THE FAR SIDE OF THE POND:Springing the Trap

By:
05/08/2009 9:00 AM -

By Chad Huebner

There’s trepidation and urgency in the air. I feel it, and I’m sure a ton of ‘Hawks fans feel it too. To be down in a game and comeback is one thing, but to be down in a series, even by a game? I’m sure we’ll find out the answer to that, starting with tonight’s game.


But while the ‘Hawks probably aren’t feeling on edge, or at least showing it, I have to wonder if something else was the reason for their lackluster game in Game 3. Could it be that, after playing 100 games (eight preseason, 82 regular season and 10 playoff games) the ‘Hawks have hit a wall, and I’m not talking about the Bulin wall? Most of the players haven’t played this long in a season before at the NHL, and all the traveling between here and the Canadian Northwest has to be a drag after awhile.

But then I think “Well, these guys are young, so they should be able to take the added strain of a dozen or so more games. Plus, Johnny Toews missed significant time during the regular season, so in reality, he already has, or is close to, playing a full 82-game regular season. Also, while guys like Johnny and Kaner haven’t played in the NHL playoffs until now, they have experienced the postseason in the junior or minor leagues.”

So why did the ‘Hawks come out so flat in their first home game of this series? I really don’t know, but I hope the ‘Hawks find the answer for it. It certainly wasn’t the crowd’s fault, I tell you.

PRE-GAME STUFF

On the pre-game show on Versus, Keith Jones and Brian Engblom pointed out two things the ‘Hawks need to do: 1) score first and 2) stay out of the penalty box.

Ummm, duh. This isn’t exactly a secret, guys. We’ve known this for awhile, especially, well. . . since we’ve been watching all the games? Wouldn’t any sensible team want to score first no matter what? I’ve never known a team that wants be trailing. I usually like what Jones and Engblom have to say, but in this instance they’re both Captain Obvious.

Yes, this is yet another game solely on Versus, and again, Foley’s not around to call the action. But at least Eddie O is on hand for commentary, and I do enjoy Joe Beninati’s call of a game, whether it’s hockey or lacrosse. At least they have enough sense to broadcast the National Anthem, which is still ear-splitting, even if the crowd is a little ticked that their boisterous support in Game 3 didn’t translate into a ‘Hawks win.

1ST PERIOD

Some of the players said they were caught up in the emotions of Game 3. I could see them feeling this way in the first game of the playoffs, but I’d think by now, they’d be able to adjust to this and settle down. Even though they get the first shot of the game, so far the ‘Hawks aren’t playing the free-wheeling style of hockey they were known for during the regular season (maybe the Canucks are pretty good on the defense and back checking).

‘Hawks on the first PP of the game, now they’re 3-for-17 for the series. At least they’re staying out of the penalty box so far, they just need to score first. And if they score more goals than the other team, they’ll usually win. I’ll turn off the sarcastic machine for now.

They showed footage of the 1961 ‘Hawks, the last Chicago team to win the Stanley Cup. At least they had footage to show, I think the only footage of the Cubs’ 1908 World Series Championship is from cave paintings. Ba-dum-cha! You’re a great crowd!

Here’s a familiar story: ‘Hawks go on the PK again. I can somewhat understand if you get whistled in your own end of the rink, because you were doing something (hopefully) to prevent the other team from scoring. But if you’re in the other team’s zone, you have to make them over commit and make mistakes, not do it for them. Sometimes it’s hard to avoid penalties, but it should be imperative to avoid stupid penalties. At least the ‘Hawks kill the penalty, so I’m almost happy.

Now it seems like the ‘Hawks aren’t getting much of anything going in the offensive zone. The Canucks are making their third of the ice an impenetrable zone, with the blueline as the start of the zone, preventing any sort of flow to the ‘Hawks’ play and forcing turnovers. Meanwhile, the Canucks are able to set up more of their shots in the ‘Hawks third, almost like they’re enjoying an even-strength power play.

At least the ‘Hawks aren’t trailing after the first period. But this marks the fourth straight game where the ‘Hawks don’t score in the first. Maybe we’re going into unknown territory in this series?

2ND PERIOD

Is it just me, or does “The Hangover” look like “Dude Where’s My Car?”, only with booze instead of dope? I’ll probably still go see ‘The Hangover”, but still . . .

‘Hawks can’t get anything started in the Impenetrable Zone (quick graphic: ‘Hawks-no shots in the first five minutes). “They look like a couple of monkeys playing with a football,” Herb Brooks would say. Yeah, at least I know what he means. The Canucks are also clogging the neutral zone New Jersey Devils/Minnesota Wild-like. If the Canucks get the first goal, that 1-0 lead could be a real problem for the ‘Hawks.

First ‘Hawks shot of the period was a close one by Troy Brouwer off of a Toews rebound that smacked off “LUUUU’s” pads. That should wake up the crowd.

