Game 1: Blackhawks 3, Flames 2 (OT)

After telling anyone who would listen how nervous they would be for the first game of the playoffs, the Blackhawks came out as such.  The Hawks spent more than half of the game searching for their sea legs.  Passes were a bit off and their hands were as stiff as Pat Foley at a speed dating seminar.

Meanwhile, the Flames came out as world beaters.  Everytime they had a chance, they finished their checks.  Their defensive positioning suffocated any chances the Hawks may have had.  Offensively, they swarmed Nikolai Khabibulin like bears on a minivan loaded with donuts.

When Jonathan Toews swept the puck away from an empty net, it looked like the Hawks were going to dodge a huge bullet, but the Flames came right back down and fired off about three point blanks shots before David Moss stuffed it past Khabibulin.  From there, Calgary only brought more pressure.  Khabibulin was better every time.

The game could have easily been over after the first if it wasn’t for the ‘Bulin Wall’.  With three and a half minutes left in the period, Toews was called for 4 minute high sticking.  Calgary had several glorious chances on the ensuing power play.  The best came when Khabibulin wasn’t even required to make a save.  Todd Bertuzzi cut to the outside and slid the puck across the slot.  The puck went past two Flames cutting to the net and through the legs of Rene Bourque who had an empty net staring back at him.

About half way through the second, Coach Q made his first big adjustment of the series when he shook up the lines.  Sharp was reunited with Kane and Toews.  Marty Havlat played with Dave Bolland and Kris Versteeg.  Whether it was a direct result of the line changes or not, the Hawks looked to gain a bit of steam after. 

It wasn’t until Cam Barker scored thirteen minutes into the second period, though, that the Hawks finally took a deep breath.  When Toews found Barker at the top of the point, his first shot was blocked.  He picked up the loose puck and then beat Mikka Kipprusoff short side on a harmless wrist shot. 

Kipprusoff redeemed himself later when he stoned Patrick Kane on a partial breakaway with just a few seconds left in the period.

Going into the third period, Assistant Coach Mike Haviland said during his interview with Pat and Ed that they plan on playing smart, getting pucks deep, and not taking unnecessary pinches.  Apparently, Barker didn’t get the memo.

While everyone was quick to spotlight Dave Bolland for making the silly pinch, it was Barker who should have given up the blue line.  Instead, Bertuzzi sent the puck to Daymond Langkow who was off to the races with a 2-on-1 against Matt Walker.  After Walker did the best he could to elminate the passing lane, Langkow made a terrific pass to Mike Cammalleri who buried his opportunity. 

Then, Coach Q made his second adjustment.  He re-united the HavBolLadd line to try and recapture the old spark.  The idea turned to gold when Havlat took on three Flames and was able to fire off two shots, the second of which found the back of the net to knot the score at 2. 

From there, it was all Hawks (save for one Calgary chance, more on that at the bottom).  They had a ton of opportunities to end it in regulation.  None better than with ten seconds left.  When Brent Seabrook sent the puck cross ice to Dave Bolland, there was plenty of twine to aim for.  Instead, Bolland held on a bit too long, and fired a shot off the Kipper’s leg.

It wouldn’t matter.

When the two teams came out for the overtime period, Bolland intercepted Jordan Leopold’s cross ice pass.  He entered the zone, dropped a pass to Havlat.  When Olli Jokinen took the wrong assignment and left Havlat with room, it was a deadly mistake as he slid the puck past a screened Kipprusoff for the game winner.  Game over.  Cue a screaming Pat Foley.  Hawks up 1 game to none. 

Leftover Thoughts from Game 1

–The Flames are going to have to dig really deep now.  They played as sound of a game as they could for 55 minutes only to have it all slip away at the end.  This was a far bigger game for them to win than the Hawks.  Now they have to put forth the same type of effort if they want to sneak out with a win in Chicago.

–If the Flames are indicative of their head coach, they may not last long.  Mike Keenan was babbling in his post game conference about Brett Hull, goaltender interference, and overtime goals.  Memo to Mike, it’s not called interference if your defenseman shoves the player right into your own goalie.  It’s called a bad defensive play.

–While everyone will be quick to re-annoint the HavBolLadd as our savior, Iginla is still too much to handle for Bolland in the defensive zone.  Late in the third period, Calgary had their best chance when Jokinen fed Iginla in front.  Iginla completely overmatched Bolland to get the shot off and if it wasn’t for Khabibulin’s rabbit out of the hat, the Flames very easily could have snuck out with the win.

