Friday, June 11, 2010

Chicago


An excellent playoffs and an excellent year for hockey all around as long as we don't think about YOUR EDMONTON OILERSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!

Of course we had the Olympics and that was such a wonderful tournament, terrific hockey, and Canada winning it all, ending our best on best losing streak at one. The team struggling early, the revelation that was Duncan Keith, the Toews/Richards/Nash line, the destruction of the Russians, never seen before, the near disaster against the Slovaks (and the overall run that the Slovaks had) and then the final against the young Americans, victory snatched away at the end of regulation and then IGGY! and Crosby Crosbies the Crosby with strong muscular thighs and proven leadership abilities and Pierre Maguire stark naked fully erect as well as all of us, lets be honest.

!!!
As for the playoffs well the hockey was very very good and so were the storylines. I ended up nine and six in the prediction department and it was in the east where I fell flat. I figured Detroit to beat the Sharks and that did not happen but other than that I was golden in the west. Out East though, well Jesus. Here was a conference where I figured, like the West, that the gap between the top seeds and the lower ones was a fair bit. Instead the six, seven and eight went through. Then Montreal beat the Pens and the Flyers got healthy just as Boston's injuries did them in and so the end result was a seven and an eight out east. Crazy crazy shit out east. One of those years.

Very satisfying in the end though and not just because Chicago ended their long drought or because of my past ties to them although I have to admit I cannot remember a Stanley Cup result more pleasing to me. Watching Wednesday night and Jenn and a couple of friends were here, having just polished off a couple of bottles of red and Kane shot and suddenly his arms were in the air and as soon as I saw that I shouted "Its in! Its in! They've won! They've won!" and then watched the celebration afterwards which I always really enjoy. Actually my wife joined me and pointed out that Sopel's wife was wearing sweat pants and heels and then we both laughed at Keith and his hobospeak. Right down to the slurring lisp. And then because I had it PVR'd we had drunken couch sex while Keith was interviewed in the background. When it was over I remarked that this was the Canadian dream, Stanley Cup celebrations, wine and beer, sex. She said it wasn't her dream and I said that I wasn't talking about her. And then I stayed up until 2:30 in the morning drinking and basically killed the rest of my week. Seriously though I will remember that night forever. Great great night.

The Hawks were the best team in the league this year by my eye and yet their path to the Cup proved that regardless of how good you are or how deep you are its a long and perilous road. Against Nashville they looked nervous to me and Keith really looked off. Kane was Kane. Kid gives back a lot but in terms of offence he has a flair for the dramatic and that shortie against Nashville to tie it with only seconds left was probably what got them rolling. That and the return of Campbell. Campbell is one of those guys who is a good player who will forever be overshadowed by that contract. His return to form allowed them to move Byfuglien up and gave them a top four Dman basically. Big addition. After that they didn't seem in danger to me against the Preds and they deserved to beat the Canucks. Superior depth again.

The Sharks' series was closer than a sweep but then again so was the Sharks' sweep of the Wings. Niemi was the difference, he and the superior depth of the Hawks again. Put it this way, no other club would have scratched a twenty two goal scorer or shunted him to the fourth line as the Hawks did with Brouwer. Pretty crazy shit. And a guy like Colin Fraser who I rate pretty well based on admittedly limited viewing didn't even get on the ice.

Philadelphia did better than I thought and really they could have been up four games in (although a Hawks' win in OT in game three would have finished it early). Pronger did what Pronger does. Buddy is one of the alltime greats. He's vicious and he's a prick and so have been so many of the greats through the years - from Eddie Shore through Howe and Lindsay and Mikita in his younger days and all the way through Bobby Clarke and Messier and Anderson and Chelios and all the rest. We had him on our side and we saw what he could do and he did it again this year until Quenneville came up with his stroke of genius and split up his top line.

And that is where the Hawks had it won. The Flyers could shuffle their lines to try and get guys going but when you have Asham in your top nine and a kid like Giroux who showed well at home but disappeared in Chicago and Carter playing on a broken foot well your options are limited. If Leino and Hartnell had not caught fire this sucker probably would have never have been close. Hawks were five deep on the back end and then threw Boynton out there who proved to be reliable when called upon.

