Jun 232013

image001(2)Kruger takes a breather

[Editor’s note: Rich submitted this piece prior to Game 5 on Saturday, but for a variety of reasons, it could not be posted until now.  So, while reading, keep in mind that it was written as a lead-in to the Hawks 3-1 win over the Bruins on Saturday night.]

“Paddy wrote a letter to his Irish Molly O saying,

“Should you not receive it,”
Write and let me know!

It’s a long way to Tipperary,
It’s a long way to go,
It’s a long way to Tipperary,
To the sweetest girl I know.” – Jack Judge

By Rich Lindbloom

It’s also a long, long way to Michigan City – more on that later – suffice it to say it could be the difference between hoisting the Cup or swinging golf club.

Really, nothing more needs to be said about Game Four than Forklift’s concise description “Six biscuits in the basket.” I believe the over/under bet was shattered on Wednesday by the combined efforts of Bruins, the Hawks and of course, the curiouser and curiouser calls of the referee’s who I’m pretty sure would feel quite at home in Wonderland. While on the topic of betting, in a way I was hoping the Hawks lost last night. Then, the following story would have had an even greater salubrious effect on what might have appeared to be a hopeless situation had we gone down 1-3 to the bombastic B’s. It’s the true tale of a former boss, Bill, and a bloke named Tom from Tipperary. It involves never giving up no matter how insurmountable the odds, making crazy wagers while dangling the dinghy and consuming to much aqua vitae. In Wild (snap hook) Bill’s words:

“The Ryder Cup was in Boston that year in 1999, actually Brookline, Massachusetts. That was when Justin Leonard made the putt to win it all on Sunday. The Americans needed to win something like 10 out of 12 singles matches on Sunday.  Anyway, I was with Eileen there vacationing the week before and there was a Friday night family wedding going on. (Turns out, Tom from Tipperary was a best friend of one of Eileen’s Irish relatives). Tom was in my face all night about the Americans taking gas during Friday’s matches and how we never show up for the “Team” event like the Ryder because we are individual “primadonna’s,” unable to compete in this “Team” golf event.

I tell him he is really under-informed about American sports, that the Yanks will show up when the cameras are on and the big money Sunday advertisers show up. (You have to know Bill, who is a consummate salesman, to begin to grasp the true nature and hilarity of this discourse. I’m quite sure it was louder with each verbal foray, and gulp of Guinness.) As a side bar, we were flying home the next morning, so talk was cheap from me – if  the American’s didn’t show up, neither would I. Not one to let a good dose of trash talking to dissipate into the night, Tom follows me into some Irish John during a wedding break and insists right at the urinals that I bet $100 on my American brothers. No shrinking violet, and feeling no pain, I take the bet. Let the record show he paid me the “hundo” when he saw me some 10 years later. (No interest paid!)

Indeed, it is a long way to Tipperary – I might add it’s a long and circuitous road that leads to one team hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup above their heads. Certainly, not for the faint of heart. While the Hawks have not dug themselves into the hole that the U.S. Ryder Cup team found themselves bunkered down in 1999, it did appear the Bruin’s were in the driver’s seat as we headed into the third OT of the 2013 Finals. I’m surmising that the ratings for Game Five will be off the charts this Saturday when the “big money advertisers” show up. If Bill’s theory holds any water, something tells me the guys in the Chevy commercial will be asserting their will on the flabbergasted Bruins.

Does anyone besides me miss the old “What if….” Commercials the NHL showed during the Cup run in 2009/10? Is anyone besides me getting sick of seeing Niklas Backstrom and his ludicrous sliver-put Pierre McGuire in the damn net, without a mask, if you want to make the commercial interesting. Does anyone besides me miss playing Vancouver in a playoff series? As much as I loathe the Canucks, that rivalry was unsurpassed for generating ill-will, animosity and flat out hatred. It was great for bringing out the suppressed Roman Coliseum attitude in me. The barbs tossed recklessly across the blogs were even more entertaining than the games! Defeating Vancouver felt like an affirmation of good eventually triumphing over evil, a feeling that temporarily all was right with the world.

I haven’t quite felt that way in any of the four series we’ve played in this year’s playoffs. Try as he may, Bradley Marchand is no Alexandre Burrows. I believe it was Paille that appeared to apologize to Crow when crashed into him while losing his footing on a hard drive to the net-Boston fans will no doubt allege that he was tripped by Hammer. Truth of the matter is, he was skating so fast he was out of control. At any rate, can you imagine Kevin Bieksa apologizing in that instance?

