May 172013

image003“Those who plant a garden have faith that God will make it grow”

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” – Margaret Atwood

By Rich Lindbloom

And just like that, it’s over. Blink your eyes, and the moment is gone, sequestered away in a cobweb of tangled neurons. It was subtle, beautiful and irrepressible. There is so much going on in such a short window of time. As Edna St. Vincent Millay noted; “April, comes like an idiot, babbling, and strewing flowers.” Indeed, it’s hard to keep up with it all.

Interspersed with the anticipation of the next Hawk game, I’ve also been paying close attention to that seemingly one week window just before nature’s version of an offensive explosion takes place. (More on offensive explosions in a moment.) It’s a week marked by a soft, subtle shade of green, (there’s no other green like it, not even on the Emerald Isle), as the anxious buds on trees begin to unfold. I look forward to that brief window of luminescent green as much as I do watching the Lily of the Valleys pierce the ground with the earnestness of a St Louis Blues fore checker. Trust me, the flower smells much better than the Blues player and is a lot more pleasant to gaze upon.

Spring is such a busy time of year. It’s frenetic pace seems to be a hallmark of the season. We’ve had a highly enthusiastic cardinal whistling outside our bedroom window at 4:40am for about two weeks now; I’m not sure if she has amorous desires or is trying to get her red mate busy building the nest. Is it just me, or does the thick, dark green grass seem to grow faster than Kentucky Derby champion Orb coming down the stretch. Windows are flung open, letting in the sweet smell of the Cherry Blossom tree which momentarily resembles a huge snow ball. It’s a sick individual who can pass a Lilac bush and not enjoy it’s wonderful scent.

Unquestionably, it’s very hard to sit on your duff in Spring – you just want to be outside doing something after the cold, bleak winter days. My wife has a veritable green thumb, earnestly transforming the dismal into the beautiful. Can you ever have enough flowers? Walking the dogs at 10pm in shorts, sandals and a tee shirt almost elicits an “In your face winter” exclamation as we tend to stretch the walks a block or two more. In short, Spring is a season that beckons us to step outside.

All this brings me to two indisputable conclusions; afternoon games are a terrible idea and if you want to win hockey playoff games, you’d better smell like dirt when the final horn sounds.

First off, on May 5, the 2pm start against the Wild caused me much internal consternation. After waiting weeks for those glorious spring days, I struggled with putzing around the yard or sitting in front of a flat screen for the better part of three hours. It seemed there were so many better uses of my time that afternoon. I could have been pulling weeds out of the garden, or trying to smooth the hitch in my spasmodic golf swing. Perhaps a long bike ride with Nathalie, punctuated by a refreshing drink at an outdoor café and deep conversation about our feelings. At least this had the possibility of leading to other very pleasurable activities. You get the picture I’m sure – and no doubt realize what I ended up doing.

It reminds me of that old saying, “They spent the fine spring day like true Irishmen. Tucked in the snug of a dark and dank pub.” The dilemma that afternoon hockey games create reminds me of my favorite Police song Bring on the Night;

“Bring on the night
I couldn’t stand another hour of daylight.”

If you’ve never heard that song, do yourself a favor and Google it. For one reason or another, the song is never played over the air waves. Andy Summers exquisite lead on that song is one of the best you’ll ever hear, bar none. That song, like hockey, is meant to be played at night – period.

Secondly, if you want to come up smelling like a flower in the playoffs, you need to smell like dirt at the end of the game. Winning hockey teams have numerous players who have a penchant for getting their noses dirty. I’m fairly certain no one doubts what Kruger and Frolik smell like after a game. Sometimes I think those two are just praying for one of the Hawk meatballs to take a dumb penalty so they can get some ice time. It seems to me they should be getting more than 6 minutes of ice time per game. Actually, one of our filthiest lines – Bicks/Shaw/Stals – was scrambled up a bit for Game One against the Hawks long time nemesis, the Red Army.

I don’t think the Hawks have a harder working line than our third line. It’s dominated the opposition all season, smothering the puck deep in the opposition’s zone with regularity. So it was with considerable befuddlement that I noticed #25 conspicuously absent from the starting lineup. I texted a friend and asked him if Coach Q had ingested some stupid pills. Truly, I felt as if my brain was going to explode like a pimple on a mirror during my adolescent days. If Coach Q would have sat Saad in Game One, (he was temporarily knocked off the Hawks first four lines in practice this past week), I think the Hawk faithful would have started impeachment proceedings. This is just me thinking again, but this is the wrong time of the season to nurse grudges.

What startled me the most was how many knowledgeable bloggers admitted they were ok with Coach Q’s decision. I vehemently disagree-I witnessed almost every game this season and feel Stalberg made great strides (yuk, yuk), as player, contributing greatly to the Hawks success. Maybe Coach Q is intimidated by his handsomeness.

Victory masks a lot of sins however, and I can’t help but think there is considerable “Panic In Detroit” at the moment. Things could change of course, but for now at least the zebra’s would have to work overtime to make these games close. The Wing’s fans best hope for something to cheer about in this series would be to get excited when someone gets “Kronwalled.” Kronwall, who is a notch above Raffi Torres on the NHL douchenozzle chain, came close to launching the fleet footed Frolik into Never Never Land. Apparently “Tinker Bell” heard the Hawk bench screaming to look up as the sinister #55 lined up his unsuspecting prey. Nice assist Hawk bench.

I know this is stupid to say, but I would gladly substitute a Hawk win if it meant Kronwall would have to be assisted from the ice, temporarily at least. Why has no one straightened this head hunter out? Where have you gone John Ferguson, a hockey league turns its lonely eyes to you.

