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THE FAR SIDE OF THE POND: To The Bitter End

By:

By Chad Huebner

For those few loyal readers, you’re probably wondering why I didn’t do a diary for Game 4 of the Chicago-Detroit series. Well, I was on vacation visiting my folks in Missouri, see, and I figured I finally wanted to watch a game without having to write about it at the same time. I thought I would be able to fully enjoy a ‘Hawks playoff game.

Boy, did I pick the wrong game to do this. In fact, I wasn’t watching the entire game. My folks, God bless ‘em, decided to move from the friendly comforts of Illinois suburbia to the backwoods of south central Missouri (as my dad said he was “Sick and tired of shoveling snow.” True, but does this mean moving to a town that isn’t big enough to support of shopping plaza?). My dad decided to bring in a box turtle from the backyard to see if it would move, if the cat would play with it, and to see if I could feed it green beans.

So I think it says something when I would rather watch a box turtle eat vegetables than watch the travesty otherwise known as Game 4.

‘Hawks have been in this series where they haven’t been this postseason: one game from elimination. If this scenario happened while the ‘Hawks were playing Calgary or Vancouver, I’d say they’d have enough comeback gumption to pull off a series win. But we are talking about the Red Wings, who managed to slice and dice the ‘Hawks without Pavel Datsyuk or Nicklas Lidstrom, the Red Wings’ offensive and defensive strong points.

And we’re talking about a ‘Hawks team that flounders without the Bulin Wall in net. This brings up another scary thought: Huet’s signed for the next three seasons. Can the organ-I-zation or the fans bear to watch this guy when he gives up soft goals like that first one in Game 4? Huet better get his act together, or things his future won’t look good in his cristobal.

So here we are, Game 5, at Detroit, against a Red Wings’ squad that wants to finish off the ‘Hawks quickly in order to get some rest before what should prove to be an entertaining Stanley Cup Finals.

Oh, one more thing: losing sucks, folks.

PRE-GAME STUFF


“The following is a presentation of the National Hockey League.”

I love it when Jack Bauer says that. I expect him to slam Gary Bettman up against a wall and growl “Where is the Cup? Tell me WHERE THE CUP IS!”

Joe Louis Arena has tons of smoke, distracting red lights and is very loud. This must be what hell’s like.

Brian Engblom was asked if the ‘Hawks could turn it around and could Patrick Kane get going this series (one assist, -7 rating). I think that’s the first time I actually heard someone cackle. I’ve heard a guffaw, a titter, even a snort, but not a cackle.

Okay, I’m kidding, but if he did cackle, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Another game on Versus, another National Anthem not seen by the TV public. Nice job idiots.

1ST PERIOD

Havlat’s also missing another game. Team leader in points. Yeah, ‘Hawks shouldn’t miss him.

‘Hawks get a reasonably good start in the shot department, but Ozzie’s nailing down anything that moves. He’s also getting help from the posts and net.

But for every series of rushes the ‘Hawks put together, the Red Wings come back with a lot more in the ‘Hawks zone. Wings had a 2-on-1, but they couldn’t pull the trigger for some strange reason. Huet’s okay, not bad like last game, but ‘Hawks need him to stand on his head, almost literally.

Hey, Huet? They can beat you topside. Might want to position yourself a little higher in net. Just a thought. . . juuuuust a thought.

Kaner may not be scoring, he’s feeding his teammates some sweet passes. ‘Hawks have an excellent chance in the Wings’ zone, as Kaner floats a perfect pass to Colin Fraser. . . but you know how this goes, Ozzie makes the perfect save.

Sharpie hooks a Wing, so ‘Hawks give the mighty Detroit PP another chance this series. Well, at least the ‘Hawks do something right in killing it. Back to the 5-on-5 madness.

Huet’s actually looking sharp. . . on the low shots. He’s struggling with the high shots, and it should be only a matter of time that Detroit exploits this again.

I’m shaking my head saying “Oh no, not again.” Why? ‘Cause the ‘Hawks have another too many men on ice penalty! How hard is this to prevent? Are the young ‘Hawks that distracted? Do they think they’re playing in the Pacific Coast League in the 20s, when teams had an extra man on the ice called a rover? There’s one of the many differences between the ‘Hawks and the Wings: the Wings wouldn’t be caught doing this.
‘Hawks kill this stupid penalty, and it looks like, against all odds and infallible logic, the ‘Hawks will have at least held the Wings scoreless after one period, despite being outshot by a whopping margin (21-9). I’m feeling a teeny-tiny little better now.


