Apr 202014

image(2)The Facts of Hockey

“And i’m not the kind that likes to tell you
Just what you want me to
You’re not the kind that needs to tell me
About the birds and the bees.” – New Order

[editor’s note: This piece was written & submitted prior to Game 2: CHI-STL]

By Rich Lindbloom

Admit it guys. One of the most awkward moments in life is when your father, (or worse yet, some of the knuckleheads you hung out with), explained to you the facts of life. You know, the “you put the lime in the coconut…” talk. The moment when sneak peeks at Playboy started to replace the memorization Luis Aparicio’s batting average or Gary Peter’s ERA. (I’m sure I lost a few  readers under the age of 40 recalling those former White Sox greats!)

Recently, I noticed the Norman Rockwell classic The Facts of Life painting on a calendar. Instantaneously, the thought of David Backes’ dad sitting down the Blues bellicose captain and discussing the birds and the bees came to mind;

“David, face it, you’ll just never be as good as Jonathan Toews. Nor will the Blues ever be better than the Hawks. Don’t get me wrong, you are a very good hockey player, and the knuckleheads in St. Louis live for your catastrophic checks; but you will eventually have to face the facts. You will never be a Tazer. The sooner you accept this fact, the sooner your life will begin to make sense. The good thing is you play in St. Louis. The fans are more concerned with physically dominating their opponents than winning games. When an above average roll player like you abandons your post to go after the big hit – well – that’s hockey for the Blues fans, meatball hockey 101.”

Of course I jest – David Backes would be a welcome addition on any team. He skated over 33 minutes in Thursday nights opening game on a foot that I’m guessing he was icing when all was said and done. At one point in the OT, the Hawks maintained sustained pressure in the Blues zone while Backes was on the ice. Towards the end of the play, Backes appeared to be coasting. It dawned on me at that moment that the Blues warrior was certainly not 100% yet.

Regrettably, a strong Backes’ forecheck led to the game winning goal 26 seconds into the 3rd OT period. Up to that point, I thought it was a great game to watch. In a reverse St Louis fandom moment, watching Hammer put Backes on his duff was almost as good as winning the game though. If the truth be known, I enjoyed that atomic hit as much as any of the Hawks tallies. I’m pretty sure #42 got the number of the car that clobbered him. Niklas was trying his best to chop the head off the snake! Something tells me this series is going to ramp up the Nastiness Meter before all is said and done.

 Lindbloom_2014Apr19_McNeilA close up of Liz McNeil after game One

Bob Verdi accurately described the playoff affairs between the Hawks and the Blues over the years, “The games are often angry.” Surprisingly he noted that the only teams the Hawks have faced more in a playoff series than the Bluenote’s were the Canadians and Wings. Verdi also described playoff hockey perfectly in two words, “The Blackhawks and Blues shall renew their “spring snarls.”  Expect things to get a little snarlier as we get closer to Game Seven.

Dr. John, a regular poster at secondcityhockey.com put a photo that made me smile before game one. It said, “The Stanley Cup Playoffs have begun. Normal life is now on hold and will resume sometime in June.” I could only shake my head as I pondered that statement as when my head hit the pillow around midnight after Game One.

There’s no doubt playoff games take a toll not only on the players but on the fans also. Maybe even more so on the fans, who vicariously live out their “inner animal” through the teams that they love. At least when the players head for the golf course, they can take solace in the fact they are millionaires. Fans are left with nothing more than shame, bitter feelings and complaints that many times revolve around the last line of defense – the goalie.

I’m one of the strongest Corey Crawford supporters amongst Hawk fans. (Hell, I even supported Cristobal Huet.) However was it just me, or did anyone else think Cor-dawg should have had Schwartz’s shot in the third period. Don’t get me wrong, a lot went awry with that play in addition to Mr. Big’s leaky five hole.

First off, minutes prior to the goal, both Bickell and Bollig took what I thought were weak attempts to get one by Miller from 35 to 40 feet. Miller is going to stop 99% of those shots. I thought a better play would have been to dump the puck deep and wreak havoc with an aggressive fore check. In both instances the puck exited the Blues zone instantaneously.

Secondly, the puck was sent deep behind our boards by a Blues defenseman. (re-read the above paragraph and decide who made the wiser play) Kris Versteeg and another Hawk who eludes my mind sort of just floated along near the blue line instead of pressuring the d-man. I thought to myself, “If that was Datsyuk or Bergeron they would have been on the point man like white on rice.” I’m not sure Versteeg, who actually had a pretty decent game, is the forward we want out there in the last two minutes of a game that we are trying to hold on to a one goal lead.

Hammer and Johnny Be Good did not exactly sparkle on that play either. In my opinion it was a garbage goal – but a four is a four on the score card, whether you two putt from four feet after proxing the hole, or sink a 100yd sand wedge on your fourth shot. Parts is parts, as they say.

Other than that unfortunate twist of fate, I thought Corey was fantastic. If he plays as well as he did in Game One the rest of this series, I think the Hawks will make it into May before the skates are hung up. Corey turned away 48 of 52 shots in the marathon. The Blues shot total was a bit surprising – it didn’t seem like they outshot us from my barstool at the Fifth Quarter. Perhaps Steve should change the name of this waterhole to The Third Overtime, eh?

The Random Line Generator came up with a few surprises for Game One. Even more surprising, it appeared Dr Frakensteen stuck with those line combo’s them the entire game. I’m guessing Coach Q is playing Handzus and Bollig to counter act the Blues size and borderline aggressive ways. (truth be known, the Blues are a bunch of wild animals) However, at some point, how do you keep Jeremy Morin in the press box?

Now this is just me thinking, but I would love to see Sam Fels, Matt McClure, Chris Block, Slak (Bollig would definitely sit), or Fifth Feather, be given the opportunity to make the line-ups for Q one game. What a neat contest idea for the Hawk organization. “Some lucky fan will be given the opportunity to turn in tonight’s starting line-up.” They will be hung if the Hawks lose though – any takers?!

It certainly was a treat to see Tazer and Kane plying their trades again. Both looked like they hadn’t lost a beat. Do you think those two might end up on the same line before this series is over? It’s also is nice to see the wounded warriors on the Blues in uniform for the playoffs. Losing Tarasenko last month really started the Blues on their losing skid. The Russian tank looked pretty good on Thursday.

Sometime’s Q’s lineups remind me of the look on my fifth grade friend Ed Fleming’s face when he first heard the facts of life. We were down by the milk cooler at St. Anne’s in fifth grade when I told him my version of how babies were made! Not as good as Dr. Ruth, but I’m pretty sure he got the message. I can still envision the confused, even painful look on Eddy’s face. His reply was pretty similar to all of our reaction at the 26 second mark of the third OT on Thursday; No!” In Eddy’s defense, those were still the days when girls were rumored to be full of cooties!

Oh well, in about 6 hours Game Two will commence. Hopefully the guys with the Indian Head on their chests will prevail. Playoff hockey and the birds and the bees, it doesn’t get any better than that. In fact, something tells me things are about to get a little snarlier.

image(3)Rich Lindbloom

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