Dec 152013

Lindbloom_2013Dec07_Dale“Antoine Roussel got nothing on me”

Here is the instance, here is Antoine Roussel.  Here is the reason why I will call no mortal hockey player happy. – Sophocles

By Rich Lindbloom

While driving home from work Tuesday night on the tollway, it appeared I was being passed by the reincarnation of “The Intimidator,” Dale Earnhardt. I was doing 70 mph and saw this car zig-zagging through heavy traffic in my rear view mirror. As he flew by me, (in the right lane of course), he found two narrow openings. No doubt, he shaved 5 to 10 minutes of his commute home that evening. His driving was breathtaking, on the edge, and inches from death. Momentarily, I entertained the notion of ramming him, much like the Blackhawks’ attitude towards the #21 car on Dallas last Tuesday.

My dad had some well worn words of wisdom for us throughout the years. When it came to driving, he would remind us, “The right of way is given, never taken,” or “That guy is in big hurry to get nowhere.” One of my favorites came to mind last Tuesday as I watched the Hawks administer a 6-2 thrashing of the upstart Dallas Stars. When you play a team 4 times in 30 days, well, let’s just say you begin to become acquainted with them. One of the knuckleheads on a considerably revamped and exciting young Dallas team this year reminded me of one more of my dad’s poignant observations; “That guy is an accident waiting to happen.” As Montreal coach Toe Blake once told John Ferguson, “Someone needs to straighten that guy out.” A straight jacket might be the only effective solution.

My eyes searched the flat screen all night long for the villainous #21 car. When you’re playing the Stars, you better make sure you’re gazing into the rear view mirrors. In Antoine Roussel’s world, rules are merely an aim for – and it’s a very broad target. (Think hand grenades rather than a sharp shooter.) By the end of the game I was reduced to the mindless hockey fan pining for blood, or at least a dose of just retribution. I was sitting on a bar stool at the prestigious Fifth Quarter in Homewood shouting, “Hit that guy! Kill him. That guy needs a serious beat down.” It’s been a long time since I’ve been reduced to Cro Magnum Man while watching a hockey game. I felt quite foolish, but it’s been a long time I loathed someone as much as an Alexandre Burrows.

Lindbloom_2013Dec07_CroMagnon“Give me another Stella!”

The fact that he turtled every time Bandon Bollig asked him to dance, aggravated me even more so. When you decide Kris Versteeg is the Hawk you want to square off with to make up for the ass-whooping just administered to you – well that just about says it all. I’m surprised he didn’t go after Kane again. Regrettably, I don’t think Roussel will ever be “straightened out.” Michael Calvert who wrote a synopsis of the game at brilliantly noted the difference between hockey and lesser sports. The following was an absolute gem that left me smiling, while admittedly, scratching my head:

“We complain about the knuckleheadedness of the NHL, but you gotta love it. The passion still existing between two teams in total garbage time is fantastic. In most sports the home team on the end of that kind of beating can’t get off the field/court/pitch of play fast enough. The Stars, on the other hand wanted to stick around and get punched in the face.”

Of course you could pencil in any NHL team in that situation – think back when Burrish and Eager started the donnybrook at the tail end of a lopsided 5-1 loss to the hated Canucks a few years back. To tell you the honest truth, it made it worth sticking around until the end of the game. I’ll never forget the countenance of the lady momentarily shown on the jumbotron flipping off the referee’s after the zebra’s had tried to sort anything out. That lady, my friends, is a true hockey fan. There’s a little Don Cherry in all of us, whether you want to admit it or not. It’s probably why I love going to Hawks vs. Bluenote’s games. It might also help to explain why Dallas coach, Lindy Ruff, called Roussel one of the “bright spots” in Tuesday’s game. I guess he appreciates “Ruff” play.

It seems since the Hawks jettisoned the John Scott project a few years back, that the Hawks are not exactly one of the more intimidating physical teams in the NHL. I’m reminded of when the Wings were dominating hockey a few years back – they built a team around speed and skill, not thugs and intimidators. You could recall on one hand the fights that took place with the Wings over the last 5-6 years. As much as I implored the Hawks to pound a little sense into a Franzen, Kronwall or Cleary, those guys stay disciplined and didn’t drop the gloves.

The Hawks have sort of morphed into a replica of that mindset – although it seems lately they can easily be goaded into the extracurricular shenanigans. They may want to rethink that course of action – do we really want Patrick Sharp breaking his hand on Antoine Roussel’s thick skull. On the other hand though, isn’t it great to see a Hawk as talented as the semi-handsome one to not tolerate someone taking a run at Kane? Sharp can play like he has a bug up his butt at times. He has been playing the game like someone who wants a letter on his sweater.

Sharpie has been on an absolute tear lately, racking up points like a pin ball wizard on a machine that won’t tilt. Then again, what hawk hasn’t been racking up points lately?! The Hawks have been averaging 4.5 goals a game in December. That number could easily be closer to 6.5 goals a game if it weren’t for some highlight reel performances by Hiller and Lehtonen (47 saves! And that doesn’t count blocked shots and poor marksmanship). If there were one word I’d use to describe the hawks right now, it would be an offensive juggernaut. (Looks like a German word, eh?) As my friend Don pointed out recently, to be a goalie on the Hawks you just have to be good. You don’t have to worry too much about letting in a goal or two.

That being said, Antti Raanta has performed at or above expectations in my “eye test” mind. Other than Bozo the Clown performance in a shootout against the Quacks, he’s played like a rock. I read he said “two weeks ago I was playing in Rockford and now I’m the Hawks #1 netminder.”

