“Hockey captures the essence of the Canadian experience in the New World.
In a land so inescapably and inhospitably cold, hockey is the dance of life, and
An affirmation that despite the deathly chill of winter we are alive.” – Bruce Kidd
By Rich Lindbloom
Admittedly, two robust victories on the road can have an inordinate impact on one’s enthusiasm. Yet, after almost four months of saying I don’t care if they play or not, it’s truly great to see that the boys are back in town. (“Remember that chick that slapped Kaner’s face? Man… we fell about the place-if that chick don’t want to go forget her.”) Actually, it seems all the stars are lining up at the moment for Chicago hockey fans. Hockey and single digit temperatures go together like soup and sandwiches. There’s even a smidgeon of that white stuff on the ground. Hopefully Sam Fels and his street urchins will not develop frostbite while peddling ‘The Indian’ tonight. That lamppost doesn’t offer much protection from a bitter Northwest wind. Dig a little deeper and tip them tonight bucko’s!
After two unseasonably warm days, the temperatures plummeted Saturday night, resulting in a neighbor to shoot me an e-mail Sunday afternoon – “The ice is great!” Kirk has been flooding his back yard for a many years now. I did mention to him once that he needs to look into a cooling system. “Easy, I’ve already looked into it,” he responded in a classic Kip retort. I remember when our kids were waist high – those were the days I dominated pond hockey. When I play now, increasingly I consider wearing elbow pads, hip pads and if I had half a brain – a helmet. Let me tell you, ice is hard!
As I walked the dogs Sunday, after we had skated for two hours, the limp in my gait was quite noticeable. I couldn’t help thinking my skating days are numbered. For those two hours though, I did feel alive as Bruce Kidd once noted. Dangling the puck, making split decisions that our brains somehow transfer to our feet and hands instantaneously, result in a temporary feeling of exhilaration that is somewhat inexpressible.
When I went to bed late Sunday night, (after checking my fantasy hockey results of course), the joy of our second convincing victory in a row made it hard to fall asleep. While I haven’t proclaimed the Blackhawks shoe-ins for the Stanley Cup quite yet, a victory over the Blues tonight (the hated Blues) may be enough for me to urge you to get your tickets for the parade without delay. What’s that; you say, “Don’t jinx us.” Man up and pull the lucky charms out of your briefs, you panty waists – get ready to heft the Cup again. Truly, there’s a fine line between genius and insanity.
During the first two contests, the Hawks flew around the ice like the Flying Frenchman of yesteryear. Admittedly, Sugar Ray Emery looked as mixed up as Pedro’s breakfast at times, but he actually played a considerable part in the 6-4 win over Coyotes. (I hope you enjoyed watching Mike Smith throw a temper tantrum as much as I did!) Many people thought Razor looked shaky, but the Hawks did not exactly batten down the hatches against the dogs from the desert. The shots on goal for both teams were not only close, most of them were of the lethal variety. If there were one area of concern for me after the first two games, it was letting the opposition gain a foothold in our crease. I did appreciate Chicken Hawk, (aka, Andrew Shaw), attempt to behead the chippy, Chipchura in a third period scrum. The 6’2, 200lbs Coyote forward hacked away at Emery, desperately trying to dislodge the puck. “Not in my kitchen,” exclaimed the 5’10”, 180lbs fist eater.
Shaw centered a line that included Valiant Viktor and Bryan Bickell. It’s one of the most peculiar lines that has popped out of Coach Q’s Random Line Generator, and still leaves me a bit uneasy. But after two games I’d have to say it may prove to be pure genius. Bickell’s brave work along the boards, busting through a Coyote defenseman’s check, led to a sweet assist on Stalberg’s first tally of the season. My boss at work noted, “At first all I saw was a #9 on the jersey of the player doing the dirty work along the boards and I thought it was Toews.” That might be the best compliment Bicks will ever get! Anyone who was wondering if Stalberg’s season last year was an anomaly, can rest easy. He appears to be picking up right where he left off, scorching opponents with his speed. Look out if he ever gets a shot as accurate as Sharpie’s.
