1. For starters, let’s congratulate Blackhawk rookie Kris Versteeg for his Calder Trophy nomination this morning. Yes, he and Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan will lose to Steve Mason of the Blue Jackets, but Versteeg’s jump from AHLer to Calder Trophy finalist is one of the more important ‘Hawk stories from this season. He’s also gone without the advantage of playing with legitimate playmakers most of the year like Ryan did.
2. Mike Keenan must have an ulterior motive with all this babble. Anyone with a cable hook-up and a brain can see Keenan’s Flames have been the physical aggressors during each of this series’ three games, often doing so in borderline-dirty fashion. One has to wonder whether Keenan’s trying to stir the media pot for the young ‘Hawks to boil in, perhaps in an effort to draw the faster ‘Hawks into a slower, more physical game.
Two things are for sure: his complaints have been, for the most part, illegitimate, and the ‘Hawks are much better off ignoring them. Here’s hoping Coach Q asks the fourth line boys to deal with the mess, while requesting the others to skate, skate, skate. So long as the series is about speed and skill – not physical play – the ‘Hawks will win. Otherwise, well, I can’t promise anything.
3. With the way the first three games have gone, I have a sneaky suspicion game four’s victor may be in the driver’s seat for the balance of the series. Obviously, though, if it’s Calgary, they’ll have to win at least once in Chicago’s United Center, and I’m sure Coach Q will empty the bag ‘o tricks to avoid a game seven against a more experienced bunch of Flames. (And, for the record, my partner in website crime, John, may not support these thoughts. Just tossing that one out there…)
Interestingly enough, statistics from this week’s The Hockey News show conference quarterfinal game four victors as winners of the entire series only 58% of the time since 1994. Winners of each of the other individual six games win the entire series at least 62.5% of the time. For example, while it’s obvious winners of game seven will win the series 100% of the time, those teams that won game one of a conference quarterfinal series won the series over 71% of time since 1994. Winners of game six win the series a whopping 80% of the time, the highest percentage for any of the winners of a series’ first six games.
4. Well, God speed, folks. As I predicted on Sunday in this space, the Flames put a nice game together on Monday, but taking a 3-1 series lead should just about seal the proverbial deal for the ‘Hawks. While many believed the ‘Hawks were outplayed Monday, I thought the opposite.
Evidenced by a couple bad bounces and two soft goals in Calgary, they’ll need an effort superior to that in game three to win this evening. A goal from the “spare parts” line of Pahlsson, Byfuglien and Versteeg could be a big step in the right direction. A goal from the fourth line could trigger a set of events which would likely culminate in the apocolypse.