06/10/2010 3:30 PM
- By Chad Huebner
So we go from turning “History will be made” into “Will history be made tonight?”
I think so. Game 5 was a watershed moment for my beloved Blackhawks, in that it wasn’t enough that they won and took control of the series again, but they won very decisively. Granted, it would have been really in Chicago’s favor to play Game 6 two nights after Game 5 instead of three to preserve the momentum, but then again, every little bit of rest helps at this late stage of the playoffs.
And yet, there’s a part of me that worries, that doesn’t think Chicago can nail this down tonight. That part has grown and diminished throughout the course of the day. It’s basically all part of the emotional roller-coaster known as being a sports fan.
The last two games the ‘Hawks played in Philly, they didn’t play particularly well. Sure, they could’ve won Game 3, and certainly had a shot at winning Game 4, but for the most part, the ‘Hawks were overwhelmed on offense and defense.
There’s also that streak thing, where Chicago hasn’t won in the Wachovia Center (wouldn’t be surprised if someone nicknamed it the “Wack-Off Center” by now) since 1996. That’s 14 years (and 10 games) and counting. The last three games (the one regular season match and the two Cup games) could all have been won by the ‘Hawks aside from some lucky bounces and intense, physical play by the Flyers. If you thought it was tough to escape with a win out of that building before, wait until you see the place go crazy as they watch their team to try and extend this series to a seventh game.
I’m also extremely uncomfortable how the 2010 Stanley Cup Final mirrors the 2009 version. In the 2009 version, the Detroit Red Wings, the team with the home-ice advantage, won Games 1 and 2, but by close margins (3-1 scores both times). Then the Pittsburgh Penguins won Games 3 and 4 in their arena by basically pummeling the living crap out of anything wearing red and white. Game 5 was back in Detroit, and the Red Wings won convincingly 5-0, and seemed poised to win back-to-back cups; all they had to do was take care of business back in Pittsburgh, right? Well, the Pens dominated play in their own building again, going up 2-0 before Detroit scored a goal to make the final score seem close, even though it wasn’t. (And guess when that Game 6 was played? That’s right, a year ago today. Aiiiiieeeeeee!) And then of course a historical Game 7 was played, and the Pens basically outfought the Red Wings for the Cup.
Replace “Detroit” with “Chicago” and “Pittsburgh” with “Philly” with every instance in that previous paragraph, and you see what I mean (though being compared to Detroit in anything is scary enough). History can be made tonight, but it also can be repeated in a certain, strange way. But if anyone can change history, it’s the 2009-10 Chicago Blackhawks. They’ve proven that great things can happen to the downtrodden and that hope does exist. Can they make history tonight? YES THEY CAN!!!!!!
Here we go.
First observation nearly four minutes into the game: ‘Hawks started out strong, Flyers came right back with their own pressure, and there’s been plenty of physical play. ‘Hawks mixing up the lines, but making sure Hossa and Toews are on the ice at the same time.
Weird to be agreeing with Pierre McGuire, but yes, so far this is the best paced game this series.
‘Hawks outshooting Flyers 6-2, but Leighton has been solid so far. There was some mystery who would start in net for Philly, but when Leighton’s 6-0 at home in the playoffs, then there’s no question. Flyers also 4-0 in elimination games, but all four were in the series against Boston when they were down 3-0.
-5 Pronger in the box. I figure I’ll call him that until otherwise. OHHHH!!! The puck bounces off the pipe and lies in the crease for Toews to tap in. . . but it bounces over his stick #$@! I mean the net was as wide open as it ever will be in a Cup Final game. ‘Hawks had some other chances, but none as good as that one. Shots are now 10-2.
The Hartnell-Briere-Leino line can score, but they can hit as well. They laid some big licks on Duncan Keith and Toews that rival what Buff did to -5 Pronger in the last game.
Meanwhile, when the ‘Hawks have a big hit, they’re hit with a penalty. So much for the refs swallowing the whistle in such a crucial game. Flyers patient in setting up their PP shots, but ‘Hawks make crucial clears, and the Flyers’ PP is 1-for-10 in the last three games.
Another -5 Pronger penalty. Is he feeling some of the heat for being -5 in the last game? I thought -5 Pronger didn’t listen to what the media says. What about it, -5 Pronger? Hello? -5 Pronger? Hello?
Oh, I have something to say. . .
YESSSSS!!!!!!! BIG BUFFFFFFF!!!!
BUT. . .
Not too long after that goal, Seabs gets called for elbowing. Again, refs, there’s no shame in swallowing the whistle. PP killed, but it was a nail biter. In fact, I was chewing on my finger bones. That’s how antsy I was.
