Once again, the Hawks decided to come out flat in game one of a playoff series, and once again they lost. Actually, they didn't just lose. They embarrassed themselves.
The supposedly solid defense looked lost in their own zone. Dustin Byfuglien was a non factor in front of Robert Luongo, and the "bad blood" must have stayed at the Blackhawk's palatial homes.
It's easy to overreact to a bad loss. We all did it after the game one loss to Nashville this season. We did it after the game one loss to Vancouver last season.
This series isn't over.
Despite their sluggish play, the Hawks could have easily had 3-4 goals. A bounce here, a deflection there, and it's a different game. The Hawks put 37 shots on Luongo. I'd say 10 were quality scoring chances, and that doesn't include multiple mad scrambles in front of the Vancouver netminder.
Vancouver buried those chances, the Hawks didn't. Plain and simple.
One of the few Hawks to show up last night was Antti Niemi. He certainly can't be blamed for this one. The only goal he gave up that was questionable was Mason Raymond's one timer after he Niemi kicked a huge rebound right to Raymond's stick. The other four goals can be put on the Hawks skaters. Bad turnovers, bad screens, and not enough heart around the net left Niemi helpless. It's unfair to ask a goalie to make 3, 4, or 5 saves on a single play. It's up to the defensemen to eliminate the man or the puck. They did neither.
Last night, I hosted the "Chicago Hockey" Postgame Show on the Score with Joe Ostrowski and Rock Mamola (check out his "Rock Report" on Chicagonow.com). Amazing, many of the calls, texts, and emails we received were from Hawks fans suggesting that Cristobal Huet get the start in game two.
First off, for those with a hockey brain at all, don't worry. It won't happen.
To suggest Huet is a better option at this point is stupid and meatballish. Niemi won the starting job for the Hawks, and not by default. Overall, he was outstanding in his rookie season. His seven shutouts can attest to that.
Huet, on the other hand, has been an abject failure since arriving in Chicago two summers ago. His coaches and teammates have lost all faith in him, despite what they may tell the press. Team McDonough will be hard at work this summer to ensure he never plays another game for the Hawks.
He is done here, as he should be.
Before everyone jumps off a bridge, take a deep breath, relax, and remember how bleak it looked after losing game one to Nashville. This series is not over. Not by a long shot.
Historically, the Canucks are 9 and 9 when winning game one. This season, the team that wins game one has only gone on to win 3 out of 8 series'. Historically, the game one winner wins the series 68% of the time, but let's not focus on that.
The most important thing headed into game two is that first goal. The Hawks were playing well last night UNTIL the Canucks went up 1-0. Once that happened, the air was sucked out of the building, and it was a different game. Getting that first goal could be very big for the team's, and the CROWD'S, confidence.