And up front they were just too much. Hossa and Toews could drag Kopecky around just as Smyth and Horcoff drug around Winchester and Harvey whilst playing the toughs four years ago (and seriously based on that should Lowe not have signed Smyth, the dummy, Lowe that is) and when they were out there the puck was in Philly's end pretty well steady and while they got scored on by the Briere line a couple of times they made them play defence and when they were playing D they couldn't get close to Niemi. And that left Sharp and Kane to do some damage and Bolland and Byfuglien and Vertseeg to do some more and in the end that killed the Flyers. Line after line over the boards, chipping it past the Flyer D, making them turn and work and Pronger and Timmonen and Carle and Coburn all had tough games those last two outings. Same as everyone else Chicago faced though.

Of course the shitty goaltending didn't help. Niemi was no hell games one through four either but Leighton was out and out bad a number of times and in game six Niemi was stellar in the third. He was very good those first three rounds and I figured that if he could have one very good game that would do it for Chicago once they won game five and he came back next game and did it for them.

And so now Chicago celebrates and its a wonderful thing to see and then Stan Bowman will have to do something (seriously did he make a single move after Tallon got canned?). Well he will have to do a lot of things. With the bonuses that Kane and Toews earned this club is even in deeper shit than before.

Still the favourite though. Lidstrom is a year older and the Sharks have some choices to make themselves and the Hawks themselves are likely to be better next year, the ones who remain. You would think so anyhow, they're still mostly a bunch of kids. What is going to happen to them is what happened to Detroit more than what happened to the Pens. The Pens lost some pretty good players and ended up with a couple of superstars and a lot of average players. The Wings meanwhile have had their depth eaten at for years, slowly but surely, and this is what is about to happen to the Hawks. If they stay healthy next spring they will be the team to beat again but they won't have a guy with twenty two goals on the fourth line or a handy veteran like Madden to PK and act as the insurance guy on draws.

They'll bury Huet and they'll move heaven and earth to move Campbell and if they succeed there then they'll be set. If they can't move Campbell well then it will be Sopel and either Versteeg or Byfuglien who get the gate, probably Ladd too. I'd move Byfuglein myself but my guess is it will be Versteeg.

So they will be thinner up front but running out a forward group of Toews, Hossa, Sharp, Kane, Bolland, Versteeg, Brouwer, Kopecky in their top nine plus the role players they have, well they could throw a kid out there and then bring in cheap help at the deadline if need be.

Nice looking club still I think. And if they can move Campbell well then they'll be set for a few years.

I think.

The guy they HAVE to sign is Niklas Hjalmarsson. If Smid could turn into that guy that would be a start.

And of course if you're a Hawks fan it doesn't matter anyhow. I talked to my Dad last night and I could hear him beaming through the phone. They were due he kept saying, they were due.

I actually made a mistake before, I thought my folks had gotten married in April of '61 but it was actually '62. Consider though for my Dad what happened since Mikita and Hull and the rest won back in 1961. He was twenty eight, not yet married. His son was six years away from being born.

Now he's been married forty eight years. He worked over thirty years for a company in between those Cups, started, worked his way up, retired. His son is forty two and has three children of his own. His parents passed on as did his brother and some very good friends. He bought a house and a camp and he travelled across Canada and a good part of the United States. Like anyone, like you, like me, he has a million stories. A rich rich life full of them.

Could you imagine? That's crazy. No wonder Chicago has been partying like its Nineteen Ninety Nine.

Check out those fuckers!! Whoo, gotta love the 80s. Headbands and doctors' shirts and eyeshadow and purple sparkly shit everywhere. Whoo whoo whoo!!! Whoo!

Okay so I'm a little overtired. I'll leave you with this though. This is from just before the last Hawks' win. And its apropos because Hawks fans also had not seen the sunshine in oh so long.

And finally this cool little interview from SI with two of the all time greats.

11 comments:

Scott Reynolds said...