The thought, “anybody could play goalie for the Hawks,” certainly diminishes Antti’s considerable contributions to our success.  It will be very interesting to see if Kent Simpson, (no relation to Homer fortunately), will get a start in the back to back’s this weekend. My guess is that he would go tonight if that were the case – against the Kings Sunday night two goals could be hard to attain.

In the absence of Jonathan Quick, LA has benched their # 2 goalie, Ben Scrivens because he let a goal get by him in his last start. Despite a 1.56 GAA and a .943 save %, that don’t cut it on the Kings. Since Quick went down, the Kings have posted 5 shutouts! Martin Jones has two of those shutouts ion the last three games, In their last four games they have allowed a total of 3 goals. I highly doubt that it will happen, but if the Hawks were to open up a can of whoopass Sunday night, tallying 4 or more goals, does the NHL just call it a season and hand the Cup to them then? As far as the regular season goes, Sunday’s game is about as big as it gets.

Ray Emery did not have a stellar performance against his former teammates on Wednesday. It’s hard not to pull for “Sugar Ray” after his huge contributions to our fortunes last season. It’s such a shame the Hawks couldn’t come to terms with E-dawg. Unfortunately, he was lit up like the pine tree in our front yard and may have been subject to second degree burns from the goal lamp going off in the second period. I didn’t see it, but hopefully Sugar Ray got a loud ovation for his contributions last year. A little distraught after the game, even a bit philosophical, Emery noted, “Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.” You’ll always be a winner in Blackhawk fans minds Razor – “Remember the Calgary game!” I think I’ve watched too many games in Texas lately and yes I do realize the Alamo is in San Antonio.

I watched the first period of the Flyer game at home before heading out to pick my daughter up at Midway airport. Her plane was a little late, so I listened to the offensive explosion in the second period in the cell phone lot. I tried to get a little snooze, but kept being awoken by the phenomenal John Wiedeman shouting, “He scores!” We’re blessed with great announcers and color analysts, both televised and over the air waves in Chicago. There are not many color men better at explaining the nuances of the game than Eddie O. How does he see all that stuff?! It’s been awhile since I’ve had the opportunity to listen to Weideman and former Blackhawk Troy Murray on AM 720 – what a treat. This is just me rambling, but there are times when I listen to Wiedeman that memories of Llyod Pettit come up. Any of you remember dat guy?

Lindbloom_2013Dec07_PetitLloyd Pettit

Seven different Hawks dented the twine in the Flyers game. I think by now you all know we have a pretty good first and second line, (despite the eternal dilemma of a true second line center). We have 8 players who have over 20 points this season. The newly formed third line of Saad, Shaw and Morin has been dominating their opponents – I think I read someone was calling them “The Kid Line.” Quite apropos. I’ll be very glad to get our resident pit bull Bryan Bickell back, but how do you demote Jeremy Morin at this juncture. This is clearly a case of the statement; “Life ain’t fair.” No one on the Hawks is working harder than the #11 car at the moment. I really liked seeing Jeremy come to the aid of Versteeg when Roussel decided to take a run at the Hawks resident rapper.

“You mess with Steeg
You gonna bleed.
I’m no smurf,
I protect my turf.”

As we head into Toronto tonight, I’m reminded of one more saying of my dad’s. On more than one occasion he would ask me “What do I have to do to get through to you.” Despite some announcers saying Roussel will eventually get his, I doubt that anyone will ever “get through to him.” In a rather strange moment, as I was driving home from work Thursday I was inching along in heavy traffic next to a car that had an “Intimidator” sticker on his trunk. He also had the #3 on the side of his car. (I swear this is the gospel truth, you can’t make this stuff up.) While he was driving a lot more sanely than the reincarnated Dale Earnhardt I mentioned in the beginning of this piece, I took it as a sign that once more I would proceed with a piece once again linking NASCAR with hockey. They have a lot in common. Intimidation will always be a big part of hockey, although it’s slightly less effective when you’re down 6-2. Still, in a sick sort of way, I guess if you’re a Dallas fan, you would appreciate the #21 cars efforts.

I’m pretty sure Dale Earnhardt would have giving his stamp of approval.

Other important stuff:

It’s beginning to feel a lot like hockey outside.

I have a friend who floods his back yard – they skated last Sunday which was the earliest the ice has ever frozen.

It’s a lot easier walking dogs in 20 degree weather than single digits.

While at the Fifth Quarter last Tuesday, we got into a discussion about Michael Bolton. I asked the ladies there if they could name one Bolton song. No one could! I’ll save you the time by listing a few of his most famous ones. Raise your hand high if you recognize any;

Murder my heart
Can’t touch you
Love is a wonderful thing
That’s what love is all about

How can we be lovers
Missing you

I’m pretty sure the boys at Hockeenight have all of these, and more, in their collection. It’s only a matter of time before Bolton makes an appearance in that very crowded menagerie they’ve been working on!

When the Hawks passing is crisp, they are near impossible to stop.

I have both Jones’ and Scrivens’ in my Fantasy league. Should I play one tomorrow night? or should I give up the goalie points on principle.

Blame me for crow’s injury – I forgot to knock on wood. The day before Crow went down I perused a Predator box score. I thought to myself how unlucky they’ve been to be without Pekka Rinne all season. I thought to myself, I winder what the Hawks would do if Crawford suffered a lengthy injury.

Rich Lindbloom

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