It’s been more than 24 hours since the Blackhawks’ first home playoff game one in 13 years. (Oddly enough, the last came against the Calgary Flames in 1996. The ‘Hawks won four straight to sweep the Flames.) On the other hand, the day of game two is upon us. Let’s take an inventory of game one and, at the same time, look forward to tonight’s game two.
— Thursday’s United Center crowd was – by far – the loudest and most excited I’ve been a part of. For those who were unable to attend, fans were very loud and involved as early as the pregame videos, which begin running about 12 minutes prior to the national anthem. From there, the ‘Hawk pregame entry onto the ice was so loud, the scoreboard’s screen began to malfunction. (At least, that’s how I’ll continue to tell the story, as I’ve never seen the stadium’s screens malfunction like that.)
— Speaking of loud: United Center, the Ol’ Barn called; it wants its national anthem back. The anthem was ‘can’t hear the words’ loud on Thursday, something I haven’t personally experienced since big games at Chicago Stadium. The UC was so loud, there was a noticeable indoor wind during the song.
— After attending both the Winter Classic and Thursday’s game one, game one was, in my opinion, a much better time. Though the Winter Classic was twice the spectacle, Thursday’s game came with an excitement I can’t easily describe. Game two should be just as fun.
— Calgary came out very, very physical on Thursday, dominating the first portion of the game, using their size as the catalyst. Mike Cammalleri took a cowardly and dirty penalty on Martin Havlat off a faceoff; Rene Bourque and Phaneuf put crunching hits on different ‘Hawks; yet Mike Keenan is worried about Andrew Ladd being pushed into Calgary goaltender Mikka Kipprusoff during the overtime frame. Those of you who are frequent Feather readers likely know me as – if nothing else – a fairly grounded, reasonable voice. For example, I supported the League and the Coyotes during the great Versteeg-Turris brush-up of ’08, and, otherwise, I like to think this site is a “no homer” zone. With that said, Ladd, who applied the brakes on his his way to the net, was pushed into Kipprusoff by Jordan Leopold. Let’s move on.
— One of tonight’s most important match-ups should be the Flames’ Anders Eriksson versus, well, anybody. Eriksson makes the ridiculously overrated Dion Phaneuf look like Pierre Pilote. Speaking of Phaneuf, one has to wonder how many times Adam Burish used the phrase “sloppy seconds” on Thursday evening. Also, would it surprise anyone if it came out that Burish has actually hooked up with Phaneuf’s current beau?
— Joel Quennville should earn his money this evening, as he’ll have to calm the young ‘Hawks following a huge victory 48 hours prior to tonight’s game two tilt. If the first 20 minutes of Thursday’s game are any indication, the ‘Hawks will come out of the gates slowly tonight. If Q can help right the ship and Nikolai Khabibulin can make a few big early saves, the ‘Hawks should be in a good position to sweep the first Chicago tour of the series.
— With that said, I clamored for a Pahlsson-centered checking line for the last month of the season. Let’s just say the Bolland-Havlat-Ladd line is – for now – the appropriate way to go. It leaves something of a “spare parts” line among Pahlsson, Versteeg and Byfuglien, but perhaps that’s Q’s best option at this point.
— On the other side of the coin, I won’t say “I told you so,” but Dustin Byfuglien has made himself valuable down the stretch.
— For those who preferred a ‘Hawk playoff match-up of the Flames over the Canucks, it’s hard to argue with you after Roberto Luongo’s shutout performance against St. Louis on Friday night. Also, Ben Eager’s rag doll, Kevin Bieksa, also started a riot in the final moments of a game that was all but over. It’s hard to see the Blues responding peacefully to that challenge on Sunday in St. Louis. That game should be a good one. Can’t you just see a giggly and naked Barry Rozner taking that one in alone in a dark home theatre?
— Finally, I want to commend this site’s commenters. As John and I have explained before, this site was spawned, in part, as an answer to Chicago Blackhawks and Chicago newspaper message boards. While those people bury 20-year old Patrick Kane’s career, you all consistently bring reasonable, researched opinions, and we appreciate it. You’ve certainly made this season a fun ride.
With the mushy stuff aside, we’ll talk at you following game two.