Fitting, I suppose, that it’s raining like mad (again) today, the day after the Blackhawks tilted at their last windmill of the 2010-2011 season, losing to the Vancouver Canucks 2-1 in overtime after nearly pulling off the impossible and overcoming a three-games-to-none deficit in the best of seven playoff series. It was a hell of a game, capping off a hell of a series – but in all honesty, the better team won.
And so maybe it was fitting, too, that the ’Hawks lost his way – with Jonathan Toews tying the game late in the third period to force overtime, only to have Vancouver’s Alexandre Burrows score the winning goal about 5 minutes, 22 seconds into the extra period. This year’s Blackhawks were a decent team, but they were not the same team that won the Stanley Cup last year. In the off season, with apparent salary cap issues looming, the ’Hawks jettisoned several major players from the championship squad, including local favorite Dustin Byfuglien, who was traded to Atlanta along with Brent Sopel; Kris Versteeg, who was traded to the Maple Leafs; and Andrew Ladd, who was traded to Atlanta in a separate deal. Then, in August, the Blackhawks released goalie Antti Niemi, who’d been a huge part of their 2010 playoff success, after Niemi was awarded $2.75 million in salary arbitration. Although several of the most important players from the Stanley Cup team remained – most notably Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa – it was, at best, an up-and-down season; and Blackhawks only crept into the 8th position in the Western Conference playoffs after Dallas lost to Minnesota on the last day of the regular season.
Not exactly what we’d hoped for a year after winning the Cup.
But I’ve been a Chicago sports fan for a very long time, so this was nothing new to me. If I could survive the Bears’ playoff loss to the Washington Redskins in January 1987 after having all but owned the NFL the year before; or the Cubs’ 2003 collapse to the Florida Marlins after going up three games to one … well, I can survive any playoff loss.
And although the ’Hawks blew the first three games against Vancouver, at least they fought back. Everybody wants to win championships every year; sometimes the fact that your team shows up and fights like hell has to be good enough.
Unfortunately, a lot of us thought the Blackhawks had a real shot last night after winning games 4, 5 and 6, so I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was more than a little disappointed with the outcome. But, hey, that’s why they play the games, right.
The sky is crying, indeed.© 2011 David P. von Ebers. All rights reserved.