May 112014

Lindbloom_WhatMeWorry“It is well, it is well, with my soul.”

Amateur – “Mr Hogan, how do you back the ball up on the green?
Ben Hogan – “Well, how far do you hit an 8-iron?”
Amateur – “Oh, about a 125 yds.”
Ben Hogan – “Why in the hell would you want to back the ball up?”

By Rich Lindbloom

The Hawks current predicament reminds me of Alfred E. Neuman’s seemingly inextricable mess in the above cartoon. In the early 80’s, a innovation called square grooves somewhat revolutionized the game of golf. They replaced the traditional V-shaped grooves and supposedly were able to make you back the ball up on the green like a Yo-Yo. 

I fear most of the amateurs who bought them, in a desperate attempt to improve their swollen scores, purchased them in vain. “The USGA’s research says the square grooves have no effect on the surlyn covered balls which 66% of us amateur hacks play. The research also says that just 13% of amateur golfers hit the green from 100 to 200 yards out, while tour players hit the green nearly half the time.”

Supposedly, being able to put perverse spin on the ball could extricate you from the less than desirable spots on the course we hackers occasionally find ourselves in. After Friday evening’s unfortunate outcome, I hope the equipment managers on the Hawks are adding some grooves to the Hawk’s sticks. Unlike Alfred E. Neuman, worry and doubt (the real killer in any golf swing or a lot of things for that matter), have reared there ugly head in Chicago.

On a positive note, at the very least, Coach Q should be able to settle on the lines for Game Five. I believe he got a glimpse of every possible line combination humanly possible in Game Four. The Random Line Generator was smoking. This should help his decision making process considerably in Game Five. The discombobulation that were the Hawk lines on Friday, very well could have been part of Coach Q’s master plan.

Incorporating Brandon Bollig on the fourth line seems to be a continuing source of irritation for most Hawk fans. It seemed like it was the lead talking point, or close to it, on every synopsis of Game Four. He gave Keith Ballard a rough ride into the boards in the 2nd period, resulting in a two minute boarding penalty and a hearing with the Czar of Discipline. (Of course Jared Spurgeon, who blatantly elbowed Marcus Kruger in the head and then tried to take his knee out, was praised as a hero after the game. Instead of a hearing for Spurgeon, they make him first star of the game. Typical NHL Blind Justice.)

I believe Bollig deserved the boarding penalty, plain and simple. However, Ballard could have done a better job of protecting himself knowing a grinder like B-52 was bearing down on him. If defenseman know they can’t be touched if there back is to the play, they can retrieve the puck without fear of getting checked – and hockey becomes a different game.

I think boarding could be called about 50% of the time an aggressive forechecker tries to force a turnover in the NHL. I used to cringe when Niklas Hjarlmarsson would be turned into a Swedish pancake early in his career. One of Duncan Keith’s greatest skills is to avoid getting crushed when retrieving the biscuit. Ballard could have avoided getting crushed if he had paid more attention to Bollig. He decided to focus on the puck instead – it’s a fine line that defenseman face each and every game. As has been noted, discretion is the better part of valor sometimes.

Of course that doesn’t mitigate the fact that many Hawk fans think Bollig sucks. While I think there are better options for our fourth line at the moment, Brandon was certainly not the reason we lost Game Four. His on the edge play against Ballard was an error of omission – at least he was hustling. Crushing checks are a part of Bollig’s repertoire. Brandon was trying to make something happen out there in a game where many Hawks seemed to be dazed and confused for two periods. I refuse to throw him under the bus for that ill-advised play. There was plenty of room for scapegoats on the Hawk bench.

Another player who was thrown under the bus in post-game observations, was Patrick Kane. Keith Jones, whose commentary I almost always find agreeable, basically said Kane has done nothing the last two games. It was as if he was saying that Minnesota has figured out how to negate his flamboyant style. He mocked Kaner’s “Showtime ” comment after he scored a goal that only a handful of players in the NHL could execute in Game One. Mike Milbury and Liam McHugh also zeroed in on the “Showtime” comment. Two thoughts on that very irritating post game commentary… (and I’m praying Kaner saw a replay of it)

First off, I hope Patrick Kane never quits being Patrick Kane. He’s a passionate hockey player, quite different in mental composition than a player like Toews. Tazer sort of celebrates goals like it’s no big deal; like a ‘that’s what I’m paid to do’ mindset. Kaner has the unbridled enthusiasm of a horse like Secretariat. Taking that away from him would make Patrick a very dull boy.

