“A feeling of sadness because of another person’s trouble or suffering, or the capacity to feel this.”
Now there were other emotions to be sure: there was relief when the Hawks killed off the first of six minors just three minutes into the game. There was the joy that accompanied the first of Patrick Sharp’s two goals, which gave the Hawks an early lead despite Minnesota’s strong start. And confidence. Heading home with a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven series with home-ice advantage stirs up a bunch of it.
And how about some good old fashioned hatred? Minnesota’s Cal Clutterbuck put Hawks defenseman Brent Seabrook into the wall with such malevolence that I had to apologize to the flat screen once I’d finished spewing venom all over it (it has yet to accept my apology, BTW).
But overall, most of the evening I just felt pity for the Wild. How do you game plan for a team as complete as the Hawks? I pitied their coaching staff as I imagined the pregame pep talk.
“All right guys, you’re gonna have to be perfect out there tonight! They’ve got twice the offensive firepower we do, and three times the defense. Their depth is downright terrifying and their goal-tending is cool, calm, and collected. In fact, I can’t really tell you how to beat these guys, and so I suggest you go out there and hit somebody and hope for an own-goal. Good Luck!”
I pitied their defensemen. Norris trophy finalist Ryan Suter has lived on the ice this series and done an unbelievable job in slowing down the Hawks top line guys. Sadly, Hawks coach Joel Quenneville is totally unimpressed with Suter’s accomplishments, and so he continues to send out his second and third lines knowing that Minnesota’s corresponding defensemen are totally outmatched.
And man, do I pity their goalies. Starting goalie Niklas Backstrom was wound up so tight for game one he injured himself before the game started. Then the Hawks torched back-up Josh Harding in the second game of the series before stalling out in game three, which just might have given him a glimmer of hope. Hawks captain Jonathan Toews then crushed those hopes—and other parts of Harding’s body—last night when he barreled into him as the first period wound down and sent him to the showers during the intermission.
Then Minnesota came out the next period with youngster Darcy Kuemper in net. The Hawks gave him all of 62 seconds to settle into his first playoff action before Sharp—read Shark who smells blood—burned him with a long wrist shot that made it 2-0.
SIDE BAR: at this point what I really felt was shame. I felt ashamed that I was reveling in an entire state being reduced to cheering for a deer in the headlights of a massive, oncoming big rig. But for the sake of fluidity we’ll call it pity.
In the end however, it was the Minnesota power play unit whom I pitied the most. The only one of the 16 playoff teams without a power play goal this postseason, they went zero for six last night to find themselves zero for 15 in the series. How demoralizing must it be for a team to have so many opportunities and still come up empty handed? The Hawks penalty kill is so strong right now that I chose the bathroom over watching the Hawks kill off a second consecutive minor early on in the third period.
I figured since the Wild were about to strain for two minutes and come up empty handed, I might as well join them.
And there it is: now you most likely pity me, which means I’ve properly instilled upon you the emotion that I felt all last night.
Ah, success—so rich, so satisfying, so smooth.