Stay out of the box, they did not. But, the Hawks figured out a way to win a split in Vancouver to begin the Western Conference semi-finals.
The Blackhawks again dug themselves an early hole due to first period penalties on Saturday night in Vancouver. By 6:34 of the first period, the Hawks had collected a staggering 16 minutes in penalties, and by 6:44 of the period, the Hawks were trailing by two with both ‘Nuck goals coming on power play tallies.
Sami Salo scored the first on the man advantage, when penalty killer Samuel Pahlsson pressured the puck below the goal line, perhaps even forgetting the Hawks were on the kill. When the puck predictably emerged from behind the cage, Salo had time and unloaded a bomb past Khabibulin. Just over a minute later and nine seconds into a 5-on-3 power play, Alexander Edler took a couple cracks at Khabibulin on close-range one-timers, and the last made it a two-goal game.
And, that was about it for Vancouver, who saved their remaining efforts for third period altercations.
Following the Vancouver goals, Joel Quenneville seemed to call on “checkers” on each line, making sure Ben Eager, Dustin Byfuglien, Troy Brouwer or Adam Burish was on the ice for each shift. That forced a temp shift in the Hawks favor, as each checker stepped up the forecheck and caused offensive zone turnovers.
As the Guiness men used to say, “Brilliant!”
The flood gates opened for the Hawks midway through the second. Patrick Sharp scored twice, including one on a one-timer up top on the power play, and Dave Bolland scored a highlight reel goal on the kill when he caught a long-range pass with his glove and went in alone on Roberto Luongo. The second Sharp goal came on what seemed to be a must-score 5-on-3 power play.
Ben Eager and Patrick Kane scored in the third period, and Bolland added his second into an empty net late in the frame.
In the end, save the game’s first five minutes, the Hawks dominated pace and physical play. Despite not collecting a point, Dustin Byfuglien could have been the best player on the ice for either team. He and Luongo seemed to have a battle going, with Buff barreling into the ‘tender at one point and Luongo jabbing back at the big forward at numerous points in the game. Otherwise, Buff was again a man against boys, forcing offensive zone turnovers and forcing Vancouver defensemen to check over their shoulders while retrieving pucks.
In that same vein, the fourth line – both as a group and individually – played extremely well. The Adam Burish-Ben Eager combination tallied a goal in the third, and the line drew what could have been a crucial offensive zone penalty in the third.
On the other side of the ledger, Duncan Keith’s play continues to be dangerously scary. He seems to have lost his confidence in his own end, and it shows most on his passing. On a few different occassions, Keith missed badly on easy passes.
Of course, we’ll have plenty more tomorrow when everyone’s back in front of their computer.
Now, go enjoy your Sunday. Class dismissed.