“Now is the winter of our discontent.” – William Shakespeare
“People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy.” – Anton Chekhov
By Rich Lindbloom
Ok, ok, I’ll admit it. I’m one of those demented souls who doesn’t get it; warm-good, cold-bad. As I walked the dogs at about 9:30 last Sunday, I initially felt like I was on an expedition to the North Pole. The temperature had dropped from 32 to 18 degrees almost instantaneously. I must admit, even I wasn’t looking forward to the bone chilling trek.
However, once outside I was mesmerized by the blowing snow and eerie gusts of wind. The light crystalline snow was being whisked from the barren streets and fields, forming what appeared to be mini-twisters. All of a sudden the apparition like wisps of snow would change course, heading straight towards us, blasting us in the face. As Teddy Roosevelt would say, “This is bully.” To tell you the truth, it turned out to be a night “fit” for man and beast.
The Big Chill that has seemingly blasted us since mid-November is sticking around like an uninvited relative. (Think Cousin Eddie) Just when you think were over the hump, “Whammo!,” another polar vortex comes roaring down from Winnipeg. That term “polar vortex” is beginning to wear on my nerves. It seems to be global warming gobbledygook for what we called in the olden days, “Freezing cold outside!” I guess labeling the winter blasts a polar vortex makes you sound smarter.
The Hawks have cooled off a bit after storming through the schedule in December. After losing their first two games to the Wild and Stars, they finished the month 8-1-3. There’s a certain amount of invincibility and smugness among fandom when your team tends to dominate like that. Many of those games saw the Hawks tally four or more goals. And then came January and sub-zero blasts.
The Hawks finished the most inhospitable month of the year with a 5-3-6 record. Nine times we went to bed wondering, as Marvin Gaye so aptly put it, “What’s going on?” Many times as we hit he hay we were reduced to Smokey Robinson and the Miracles hit, “The Tears of a Clown.” Truly, sadder than sad.
My advice, “chill out” Hawk fans. As Cornelius McGillicuddy, (better known as Connie Mack), once noted in a bit of an understatement at the turn of the 19th century, “You can’t win them all.” And he would know, posting a lifetime managerial record of 3,731 wins and 3,948 losses. (For all of you winter haters, cheer up. Pitchers and catchers report in two weeks!) The Stones song in the movie The Big Chill put it another way, but no less insightful; “You can’t always get what you want…”
As I watched the waning moments of the Red Wing game at The Fifth Quarter, we were reduced to biting our finger nails. That was the game the Hawks blew a two goal lead, turning a laugher into “hang on for dear life” affair. In the final minutes, Detroit (sucks) pressed the attack, looking to end this entertaining game in regulation. One of the patron’s at the end of the bar could no longer take the pressure and was reduced to my level of hockey knowledge; “Somebody do something!” he hollered out. I still find myself chuckling at his outburst – realizing he verbalized exactly what I was feeling. At any rate, the pearl of wisdom has been added to the other old standards of 300 level hockey insight; “Hit someone,” “Shoot,” “Skate,” and “Kill the ref.”
As you all know we lost that game in a shoot out. Coach Q befuddles me at times. Michal Handzus has a career shoot out percentage of over 45%. The one attempt I can recall him taking this season, he faked the goaltender out of his jock strap and hit the cross bar on a pretty wide open net. Yet Q-dawg throws Hossa, Kruger and Shaw ahead of Zus? Look, someone needs to send Q a message in a bottle about our shootout candidates. As much as I like Big Hoss, I sort of cringe every time he gets tapped on the shoulder. The next time Big Hoss tries to go five hole, will also be his first time. Other than that glaring weakness, I think we should keep Hossa around for awhile. The rest of his game is adequate.
The Wild game was another bitter pill to swallow. Although we outshot the hooligans 34-19, we ended up losing for the third time in four meetings against this improving squad. Darcy Kuemper, deservedly, was voted # one star. The Wild has a lot of talent on their team, Granlund, Suter, Parise, Brodin, Pomniville, Heatly, Brodziak and it always seems, a Jolly Green Giant in the net. Mikko Koivu, will certainly add considerably to the Wild scoring punch when he returns from the IR. The 6’3” 220# Finnish star is hoping to play for Finland in the Olympics.
Something tells me if we face off against the Wild in post season play this year, they will be a bit more to handle than last year’s five and out. Although Minnesota fans are a notch or two above Blues fans in the pecking order of things, they could no doubt get under my skin. As anyone fortunate enough to watch the old Hawks vs North Stars skirmishes can attest to, ratcheting up the hate-o-meter for the Wild could happen in a nano-second.