2ND PERIOD

More incredible scoring chances by the ‘Hawks, even more incredible saves by Ozzie. He looks like he could stop a surface-to-air missile. Blindfolded. With a toothpick instead of a goalie stick.

Obviously, the ‘Hawks are playing with desperation, but shouldn’t the Wings as well? It’s not as if the Wings aren’t pouring on the shots, but after seeing the way they play this series, I think they can be even more intense if they wanted to. We’ll see how long the “safe” way lasts.

Fraser takes Holmstrom down to the ice behind Huet’s net, but in addition to both of them sitting in the box, Ben Eager joins Fraser on the ‘Hawks side for apparently having some words with the ref. Sticks and pucks may break my bones. . . Anyway, Marian Hossa gets called for a slight slashing penalty, so the ‘Hawks have a rare, 4-on-3 opportunity. Nice to see the playoff PP rankings by the ‘Hawks logo are the words “Best in the NHL.” Duncan Keith’s shot rings off the pipes. Seriously, what kind of deal did Ozzie make with the Devil?

Keith makes an excellent lead on a Wings’ pass, steals the puck, lays a pass off to a wide-open Troy Brouwer. . . and somehow Ozzie gets the puck. He also gets his bell rung from the ‘Hawks rush and his defensive mates coming back to provide support. I’ll bet he’d still make saves in a coma. ‘Hawks get a PP from the whole mess, but you wouldn’t know it because little Darren Helm holds the puck in the ‘Hawks zone for a full 25 seconds. Embarrassing.

Penalties are happening every two or three minutes or so, Wings turn on the PP this time. It only lasts 33 seconds, as Holmstrom kicks out Matt Walker’s left leg. Dirty pool. Another 4-on-4 this period. I wonder how NHL games would be without the fifth skater. Huet makes a gaggle of very very loooow saves.

‘Hawks can’t do anything with a truncated PP, so we have only three minutes left in the period, and nobody can score. I’m shocked to say it, but this is turning out to be a great goaltending duel. My brain is trying to escape through my left nostril.

3RD PERIOD

We get a rare Chelly sighting. I guess when he’s not playing, which happens a lot these days, he’s spending a lot of time on the tanning bed.

The way Ozzie’s playing tonight, do you think this will make Wings fans forget about The Dominator? I think so.

Well, I knew it was too good to last. 13:52 of the third was when the Wings take the first lead. ‘Hawks can’t clear the puck out of their zone, and a crucial turnover enables a Brett Lebda shot to be redirected by Dan frakking-Cleary for the first goal. No, it wasn’t a high shot, kids; even Huet can’t stop all the low shots forever.


By the way, Lebda hails from Buffalo Grove, IL, a suburb near where I live and where Buffalo Grove High School is, a rival of my John Hersey High School. I always hated the Buffalo Grove Bison, now I have an extra reason.

Two minutes to go, you’d think the teams would play it safe to take this game into extra frames. NOT! Both teams are pressing hard.

One minute to go, Burish takes the puck to the net for a scary-good shot attempt. Now 34.4 seconds left, restart at center ice, Wings control the puck. . . and OH MY FRAKKING GOD! Huet gets two miraculous saves for one: an incredible save on a Marian Hossa shot, then manages to lift his right leg high enough to deflect a Johan Franzen rebound attempt. Where was this all season?

Just a mere 73 shots so far, folks, with only two goals to show for it. A goaltending battle for the ages. My brain, having escaped my left nostril, just fainted on the floor from the Huet saves while trying to flee my apartment.

1ST OT

NO MISTAKES!!!! NO STUPID, DOO-DAH, FRAKKING MISTAKES!!!!

‘Hawks lost one OT game this series, they also won one. Versus showed the graphic that the ‘Hawks haven’t won a game on the road when they’re threatened to be eliminated since 1975. Thanks Versus, as if we don’t have enough pressure to deal with now!

But here’s a comforting stat: Ozzie’s only 5-9 in playoff OT games, and 1-2 this postseason. Is it possible that Dracula has a weakness?

Nope. Stick a fork in the ‘Hawks, they’re done. Goal by Helm.

. . .

Hard to believe it’s all over. A valiant effort by everyone, and one where Huet should be proud about. I don’t think Bulin would’ve played any better had he been available.

It’s sad to see the dream die, but the ‘Hawks gave all they got. I hope, I REALLY hope the ‘Hawks learn something from this. They can be the challengers of the future if they keep playing like they did in Game 5.

Well, it’s been fun doing this. I don’t think I’ll do this during the Finals, like I’ve done in past years, but I’ll still write about what promises to be an incredible series.

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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