Jew Grimson and I had a date to argue through the latest resumption in the hostilities between the currently-out-of-the-playoffs 'Hawks and the currently-tied-for-first Avalanche. Grimson had something come up--probably despair over the prospect of watching Marty Turco--so I had to riff the game essentially solo. Which is part of the reason this post will be half game-notes and half season-so-far. I can't bring myself to bang out notes on most of the games, because I'm already in playoff mode, where every win launches me into a 70/30 relief/yay split and every loss forces me into rageboodespairhate tailspins. I'm really a lot of fun to be around.
Grimson weighed in with a predictably muddled prediction:
5-2 Blackhawks, both Avs goals=Stastny, Toews with 1, Keith with 1, & Stalberg & Skille for the rest
I posted up at a local watering hole a bit early, wetting my whistle and whetting my appetite with a few minutes of Preds/Isles (so you didn't have to). Right as I got the game fired up, the Isles went on the power play, a disturbing, depressing sight.
Isles power play makes me sad, like watching a street kid try--and fail--to run a hustle on a Connecticut senator.Not entirely sure why I was thinking about Gladiator at Law...
Seriously, the Isles are like a little-kid gang, with Roloson and like 1 other adult telling tales of street fights and honor to children...
The kids fidget & finger their broken bottles, their lengths of pipe & chunks of brick; they dream of spilling blood and earning colors.
Roloson smiles when they talk, but some nights he weeps alone with rage: 'they're just *kids*' he rasps 'and they never got a chance to be'.
He's still man enough to protect them, still fool enough to think it's the right thing to do. Eventually they all embrace doom.
I had a realization recently: I kind of hate the Blackhawks sweater. Sure, I still have my Portland Winterhawks jersey, and I even wear it every once in a while, but this "best logo in sports" nonsense has got to get a sock stuffed into it. The colors are horrible and the design is really really busy. Fuck it and fuck the Blackhawks.
Game started pretty fast, both Turco and Andy hung out to dry over and over again. Hawks were pressing, and the Avs were getting behind them pretty regularly, which ended once Turco got the hook. To gain the zone against the Hawks is pretty difficult, requiring a well-coordinated dump-in. There's no way to just chip in the biscuit, chase it down, win some battles, and start your offense. You either have to lug it in, which good fucking luck already, or dump with your wings already heading hard to that spot. The numbers haven't been kind to the Second City skaters this year, but it's impressive how their depleted D corps still makes simply setting up your offense a degree-of-difficulty move.
Hawks did what the Sharks did a lot in the playoffs last year, gaining the zone mostly with soft cross-ice dump-ins. Not sure exactly why this continues to work, whether it's a personnel issue, a certain Av d-man getting targeted, or a hole in Sacco's scheme, which can be addressed positioning-wise... It's a problem, because it consistently works, and allows the bad guys to start cycling, which inevitably results in the Avs getting nervous, running around, ceding the prime territory in front of the net, yielding uncontested shots, and, on a night when Andy wasn't sharp, goal after goal. Several times the Hawks had such dominance that regular-strength shifts looked like power plays. Big, skilled teams really neutralize the Avalanche speed advantage this way; it's a systemic advantage, whereas the fleet-footed Avs squad has to wait for situational moments of advantage. Better scheming may be necessary.
Fairly mediocre fight by John Scott against David Koci--Scott won, but not a dominant effort by any means. Next Koci sighting was him bellowing down the bench before the third, probably at McLeod, who was busily huffing his smelling salts, waving them around and bugging his eyes. Great, great moment.
Avs power play boasted a boatload of the beauteous passing around the horn that drives fans beserk--I'm issuing a half-pass, because they were missing Stewart's bullish bulk and Hejduk's hands. Without these two triggermen, the Avs are composed mainly of setup types. Also they're still--still!--missing the threat of a slapshot from the point. Mueller may bring this, but with his concussion nightmare, it's probably best to view him as a promising prospect, not as a guy who's terribly likely to come back. So I have no idea where this necessary weapon is going to come from.
As for the end? Well, Dater declared the game another typical not-ready-for-prime-time performance, with maybe 5/6 minutes to go and the Avs down for the first time in the game. I countered, weakly, with little more than nominal hope, a gesture at hope.
Then, as the game logs all recount, Matt Duchene and Tomas "New Kid on the Block" Fleishmann scored a minute apart, and I was stalking around the bar fist-pumping and scaring the shit out of the 3 people still there, all of whom were watching football idly. (Best comments from a young couple were "hey, this is a good-ass hockey game" and, when we were talking about the fight "yeah, I saw that...your boy got his ass lit up." Which, well, look: Koci didn't win that fight, all right, fine, I get it. But I've seen John Scott light up a dude, and Koci didn't get lit up. He said, defensively, for the second time in a single post.)
Bonus conversation after the game w/ Bogdan von Pylon! VP suggested that Turco might hang it up*; I say noway he does anything but hang out, take the high road, act like the classy veteran, and hope desperately that the team carries him to a cup. Is this going to happen? No. Is everything dark and sad for the Blackhawks? Also no! John Scott is a legit bad man who will blacken many an eye, and that will soothe some, and for a coach as quick with the hook as Big Q, I've gotta believe that Turco's hugging pine and wearing a ball cap for the rest of the year. So you got that goin' for ya.
Because there's noplace else to put this, Marek Svatos and Marty Skoula get beat down and Skoula gets hospitalized in this massive brawl and Tyler Arnason is still walking around a free man. Good looking out, universe. Also, way to go after Svatos--that 5-10, 185 menace is a really impressive notch on any bully's belt.
-Collision, having a Koci-like day
View from the other side. Nice work.
Hawks logo stolen from http://www.sportslogos.net/logo.php?id=56. Cool site.
*McLeod has scored on Brodeur and Turco this year--plus somebody else who I forget**--and I think it's pretty likely anybody he scores on this year will and should retire. Highlander Farewell Tour 10-11, MOTHERFUCKERS!
**Looks like that third goal was against Columbus? Which, they have a team and some goalies and stuff, so...neat! Also, as mentioned: farewell.