The Chicago Blackhawks: Late heroics prove worthy of evening a playoff series.

The Chicago Blackhawks: Late heroics prove worthy of evening a playoff series.

Player of the game: Corey Crawford.

Yes, in the midst of some very late and yet timely heroics from the boys in the offensive zone, who found a miracle in a bottle for the second game in a row, who showed that when the going gets tough and desperate, the talented get scoring; it was in these dire moments that I was reminded of the far too many timely saves from the guy between our pipes. Bryan Bickell may have picked up 2 crucial goals worth getting excited over, but it was  the goaltending of Corey Crawford that had me jumping for joy.

This game was a bit too oddly familiar. Once again the Hawks scored first, and it was warranted by a quick and determined start. Once again, the Hawks let off of the gas and allowed the Coyotes to tie and eventually take the lead. Once again, a really bad call (or maybe a couple) by the officals lead to a Yotes goal. Once again, the Hawks had to pull Crawford and find a little late night magic to send the game to overtime. Lucky for us Hawks fans, the Hawks decided to win this one in OT.

Once again, my favorite line was the 3rd line, and all 3 of the beginning mates on this line factored into the outcome in huge ways. We all know that Bickell scored the first and game-winning goal by now. Bolland was one of the best and most consistent forwards on the ice, and Shaw made some noise by getting himself ejected from the game after being called for goaltender interference when Smith pulled out the tears and overacting prompting the officials to make a call based on that acting. The Yotes would score on that ensuing power-play.

  • Speaking of power-plays, in a game where both teams struggle in that department, they were instrumental.
  • Sharp came out with something to prove and he did just that by scoring that late 3rd period goal.
  • Toews is still nowhere near %100, but still better than most.
  • Thankfully, that first line combo of Toews, Kane, Hossa was broken up.
  • Hossa looked like he was trying harder, but was still far from being as effective as I would like.
  • Stalberg was a disappointment 2 games in a row (maybe that assist on the game-winner will get his confidence back.
  • The Hawks are still falling short of giving the effort we all want to see, but when they do turn it up, they control the game.
  • Bollig, that is all.
  • Unfortunately, I still see the Yotes having the better half of controlling the play. And that was without a couple of key players.
  • Could it be that Crawford is actually outplaying the opponent's goaltender? And it is Mike Smith at that.
  • All in all, the Hawks were better, and it earned them a win, but they need to be even better in game 3.
  • Hjalmer was better, Lepisto should stay, Seabrook was a beast once again, and Keith has me worried. Oduya was also better, but still off his game, and Leddy has my wondering about his future.

Lets elaborate a bit:

The Hawks jumped out exactly how we want them too, and it paid off when Bickell made up for missing his chance in early game 1. This was a power-play goal and I need everyone to take note of who was playing at the moment. I have asked for this in the past, and to see a non-power-play line score on the PP is telling. The 3rd line, the best line for the Hawks worked a simple play, got position and Bolland set-up a rebound for Bickell. So, in retrospect: Bolland should be on the PP more often (switch him with Hossa IMO), and Q might want to try using his regular lines on the PP more often. Yes, the PP-unit looked good before the goal, but that was not the case in the following PPs

That lead lasted only a little bit, as Keith would lose a battle to Doan, a common occurrence last night, and the game was tied. Keith just doesn't seem to have it right now, and he had 5 games off to end the season. He needs to be better.

Not too much later, the officials worked their magic of making a god awful call and with Toews in the box, the Yotes took the lead on their first PP goal of the night. The call was for goaltender interference and it was the absolute wrong call from an official who was not in position to make it in the first place. Toews was driving the net, and still well outside the crease when Smith jumped out to hit him. Toews did everything within his ability to avoid contact and cursing that followed in my brother's living-room most likely woke the entire block up.

