By Bruce Mason, AllPuck.com
We previously noted our stay in a mental institute, the devastating effects from missing doses of puckahol during the All-Star break. Four days without actual NHL games, nothing but boredom and gimmicks, and it all created a horrific relapse. No puckahol? A fan can lose his mind.
But now, this fan has been cured. He’s been treated and released after a 12-day stint. During the entire time he was cooped in solitary darkness one thing didn’t change: The Chicago Blackhawks.
They were on a losing skid when he entered.
They are still losing as he exits.
This helps the recovery process, because laughter is good for a healing soul. And that’s Blackhawks hockey right now: Laughter for the soul, a nine-game losing streak full of hilarity.
Have you seen this stuff? The losing streak started in Nashville and continued through Nashville.
Actually, it officially started when Kevin Klein scored from center ice on Chicago goalie Corey Crawford. Ever since, the Hawks have failed to win. And if you don’t think Klein’s 90-foot goal deflated a team and caused a rash of losses, then you’re forgetting about Dan Cloutier, who once translated a 2-0 series lead into four straight Detroit wins in 2002.
Anyway, the ‘Hawks list of inefficiencies is taller than the Sears Tower, and we’ll start with the power play. Or should we say, powerless play: the conversion rate is 4.1 percent (1-for-24). Heck, they might as well decline penalties – if that was humanly possible and didn’t elicit a franchise suspension from Brendan Shanahan.
All joking aside, 1-for-24 is unbelievable considering the ‘Hawks firepower. I mean, where are the stars? Patrick Kane has one goal. Defenseman Duncan Keith is a minus-9 through nine games. Marian Hossa disappeared on the score sheet for a six-game stretch, but then again, he wouldn’t be Marian Hossa if he didn’t occasionally disappear (ask Pittsburgh and Detroit).
And then there’s Jonathan Toews, the captain who scored 27 goals in 48 games, but now has zero in the past eight games along with an uncharacteristic minus-4 rating. This is likely more embarrassing1 to Toews than the time he barreled into a squirt hockey player.
Do you realize that on Dec. 30, the Hawks led the NHL in points? And here we are 19 games later, and they’re 15 points out of first place? How goofy is that?
Speaking of goofiness, it was on full display Tuesday night against Nashville. There was Steve Konroyd, the Hawks color commentator, who talked during the second intermission about breaking the spell with his “lucky” yellow tie. We weren’t going to mention that in this post but then, precisely 10 minutes later, Chicago assistant coach Mike Haviland talked about wearing his green tie for “luck.” We still weren’t going to write about it, but then the Chicago Tribune reported that head coach Joel Quenneville wore a tie with four-leaf clovers and shamrocks.
Are you serious? Three lucky ties in one game? Apparently the third tie isn’t the charm.
Hey. Chicago is known as The Second City. The Second City is also a comedy club2. And somewhere in between is a comedy hockey club within the NHL’s Central Division, thus known as the Blackhawks’ nine-game skid.
This calls for awards.
Here they are, each named after famous Chicago natives.
The former-Illinois-Governor-turned-sociopath appeared on 10,000 talk shows proclaiming his innocence, yet was surely found guilty by a federal jury.
The Blackhawks version of Blagojevich? Marian Hossa, who clearly lost his mind during this nine-game skid, as evidenced by his ongoing battle with the linesmen on Tuesday night in Nashville. The linesmen? Yes, the linesmen. Three times, Hossa blatantly whined and complained about an off-sides call; each time, the ‘Hawks were off the line, just like Blagojevich’s rationale.
In a short amount of time, Blagojevich will likely surrender to authorities and serve a 14-year prison sentence.
In a short amount of time, Hossa will likely entertain thoughts about leaving Chicago for a contender, just like he did with Pittsburgh and Detroit.
His presidential campaign stressed “Change.” This goes to general manager Stan Bowman, who has certainly brought change in a terrible way for ‘Hawks fans.
Bowman either traded, or failed to re-sign, these integral members of the 2010 Cup-winning team: Brian Campbell, who’s enjoying a career year in Florida and ranks second among NHL defensemen in scoring; Dustin Byfuglien, a cyborg who could play offense, defense, hit, fight, and likely eat your soul; Kris Versteeg, another career-year Floridian; Antti Niemi, the goalie who ended the ‘Hawks 49-year drought, but was told that Marty Turco and a savings of $1.45-million was the better financial remedy, so he left for San Jose and signed a whopping $2-million deal; Role players such as Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager, Troy Brouwer and Tomas Kopecky, because who needs size, grit and production on the third and fourth lines?
Change. That’s how you descend from Cup winner in 2010, to first-round knockout in 2011, to laughable losing skid in 2012.
Belushi’s craft made people laugh, kind of like Ray Emery’s goaltending, which entails a save percentage of .864 during the skid.
In baseball terms, that’s like watching your cleanup batter hit .177 with runners in scoring position.
On another note, the name of this award is a perfect fit: Belushi rebelled against an institution in Animal House; Emery rebelled against the Ottawa Senators in 2008, ignoring team orders to behave. He was tardy to practices. He missed a team flight to New Jersey for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. And he was a menace in his Hummer, once allegedly stopping on an exit ramp to scream and curse at a 65-year-old man who mistakenly cut him off.
Oh, Emery also fought a trainer in Russia.
The talk show host is always full of sympathy, which means this award goes to Dylan Olsen, a struggling 21-year-old defenseman who should be in the minors, but was forced into NHL action because of injuries to Steve Montador and Niklas Hjalmarsson.
How’s Olsen’s luck faring?
In San Jose, he knocked a puck into his own net.
In Nashville, he failed to clear the zone on the game-winning goal.
The poor kid probably feels responsible for not ending the skid. Oprah would say it’s not his fault.
The political commentator is known for making silly, head-scratching statements.
This award goes to Denis Savard, the Hawks studio analyst, who offered a gem on Tuesday during the second intermission: “For some reason, I’ve got a feeling they’re gonna get two power plays,” Savard predicted about the ‘Hawks’ third period.
A prediction of power plays, Deni? OK. That’s a new one.
He sounds like a gambler who’s still hungover from Super Bowl prop bets.
Savard was known for his spin-o-ramas during a great playing career – and apparently he’s still spinning in dizziness.
He’s a poet from the Windy City so we’re awarding this one to Konroyd, who delivered this poetic quote prior to Tuesday’s loss:
“It’s true what they say about losing streaks: They are a lot like comfortable beds. Easy to get into. Hard to get out of.”
Great analogy – except this is more like a bed of nails for the ‘Hawks. They’re stuck, suffering miserably, and cannot find a way out. Perhaps looking, as Silverstein would say, for The Missing Piece.
Well, that’s it for this post. That might not be it for the losing skid, because tonight features a trip to the grand stage known as Madison Square Garden, home of the N.Y. Rangers, the best of the Eastern Conference.
Maybe Hossa will shine in the Broadway lights and restore the ‘Hawks, who are dangerously clinging to a two-point cushion above the final playoff spot.
Or maybe he’ll factor into a 10th straight loss, walk over to the opposing locker room, talk to the other Marian (Gaborik), and seek a trade.
We’re banking on the latter.
1. Speaking of embarrassing: Sieve goalies Bob Mason and Darren Pang combined to yield 12 goals at Joe Louis Arena on Dec. 4, 1987. Wings 12, ‘Hawks 0. Mason allowed nine of those goals. His name must have been the problem.
2. Chicago native and famous actor Vince Vaughn is a good comedian, only because we laugh at his allegiance to the Blackhawks!