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THE FAR SIDE OF THE POND: It's not how you Start. . .

By:
05/04/2009 1:16 PM -

By Chad Huebner

After watching the Kentucky Derby earlier today, I can truly understand the idea that even the longest shots can win every once in awhile. I wouldn’t peg the ‘Hawks for being a 50-1 longshot, but they’re not the clear favorite in the Stanley Cup field. But the playoff race is not a two-minute sprint; it’s a two-month marathon that squeezes the life out of even the best of teams.

Why am I telling you any of this? Am I striving towards an “anything can happen” type of moral? Aside from filling up some time before the next playoff game, I think I’m trying to psyche myself up. This usually happens when the ‘Hawks lose a game they had a pretty good shot at winning. Just like in Game 4 against Calgary, they managed to tie the game, but couldn’t take the lead. Perhaps in both situations, they felt rushed, that they only had a two-minute race to run instead of a marathon. Along with the poise they showed in the last two games of the series vs. Calgary, the ‘Hawks need to add some patience to their game. Don’t rush your shifts or shots, and you’ll be able to win most games.

(Okay, enough of the Tony Robbins’ inspirational bullcocky, time for the game.)

PRE-GAME STUFF

Apparently, the Canucks have a killer whale as a mascot, because, you know, nothing says “Canadian” more than a whale. Anyway, the mascot is apparently wearing a “playoff beard”, but it looks like the beard’s made out of moss. Just a weird, Fellini-esque situation all the way around.

Sadly, no showing of the Canadian National Anthem this time. I always enjoy listening to that song. Fans are waving the white towels again, which doesn’t seem as intimidating as the sea of red in Calgary.

1ST PERIOD

Granted, The Kaner’s not going to be muscling towards the net anytime soon, but he has such superb puckhandling skills and nimble skates that he can pretty much dance away most opposing defensemen.

Okay, ‘Hawks get the first penalty of the game, but it didn’t look like much. That “delay of game” penalty is such an arbitrary call sometimes.

But no matter, Sami Salo, the man who scored the game-winning goal in Game 1, fires home a rocket blast that no wall could stop. I’d hate to think the ‘Hawks won’t be able to get things started until they’re down 2-0 or something.

And they might get that wish as they’re whistled for two penalties for the price of one: Eager for “roughing.” (even in the “New NHL” era, it was a ticky-tacky call) and Burish for a coincidental minor. They had seven in Game 1, at this rate, they’ll have seven in the first period. So much for staying disciplined.

Of course, another penalty called on the PK makes it a 5-on-3 matchup, and it’s 2-0 with less than seven minutes gone in this game, and they still have to kill off a penalty. They kill it off, their first successful one of the game, but I’m glad I have enough beer on hand.

Memo to the ‘Hawks: I know you want to set up for the “perfect shot” so you take your time, but ummm. . . IT’S THE FRAKKING PLAYOFFS! WHEN YOU HAVE THE PUCK, TAKE THE SHOT ASAFP!!!!! Thank you.

The ‘Hawks get their first PP of the game. Really? We get to go on the PP? Oh refs, you’re too kind, really, that’s nice.

When things are going right for the ‘Hawks, they can’t seem to get any sort of flow on the PP. Meanwhile, the Canucks on their PPs were playing tic-tac-toe like the supercomputer WOPR in “Wargames.” Basically, it’s like when I play NHL ’09 on “Pro” level.

‘Hawks on the PP going from the end of this period and into the second, but so far, it looks like their last attempt on the PP, and that’s not good. In fact, not much has gone right for the ‘Hawks so far in this game.

2ND PERIOD

I know some of the ‘Hawks penalties so far have been horrible, but some of them just look borderline marginal to me. Of course, if the calls were going against the Canucks, I’d be patting the refs on their backs for a fine job, but hey, I’m a hypocrite sometimes.

Sometimes?


So, a brief hook with the arm is a penalty, but not an obvious fore-arm shiver to the Adam’s Apple. Did the NHL borrow NBA refs for this game?

Seabs hit on a Canucks’ backside gets whistled for yet another ‘Hawks penalty? What happened to the poise, the discipline? Did they forget to pack those with them on their trip from Calgary to Vancouver?

