Gift­ing and tak­ing

Hawks’ best-of-5 play­off se­ries opener vs. Oil­ers is worth get­ting ex­cited about

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - BY STEVE GREENBERG | sgreen­berg@sun­times.com | @slgreen­berg

It’s a gift. We’ll take it. Yes, I’m pre­sum­ing to speak for the whole lot of us here, but how could any­one dis­agree?

We’ve got a real, live play­off game on our hands Satur­day — or at least a kinda-sorta one — and did I men­tion we’ll take it? Look, we’re tak­ing it.

Be­cause if we don’t get all geeked up for the best-of-five opener be­tween the Black­hawks and Oil­ers from the NHL bub­ble in

Ed­mon­ton, Al­berta, we might as well stay stuck on our last play­off game in­volv­ing a Chicago team in one of the big four pro­fes­sional leagues. Any­one re­mem­ber what that was?

Hint: It in­volved a sweet kid named Cody Parkey and a dou­ble-doink heard ’round the world. As happy end­ings go, it ranked some­where be­tween a kick to the groin and a tire iron up­side the head.

So, you know: Let’s go, Hawks!

I mean no dis­re­spect to the Sky, who had a nice run in the 2019 WNBA play­offs, or to the Red Stars, who reached last year’s NWSL cham­pi­onship game and this year’s Chal­lenge Cup fi­nal. I tip my cap to the Wolves, too, for reach­ing last year’s Calder Cup fi­nals.

But the Hawks, Bulls, Bears, Cubs and White Sox haven’t ex­actly been tak­ing us on post­sea­son thrill rides lately.

Be­fore Parkey missed that un­for­get­table kick in the Bears’ 16-15 loss to the Ea­gles on Jan. 6, 2019, the sports land­scape here looked much brighter than it does now. The Cubs — still with some shine from their 2016 World Se­ries ti­tle — had at least reached the 2018 Na­tional League wild-card game. The Hawks, own­ers of three Stan­ley Cups in the decade, still bore the scent of rel­e­vance.

And the Bears? Good­ness, some peo­ple here thought they just might be ca­pa­ble of a run to the Su­per Bowl.

But the Bears haven’t won a play­off game since the 2010 sea­son. The Bulls haven’t won a play­off se­ries since 2015. The Cubs haven’t won a play­off se­ries since 2017. The Hawks haven’t won one since clinch­ing the Cup over the Light­ning in 2015. The Sox haven’t been in the play­offs since 2008 and last won a se­ries — a World Se­ries sweep of the Astros — in 2005.

So, yes, we in­deed shall ac­cept this gift of play­off ac­tion. A rather ab­surd 24-team re­turn-to-play NHL for­mat is be­hind it all. The Hawks, with 72 points through 70 games, were last among seven Cen­tral Di­vi­sion teams when play stopped in March be­cause of the coro­n­avirus out­break. They were 12th in the Western Con­fer­ence stand­ings — dead men skat­ing — yet here we are. Some­how, we made it into the bub­ble. “We didn’t know what to ex­pect,” Hawks coach Jeremy Col­li­ton said. “So, from that per­spec­tive, we ex­pect the un­ex­pected.”

Maybe the Hawks will give us some thrills. Maybe they’ll take down the Oil­ers and their twin su­per­stars, Leon Drai­saitl and Con­nor Mc­David, the top two scor­ers in the NHL this sea­son. Maybe we’ll get to be­lieve for a while in maybe.

“Any big game, you get ner­vous for,” said Col­li­ton, who’s head­ing into his play­off de­but. “That’s how you know you’re alive.”

It’s nice to feel alive. Hawks winger Drake Cag­giula met the me­dia Thurs­day on Zoom with teeth miss­ing. He wore a T-shirt with Michael Jor­dan — smok­ing a ci­gar af­ter a Bulls ti­tle — on the front. Cag­giula bought it on Ama­zon af­ter view­ing the “Last Dance” doc­u­men­tary.

“Def­i­nitely rep­re­sent­ing Chicago with this thing,” Cag­giula said.

OK, we’ll take it.

Goalie Corey Craw­ford also met the me­dia — wear­ing a Sox cap. Should we take that, too?

We ought not be picky. A play­off game is upon us, af­ter all. Might as well en­joy it, and dream some im­pos­si­ble dreams. ✶

GETTY IM­AGES

The Black­hawks, who play the Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers on Satur­day, haven’t won a play­off se­ries since clinch­ing the Stan­ley Cup over the Tampa Bay Light­ning in 2015.

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