Apr 122013


“Oh, mmm, I know a place
Ain’t nobody crying, ain’t nobody worried
Ain’t no smiling faces, mmm, no no”  -The Staples Singers

By Rich Lindbloom

Boy, oh boy. It’s been a pretty “Wild” week as far as hockey news go. We’ve discovered chronic fomenter of unrest Steve Ott has a sensitive side, Jean-Sebastien Giguere may be a Jonathan Toews in goalie equipment, and former referee Kelly Fraser finally comes clean about something I’ve long suspected-apparently, he tried to occasionally even things out after he realized he made a bad call. And believe me; I witnessed a few of Fraser’s bad decisions.

Also, on the Second City Hockey blog site, there was a great piece in the 4/10 Morning Bag Skate Feature entitled Climbing Mt. Everest. The piece described, (and is packed with stunning photographs of the Himalaya’s), a journey diehard Hawk fan Paul Sinclair and his wife Dee Anne made on their climb to an altitude of 17,600 feet. The climb is as tortuous as trying to reach the Stanley Cup Finals, and leaves one gasping for considerably more air. I had to laugh when I read his precious phone minutes were divided between family calls and updates during Blackhawk games!

Their trek was aided by Sherpa’s and sure footed yaks who helped “take them there.”  This leads us to one other bit of breaking news, the dreaded goal tender controversy. Which net minder will end up taking the Hawks there? (I can hear Coach Q singing “Mercy, help me now.”)

With Crawford’s anemic .922 SV%, 2.01 GAA and only two shut outs, Razor appears to have the edge. Sugar Ray, in addition to posting three shut outs in his last 5 starts, has a vastly superior .924 SV% and 1.90 GAA. This despite a right leg that could fall off at any time. A veritable Mr. Potato Head.

I don’t think I would be exaggerating if I said at the beginning of the season, about 75% of Hawk fans thought Bowman needed to make a move for a real goalie. I can honestly say that I didn’t think that would be a big problem for the Hawks. Other than the playoff gaffes that the elephants in Hawk fandom refuse to let go of, Corey has been a very good goalie. He played a huge part getting us in to the playoffs two years ago and then almost slammed the door on the high powered Canucks in the playoffs. Both he and Razor had their ups and downs last year. Corey seemed to stray from the front porch a little too far at times, but towards the end of the season seemed to increasingly stay anchored to his moorings.  Now I don’t know a lot about the techniques of goaltending, but in my eyes Cor-dawg did what he does best – he looked big in between the pipes.

Razor has been solid from the moment he slipped the Indian Head over his shoulders. However, no one expected the Vezina type stats he’s accumulating this season. (Can two goalies from the same team share the Vezina?) If I had to describe what Emery does best, I’d have to say it’s his aggressiveness. He’s a scrapper-“a not in my kitchen, get in the trunk” type goalie. Coach Q described his style in the post-game by stating his catch all phrase regarding goalie technique; “Ray is finding the puck.” Generally speaking, that’s a good thing for any goalies. More than Corey playing poorly, I believe its Sugar Ray’s great play that is causing Coach Q to deliberate over who the man is come playoff time. How do you sit the guy down?!

A great deal of our goal tenders success this year has been the considerable improvement of our rear guard. Too be honest with you, I’m always hoping Rozsival is our 6th defenseman. Yet, against the Wild, Sheldon Brookbank would have been my fourth star. He played rock solid and is never one to shy away from discussing our opponents wayward ways. Brookbank played over 15 minutes, and while I can’t bring up any particular play or instance, he was just rock solid all night long. The eye test is all knowing, and #17 passed with a solid B+ against the Wild.

Although the final was 1-0, it seemed like the Hawks controlled the game. I expected a much tougher tussle, and I’m still keeping a very wary eye on this vastly improved Wild team. Before the game, I visited a Minnesota blog site called Wilderness and saw a video of a bench clearing brawl between the then North Stars and our beloved Hawks, I think from 1985. Talk about bringing back great memories. For those of you who think our rivalry with the Canucks was something to write home about, (deservedly so), multiply the Hawk North Star clashes by about 10. The line dance that “Nooge” posted lasted over 8 minutes and was expertly described by the voice of the North Stars, Tom Reid.