Canucks don’t have to do much on the latest PP, as the ‘Hawks can’t control the puck in the Canucks’ zone. Oh, and “LUUUUU” is living up to the chants with some last-second saves.

But I’ll take a goal over a brewski any day (no, not really), a Patrick Sharp goal because there was a ton of traffic in front of “LUUUUU” (what a shock). That seems to be the only way to stop Roberto right now: blind him.

Finally the Canucks get called for a questionable trip on Big Buff. The scales are almost even. And when it rains it pours, Canucks flip the puck into the stands in their own zone for a delay of game. This 5-on-3 for the next 90 seconds could be the determining play of game, maybe the series. Kesler breaks his stick so the ‘Hawks have to score. And it’s Sharp again!

Okay, if you’d told me before the playoffs that every time the ‘Hawks were down by more than a goal, they’d tie them and win a few, I’d be fine with that. I could do without the suspense.

They quickly flashed the shot total, and just like the first game, the ‘Hawks hold a commanding lead (18-10), and again, it doesn’t seem like it should be that way. But what does seem feasible is the number of times the ‘Hawks shoot themselves in the foot. Kaner called for an offensive zone infraction, and the ‘Hawks have what will be the first of many important penalty kills remaining this game.

Wow, I would’ve been happy with no scoring, but a shortie by Dave Bolland makes it even better. He always seems to be involved on shorthanded-goals this season, whether it’s scoring them, or setting them up with sweet passing. Gee, no “LUUUU” chants right now.

'Hawks hold the lead going into the second intermission, but another goal or two would really help. They better not think they’ll be able to hang on to a one-goal lead for another 20 minutes. Few teams can, and one of those was eliminated by Carolina in the first round.


3RD PERIOD

A ‘Hawks lead on the road, a good beer and my girlfriend’s feeding me slices of cheese. And people wonder why I like sports so much.

Okay, a Ben Eager tally is just icing on the cake. If the fourth line has the scoring touch, you know it’s a great game. Eager becomes the 10th ‘Hawk to score his first playoff goal. I know it indicates a certain amount of playoff experience the ‘Hawks lack, but I also think it shows how much depth the team has. It’s not always Toews, Kane, Sharp or Havlat. Some Cup winners don’t always rely on their superstars for the goals.

Bulin makes a tricky save on a shot going to a wide-open side of the net. The great play is contagious, and much more fun to catch than Swine Flu.

Now my girlfriend’s feeding me chocolate truffles, which don’t taste too bad with a Miller Chill lime beer. How does that song go? “Heaven, I’m in Heaven. . .” Kaner pops another goal in like a truffle in my mouth. “I’m not exactly jinxing the game now, am I?” she asks me.

‘Hawks go on the PP; it’s been awhile since a penalty’s been called. But I guess when you have a romp in progress there aren’t many infractions to call.

Starting to see the Canucks’ aggression boil over. In the middle of a post-whistle scrum, Alexandre Burrows gets tossed from the game for going after Johnny Toews and the ‘Hawks get a short 5-on-3 followed by 70 seconds on the PP. Awww, whassamatter, Canucks? Don’t like it when you don’t get all the calls going your way?

The scrums are coming fast and furious with over five minutes left in this one-sided affair. Big Buff and another Canuck player get effectively tossed from the game, while the ‘Hawks get another two-man advantage. It doesn’t matter so much if they don’t convert now, just finish the game as soon as possible.

I have to admit, no matter where a playoff game is played in Canada, the fans are always loud and supportive, not clamming up even if their team is losing by a wide margin. The Canucks fans are still yelling/booing/cheering and still chanting “LUUUU” whenever Roberto makes even a so-so save. And the players give them something to cheer about when they convert on a 5-on-3 with 2:45 to go. Still too much time to think this game is sewn up.

B
ut the ‘Hawks do just that on a Bolland empty netter with over a minute to go. Maybe he can get the hat trick with an even-strength goal? No? Ah well, ‘Hawks even up a series that looked like was going to go against them with a loss here. But the ‘Hawks reminded me that a playoff game, and a series isn’t how you start, it’s . . . well, you know the rest, time to finish my beer.

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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