“What counts in sports is not victory, but the magnificence of the struggle.” – Joe Paterno
By Rich Lindbloom
Is there a more magnificent struggle in sports than Game Seven in a NHL playoff series? Is the thrill of victory, or the agony of defeat ever more clearly defined?
The intensity, danger and will to survive reminded me of the 1979 movie The Warriors. The Cliff Note’s version of the movie is a gang called The Warriors gets stuck on the wrong side of town and has to pass through a lot of enemy turf to make it back to Coney Island. They have run ins with the Turnbull AC’s, The Orphans, the police, the Baseball Furies, the all-female gang called The Lizzies not sure if they were Thin or not, The Punks, all the while trying to dodge some very pissed off Riffs. As the female DJ who is tracking their progress through the “city streets that aren’t so pretty” notes, “Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.” A quick glance at the picture above will give you a good idea of their struggle blending, as they tried to make their way back to safety. I’m pretty sure the dude on the left with the hat and the bat is not looking for a baseball game. I think his name was Vermin’.
It all starts when Cyrus, the leader of the most powerful gang in the city, The Riffs, calls a meeting of all the gangs in New York. The idea was to call a truce that would enable the gangs to control the city. A punk named Luther, leader of The Rogues, shoots Cyrus and then frames the Warriors.
“Waaaariors come out to plaaaaay.”
If you’re a Hawk fan, it’s fairly easy to imagine Ryan Kesler portraying Luther’s character. Obviously if you’re a Duck supporter, you could easily imagine Patrick Kane playing the role. I had to laugh when Milbury stated, “I’d hate to play against Kane. He’d make you look bad and laugh at you while he’s doing it.” David Kelly did a great job cast in the antagonist role, making you hate him as much as Prince Joffrey in Game of Thrones. Like Luther, Kesler appears to be losing his mind. Did he really think he could get away tripping Corey Crawford? Wouldn’t you just love to see Bickell send #17 into orbit?
Tomorrow night we will finally discover which group of warriors in the Western Conference Finals will advance in pursuit of Lord Stanley’s Cup. Both gangs, errr, I mean teams have survived six scintillating skirmishes. Finally, there is “nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.” The Warriors movie ends with the Warriors squaring off against the Rogues on the Coney Island beach. While Game Seven between the righteous Hawks and evil Ducks is not exactly taking place on a beach, it’s close enough for hand grenades – after all, Huntington beach, also known as “Surf City USA, is only 25 minutes away.
Regardless of the outcome of Game Seven, the true winner will be hockey fans throughout the world. When the fellows line up for the handshake Saturday night, (geez, I hope it’s not early Sunday morning!), I think, like The Warriors, they’ll be looked at more as survivors, than winners or losers. Like the Ranger/Bolt’s Series, the action has been furious, the physicality ferocious, the goal tending precocious and the reffing atrocious. Just kidding of the reffing. I was once again screaming at the refs through two periods in Game Six. I finally realized that this was a Conference Final, and other than a beheading, the Refs had put their whistles in their pockets. From a Blackhawk fans perspective, it seems the Duck thugs have been given a license to cross check Hawk players in the numbers whenever they felt compelled to do so.
I don’t know if it’s the way it’s supposed to be, but in playoff hockey it’s pretty much the way it is. Let the warriors on the ice determine the outcome, eh? It seemed like it didn’t take long for players on both sides to realize there were basically no rules in the third period of Game Six! The playing “fair and square” philosophy goes out the window with the baby and the bath water. Somewhere Don Cherry is smiling.
The protagonist of The Warriors movie was a cat named Swan. When Cleon, The Warriors chief, was beat down by the Riffs immediately after Cyrus is shot, the Warriors “war chief” takes over leadership of the gang. I suppose if you’re a Ducks fan, Getzlaf would be your Swan. Toews would be the most logical choice for the Hawks, although he would have intense competition from #2, Duncan “Norris” Keith. If Duncan ever is looking for employment when his hockey days are over, he would probably make a good Sherpa in the Himalaya’s. As Coach Q noted, “Well he’s kind of a freak as far as his metabolism and conditioning level.”
