Game 1: Canucks 5, Blackhawks 3

The 2008-2009 Chicago Blackhawks are doing all they can to prove that momentum doesn’t exist. 

A little more than a week after fighting back from a 3 goal deficit against Calgary, the Hawks entered the third period down 3-0 to the Vancouver Canucks.  They only needed 15 minutes to erase that lead.  It only took the Hawks four minutes to give it right back.

Ten seconds after the Hawks killed off a four minute Andrew Ladd penalty, Duncan Keith was called on a questionable tripping call.  On the ensuing power play, Pavol Demitra finished a cross-ice pass from Mats Sundin and the Canucks struck first blood.

If it weren’t for the Chicago Blackhawks, Demitra would probably be helping Dominik Hasek and HC Pardubice to the Czech Extraliga title.  Whenever Demitra sees the Indian head sweaters, he transforms into Phil Esposito and somehow tricks people into thinking he’s a relevant NHL player.  It was no different tonight as he got the Canucks on the board as the Hawks were trying to kill their fourth penalty of the first period.

Just five minutes into the second period, Keith watched as Henrik Sedin cut right across the crease.  Steve Bernier fed it to Daniel Sedin who found Henrik standing in front unmolested.  Henrik happily obliged and deposited it into the net to give the Canucks a two goal lead. 

Then ten minutes later, Ryan Kesler finished off a play in front after Brian Campbell went behind the net to chase Kyle Wellwood.  Wellwood saw Kesler all alone and it was 3-0 and it looked like the Canucks were playing at a different level than the Hawks.

On Monday night, the Hawks committed the cardinal sin of giving up a goal in the opening minute of the third period.  Tonight, the Canucks did the same thing.  Patrick Kane finished off a busted odd man rush and the Hawks proved to the hockey world that Roberto Luongo is, in fact, human. 

With new life and new lines, the Hawks felt like they were in the game for the first time since the opening minutes.  Of course, Vancouver had a couple chances to tack on to their lead but Khabibulin was better every time. 

Just under the half way point of the period, Darcy Hordichuk took a penalty 200 feet from his own net.  After some struggles to gain the Vancouver zone, the Hawks finally set up their power play when Kris Versteeg and Brent Seabrook each made nifty plays to keep the puck in the zone.  Versteeg then found Seabrook cross-ice; Seabrook fired a low hard one, and Kane put away the rebound. 

Four minutes later, Dave Bolland outworked a Vancouver defenseman and Luongo to put away a Duncan Keith rebound and just like that, the Hawks erased the Canucks’ seemingly insurmountable lead. 

From there, the Hawks had a decent amount of chances to jump up and steal one.  Vancouver appeared to be back on their heels and looked like they wanted to take their chances in overtime.  The Hawks probably got a bit too greedy.

With just over a minute left, Havlat picked up a loose puck at center ice.  He, Versteeg, and Kane were all at the end of a shift.  The smart, conservative play would have been to dump the puck deep and make the necessary change.  Instead, Havlat turned up ice and gave it to Versteeg.  Versteeg tried to make a pass back to Kane who was well covered.

While this was all happening, Cam Barker apparently thought his team was down one goal and broke hard to the net.  When Versteeg’s ill-advised drop pass missed Kane and Matt Walker couldn’t get the puck deep enough, Mason Raymond found the loose puck and was off to the races on a 3-on-1. 

Raymond fed it to Steve Bernier who one-timed it at Khabibulin.  He made the save, but after Barker decided Bernier standing on the side of the net was more dangerous than Sami Salo breaking down the slot, it was all over.  Salo fired it in the empty net and the Canucks let out a giant sigh of relief.

Leftover thoughts from Game 1

–Waaaaaaayyyyyyyyyy too many defensive mistakes in this one.  Duncan Keith, Brian Campbell, and Cam Barker all made plays that were head-scratchingly strange.  I’ve read that some people think Keith might be hurt, but all the mistakes he’s been making are of the mental variety, not physical.  He continually takes poor angles in the neutral zone, lets his assignment get wide open in front of the net, and is starting to look like the weaker link between him and Seabrook.  Not the type of play you want to see from a guy who could win a Norris Trophy someday.

I still don’t know what Barker was thinking on that last goal.  Absolutely inexcusable for him to make that aggressive of an offensive move.  The last thing any defenseman should do in a tie game is get caught down low in the offensive zone.  Then to add insult to injury, if Barker made a better read off the rebound, he could’ve tied up Salo and prevented the goal.  Barker’s intial instinct was to go after Bernier even after he had already put his shot towards the net.  I don’t recommend watching that replay as much as I have.

Then again, everyone else on the ice made a mistake too so its hard to simply blame Barker.  Havlat should’ve dumped it; Versteeg shouldn’t have dropped it back to Kane; Walker should have gotten the puck deeper; coulda, woulda, shoulda.

–The Hawks sure let all the Canucks rust erode quickly by taking so many penalties early on.  Even though Toews’ and Keith’s penalties were relatively soft for playoff standards, they still put the Hawks back on their heels and never let them continue with their solid start.  Meanwhile, all the penalties allowed the Canucks to dictate the tempo and get off to the start they wanted after they had a nine day rest.

–So now, everyone sees that Roberto Luongo isn’t Patrick Roy and Tony Esposito rolled into one.  Just like any goalie, you can score on him with screens, rebounds, and getting him to move from side to side.  The Hawks did that and as long as they keep doing it, they’ll continue to score on him.  Now if they can just keep it out of their own net….

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5 Responses to Game 1: Canucks 5, Blackhawks 3

  1. Jim says:

    I thought Barker was the one who dumped the puck. And it didn’t look so much like a dump as it did a pass to an imaginary trailing defenseman. I’m not sure what happened there.

  2. Lou says:

    where was toews? He seemed to be off the ice a lot in key situations. SI said he was hurt. Something seemed odd

  3. Leonidas says:

    I hope Q can bottle up whatever line modifications/power talks he used to unleash the Hawks in period 3, as, in my opinion, they were playing with an intensity and determination that will beat the Canucks repeatedly if maintained. Even when they were storming back in game 4 or thrashing the Flames in game 5 I didn’t think they displayed such coordination and will. I felt that sense of inevitability present when your team is keeping the puck in the opponent’s zone shift after shift. Forwards were making smart passes deep in the zone and along the boards and there were few lost board battles. It wasn’t when they were going to tie, but who would do it. Hopefully the defense tightens the screws before Saturday.

  4. John says:

    toews played like poop. my favorite subplot of the playoffs has been every time someone has a bad game, everyone automatically assumes, “INJURED!!!”

    Barker was busting down the wing on that play. Once Vancouver picked up the puck, he was as low as the hashmarks. Walker was left all alone at the blue line trying to get the puck deep. Not a good place to be…

  5. Fork says:

    Toews missed Wednesday’s practice, and wasn’t his usual self last night. I wonder if he still had a touch of the brown bottle flu from turning 21.

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