May 082014

Lindbloom_MonaLisa_SheMustaHadTheHighwayBluesShots like that make me smile!

By Rich Lindbloom

Kevin Weekes on the NHL Network put it best. Patrick Kane’s electrifying, game winning tally in Game One of the Semi Finals was hockey’s equivalent of the Mona Lisa. He said you can go to the Louvre in Paris if you want, or save the money and watch a replay of Kaner’s goal instead. For those of us who witnessed Kaner’s surgical strike, are reactions were a bit more animated than Mona Lisa’a Delphic smile.

Both St Louis Coach Ken Hitchcock and now Wild Coach Mike Yeo pointed out those there respective teams were giving Crazy 88’s way too much room. The truth of the matter is, if you give Kaner an inch, he will take a mile. I’m not sure what more Jonas Brodin could have done to stop Kane on his “masterpiece.” It reminds me of a story back when I was sophomore on Hillcrest’s basketball team in 1969. (And no smart asses, we didn’t need a ladder to retrieve the ball out of the basket back then.)

We were in a sophomore tournament at Rich East H. S., facing a team that was starting four freshman. Piece of cake right? The only problem was the team included Boyd Batts and Quinn Buckner, along with a ton of other talent. You may recall they went undefeated two years in a row on their way to two State Championships – 1971/1972; many pundits have said this was the greatest high school basketball team of all time.

At one point in the first quarter, I crossed half court and was trapped immediately by Buckner and the 6’7″ Batts. Overmatched does not begin to describe the situation. All I saw was a sea of black making scary guttural sounds, with hands that were moving like a school of piraña’s. Realizing the ball would be stripped within seconds, I hoisted it towards the basket, hoping one of my teammates would bail me out. No such luck – and the turnover was quickly deposited in our basket.

Our coach immediately called time out and with smoke pouring out of his ears hollered at me, “What are you doing?” I sincerely snapped back, “What do you want me to do?” His reply of “Dribble through them,” was not the most sagacious advice I was ever given. As I grabbed a piece of pine on the bench I thought to myself, it would be easier to part the Red Sea than dribble through Buckner and Batts.

I wonder if Jonas Brodin and Ilya Bryzgalov had similar thoughts after Kane’s pin point accuracy on the eventual game winner – the “What do yo want me to do,” defense. One announcer noted the puck hit the post and crossbar. After the game Bryzzer noted that he probably should have played the shot a little differently. My thought is, sometimes the other guy just beats you. It seems backhanders tend to take on an evil life of their own, let alone having Kaner rip one off.

Bryzgalov, who tends to be a bit out there in his comments once in awhile, would probably describe that goal along the lines of his well known description of the universe; “It was humongous big.” I actually read a few of his other quotes and started to like the Wild backstop.

Known as a free spirit, and after being informed Sergei Bobrovsky would be the starter in the 2012 Winter Classic, Bryzzer noted, “I have great news and even better news. Okay, great news is I’m not starting and even better news is we have a chance to win. I’ll make sure I don’t forget my thermos with some nice tea and enjoy the game.” (He actually ended up starting and lost 3-2) Another gem was his comment after a loss, “It’s only a game, why you have to be so mad?”

In Tuesday’s 4-0 loss to the pesky Wild, it was Bryzzer who was humongous. He was only tested 19 times, but it seemed like a preponderance of those shots were prime chances. The Hawks certainly don’t need the Wild’s “Space Cowboy” getting confidant.

In my opinion, the Hawks actually played their best game of the Series so far on Tuesday. The unpredictable element of good fortune that seemed to be perched on the Hawks bench in the first two games, was conspicuously absent in Game Three. Doubt began to rear it’s ugly head among the Hawk faithful who were hoping for a tidy dispatch over the Wild Bunch. Actually, it’s been a very strange series; despite what would appear to be lopsided scores, (5-2, 4-1 and 0-4), the games in this series have been very evenly contested.

Erik Haula and Mikael Granlund have stepped up their game a notch. Those are two Finn’s you definitely need to keep an eye on. Granlund actually has a bit of an evil, Jack Nicholson look to him. (Think “Here’s Johnny!”) You wouldn’t want him courting your daughter. I picked him up on my fantasy team this year and he’s been especially productive when on Parise’s line. The 22 year old was the 9th overall pick in the 2010 draft and helped Mother Finland win the gold in the 2011 IIFH World Championship.