Exacerbating this month of discontent, we somehow lost to the Jets after dominating them for two periods. When Brandon Bollig is the only Hawk player to be named one of the three stars, you know your in a bit of trouble! Al Montoya, who sounds more like he should be fencing or driving an Indy car, stood tall, slamming the door on the suddenly, struggling, scoring juggernaut otherwise known as the Blackhawks. (Their 199 goals leads the league at the moment.)
Montoya turned away all but one of the Hawks 18 first period shots. Andrew Ladd fired home the game winner after a perfect feed from Marian Hossa-and that ain’t right. Surprisingly, when I checked Winnipeg’s line up for possible Fantasy League pickups this week, I noticed Frolik was promoted to the #1 PP unit for the Wild. Way to go eyebrows!
A Calgary team that is suddenly starting to believe in themselves, overcame numerous Hawk comeback attempts, burying the Hawks hopes in OT. T J Brodie sent the Saddledome throng home in high spirits when he banked a shot off someone on a wrap around attempt. It was a see-saw affair that could best be described as the Hawks chasing their own tail. I can unequivocally state one thing after watching that game; Sean Monahan is going to be one of the best players in the league in no time.
There were some positives to take from this game. At least the Hawks got back on the scoring train, lighting the lamp four times. Brian Bickell struggled somewhat, and seems to be skating at about 80%. I thought he was somewhat wrongly blamed for Nick Leddy’s deep thrusts into the Calgary zone. When it snows it pours as they say, and Bicks can’t seem to buy a break lately. This is just the meat ball cure all for struggling hockey players, (think Vancouver Canucks), but maybe a fight would get Bickell going. Something tells me we’ll be glad to have Bickell around in April.
While watching the Wing game at the Fifth, another regular who knows the game surprised me when he asked “What do you think about Raanta?” In other words he was indirectly questioning Crows abilities. I made it understood, in no uncertain terms that Crawford was not only better than Raanta, (and I like Raanta), he was better than 95% of the goalies in the league. Blackhawk fans, please – in the words of John Hiatt – “Have a little faith!”
Crow not only sparkled between the pipes in relief of Antti in the third period of the Calgary hoedown, he was a huge part of the victory in Vancouver, eh. At least that’s what I’m told. I fell asleep at 9pm because an old friend and I met for a beer after work. One turned into another and Franco forced me into having one more. I’ll never do that again! Figures, I’d miss the always heartwarming thrashing of the Canucks. You think you’ve got it bad trying to survive this classic Chicago winter? Imagine if the Hawks were hanging on by a toe nail to the 8th and last playoff spot.
Well, it’s about time to go help my 17 year old son finish shoveling-looks like he just about has the heavy stuff by the parkway done. This winter reminds me of my dad and the three or four cars we’d try to get started in sub-zero weather. I can vividly remembering holding a flash light as he tinkered with the carburetor trying to get one going. Despite his best efforts, we’d be lucky to get one going. It’s hard to explain, but the feeling resulting from one of the cars turning over got us as excited as a Bobby Hull goal!
As for the cars that wouldn’t crank over, well, he’d pull the batteries out of them and put them in our kitchen. This didn’t exactly thrill my mom. Then he’d say something like “It’s supposed to get above zero in a few days, they should start then.” Actually, that’s pretty good advice to us Hawk fans as we hope and pray the Hawks can get jump started again. Wait a few days, as sure as this big chill were mired in passes, I’m quite certain this mid season doldrums will also.
Of course, that will not stop me from screaming at the TV tonight at the end of a tight game – “Somebody do something!” That kind of expert analysis is right up my alley.
Now go outside and make a snow angel!
Other important stuff:
The invincible St Louis Blues have lost 5 out of their last 10 games.
Erik Karlsson has surpassed Duncan Keith in point totals, 51 to 48.
Duncan Keith’s is a + 19. Erik Karlsson is a – 15. I’ll take Keith any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
The Blue Jackets are making their push – currently one point behind Detroit and Carolina in their battles for the 8th playoff spot.
How the hell is Toronto in fourth place in the Eastern conference? I swear, every time I watch them play they seem to get blown out. Only Edmonton has given up more goals than the Leafs 173.
Wouldn’t a Toronto/Montreal playoff be special. Pretty sure the price of hockey would go up in those two cities.
Will there ever be an explosion of sound like Motown again? I’d sure “second that emotion.” The movie “The Big Chill” was a veritable collection of Motown’s greatest hits.
If you do venture out for a stroll into the frozen tundra, never forget Frank Zappa’s poignant advice; “Watch out where the Huskies go, and don’t you eat that yellow snow.”
Is there anything as peaceful as watching snow fall?