It Tolls For Thee
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee. - John Dunne
Can we talk about an unpleasant subject for a moment? Death anybody?
The Golden Age of Blackhawk Hockey seems to have been put on life support. Even without the aid of my hearing aids, the sound of the bell John Dunne describes, is becoming quite audible. LOL - not many fans outside of Chicago are shedding a tear - the heartless bastards.
The "I told you so" vultures descended in full force Friday, as the Hawks lost in four straight games to those speedy Mustard Men from Nashville. Led by a barrage of Chicago sportswriters and radio talk show hosts, the cannibalistic criticism of the core was in full force. The bottom line on Friday morning was, "the Hawks will never again hoist the Cup with the Hawks current core of veterans." We were just to "old and slow." Keith, Seabrook, Hjalmarrson and Tazer are ready to be tossed onto the funeral pyre. The writing is plainly on the wall, and you didn't need a prophet like Daniel to interpret it for you. Hockey is a young man's game.
Not good for King Belshazzar
A quick glance at the respective rosters seems to paint a pretty bleak picture. Campbell-37 (when the hell did that happen?!), Keith-33, Hossa-38, Toews-28, Kane-28, Crawford-33, Hammer-29, Oduya-35, and Anisimov-28. Contrast that with the Predators impact players; Forsberg-22, Fiala-20, Johansen-24, Smith-27, Sissons-23, Arvidsson-24, Fisher-36, Wilson-27, Neal-27 Josi-26, Ekholm-26, Ellis-26, Subban-27 and Rinne-34. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out which side Father Time is on.
Tell me again, how did those old crotchety veterans rack up 109 points this season?
A morbid thought crossed my mind as I reflected upon the death knell that is ringing in the ears of the Hawk faithful. I entertained the idea of putting on a sport coat and tie for our Easter services last Sunday. As I scrolled threw the closet, I began to realize that none of my dress trousers fit any more. If I were to pass away suddenly, what would my kids deck me out in for my wake? Just in case, know that I'm fine being buried in my "old" blue jeans, a nice Brook Brother's casual shirt and sweater. Maybe have Griff and McP play AB's song, by The Marshall Tucker Band.
Like the Hawks, Epic Fail
Regardless of what I'm eventually decked out in, I've always been puzzled by a comment I've heard at wakes. Have you ever heard someone say, "He looks good, doesn't he." I don't know, I've always thought they looked pretty much dead to me. Not too much unlike the Hawks as they headed into Game Four.
In Game Three, although it's possible the Pred's were inspired by an outstanding version of the national anthem by Mike fisher's wife, the thought crossed my mind that the Predators might be on some sort of performance enhancing drug. The Hawks by contrast, looked like they had one skate in the glue factory. I remember reading once that in the old days, they had two pots of coffee in the locker room. One was leaded, and one was unleaded. Now I'm not going to accuse the Pred's of doing crystal meth before the game; but some of them obviously have teeth issues, which is a good indicator of meth use. Just saying. At any rate, it seemed that this entire series was breaking bad for the Hawks. The old and feeble Hawks did not seem to be able to keep up with the "speed" of the Preds.
I had to stop watching that Breaking Bad after about the third season. Much like the Hawks/Pred's playoff series, the show just kept getting darker and darker. I kept watching the Hawks though, because it seemed as if there was a glimmer of hope during Game Three.
Despite being outshot 49 - 36, and the Hawks players blocked another 30 shots, we clung to a 2-0 lead as we entered the final frame. Dennis Rasmussen made it 1-0, after Panik and Kruger did some fine work along the boards. I guess you might be in a little trouble when the Rasputin/Freddy/Panic line is the best trio you got going. But those guys got after the biscuit all night long. They played well again on Thursday. When Kaner rifled a wrister past Rinne after a delay of game penalty to Ryan Ellis, Hawk fans had high, if not nervous, hopes for a Game Five in Chicago. It was probably the only mistake Ellis made all series.
As the third period commenced, Hawks fans were sitting on pins and needles, as we clung to a vestige of hope. Early on, Nick Schmaltz was sprung on a nice pass from Hossa, only to have Rinne thwart his breakaway chance. It may have been the save of the Series. What happened next bore all the appearances of Divine Intervention.
Arvidsson fired a shot that flew over the cross bar, hitting a stanchion behind Crow's nest. The puck caromed back to Forsberg's stick in front of the net for an easy tap in. Truly that goal was a gift from above. This despite the fact that all the Predator's, and their fans, are known sinners. When it's your turn, it's your turn I guess. C'est la vie.
From a Chicago point of view, the Mustard men's second tally was also a gift; this time courtesy of the war room in Toronto. Who are these mysterious guys in Toronto - has anyone ever seen one of them? Is it possible they could be persuaded by money, bias or someone threatening to break their legs? At any rate, this play also involved that pesky Viktor Arvidsson.
