Thursday, May 21, 2009

Now I'm Certifiable: HCTB jumps on the Blackhawks bandwagon

Well, this is awkward. As promised, today is the day that this blog announces its bandwagon endorsement -- honoring the readers' decision in the bandwagon poll to the right. And as Marian Hossa will tell you, a promise is a promise. (even though I was kinda hoping the Pens fans would rally at the last minute)

So, for the rest of the playoffs, Here Come the Bruins! throws its hat in with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Yes, I'm that crazy.

But not as crazy as this guy...

Chicago trails their most bitter rival 2-0 in their playoff series, the equivalent of spotting LeBron James the first two letters in a game of H-O-R-S-E. They got whipped in Game 1, and then punched in the gut as the Red Wings took Game 2 in OT. Ask anybody who knows hockey, and they'll tell you the Hawks are done.

Well, ask anybody other than the Blackhawks.

The great thing, and the worst thing, about this team of young guns is their attitude. Words like "maturity" and "humility" tend not to surface when guys like Adam Burish and Dustin Byfuglien enter the conversation. Chicago seems more like a college team than a pro squad on the verge of a Finals breakthrough. They have an infectious exuberance that has spread beyond the locker room, beyond the stands in the United Center, beyond the boundaries of die-hard Hawks faithful and into the greater Chicago consciousness.

A brief glimpse at their news clippings tells the tale:

  • Wayne Drehs' profile of Patrick Kane reveals that the budding star's private life still involves scooter races, pranks on his dad, and missing prom.
  • George Sipple reports that Colin Fraser's nickname is "Mario" -- a reference to the team's addiction to the Wii game Mario Kart.
  • According to the New York Times, the "veteran" task of mentoring 20-year-old Jonathan Toews fell to that grizzled veteran of many years, 24-year-old Brent Seabrook.
  • Toews' playoff beard, if you can call it that, is not exactly what you'd expect to see on Brendan Shanahan or Scott Niedermayer.
In a sport where a 25-year-old is considered a "kid", many of the Blackhawks really are kids. And not just the supporting cast, mind you, but the core of the team -- the Hawks sent 2 players under 21 to the All-Star Game this season (plus 29-year-old Brian Campbell) and sent 2 more to the Rookie-Sophomore Game. By contrast, their only regular skater over 30 years of age is newcomer Sammy Pahlsson.

And that might be their ace in the hole against the most experienced club in the league.

Don't get me wrong -- a Blackhawks rally is unlikely, a faint hope at the fringes of reality. But this is the NHL. This is hockey. Weird things can happen at the most unexpected times.

If the Hawks are to climb back into this series, it might not be in spite of their youth, but because of it. Kris Versteeg, a former Bruins prospect in his first full NHL campaign, said before the series began that:

"They know what to do, but we're not nervous. We're not worried. We're
excited. We don't know any better

That comment echoes one made by Kane several weeks ago:
"I think you look at our team and, yes, we have some young guys, and
sometimes it seems like we don't know any better [than to
succeed in the playoffs].
Call me crazy, but I believe the Hawks have a legitimate chance to win this series out of sheer ignorance -- they don't know that this series is supposed to be over now, that teams in their position frequently play not to be embarrassed, that the Wings are already written in pencil in the Finals portion of the playoff bracket.

The Blackhawks are too young and dumb, and that's why they'll keep coming. And when a team keeps coming in the playoffs, they start to get the breaks.

Last year the fresh-faced Penguins were a disaster in their first two Finals games, but nearly rallied to force a seventh game. It was home ice which allowed them to breathe, to play their game instead of sitting back and watching Detroit dominate. The Blackhawks are on the verge of a new lesson: the true importance of home-ice advantage in the playoffs.

There will be over 20,000 fans packed into the United Center tomorrow night to witness the most important Blackhawks game in 15 years. The Hawks will enjoy home-ice advantage, allowing them to manipulate matchups and win more faceoffs. And let's not forget who's pulling the strings in Chicago these days. Little things are sure to start breaking in the Blackhawks' favor.

The window is still open, however slim the gap might look from here. If there's any team young and limber enough to squeeze through, it's the Blackhawks.

Prediction: Chicago in 7.

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Anonymous said...

I love it. You're a true hockey fan. Hat's off. I voted Pens for you (and then changed to Canes because of Maurice) but I'll come along on the bandwagon. Let's make it a Pens / Hawks final.

Tom said...

It'll be a "Sudden Death" rematch! Someone call Jean Claude Van Damme!