May 022014

Lindbloom_2014May01_KottkeThe Armadillo Album-
A cure for the blues

“While grief is fresh, every attempt to divert only irritates it.” – Samuel Johnson

By Rich Lindbloom

While watching the Blues vs Hawks in Game Five on Friday, a friend came up to me and asked, “You really hate the Blues, don’t you?” I smiled and said, “There is no team in the NHL I like watching the Hawks trounce more. The Blues and their fans are a bunch of slithering, fire breathing heathens.” When the Hawks emerge victorious in these contests it’s my, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning,” moment. At that point, the world just flat out begins to make sense.

Oddly though, my antipathy for the Blue Notes and their followers abated with a few minutes to go in Sunday’s Game Six clincher. Hatred was displaced by compassion in a weaker moment. (that most assuredly will not last.) After the great year the Blues had, I realized how I would have felt if the tides were turned at that time. With a bounce here or a deflection there, the vicissitudes of fortune could have easily been reversed in that great Series. Consequently, I felt a need to commiserate with my heathen hockey brethren who were desperately hoping this would be the year the Blues finally hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Riddled by injuries in the last month of the season, the Blues limped into the playoffs. For the fans who bleed blue, the last 45 days of their truncated season were like listening to a unending recording of The Who’s, The Song is Over. To compound their misfortune, a first round matchup with the defending Stanley Cup Champion’s was clearly a case of pulling the short straw. I don’t think I’ve ever heard as many analysts say “this series should have been a Conference Finals.” Let me be perfectly clear about this; playoff series against the Blues are special affairs.

Back in 1969 Leo Kottke released the Armadillo album – truly one of the great acoustic gems in recording history. I was actually waiting to tie a story about the record into a heartbreaking Blackhawk game – a Game Seven OT loss to a team like the Blues for instance, when all hope seemed lost. However, I thought the least I could do for the downtrodden in St. Louis was to pass a long a sure fire, albeit, temporary remedy for the “Blues.”

In the early 70’s I went into the record shop in the old “Park Forest Mall.” Located just west of Sears, I went in with the sole intent of buying my first Leo Kottke album after hearing the song Jack Fig – a reluctant lament. The record store was not a big one and faced stern competition from Hegwisch Records, the Mecca of music on Chicago’s south side. Kids now a days don’t know what they missed leafing through the various “album covers,” often times as artistically appealing as the music contained within.

After browsing through the records, I picked out the Armadillo album and brought it to the counter. The girl at the “cash” register immediately looked away and said, “Steve, he picked the one you were going to take home tonight,” to a seemingly stoned co-worker. It turned out it was the only copy they had. What are the chances of me going in, on that day, and wanting the same relatively obscure album? It wasn’t like Leo was a household name. Not exactly two teams vying for the Cup, but both of our hearts were set on taking home the album that day.

I said, ”I’m sorry, you can take it if you want it.” We bantered back and forth – you had to be there of course, and a lively discussion about the Kottke ensued. Over the course of our exchange, Steve said he had bought a bottle of red wine, and was just going to go home, drink it, and listen to this gem. Steve’s plan fell into that category of a ‘small slice of heaven on earth.’ Until this day, when things are going really bad, it’s a great remedy for the “Blues.”

Actually the wine only exacerbates ones sullen condition, but the virtuosity of Kottke can make even the most downtrodden crack a smile. (I remember asking my friend Jack Carlson, “Is that one guitar or two?”) Funny thing, I’ve always felt a little guilty about walking out of the store with that Armadillo album. Put yourself in Steve’s boots. If you have your heart set on pulling the Kottke Armadillo album off the shelf, if you’re in that sort of mood – well just what in the hell do you substitute it with if it’s not available?

I’m a big proponent of how our mood affects our listening tastes. When life is coming up roses, give me Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” or something like Deep Purple’s “Hush!” Then there’s the run of the mill mood – when you tend to go to talk radio. There are times in our lives when the only music that makes any sense comes from US 99 – Brad Paisley’s “If I could write a letter to me,” comes to mind. When my brother Jimmy passed away, Todd Rundgren’s “Love is the answer,” absolutely blew me away – it literally brought me to tears. The point is, certain music sounds better at certain times in our lives.