Good stuff Pat. You know, I was trolling around in some old basement stuff and found a booklet from a team I played on at at nine years old and, apparently, my favourite team then was the Chicago Blackhawks. Now, I really don't remember that ever happening and this thing was written in the fall of 1992 so I'm thinking that it must have just been rebellion against my folks for not taking me to the playoff games the year before and then rejoicing in their pain when the Hawks swept them in four. What a little jerk, eh?

Anyway, I agree with you on the Hawks, they'll still be good. Every contract is moveable in this league for a price so I've got to think that Huet and Campbell are either off to the minors or off to new teams. I don't know if just those two are enough to keep the rest of the crew together, but if not they can send away a forward or two for real value and still be doing plenty good. The funny thing about winning is that I imagine you'll start to see the winner's discount come into play and a guys like Madden are suddenly one or two million cheaper. They might even be able to rebuild some of that depth on the cheap, though any new money should really go into the back end as far as I'm concerned. I'm not sold on the Swede as the anchor for the second pairing which means the most pressing need is a strong 3, probably in the 3M range so long as they move Sopel along with those other two big money guys. I'm kind of hoping for Willie Mitchell just for the teeth-gnashing here in Vancouver. The little jerk still hasn't grown up.

speeds said...

I've been on a bit of a Prince run lately, that's awesome.

"Life is a just a party, and parties weren't meant to last."

Great line.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that SI interview link, that was fantastic.
While not a big fan of Kane, I was rooting for the Hawks too. I did like his whoop-jump after the game winner when I think only he and Sharp were the only ones who were sure it was a goal. I loved Niemi's reaction as Kane jumped him.
Flyers did make it close, but it was satisfying to see the Hawks win it; they hit their window.

Black Dog said...

Thanks Anon - yeah I think that was a pretty cool article. Hard to believe that this may have been Chicago's best chance. Frigging cap. And this comes from someone who beleives in the cap too. Just crazy that a club gets one or two years and then that's it.

Although I do think that if they make the right moves they will be back next year.

Black Dog said...

Good stuff Scott you little jerk. ;)

Campbell is the key really. I guess they will bury Huet but that Campbell contract is the albatross. If they can get rid of it then they will be just fine as then they can chop here and there when needed. One guy next year, one the year after that. They can move a top nine forward this year already seeing as they have Brouwer, imo.

I like the Swede, at the very least he's a solid solid 4. He had that one game where he kind of kakked it up but overall considering he just turned 23 I think he's pretty good.

Speeds - Prince gets kind of forgotten but your man was a great great talent.

Bruce said...

Thanks for the link to that outstanding SI article. I particularly enjoyed the embedded video, I had never seen any footage from that '61 series and that was a very decent clip indeed. I was just researching that series for a piece I was writing on Glenn Hall, and considered myself fortunate to find a couple of decent stills, let alone video. One of them was of the moment the Hawks lifted Mr. Goalie onto their shoulders. Not something you see very often these days, and nice to see the video confirmation around 7:10 on the clip.

doritogrande said...

Great playoff wrap-up Pat. A couple of absolute gems in between some very comprehensive analysis:

and then we both laughed at Keith and his hobospeak. Right down to the slurring lisp

We've got a man at my store currently begging outside that could be a dead ringer for Duncan right now. God did he sound like an 80-year old prospector comin to the city to get some fat back and a shower.

Watching Wednesday night and Jenn and a couple of friends were here...And then because I had it PVR'd we had drunken couch sex while Keith was interviewed in the background

Only a special lady would do that in the company of "friends". You should hold on to that woman.

How many days til we're mathematically eliminated from next year's playoffs and can focus on the Hawks again?

Bruce said...

You should hold on to that woman.

I get the impression he "holds on to her" as often as possible.

Black Dog said...

lol dg - very good

as for mathematical elimination from the playoffs for the Oilers by my watch that happened at 9:27pm last Friday

spOILer said...

9:27 last Friday? Oh, you mean the 2012 playoffs.

Black Dog said...

oooh burn!

stupid Oilers!