As we look back at the turning points of the 2013 Finals, I believe an incident in the waning moments of Game Three will have to be discussed. By the way, put me on record as saying that game was not as lopsided as the glass is half empty crowd would lead you to believe-I actually found it very entertaining. As the Hawks battled furiously to get a goal, Chara decided to inflict some pain on Bryan Bickell in front of the Bruin’s crease. Andrew Shaw quickly grabbed a dance partner that obviously wanted no part of the Hawk’s resident Jack Nicholson. Marchand grabbed hold tightly to Shaw, much preferring to wrestle over throwing fists. After Shaw applied the vaunted “atomic knee drop” to #63, he got in a solid left before the linesmen saved Marchand’s life. It’s pretty obvious that the entire Hawk team is not putting up with Bradley’s nozzle-i-ness in this series.

The much maligned David Bolland, who has had a an enigmatic playoffs to say the least, took three penalties in Game Three. Seriously, you’ve got players from both sides, (although the B’s are much guiltier), whacking, hacking, stabbing, slashing, elbowing and engaging in all sorts of other malfeasance, and you call #36 for unsportsmanlike conduct? Look, I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but with refs and linesmen with the names of Rooney, Murphy, O’Halloran, Boston’s heavy Irish heritage, The Irish Mafia – well it doesn’t take much to put two and two together. Regardless, Dave Bolland is bringing a snarl to the ice, that is one of those intangibles you just can’t place your finger on. When he skated by Marchand in Game Three, and feigned like he was going to bite his ear off, even Marchand seemed confused. If you want to emerge triumphant in the playoffs, you have to play with a little edge – which brings me too something Chris Block noted on his last podcast.

Why on God’s green earth would Chara decide to light a fire under Bryan Bickell? Perhaps Zedno has never heard that phrase, “Let a sleeping dog lie.” Chris pointed out that Bickell had somewhat regressed to being a perimeter player, relying on his blazing wrister that Rask was having little problem with. He pointed out one instance where Bicks had a step on McQuiad I believe as he entered the Bruins zone. Rather than skating deep into the Bruin zone, or driving hard towards the net to make the Bruin’s defense work, Bryan took a wrist shot easily gobbled up by the beard challenged Finnish net minder. It was obvious after Chara’s takedown that Bickell was pissed. Personally, I like it when Bickell morphs into Andrew Shaw. It seemed to me that the little tete a tete between combatants at the end of a game that had already been decided, motivated the Hawks a bit as they headed to Game Four.

I would imagine Game Four will be talked about for some time when all is said and done. Fifth Feather actually captured the essence of that contest perfectly when he said it made you feel like “William” Wallace in Braveheart when the surgeons were removing part of his intestines to alleviate his diverticulosis. (hey Larmer – I got it right this time!) A few of the Hawks, who have been accused of playing with less than the intestinal fortitude we’ve come to expect, appeared to step their game up a notch. I say appeared to, because I believe the only difference in their game was that the biscuit found the basket in Game Four.

I know many fans thought Keith should have teed up that opportunity that was set up by the black magic that is Patrick Kane, but I thought his attempted pass to Toews was an incredibly cerebral play. Rask was totally committed to Keith’s blast when Duncs slid the puck through a wide open crease. Seriously, nanometers often are the difference between extolling our heroes or labeling them bums!

When I got into work Tuesday morning, my co-worker said “Look, the guys on the Chevy commercial need to start earning their money.” I had to laugh, the way he said it made me wonder if fans were going to stop buying Chevy’s in protest. Yet, it was a perfect description of what just about every Hawk fan and wagon jumping reporter noted after the game. I read that Kaner was leading the all the players in the playoffs with 75 shots on goal. Tazer was ranked around #6. Not sure what more they can do besides skating on their heads.

I’m sure all the arm chair coaches felt their observations were validated when both of our commercial, big money Sunday guys, struck pay dirt on Wednesday. Personally, other than the puck going into the net, I couldn’t detect any noticeable difference in their game. In addition to a sweet deflection for a much needed goal, Tazer steadfastly battled Chara in front of the net on Seabrook’s blast. I’m not sure that biscuit ends in the basket if Toews doesn’t defend his turf.

Kaner’s goal may have looked simple, however I suspect a lot of players in the league would have mindlessly tried to bat the loose puck towards the goal as soon as they pounced on it. Kaner showed incredible composure, making sure he could lift it over the outstretched Rask-al in the net. He showed a lot more composure than I did on the 5 on 3 power play. For ten seconds before Sharp finally made the deposit, I was hollering, “Shoot the damn puck!”

I hate it when I regress to my base hockey instincts, “Shoot, Hit someone and Ref, you stink,” but the playoffs are starting to wear me down. I remember reading a piece in the Committed Indian a few years back, where one of the astute contributors noted that a player like Cam Barker has played the point on some pretty high level teams throughout his career. I had to laugh when he asked, “Do you really think you need to tell him when to shoot?” Yet, during that 5 on 3, I was once again dragged down to the base fan level. I also noted we needed to start hitting a lot more than we had been doing. My thoughts on the refs go without saying. And truth be known, it felt good to be a meatball fan again! Who gives a crap about Sabermetrics – skate, damn it, skate!

