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THE FAR SIDE OF THE POND: 2010 Stanley Cup Final Game 3: Close Unfortunately Does Count

06/03/2010 8:58 AM - By Chad Huebner

I really had to think about this one. The last time I saw a favorite Chicago winter sports team of mine play this late into June was the 1998 Chicago Bulls. Yeah, that’s right; it’s been a dozen years since I’ve cared this much about postseason action in June.

Back then, when the Bulls won their sixth championship in eight seasons, it was old hat for us fans. Sure, there were tough moments here and there, but we knew our team would pull it out in the end. They simply would not, could not lose. I think it would have caused a rip in the fabric of space and time or something.

It’s still taking me awhile to feel that way again, and it probably won’t happen until the ‘Hawks have a few more championships on their mantle. There’s trepidation every step of the way. I doubt there will be any blowout victories from here on.

Facing the Flyers at their house, when they’re in must-win mode, intensifies that level of trepidation. I’d obviously feel a lot better if the ‘Hawks were up 3-0, but while 2-1 is still nice, it would set up for an insane scenario for Game 4. The ‘Hawks need at least a split, but then I also thought about that in the last series, and look what happened.

Maybe I just need more confidence in my beloved ‘Hawks. That’s a hard thing to come by when Chicago sports teams in the recent past have succeeded in the regular season, only to come up woefully short in championship situations. I’d say Philly fans have experienced this as well, but hey, the Phillies won the World Series less than two years ago, so things reset.

Since Games 3 and 4 will be on Versus (not sure why that’s happening), I’m glad I won’t have to see or hear Pierre McGuire. Seriously, what is he doing that’s different from what Doc or Eddie O or doing? Just get the usual sideline reporter, and that’s enough.

Flyers trotting out an old-school good luck charm: having someone sing “God Bless America” while showing Kate Smith sing it on the big screen. Back in the 70s, the Flyers would have Smith sing that tune, and nearly every time the Flyers would come up big. You’d think that with bringing out a deceased singer for a spark of good luck is the move of a desperate team, and you might be right. But you’re reading a guy that has had a Chicken Carbonara from Quizno’s before every game, so what does that tell you?

1ST PERIOD

While the backchecking continues to be great for the ‘Hawks, already Niemi has made a couple of solid stops. Nothing fazes this Matt Damon lookalike.

Toews ran into the Pronger Wall, but quickly got back up. ‘Hawks take a licking. . . yadda yadda yadda.

‘Hawks are popping the puck at Leighton. He hasn’t given up anything. . . so far. But he is leaving a ton of juicy rebounds out there.

Flyers are undoubtedly getting off more of the hits so far, but they can’t seem to advance the puck because of those. I mean, yeah, big hits are really fun to watch. But if that’s you’re entire repertoire, then you’re really screwed. Crowd eats it up, no matter what.

Speaking of the crowd, it’s a sea of orange. Very unnerving to me. It’s like it should be red, for some reason, but the slight shade change makes it seem the TV settings need some fine tuning.

Versus does have a sideline reporter, Charissa Thompson. And of course, she’s not bad to look at. Now with that, would you rather see Pierre McGuire, or Charissa? ‘Nuff said.

CLANK! Big Buff’s shot goes off the post. ‘Hawks have had a couple of close calls like that. I’m encouraged they’re getting such chances even though the Flyers are good backcheckers.

‘Hawks start yet another game on the PK. Hossa, if you break someone’s stick, they’re going to call slashing every time! Stoooopid! Niemi can say “no” only so many times before the Flyers capitalize on an incredible behind-the-pass by Scott Hartnell to a wide open Danny Briere. Briere’s been pretty dangerous during this series.

Keep up the hits Carcillo, it’ll just keep giving the ‘Hawks tons of PP opportunities you dumbass goon! Also, it was something the ‘Hawks needed right now, because after giving up the first goal, they were having a hard time getting the puck out of their zone. But they couldn’t convert going into the first intermission. . .

And then. . . WTF?! Bit of a scrum at the end of the period, but it looks like only Big Buff gets called for some extra roughhousing. Now it turns a so-so period by the ‘Hawks into a bit of a bad one.

2ND PERIOD

So the Flyers start the period with most of a PP; Big Buff sent to the box. Is the theme tonight “stooopid penalties”? ‘Hawks dodge a huge bullet killing off this one.

YES! And this time, thanks to the Flyers, as they deflect a Keith slapper up and over Leighton. Bad break? Maybe, but I won’t agree to that.

Pronger’s now in the box, so two of the Flyers I hate have already been called for stoooopid penalties, which is nice. But the ‘Hawks continue to be stymied on the PP, which is very much not nice.

Seabs bowls over a Flyer. See? We can hit hard, too, we just don’t get called for too many penalties because of it.

Another ‘Hawks slash penalty, this time by Big Buff. It looks like Pronger is getting on his nerves when Buff is in front of the Flyers’ net.

NOOOOO!!!!!

Ummm. . . no?

