On Walls We Must Climb
“The people, they were singing
I could hear them from the street
My feelings, they were stinging
I was submerged in my defeat
But I smiled for a second
And for that second, I felt fine
Pain is a wall I must climb.” – Michael McDermott
By Rich Lindbloom
I wonder; do the players feel as much pain after a loss as their fans? Reading the various hockey blogs on Tuesday morning, pain and anger were on full display. Pain is described by Merriam -Webster as follows:
-The physical feeling caused by disease, injury, or something that hurts the body.
-mental or emotional suffering
-Someone or something that causes trouble or makes you feel annoyed or angry.
Then there’s the “My Left Foot Pain.”
The pain of hockey losses could probably best be described by a line from the movie My Left Foot. Christy Brown was with born cerebral palsy, yet he could control his left foot. He could write and paint with the appendage. He entered a school run by Dr. Eileen Cole for cerebral palsy patients, eventually falling in love with Dr. Cole. His heart is shattered when he discovers she is engaged. Like many a love sick soul, he goes into a deep and dark depression.
Christy’s mom is discussing the impact the pain is having on her son with her husband. The dad notes, “as long as he’s getting better physically,” to which she very tersely replies, “A broken body is nothing to a broken heart.” Truer words were never spoken.
Certainly, physical pain is not to be taken lightly, although it seems there are options to help mitigate its effect. Anyone who has played sports is undoubtedly familiar with the RICE method of dealing with bruises and contusions. A broken heart on the other hand is largely untreatable. An ice pack is quite useless against the broken hearts ravishing affects.
As I found myself “submerged in my defeat” on Monday night, listening to the mocking voices singing, “Corey, Corey,” I wallowed in a cesspool of fear, doubt, fate and pain. In a must win game in LA on Monday night, the Hawks appeared to be knocked to the canvas in the 2nd round of a 15 round bout. It was a classic example of Murphy’s first two laws;
1. Anything that can go wrong will.
2. And it will go wrong at the worst possible time.
For Blackhawk fans, it was as if our hearts were being ripped from our chests. It’s one thing to come out on the wrong end of a well played, hard fought game. However, what transpired in the first twenty minutes of Game Four seemed to heap a good dose of humiliation onto our battered souls. Apparently the hockey gods had decided to see how much pain Hawk fans cold endure. To be blunt, they decided to rub our nose in it.
When the Kings increased their lead to 4-0, it appeared that all was lost. Thoughts of turning the game off entered my mind; there is only so much a person can bear. Hopes of watching a well played game were replaced by hopes of at least seeing Justin Williams get punched in the face. Once the Kings got that big lead, the chances of scoring four goals against Jonathan Quick and the defensively minded Kings were basically non existent.
However, I’m a Hawk fan. As painful as the game was up to this point, turning the TV off was not an option. What’s that oath we take when we tie the knot – “through thick and thin?” Although, I did begin wondering if Coach Q would pull Corey. To his credit, Coach Q stuck with our beleaguered backstop. That shot of confidence could reap big dividends.
The first thing I do the morning after a Hawk’s game is head to the Malort of hockey blogs – Hockee Night, by their own admission, “The worst web site ever.” They have a feature called The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, where they concisely report what took place the night before. Often times, they offer Coach Q advice of how to improve his lineup, although it appears that Q stubbornly refuses to heed their sagacious advice.
Slaky did the wrap after Monday’s paddlin’. For the first time I can recall, he found nothing favorable to record in “The Good” category. If you look at the game from a glass is half empty viewpoint, finding glimmers of hope was a difficult task. Admittedly, I really had to put on my Beany’s thinking cap, but I was able to come up with a few bright spots.
First off, despite the lopsided score and considerable misfortune, the Hawks licked their wounds and battled like the warriors they are. The third period surge resulted in one of the best periods of hockey I’ve seen the Hawks play this year. They could have mailed it in, saving their energy for Game Five. Instead they clawed and scratched with an urgency of a team that was trying to keep their Stanley Cup hopes alive. They started to play like warriors who were going to come back “with their shields, or on it.”
Another bright spot, was perhaps Nick Leddy’s best game as a Blackhawk. He was third in ice time behind Keith and Kane at just over 21 minutes. (I just realized these three might be the best skaters on the Hawks) Leddy was physical and led many offensive rushes. This is just me thinking, but there are times I wonder what a Hjalmarsson/Leddy combo on the blue line would look like.