Keith’s conditioning reminds me of my friend Tom. We used to backpack out west in Montana quite a bit in our younger days. I guess you might say Montana Bob was our “Swan,” although there was more than one time we questioned MB’s leadership. (The Saga of the South Fork, where four of us almost perished comes to mind.) Duncan Keith reminds me of Tom a lot though – sort of get on my back, I’ll carry you mind set. When you’re backpacking, it always helps to have one guy who wants to prove his manliness by carrying twice the weight of everyone else. (If I’m not mistaken, Montana Bob’s pack was always the lightest, despite carrying a few days supply of vodka for the explorers.) Tom was the guy you could say, “I’ll bet you can’t carry the food, cooking gear, tent, binoculars, inflatable raft and poop shovel Tom,” and he’d rise to the challenge. To make a long story short, I’m pretty sure Duncan Keith would be a good back packing partner.
He had a Game Six that many Hawk fans will not soon forget. What has always amazed me about Keith is how close he can mark the fleet footed forwards on the opposition. Contrast Timonen and Keith for a moment; and this is in no way trying to demean Kimmo and his fabulous career. However, currently, Kimmo has to give up way to much space in order not to get passed by the jack rabbit’s that populate the NHL. While not necessarily the “Triceratops hockey,” that Milbury noted in his post-game comments when contrasting hockey in his day compared to now, Timonen has slowed down a step or two. Keith can literally get in the opposition’s jock strap, giving those knuckleheads very little time to make an intelligent decision with the puck. As my basketball coach used to say, “They can’t go anywhere without their jock trap.”
I think it was Eddy Olczyk who compared Keith to the Rangers Brian Leetch or Boston’s Ray Bourque on Thursday in an interview. In hockey parlance, that is what is known as rarefied ground. Kind of like when God told Moses, “Take off your sandals, you’re standing on holy ground.” I think it was Milbury who said after his Game Six performance that Keith is the best defenseman in the NHL. Now we all know Milbo can get a little carried away with his comments, but I can’t help but feel he was spot on with that one.
Chris Kober, who writes excellent, mostly unbiased(!), recaps for the Anaheim Calling web site, noted on Hossa’s goal, “The entire play was made by Keith, who had the puck for an eternity just outside the circles. He faked shooting twice, froze every Duck on the ice, including Frederik Andersen, who committed, came out to challenge and Keith passed to Hossa open in the slot with a wide open net to shoot at. 2-0 Hawks.” I’m sure I was not the only Hawk fan hollering at my TV set, “Shoot the puck!” While Keith pump faked like the former Chicago Bull great, Chet “The Jet” Walker, It was as if all the Duck players were singing, “I don’t want him, you can have him, he’s too fat for me.” Another commentator said Keith’s fakes momentarily froze time. He had enough time to go back to the restaurant and find his lost credit card. Hopefully the dork in that commercial did not ask Keith to dance.
Personally, I believe Duncan Keith is the MVP of the Blackhawks. Take him out of the lineup and we quickly become another also ran. When they do an autopsy some day on the Duncster, I think they’ll find he has a heart like Secretariats. When they did an autopsy on “Big Red,” they discovered he had a heart that was three times the normal size. I like what Harold Snepsts said one time when nursing some sort of physical ailment; “Aw don’t worry Doc. If it happens I could always come back as a forward.”
Speaking of forwards, Coach Q resorted to his powerful trump car in Game Six, otherwise known as “The Nuclear Option.” I think Fifth Feather from the Committed Indian blog site was the first one to coin that term. Of course we’re speaking of placing Kaner on Tazer’s right wing. In the gasoline world, Sadd/Toews/Kane is what is known as high octane. Kaner’s nifty little touch pass at center ice to Baby Hoss, clearly made something out of nothing. Saad could have driven a Ford F-150 through Andersen’s five-hole on that goal.
Matt Belesky, the hero of Game Five, was abused like a red headed step child on a lethal, knee crumpling move by Crazy 88’s on the Hawks third marker of the second period. Maybe there’s some truth to David Bowie’s song, “We could be hero’s, just for one day.