Personally, I thought Arvidsson interfered with Cor-dawg, not allowing him to make a play on Filip Forsberg's shot. It was his second goal in a matter of minutes. Arvidsson reminded me of Dave Bolland a bit on that play. Of course, when Bolland pulled something like that off, it was a "hockey play." When that dirty little rat on Nashville got away with it, well then it is a clear cut case of chicanery, duplicity and malfeasance. Might as well throw subterfuge into the mix. However, I think many of Hawk fans felt that the Pred's were going to tie this game up even if that goal was disallowed. The ice seemed tilted for most of the third period towards the wrong end of the rink.
Viktor Arvidsson - "Has anyone seen my helmet?"
I watched the OT in that Game Three until the bitter end, despite realizing it was only a matter of time before Nashville scored. The Pred"s seemed to be skating as fast in the fourth period as they did in the first period. The Hawks appeared to be wearing those cement shoes Chicago is so infamously noted for. Nashville's fine young defensemen continued to connect on tape to tape passes as they exited their zone, sending their fleet footed forwards on their merry way. I've always said the Hawks are at their best when their passing allows us to fly threw the neutral zone with speed. It's hard to muster much of an attack from a standing start. The reversals of the transition game in this series was sort of a Freaky Friday moment.
In a great post game recap, Fifth Feather over at the "Faxes from Uncle Dale" website summarized what appeared to be ailing the Hawks in this series. First off, the Hawk forwards repeatedly failed to get the puck deep into the Nashville zone, resulting in Nashville quickly counter attacking with speed through the neutral zone. And then there was this;
–The other mismanaging of the puck came on the defensive end. If there was an Olympic sport where two people aimed to put passes in the other’s feet, Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson would be the reigning gold medalists year after year. Keith and Hjalmarsson took turns giving each other god awful passes that forced the other to look down at the puck, corral it and then pick their head up. In the meanwhile, two Predator forecheckers on their top line are coming down full bore.
It’s been said over and over that these two just don’t pair up well together. Monday night was probably the gold standard example.
Kevin Fiala finally put the nail in the coffin at the 16:44 mark of the OT. He probably did us a big favor by ending it then. I got to go to bed at 12:30, instead of 1:30. But, the coffin wasn't totally sealed after this game. The effort did produce a glimmer of hope.
The fourth game of the series was the best one of the series for the Hawks. They played hard, risking life and limb, actually out shooting Nashville 31-26. As opposed to the first three games, I really thought the Hawks would tie this game up, and most likely win it. They looked more like the Hawks of old - desperation will do that to you I guess.
However, I think Mike Milbury said it best during the second intermission; "The Hawks need to get their shots on the net." Hossa made a brilliant play in the slot, that left two Pred's sprawling. He was all alone in the slot, and fired the puck a few feet wide. It did result in about three good whacks at the rebound before the puck was finally frozen. Panarin also missed a golden opportunity when Kaner fed him a perfect pass on a two on one. The puck went sailing over the crossbar. Kempny also shot wide on a Grade A chance off a rush.
In their defense, Pekka Rinne was only leaving the 6" x 6" boxes in the upper corners of the net to shoot at it seemed. And try as you may, (Kaner attempted it), you can't shoot it threw him. Scoring on Pekka Rinne reminded me of getting that last bit of tooth paste out of a seemingly empty tube. There's always one more dab of tooth paste in there if you try hard enough to squeeze it out!
With the Hawks mounting a furious attempt to score the tying goal in the third, TVR, (who i thought had a very good game), got caught on a pinch. Arvidsson led a rush into the Hawks zone, deftly leaving a drop pass for Colton Sissons to tee up in the slot. Sissons nailed the crossbar and the puck ricocheted back into Crow's blocker. With Arvidsson lurking around the crease like the little rat he is, Crawford flung his arm backward, not realizing the puck was behind the blocker. The puck fell out and trickled over the goal line. Ouch, that one hurt. Pretty much game, set, match at this point.
It was time to start checking the closet for trousers that fit at this juncture.
Jonathon Toews finally solved Rinne with a great snipe off a feed from Panarin. Ha, in your face Nashville; at least you didn't shut us out! And in a classic example of the inner meatball in me, I believe Duncan Keith had the best play of the entire series. He lined up Arvidsson with a hip check, launching him into the middle of next week. If only for a moment, it felt like victory! I've never seen a helmet fly off any players head like that. That's hockey baby! Try as they may, a miraculous comeback was just not in the cards for the Hawks.
