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THE FAR SIDE OF THE POND: Playing the Percentages in the Saddledome Leaves the 'Hawks Sore

04/21/2009 8:34 AM -

By Chad Huebner

Thirteen percent. That’s the success rate of teams who are down 2-0 to start a NHL playoff series. Good numbers for Chicago, but then, that stat doesn’t tell how many times a team down 2-0 has won Game 3 or 4 or whatever. The Flames are backed into a corner, and teams that are, and get a chance to play two straight at home, are very, very dangerous. Then again, the ‘Hawks seem to thrive on being down during a game, so let’s see what gives: a young, quick team with oodles of confidence or a team relying on their home crowd to cheer them to victory and make that 87 percent chance of being eliminated a figment of their imagination.

In short, I have no frakking idea what’s going to happen tonight.

PRE-GAME STUFF

I knew the Calgary fans were committed, but this is something else. They showed a crowd shot and not only is nearly everyone wearing Flames’ colors, they’re wearing Flames’ jerseys. That’s a pretty penny to spend to show your support. Gulp.

And if that wasn’t enough, a banner the length and width of a Winnebago is being passed thru the crowd. Double Gulp.

Crowd shot: red, nothing but red. Why did they have to go ahead and steal our colors? I know the red part is hard to avoid, but why take the black?

Big difference between when we sing our Anthem and the Canadians sing theirs. We cheer like crazy during ours, they sing along to theirs, and actually know all the words. The collective singing of the entire stadium sent chills up and down my spine.

The Kaner’s out of the lineup. Damn. During the day, Quennville said he was “resting.” Now it’s confirmed as the flu. I’d probably throw up knowing what I would have to face at the Saddledome. Still, the ‘Hawks have plenty of other weapons. The Flames have yet to stop or even slow down Johnny Toews and Havlat.

FIRST PERIOD

Here was the way I acted during the ‘Hawks first good shot attempt: Oooh, Ahhh, Ehhhh, Yes-No! Add a bunch of arm waving, and I’m Koko the sign-language gorilla.

I guess when it’s your first playoff experience; you have to throw your weight around. Big mistake for Ollie Jokinen, who decides to slam a player after a whistle. And guess what? The ‘Hawks actually convert on a PP! And in nine seconds! Havlat to Toews to Sharp. That should shut up the crowd for awhile. I was getting freaked out by the “LET’S GO FLAMES!!!” chants.

With Kaner out of this game, there’s an opportunity for Sharp to move up to the first line with Toews and Havlat. Seems to have paid off, doesn’t it?

Another dumb penalty by Calgary: too many men on the ice. Could nerves be getting to the Flames, the intense pressure not only to win, but to do well in front of their home crowd? Hmmmmm.

Apparently not, as the Flames get the equalizer before the halfway point of the period-Eric Nystrom (son of Islander’s player Bob) to Mark Glencross (a combo of “Glengarry Glenross?”). ‘Hawks have to keep pressing Kippy every possible minute they have the puck.

Just as the ‘Hawks started playing more physical when they were down in Games 1 and 2, the Flames are turning up the intensity in this one. A pancake hit on Troy Brouwer was followed by a scuffle in front of Kippy after he covers the puck. Flames are serving up more pancakes than IHOP in the early goings.

Eddie O pointed out that every time Jarome Iginla is on the ice, so are Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. If so, you’d think Mike Keenan would make adjustments so that doesn’t happen all the time?

The Flames are making dumb penalties an art: a slash on Dave Bolland. Even if the ‘Hawks don’t convert the rest of the game, they’re just milking the clock (which will make more sense when they’re leading, a-duh).

I haven’t mentioned any great saves by Bulin so far because, well, you expect that out of him every game. He’s making it a ho-hum event. . . almost.

First time this series the ‘Hawks are tied at the end of the first period. Good sign. They just need that second go-ahead goal to get the mojo back on their side.

1ST INTERMISSION STUFF

 Bolland’s was being interviewed and he mentions that the team should play the game “the ‘Hawks way.” Echoes of Sean Connery’s speech in “The Untouchables” about “the Chicago way; one of the best movie speeches of all time.

SECOND PERIOD

One half of the ice is getting a lot of traffic, the right half of the rink. Good news for the ‘Hawks in the first, bad news for them in the second. This is reminiscent of when the Flames controlled the early part of the first two games. If it weren’t for Bulin’s “ho-hum” saves, this would be a whole different game.
(Not that the game would change from hockey to water polo, not that kind of different game. Ah, you know what I mean, I’m tired, it’s been a long Monday, and if the game was played in Chicago it’d be over by now).