Belesky at his 2nd b-day party
The move was so sick, when Belleskey realized he had been duped, he couldn’t even whack Kaner with his stick; although he did give it the old college try. Memories of Elmer Fudd saying, “Which way did he go which way did he go,” came to mind. Is there anything more annoying for teams fan bases in the NHL than watching Luther, errr I mean Kaner, conjure up some black magic? Kane reminds me of a set up in chess known as the Fianchetto, (literally, “little flank.”) In this system of attack, the bishop is moved to g2 or b2, many times with a knight hiding his deadly position. The bishop lurks silently until a critical juncture of the match when the knight goes a wandering. All of the sudden, the rogue bishop controls the longest diagonal on the board. It’s an “oops, I didn’t see that move,” for many an amateur chess players. As Milbury might say, “He’ll take your queen and laugh at you while he’s doing it.”
It looked like this game could get out of hand before Patrick Maroon magnificently redirected a Cam Fowler shot from the point. As a Hawk fan, personally I’m tired of looking at Maroon’s black beard. While the hawk fans were still breathing after two periods, I know I wasn’t the only one praying we’d score the next goal in the Windy City. (On a side note, when the Hawks went up 3-0, I texted some friends and said the refs would be calling a penalty on the Hawks the first chance they get. Lo and Behold, Brad Richards was sent off to the box of shame moments later. I do know hockey. It was a penalty, but it would not have been called in the third period. It was as if the zebras wanted to keep this game from getting out of hand.)
Then the intense, nerve wracking, seemingly endless, furious, we’re going down swinging, third period began…
Again in Kober’s words. “The comeback was actually on, early when a goal came from the most unlikely of unlikely sources…. Clayton F***ING Stoner! Just 1:57 into the third, Stoner unleashed a point shot that went in off the pipe (hehe, Stoner off the pipe). Before you go looking for four horsemen etc., he had assistance from Jakob Silfverberg across the crease and clearly interfering with Crawford’s glove hand, which would have snared the puck easily. 3-2 Hawks.
In my mind, Silfverberg -the v is silent which clearly makes it superfluous – did not intentionally interfere with Cor-dawg. If it had been Perry or as Kes-Lord as he was known as a Canuck, I would have been screaming bloody murder. Silfverberg had his back to Corey and was a good foot outside the blue paint. At any rate, it was a one goal game with 18:03 left to play. Katie bar the door!
The Ducks seemed to be on the attack, aside from a few dangerous counter punches by the Hawks, for the entirety of the 3rd period. I almost got up and took the dogs for a walk after Stoner’s dagger. A hockey fan can only take so much. If you turned the TV off or fell asleep at this juncture, you probably added a few years to your life. I think I spent a good portion of the last ten minutes saying, “That was a penalty, that was a penalty, that was a penalty…” and trust me, it went both ways. Oduya actually got away with a massive trip at one point.
The Andrew sisters, Shaw and Desjardins, combined for one of the prettiest Blackhawk goals of the season. It is always such a treat to see your fourth liners strike pay dirt. Desjardins made an incredible pass to Chicken Hawk, who was flying like a bat out of hell down the slot, with Getzlaf the Merciless breathing down his neck. Somehow Shaw kept the puck away from the Anaheim captain, and dented the twine with a wicked backhander, while skating at a break neck speed, slamming the breaks on so he didn’t run into Andersen and chewing bubble gum at the same time. Desjardins worked a clever give and go with Shaw that sealed the Ducks fate when Andrew made his second deposit of the game into the Ducks abandoned net.
Of course, that leads us to tonight’s affair in Anaheim. I checked ticket prices, just for the hell of it, and seats in my domain – the upper reaches – were going for about $160.00. A friend at work who was dead serious said, “Let’s go.” I’m assuming there will be a few red sweaters in the Honda Center tonight. In New York by contrast, those seats were going for $650/seat, $2,500 for the 100 section type seats. Geeez, I hope this doesn’t give McDonough any ideas.
At any rate, two groups of Warriors will battle it out tonight, for at least 60 minutes. Both teams deserve to win; neither will have to hang their heads down in shame if they fail – it’s been that great a series. Something tells me faceoffs will play a huge part in the outcome of this game. I doubt Toews wins 83% of his draws when he has to put his stick down on the ice first. Richards was 56%, Vermette 67% and Kruger 70% in Game Six. By contrast, Kesler was only 23%. Clearly, all center men have fared better at home at the face off dot. Bear down Hawk centermen, the fate of the free world lies on your shoulders. I asked a few friends, who actually know what they are talking about when it comes to hockey, if the home centerman has an advantage at the dot. Mike McP’s one word answer unnerved me quite a bit, “Huge.”