–Good to see Patrick Kane respond from the Flames’ dirty deeds.  Rene Bourque put a cheap shot on Kane in the second period.  After he dumped the puck in deep, Bourque grabbed Kane with one arm and pile-drived him into the boards.  Kane was slow to get up and a certain columnist was getting ready to scream for the Hawks to get an enforcer and insinuate Kane is soft.  Instead, he came back, had several opportunties to score, and didn’t look the least bit hesitant in taking a hit.

–Not that it matters, but Khabibulin should have been the third star.  He was the Hawks’ rock as they settled into the game.  If it weren’t for him, Calgary would have won Game 1 going away.

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9 Responses to Game 1: Blackhawks 3, Flames 2 (OT)

  1. Sox Machine says:

    Havlat!

    I caught the last period, having switched over from the Sox game (and realizing that my Extra Innings subscription also frees up the NHL channels, booyah), and here are two questions I had:

    1. Did the Walker/Barker pairing look as shaky as I think it did in the third? You mentioned the big Khabi glove save, but there were a couple other times it seemed like they over-pursued behind the net and left the front open.

    2. What would Pat Foley at a speed-dating session look like?

  2. John says:

    1. Absolutely. After Calgary scored their second goal, it looked like Barker was terrified to make a mistake in his own zone which, naturally, led to mistakes. Of course, he made a solid pinch to set up Havlat’s first goal. As for over pursuing and leaving the front open, that’s a staple of the Matt Walker Experience. Just keep the puck in the offensive end and they’re fine.

    2. Sweaty palms, uncomortable looks, and a lot of innuendos that no one knows how to take. My favorite tonight was the lube job he recommended for the Hawks. Just a tad bit awkward for everyone involved.

  3. It’s good to see that Kane got up from the hard check from Rene the secretary, but Hawks fans have to wonder how long this kid will last in the playoffs. Every game he will get hit like that, if not worse. They can go without notice, like Cleary’s injuring hit, or like the hit was last night, where it rattled the young winger for a bit. Those hits are going to take their toll, and Kane has to keep his head on a swivel. Kane had a very subpar game last night, so the hit didn’t detriment the Hawks too much. But the Hawks will need Kane to play his best if they plan to go on a long stretch, and there is a very big question if Kane’s body can handle the abuse he’ll be facing.

  4. John says:

    I think Kane will be fine. I wouldn’t call his game last night subpar. He had a couple of golden opportunties that didn’t work out and skated well with the puck after getting rung. He wasn’t a liability in the defensive zone.

    As for whether his body can hold up…I guess we’ll find out soon enough. All I’ll say is he is stronger (and tougher, for that matter) than he gets credit for.

  5. CT says:

    I have to say, I really liked what the Eager/Burish/Brouwer line did last night (other than Eager’s dumb penalty). Burish in particular was his old pain-in-the-ass self, hitting guys and barking after the whistle. While the Hawks shouldn’t need to lean on them for offense or anything, the more time these guys can give you without being a liability, the better it is for everybody.

  6. JM says:

    What happened with Toews’ double minor? Being at the game, I didn’t even see a Flame player go down. Did he actually draw blood? Ref’s discretion?

  7. John says:

    Toews was in a scrum off a face off and with the puck going the other way, he turned to skate after it and when he swung his stick around, it caught Langkow in the face. I didn’t see blood but the ref immediately said 4 minutes after looking at him.

  8. GC says:

    I love how the Flames blogs, and the Calgary Herald, is saying “we totally underestimated their physical ability.” They’re complaining about us hitting them. One was talking about the awesome specimen that is Matt Walker???!!!??? Walker….our worst guy!

  9. Lou says:

    Kane has got to hit some one back. If he doesn’t they will keep pounding him. On the flipsde, Bourque almost did a choke slam WWE style and no one hit Bourque. We need to make our presence felt or the shots will continue.

    Keenan needs to just shut the hell up. Ladd got pushed by his own D-man and he whines. The puck was going in. And, you don’t see him saying much about the Bourque call or the other blown calls in his favor, the offside right before the second or the missed interference call on Havlat along the boards or the cheap shot at Burish… It goes both ways and just shut up an coach.

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