Killed The Lord, Left For The New World
If you're here it's because you're probably watching the Chicago Blackhawks play the Detroit Red Wings in a playoff hockey series and, like me, you have lots of feelings. For example, last night I was filled with dread and angst over the way the first period played out. It didn't subside the entire game. At one point, after Patrick Kane had finally broken through and scored following Niklas Hjalmarsson's turning Johan Franzen into a red heap of lingonberry jam, I wanted to make myself say it. I wanted to say, "Relax. This team always comes back from these kinds of deficits. That's what they do. Don't worry."
But I never believed it. And yet the Blackhawks weren't without their chances and perhaps some controversy. And that's fine. You won't hear me complain about the officiating. You will hear me mock those that do. Even stoic Jonathan Toews - whose quotes to the press after both losses would be troubling if I wasn't steadfast in my belief that player quotes are so much flotsam and jetsam meant for traditional scribes to build tired narratives around. But you've heard all that before.
The last two games are scary for myriad reasons. First, the Hawks and Wings have a history. You might have heard about it. The phrase "you never went through us" has to strike a nerve. The Blackhawks didn't beat Detroit when the won the Cup in 2010. They never had to. Now if you believe that a history of games back when Detroit was a vastly superior hockey club has a dramatic effect on this series that's fine. I don't. The Blackhawks are the better team in almost every capacity. Sane Red Wings fans will reluctantly agree.
Second, you're seeing things you're not used to seeing from this iteration of the Blackhawks. You're seeing panic. You're seeing the captain fail to score. You're seeing players who once played on the edge crossover into rabid hysterics costing the squad precious 5-on-5 minutes. That's extra terrifying because it seems like the team can't handle adversity that never really reared its head during the shortened season. It seems like Mike Babcock and the Red Wings have figured out how to push all the right buttons to throw the Blackhawks off of their game, talent gap be damned.
Third, you expected better. You saw game one. It was a pasting. We were all riding high. Before this series you wanted the Red Wings in round two. You wanted to stamp out these lifeless things and send their once glorious empire to decay in the desert of the Eastern Conference. That was what you expected and it's not what you're getting. Perhaps we've gotten a little too arrogant as a fan base. Perhaps we expect perfection and when it doesn't happen the shock is a little more intense and cuts deeper than it usually would.
So how are you processing these feelings? There are still a couple of days until game four. And so we wait. Some people might feel like it's over. You know how I know it's not over? Because I still feel jittery and awful. There's plenty of hockey left.
Part of me wanted to scream into the void about the lack of scoring from the best players on the team. Part of me wanted to ask why Joel Quenneville seemed to be fine with his players acting like heat-seeking missiles as the game clock wound down. Does he have an answer for Mike Babcock's adjustments after game one? Where's the team the Hawks beat 7-1 and who are these rejuvenated Red Wings trying to resurrect the ghosts of Lidstrom, Holmstrom, McCarty, Draper, & c?
The Red Wings are a well-coached, skilled team. They aren't going to go out without a fight and they've been their best the past two games. You've seen it. That is their best. While the historical context of this series is mostly fluff and a neat story for the networks and papers to tell, there's something to it from the fans' point of view. I can't pretend like a Blackhawk series victory wouldn't feel like putting the Wings in a lead coffin and burying them under a mile of cement. They've been able to lord it over us since any of us can remember. This should have been the end of the Detroit era. It still can be.
You've never had to go through us.