This morning I received a text from a friend announcing the birth of his first child, a son. And at that moment I realized the miracle that is the cycle of life. The Blackhawks were eliminated in the Western Conference Final Sunday night and then a child was born into this world. In one of the best Conference Final series in recent memory, the L.A. Kings defeated the Chicago Blackhawks in seven games to move on to face the New York Rangers for the chance to hoist the Cup. And for the next week in Chicago, the blogosphere, interweb and good old-fashioned sports radio will be filled with “experts” and callers who have likely never played hockey above intramurals demanding trades and firings of the players and coaches who did not meet their standard of play. Whether or not the casual fan understands, the demise of the Blackhawks season was the result of a few small details.
We all miss certain opportunities during life, the job interview you botched, the presentation where your laptop died, that cute girl on the Brown Line that you made eye contact with but didn’t say hello to. Unfortunately, the NHL is not Craigslist and there are no Missed Connections and the Hawks had plenty. Individually, players will think about the shot they chose over the pass, the chip they didn’t make to get a puck deep and the shot they didn’t get enough on (Oduya). When you lose a seven game series by one goal, it’s those missed opportunities that haunt you during the off-season. And to that nice woman on the Metra this morning, I was simply staring off into space and not intently watching you nurse your child. My apologies.
Unlike that IKEA entertainment center you put together for five hours Saturday, a few missing pieces does make a difference when it comes to winning a Stanley Cup. While they saying goes “your best players need to be your best players” a Stanley Cup run almost always sees big goals coming from unlikely sources. Think the Darren McCarty goal in Game 4 of the 1997 Stanley Cup Final versus the Flyers.
And while you likely won’t see Dave Bolland’s or Michael Frolik’s jersey hanging in the rafters at the United Center any time soon, these two combined for the Cup winning goal in 2013 and bring the little intangibles that help win championships.
The Hockey Gods
If you’ve ever been to Vegas, you’ve likely had the same experience I’ve had – the card that didn’t come up on a big blackjack hand, the roulette ball jumping over your number, or the hooker that turned out to be a man. Regardless, to win a Stanley Cup, you need talent, depth and desire, but you also need the Hockey Gods to be smiling upon you. Luck and bounces can make all the difference between moving on to the next round and playing your next round on the golf course. The Hawks had their fair share of bounces in Game 7 but the game winner was the prototypical OT winner and why they teach you that it’s never a bad idea to put a puck on net.
The L.A. Kings
While I’m sure the water cooler at your office is the saddest place on earth right now, take some solace in the fact that the Blackhawks lost to a great team. Don’t get me wrong, I would never give up Kane, Toews or Keith, but the Kings have arguably as much depth as the Blackhawks in Kopitar, Brown, Gaborik, Richards, Carter, Doughty and Quick. And there were good stretches of Game 7 simply dominated by the Kings. But in the end, it just came down to star power. They have David Beckham as a fan and we don’t.
So don’t mourn too long Chicago and try to put this loss into context. Take a moment to watch the sunset tonight, Google image “adorable puppies and babies” and most importantly, don’t throw out your personalized number 69 Blackhawks jersey that you dropped $300 on. Take a deep breath and then stow it away somewhere out of sight until next season. As they say in hockey, let this sting for a day or two and then move on.[related-posts]