And as Sopel enters the play from the box, he gets an interference penalty and goes right back. With 26.5 seconds left, that damn GEICO caveman ties it up. ‘Hawks dominated the first period in shots (17-7), but all it took was for another ‘Hawks screw up to give the Flyers life again. I am glad the ‘Hawks started the scoring, but they’ll need to finish it, too.
I wish Pat Foley could’ve called this game, or at least part of it (maybe alternate with Doc each period). If anyone deserves to be here, to experience this firsthand after so many years of either being slightly close or not close at all, it’s Foley. He’s part of the ‘Hawks family and thusly, part of our whole ‘Hawks’ experience. Philly fans, you can make the same claim for whoever calls your games.
Not even into the first minute, and we already have a Philly breakaway. . . but Niemi says NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!
We also have the Geico Caveman in the box for high-sticking on Hjarlmasson. He already got hit in the face after falling on a loose puck after having his stick broken. The hard-luck guy is still very much game for this one. ‘Hawks spend more time chasing the Flyers who control the puck than setting up for the PP. Each stop gives the Flyers and their fans more energy, known as Spiritanium.
Ugh. Kopecky blasted out of his skates by Mike Richards. They’re making up for what Buff did to -5 Pronger again.
Then that damn Hartnell-Briere-Leino strikes again. There doesn’t seem to be any way of stopping these guys, though it did help them that Dunc fell on the ice leading up to the goal.
But the Flyers give the hope right back to the ‘Hawks in the form of another penalty. I’d hate to say it’s a must for the ‘Hawks to score at this early point of the game, but they need something to shut these fans up and shut the Flyers down.
Hossa takes the puck to the net, gets pushed into Leighton while holding off the defenseman. . . and gets called for an interference penalty? WTF?! I never understand that stupid call. Where is the guy supposed to go? I guess the NHL wants a Game 7 no matter what.
Well, maybe I spoke too soon. . . SHARRRRPIEEEE!!!
So the ‘Hawks wanted a 4-on-4? I don’t understand. I don’t get this game. I’m already tired and we’re only halfway through this crazy game.
Rest of Flyers PP: Shot by Dunc. And again. And again. And again. And again. And. . . etc etc etc.
McGuirre talks to Coach Q about the phantom Hossa penalty. . . let’s just say he was cordial about it. I’d be dropping “F” bombs all over the place, and striking the glass where the two stupid Philly fans are making fun of me.
Shots this period: ‘Hawks 8, Flyers 4. I think Dunc had six of them while killing off that last penalty.
The Cup has been sighted! I repeat the Cup has been sighted! Whoop! Whoop! WHOOOOOOP!!!!!
But here’s another goal alert. . . YESSSSS!!!!!!!!
Hjarlmasson fires the puck, and I thought I’d say something about him having big Swedish meatballs, but it deflects off of Ladd for the goal.
Then right after that, the ‘Hawks have the puck back in Philly’s neighborhood and they draw a penalty. Flyers look like a tired team, and the ‘Hawks have reserves of Spiritanium. Crowd finally silent for once this series.
Period ends with the ‘Hawks carrying over some PP time into the second. Flyers started to wear down near the end of that frame, while the ‘Hawks sense the impending win. Just hope they don’t lose focus. Not a problem, when Coach Q leads the way.
You are 20 minutes away from history, but you have won NOTHING yet. Play your game, play your game, and finally PLAY YOUR FRAKKING GAME!!!!!!
The Sports Kharma Gods are bringing in the spirit of Herb Brooks for this one. I think Brooksie would have been silently and stoically proud with what the ‘Hawks have done so far.
Hossa knocks -5 Pronger into the bench. No really, I’m not making this up.
To all of those who said they have tickets to Game 7, so they’re hoping the ‘Hawks lose so the ‘Hawks have a chance to win the Cup in front of their home fans, I only have this to say: @#$! YOU!!!!!!
Am I emotional? YES I AM!!!!!!!
Zero shots in the last 10 minutes for the Flyers. I’d say it’s because the ‘Hawks are skating rings around the Flyers, but no, the ‘Hawks hang onto the puck and they block a ton of shots before they reach Niemi. Flyers are actually at their best-at least at home-when they don’t have many, or any, shots on net. They strike quickly, and make you forget they were outshot to that point. I’m babbling, the beer is officially making me babble.
I keep looking at the top of the screen. ‘Hawks lead 3-2, right? Okay, good, good. I’m not hallucinating or dreaming this.
Love with the glove by Niemi! A spectacular save in an otherwise okay game for him. He’s solid, but not called upon many times to be godlike.
Pace of the game with nine minutes to go is beyond the comprehension of mankind right now. To try and understand it would just drive you completely mad.