His Finnish sidekick, 23 year old Erik Haula, was chosen in the 7th round in the 2009 draft. As a Golden Gopher, Haula score 124 points in 114 games over a three year span. His tap in of a bouncing puck off a precision Justin Fontaine feed was a thing of beauty. Ring the cow bell on that play. It appeared Kaner was caught coasting a bit on the bang, bang play. It was a bit reminiscent of Tazer’s tally on Sunday when Bryzgalov made an incredible initial save on Big Hoss.

On that play, much like Kane on Tuesday, Mikko Koivu seemed to go for a stroll in the park for just a second. It’s springtime finally, can you blame him? In these frenetically paced playoff games, taking a second off on a shift can result in the goal lamp’s bright red light piercing the proceedings — In a heart beat. Red lights after opponents goal are very similar to the teacher scratching her finger nails along the chalk board, eh?

Hovering precariously close to being flatlined in Game Three, new life was breathed into the Wild team after Haula’s goal. It ignited the Minnesota faithful, who became annoyingly loud for the remainder of the contest. I don’t know if were a bit spoiled in Chicago, or just more sophisticated fans, but I haven’t seen anything that crazy since Columbus’s comeback against the Penguins this year. As Lowell George from Little Feat would put, “You folks are crazy.” Now pass the weed, whites and wine.

I’d like to say with all the TV revenue involved that the NHL just wants these Series to go at least six games. You know, make it interesting, try to stimulate the game of hockey in Minnesota. Then sit back and watch the cream rise to the top when it matters.

However, this Wild team is beginning to entertain delusions of grandeur. Mikael Granlund said after Game Three, “It’s kind of like the same situation but were playing against a different team. This is a new challenge…now it’s a series again.” Bryzgalov noted, “We played nice hockey.” (i.e. they won) Many would be quick to point out that you are playing a much better team Mr. Granlund. Hawk fans would be quick to note that the different team Granlund talked about is a bit better than Varlamov, err, I mean Colorado.

However, the Wild are a much improved team over last year. They are not to be taken for granted. This series may come down to playing every second of every shift. That’s what we’d like the Hawks to do, although it is much easier said then done. And I doubt Kaner can dribble through all of the Wild. Maybe Versteeg.

As Jonathan Toews said after game Three, “I think tonight we realized we have to bring it on Friday.” Hopefully our red warriors will bring a subtle smile to our face in Game Four. I know one thing; winning this series is not going to be a paint by number affair. This Wild Bunch received an injection of confidence with their win on Tuesday. It’s time to nip that hope in the bud.

Game Four is shaping up to be humongously big. Skate, hit someone and shoot!

“The first day of spring was once a time for taking the young virgins into the fields, there in dalliance to set an example in fertility for nature to follow. Now we just set the clock an hour ahead and change the oil in the crankcase.” – E. B. White

Other important stuff:

Free Leddy.

Free Morin.

Where’s Teravainen? He may be the counter punch to the Wild’s Finns.

I’m tired of hearing about regular season Bickell and post season Bickell. Bicks suffered a serious knee injury this season. I’m guessing he rejoined the team before he was 100%. The dude can play hockey.

Corey’s focus and intensity has been off the charts in the post season. Keep making yourself “Big” Cor-dawg. Although if you were an elite goalie you would have had a shut out on Tuesday.

I’m really enjoying the Hab’s vs. Bruins. Those two teams are having a go at it.

Man is Sidney Crosby good. Sheeeiiit!

With Niklas Hjalmarsson on their team, the Hawks have a neck up on their competition.

Someone needs to straighten out Clayton Stoner. He needs to be shown the wickedness of his his ways.

The commercial with the two chickies on the treadmill is a masterpiece of advertising. Their acting is superb. I can so buy into there snippy facial expressions – an epic cat fight!

If they had a little Southern Comfort in them, they might mellow out a little. It’s hard to throw it down like the triplets when you’re all uptight and everything.

Did you ever wonder what was on Mona Lisa’s mind?

Rich Lindbloom

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