“Are you the new second line center?” – Thumper
“If you can’t say something nice,
don’t say nothing at all.” – The Thumperian Principle
By Rich Lindbloom
I’m not sure why I’m even bothering to write another synopsis of the vicissitudes of Blackhawk hockey. According to the criminally insane, the Hawks season is officially over after getting trounced against Boston and Ottawa. The malicious maelstrom of fans voicing their discontent with the Blackhawks the last two games has reached disturbing heights.
I like to go to the ESPN NHL Hockey Scoreboard each night to see how my Fantasy players are doing. I click on the box score of all the games to keep track of all the goings on. One box I’ve never checked is the Conversation box, so on a whim I clicked it after Friday’s game. Talk about Pandora’s box!
Now believe me, I wasn’t exactly upbeat after Ottawa handed us our lunch, but this conversation box gave a whole new definition to the word pessimism. (perhaps more aptly put, suicidal thoughts.)
Here’s some examples:
“Hawks can’t beat a team losing record. or a 500. team. They looked tired and no energy left. They won’t make out first round.” (six people gave this grammatically challenged commentator a thumbs up for his valuable insight.)
“They are gutless, heartless and a complete joke. It’s frustrating to watch.”
“Pathetic by the Hawks. Saying that a lot lately.”
“What the hell happened to this team? Who is to blame? They are done. Can’t win on the road. Can’t PK. Can’t produce on the PP.”
“Well should be a three game losing streak after Sunday. Pitt will beat them.” (probably, but Pitt is 4-5-1 in their last ten, just like the Hawks.)
Blackhawks are garbage. Raanta is a poor, poor goalie.” (One blogger asked this guy if he wears a bike helmet at all times :)”
“U want to break out of a losing slump play Hawks.”
My advice to all the Nervous Nellie’s out there – “keep passing the open windows.” Also, you may want to give some consideration to the Thumperian Principle. C’mon Hawk fans, we’ve been through this before; you’re killing TinkerQ. Start thinking happy thoughts! Admittedly, you might have to go back to Tuesday’s game vs. the Stars. It was at that game I had the good fortune of meeting Slak from the Pulitzer Prize winning hockey blog site called Hockee Night. Think of it as the poor man’s thethirdmanin.com.
As Jim Cornelison finished belting out another reverberating rendition of our National Anthem on Tuesday, Sam Fels made his way up his seat. Sam has had an assortment of lunatics sitting with him this year so I was wondering how Sam knew the 6’6”, 250lbs behemoth sitting next to us. When Sam sat down I heard him mention the name “Slak” and I immediately put two and two together.
“Sam, is this the Slak from HockeeNight?” I asked. It’s not too often you get to sit next to a celebrity in Section 320 at the United Center. Slak is a gregarious soul and made the evening one to remember. One of the first things he said was something derogatory about B-52, aka Brandon Bollig. Right after he said it he turned to Samwise and said, “Nobody’s a Bollig fan up here, are they?”
I told him that while I’m not exactly a fan, I don’t think he’s as bad as many Hawks fans claim. I backed that up with, “I certainly don’t think he’s a star.” Slak nodded his head and said, “Ok I can live with that.” He was probably silently thinking, ‘are all the people morons in this section?’
It was during the second period that Slak said one of the funniest things I’ve heard all year. Teuvo and Saad appeared to be heading up ice on a two on one when Teravainen blew a tire and went sprawling to the ice. Slak hollered out, “Bambi, get up.” (Yes, Slak does have a young child at home.) In my mind, it’s the perfect nickname for the Finnish Flash.
What I noticed most about Teuvo in this game was his vision, the cerebral part of the game that can’t be taught. I also heard Steve Konroyd in a radio interview earlier in the day talk about how tough the Finnish players are as a whole. They are warriors according to Konroyd. When I mentioned this to Slak, he confirmed Konroyd’s observation noting that all they do in Finland is drink and fight. At 170lbs, I still believe discretion is the better part of valor, but the toughness aspect will be something to keep an eye on. It would be pretty special to see a Kaner clone with an edge to him out there.
The Stars game itself was a very exciting contest, starting out with a Ryan Garbutt breakaway that Crow snared with a glove hand that seems to be improving. Benn/Seguin/Nichushkin is as good as any first line in hockey. The puck just seems to migrate to Seguin, the second pick in the 2010 draft. He was credited with six shots in that game, to go along with three hits and an assist.
