8:09 AM PDT, April 23, 2012
The Blackhawks had all kinds of airplane trouble trying to get back to Chicago on Sunday after Game 5 in Arizona.
They had won the night before to extend their first-round series against the Phoenix Coyotes. They couldn’t wait to get home to extend the series again to a win-or-die Game 7. Then they endured six hours of flight delays.
Please return your momemtum to its locked and upright position.
It’s a bad sign. At least, it's a bad sign if you believe in cockamamie foretelling methods such as omens, ESP and Mike Quade’s interim record.
Even if you don’t believe any of that nonsense, there are unforgiving numbers that argue the Hawks should’ve stayed in Arizona. They should’ve volunteered to play Game 6 in Jobing.com Arena. Game 7, too, and pass the SPF 45.
That’s the only place the Hawks have won during this series. They took Games 2 and 5 --- in overtime, of course --- which gave them two of three on Coyotes ice. They have lost the only two games played in the United Center. Heck, they have lost every game in the United Center when the Coyotes have shown up at any point his season. Madhouse, indeed.
This is a not the time to be the home team, and that goes for the entire NHL. These Stanley Cup playoffs are all about the road team.
In this series, the home team is 1-4. The Kings just eliminated the Canucks --- standing ovation --- by winning three games in Vancouver, making that another series in which the home teams went 1-4. In all, home teams are 16-23 in the first round. That's a .410 winning percentage, a stunning drop from the .551 winning percentage they posted during the regular season.
On Sunday, the road teams won two of three games, both in overtime, and here’s something else for you: Road teams are 10-3 in overtime this postseason.
There's no place like home --- no more miserable place, that is.
The question is why. The answer is not necessarily good for the Hawks.
The game plan for visiting teams, see, is pretty basic. First, withstand the initial assault by the jacked-up home team. Second, keep it simple by chipping the puck in and chipping it out. Third, frustrate the home team into mistakes because the local heroes inevitably hear fans grumbling or even booing, and even if they don’t, players on the home team feel the need to entertain, which leads to mistakes, which leads to an early summer.
Road teams want to bore you, and there’s nothing more boring in these playoffs than the Coyotes, unless it’s Gary Bettman trying to justify the lobotomized decision not to suspend Shea Weber.
Knowing the Coyotes’ strategy is one thing. Finding a way to counter home-ice disadvantage is another. The Hawks could kneecap Mikkel Boedker walking down the United Center hallway. They could score on their power play. They could Mapquest the Coyotes’ crease to find the most direct route and to prove to themselves that it actually exists and in fact they can get there from here.
But there also something that Hawks fans can do. I have a plan because, after all, I’m a pleaser, not a teaser. I have an idea for fans that might help the Hawks take Game 6, and it has nothing to do with putting out an APB for Patrick Sharp. Nope, this is about the fans’ making the United Center look like Sweet Home, Glendale.
Hawks fans should organize their own “whiteout.’’
You saw what the Coyotes fans looked like: all white shirts and sweaters, a tradition that goes back to when the franchise was stuck in godforsaken Winnipeg, which has about four frost-free days a year and topped Buffalo in a poll as North America’s hemorrhoid. I can’t remember who sponsored that survey. Use the Google-O-Matic thingy to find out. Or maybe I just made that up.
Whatever, that’s when the Hawks have won their games --- under “whiteout’’ conditions. They can’t get anything done in the ring of red that has been the United Center. The red ring has been a white flag.
It’s simple, Hawks fans: You own white sweaters with the Indianhead crest, so wear ‘em.
Are you telling me Chicago can’t do “whiteout’’ better than the lizard-looking, cacti-hugging Coyokels?
Hey, if teams can resort to staying at hotels before home games to break such bad spells, then fans can chip in, too. What’s more, it also gives you a chance to break out another piece of your Toews-centric, Kane-inspired, Hossa-tinged wardrobe. Don’t listen to the fashionistas about what they’re showing this spring. Make your own trend: a bright new style called Home Victory.
If you’re superstitious, it hasn’t been working, pal. If you’re not superstitious, it can’t hurt. Wear the white sweater tonight. Don’t think of it as copying the other guys. Think of it as the greatest kind of warfare tactic: turning an opponent’s strength into a weakness.
And besides, you can still boo the snot out of Mike Smith.
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