie and Hannibal Lechter, I would have accused you of being on acid. Bolland has been on a tear, notching 10 points in 7 games. He had a beautiful goal against the Sharks, (and “their goaltender” as Tazer referred to him). However as someone noted, perhaps the spin-o-rama would be more effective before you shoot the puck! On Wednesday, Jon Fromi noted “The Rat buried a piece cheese” on a perfect feed from Hayes against the Sabres. I’m not sure about you, but I could quickly get used to our third line scoring two goals per game.
Who would of thunk that the Hawks would be thriving without point production from Kaner and Sharpie. (Patrick’s who?) I wanted to crawl through the TV and strangle Mike Milbury when he said he doesn’t see the Hawks contending for the Cup the way Kaner is struggling at the moment. And then I remembered it was Mike Milbury, perennial Eastern conference homie. There are only a handful of people in the league who are as dangerous with the puck and a sliver of space as Crazy 88. Although the puck hasn’t exactly been tickling the twine for Kaner, he’s creating numerous scoring chances for himself and others. If Patrick Kane is the Hawks biggest problem-well you might consider ordering tickets for the parade in June right now.
Antti-matter, should have been arrested, (or at least questioned by Eliot Ness), by one of Chicago’s finest when he somehow robbed Kaner in the Sharks game. Kane said in a post game interview, “I felt like going into the locker room and taking my uniform off.” Toews, who normally gets ticked off when someone blows one of his perfect set ups, skated up to #88 behind the net and tried to console him. “Now you know how Frolik feels,” said Captain Marvel. My take on why Kaner will soon be appearing on milk cartons is he’s snake bit. Contrast his luck with Tazer who can’t do anything wrong at the moment. Against the Sharks, on a fine feed from Kane and hard work by Stals, Toews almost whiffed on his shot attempt. He, just barely getting enough on it to watch the puck trickle over the goal line. Against the Sabres, Toews hits an off speed shot that somehow eluded Enroth, clanging in off the far post. I don’t think you’d get to many people to disagree with that old adage, “It’s better to be lucky than good.” Despite Tazer’s luck and Kaner’s lack of it, rumors that Stan Bowman is currently shopping the two aging veterans appear to be false.
Our fourth line is capable of sustaining a bit of pressure also. I looked at the box score the last few games and noticed for the most part the fourth line players are getting over 10 minutes of ice time per game. Nothing like fresh legs out there, eh? While some restless fans have been getting frustrated with Frolik, in my “expert” opinion he’s contributing in many ways, doing things that never appear on the score sheet. I love watching #67 skate – maybe Coach Q just needs to shake the joo joo out of his stick again! Jamal Mayers continues to play bob Marley hockey, (he be jamming), what a tremendous veteran presence. Ever notice how many players on the opposition decline a dance with #22? If I’m a rookie, I’d be pretty glad Mayers is on the ice with me. In addition to our fourth line logging some serious minutes, Montador and O’Donnell continue to hold fort as our third d-tandem, settling in lately at about 13-14 min/game. O’D is very good at not panicking with the puck. If he’s not sure, he doesn’t just blindly throw the puck along the boards like a hot potato. (This probably stems from his Irish heritage, knowing the value of a potato that is.) O’D is quite comfortable tying up his man and the puck until reinforcements can enter the fray.
By the way, I’m not sure there’s a better d-pairing than Keith and Seabrook in the NHL. Keith’s interception and perfect feed to Hoss-bollah, created the opportunity that seemingly put the final nail in the Sabre’s coffin on Wednesday.
Hossa took the pass, skated in all alone and absolutely buried his shot. I couldn’t help but think of a fencer thrusting his blade into his adversary. Toro toro, Zorro! His shot was just plain wicked-kind of a cross between a wrister and a snapshot. It was the epitome of F=MA, it could only be defined by the statement “Rip City.” Enroth is lucky it missed him, it could have tore his leg off. “I felt violated on that shot,” admitted the shell-shocked Buffalo guardian. Hossa, who hit the post at the end of the first period, made no mistake about burying that opportunity. Marian’s blade is sharper than any double edged sword, it will cut you a coming and a going. (“I’ll cut you with my blade, foo.”) At times, Hossa also seems to do things with the puck that can only be explained by Black Magic. Maybe Pellico needs to play “Voodoo Child” by Hendrix when Hossa is weaving his magic.
In closing, during this cold snap we’re going through, don’t miss the opportunity to play some pond hockey. Trust me, in one of those unfathomable paradoxes, you can play hockey in single digit temperatures and not feel the cold. That is, other than frozen toes that feel more like peanut brittle than flesh and blood when you’re done. Despite an arthritic hip that was barking like a dog last night, I did my best to keep up with my son and his high school friends. On the way, home while complaining about the aches and pains and my rapidly diminishing abilities, my son did his best to encourage me. “It’s ok dad, your just getting old.” I fear it won’t be long before my family sends me out into the Bering Strait on an ice floe.
Finally, lest you think my story at the checkout counter in Jewel was a random thought of this piece, consider this. As anyone who buys a beer or pretty much anything from the concession stands can attest to, the prices are a bit rapacious at the United Center. At $8/beer plus tip, it’s getting harder and harder to justify drinking at the U.C. So if you notice me at the concession stand searching through a wallet with moths flying out of it, and if the spirit moves you, get your credit card out! Trust me, you’ll really feel good about yourself! Don’t miss the opportunity.