Sailing Off To Distant Shores
“I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harms way.” – John Paul Jones
By Rich Lindbloom
For those of you who need a brush up on US history, John Paul Jones was referred to as The Father of the U S Navy. You may recognize a quote of his I read on Wikipedia that is perhaps a bit more memorable;
“During his engagement with HMS Serapis, Jones uttered, according to the later recollection of his first lieutenant, the legendary reply to a taunt about surrender from the British captain: “Surrender, HELL, I have not yet begun to fight!”
This recollection of John Paul Jones was brought about while waiting in the lobby of a customer I was calling upon recently. I found myself intently gazing at a huge painting of a frigate navigating high winds and treacherous seas. The thought of the exciting, yet obviously quite harrowing, occupation of the sailors on board crossed my mind. There was a UPS man in the lobby at the same time and I asked him, “What do you think? Would you rather be what we’re doing, or what those men on the boat were doing for a living?”
He gave me a smile, momentarily gazing a little deeper into the magnificent piece of art. Neither one of us could make up our minds – substituting a life of relative comfort in lieu of the adventures one encounters on the high seas. Truthfully, when the rubber meets the road, most of us sail away from “harms way.” We drift about in a sea of mundaneness, full sail taking a back seat to the safety of a harbor. “My life, my love and my lady,” is seldom the high sea.
The Blackhawks, have set sail (Ok, ok so they flew – sue me.), for the west side of North America. Up until this juncture, they seem to have been buffeted about like a “ship ain’t got no sail.” Yes all you young hockey players out there, the dreaded Circus Trip is upon us. This has always been what is known as sailing onto “harms way,” for the Hawks.
It wasn’t that long ago that Hawk fans would pray and hope we could at least come out with a .500 record on this often times tortuous trip in November. Remember the recent 0 for Alberta fiasco; or Sam Gagner’s 8 points in one game? How about the infamous trip to the Roxy in Vancouver where Kaner told Brandy his sailor stories?
Although there has been some smooth sailing as of late, it’s not like the Hawks are strolling into Calgary tonight with a full head of steam. The Hawks have posted a 5-5 record in their last 10 games, despite winning 3 out of their last 4 games. The high powered Blackhawk shot generating machine was blanked in two of those contests – this always leaves one a bit more disgruntled as we head for the warmth of our beds. (Just a thought, but do you think the men on John Paul Jones’ ship had adjustable mattresses with sleep numbers?)
I think it’s safe to say most of us feel a bit queasy heading into this very important six game road trip. A sort of “red sky in the morning, sailor take warning” feeling. Jen LC, the guru of Blackhawk statistical analysis nailed the Hawk’s woes in a recent piece posted at The Committed Indian blog-site. It was entitled “Chicago’s Problem: Shooting Percentage.” Below is a picture of Jen after spending all night in the galley crunching numbers;
“must get puck on net, must get puck on net…”
Oddly, when contemplating the Hawks listless start thus far this season, I came to the same conclusion as Jen through eye test observations alone. It never ceases to amaze me how many goals glance off, or are an inch from the post when the lamp is lit in the NHL. Although it’s been tried many times, to my knowledge, no on has ever scored a goal by blasting a shot into the goalies midriff. I’m pretty sure NHL goalies have pretty impressive six packs. As Jen pointed out with a number of really beautiful, colorful graphs, the shooting percentage is overdue for a correction.
Although the Hawks still lead the shots on goal in the NHL by a wide margin at a 37.9 clip, it might be time to batten down the hatches. Too many brain farts have led to costly turn overs, especially in the center of the ice. (Steeger, Bicks! What were you thinking? Sitting out huge portions of the game after the mistakes was a light punishment; you would have been flogged by John Paul Jones)
My friend Jerry is a huge proponent of the take care of your own end first philosophy of coaching, I recall him telling me about a time they were in a playoff game in a men’s league and only had 7 skaters in front of the brick wall known as “Ears.” The strategy was to play defense first, basically, get the damn puck out of our zone. No cherry pickers!
They ended up winning the game by a score of 6-2. On this road trip especially, it’s time to take a Archie Bell and The Drells approach; “Do the Tighten Up.”
One very positive note as we head into tonight’s game is Coach Q’s line changes. Here, as of Wednesday’s practice, are what they look like:
23/91/88 (my pick to click)
29/65/13 (The knucklehead line)
11/16/28 (this would be an incredible line if Q let them hoist the sails)
I was hoping we’d get a chance to see John’s making his NHL debut, but it appears Rozsival and Rundblad will be our third pairing – pass the dramamine!
As I think back upon that picture in the office I visited, I’ve come to the conclusion that sailing is not for everyone. I have a friend who has a 40 foot Carver that he has on Lake Michigan. A group of about 12 of us went from Burns Harbor in Indiana to Chicago to watch the fireworks one Friday night. We encountered 8 foot waves, making the crossing a bit disconcerting. A lot queasier than hoping your goalie can stop Stamkos in a shoot out!
Mike told everyone, stay on top of the boat. He advised everyone that they’d get sick if they sought the relative comfort of the galley below. One of my friends sought out the lower quarters though – big mistake. Let’s just say no one was able to use the bathroom the rest of the night. His cookies were splattered all over it.
When we reached Navy Pier, he gave the car keys to his wife, and said I’m taking the train back to Mokena. Mark, diametrically opposed to John Paul Jones, had enough that evening. I’m not sure he’s been on a boat since!
Hopefully our men of four feathers will have a “I have not yet begun to fight,” attitude as they sail to the ports in Western Canada. I doubt that Andrew Shaw’s beat down of nozzle extraordinaire, Antoine Roussel, had a big impact on the game. The fact that Kaner acknowledged his effort makes me wonder. Clearly, Chicken Hawk would have been welcomed aboard John Paul Jones vessel.
What’s it going to take to emerge with a 4-2 record on the West Coast swing? Sailing into harm’s way is a good start. And stay out of the damn Roxy.
Other important stuff:
Did you notice the referee in the Lightning contest after he blocked Keith’s clearing attempt that led to the Lightning’s second goal? Normally the ref’s emphatically point to the net when a goal is scored. The embarrassed zebra (what’s red and black and white all over) not only did not skate up to the net, he took a few seconds to point at it. It was almost as if he wanted to say “No goal.” I couldn’t help but like the guy at that point.
In Marks defense when he decided the sea was not for him, we had brought about two cases of beer for the evening along with us – provisions you might say. No one had more than one beer the entire night!
As inadequate as the Hawks record is right now, can you imagine where the Hawks would be without the stellar play of their net minders?
Get well TVR; and Sharpie – we could use a sharp shooter. (I kill myself at times)
Congrats to Pat Foley – my favorite Foley-ism – “Niemi Says No!”