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THE FAR SIDE OF THE POND: The Wink

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05/17/2010 8:26 AM - By Chad Huebner

Well, I got what I deserved when the ‘Hawks lost Game 6. I thought I could get away with just eating my Chicken Carb, and since I was at a Mother’s Day gathering, I couldn’t write my usual diary. So much for that plan. I guess it’s like with any hockey player’s usual pre-game routine. You have to do every step, every time, or you feel like something’s missing and you’re usually off your game. I’d like to say it was the ‘Hawks and their lackluster play, but you should know by now how near and dear I hold good luck routines to my heart.

Speaking of the ‘Hawks’ lackluster play, I couldn’t believe how things got back to the grinding, slowdown routine the Canucks employed so well after the lone ‘Hawks’ score. It was almost as if the goal never happened. This disturbs me, because usually after the ‘Hawks score when they’re down by a couple or three goals, they get enough momentum to go out and get that second goal to make the game a little more interesting. This all reminds me of what the Canucks did for the middle games of last year’s playoff series, which is very similar to what happened in Game 5. At that time, though, the Canucks foolishly assumed that they demoralized the ‘Hawks so much, they could get back to the freewheeling, up-and-down play that was typical for most of that series. I hope the Canucks didn’t learn from those past lessons, and that the ‘Hawks can shut the door on what has become another difficult series.

(And here’s what might be an encouraging sign: In the pregame, the broadcasters showed the ‘Hawks hanging out in their locker room, and when they showed Kaner, he gave a sly, little wink. Could this be the difference? I can’t wait to find out, especially since I have enough beer to calm my shaky nerves.)

1ST PERIOD

(The way the crowd sang “O, Canada!” reminded me of the crowd that sung the same song in the same building before the Gold Medal game in the Olympics. That’s not good, is it?)

Early score. . . early score. . . early score. . . EARLY SCORE!!!

At least they’re attacking “LUUUU!” early and often. Such rushes usually result in an errant goal going over a sprawling “LUUUU!”, not this time.

OMG! You mean, the ‘Hawks are actually playing with urgency? Something I didn’t see too much out of the ‘Hawks in their two losses.

In the movie “Stripes”, Bill Murray made a little speech about how important the big toe is. Antti Niemi provided a great example with an unbelievable, big toe save that nine out of 10 goalies couldn’t make.

In the first five minutes of this game, there could have been a total of five goals scored by both teams, easily. ‘Hawks have had a few ring off the posts, while the Canucks were staring at empty-net chances, only to see the ‘Hawks shut the door with some terrific backchecking.

(Now I’m questioning my beer supply. I have a six pack, and I thought that would be enough to carry me through the game, but at this crazy pace, I might need a half-kegger. Oh well, back to the beer. . . er, game.)

Troy Brouwer hasn’t got a lot of ice time in this series, and he really hasn’t endeared himself to his teammates with such sloppy play early in this game. First he coughed up the puck deep in the ‘Hawks’ zone that almost resulted in the Canucks’ first goal, then he looses control of his stick and slaps Christian Ehrhoff in the face for the Canucks first PP. Bad boy, Troy!

Oh, boy, “LUUUU!” is looking really sharp. . . against Sharp. Hossa pushed the puck to Sharpie for a fantastic breakaway and Sharpie let fly with a high shot. . . that was snapped up by “LUUUU!” He had a great game in Game 5, and look what happened there.

If I documented all the great shot opportunities the ‘Hawks have generated but were stopped by “LUUUU!”, I would’ve written five pages already. Just trust me, the ‘Hawks have been this close to opening the scoring.

At least the ‘Hawks are able to carry the puck in the Canucks’ zone. This frenzy is definitely not the pace of Game 5, which, as history shows, should favor the ‘Hawks. SHOULD.

Period finally ends, which is good for me, because I dunno how many more close scoring chances I could take without a single goal. Wraparounds, re-deflects, rebounds, scrums, you name it, this first period has seen them all, and all have come up zero. I doubt this’ll be that low-scoring a game for long.

2ND PERIOD

Okay, so maybe I shouldn’t watch this game, because while I was overzealously changing channels (and losing track of the time: I’ll blame the beer on that one), the ‘Hawks take the first lead of the game just two minutes into the second period. Brouwer gets the goal (his first of the playoffs) on a nice re-deflect-

(And I drop my keyboard while the ‘Hawks Kris Versteeg just made it 2-0. Let the floodgates open!)

-Anyway, Good Boy, Troy! And out of this league, Versteeg!

(Hey, it’s actually difficult to find accolades that rhyme with “Versteeg.”)

Awfully quiet now. Heh.

And you might find it hard to believe, but “LUUUU!” didn’t give up any juicy rebounds that could’ve been the result of those two goals. Really not his fault. Just like last year, the Canucks have gone away from what worked for them for a win in one game, and are letting the ‘Hawks move the puck at will.

Oh, and it helps that Vancouver has a depleted defensive core thanks to Alexander Edler going off in the first with a knee injury, and Sammi Salo still laboring after getting hit in Game 5. Do I feel sorry for the Canucks? Heh. HELL NO!!!!