But now the crowd would probably rather be asleep again, as the Canucks go the other way on a blocked shot and Darcy Hordichuk (excellent hockey name), a fourth line guy, slips it past Bulin. Remember when I talked about what could happen if Vancouver scores the first goal? I’m not feeling good about this right now.

Apparently both clubs are down a man due to roughing, though Versus didn’t pick up why this happened (thanks again for screwing around, Versus!). Maybe one less man to worry about will open up the ice a little more for the ‘Hawks.

But even though the ‘Hawks get a couple of great scoring chances, “LUUUU” is up to the task both times. It wasn’t bad enough the ‘Hawks couldn’t do much in the offensive zone, now they have a goalie that’s stopping any sort of chances that get through.

Since it’s past the 10-minute mark of the second period, maybe I should tell you that the ‘Hawks haven’t scored a goal in the first 30 minutes of game this series. They have outscored the Canucks 10-4 in the last 30 minutes of all the games, and they could use a few ASAP.

‘Hawks get a bit of good news, as they go on probably their biggest PP of the series. Crowd cheering loudly, thinking they can lift this team with their noise. Havlat gets sent off to the box for retaliating against a Kevin Bieksa face wash, but Bieksa gets sent off too. But it’s to no avail for the ‘Hawks, even though Bieksa gets to sit in the box a little longer. Chicago’s still coming up empty in the Impenetrable Zone, and even when they do get something started, “LUUUU” is right there to stonewall any attempt. It’s rare when a 1-0 deficit for the ‘Hawks looks so ugly.

3RD PERIOD

Though this game is turning into a bit of a downer, I did find something nice to write about: Sunny Delight and Captain Morgan make for a tasty drink!

Quick graphic flashed: Vancouver-no shots in the last 13 minutes. Not like they need to shoot the puck right now, just keep 3-4 guys back in their zone and melt down the clock. This is kind of the soul-crushing, neutral zone crap that I thought we were done seeing in “The New NHL.” It just saps the fans’ spirit instead of make for an exciting, close game.

We have what seems like the 245th 4-on-4 situation this series. You’d think someone would’ve scored at least once, but nope, it’s the same story as 5-on-5.

Did I fail to mention that both Sammi Salo and Pavol Demitra aren’t playing for the Canucks this game, or would it make the ‘Hawks fans feel even more depressed? You’d think the ‘Hawks would have some sort of advantage because of those injuries. Nope, not at all.

The pace of this game is enough to make me bash the side of my head in with my keyboard. But it’s time for a commercial break, so I think it’s time for another visit from Captain Delight.

A fraction of the fans are waving white towels. It looks sad, really. Maybe they’re waving the white flag instead.

‘Hawks and Canucks are falling into a pattern: ‘Hawks rush puck up ice, dump puck in corners; Canucks rough ‘Hawks against the boards and knock the puck out of their zone. This “lather-rinse-repeat” cycle has managed to take five minutes off the clock.

“Terminator: Salvation” looks awesome, by the way.

WHOA!

2:44 to go and we’re tied!

We’re tied?!

Okay, I’m awake again!

Marty Havlat takes the pass from Andrew Ladd along the boards, gets an open look in the slot five feet from “LUUU” and slaps it home! The fans are awake. I’m awake. Well, as much as a guy soused on a couple of Captain Delights can be.

About 20 seconds to go, Seabs blocks a shot, and Dave Bolland speed towards “LUUUU”. Go Go GO!!! But he couldn’t quite pull the trigger. Canucks clear the puck and get called for icing, so here’s an interesting faceoff with 8.2 seconds in regulation.

Now the entire crowd is waving towels. That looks a lot better.

‘Hawks win the faceoff, but Daniel Sedin blocks a shot attempt. So instead of ending this column with something about the ‘Hawks not only hitting the wall, but becoming part of it, I get to write a little more. And hopefully avoid the whole wall analogy, of course.

1st OT

The last time the ‘Hawks were this far into a game, it only took a dozen seconds for Havlat to score, waaaaay back in Game 1 of the Calgary series. I’m not expecting that quick of a strike, but I have to believe the ‘Hawks got another jolt of energy at the end of the third.

Beninati mentions that the Canucks have never won a playoff game leading 1-0. And you couldn’t tell me this useful piece of info sooner?

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!

I was about to say that the Canucks seems to have scrapped their trap defense, and that I would say “Good, that’ll open it up for ‘Hawks and play into their hands”, and guess what? Ladd scores on the redirect from Bolland and ‘Hawks win! Sure it took a little longer than 12 seconds (2minutes, 52 seconds to be exact) but the ‘Hawks win another quick OT win.

So instead of ending this with the ‘Hawks becoming a part of the wall, I guess I can end this diary with this: the ‘Hawks have broken through the wall, and it’s a whole new 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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