By Rich Lindbloom
Back on a pleasant evening in early October, I took the dogs for their customary evening walk. My black neighbors a few houses down, the Wilkerson’s, were sitting in their driveway basking in the evening shadows. In a way, they reminded me of my youth when it seemed everyone sat on their front porch. With no air conditioning back then, I suppose we were left with little choice but to enjoy the evening breeze.
Of course that was before the plethora of TV stations that DirecTv blesses our homes with. (Tongue firmly in cheek.) Actually, a good game of Ghost in the Graveyard probably was more entertaining than flipping through 300 stations trying to find something of interest.
More often than not, I end up chewing the fat with Lisa and Leland for a while. George – our 135 pound goofy Newfie and Zoie – our Wheaton Terrier, know the routine and lay down in the driveway. After I get done with the evening ritual of Cub bashing, (Leland actually has the blue “W” flag flying from the side of his house on rare occasion – and you think I’m delusional!), the conversation drifts to politics, religion and family. On this particular night however, Leland threw me a curve ball. “Rich, George and I need to let you in on a little secret.” I momentarily pondered where he was going with this, finally asking him what he had up his sleeve. “George is a brother,” he deadpanned. We were all doubled over in laughter for five minutes!
On most nights this season, we may not have the “Bro” between the pipes. However, there is little doubt that “Cor-dawg” has established himself as the big dog on our front porch. He was named #2 NHL player of the week, sporting a 1.77 GAA through five games. This is just me thinking again, but the Hawks are going to win a lot of games if the opposition only scores two goals. When my son and I attended the home opener against the Blues, it was Greg who reminded me of a moniker I often mumble under my breath when things get dicey in our zone, as they are apt to do. After Corey robbed the Blues’ child prodigy, Vladamir Tarasenko, (I like to call him Pachinko), Greg looked at me and exclaimed, “Cor-dawg!” This took me by surprise, as Greg usually thinks anything I say is un-cool and way back from the 20th Century. On more than one occasion I’ve had to remind the 16-year old, “When it was hip to be hip, I was hep.”
One thing I’m not surprised about is Cor-dawg’s miserly ways. I’ve gotten into discussions with more than a few knowledgeable hockey fans over #50’s considerable abilities. I’ve steadfastly defended Corey, (ok, with fingers crossed and rabbit foot in pocket – I admit it), despite most fans questioning his ability to help us reacquire the Cup. “We’ll never win it with Crawford as our goalie,” is a pretty common lament. After almost single-handedly leading us into the playoffs in 2010/11, it appeared he altered his style of goaltending. He seemed to stray too far from the net – “Losing his net” was a common criticism by the arm chair goalies in the second balcony.
Do you want to know what I think happened? Too bad, I’m going to tell you anyway – think golf. (That means you too Ombudsman) If you play enough golf, eventually you’ll reach the point where your swing faults are so flawed; you start to consider taking a lesson. If you think your swing is screwed up before the lesson, by the time the pro is done “tweaking your swing” you’ll be looking to add the golf clubs to your wife’s next garage sale. I took one lesson in my life. The pro took one look at my swing and said, “Man, that’s not even a good baseball swing.” I found it near impossible to swing a club like he wanted me too. It felt like I was wearing a strait jacket. While I ended up incorporating some of his advice, (a swing plane that circled my waist had to go), I didn’t make any major changes. You just can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
In my opinion, Cor-dawg is at his junkyard best when he stays close to the net. For some reason, his style of play last year seemed to deviate from what appeared to make him so successful in the prior season. He actually shares many characteristics with George, our Newfoundland. One of the main similarities is his size. In comparison to Khabibulin, Niemi or Huet, Corey looks huge in the net. Corey even seems to have taken a page out of George’s book in his pre-game idiosyncrasies. When we adopted George, he had to have knee surgery. In order to keep him quiet after the operation, we kept him sequestered in the mud room. George still goes there at times and just plops down by himself, which is somewhat unusual for any dogs we’ve ever owned.
I thought about that when I read that Corey has been sitting in a quiet corner in the locker room, to help focus himself before the game. I wonder if his mind wanders off track as much as mine when I try to concentrate on something? “I’ve got to watch out for Mikko Koivu going top shelf on me, Parise likes to go five hole, Andrew Shaw really is crazy, I hate Boeddeker, Brittany wore a revealing dress into a Baptist church on Sunday…oops.” Whether or not this self-imposed sequestration is part of Cor-dawg’s early success this season, it does seem to have improved his focus.
George has tremendous focus at times himself. Every night after the walk, he knows he gets a dog biscuit. He’ll sit and stare intently at the box until he gets one. His focus is 100% on the biscuit-nothing else in the world matters at that moment. So far this year, Corey’s focus on the puck has rivaled George’s rapt attention on the biscuit.