Who the hell knew that Bollig had a snap-shot (the most deadly shot in hockey) like that, and who the hell told him not to use it on a frequent basis? He scored his first NHL goal, and tied the game while at it. Later occurrences in the 2nd period would give Bollig the chance to play some top-3 minutes and I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw. I have heard some calls for his being benched, but I might even say to use him more at this point. He had a great game and stepped up when his team needed it.

The Hawks were more physical last night. Seabrook and Shaw had been delivering the majority of hits in the 1st game, and kept it up in game 2, but others followed suit. Bickell was more physical and it earned him a big night on the score sheet ( go figure). Bollig playing up helped, but I saw a better team commitment to not being thrown around.

This culminated into a pivotal point in the game, and most controversial for sure. Mike Smith doing his thing, went behind the net to play the puck. There was a moment earlier when Stalberg attempted to get in Smith's way and almost did. Shaw, taking note and obviously tired of the goaltender's stick work dug hard and went around to beat Smith to the punch. He was going hard and did little to avoid contact, but didn't exactly seek it out either. IMO Smith leaned in to Shaw and the 2 player's collided a tad. It might have been helmet to helmet, and Smith sold the hit like nothing I have ever seen before. Shaw was sent to the box and Smith continued to sell the hit, grabbing his facemask (?) and rolling around on the ice like a fish. Eventually, after a while without Smith getting up, Shaw was hit with a misconduct and game ejection. The Yotes won a 5 minute PP, scored on it to took the lead, and the moment Shaw left, Smith got up and stayed in his net. I have no issues with Shanahan assessing suspensions based on the other player's injury, but he has video to review. The officials have no business doing it, and especially when the other player is obviously selling it. IMO, Smith should have to leave the ice in this situation for medical attention, at least for a few minutes.

That was exhausting.

The Yotes went into full defensive mode after taking the 3-2 lead, and the game got a bit boring. The Hawks just hate playing these types of teams, and the Yotes are darn good at it. There were a few chances here and there for the Hawks, but it was Crawford who shined late. Even in defensive mode, the Yotes found some prime opportunities and Crawford was there to keep his team breathing. As the Hawks become more and more desperate, he was called on to make even bigger saves as the Yotes found holes.

Seabrook has been maybe the best player on the ice for the Hawks, and it was he who finally brought order to the chaos. Hossa has yet to factor in, although he was playing hard. Kane missed some big chances, and I hope to see more from him soon, but I am feeling indefferent about him all around. With the seconds winding down, everyone seemed to get a chance to be the hero, but it was the 2 who were putting it all on the ice who factored in sending it to OT. A Seabrook blast tipped by Sharp.

OT was also oddly similiar to game 1. The Hawks came out wanting to win it fast, and almost did, but it soon started to even out as Phoenix found light. A ridiculous shift by the big boys saw the Hawks control the puck for a good 2 minutes and when it was over, they practically fell off the ice. While the camera was fixed on a tired Hossa sitting on the bench, Stalberg caught a clearing attempt along the boards and deflected it too Bickell who put the puck and game away.

1-1, sorry for the length of this post. I hope it was as exhausting as the game made me feel. Game 2 seems to be a big game for the Hawks given their history, and they found a way to win it.

 

Comments

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  • The picture says it all- as i remember Crawford stopped the puck with his toe, and by accident. the hawks survived by the hair on my wife's chinny chin chin. Remarkable. Bollig and bickell scoring 3 of the 4 goals needed to evade an 0-2 hole? Are you kidding me?

    While very happy with the win, and looking forward to the sound of 22,000 enraged fans on smith's arse, I am concerned that the "core" is a tad tight. These guys just have to begin creating an offense to complement bollig and bickell. The hawks will not survive by grinding, let alone declaring war like every other series except the Florida-NJ snoozefest has done. Kane hossa sharp had better begin initiating an attack. Corey is Corey, the nicks are nicks, oduya suddenly looks small, and Keith is lost. Time for firepower.

    Hawks found a way despite incompetent officiating. Gotta like the magic. But attack.