Another one of the “utes” on our team who was particularly noticeable was Brandon Saad. Saad had a sa-weet backhand that spoiled Quick’s shutout aspirations. It also seemed to breathe a little life into our downtrodden troops. In a military analogy, it was a bit like the Calvary finally arriving after our forces were hopelessly pinned down. For the next 26 minutes, the Hawks played with an intensity befitting of being called The Defending Stanley Cup Champions.
One last observation before getting to Game Five’s glorious result. In a seven game series, (hoping against hope on that “seven game” thing!), their are many little moments that contribute to a team advancing to the next stage. In Game Three, a 3-4 loss. Patrick Sharp tallied what many called a meaningless goal. It was scored with four seconds left, too little too late obviously. yet the Hawks again battled to the wire, exerting considerable pressure on the King’s burgeoning smugness.
Sharpie was also roundly criticized for his roughing penalty on Jarret Stoll. “A terrible offensive zone penalty,” said one announcer. “Losing his composure,” added another. I have a different take on the matter. I believe Stoll was holding Sharps stick at the time. If the refs aren’t going to call a penalty, than vigilante justice is all that’s left. Turning the other cheek is a great Biblical policy, but it doesn’t work to well in hockey.
Despite realizing the ramifications of the penalty with the Kings vaunted Power Play, I had no problem with Sharpie trying to knock a little sense into the King faceoff machine. By the way, the Kings finished 27th out of 30 teams in the NHL in PP % in the regular season at a 15.2% conversion rate. I think they are about 50% in this series! At any rate, I love watching Sharp play when he’s fired up. A ticked off Sharp is a positive in my book – more on that in my finishing thoughts.
There is no doubt there was a “darkness on the edge of town” as the Hawks entered the third period trailing a confidant King team, 3-4. Once again, the Hawks had squandered leads and things were looking dark in Mudville.
Nozzle extraordinaire, Justin Williams, actually skated by the Hawks bench saying, “A little too aggressive, a little too aggressive,” after Keith got caught up ice on, I believe, Gaborik’s marker. Perhaps Williams shouldn’t count his chickens before they’re hatched. While it’s still a steep uphill climb, shoving that quote down William’s throat would warm the cockles of my soul. Whatever the outcome, would one of the Hawks please punch that nozzle in the face?
Despite leaving it all out on the ice, the grim Reaper appeared to be sharpening his scythe. Then Special Agent Smith scored a fabulous goal off a great feed from The Saadfather. In a game where one would expect our prima-donna’s to carry us, isn’t it great to see some of the burgeoning young talent on the hawks come to the forefront. Ben Smith is like the gift that keeps on giving this season.
The picture of the cracked glass floor in the Sears Tower comes to mind when dwelling on the ramifications of Smith’s goal. I love how all the city officials said there “was no damage to the structural integrity,” of the shattered floor. Ha! How many city officials do you think would step out on that floor?
I’m hoping Smith’s and Jed Clampett’s OT winner have slightly damaged the structural integrity of the Kings defensive system. Perhaps losing Game Five has weakened their confidence, ever so slightly. If the Hawks emerge triumphant tonight, that structurally sound defense just might collapse under the weight of Blackhawk superiority!
Helping to expose some chinks in the structural integrity of the Kings, was the Saad/Shaw/Kane line. Simply put, they were irrepressible in Game Five, wreaking havoc in the Kings zone throughout the contest. Kane tallied four assists, and actually could have picked up another one on a beautiful feed to Saad. 88 had the puck along the right boards with a heathen from LA rapidly closing in on him. It seemed his only option was to hold the puck and take a hit or try and dump it in the corner.
Instead, in a split second, he feathered a perfect pass to Saad in the slot. Kane seems to possess that ability to know where everyone is on the ice, or where they are going to, at all times. That pass, even though Quick made a nice save on Brandon was one of the highlights of the game to me. Maybe three players in the league make that pass.
Another huge highlight was a play Marcus Kruger made that will never show up on any score sheet. It is the type of play that is absolutely necessary to advance in the playoffs. As usual with Kruger, it carried a great risk of personal harm.
Kruger was about at center ice trying to knock the puck towards the Kings zone. Jake Muzzin, who had zero concern for the puck, had Kruger lined up in is sights. Kruger saw him coming, but rather than brace himself for the hit, he chose to play the puck. As Jen at secondcityhockey.com noted, Frogger’s tombstone will most likely read, “Here lies Marcus Kruger; he took a hit to make a play.”