As far as the reffing goes, I'll just leave it at I wasn't particularly thrilled with it. There was time I think PK Subban thought he was in the Calgary Stampede while trying to hog tie Tazer. On Monday there was one situation where Big Hoss was getting mugged, while fighting valiantly for the puck along the boards. When he finally broke free, my brother said, "If I were Hossa, I'd check and see if I still have my wallet!" And then there was the Ellis cup check on Panik behind Rinne's net in Game Four that was a second prior to Panik tripping him. Surely, both players should have been sent to the sin bin. I suppose Predator fans could send me a list of Hawk penalties and malfeasance that the refs missed also. Most certainly, there was a lot more wrong with the Hawks in this series than the three blind mice.
A blogger that goes by the handle "Sparky the Barbarian" did a pretty good job describing the Hawks shortcomings in this series, even if he is bad at Haiku's - (sorry Sparky, no seasonal reference);
Poor puck management.
Turnovers at the blue line.
No rotation when a D man pinches, leaving the point wide open and leading to many many many many odd man breaks.
Lack of consistent Annette.
Complacency: Let’s keep doing what we always do and wait for it to start working.
I might add, Anisimov was playing hurt, this was the first taste of playoff intensity for many of the younger Hawks, Lady Luck was not a tramp, she was an out and out whore, too much indecisiveness, Rinne's miracle save in the first period of Game Three (do you realize that if Rinne were only 6' 4", instead of 6' 5", that puck is in the net!) and a very big tip of the hat to the Preds - they played outstanding. And of course it never hurts when your goalie throws a .976 save % and .070 GAA at you. Two of the three goals Rinne allowed came on hawk power plays. I've always liked Ryan Johansen, and he is most certainly emerging as a force to be reckoned with.
So what do you think Blackhawk fans? Has the bell finally tolled for Golden Age of Blackhawk Hockey? Are Keith and Hjarlmarrson over the hill? Should Tazer be stripped of his C, and traded for a fourth round draft pick and a bag of pucks? Are we really that much slower than the opposition? Do the Hawks have any idea the intense shame they have subjected their loyal following to?
I listened a bit to the Score on Friday morning, and most analysts and the fans who called in said this Hawks core will never again hoist the Stanley Cup. I'm not so sure about that. Most of the criticism reminded me of a song by The O'Connor Band called Ruby, (honey are you mad at your man). Flat out, Hawk fans were mad at the core! It seemed as if they felt it is their God given right to end up in the Stanley Cup Finals every season. Unfortunately, in this modern age of the Salary Cap, the parity that it was intended to produce rules the day. More than any other sport, the separation between the first and eight seed is not that big. Look at how the Capitals are struggling with the Leafs.
The Hawks GM Stan Bowman gave a blistering assessment of the Hawks in an interview saying, "This was unacceptable. We will work to insure it never happens again. There will be changes." The fall from the top is always the hardest to accept, eh? Personally, I've always thought the "One Goal" slogan was a bit narrow minded. Although I'll never forget those scintillating moments in 2010, 2013 and 2015, being a hockey fan is not necessarily about hoisting the Cup and gaudy rings. It's getting to watch one more game as the season winds down, and then the next one and the next one. Obviously, it's a lot more fun when the hero's on the ice we live vicariously through, are still in the hunt!
Eric Church has a great song called Talledega that I stumbled across by chance last year. It's one of those songs that immediately grabs your attention, striking a chord deep within your soul. The video shows an old man on his death bed, recalling all those special moments in life with his friends and family. The Hawks over the years have produced a lot of those moments for me. Perhaps, just perhaps, life is about more than "One Goal."
Maybe it's more about those special moments we spend with family and friends. My all time favorite Hawks game was not a playoff game; it is the first one I ever attended back in the early 1960's. The Hawks were playing the Leafs on a cold winters night in the middle of the season. How I wish I could watch one more game with my dad. Indeed, as Church sings, sometimes life is about my best friends and four bald tires.
So what's a better way to cope with the stunning first round exit, than tearing apart the core that brought us so much joy over the last 10 years? I'm glad you asked. Get a good bottle of wine, sit by a campfire and listen to Eric Church's song Talledega a couple few times.
Well done 2017 Chicago Blackhawks. Thanks for a great season. Is it October yet?
When the winds go cold and it blows October,
I think about us shoulder to shoulder,
Like those cars my thoughts roll over and over and over,
In my mind
Tonight I'm in Talladega, boys raised up,
Whiskey in your glass, here's to turning up,
Slowing down and cars that go real fast,
We were laughing and living, drinking and wishing,
And thinking as that checkered flag was waving,
Sure would like to stay in
And for those of you still really, really mad at the Hawks core, there's this; Hawk fans are you mad at your team:
Aug 11, 2016 - Uploaded by Music City Roots
The O’Connor Band performing "Ruby Are You Mad At Your Man" at Music City Roots Live From The Factory ...
Other Important Stuff:
Good luck Preds. I hope you go all the way.
Remember back early in the season when the Central Division was considered the toughest in hockey.
This FanPost was written by an OTF reader, and does not represent the views of the editorial staff. Got something you'd like to share? Post your own!