Two guys who continue to fly around the ice like frenetic neutrinos were rewarded with one of the prettiest goals I’ve seen all season. Below they are pictured moments before their paralyzing strike.

Mutt and Jeff

 Coach Q seems to be utilizing Mutt and Jeff on more than just the penalty kill lately. Deservedly so. Frolik apparently has become a marked man after sending Kelley hurtling into the boards. As he’d skate by the Bruin’s bench, he was repeatedly advised to keep his head up by well-meaning Bruin players. Hard to hit what you can’t catch, eh? Actually, despite being slightly out hit, the Hawks seemed to really label three Bruins, all of whom ended up crashing into the unyielding boards. They were the type of hits that made you wonder if they were going to need assistance to the bench. When they got up, it made me wonder if they were Zombies. Iasked a co-worker if it was possible to kill Zombies on Thursday and he said, “It all depends on the movie.” What a great answer!

One of those Zombies who came back to life was Johnny Boychuk, who took a solid check from I believe Brandon Saad. (Other than a blow out in the first period, does this kid look like he belongs or what?) Boychuk knotted the game at five a piece with a blast that resulted from all the Hawks on the starboard side of the ice. It was a rising slapper that eluded the flailing glove hand of Mr Big. Corey may want to try switching glove hands in Game Five. That, or have Nolan Ryan throw fastballs at him from 20 paces. Funny, while the announcers think they have uncovered a major flaw in Crow, little mention was made of Tukka Rask’s shortcomings. In my book, if you let in six goals you are approaching sieve status. Corey truly is the Rodney Dangerfield of goaltenders. Hopefully he got all that stuff out of his system on Wednesday.

The long road to hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup resumes tonight. Frankly, the players and teams at this point are quite evenly matched. I liked Steve Konroyd’s post game observation that the last game resembled two heavyweight champs slugging it out toe to toe. Who’s going to be left standing when all is said and done? I heard quite a few people say they had to turn the TV off  during that game. The suspense was just too intense. Buck up whimps! This is no time to head under thesheets-the Hawks need you!

There is one determinant that will eventually turn the tide in this Finals-which team, or players want it more. It was no accident that the three B’s went crashing into the boards in Game Five. They were skating at break neck speeds, pushing themselves past the limits they were comfortable with. In closing, let me give you a small visual example of what it will take to win the Cup – a playoff that most likely will involve seven games.

My wife and I were driving home from western Michigan last weekend when we tried to push the limits on our gas tank. While driving to our destination earlier in the day, Nathalie noticed that gas was $0.10 cheaper in Michigan City than any where else along the route. We started the the trip home slightly above “E” and the thought crossed my mind to stop in Bridgman. With Michigan City about 35 miles away,  we made a calculated decision that we could reach our intended destination. I felt like a Nascar driver risking not pulling in for that last pit stop-risking it all as we went for the grand prize of saving approximately $1.80.

As we crossed over into Hoosier land, Nathalie noted we had about 5 to10 minutes to Michigan City. We were feeling pretty good about our ourselves and the pushing the gas tank to the limit decision. That was until, the car started losing power! Nathalie asked me if my foot was on the gas pedal several times and as we continued to decelerate asked me again if I was sure it was on the gas peddle. We coasted to a stop next to a guard rail that prevented me from pulling to a safer distance away from the trucks flying by 3 feet from our car at 80 mph. It’s a bit worrisome when the car starts shaking!

Triple A came to the rescue about 45 minutes later and we arrived home no worse for the wear about an hour later than we intended. Now a lot of you might think we were nuts to push our luck to save $1.80, but I’ve never been more proud of one of Nathalie’s decisions! We pushed it, we headed for the corners, we risked it all. The fact that our car came to rest directly in front of the huge sign that read, “Exit 240, Michigan City, 1.5 Miles” did not leave us second guessing the decision- we made a calculated decision to go for it. (Although Nathalie did point out had I travelled at a rate of 70 mph instead of 85mph, we probably would have made it.)

At any rate, my point is that if the Hawks want to hoist the Cup, they are going to have to take chances. They will have to want it more than the other guy and be willing to pay the price if they fail. They will have to head into those dark corners with reckless abandon. They will have to make quite risky wagers with the likes of a Tipperary Tom, staring down the Grim Reaper despite insurmountable odds.

Plainly put, they are going to have to want it a little more than the other guy. That no doubt will lead to some risky plays and daring decisions. This is no time to pill over for gas. I still say Hawks in seven.

Although we the town of Tipperary is certainly within our sight. Put the pedal to the metal Hawks!

Welcome to Tipperary

Rich Lindbloom

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