It’s been a funny old season, not least because the Eastern and Western Conferences have (until now) been kept apart, in much the same way that a St Louis Marriage Counselor (Police Officer to you & I) steps in between Durleen and Wayde when they get to tussling over the last of the meth.
We know all about the West, of course, having spent the year kicking them all in (often repeatedly). However, in a spirit of enquiry, I reached out to excellent Bruins blog Days of Y’Orr to see what, exactly, they think of the Western Conference over there in the East and how they think this series will shake out.
What follows is all theirs.. be warned.
This one nearly killed me.
As this game progressed, and the elation of the early lead was slowly replaced with gnawing tension, I got drunker and drunker and shut down all distractions like Twitter. Focus. Concentrate. Will it there.
Then joy as Kane potted what surely must be the winner.. turning to despair when Bickell iced it, Toews lost the draw and the puck clipped off Mike Richards in a crowded crease to tie it up. 1OT passed in a blur of terror, a state that was repeated until.. well, you all saw it.
Patrick Kane, folks. Patrick “Fuck This Sound, I’ma win this mofo” Kane. Nice.
Today marks the First Anniversary of the passing of Dan Appelt, better known online as Badgerdano. For those not familiar with either name, Badgerdano was a regular at the old Second City Hockey site, in fact, had been there almost from the start, and was a witty and popular commentator and the origin of a meme that persists to this day. You know when you’ve been Badgerdano’d
SCH was the place that myself, Nakis and JesusMarianHossa first crossed paths (and occasionally butted heads). Badger was an integral part of the community there, a welcoming voice to newcomers, an incisive analyst of whatever the Hawks were up to at the time and always ready to get in on (or, frequently, instigate) the inevitable mickey-taking that was part of the fun. I should probably add that he was known to be, on occasion, “Quite Supportive” of all things UW. Just a little bit.
Tonight was all set up to be a write-off for the Hawks: even perennial “Glass-Half-Full” types like myself were prepared to accept a Keith-Less Chicago getting beat by the Kings and their formidable Home record. We were saying things like “Holding Serve at Home will win this series”.. which is making Tennis analogies in Hockey and clearly all wrong. But I think it’s safe to say that we were planning on resuming hostilities at the UC with the series tied.
Not the case, as it happened.
The Hawks played out of their skins from Puck Drop. There were few battles uncontested and the men in white were everywhere, hassling and harrying. There was also the confidence to keep the passing short and smart. Mainly, the game got played at a pace that the LAK Defense simply cannot live with. Kane’s goal is a prime example of this. Yeah, sure he just tapped a Bickell redirect of a long shot from Hjammer over the line.. but he had also (along with Toews) been part of a sequence of play leading up to it that had left the Kings reeling. That sort of White-Hot Offense from Chicago will beat anyone. The goal felt inevitable.
Make no mistake, this was an excellent performance from the Hawks, missing one of their biggest pieces. We are headed back to Chicago with a chance to do as the Hawks did unto the Wild.. which is to say Win in 5.
The sun is up here in London, it’s pissing it down with rain and I’m foregoing sleep entirely tonight, as I have to go to work in two hours. Therefore, let’s get the bullets going.. but before we do, the 3 Stars tonight (according to NHL.com) were, apparently, Hossa, Kane and Penner. Which is all kinds of horseshit.
I fully admit to being slightly pessimistic coming into game one. I told anyone who asked me I thought the Kings would probably take a game in Chicago. The Hawks were coming off a highly emotional series against their departing arch-rivals, the Kings played just the kind of game that gives the Blackhawks fits, their goalie was a freak, the Rolling Stones were fucking up the ice…….the list went on this way.
After watching the game this afternoon, I’m thinking that pessimism was pretty much completely unjustified. For starters, the Kings are coming off a long series, too. The sneering, Anaheim Ducks-like assault we expected never materialized and the Hawks came out flying, playing a more physical brand of hockey than we’ve seen from them all year. Sure, Jonathan Quick was fantastic, but he wasn’t unbeatable. The Hawks were indefatigable in their efforts to get pucks at Quick and didn’t allow themselves to be frustrated by his early mastery. Hell, the ice didn’t even factor in today. In short, despite facing a phenomenal goaltender and surrendering a fluky goal to the Kings early – things really couldn’t have gone all that much better today for the home team.
You should all feel good about what you saw. The Blackhawks controlled the play with very few exceptions and moved the puck efficiently in all three zones. The power play actually produced chances and Corey Crawford made all the saves his team needed him to make. The Hawks withstood the late Kings push and killed the last two minutes by playing keep away on a power play.
1-0 good guys.
