Blackhawks Confidential

Versteeg caps comeback as Blackhawks even series with Canucks

Hawks vs. Canucks2.jpg

Go ahead, pick a cliche.  It's not about how you start, it's how you finish.  Better late than never.  Never say die.  There's not a wrong answer.  They all apply.

Well, the Chicago Blackhawks were about finished after a miserable opening five minutes that saw them fall behind by two quick goals.  But the gritty group proved resilient yet again as the Hawks rallied with three unanswered goals in the third period to elate a nervous United Center crowd in a 4-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks that ties the Western Conference Semifinal at a game apiece.

Kris Versteeg made a lot of plays - some good, some bad.  But none was more important than the game-winning goal with 90 seconds left in a 2-2 contest.  After the puck dribbled off the end of his blade during a 3-on-1 rush, the Hawks cycled the play back around to the winger in the right circle and Versteeg wristed a shot over Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo.

Brent Seabrook assisted on Versteeg's decisive strike as the physical defenseman was a force all night.  He finished with one goal, two assists, eight hits and was a plus-four.  Seabrook's complete performance was matched by goaltender Antti Niemi, who finished with 24 saves after surving a first period onslaught by the Canucks.

The Finnish netminder was the Blackhawks only line of defense against a swift Canucks attack in the opening minutes of the game.  Mason Raymond struck 1:22 into the first period after driving the net and snapping a rebound over Niemi's shoulder.  Vancouver's second tally was with a 2-man advantage after the Hawks received two consecutive delay of game infractions.  Henrik Sedin waited until Brent Sopel allowed a passing lane and then dished the puck to Mikael Samuelsson who had an empty net for an easy 2-0 Canucks lead with 5:02 elasped in the game.

It was the new additions to the Blackhawks lineup that allowed head coach Joel Quenneville a chance to change momentum.  John Madden was joined by both Adam Burish and Ben Eager.  Neither hit the scoresheet, but their impact was felt.  When the Hawks hit a lull, Q sent the fourth line out for a boost.  Burish's hard work was rewarded with an unsuccessful breakway effort in a scoreless second period.

When the Hawks did build momentum, the buzz was killed by their own listless powerplay that mustered two shots in an 0-for-2 effort.  As has been the case for much of the season, the Blackhawks proved more dangerous while shorthanded.  Patrick Sharp went forehand-backhand around Luongo with Versteeg driving the net to tie the score 2-2 at 6:49 of the third period.  If you take away Patrick Kane's empty netter that was assisted by Jonathan Toews, Sharp was the only "big gun" to get his name on the scoresheet when it mattered.

The Canucks will be kicking themselves all the way back to Vancouver as the visitors let a golden opportunity slip away.  The Hawks had 14 giveaways that the Canucks weren't able to turn into a 2-0 series lead.  They tried to sit on the lead and the Hawks finally made them pay. 

It was a more physical contest then Game 1 with the Hawks holding a 38-31 edge in hits, but it still lacked the after-whistle chippiness that is sure to come as the series heads to the Great Northwest.  After a flat opening, the Hawks played with a reckless abandon while the Canucks continued to display a calm steadiness.  One would think that Vancouver will release their bottled-up emotions sooner or later.

The Hawks victory does little to ease the doubters among us.  They were whiskers from being down three in the first and inches from falling down by two late in the second.  But pessimists would have tuned out after the dreadful beginning.  If the current group of Hawks have taught us anything, it's to never count them out. 

Quenneville will almost certainly have more changes to the lineup when the teams step on the ice Wednesday night in Vancouver.  Troy Brouwer began the night skating with Kane and Toews but was benched after a terrible start.  Buff started the night on the blueline and then ended it with the young guns.  And Marian Hossa and Tomas Kopecky combined for a lot of hard work  but accomplished very little.  Plus, Dave Bolland won 4 out of 15 faceoffs.  A 27% win percentage won't do for a supposed third line defensive center.

But, hey, why talk about the Hawks problems.  The Hawks have the Canucks right were they want them.  At least that's what I think Quenneville said in his post-game remarks.  Is he right?