Sharp tallied a crucial goal himself off a feathered pass from our latest #2 center, former Vienna Choir Boy, Dave Bolland. Davey is in row 4, third from the left;
Patrick’s wicked wrister was very similar to Stalberg’s laser – actually my favorite type of goal. Grip it and rip it; make the goalie feel shame. Flanked by Sharp and Kane, this may prove to be the Hawks most offensive line. It would probably be a good idea to have a couple of big defensemen out there to protect the Crown Jewels. Think we can get John Scott back? – just a thought. (or maybe not) It seemed for much of the night Davey was battling Shane Doan, despite a considerable size disadvantage. It reminded me of his stick work, err, I mean fine defensive play against Jumbo Joe Thornton in the Conference Finals in 09/10. It appeared Jumbo Joe was Bolland’s boy-toy in that series. I was thinking; is it just me, or does Bolland have a little Dennis Rodman in him?
Doan continued to be his annoying self throughout the game. Don’t get me wrong, if he were a Hawk I’d love him. He’s as hardnosed and tenacious as they come. As an opponent though, he epitomizes the word “Nozzle”-with a capital N.” It looked like he hung a leg on pretty boy, Johnny Oduya, in the third that resulted in some ill-will feelings. Oduya, in a rare outburst of emotion as a Hawk, slammed his stick when he got to the bench, still eyeing the evil captain of the Coyotes. It was no coincidence that these two almost got into it a few shifts later. I’ve heard that Oduya is fairly adept in pugilistic affairs and was hoping to see him show Doan the wickedness of his ways. We may need his toughness tonight against the Blues thugs.
Our Swedish/Kenyan has been paired with Hjalmarsson on our second defense pairing so far this season. Niklas has been moved to the right side and was one of my top three Hawk players vs. the Kings and Coyotes. He was skating great and making smart decisions with the puck. (smart decisions with the puck hasn’t been a strong suit for #4 the last two years.) Hjarmal’s is +3 and Oduya is +4 to start the season. Could we possibly be getting the 09/10 version of Niklas Hjalmarsson this season. I’m guessing Oduya can speak Swedish, so maybe it’s the increased communication in this defensive pairing has something to do with the reemergence of ”Good Niklas.”
The other big story in my eyes was our fourth line. It’s a small sample size, but watching Frolik and Kruger skating like chickens with their heads cut off has been a thing of beauty. If Frolik and Stalberg start putting pucks on net instead of shooting high or wide, we should get some good scoring opportunities from the third and fourth lines. Both Frolik and Freddy take great pride in playing at both ends of the rink. They were paired as a penalty killing duo with very good success. I’m not averse to having Bollig on this line-he’s nice to have on the bench when the Blues skate into town. But really, we don’t need you to drop them just for the sake of dropping them Brandon. Actually, if Backes even looks cross eyed at Toews tonight, Saad and Bollig should switch lines.
Saad made the most of his opportunity to fill in for the snake bitten Danny Carcillo. While he didn’t get on the scoreboard, I liked the way he skated and played in the tough areas of the ice. He can skate, is offensively talented and at 6”1”, 201 lbs, he looks certain to develop into an interesting power forward. Watch Backes try and intimidate him tonight also. Oh, by the way, a guy named Hossa is back in town in case you missed it. And he looks like he’s having fun.
That resulted in my boss had an idea that I’m not too particularly fond of, as a result of Big Hoss’s recovery. He said, “Lindbloom, we need to give you a concussion if the recovery would produce the results they have in Hossa.” I told him he’d have to bring his considerable rear end to that dance also. I warned him, “Bernie, I’ve watched a lot of hockey fights on TV. I don’t think you want to mess with me.” (Hey, if it’s good enough for Matt Damon, why not me?)
In closing, tonight’s matchup of undefeated teams reminds me of the Grateful Dead song, Uncle Johns Band. One of the lines in this catchy, but hard to grasp tune goes “when life looks like easy street, there is danger at the door.” Get ready for a nail biter. It doesn’t get much better than the Hawks, the Mighty Blackhawks vs. the Blue Meanies. Last year, the Blues even appeared to realize the object of the game is to outscore your opponent. It should be a donnybrook tonight. And as Phil Lynott sang:
“Friday night they’ll be dressed to kill
Down at Dino’s Bar and Grill
The drink will flow and the blood will spill
And if the boys wanna fight you’d better let em.”
After an interminable delay, finally, hockey is back in town. Drop the puck!