To the good stuff:
To be perfectly honest, I’ve not seen much of the Kings this year, other than their visits to the UC: There’s an 8-hour time difference between here and California, so I tend to reserve my 3am game starts for Vancouver. Fortunately I know someone who has had ample opportunity to get a very good look at the reigning Champs, both as a Divisional Rival and during their 7-Game WCSF. So, without further ado, I’d like to present ElvisVF101 from the excellent Fear The Fin, the SBN blog of the San Jose Sharks. He was not only kind enough to answer my dumb questions, he’s also provided a wonderful preamble. The following is all his, italicised questions are mine. Enjoy
So you’re playing the LA Kings in a playoff series. I’m sorry for you on a multitude of levels. First off, prepare for massive massive frustration. The Kings are a darned good hockey team and you’re bound to lose a few games. This time of year, every loss feels like the apocalypse. Second, you’ll have to deal with Kings “fans.” I put “fans” in quotation marks because being a fan of the LA Kings means something a good deal different than being a fan of other teams. Fans of other teams are passionate about their teams and stick with them through thick and thin. They suffer through thick and thin with their team. If you’re a fan of any team in the “Greater” LA Area (and I put Greater in quotations because, believe me, there’s nothing Great anywhere in LA), your team’s success is like the latest fashion. You wear it while it’s hot, and then toss it aside when it no longer serves your purpose of looking cooler than anyone else in your own head. That makes them completely unlike Bay Area sports fans. Trust us. It’s totally true because we say it all the time, so it must be true. Third, you’ll have to endure aerial shots of LA. And LA is a dump. It’s a city of 9 million people in the middle of a desert basin with no water and it was where all the outlaws went during the Gold Rush. And it doesn’t look like anything’s gotten better since then. But LA’s, like, a major media market or something. It’s such an important media market that America’s largest and most profitable league has no team in the market and still does just fine.
But enough about the City of Angels. Not just the crappy movie, but the crappy town too. Let’s talk about their hockey team, the reigning Stanley Cup Champions. You have questions. And, unlike Sharks’ fans, when posed with the question “So when’s your team going to win something?”, we have answers:
I got handed this wrap fairly late in the day, due to Nakis scoring tickets for the game. I was happy to get it, as I was pretty sure I could write a heartfelt send-off to the Hawks’ season if needed.
Luckily, it wasn’t required.
I’m not going to get into a detailed recap of the game because I’m assuming you were watching it. It was probably the most evenly-matched game of this epic series, both sides throwing the kitchen sink at each other. However, with a minute and a half to go in the 3rd, with the game tied at 1-1, Niklas Hjalmarsson scored on an amazing solo effort to advance the Hawks to the WCF and.. wait, what? Waved off? WHAT THE FUCK?
I’m, fairly sure we all felt the same thing: a terrible, terrible call by Stephen Walkom got the (likely) winning goal consigned to the bin and we all automatically assumed that the Hockey Gods were going to let the Wings win this and leave us in the circle of Hell that Leafs fans occupy when they complain about Kerry Fraser in 1993.
However, Brent Seabrook popped up in OT to deflect one in off a sliding Kronwall, to win the series and speed the Hawks to a WCF against the Kings.
Kronwall was devastated after the horn and Jimmy Howard was the first to comfort him. Classy move. I, however, am going to show zero-class by laughing my ass off at Kronwall’s cries for the rest of time. Couldn’t have happened to a bigger douchecopter. Some quick bullets, then..
- Guess the PP working was too good to be true. The only time it wasn’t terrible was when the Hawks managed to win the draw and keep it in the zone.
- The UC was pretty rocking all night. Loudest anthem I’ve heard (and Jim C seemed to be giving it some extra welly, too) Guess that’s what happens when you get Holiday Road in the pre-game mix.
- Johnny O didn’t have the greatest of nights. Q needs to have a think about his D pairings with the prospect of the Kings’ forecheck looming.
- Patrick Sharp is a handsome, handsome man.
- Justin Abdelkader is a turd. He dialled the stoopid up to 11 in this, a must-win situation. On the other hand, penisloaf that he is, Nik Kronwall was playing out of his skin. Wings fans will probably scream about Shaw slew-footing Filpulla (I haven’t seen the replay, but I’m assured that he did) for a few years but Filps has been nigh-on invisible all series anyway. Dats was Dats. I’m actually looking forward to watching him do those things that he does so well next year, when he’s in the East and it doesn’t matter.
- OK, that call.. I was so furious over the goal getting scrubbed that I didn’t have any rage left for Saad getting a penalty for being mugged. I’m the last person in the world to whine about refs; but that call was so egregious that it warrants some sort of formal review. When even Detroit fans are calling bullshit on a call that gave them a lifeline, you know something stinks. I got way too close a look at the anger that Leafs fans feel about Fraser. The main issue, though, is that the war room in Toronto either couldn’t or wouldn’t countermand the on-ice call when it so blatantly should’ve. If it’s a “Couldn’t”, then maybe that needs to be looked at by the League. Will never happen, though.
