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THE FAR SIDE OF THE POND: 2010 Stanley Cup Final Game 4: Flyers Level the Playing Field, and the 'Hawks

06/06/2010 8:45 AM - By Chad Huebner

I try to tell myself, if it wasn’t for the stupid penalties or the bad line changes, we would have won the last game. I try to tell myself that even the best of goalies let one trickle over the line. I try to tell myself that the ‘Hawks can rebound: they haven’t lost back-to-back games yet.

And yet, with all of that, I’m beginning to understand why some athletes throw up before every game. Some even said it was some sort of perverse good luck charm. I’m somewhat tempted to do the upchuck shuffle, but then there goes my Quizno’s Chicken Carb, which I still think has enough mojo to pull this one out.

People say that the ‘Hawks are still in the driver’s seat even if the Flyers make it a 2-2 series. WRONG! It would mean the ‘Hawks would have to win Game 5, and then weather whatever storm they’d run into Philly in Game 6. Even for a team this talented, that's a daunting task.

I don’t think I’ve ever been this nervous for a ‘Hawks’ game, and in a way, that could be a good thing, as it shows how much I care for this team, which was a bunch of losers not that long ago. Don’t worry, I made sure I bought enough beer to get me through this and Sunday’s games.

And I’d like to go on record and say I hate Kate Smith and wish she were dead. Oh, wait a minute. . .

1ST PERIOD

Niemi is 4-0 with a 0.75 GAA after losses this postseason. Sweet.

Andrew Ladd is back in the lineup. Also sweet.

Ladd is going to the penalty box 36 seconds into the game. Very, very SOUR. I guess he didn’t get the “Stop Taking Stoooopid Penalties!” memo. His mates kill off the penalty, and probably told him what the heck is going on.

Flyers controlling the puck and winning most of the faceoffs. Meanwhile, Toews is getting some good looks, but can’t still convert because Leighton is standing on his head.

Now Tomas Kopecky gets sent to the box. Have the ‘Hawks learned NOTHINHG?! This time the Flyers make them pay, Mike Richards with his first goal of the series. He basically picked Nicklas Hjarlmasson’s pocket and punched the puck past Niemi.

Safe to say the entire city of Chicago, probably the entire state of Illinois, is in full “UH-OH!!!!!” mode. My confidence continues to erode.

You know what I’m afraid is going to happen? That the ‘Hawks will ease off with the physical play, in fear that they’ll get called for every little infraction. I’m not saying the refs are biased, but they could be unconsciously affecting the outcome of this game and maybe this series.

But then the Flyers get called for an obvious hooking call, and I feel a little bit better. But the ‘Hawks are still oh-fer-forever on the PP, and I begin to fell uneasy again. Crowd is 100 percent behind their goalie, every time he makes an incredible save.

#$@*!

The Flyers keep controlling the puck so well in the ‘Hawks zone. The ‘Hawks have been incredibly lucky to clear the puck when it’s right in front of Niemi. . . until now. It was the Flyers’ first shot since their first goal. Great. We have to claw and scratch for our scoring opportunities, and all they need is one stinking shot. It’s been awhile since we’ve trailed by two goals in any game, and the feeling still sucks.

Now it’s full “Panic Mode.”

And when the ‘Hawks do score, I almost think Leighton made another great glove save. But no, Sharpie gains a little bit of respect back on a slapper that changed direction in mid-air, and goes under Leighton’s glove.

But when Claude Giroux scores on an easy flip in as Niemi is way out of the net with 36.3 seconds left in the period, things go back to their miserable levels. That damn Briere-Hartnell-Giroux line is the bane of the ‘Hawks.

Hossa had a chance at making a wide-open shot 10 feet from Leighton and decides to pas behind him to Sharpie, and the puck skitters away. DAMN! FRAK! Are things unraveling this fast or is it just me?

2ND PERIOD

I’ve asked this before: What can the ‘Hawks do to change things now? I’m not sure if they have the answer this time around.

‘Hawks get some nice shots from Kaner, but another mental mistake in their own zone leads to a Philly chance and another penalty to kill. Mountain keeps getting harder and harder to climb. They do press more for some short-handed rushes, but I think that’s something borne of slight desperation.

What really disturbs me is that the Flyers are fully capable of playing the up-and-down-the-ice game as well as the ‘Hawks. Speed has always been a great weapon of the ‘Hawks; now they’re playing against someone who can keep up with them.

“Hawks are leading in shots and face-off wins, but every time the Flyers play the puck in the offensive zone, I get a bit nervous. It seems they don’t have to do nearly as much to succeed as the ‘Hawks do. The Flyers may not be controlling this game in the stats department, but they don’t have to.