It’s hard to describe the up and down action in the 3rd and 4th periods. Perhaps Mike Milbury said it best. “That OT period was very fitting for two championship teams.” McHugh, Jonesy and Milbo, all seemed to be excited as a kid in a candy store when attempting to describe the break neck pace. As much as Jones and Milbury can annoy me at times, I find myself compelled to listen to their between period analysis. At any rate, both goalies weathered the storm – I believe Doughty hit the post on one rush – sending the game into a second OT.
The pace picked up right where it left off. After a nice faceoff win for Handzus, Kaner dropped a pass off to Saad. Two King players closed in on #20, and another one followed Kane towards the right corner for some reason, most likely because he is Patrick Kane and Sutter told him never to take his eye off him.
That allowed a huge gap in the middle of the LA zone to appear, and Zus turned on the after burners after Sadd’s perfect pass. (Thank God he didn’t lead him!) I think that boosted his speed to about 15mph, which was all Michal needed to skate in on Quick all alone. Quick went into his butterfly and Zus lifted a dagger like backhand, into the upper twine.
Watching the expression on Voynov’s face was priceless. It seemed to say, “Crap, we have to play Chicago again.” Good to see someone else suffering from pain and anguish for a change in this peculiar series.
Oddly, I’m sure no one had Handzus penciled in to score the game winner in this frenetically paced game. Perhaps this is a sign we are turning the corner. In my warped mind, I think we’ve been on the short end of the stick as far as bounces and breaks go. (Sort of just the opposite of the Blues and Wild series.) We’d could use a little good fortune, eh? I’d like to say we’ve got the short end of the refereeing also, but that’s about as useful as complaining about the weather in Chicago.
As we head into tonight’s game, I’m reminded of what it will take to force a Game Seven. I played football for St. Anne’s grade school in 8th grade. My good friend Greg, was our tackle – a double striper for those of you who played CYO. Greg reminds me a lot of Bickell. Bick’s has the ability to “end” you, but he seems to be a nice guy at times. (think anti-Shaw).
At any rate, Greg was getting beat on his side by one of the second team defensive players, and Father Nolan wasn’t too happy about that. He walked up to Greg, punched him in the stomach and told him to go on defense. Needless to say, that got Greg’s Irish up and he made the next three tackle’s in our backfield! I’ll never forget the wry smile on Father Nolan’s face as he said, “I’ve got Brown pretty riled up now.”
The Hawk’s have to play with that mindset tonight. I personally have no problem with Sharpie ripping another helmet off it cranks him up a notch. They’ll be time for shaking hands on Sunday. We need a “we will bury you” mindset. We also have to play on the edge – be willing to make plays like Kruger’s where injury is a very likely possibility – avoiding contact is the surest way to exit the playoffs. No stick checks please.
If the effort of Wednesday’s game is put forth, I like our chances. In fact, even if the Hawks had lost Game Five, the effort they put forth was enough to say at least we went down swinging. Instead – well the puck drops in about three hours. Winning three games in a row from a very good King’s team is undoubtedly a very steep wall to climb. As my friend skip used to say though, “No hill for a climber!” Or as Tom O’C once put it, “We have rope don’t we?”
With your shields, or on them Hawks.
Player of Game Five – Jed Handzus
“Granny, let’s load up the truck and move to LA – swimming pools, movie stars.”
Other important stuff:
What the hell is a split infinitive?
Is Doughty the reincarnation of Bobby Orr? I know that would be hard to do since #4 still is breathing last time I checked. I also know not many Hawk fans are breathing when Doughty heads up ice with a head of steam.
Quenneville, Kitchen and Kompon gave each other one of the best coaches’ hugs I’ve ever seen. Just like little kids.
Someone wrote that the Hawks had too much pride to shake hands with the Kings in the United Center. Personally, if they are to lose this series, it would be best to do it in front of their own fans. This Hawk team deserves a standing -O, regardless of the outcome. I always get goose bumps when the home team bows out, yet their fans send them off with a deserving pat on the back.
I’m not penciled in to Coach Q’s line-up tonight; so why am I getting butterflies in my stomach? That just may be remedied by a few Three Floyd’s Zombie dust.
A big stick-tap to the crowd at the United Center on Wednesday. You guys rocked the joint. Hope you get another chance on Sunday.
Game Five did a lot to heal our broken hearts Hawks. I’m convinced the Kings structural integrity has been compromised. Now make us whole!
By the way, I’m putting a bounty on Williams. Any Hawk who punches him in the face will be treated to a steak dinner at Ruth Chris.