Back for more punishment.

Here Come The HawksAfter the agonizingly long waiting period that is the second half of an NHL season for an elite, veteran team that takes care of business early in the year, the Chicago Blackhawks embarked on their seventh consecutive post-season march last night.It’s been a good run. Heading into last night, the Quenneville-era Hawks were 57-37 in post-season play, winning 12 of 16 series, reaching the WCF four times, and, of course, winning two Stanley Cups.And once again, the team appears to have navigated the rigors and vagaries of a grueling NHL season – a long march of attrition – in good shape. The return of Patrick Kane means the Hawks could shelve late-season acquisitions Antoine Vermette and Andrew Desjardin for the nonce. The Hawks top-12 forwards may or may not be as good as their 2010 counterparts, but the top-14 are definitely better. And Friggin’ Q has made it clear that a few spots at the bottom are open for the taking.On defense, the loss of early-season sensation Trevor Van Riemsdyk is a blow, but not a fatal one. Keith, Seabrook, and Hjamarsson are not worn out or run down, and Johnny Oduya spent some time at a spa rubbing cream on and has come back with more of the old bounce. Best top-4 in the league.Meanwhile, a combination of Roszival, Timmonen, duct tape, baling wire and chewing gum passes for a third pairing. Or, more likely, as we saw last night, these guys are sprinkled around at times.They’re gonna get beat some times, but they’re largely known quantities, and definitely less of a reach than Jordan Hendry, Nick Boynton, or David Rundblad (although, I could see Rundblad rotating in for a home game here and there for 12 minutes of sheltered ice time.)But yeah, if there is a weakness on the team, there it is.Because the goaltending has been rock solid, with Corey Crawford leading the way for the Hawks second Jennings Trophy in three years (with help from Raanta and Darling), and Crawford posting the best full season of his career, saving some of his finest work for the stretch run when the offense faltered.Seven straight years- 539 regular season games. Grind upon grind. 2014-2015 was a workmanlike classic, the Hawks picking up 102 points in a mind-boggingly difficult division, while Blackhawk Nation, beginning in January, provided the background melody in the form of a cacophony of childish caterwauling. Welp. Block it out. Move on. Drop the puck.About Last NightI was so fired up. Jittery, like I’d slurped a pot of coffee, you know? Why weren’t the Hawks? They were…lethargic?…tentative?… Something. Anyway, they found themselves in danger of being run right out of the building. Offensive pressure was nonexistent, the Hawks mustering a scant 6 shots in the period. The Preds controlled the play and deserved the lead, but Crawford wasn’t helping, and the period ended 3-0. Appalling. Fans lighting hair on fire, I’m sure.In comes Scott Darling. He of 13 NHL games, entrusted with the keys to DynastyQuest. OK. Gutsy, I thought.The Hawks scored three times in the period (none 5-on-5). Teuvo to Hammer was a beaut (badass.goal.celebration.), then Toews to Kane to Sharp for some 2008 redux shit during a 5-on-3. Then, Toews walks the line himself on a power play, and, in the confusion caused by Andrew Shaw getting shoved out of the way from behind, Cap’n – cocky mothfucker that he is – stuffs it past Rinne and celebrates bad-assedly (for pictures see: the Internet.) Game tied.Darling faced only 4 shots in the period, but he was under assault in the third, as the Preds (apparently they’re a playoff team, 100+ points, pretty good) were denied on several (say it Eddie) GRADE A SCORING CHANCES. You saw the game. You know what I’m talking about.On to overtime. Now, my jitteriness, if you could bottle it, you could power 100 “1000 fingers” machines in hotels 30 years ago. A lot of jittery.And a lot of crazy back-and-forth shit. Great stuff. The red meat of hockey fandom. Fast-paced, up and down, everything could end in triumph or heartbreak at any time. As a sports fan, there is nothing like it.No one scored. But I was exhausted and needed a cigarette anyway. Weird.On to double OT. Fucking Duncan Keith. Yeah. Darling saves 42 of 42. Ridiculous.Crawford starts for Game 2. Wood mothfucking ho!


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