TELANDER: It’s painfully obvious how good the Blackhawks are
BY RICK TELANDER email@example.com February 18, 2013 12:06AM
Chicago Blackhawks' Brent Seabrook lies injured on the ice in the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Los Angles Kings, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/John Smierciak)
Updated: March 19, 2013 6:31AM
At the end of Jim Cornelison’s manic rendering of the national anthem, while the United Center crowd was going nuts and the players were skating about nervously, Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery was bent over, eyes closed, in his net. Motionless.
Was he meditating?
‘‘I was just thinking about what I wanted to do in the game, the basics,’’ he said after the Blackhawks’ 3-2 victory against the visiting Los Angeles Kings. ‘‘I’ve been doing it for a while. Yeah, it calms me down, but I’m pretty calm anyway.’’
And so are all these Blackhawks, including coach Joel Quenneville, a mustachioed gentleman who can barely be heard during interviews.
Quiet is the way surgeons and assassins operate, too. And these Hawks are to the NHL right now as Dr. Lecter was to Ray Liotta’s brain in ‘‘Hannibal.’’
With this victory, the Blackhawks are 12-0-3. That means they are undefeated and haven’t ‘‘lost’’ yet. Because in hockey-ese, overtime and shootout defeats still get you a point and are kind of like hybrid, low-level ties. Like kissing your sister’s date, perhaps.
At any rate, the Hawks now have tied the 1984-85 Edmonton Oilers for the second-best opening streak in NHL history. And if they win — or don’t lose — against the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night at the UC, they will be tied for the best hockey start ever with the 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks. Win one more against the San Jose Sharks on Friday and . . .
But they’re not thinking about that. Oh, no.
‘‘We’re not making a big deal out of it or anything,’’ said defenseman Duncan Keith, whose across-the-ice assist to Brent Seabrook for the game’s first goal was a thing of beauty. ‘‘We’re not afraid of it, but we haven’t done anything yet.’’
We can beg to differ.
Every team that starts like this pretty much wins the Stanley Cup. But injuries, cold spells, fatigue, all kinds of stuff could derail what is looking like a big-city locomotive roaring down a mountainside.
The Hawks are doing everything well, though their penalty-killing wasn’t so hot against the Kings, allowing both goals. But a measure of their dominance was obvious late in the second period, when they basically were having their way with the defending Stanley Cup champs, outshooting them and leading 2-0.
By the end of the period, the Hawks were ahead 3-0 and had outshot the Kings 32-18. Our pal Emery was focused and, well, maybe a trifle bored. For long segments of time, the puck barely seemed to enter his world.
The game would get tight toward the end, but the victory was exceptional for this goalie, who was only playing because regular goaltender Corey Crawford was out with a dreaded ‘‘upper-body injury.’’ Let’s guess and call it some kind of concussion.
No matter because Emery showed the Hawks have depth at that critical position. And, as we know, they have determination and the kind of recklessness that once put Keith’s face in front of a soaring puck, sending seven of his teeth in various directions and leaving him with his jack-o’-lantern smile. (When he doesn’t have all the replacement parts in his mouth.)
So it was business as usual, we’ll guess, when Seabrook, on a short-handed play in the first period, standing to the right of the Hawks’ goal, took a puck to the ‘‘lower body’’ — the upper lower body — and went down like a man shot by an elephant gun.
Every male in the building flinched in his seat with excruciating empathy.
With Seabrook lying prone on the ice, the play eventually stopped when Emery froze the puck. Somehow the big defenseman got himself up and staggered, buckled over, to the bench.
Eggs over easy, we’ll call it.
Soon, somehow, Seabrook was back in the action.
‘‘We were blocking shots; we were getting in the way of things,’’ Seabrook said in the locker room after the game. As he took off his armor, one couldn’t help but look to see if he was wearing, umm, lower abdominal/groin region protection. Thank God, he was.
‘‘We’re having fun, we’re playing hard,’’ Seabrook continued. ‘‘Whatever it takes, I guess.’’
Whew. A little exhale is needed here because that — that kind of sacrifice — is giving a whole, whole lot.
This is some team right now, hotter than pig iron. We should hope the Blackhawks never cool off, while knowing it must happen sometime. Even in a lockout-shortened season, a veteran, talented team can’t win ’em all. Can it?
‘‘It hurts to look at your teammate and see how much pain they’re in,’’ said captain Jonathan Toews of Seabrook’s manly play. ‘‘But it motivates you.’’
Go for it, fellows.