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THE FAR SIDE OF THE POND: Fear and Loathing Transformed Into Bravery and Happiness

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04/19/2010 10:55 AM - By Chad Huebner

Uneasiness sets in. Doubt starts to take over. Nausea and loathing fills the body. No, I’m not talking about thinking about Dick Cheney nude, I’m talking about your favorite team, the team that everyone adores and picks to win every game, stumbling out of the gate and blowing Game 1 at home. I’ve seen some of the other series, and I’ve seen the favored home team to lose Game 1 but bounce back and take Game 2. Can the ‘Hawks do the same thing, or will it be full blown panic mode if they have to travel to Nashville down 2-0? It has to be a better thought than any dark politician naked. Let’s get to the action on that pleasant thought, shall we?

1ST PERIOD


Weird to hear that both teams were complaining about the ice being poor in Game 1. I mean, I wouldn’t expect every arena in the world to have the same quality of ice, but it’s something you don’t hear too much about when it comes to the United Center. So I have another lame excuse for the ‘Hawks loss in Game 1, which goes along with having the entire Chicago Cubs team jinxing them. Which is nice.

One of the few penalties you don’t quite see while it happens until you have a replay after the action is “too many men on ice”, so I’ll take the refs’ word the Preds were guilty of this. Fine. ‘Hawks need an early spark in this one.

‘Hawks had one close shot on the PP, but the Preds turned in two shorthanded rushes. ‘Hawks need to set up the PP while trying to get around the Preds stifling neutral zone game. I hope they find a solution soon.

Toews seems to be the only ‘Hawk that can bring the puck into Nashville’s zone and get some breakaway speed to take some good shots. He hasn’t connected. . . yet, but I hope the other ‘Hawks learn from his aggressive play. Speaking of aggression, ‘Hawks Andrew Ladd gets called for a borderline interference penalty. Not to worry too much, as the ‘Hawks PK is every bit as opportunistic as the Preds. Versteeg gets a nice breakaway shot off, but Rinne is like a brick wall.

(NOTE: I’m glad I’m typing as the game’s happening, because if I didn’t have anything else to do besides watch the game-and drink beer, of course-I’d be a nervous wreck in five minutes. Just letting you know how fragile my psyche is right now.)

YEA-I mean, no! Toews with a wide open net on Rinne’s right side and it bounces off the crossbar. Just a continuation of the frustration, but I hope the ‘Hawks keep digging for it.

Umm, speaking of which, not more than a minute later, it looks like Dave Bolland jabs at the puck underneath Rinne and it squirts into the net, but the refs had a quick whistle. Feels like the ‘Hawks should be up 3-0 by now, but some evil, invisible force is working against yet another Chicago sports team to keep them from winning. And I’m not talking about Martha Stewart.

CRAP! Just realized I don’t have all my ‘Hawks gear on! I’ve got my long sleeve ‘Hawks shirt and my short sleeve ‘Hawks polo on over it, but I don’t have my ‘Hawks baseball cap. How could I jinx my team like that? ‘Scuse me a sec. . .

(runs down the hallway and runs back)

. . . Okay, I’m back. Phew! That could’ve been dangerous!

Heard color commentary guy Steve Konroyd say something he talked about in Game I as well: ‘Hawks are not making the pinpoint passes like they used to. Bad ice? Hawks’ still a bit jittery? Just another piece to the whole frustration puzzle.

No score at the end of the 1st. ‘Hawks outshot the Preds 13-5, but it sure didn’t feel that dominant. Both teams could be up 3-0 with all the close calls. Again, it’s a game that favors the Preds, and not my nervous stomach. Still glad I remembered the hat, though.

2ND PERIOD

Great, now they’re showing the Chicago White Sox at the game. Why not just stab me in the abdomen with a grill fork while you’re at it, guys?

Too much of this game, like the last one, is being played in the ‘Hawks’ end. But Niemi is playing like a veteran goalie instead of one with his first taste of playoff action. He; getting great positioning, and just made a sweet leg pad save. He seems to be the only successful ‘Hawks so far this series.

Meanwhile, now the ‘Hawks are called for too many men on the ice. I guess the refs are trying to balance out the strange calls. Another big sigh of relief, as the ‘Hawks survive another dicey Preds PP.

Okay, I finally have my. . .

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!

. . . moment.