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Healthhere said:


Is he right?

Jerry Kayne said:


Good recap Mark. I watch the game after it was done and already knew the outcome. I find in these situations it relives my intensity while watching the Hawks give yet another golden opportunity to the opponent.

Lets talk positives here. I guess we have to watch our defensemen re-develop as we move along into each playoff game. Keith, Seabrook, Campbell, and Hjalmarsson got incrementally better as the game went on. I'm confident Sopel will be next to improve his game. Versteeg, Hossa, Madden, and Buff are getting the feel of the Canucks game plan and getting more confident out there. The hitting was very good. The Hawks finished their checks. Many times the Canuck pointman would shoot and then be knocked into the neutral zone. And behind the Canuck net a Hawk would put him into the front row after releasing the puck. I can think of many more positives.

Many of the negatives from game 1 were carried over. Now they can erase more of them and really bury the Canucks.

Luongo was very good. But I'd say he's no Pekka Renne. My opinion. I've never seen Luongo be a shut down goalie from anthem to buzzer when he plays the Hawks. He gets very rattled at the end of a game when the net gets crashed and he's flopping and lunging. That's what happened yesterday for Versteeg.

The Blackhawks are a much better team than the Canucks. Deeper, tougher, more skilled players. We have a very good goalie now so tighten up the D and spread the ice. Win the board battles and go to the net.

Cutsizzle said:

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Would love to invite you Chicago fans to an all Chicago sports messageboard. We could use more posters so check it out and post some with us! Discussion, news, articles for all Chicago teams...Bears, Bulls, Cubs, Sox, B'hawks.

If you love to talk and read about Chicago sports, this is your home!

Mike Kiley said:


I would also love to invite all you Chicago fans to my backyard for a barbecue blowout. But you got to find me first. No link provided. Consider it a scavenger hunt.

Jerry Kayne said:


There are no other sports until the Stanley Cup has been hoisted

Mike Kiley said:


Killjoy. You must celebrate Sharpie's shortie. Sounds kind of dirty when I say it like that.

Jerry Kayne said:


I do feel a little relieved when he does well now that I revealed my man-crush to my Internet friends. Not that there's anything wrong with it.

iplagitr said:


I think it's funny the way teams always make it out like they should win a game if they hold a lead at any point. The Vancouver players are all saying they "let this one slip away"... but how? They only scored 2 goals. Who cares if they scored them quickly, the game is 60 minutes long - and they were outplayed for the better part of it. They should have lost and they did.

I actually didn't get to see the first period because the New England stations had the audacity to broadcast the end of the Bruins game and not cut away to cover the Hawks game in its entirety! As it turned out, I didn't mind missing the first period. I picked it up in the 2nd and all I saw was the Hawks showing great perseverance and intensity. The only point I felt like they had a let down was immediately following the tying goal in the third. I thought they relaxed just a bit and almost gave up a quick one in return.

A much stronger game from many Hawk players. Ladd and others are really getting in physical in the slot and in Luongo's face and that needs to continue. I was just saying to a friend before the game that Versteeg is way too talented to only have 1 point in the playoffs. Well, he finally showed up, and even before he scored the game winner I thought it was his best game by far in months. We need that from him, Bolland and Brouwer if the Hawks are going to have continued success. Sustained effort from those guys will open up the ice for the "big guns." I agree with Jerry - the Hawks are a better, deeper team than the Nucks, and last night showed what they can do when they really push themselves.

Great play by Sharpie to make the move instead of trying a fancy pass on the tying goal. I think I woke my kids up from all the shouting I was doing in the basement. I think I heard Jerry shouting too....

Patrick said:

Agree with this.

The Canucks outplayed the hawks for the first 5 minutes or so, and then were dominated pretty much the rest of the game. I think aside from the really stupid penalties, the hawks played the type of game you want to see from them and ended up with the win.

I think we see the Hawks come out with another good effort tomorrow and if we can just get the power play going a bit the Hawks are in a good position.

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