He’s the Deion Sanders of hockey – sports need characters like that. Any of you out there recall Muhammad Ali proclaiming, “I am the greatest!” Boy my grandma hated him – although I found myself intrigued by his brashness. Is boxing any better since he relinquished the belt? “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” seems to be a pretty accurate description of Patrick Kane.

Secondly, do Jonesy or his associates have any doubts that Crazy 88’s could have a multiple point game any time he laces them up? Kaner is the quintessential “Danger, danger Will Robinson,” type hockey player. The type of player that put fans in the seats and often lifts them out of them. In over 50 years of watching the Hawks, I can only think of two or three players as exciting to watch as Kane. Minnesota could never have a more dangerous mindset than, “We’ve got #88 all figured out.” He’ll light them up like a torch, I guarantee it.

What was more irritating than the negative Kane comments was the uncontrollable praise for Matt Cooke. Gag me with a wooden spoon. Look, the nozzle extraordinaire made a nice drop pass, threw some checks and hustled his derriere off-I’ll give him that. However, you would have thought Cooke was all the sudden a bonafide candidate for the Conn Smythe trophy with all the praise the commentators were giving him. It seems they have totally forgotten he took the knee out of a promising young defenseman seven games ago on the Avalanche in their deification process.

Just to make sure we are all on the same page, the commentators after Game Four basically said, “Cooke good, Kane bad.” Is there any wonder the world is so messed up?

As we head into a crucial Game Five, I have a couple of thoughts on how to deal with the frayed nerves the playoffs can leave us all with. First off, the Hawks could do us all a favor on Mother’s Day by playing with a aim for the bushes mindset. Actually renting the movie, The Other Guys, will help you forget about the Hawks less than inspiring performances in Minnesota.

In the beginning of the movie Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson play two hotshot detectives who are giving chase to the bad guys. They are on top of about a four story building when they notice the villains running away on the ground. They look at each other and Dwayne Johnson’s character says, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking.” This statement was followed by the ill-advised admonition to “Aim for the bushes!”

Although that didn’t turn out to well for Jackson and Johnson, (The next scene shows them dead on the ground after they apparently missed the bushes), it is pretty much the attitude the Hawks need to return to the Stanley Cup Finals. Actually, “Aim for the Bushes,” beats the hell out of “One Goal,” in my book.

Secondly, after a fitful night of sleep I woke up around 5am Saturday morning and the classic hymn It Is Well With My Soul came to mind. The hymn was written by Horatio Spafford in 1873. He had suffered a series of economic disasters, (he lost most of his investments in The Great Chicago Fire in 1871), and a planned trip to Europe met with a horrible disaster. He sent his wife and four daughters ahead of him as he tried to sort out some business dealings related to the fire. The ship that carried his wife and daughters ran into another vessel and sank, killing his four daughters. He was notified of the tragedy by his wife’s famous telegram, “Saved Alone.”

Shortly after, as Spafford went to join his grieving wife, he wrote the hymn as he passed near the site of the collision. Simply put, the hymn is a treasure, sung robustly even by those of us who are tone deaf. My favorite verses, the ones that I sung silently as I grieved in bed Saturday morning are,

“When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.”

For Spafford, “the sky, not the grave, is our goal.” I don’t know why, but that song brought a sense of peace to me that transcended my worry and frustration after Game Fours dismal outcome. Losing hockey game pales in comparison to losing four daughters, eh?

Obviously, there will be times in a playoff series when sorrows like sea billows roll. All we can do is hope the Hawks play with an “aim for the bushes,” attitude on Sunday evening. Of course, it will be a lot better “with my soul,” if the Hawks win!


Rich Lindbloom

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