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THE FAR SIDE OF THE POND:Nobody Could Make This @#$! Up

By:
04/26/2010 2:13 PM - By Chad Huebner

I’m starting to feel better about the ‘Hawks’ chances in this series. The only thing that’s holding me back from full confidence is that after Game 2, everyone was saying the ‘Hawks were able to play down to the Preds. Well, apparently they didn’t carry that philosophy over to the next game, hence why Game 4 was so important to the ‘Hawks. But I’m hoping and thinking, but mainly hoping, the aggressive play from the last game will carry over into this afternoon’s affair, and finally someone will be able to win two games in a row. I’m all set with my Chicken Carb from Quizno’s and assorted energy drinks and beers to either ease down or wake up depending on what happens.

(And yes, in the back of my head, I’m thinking I could pull some sweet endorsement deals from all these products. So please, Quizno’s, Amp Energy and Goose Island, I do get some publicity from this, and I guess you could pay me off in free food and drink for the meantime.)

1ST PERIOD

Fourth straight game the Preds won’t have the services of their leading scorer during the regular season, Patrick Hornqvist. But longtime vet (the only player to have been with the team since its inception) David Legwand leads the team in scoring in the series and has been a major contributor in the Preds’ two wins. So, basic strategy dictates that the ‘Hawks need to shut this guy down for the balance of the series.

(Yes, that was a simple, straightforward paragraph. I don’t have to be goofy-funny all the time, do I? Oh, all right then: Boogie-de-boogie-de-boo! Hope you’re happy and/or smiling.)

‘Hawks are still having problems putting the puck within the confines of the iron portion of the net. Unless they have a mastery of quantum physics, they will not be able to put the puck through the iron post, as they just did in this game.

And coming off of that near miss, the Preds do manage to get the puck into the cage. It’s that darn Legwand again. Oh boy, doubt starting to settle into my stomach again. Hope I have enough room for the Chicken Carb.

And then of course the ‘Hawks draw a penalty, which is just tempting fate one too many times in such a closely played series. DING! right off the crossbar, so maybe the Preds are catching some of that bad luck from the ‘Hawks. By all means, guys, infect the heck out of them.

YESSSSS!!!!! ‘Hawks tie it up off of a slapper from Seabs at the blueline with no Pred within 15 feet of him. Rinne deflects the hard shot, and Ladd flips it over him for the tying marker. Two goals in only 10 minutes? My gosh, this game could possibly be a shootout at this pace.

‘Hawks are starting to actually move the puck in the offensive zone, but the Preds’ scoring chances are counting to outnumber the ‘Hawks’ by a noticeable margin. This might be something the ‘Hawks will have to live with to win this series.

Once again, it’s the D that’s playing more O than the O.

Umm, I mean a defenseman just scored for the ‘Hawks. Nicklas Hjarlmasson, who plays on the second D line with Brian Campbell, took yet another slapper from near the blue line for the go-ahead goal. This is more like the ‘Hawks offense during the regular season, with the forwards down low setting up the D-men for long shots that either go in or come off the goalie for some sweet rebound goals. Hmmm, perhaps the ‘Hawks are finally wearing down the rough play of the Preds?

Now it’s time for that favorite game, “Find the puck on the goalie.” Niemi makes a point blank save, and even he doesn’t know where the heck the puck is on him. Is there such a thing as a puck-sniffing dog? One of the refs is actually frisking Niemi. It takes Toews to lift up the front of Niemi’s jersey and out comes the puck. Let the captain find what you’re looking for, yarrr! Anyway, it was a funny moment and definitely something for all the sports networks’ highlight reels. Lots of good play and lots of laughter add up to a somewhat comforting first period.

2ND PERIOD

Do I have to keep writing that the Preds are so aggressive in the ‘Hawks’ zone, the ‘Hawks take penalties, which lead to more Preds’ scoring chances? I know I just did, but I sound like such a broken record. Ladd trips up a streaking Jason Arnott (not that kind of streaking, keep it clean, okay?) for the latest PK adventure. It amazes me sometimes that the ‘Hawks have won two games already in spite of such poor play.

Legwand has done a lot this game: scoring the goal, being a pest in the ‘Hawks’ zone and now taking the Preds first penalty of the game. At least one of those three abilities are beneficial to the ‘Hawks.  But then it quickly doesn’t matter as Kaner trips a Pred, so it’s still one step forward, two back for the ‘Hawks.

Or maybe that’s two forward and two back? Dan Hamhuis of the Preds’ gets whistled for tripping, even though I’ll admit it looked like he was going for the puck more than the body. Anyway, it’s 4-on-3 for about three milliseconds. . .

. . . And when it’s back to 4-on-4, Dunc gets flagged for an interference call. So in the space of about four minutes, the ‘Hawks unfortunately hold the penalty edge three to two.

All I know is that the Preds haven’t scored, they haven’t been able to set up for a good shot (‘Hawks lead the period 6-1 in shots), and it’s already the halfway point of the game. It’s not totally desirable in “The New NHL,” but sometimes the best defense is running down the clock.