You know when things are bad for your team when you see the other team’s goalie do all the things and get all the breaks that your superstar netminder has had so far. Yet another frenzied scrum in front of Leighton, and he calmly covers the puck, even though the net is wide open. This whole game is like what I want to do: banging your head against the wall.

‘Hawks with another great opportunity to score, puck bounces wide, and Sharpie gets called for slashing. BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM!

At least there are a couple of good individual efforts. Duncan Keith is his usual great defensive self, but he’s proved to steal the puck and get off some good shots. Niemi has made a couple of impressive saves this period. Yay?

Maybe I’m bitter right now, but Peter Laviolette looks like Schneider from “One Day at a Time,” but without the cheesy thin moustache. I expect him to have a tool belt under his dress jacket.

Here’s something new: a ‘Hawk and a Flyer are going to spend time in the box. And that Flyer is Scott Hartnell, who is quickly supplanting Chris Pronger as Pest No.1. Oooooh! It’s 4-on-4 time! The wide-open ice should favor the ‘Hawks!

But not really. Even though the ‘Hawks stopped the bleeding for a period, you get the feeling they’re throwing everything at the Flyers and are coming up empty. Boy, that last sentence sounds oddly familiar.

3RD PERIOD


Here we go. ‘Hawks have been down going into the 3rd period and have come back, but not down by two goals. Teams are 174-8 when leading by two or more in Stanley Cup Final games. . . big swallow of beer. . . here’s to the ‘Hawks becoming number nine.

Flyers have blocked 21 shots so far this game. Hey, isn’t that the ‘Hawks specialty? I mean, how can you succeed against numbers like that?

Ville Leino delivers what is probably the death knell for this game. The puck even bounces off the post and in, just to show how lucky the Flyers are. Leino hasn’t done much during the regular season, but he’s nearly equaled his scoring total these playoffs that he’s had in over 60 regular season games. With that goal, he broke the Flyers’ rookie record for goals and points in a single postseason. And his last name sounds very familiar with Jay Leno. Boy do I hate that guy: Leino and Leno.

And there’s another thing the Flyers are copying the ‘Hawks well on: having multiple scorers that aren’t the front line stars. I’m thinking the Flyers bought some sort of clone machine between Games 2 and 3 and have somehow stolen the ‘Hawks’ DNA during that time.

Seabs will take his turn in the penalty box. I guess everyone wants a chance at a two-minute rest during this debacle. Flyers don’t score on the PP, but they manage to make two minutes on the clock disappear.

As Eddie O would say, the ‘Hawks need a goal “eeeeemidately!” Hah hah, hah hah, grrrrr.

‘Hawks have a rare PP, and Hartnell’s back in the box, so that makes me feel a tiny bit better. I swear the puck does not want to go in the Flyers’ net, like it was threatened with a beating if it was.

Okay, now it’s a 57 second 5-on-3 for the ‘Hawks. Surely they won’t come up empty in this situation, right? They’re 2-for-3 in such instances this postseason.

YES! Make that 3-for-4! Faint glimmers of hope. . . ?

Uhh, maybe not. ‘Hawks had some sweet chances, the Flyers were very active with their sticks. And now I’m chirping at my girlfriend for something pointless. Yes folks, this is turning into a fantastic night!

Then again. . . maybe it is?! Brian Campbell fires a harmless shot from a wide angle to the net, it bounces off of someone, and trickles over the line. “Play is under review,” the announcer drones. Hah, no question of judgment on this one.

4:10 left. Dare I say we’re witness to one of the greatest ‘Hawks’ comebacks in playoff history? Oh what the heck, I don’t care at this point. It’s time to go all out.

“Eye of the Tiger” plays on the speakers. But this time, could Clubber Lang (from Chicago) beat Rocky?

Leighton makes a toe save. . . then a skittering puck goes outside the right post. Niemi says “I’m gone!” with 1:19 left. Richards clears the puck. . . icing with 35.1 seconds left. ‘Hawks win faceoff but Keith can’t control the puck and. . .

Well, you know the rest. There was enough hope in this game to drag me back into this one, but it was quickly snatched away because of yet another mental error among a flurry of them all happening in Philly. It’s now a whole new series, a best of three with a guaranteed game back in Philly. My only consolation is that the ‘Hawks have the home ice advantage. They’ll need it, because the Flyers managed to steal all the momentum the ‘Hawks had after the first two games.

Damn you, Kate Smith. DAMN YOU!

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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