Go ahead Blues fans, give it a try. Trust me when I say you’re in the mood for it. Make sure you have a good cabernet by your side when the needle hits the vinyl. And just in case you’re wondering, Boone’s Farm is not generally considered a good cabernet – and as has been noted, friends don’t let friends drink white Zinfandel. By the end of the bottle, errr I mean the album, you’re going to like the way you feel – I guarantee it! If you drink two bottles, you will be attempting to do an Irish Jig when Leo blazes through Jack Fig.

Understandably, the voice of reason was conspicuously absent from the stlouisgametime, the official blog of the Blues on Monday morning. “Blow the whole damn team up,” summarized the sentiment of many a disappointed fan. Of course the cries for Blues GM Doug Armstrong’s and Coach Ken Hitchcock’s head were bantered about by the Blue’s diehards.

These fans, who seemingly are ready to abandon ship, will of course be tuned in to the Blues home opener next year. They might even be proudly wearing a Pronger, Jackman, Polak, Plager or Twist sweater. Despite their conflicted feelings at the moment, when they sit back and ponder the Blues season, they should find plenty to be optimistic about going forward. In fact, and I’m just guessing here, if the Blues had lost Game Six on home ice I believe the fans would have been giving a rousing, prolonged standing ovation for their team’s efforts this past season; most deservedly so I might add.

Despite the claims of many Hawk fans that they knew our braves would emerge triumphant, I’m fairly certain that most of our finger nails have been chewed down to their cuticles. The games in the series, other than the peculiar third period of Game Six were intensely nerve wracking. Did anyone besides me break into a cold sweat when that puck slid across the entire goal line in the second period? If that had went in, it might be Hawk fans who would be singing the blues.

If you are one of the pundits who said “I knew there was no way the behaviorally challenged nozzles from St. Louis could beat us, well as the old Irish saying goes, “You’re lying and the truth ain’t in ya.” Make no mistake about it, these were two very evenly matched teams.

Ryan Miller was especially vilified after being acquired at the trade deadline to take the Blues to the Promised Land. As always, my heart goes out to goaltenders who generally carry an inordinate share of the responsibility for their team’s premature demise. The fans and media jumped all over his post game comment that “At least now I can go to my sister in laws wedding.”

Personally, I thought it was a pretty good attempt to deflect the raging disappointment I’m sure he was feeling at that moment. Humor has been noted to be more often a shield than a lance. In my opinion, a goalie doesn’t get it done, a team does. Did they expect him to say the truth; that perhaps the Blues defensive efforts could have been a little stronger in front of him?

I realize much of the Blues success this season has been the emergence of players like Schwartz, Sobotka and Tarasenko. However, I’ve been even more impressed by the Blues blue line the past two seasons. That is an area the Blues have made their largest stride. It seemed they were getting away from the mindset of bruising, physical defensemen that are intent on making one “Feel the Pain!” They were clearly becoming a problem – hell, they wouldn’t even take stupid penalties for the most part.

One of the writers at stlouisgametime suggested that the Blues need to diversify their back line, noting they need to toughen up a little. Basically, too many puck moving, fleet of foot defensemen instead of the “It’s clobbering time,” style. I can sort of understand where he’s coming from, I actually like big ugly d-men that can remove the garbage from the crease. However, Bouwmeester and Pietrangelo are one of the best defensive tandems in the NHL; I’d take them any day over the physical net presence type mold. They were very hard to get around.

From my perspective, the Blues really do not need another Polak or Jackman at this time – that would be a huge step backwards. Jackman was a -5 and Polak was a -3 in the playoffs, although to be fair they were +11 and + 3 respectively in the regular season. Although the playoffs seemed to point out that it’s hard to hit what you can’t catch. Polak especially seemed to be a bit of a liability. Watching Jackman chasing Kaner around the rink before finally crosschecking him in frustration in the 2nd period of Fridays contest reminds me of a story that may ultimately benefit the Blues, if they have ears to listen…

I grew up on a block that had approximately 28 kids. We were always in the field across the street playing some kind of sport. One day, my often times devilish brother John did something to aggravate Joey M. This resulted in Joey chasing him around the field for about ten minutes. It was like a turtle chasing a gazelle. We laughed as Johnny would not only pull away, but circle back around, buzzing Joey in the process. (I think he forgot he’d have to get on a school bus the next day with him.)