On first glance it looks like the puck trickled over the line, but Niemi swiped it away so fast, it was slightly hard to tell. Puck went inside the left post for a few seconds. We’re waiting for a stoppage in play, which finally happens 90 seconds after all that craziness.

Reply shows. . . goal? Some angles say yes, some say no. Crowd thinks it’s good. I’m not confident enough to say no goal.

So another bad penalty, another PP goal. ‘Hawks are letting this one slip away a little. My Chicken Carb mojo is taking a big beating tonight.

‘Hawks trying to get something started, but it’s been very difficult. I call it frustration, the ‘Hawks probably call it “biding our time.” But every time I think the ‘Hawks can’t come up with something to get back in the game, they do. So, yeah, I’m not that confident.

More stoooopid roughhousing by the Flyers gives the ‘Hawks another opportunity. Penalties are coming fast and furious for both sides. There’s no favoritism here. For all their good scoring chances, the ‘Hawks come up empty yet again. More frustration, I say.

Soooo, a punch to the back of the head isn’t a penalty? Hartnell knocked off Versteeg’s helmet, for frak’s sake! Fine, we’ll see if we can get away with that next time.

Brent Sopel blasts one off the faceoff in Flyers’ territory. . .

YESSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This game was a little dirty, so it’s nice to have Soaps come in and clean things up. I hate to admit it though, he does look a bit like Carcillo. Hopefully, Soaps also doesn’t have that kind of face that you want to punch without provocation.

(Cue the crickets, because the crowd is silent, for some reason.)

So let’s see. . . ‘Hawks were down by one after one. . . they’re tied after two. . . what comes next? Hmmmm.

Again, it’s a case where the other team is giving their all, and for some reason against the ‘Hawks, it’s still not enough. Confidence starting to grow again. Chicken Carb digesting nicely in mah belly.

3RD PERIOD

Okay, let me get this straight: the ‘Hawks, despite being outplayed so far, hang in enough and manage to tie this game again, taking some of the wind out of the Flyers’ sails. So do the Versus commentators give them their props? Hell, no! They’re more impressed with the Flyers’ PP and the way they’re shadowing Hossa. What the hell? I’d like to think that a team battling to tie a game like this would be more newsworthy. To hear the commentators, you’d think the Flyers were up 4-1. East Coast bias? That, or they’re just plain blind.

Hope they’re not deaf. . . YESSSS!!!!!!

Kaner and Toews finally broke through on the score sheet. Toews lays a nice pass to a sprinting Kaner, who has an easy breakaway goal.

And yes, it took me longer to write that than it took the Flyers to even things up again. ‘Hawks had the lead for all of 20 seconds. Momentum shifts back to neutral, game could go either way right now. I’m still feeling a little frustrated.

More big stops by Niemi. It might sound like I’m treating them as ho-hum saves, but it’s hard to convey that white-knuckle, sweat on the brow feeling I have from a flurry of near misses through mere written words.

It feels like the Flyers are on a six-minute PP, but they’ve been controlling the puck in the ‘Hawks’ zone and teeing up. Just amazed that Niemi can see the pucks, let alone stop them. Shots are 11-1 Flyers since they tied it up. Not good.

Clock’s ticking fast, up and down action all the way. Flyers getting way more chances than the ‘Hawks. Hope ‘Hawks aren’t playing for OT.

A little over 90 seconds in regulation. ‘Hawks can’t generate much of a shot. You figure both teams have one good rush in them before time runs out. BLAM! a 35-foot slapper by Keith that bounces off Leighton. But that’s about it. Now we enter the Twilight Zone known as Stanley Cup overtime. I’m glad I only had one beer tonight, because I dunno if I’d be able to stay up late, if necessary.

1ST OT

Watching Doc and Eddie O talking before the start of the OT, I think I see a disco ball hanging in the background. Seriously. I don’t know if that means anything, I just thought I’d bring up that odd sight.

Versteeg squeezes off a shot that just goes high over the net. Bangs his stick on the ice; he knew he could’ve ended things right then and there.

NOOOOOOOO!!!! AGAIN!

Ummmm, no. . . again?

Puck bounces off the right post, but this time it slides right on the goal line before Niemi scoops it up. No question this time: replays clearly show it’s not a goal.

Phhhheeeeewwwwww! That’s all I can say about that one.

Something to cheer me up: ‘Hawks are 5-1 in Stanley Cup OT, Flyers are 1-4.

And naturally, after they show that, what happens? Claude Giroux redirects a shot that goes in Niemi’s fivehole, sliding past the goal line. No replay needed on that one. Damn.

With that, the Chicken Carb streak comes to a bitter end. It really looked like the ‘Hawks could pull off the improbable after that go-ahead goal by Kaner. But then the Flyers spoil everything by tying it up seconds later. Still, it says something that while the Flyers finally managed to break through, it took two PP goals and two goals that barely trickled into the net. It was that close. Trepidation comes back like a wave for what could prove to be a crucial Game 4 for the ‘Hawks. I doubt very much that they want to visit Philly again.

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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