‘Hawks go on the PP (yeah, it’s been awhile) and off of a Toews spin-o-rama, Rinne is left sprawling in the crease, and Bolland takes the pass and backhands it into the wide open net. It’s so sweet when there’s a situation where a team is visibly dominating the other team, yet it’s the other team that gets the first goal, and it’s my team. That doesn’t happen too much to my beloved sports teams.

Know what’s almost as sweet? Another PP chance. ‘Hawks get to try this all over again. Yippee!

‘Hawks are waiting too damn long to shoot. The Preds could build the U.S.-Mexico border fence in the time it takes for the ‘Hawks to set up for a shot. Foley yells out “Rin-ne!” as the goalie makes an incredible diving save, just like he did when Niemi made that jaw-dropping stop against the Phoenix Coyotes a few weeks ago. But this makes me feel jealous because I feel he should be doing that for Niemi only.

Yet another PP for the ‘Hawks as the refs seem hell bent on balancing the penalties. Just flashed the graphic that the ‘Hawks are outshooting the Preds 24-11, with it only feeling like the ‘Hawks are truly doing this recently. This PP is more like the earlier ones, with the ‘Hawks playing on their heels more than they should be setting up the shots. I feel the momentum slowly shifting to the Preds once again.

Having 22K-plus at the game can be a double-edged sword. It makes the chants of “ET’S GO ‘HAWKS!!!!” 10 times sweeter. It also makes the “BOOOOOOOS!!!!” when the ‘Hawks can’t do a simple clearing of the puck in their own end 10 times more intimidating.

United Center’s playing “Hold On” by Sam and Dave on the speakers. Hope the ‘Hawks can do more than that in the third. 1-0 lead after two. . . I think we’ve heard this tune before. ‘Hawks better up the tempo for the final period to survive what has been one of the closest 1-0 games I’ve ever seen.

3RD PERIOD

Here’s a telling stat from Game 1: ‘Hawks outshot Preds in the 1st and 2nd periods 22-15, but the Preds outshot the ‘Hawks 13-4 in the 3rd. ‘Hawks have a dangerous habit of sitting on leads in the 3rd, and sometimes it bites them back. They just need to keep up the pressure, something so obvious that it better sink into their black helmet-clad heads.

Another Toews close call. It looked like he backhanded it into the net, and for a brief second I saw it silhouetted against the back of the net. But for some reason, it won’t go in. I suspect the Preds are using a Class 5 Vulcan Force Field in this game. That means the ‘Hawks should go Klingon on their ass.

Oh, and before I go on. . .

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!

. . . Toews does all the hard work, and Kaner slots it for his second goal of the playoffs. I think I yelled loud enough to dislodge a half-digested French fry stuck in my colon since 2003.

And now, for the first time since this series began, I can relax a little bit. Yes, I know how quickly a 2-0 lead can be erased (just ask the Canucks in Game 2 of their series), but I think this will force the Preds to take more risks in moving the puck up into the ‘Hawks’ zone. And not even a Preds PP opportunity with Duncan Keith in the box can ruin my semi-relaxed attitude.

Preds start ramping up the rough play with little skirmishes after nearly every stoppage in the play. Joel Quennville, the Moustache Man is telling the ‘Hawks not to get involved. One such fracas leads to a 4-on-4 with Sullivan of the Preds and Versteeg of the ‘Hawks sitting for two minutes. Ah, but Shea Weber knocks down Kaner, so we have that rare 4-on-3 situation. Diamond vs. triangle, but the three-sided object beats the four-sided one. Still, it’s a good way or working down the clock.

Fracas, scrum, skirmish, confrontation. . . somebody get me a thesaurus! Preds continue to square off against the ‘Hawks with these mini battles, and this time, they get a PP, and then pull Rinne for a last ditch 6-on-4 with 2:23 left in the game.

Just heard Pat Foley call Niemi “Rinne.” Et tu, Foley? Bit of a Freudian slip?

More death-defying saves by Niemi, no chance for an empty netter, but the ‘Hawks didn’t need one, and it all adds up to the ‘Hawks first playoff shutout in 14 years. Hard work and poise pay off, and now I look to the ‘Hawks to open things up on the road. It’s the new “home” for teams in the playoffs.

Remember; e-mail me at chadhuebner1972@yahoo.com for anything on your mind, hopefully hockey related. Best responses and/or questions will be answered publicly.




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