- Thanks, Seabs. Way to come good at the death. I’m starting to think that his issues may be to do with either his health or conditioning. The man was literally pouring sweat while being asked stupid questions by Pierre, well after the horn. I was worried that he was going to die. Also, nice bone-cruncher from Bolland to start the rush. Moar, plz, Dave.
- Corey Crawford is having himself one hell of a post-season. His numbers compare favourably to Tim Thomas in 2011 and Jon Quick from last year. No more calls for DAT EMORY GUY, please, meatballs.
- Finally, some team is going to pay a ton of money to Bryan Bickell and Nick Leddy this summer. That team should be the Chicago Blackhawks. Ditto for Marcus Kruger. He and Frolik were absolute studs, yet again.
So, we’re all delirious with joy, the WCF series against the Kings doesn’t start till Saturday and Hossa is in his Heaven.
Get back to celebrating the Hawks finally knocking the Wings off their perch in our final meeting as rivals.
We’ll get to the Californians soon. The war of words between blogs should make for a fun time.
Oh, and just in case you needed yet another reason to smile:
A Cheer The Anthem Public Health Announcement
As my esteemed colleague Bartl pointed out, Of Course It’s A Game 7. Be honest, did you not believe, in the septic recesses of what used to be your heart, that this would be the case from the moment this series was on? It has come to pass, and it’s going to be a tough night. Luckily your frents at Cheer The Anthem have complied this handy 5-step program to ensure that you make it through this experience with at least a shred of sanity, dignity and personal well-being left.
So, here’s our 5 Steps To Surviving Game 7 (because Prime Numbers Rule)
As it is, with it being possible, this marks only the seventh time in the last 42 years anyone has been able to witness a Chicago-Detroit playoff series. Just the rarity of this occurrence makes it special, in turn making these four, five, six or (gulp) seven games all the more historic. I’ve come to realize that I don’t only respect Detroit for its success as an organization, but also for what its existence has done for the game and how it brings out the passion in Blackhawks and Red Wings fans because of wars waged on the ice over the years.
I wrote that prior to Game 1, when I pointed out the reasons I would enjoy this series so much. And it all still stands. The final playoff series as Western Conference foes between the Blackhawks and Red Wings continues adding significance to this historic rivalry that is being taken away from us due to realignment.
You can look at it a couple of ways. Either the Wings are making you realize you’re not going to miss them due to the difficult times they’ve brought upon you as a fan – be it 2009 or this exhilarating yet frustrating series – or you’re getting more disappointed at the thought that Detroit is heading to the East and won’t be able to regularly deliver these types of games and series versus the Blackhawks that are more than entertaining. You’re either happy to see this rivalry be toned down, or you’re becoming more and more upset these teams are being separated.
I, for one, am feeling the latter.
No matter, it’s all going away after Wednesday. These teams would have to meet in a Stanley Cup Final that few would be able to survive physically in order to bring out this kind of excitement from the rivalry. It’s sad to think about, and even more depressing to consider how a loss tomorrow would not only be a gut punch, but it would also feel something like this.
And for that, I’m nervous. I’m nervous that I’m going to be sitting in Section 326, Row 12, Seat 9, resting my head in my palms as the United Center empties for the final time this season and Jonathan Toews leads a handshake line while dejected rather than elated. I’m not being negative, I’m being realistic. It’s not as if Detroit hasn’t won on the road in this series.
But with that also brings a level of excitement that only a Game 7 in a series between bitter rivals can manufacture. The Anthem rendition will probably make for the loudest couple of minutes I’ve heard the UC in quite some time, maybe ever. I can imagine my face hurting from smiling so much and my voice trying to send out one last cheer before it fades away along with the Red Wings’ season. I see the Blackhawks at center ice, saluting the crowd before heading off to the locker room as Western Conference finalists while the horn blares in the background.
These feelings, both positive and negative, are ones that can be guaranteed only with a deciding game with the magnitude of this one. Blackhawks-Red Wings, Original Six, conference foes, one last time. It almost makes you feel like tomorrow actually is Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, not that one of these teams still will need to win eight more to claim the chalice.
Of course this series would go to a Game 7. Of course it would. It’s like fate. Like the hockey gods are giving fans of both teams the ultimate send-off. Soak in the moment, because it won’t happen again.
While we’re all nervously awaiting tonight’s event, here’s a quick look back at the happier days of the Regular Season, set to the new Unofficial Hawks Anthem, Lindsay Buckingham’s Holiday Road.
Credit for the popularisation of this number goes to our good friends at Hockeenight. Stick Tap to Fork, CT, Morph and Slak.
This is my first ever attempt at video editing, so be gentle, hey? It kept me occupied for a couple of hours today, which was good for my fingernails and liver if nothing else.
Let’s Go, Hawks!