Early on in the fracas, Reid made a very astute observation. When both benches cleared, after Denis Savard decided to treat Dino Ciccarelli like the boy toy he was, the lads who were already serving time in the sin bin left the box. As they joined the donnybrook, Reid said, “now the players have left the penalty box, that is ‘definitely’ against the rules!”-as opposed to the 36 other players trying to bash each other’s heads in! Every time the refs would just about have things sorted out, another bout would break out.

The largely innocent contingent of Blackhawks pugilists included Secord (who had multiple dance partners), Savard, Larmer, Lysiak, Fox, Wilson, Murray, one of the Sutters, O’Callahan, Fraser, and Ludzik to name a few – what a team – sigh.  The known scoundrels on the North Stars included Ciccirelli, Bobby Smith, Young, Payne, Mandich (he was a handful), Broten, Plett, Roberts and Maxwell. There is no doubt in my mind some of those players eventually spent time in jail. That was hockey my friends. It makes me wonder if the bitter rivalry will renew itself under the realignment next season, when the Wild enters our Division.

While on the subject of “definitely against the rules,” former referee Kerry Fraser in a true confession admitted he would blow a call now and again. I can remember sitting up in the second balcony of the old barn with my brother when the “Three Blind Mice” would take to the ice. When John would see Fraser he ‘d usually bemoan, “Oh no, not that bum.” Fraser, now retired, writes an interesting blog called “Cmonref@tsn.ca!” that has almost made me like him. For those of you interested in learning the rules, or want an cogent explanation on why the ref is screwing our Hawks, it’s a great read. I actually loved his frankness when he admitted he would look for a makeup call when he knew he was duped. We all know that the refs could call a lot more penalties than they do, so it’s not like Kerry would have to make something up.

At any rate, as our rivalry with the Stars renews itself, the Wild have plenty of nozzles to keep things interesting skating along aside their skill players. The line of Rupp/Konopka/Mitchell is enough to make one head under the covers. They are big, mean and ugly. They could “definitely” be listed under the heading of ‘players who disregard the rules.’ Actually, this may have been The Wild’s best line in Tuesday’s affair. Greg Boysen had a great comment on Cal Clutterbuck earlier this week; “He is a pair of mirrored sun glasses away from looking like the Cop in The Village People.”

Rupp especially was notable and was given heavy consideration for my fourth star. Kudo’s to “Tazernation” for developing this feature at SCH. Quite frankly, I get tired of seeing the safe picks, you know the ones who enter the score sheet. If a player like Handzus wins 65% of his draws, or a player likes Hjalmarsson keeps the other teams dog breath forecheckers at bay, well, you just might want to acknowledge them once and a while. While Rupp did not score, he was noticeable every time he was on the ice. Razor may have saved the win with a sparkling stop late in the third.

The Hawks best line, and this may be shocking, was Saad/Toews/Hossa. As Fifth Feather noted, Coach Q can slip Crazy 88 into Hossa’s spot at a moment’s notice. I believe FF coined that line perfectly when he described it as “unleashing the beast.” As my boss at work pointed out, the beauty of Hoss’s game winner was not the shot itself. It was the uncanny anticipation – as it appeared the #81 car knew what Stoner was going to do with the puck before Stoner did. By the way, what a tremendous effort by the Saadfather on that one backcheck when he dove and knocked the puck away from a fleetfooted Wild forward who was about to go in on a breakaway.

When #10 finally returned to action after what I think was a 14 game recovery, well, a very good hockey team just got better. Sharp was all over the place and put a heavy hit on Zach Parise in the first period, leading with his damaged right shoulder. It was almost as if Sharp said, I’m going to test this thing out right now. I wonder if Hawk physician, Michael Terry, held his breat for a pregnant moment! Hopefully he was not too shaken up after Ryan Suter’s crosscheck that went undetected late in the third period. Is it just me, or does it appear lately that the refs are not calling obvious penalties against the Hawks in an effort to keep things fair?

By the way, for those of you who missed it, veteran Jean-Sebastien Gigeure, Colorado’s veteran goalie, called out his teammates for, how shall I put this, uninspired play. (Actually there was a mention of a Vegas trip involved). It made me think about just how hard the Hawks have fought this year. I haven’t seen too many players who take a shift off, let alone a game. Over the course of this grueling schedule, one might expect some going through the motion efforts, especially with our record. Maybe it’s all the talented players chomping at the bit in The Big R, waiting for their chance to skate in the big top. Maybe that winning streak did more than we think into forging a superior work effort. Whatever the reason, it just seemed like the Hawks never stopped coming at you this year.