It’s no doubt this is one of the “hugest” games for the Hawks in the Toews/Keith/Seabrook/Kane tenure over the last 8 years. I still say the Hawks Renaissance started with Keith and Seabrook. I like the Warriors who don the Indian Head on their chests chances tonight. At 7pm tonight the Jets and the Sharks, err I mean the Hawks and Ducks, will finally put an end to this gang fight. Cut em with your blade, Patrick! Hopefully we’ll here Kesler screaming “noooooooo,” like Luther did when the Riffs finally took care of business on that Coney Island beach. Wouldn’t it be great to see the Hawks walking into the sunrise as the Warriors did at the end of the movie? I think so, and that’s why I wrote this.
In closing, I finally mellowed out before Game Six. I told some friends, “I can’t lose tonight. If we win I’ll be ecstatic. If we lose I’ll be relieved.” I don’t know how many more times I can watch Duncan Keith swipe a puck away inches before it goes over the goal line. To walk the dogs, or watch the game tonight. That is the question. I’m leaving you with my favorite Joe Walsh and the Barnstormers songs. It’s not In the City, which the DJ salutes the Warriors with after the manhunt is called off. Actually it’s an upbeat, happy song. A song that might bring a smile too the nerve frayed fan both sides of the fence, regardless of the outcome.
“Then something happens, seems to go bad
Cancel the feeling and look towards the sky
No need to worry bout consequences
Give it a giggle instead of a sigh..” – Zoloth/Passarelli
Other Important Stuff:
After being somewhat of the goat in Game Six, Bryan Bickell got the ball rolling on his first shift with three hits, two of them of the thunderous variety.
Although the Hawks were outshot 10-6 in the first period, it seemed like we had the more lethal chances. Remember Toews and Sadd’s two on O? We had a lot of shots blocked, or just miss the posts.
Duncan Keith’s post-game comments when asked if he was looking to forward to two days off caught even me by surprise. “I think we’d all be ready to go tomorrow if need be.” I think Doc Emerick, who did a fantabulous job on the play by play, said he needed two days off after calling the game!
I really like listening to Milbury and Jonesy’s commentary. Certainly, you’re never going to agree with everything they say, but they add a lot of color to the broadcast. Milbo wears his emotions on his sleeves – almost borderline Don Cherry at times. Jonesy appears to be the brighter of the two, measuring his remarks a bit more so as not to show too much favoritism. Both of them seemed giddy as a goose that the Hawks vs. Quacks was going to a Game Seven.
Ryan Getzlaf had a pass with about three minutes to go that reminded me of Earl “The Pearl” Monroe. It looked like I think Hjalmarsson had him pretty tied up when he slid a pass between his legs, past Hjalmarsson, into the Hawks crease. He made something out of nothing on that play as Crawford was forced to make a save on Maroon who got good lumber on the attempt. As Jackie Gleason would put it, “A humna, humna, humna!”
Lin Bremer from WXRT told a story of a friend of his who was up in Wisconsin looking for a place to watch the game. He asked a waitress who said, “it’s on over there by the guy with the Toes sweatshirt on.” I’m pretty sure she was a Packer fan!
A few of the names of the other Warriors – Vermin, Cochise, Rembrandt, Ajax, Snow and Cowboy.
I tired wearing the same outfit I had on during Game Four for Game Five. It was in the hamper, but relatively clean. I did smell the armpits as we were heading to the Blockers to watch the game and I didn’t want to stink. As it turned out, the good luck factor didn’t work out and apparently what I wear to watch the game has zero impact on the outcome!
This Bobby Clarke quote reminds me of the Ducks; “We take the shortest route to the puck and arrive in ill humor.”
Once you’re a Hawk fan, you’re a Hawk fan for life.
“Let’s go Big Red. I’m tired of getting mud kicked in my face.” – Ron Turcotte