Toews needs a goal this series. He deserves a goal. For him not to score is like Walter Payton not scoring a TD in Super Bowl XX. It’s not right.
I don’t think I’ll be able to type from here on out. Excuse me.
Edzo does sneak in an “eeeeemeditaely,” though.
But who was I kidding? Over five minutes left, did I really think the ‘Hawks would be able to fend off the Flyers’ rush? That damn Hartnell again, or at least it looks like it went off his stick.
Now the ‘Hawks need to regain that Spiritanium. Their recent history in OT games in this place is not good at all.
Less than two minutes to go, ‘Hawks ice the puck. Crucial faceoff coming up, which they win, but get another icing. Another crucial faceoff, Flyers keep puck in the zone, and a sprawling Niemi. . . says NOOOOO!!!!! Yet another icing by the ‘Hawks, and they call a much-needed timeout. ‘Hawks look slightly fatigued. . . one minute to go. Ladd takes the puck to the net, might’ve been called for a penalty, but now the refs swallow the whistle. Hossa with a nice shot. . . stopped by Leighton. Then more stuff and we go to overtime for the second time this series and both in this arena. Whoever wins, it’ll be a classic ending to this game.
I guess I should mention now that I brought back the Chicken Carb for this game.
Now, before you go with something like “WHAT?! We lost in Philly in Games 3 and 4 when you ate that thing? Why jinx us now?!” I just thought I’d bring it back for novelty reasons. This is what got us here, now it’s time to finish this game with this sandwich. Nothing bad has happened so far, we’re still in this one.
Not even a minute in and Niemi makes an incredible save. ‘Hawks can’t control the puck in the offensive zone. Momentum slightly on Flyers’ side right now. ‘Hawks need to man up.
And this was pretty much the point where I stopped typing, just like the end of Game 4 in the Western Conference Finals against San Jose. Only this time, it wasn’t to merely soak in the moment, it was to figure out what that moment really was.
When Kaner flung the puck low towards Leighton, I immediately expected some sort of rebound, some way that puck was going to come out somewhere. Instead, in pretty much the next moment, Kaner is flying around the back of the net, then makes a beeline for Niemi, all the while stripping off his gloves and raising his fists into the air. His teammates are in hot pursuit, most of them probably still not sure if he actually scored the winning goal. Even the replay seemed a little strange. We see what looks like a black streak going inside the far post, but then it’s gone, swallowed up by the plastic liner that goes around the bottom of the net. I still attest, and will do so until my dying day, that the puck went into another dimension.
It was a surreal and anti-climatic way of ending it all. First I went “No!” when I thought Kaner missed the shot, then “YES!” when he was celebrating and “Doc” finally said the ‘Hawks won, then “Wait a minute, are they going to check the replay?”
When it finally sunk in, when I finally realized what happened really, really, REALLY happened, then a whole wave of emotions overcame me. I held my face in my hands, alternating between fitful gasps of laughter and fitful gasps of crying. My girlfriend patted my back, and I finally hugged her, kissed her, and told her I loved her.
After that, things were a little hazy. Those beers were starting to kick in, and before I could tell my girlfriend I was planning on buying a bottle of champagne IF the ‘Hawks won it all, she told me she had one in the fridge and did we want to open it? “HELL YES!” was pretty much my response. But before I opened the bottle, I made a beeline for her kitchen sliding door that led to an outside patio, and I just stood there, bellowing at the top of my lungs for a few minutes. I swear I could hear fireworks going off somewhere. Then I ran back inside, opened the bottle, and we finished it off while watching all the postgame stuff. I remember watching Jeremy Roenick get all emotional, trying the hold back the tears on his huge face and thinking “I feel for you, man.” I remember Toews getting the Conn Smythe, though it easily could have gone to three or four other people. I remember seeing Coach Q, who for the most part plays it low-key, who doesn’t get too jovial after most of the wins, just break open in a wide smile and enjoy the moment; the ex-Whaler player probably didn’t see this moment coming during his time in Hartford. I remember asking my girlfriend, over and over again, “Did this actually happen?” and her with a quick response of “No, the Flyers won. You’re just hallucinating all of this.”
When I regain my composure, and my equilibrium (It’s the next day, and I still feel a little hung over. Remember kids: champagne before beer, never fear; beer before champagne, always a pain.) I will write more about my emotions, and what I experienced during the most special season I’ve witnessed as a ‘Hawks’ fan so far. Until then, trust me when I say that there have been times during the working day when I take a moment to think about what just happened, and I tear up a bit when I do. Mission accomplished, the ONE GOAL was scored and now it’s time to enjoy history made, and history in the making.
Remember; e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org for anything on your mind. Best responses and/or questions will be answered publicly.