Justin Abdelkader, who recently served a two game suspension for a dastardly deed in the Anaheim series, has almost made the Hawk fans forget about Kronwall as Public Enemy #1. Although it appeared Rozsival “might” have got his stick up a little too high, Abdelkader may think twice about taking a run at possibly Stan Bowman’s best acquisition last summer. It’s a possibility that Abdelkader has a future in the Rodeo if the hockey thing doesn’t work out. He did everything but hog tie Bolland in his center ice, WWF, smackdown of Bolland.  I don’t know if #8 is losing any sleep over it, but the words he and The Rat exchanged as the refs stepped between them, would probably not fall under the title of exchanging pleasantries. I’m pretty sure Bolland just kept repeating, “I’ll cut you with my blade, I’ll cut you with my blade.”

Bolland appeared to be well rested and had one of his better games of the season. His break away attempt came about two inches short after he put a world class move on Jimmy Howard. The attempt reminded me of Bolland’s breakaway goal against Nabokov in Game 4 of the Conference Finals in 2010. Howard, who a decent game, somehow managed to get his big toe on the puck though, thwarting the irascible Rat.

Actually, Howard was pretty spectacular, keeping the Hawks at bay through two periods. Howards attempted highway robbery was highlighted by the “Stella Artois, Testicular Save” of the night. It came when Tazer decided to set up Saad, (I think), who was barreling down the slot. #19 had the puck all to his lonesome just outside Howard’s cage. When he dished off to Saad, Howard came about 8 feet outside the goal to cut down the angle. It was a great save, although a bit risky if a rebound would have presented itself.

The dam finally burst though in the third period after intense, sustained pressure in the Red Wing zone. I think it was Jon Fromi who noted, “Most of the 2nd and 3rd periods were contested in Detroit’s end of the pond.” The offensive explosion that ensued could only be described as a paddling. This might seem very weird since I was watching the game alone, but when Oduya banked one off the pipe to put the Hawks up 2-1, I started clapping and cheering vociferously, by myself! Well, the dogs were there also, but they didn’t get too worked up about it.

Of course the United Center erupted. Although I longed to be there, with the “bargain” price of $92/ticket for season ticket holders in Section 320 for the playoffs, one has to think long and hard about where that money could be put to better use. This, coupled with next year’s season ticket increases have me wondering how serious the Hawks are about this Blackhawk Fan Salute thing.  Clearly though, there is absolutely nothing like being there at the United Center for moments such as these.

After the Wild series, which more closely resembled a backed up plumbing issue at times, Game One against the Wings was a pretty wide open affair. Although the Wings were generously credited with 42 hits, (the Hawks had 22), the Wing’s did not seem to physically dominate us. There was a scary moment when Oduya was interfered with by the referee and was knocked a bit off balance. Abdelkader, who was credited with 8 hits – is it any wonder he is drawing the Hawk’s fans ire – sort of boarded Johnny on the Spot, sending him into the unyielding boards shoulder first. Fortunately he returned to the game after missing a few shifts.

While on the topic of shifts, once again the TOI of the three defensive pairings for the Hawks was remarkably balanced. All three pairings skated between 16 and 17 minutes. They were all very aggressive on the pinch, often times helping to seal the puck deep within the Wings zone. I admit, I was holding my breath at times, dreading the odd man rush on our suspect goalie. (If I hear one more person say Crawford is “starting to really play good,” well, I think I’ll pop anther pimple on the mirror.) His .950 SV% and miserly 1.27 GAA is almost enough to silence the critics that wanted to trade Kaner for Ryan Miller last season.

One last observation. Much was made of Freddy’s slightly substandard goose egg at the dot in Game 1. You have to remember though; he killed three penalties and had to go up against the best face off men of Detroit. Datsyuk tends to be a force on face offs. It’s not like he’s pitted against their 4th line center. In addition, one thing I notice about Handzus is even when he doesn’t win the faceoff, the puck is seldom cleanly won by the opposition. Nothing is more nerve wracking than seeing a center seemingly pass the puck back to a defenseman off the draw. Bad things tend to develop from that situation.

Well, one game does not a series make. There’s a lot more dirty work to be done before we can advance to the conference Finals. I fully expect a strong response to Game 1’s efforts from the resilient Motown forces. Any team with Pavel Datsyuk on it can never be taken for granted. Actually, Andersson, Brunner and especially Nyquist unnerve me a little. At the end of the game though, as long as the Hawks have the scent of dirt on them, we should fare well.

In closing, I have to tip my hat to another team from Chicago that rolled up their shirt sleeves and stuck their noses in it. Someone forgot to tell the Bulls they had no chance against that bastard team in Miami. The effort put forth by the ragamuffin, Derek Rose-less, squad from Chicago deserves an A+. What a band of brothers. (no pun intended because if you noticed they also had an Italian guy on the team.) I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing Joakim Noah, Nate Robinson and a few of the other Bull’s players riding on one of the buses in the parade at the conclusion of the playoffs!  It is efforts like those that get your named engraved on the silver cup.

No doubt I’ll be parked in front of the flat screen tomorrow at noon. I plan on getting up with the noisy cardinal to make sure the deck is stained by then.

Roll those sleeves up Blackhawks; put a little elbow grease into it. It’s time to get a little dirt under those finger nails.

 image004“Bring on the night” – you know that’s right

“Every April, God rewrites the Book of Genesis.” – Anon

Rich Lindbloom

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