  • Wasn't that OT goal strange. All of a sudden, everyone on both sides just dies, and decides to head off the ice except for Aucoin who gives it to Stalberg.

    I'm not impressed so far. There's too much domination by the 'yotes and too many turnovers. Sure point to the 40+ shots but can you recall more than 5 or 6 gilt-edged opportunities by the 'hawks. They're making Smith look good, although I think he looked a little rattled last night. On a positive note, more traffic to the net was evident and that's what they need more of. Oh, yeah, a tipped goal too. The 'yotes are shutting down the big boys and Hossa, especially doesn't look too interested in the playoffs.

    Agree with Ice, on 27, 4, 8, 2. Maybe the last change at home will shore up the defensive play. Hold serve at home and they move on.

  • We got the win and the split on the road. It wasn't impressive but the Hawks of 2012 rarely are. They just win. Crawford has been stellar, imo. Many of us saw this season as year two of the rebuild and I would be happy if we make it out of round one and get some more cup games for the young guys.

    If you think we got problems, you should hear sports radio in Vancouver. teamradio.ca if you want to hear serious hand wringing.

    Thanks Hostile for your efforts. Intelligent hockey blogs just aren't that common.

  • Yup, those guys at Team 1040 are nauseating.

    I also am having a slight chuckle about our supposed goaltending woes. Has anybody seen the Penguins/Flyers goaltending? Looks like we have an all-star in net.

  • Agreed on all accounts. I think Sharp looked good in game 2, but was nowhere in game 1. I feel very certain now that Hossa is just not able to handle these longs seasons anymore. He explodes early and then quiets down by this time. He is officially just a shut down guy, and doesn't exactly belong on the PP. I liked splitting up the top line, but not sold on the way it was done for the long haul. With Toews still not at 100%, it made some sense moving him with Stalberg and Sharp, but see a different path in the future.

    For sure, the core needs to step it up, with the exception of Seabs of course. Kane is not playing with confidence and blew way too many chances. Seriously, just hit the net once and a while.

    Stalberg needs to wake up and remember that no one on the Yotes can match his speed.

    Hopefully Oduya continues to get better with every playoff game. I think Hjalmer is coming back, but it is not going to smooth, and I am just utterly disappointed in Keith right now.

    On Leddy, which I forgot to build upon: I am officially not sold on him. His size seems to be too much of an achilles heel, and his puck movement doesn't make up for it. He plays smart sometimes, and has confidence with the puck, but I think he has to go. Although, I could be talked into giving him the first quarter of next season to make it up.

    All in all, the Hawks are 1-1 when they maybe shouldn't be (they find ways and you can't keep them from that). From late in the 2nd, until the very last shift of the 3rd, it was an utter snooze fest and almost worth turning off. Lots of things happened worth the long post, but the fact remains that this team is off their game and need to give a lot more on the ice.

  • Not sure if anyone will read this with today's tilt on tap, but this whole Shaw thing is kind of amazing. Actually, the Weber thing is more telling. To start this season, Shanahan was doing what people had asked for. And then, as the suspensions piled up, we saw the revision of what has always been the case, start players don't get nearly the punishment that lesser players do and I have no doubt that team owners told the commissioner about midway through the season to put a leash on Shanaban. That Weber was not punished for what he did has made Shanaban look like a complete fool. Not as bad yet as Coley the Clown. It's 1:30 PM central time and still there is no word on Shaw. This is ridiculous.

  • In reply to VegasHawksFan:

    Yep.

  • In reply to Hostile Hawk:

    The reason they are waiting is because Smith did not practice yesterday. Who really knows why? They are waiting to see if Smith is actually injured or not.

    Regardless, call made on the ice that night is more than efficient justice for the intent of the hit. Charging was a leap, and Shaw's hands are way down. There was nowhere else for him to go and Smith put his head into a bad position. Still, he needs to avoid contact, and deserved a penalty no matter how much Smith left him without options.

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