The game within the game was the continual jousting going on between Antoine Roussel, Andrew Shaw and Brandon Bollig. Apparently Antoine did not forget when Shaw thumped him pretty good in a game on December 5th. At every opportunity, Roussel crosschecked Shaw in the back. The first opportunity Bollig got, he returned the favor of Roussel’s wickedness. Apparently, Antoine wanted nothing to do with B-52, as he didn’t even look at Bollig. Pretty sure he was not up to picking on someone his own size.
Bollig and Roussel finally got into a meaningless bout at the 19:38 mark of the 3rd period. I think Coach Q was definitely trying to send a message to the scrappy Stars forward. Did any of the shenanigans have an impact on the game – not really. But there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Shaw, who is 20lbs lighter that Roussel, appreciated Bollig sticking up for him.
It’s quite amazing how much abuse Bollig takes from the fans when the Hawks lose. Do you really think the outcomes of the Ottawa or Bruins game would have been different if he had sat in the press box? I thought 52/16/28 was one of our best lines against the Senators.
There were some pundits that thought Bollig was afraid to fight Chara or Lucic. I highly doubt that. Chara crosschecked Brandon in front of the net and Bollig gave him a wicked shot back. I don’t see how that’s backing down. Wouldn’t you love to know what Bollig and Lucic were saying to each other as the linesmen escorted them off the ice. Undoubtedly, they were not exchanging recipes.
In my opinion, our team defense has been extremely suspect lately, especially in the last two games. Odd man rushes and breakaway’s seem to be the norm. I don’t know if the odd man rushes are from bad pinches, cherry picking forwards looking for home run passes, weak poke checks instead of hitting someone or perhaps a result of all the different line combinations since Kane went down. One thing I do know is the Hawks need to plug the hole in that dike, and do it quickly. The Penguins have a few finishers in their line up. (Talk about an injury list – take a look at Pittsburgh – Malkin, Dupuis, Letang, Martin, Goc and Vokoun to name a few.)
While I’d have to say Boston had the upper hand in play on Thursday, it was a 1-0 game going into the third period. Corey made a blunder behind his own net that once again rejuvenated the “Crawford is an average goalie sect.” Ironically, the Hawks outshot Boston 28-23, but it seemed after the first period the writing was on the wall. Boston really battened down the hatches in the 2nd and 3rd period.
The hatches were wide open for the Senators in Fridays’ off to the races affair. The Hawks fired 49 shots at Anderson, While Antti Raanta faced 29 shots. Coach Q said it best after the game – “We gave up defensively.” Some fans may question my sanity, but I thought Raanta had a very good game. Lost in the five goals that got by him, were some brilliant saves when the Hawks defense let him hang out to dry. Particularly of note were two spectacular saves when the Senators came in on him 2-0 in the first period.
After spotting the senators a 2-0 lead in the first, the Hawks mounted a furious comeback in the second period. The Senators struck first in the second do to some laissez faire defense on the back check. It was at that point I told my wife if they go up by four, to put in a movie. This had all the earmarks of an Edmonton disaster brewing. The Hawks fought back though after a brilliant piece of work by Tazer and Sharp. A herculean effort by Marian Hossa pulled the Hawks to within one as the teams headed to the locker rooms.
The very talented Kyle Turris made it a two goal margin on a power play that resulted from Matt Carey, (who unfortunately also deflected in the Sen’s first goal), covering the puck with his mitt. Ottawa once more carried the play. Carey was a surprise starter, with Teravainen and Morin healthy scratches. Their speed and hustle could have had a big impact tin this game. It might have been a good idea to sit Handzus in this back to back, especially knowing Ottawa likes to play a wide open, pedal to the metal style.
In closing, although it appears the Hawks are backsliding, the world is not coming to an end. Slak wrote a piece for the 3/19 Committed Indian makes me slightly less nervous about Colorado, who more and more appears to be our first round playoff opponent. He pointed out they have had a pretty lucky season, repeatedly getting outshot by a wide margin. Yesterday’s game vs. the Sharks was a perfect example; the Sharks had 49 shots and the Avalanche 22. Aided by a shorty and a power play goal, they eked out a 3-2 victory.
As Slak pointed out, the Avalanche have a suspect blue line and a psychotic coach. Reportedly, Patrick Roy got into a fist fight with Av’s captain Gabriel Landeskog in the locker room recently. Of course Varlamov is the glue that holds the Av’s fortunes together. He’s been spectacular this year, especially against the Hawks.
The million dollar question is what will be the Hawks line up when the playoffs roll around? Will Teravainen be centering for Patrick Kane? Will Jeremy Morin worm his way into the line up. Coach Q has seven games left get this team ready for the second season.
Whatever the line up, it’s clearly time to batten down the hatches. It would also help if the Hawks “hit someone!” Oh yeah, and “get up Bambi, get up!”