He would let him close the gap, and then accelerate moments before Joey could corral him. Joey was about double the size of Johnny, so there was an air of suspense surrounding the whole proceedings.  My point is, a large part of the Blues success this year was due to a much improved, better skating rear guard. A rear guard that was more intent on skating and puck movement than trying to get away with manslaughter in front of the net. Speed kills. It also wins hockey games.

Of course, keeping track of Tazer and Kane is never an easy task. Scoring OT goals in Games Four and Five reminds us once again how fortunate we are to watching these very special players as they enter into their prime. Are they the difference between the Hawks and the Blues – possibly.

Yet after going down 2-0 in the series, and actually outshooting the Hawks in 4 of the 6 games (42/52, 28/31, 25/34, 34/33, 30/29 and 27/36), the difference between these two teams is probably more attributable to a goal post, poor marksmanship (thank goodness that that players like Steen and Oshie missed a few of those wide open nets), a bad bounce or the fickle finger of fate. (Not to mention our mediocre goalie’s sprawling paddle save on Oshie- c’mon Cor-dawg, open your eyes)

When the Hawks went up 4-1 in the third period on Sunday, I was worried that the game and well played series was going to degenerate into an ugly affair. Surprisingly, and to their credit, the Blues maintained their composure. With the outcome for all intent and purposes settled, the Blues decided to save their shenanigans for next season.

Their chief instigator, spiritual leader and captain, David Backes, had all eyes on him as he approached Brent Seabrook as the players shook hands. I would have liked to known what they said to each other. Backes, in a very classy move, not only shook Seabrook’s hand but patted him on the chest. (Of course he may have said, “I’ll be kicking your ass next year Brent.”) I know this is blasphemous, but it’s moments like that, coupled with his love for man’s best friend, that almost makes me like the villainous #42. Now if he would just quit trying to pick fights with Tazer all the time! Pugilism is just not in Jonathan’s repertoire.

In closing, I’d like to give a stick tap to all the disappointed Blues fans. You really don’t need to blow everything up. This was by far the best Blues team I’ve observed since Toews and Kane’s rookie year. While watching Game Five a sense of peace came over me. I said to a friend, “Even if we lose, at least I saw one great series this year.” As it turned out, the Hawks advanced by the hair on their chinny chin chin.

Take heart Blues’s fans; it even took Leo Kottke three times before he finally got it right. The first two instruments he played were a violin and a trombone! Dave Graf, he even got so good he could play a twelve string guitar.

Lindbloom_2014May01_KottkeVaselineGuitar“Vaseline Machine Gun”

1) For waking up nude in a sleeping bag on the shore of the Atlantic surrounded by a volleyball game at high noon.

2) For the end of the volley ball game.

Other important stuff:

I’m really liking Ben Smith grabbing the reins of our #2 center position. All the sudden that line has become lethal, whether it’s Sharp and Kane or Bickell and Kane. Or spam, Kane, and spam, or spam, spam and Kane or even Kane, spam and spam.

I also approve of Saad/Kruger/Chicken Hawk (aka – Mutt). Unfortunately both moves have significantly weakened our fourth line, with only Bollig holding down the fort. My solution to our suddenly suspect fourth line…

Morin/Handzus/Nordstrom. Someone really needs to attempt to get this possibility in the hands of Coach Q. They say Dean Smith was the only coach who could hold Michael Jordan under 20 points. So far, Coach Q is holding Jeremy (I paid my dues already) Morin, to 0 points. Unleash the beast Q!

Was it just me, or was there about a two second delay before we realized Tazer’s breakaway snuck past Miller in OT of Game Five?

Sheldon Brookbank – I’m at a loss for words. Ok, ok – how about imperturbable? Way to go #17 car!

Is Corey Crawford the Rodney Dangerfield of hockey? The guy sitting next to me on Friday night said “Crawford makes all the tough saves. It’s the easy ones he lets go by;” and then the fight started…

Something tells me this Wild team we are about to face is significantly improved from last year. Granlund, Moulson, and Niederrieter did not play for the Wild in last years series. Katy bar the door.

Finally, for all of the newscasters condemning Donald Sterling, you’d be well advised to consider Mt 7:3 “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? I wonder how many of his harshest critics are living in a gated community meant to keep the riff raff like me and others out? Cheering from a distance so to speak.

I certainly don’t condone Sterling’s actions, but the newscasters who act like they are lily white, need to take a good look in the mirror.

“How often we decry in others what we ourselves are guilty of.”

Rich Lindbloom

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