Here’s a situation that just made me slap my head in frustration. ‘Hawks had a steady attack going in the Preds’ zone where they were getting multiple shots and preventing the Preds from making a needed line change. . . and the ‘Hawks have too many men on the ice. That seems to be the most popular call not only for this series, but the entire 2010 playoffs. Trust the ‘Hawks to kill some much deserved momentum.

Ummm, forget about all of that because the ‘Hawks, shorthanded goal-scoring extraordinaire in the regular season, get a big one thanks to Tomas Kopecky, which is a bit ironic, because he’s usually the reason why the ‘Hawks have been on the PK so much. It seemed fitting though that he was in the box for the too many men penalty, but then as he comes out, the ‘Hawks flip it to him for the easy breakaway tally. Perhaps the Sports Kharma Gods are putting things in balance yet again.

Then again. . . Preds make things interesting with a shortie goal of their own. Legwand once again gets a point with an assist on the score. Grrrr, two steps forward, two back. . .

Sideline commentator Pierre McGuire uses the word resiliency and its various forms in about a 30-second discussion, but it’s true that the Preds are. . . well, resilient. Outshot 14-3 in the second yet they still only trail by one. Gut check time for the ‘Hawks, who are trying to win their first non-shutout game of the series.

3RD PERIOD

It doesn’t take long for the entire makeup of this game to change as the Preds, for about the umpteenth time, are camping in the ‘Hawks’ zone, and they tie what has already been the highest-scoring game of the series. The Preds want a back and forth game, the 'Hawks need a game where they hold a two-goal edge through nearly the entire contest.

Again, Hossa seems to be doing all the little things to keep the ‘Hawks in this series, whether it’s setting up goals, or drawing penalties like he just did. He seems to get it, why can’t the rest of the team do the same? A pretty good PP attempt for the ‘Hawks. . . except for the fact they couldn’t score due to Rinne’s brilliance. A point blank save here, a whirling dervish, Hasek-like save there, and the ‘Hawks aren’t any closer to taking back control of this game.

Now I’m starting to feel really nauseous. Even though the ‘Hawks have played a pretty good game, they’re still giving up too much ground in their end, and on this latest occasion, the Preds take the lead for the first time this afternoon. Now what? Can the ‘Hawks finally wake up and kick it into a higher gear? Very, very quiet in the United Center right now.

‘Hawks playing with urgency, which is fine, as long as they don’t rush everything. But the Preds are playing just as tough, which means things are a wash, which also means the ‘Hawks aren’t getting the upper hand. We’re already down to less than three minutes in this one. I don’t have any answers for this one, hope the ‘Hawks have at least one.

Fans booing with impatience, because the ‘Hawks are having trouble just getting the puck out of their end, Niemi gets pulled with 1:31 to go. This is it. This better be it. . .

. . . and Hossa, of all people, gets called with a stupid, five-minute penalty for throwing a Pred into the boards. Niemi back in net for the moment with 1:03 to go. . .

. . . ‘Hawks waste 30 seconds getting the puck out of their zone, but they do, and Niemi gets off the ice. DING!  puck off the post and then. . . and then. . .

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

13.6 seconds left in regulation, Kaner ties it all up! He’s pumping his fist, the crowd tears the roof off of the UC.

BUT. . .

. . . while we go to the 1st OT of the series, the ‘Hawks will be shorthanded for the first four minutes of the period. ‘Hawks have the momentum, just not the extra player.

1st OT

Okay, play the PK calmly and smartly. No soft passes. Don’t over commit to the puck handler. It can be done, it MUST be done. . .

ZOIKS!

Bolland and Madden take the puck out of their zone (and believe me, I was wringing my hands the whole time), crowd rises as one, Bolland takes a shot, deflection and Madden takes a shot. . . and it just goes inches wide of the net.

‘Hawks PK has been unfrakking stellar!!!!!

I can’t take anymore, I really can’t. ‘Hawks have to score soon. Besides, I’m running out of beer.

As if to answer my prayers. . . are you ready for this one?

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!

So much happened for the final and most important tally, but suffice it to say, ‘Hawks pass the puck in the Preds’ zone, Bolland takes a shot that gets tipped to Hossa (who just got out of the penalty box 10 seconds before all of this), who’s staring at a wide-open net and tips it in. He redeems himself for the stupid penalty, which caused me to lose more of my already thinning hair on the best five-minute PK I have ever seen the ‘Hawks play. EVER! A shortie tying goal, and then an awe-inspiring, momentum-changing PK session to start the overtime, followed by the ‘Hawks taking a page from the Preds’ offensive playbook and being mega-aggressive on the forecheck.

I’d say it was the Chicken Carb that pulled this game out of death’s reach, but I’d be stone-faced lying on that point. ‘Hawks dug deeper than any other time I’ve seen them play, heck, deeper than any other team I’ve seen play. Redemption by Kaner, for giving up the shortie and the same for Hossa. I’d say there’s no way the ‘Hawks can lose this incredible series now, but I’ve seen stranger things. . . most of them in this game alone.

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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