Unfortunately, this year’s whipping boy, Dave Bolland remains sidelined with an apparent foot injury. Before he returns he may want to read the book Who Moved My Cheese. It’s rather unclear what line he’ll be centering when he returns. (I vote for Stals and Bick line) Count me in the minority in saying I still believe The Rat will make considerable contributions to our success in the rest of the season and beyond-hopefully way beyond.  However Marcus Kruger, despite his chubby little cheeks, is making a strong case for becoming Sharp and Kaner’s set up man.

Speaking of set ups, while driving my son and his girlfriend to high school this week, I came up with a brainstorm. The Staple Singers song I’ll Take You There, came on the radio, puncturing the silence and sullenness that permeated the car. After about a minute I turned to my son and asked, “Greg, are you going to HF High School today?” He looked at me with a combo pained and puzzled face. Before he could answer I said, “Because, I’ll take you there.” His girlfriend sort of laughed in the back, while he turned his head away, appearing to be apologizing for his dad’s weirdness. Aren’t 17 year olds a wonderful thing? Don’t you wish everyone had one?! Truthfully, he’s a great kid and every time I tend to get mad at him, memories of my adolescent days rear their ugly head. And we certainly don’t want to go there.

I do know a place we all want the Hawks to go. In my mind, the two biggest questions the four feathers face at the moment is who will center the Patrick’s line and which goalie will eventually “Take us there.” -to the hockey worlds Promised Land. Who would have thought that one of the biggest issues facing the Hawks at this juncture of the season is to start a goaltender with a 2.01 GAA or the one with a 1.90 GAA?

I’m callin’ mercy
(I’ll take you there)
Mercy, mercy
(I’ll take you there)
Let me take you there!
(I’ll take you there)

Side note:

The song I’ll Take You There features Mavis Staples inviting her listeners to seek heaven. It struck a chord in me when I thought about my experience of volunteering on Tuesday nights at a Woman’s Shelter in Roseland. The shelter housed over 80 moms, children and babies – many of them with “God-sized problems” as Pastor Scott would say.

I got roped into volunteering one Sunday, largely because I’ve always admired the passion Pastor Scott Reese has had for the poorest of the poor, and decided to help out a little. Pastor Scott has personally known approximately 100 people who have been murdered during his over 30 year ministry – and you think our second line center woes are an issue!. Over thanksgiving, Pastor Scott personally delivered 90 turkeys to the poor in the Southland suburbs. As I drove to meet up with the wonderful “dream team” that tried to minister to the moms and kids though, I had second , third and fourth thoughts about turning around.

The first night was certainly chaotic as one might imagine, and somehow this cute little kid with a diaper full ended up sitting on my lap. I was also forced into being the teams “worship leader” – that ought to tell you how tight the budget was! But the J-train dancers, as I liked to call them – 4 to 7 year old kids, loved to come up and help me. I’ll never forget playing Toby Mac’s and Curt Fraser’s song, The J Train. Let’s just say the place came to life! “Sit back, relax, put on your travelling gear, no need to doubt, so put aside your fear” – oh yeah.

As time went by, I grew to look forward to Tuesday nights. While at first the only reason for me coming was to help Pastor Scott, I anticipated the Tuesday time with everyone in the shelter eventually. It seemed like we gave them nothing, but they were always so thankful for us coming. It warmed my heart to think that we may have brought a little light into their dark world.

Unfortunately, the shelter closed down recently – I’m not sure if it was budget cuts or what – but I’ll never forget the last night we were there. There were only three moms and about five kids left. Chaos was replaced by quietness. How I longed to hear a few babies screaming in the middle of a song or message. My J-train dancers were gone. But there will certainly be plenty of other opportunities to serve.

I’ve never done anything like this, but I’m asking you from the bottom of my heart to make a contribution to Pastor Scott’s wonderful ministry. Anything you could spare would be greatly appreciated and put to very good use – I can vouch for that. You can look up Pastor Scott’s ministry on Christcares.org, or if you have any questions contact me. Now I don’t want to put any pressure on you, but it wouldn’t hurt anything if God was on our side as the Crow or the Bro try to take us there.


Rich Lindbloom

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