As I was blabbering, a Big Buff slash gives the Flames their first PP of the game. Here’s a vital moment for both teams, ya think?

‘Hawks kill of the penalty with ease. Not only do they clear the puck, they make subtle passes that enable them to break out of their zone with at least a 2-on-2 going the other way. No real shots on goal.

Before I start patting the team on the back, they’re back on PK duty due to a tripping penalty by Sharp. C’mon guys. Just because I wrote that you did such a good job the first time doesn’t mean you have to go right back out and do it again.

But this time, the Flames kill their own PP and bring on a 4-on-4 for 19 seconds, followed by quite a bit of ‘Hawks PP time. The Flames must enjoy shooting themselves in the foot.

Kippy’s making some nice saves. . . due to the fact he’s been serving up some tasty rebounds. Other than thinking that he enjoys the challenge, I can’t come up with any other reason why he would do this. Maybe he was a crocodile tamer in another life.

Just when I think the ‘Hawks are getting control of this game again, the ex-‘Hawk factor kicks in. Rene Bourque (who I actually enjoyed when he was with Chicago) throws it to the crease, where it hits Bulin’s blocker for the 2-1 lead. Was it a true shot or a pass gone awry? Playoff goals are scored ugly most of the time.

Dion Phaneuf smashes Troy Brouwer’s face with his stick, and the ref, only five feet away, makes no sort of pointing gesture, because, ummm. . . it’s a penalty? Officiating has been alright except for that heinous non call. Sorry folks, I’m just a little crabby for being down 2-1.

Wait, what am I saying? Down 2-1? The ‘Hawks have the Flames right where they want them.

THIRD PERIOD

As Pat Foley said, there’s no more time for cuteness. Time for the ‘Hawks to do what they’ve done best up to this point. Surprised that the crowd isn’t more of a factor.

Never mind. David Moss strikes again on a rebound. Crowd’s happy again. Bulin looked uncharacteristically sloppy on that goal, more Kippy-like.

Four minutes later it’s Moss again, as Glencross’ shot ricochets off of Moss’ skates. The guy just stands there and doesn’t have to do anything like. . . well, moss. Time to start getting ready not only for Game 4, but Game 5 back in Chicago as well? Again, I didn’t say this was going to be easy for the ‘Hawks.

Another valiant try by the ‘Hawks on the PP, but this is the time they need more than just a good effort. They don’t get it, but luckily the Flames are in Dumb Penalty Mode again, and the ‘Hawks have some life left in them.

A deflection off of Havlat’s skate that hits the far post. . . and that’s the best the ‘Hawks could do this time around. So close, and yet, not.

They just flashed the hit totals: Flames 41, ‘Hawks 23. It’s a complete turnaround from the first two games. “Hawks need to find a way to be physical on the road, and not just at home, where they know they’ll get the crowd fired up. As if to emphasize that point, Bourque gets called for his third slashing of the night. No doubt he’s doing something stupid, but if the ‘Hawks can’t score the Flames retain their physical dominance in the game.

Which is what happens again, as the ‘Hawks come up empty. But then just less than 30 seconds after the PP is over, with 4:25 to go-the ol’ Sharp to Toews to Havlat combo. ‘Hawks aren’t dead yet, only mostly dead.

Iginla and Pardy combined to make a Havlat sandwich, and I realize that’s the first time I’ve mentioned Iginla’s name since the beginning of this game. Anyway, ‘Hawks pull Bulin with 80 seconds to go.

Then we have a couple of small fights: Phaneuf vs. Eager and Vandemeer vs. Seabrook. Some punches were thrown, but no out-and-out battles. No love lost between these teams. Eager gets the extra penalty, so Bulin’s back in net with 52 seconds to go.

Whoa, another skirmish along the benches. Just saw Iginla pop Scott Walker in the face. And that was because Bourque hits Burish since he doesn’t like Burish’s cross check. Then we have Big Buff vs. Adrian Aucoin. Man o man, can’t wait to go online and see how many penalty minutes are totaled during this game.

By the way, there’s 13 seconds to go in this one, if we ever get around to playing hockey again. Which we do, and now it looks like the ‘Hawks are in a must-win situation in Game 4, since they don’t want to have this series all tied up.

Will I still know what to make of all of this? That’s a 100 percent of “definitely not.”

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




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