It’s funny, though, that this second period mirrors the second period in Game 1, in that the Canucks came out firing and scored, while the ‘Hawks were listless, and this second period, the ‘Hawks quickly struck twice while the Canucks only have a handful of shots more than halfway through the period.

Meanwhile, as I wrote that long-winded observation, “LUUUU!” is down! He’s on his back, holding his head. Wha happen? Erhoff bumps “LUUUU!” who hits the back of his head on the post. Owwwww! Good thing goalies have that extra piece of plastic that protects the back of the skull, and not like the olden days, where you could clearly see the long mane of, say, a Tony Esposito. “LUUUU!” is okay, or at least not letting on how much that hurt. Play through the pain.

Well, the fans haven’t totally given up hope. While the Canucks couldn’t connect on a long string of good scoring chances, they managed to get quite a cheer out of the crowd. Foolish sheep blinded to the reality of the situation, I say.

DING! Or really this one sounded more like PING! ‘Hawks are once again from putting this game a little bit farther out of reach for the Canucks.

Just got word that the Chicago Wolves lost at home in OT in a Game 7, so that means the ‘Hawks are the only Illinois-based team left in the postseason. You’re the last, best hope for us flatlanders, ‘Hawks, God speed.

I thought we could get through an entire period without a single penalty, and Dunc slashes a Canuck stick in half with a little over a minute left in the second. . .

. . . But no matter, as Davey Bolland makes a nice pickoff of a D-to-D pass, breaks in on “LUUUU!” and plunks it under him for that much-needed third goal. ‘Hawks are great on the PK and even greater on shortie goals.

Just what the doctor ordered (aside from his usual beer prescription). Soon it’ll be time for my rousing, minute-by-minute countdown of the third. Even if it’s not an exciting finish, I’ll make it so!

3RD PERIOD

I made doubly sure I had the game on at the start of this period. Watch, the ‘Hawks won’t score in the first minute, oh darn!

Another PING! This time the Canucks did it. I’m telling you, the score of this game could and probably should be 6-5 or something like that.

Pat Foley (who has Edzo by his side tonight) just announced that Ryan Kesler, Mason Raymond and Henrik Sedin don’t even have a shot this game. That’s most of your top two lines without a shot. Unless you’re playing NHL 10 on Easy Level, how can you expect to win a game like that?

If the ‘Hawks win, it won’t be a shutout, as Shane O’Brien gave his team and the crowd some renewed life with his first goal this postseason. Still, it shows how important that late goal by Bolland could prove to be. The Canucks still need two to tie instead of just one. Canucks are starting to swarm the ‘Hawks’ zone like crazy bees drunk on maple syrup. Yeah, you heard me: like bees on sugary syrup. I dunno where this writing gold comes from; it’s just there to be mined.

Speaking of mining something, the Canucks are dig-dig-digging at Niemi for the puck. The bees go Buzzzzzzzzzz.

And how do you stop a swarm of bees? You smoke them out. Toews hits a streaking Kaner, who goes forehand-backhand-forehand-waits-waits-waaaaaiiiiiitttts and slots it home. . .

. . . And then 25 seconds later, Kaner catches the bees napping, hits Big Buff with a deft pass, and Buff makes it 5-1 just like that. It’s déjà vu of the start of the second period, huh?

(Or more likely, it’s déjà vu of Game 6 a year ago. Now the fans are derisively cheering “LUUUU!” every time he makes an easy save. Oh how the tide turns. How long will it take for him to blubber in his post game interview? I put the over-under at five minutes.)

‘Hawks get a shot at the PP, a double shot with a double minor and 10-minute misconduct to Mikael Samuelsson, yet another offensive weapon of the Canucks doing some offensive to his side. Will this be like Games 3 and 4, where the Canucks lose their collective cool and start a conga line to the penalty box? While I wouldn’t mind seeing that meltdown happen all over again, let’s wrap this up as quickly as possible, get ready for the next series.

Okay, here we go with the five-minute countdown to this period and series, though it’s pretty anticlimactic, don’t ya think?

Five minutes to go, ‘Hawks are still on the PP.

Four minutes to go, ‘Hawks are still on the PP, they get a few wide shots off, Canucks can’t get anything started.

Three minutes to go, Canucks at full strength, don’t play with the same urgency they exhibited in the first part of this period.

Two minutes to go, Foley mentions the Canucks are 13-24 in GM Place in the playoffs. They know how to make home ice advantage suck.

One minute to go. . . and no, the Canucks do not pull “LUUUU!” for an extra attacker, though I’m sure the fans wouldn’t mind seeing him off the ice. No skirmishes started by the Canucks, they’ve lost the will to fight.

And for one of the rare times in the postseason, I can say that was an easy-peasy end to a playoff series, just like it was for the ‘Hawks one year ago today against these Canuckleheads. Niemi was great, but his mates were even greater in helping him out in the first moments of this game. The ‘Hawks didn’t get frustrated with their near-misses, and it was those supporting players-Brouwer, Versteeg and Bolland-that opened the scoring. Canucks played a totally opposite game from Game 5, and just like last year, it cost them a perfect opportunity to retaking control of this series and maybe living up to their plans of revenge.

I guess Kaner knew something about this game when he gave that sly wink. Now I hope he knows the way to San Jose.

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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