C’mon all you naysayers, throw that Cor-dawg a bone! If for no other reason than his spectacular save on Cory Emmerton in the waning moments of Sunday’s tussle with the Wings. In my book, that win would best be labeled as the ever elusive, (for the hawks), “goaltender win.”
The team’s real Biscuit, Brent Seabrook, is off to a somewhat slow start by his standards. For the fans whose glass is always half empty, Seab’s skating has only been a notch above John Scott’s so far this season. Don’t get me wrong, I realize a half step slow in the NHL leads to a lot of bad things happening. Yet, anyone besides me not to worried about Biscuit’s abilities though? Against the Blues, #7 may have saved Chicken Hawk’s life in a post crease skirmish. Roman Polak took offense to Shaw’s existence and started to make a move towards him. Before even the linesman could come to Andrew’s rescue, Seabrook skated in and must have said something about picking on someone in your own weight class. It’s probably a very good thing because it stopped Shaw from dropping the gloves with an opponent who resembles a fire hydrant, with half of the hydrant’s IQ.
The line centered by Shaw continues to befuddle our opposition. Raise your hand high, and proceed to the head of the class, if you had this line penciled in back in December. The Random Line Generator is the only plausible explanation. Not even Coach Q’s genius could concoct this one. They have been tenacious on the forecheck. Bickell, and to a lesser-yet quite noticeable extent Stalberg, have been administering some heavy hits in the O-zone. This line has at worst equalized the enemy’s third line, and it seems the puck is pinned down in enemy territory on a consistent basis when they jump over the boards. You can almost sense a pride starting to develop amongst this unlikely triumvirate. This group has done a good job of not taking questionable penalties also. I’m sure that many GM’s around the league are scratching their heads, lamenting the fact of not picking up Viktor Stalberg on the cheap. The Swedish meatball has not picked up where he left off last year; he’s a notch above it. What a great play setting up Nick –crazy legs- Leddy for the OT winner on Sunday!
I only have four words to say about our fourth line; “Are you kidding me?”
I’m not sure where Q came up with the idea of throwing Fro-Bo out on the penalty kill, but there is only one way to describe their effectiveness. Think of the song, “Flight of the bumblebees.” Those two are buzzing around the ice like flies hovering around the potato salad at a picnic. Annoying – check. Persistent – check. Aggravating – check. Their play has given some of our top players a welcomed rest. The only drawback to this duo is that it appears Kruger, (baby Toews), is going to set the record for getting tossed out of faceoffs. As I reflect upon their success this season I find myself posing the following question; how did Coach Q ever start Scott ahead of Frolik at forward?
To a fault, I’ve always been an unabashed Hjalmarsson fan. It’s so encouraging to see him off to such a great start. I know I tend to exaggerate a bit, but if he keeps playing the way he has thus far, the people from Wheaties just might drop by for a photo shoot. Maybe he should share some of his Cheerio’s with Seab’s.
By the way, while watching the game the other night I asked my friend, “What is Coach Q angrily writing down on his notepad every time we are scored upon.” Don didn’t answer, but one of the astute bloggers at Second city Hockey named Accipiter noted – “Reacquire John Scott.” Although that left me with an uneasy feeling, it made me laugh all day. Other possibilities I pondered were, “Get Corey bigger pads,” or “Bad Cor-dawg,” or “One more goal and it’s back to the Random Line Generator,” or “tell Kaner to quit cherry picking,” or “we’re getting to cute – we need to hit someone,” or “No biscuits for Corey tonight.”
At any rate, it’s off to the frigid north tonight – temperatures are supposed to be sub-zero in Minneapolis. Hopefully our Hawks can remain hot, although you know the Wild will be trying to send a message. They are loaded for bear this year in the Twin Cities. Not surprisingly, Parise and Koivu lead the Wild with 9 and 8 points respectively. That line will be a handful, no doubt. Keep an eye on the Wilds top draft pick Mikael Granlund who has been centering their second line. Keep a very wary eye on Clutterbuck, Konopka and the rest of the Wild hooligans. Physically dominating a team tends to fall into the “sending a message” mindset. Perhaps both Bollig and Mayers should dress tonight. The Wild also has two big dogs of their own minding the front porch in Backstrom and Harding – in short, expect a dog fight tonight.
Steve Konroyd made a great post-game observation after the Wing game; “The Hawks had every excuse in the book to lose that game.” Four games in six nights, a very physical game against the Blue Jackets the night before; a 5-0 start that certainly gives the Hawks some breathing room. Yet, they battled on tired legs and managed to send the Wings home with their tails between their legs. If we want to emerge with a victory tonight, we’re going to have to dig a little deeper. It’s not going to be easy in the Wild’s backyard.
Sic ‘em Cor-dawg, that’s your bone.