If Andrew Ladd was a baseball player, middle-aged white sports columnists would wax poetically about the fact that he is a ‘baseball player’.
Well, Andrew Ladd is a hockey player. He may not be the smoothest skater, the biggest hitter, or have the hardest shot, but he always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Tonight was no different. Ladd made two enormous plays that stand out above the rest.
The first was obviously the game winning goal. The second play was when he absolutely tattooed one of the Sedin’s along the boards early in the first period. Then the Sedins went away.
The Hawks came out in the first period and played in the Vancouver end for the majority of the time. Vancouver didn’t get its first shot on goal until the 12 minute mark of the first period. Roberto Luongo kept the Canucks in it and the period ended in a 0-0 deadlock.
In the second period, Kane, Toews, and Brouwer put the screws to the Canucks fourth line. Brouwer had a couple of golden opportunities that Luongo was better on. As the shift extended, Jonathan Toews had a shot blocked in the slot. Cam Barker was caught a little too low; Matt Walker was out of position on the blue line (he should’ve positioned himself closer towards the middle instead of being near the boards), and Rick Rypien was off to the races.
As Rypien picked up the puck at center ice, Walker tried to catch him. Rypien made a spin-o-rama that would have made Savard puke and dropped it to the ever dangerous Darcy Hordichuck. Hordichuck beat Khabibulin between the legs and just like that, the Canucks delivered a huge body blow to the Hawks.
After the goal, Vancouver dropped all five guys into the neutral zone putting 22,000 people to sleep and frustrating the Hawks beyond belief. The Hawks did a decent job of dumping and chasing but each chance they had, Luongo was better on.
He made a huge save on Patrick Sharp shortly after the goal. Sharp busted in alone on Luongo and if he lifted the puck, he probably would have scored, but Luongo did a tremondous job of taking away down low.
Going into the third, the Canucks made entering their zone as difficult as using a United Center bathroom during an intermission. The Hawks couldn’t get anything going and even when they could get a shot on goal, Luongo only had to make the one save, never coughing up a rebound.
It wasn’t until there were two minutes left that Lord and Savior Martin Havlat picked a puck out of a board battle. Two of the Canuck forwards were too busy trying to put Andrew Ladd into the 100 level concession stand. Willie Mitchell got tangled up in it and Havlat was given more room than he’s had in a couple weeks. He stepped across the slot and snuck a wrist shot underneath Luongo’s glove.
The goal lifted the 9,000 pound gorilla off the Hawks back and they started to pick apart the Canucks muddled neutral zone. After Brent Seabrook blocked a Canuck shot with 20 seconds left, Dave Bolland was off to the races. Instead of getting a shot off, he tried to draw contact from the chasing Vancouver defenseman and didn’t end up getting a shot.
Off the intial replay on the UC jumbotron, it looked like a clean play and a good no call by the official.
In overtime, the Hawks defensemen continued their shaky play. Matt Walker completely misplayed Mats Sundin who was able to hit a wide open Mason Raymond. Raymond, luckily, missed the net. Then after Khabibulin’s wrap around eluded Brent Seabrook, he had to make a terrific save on an Alex Burrows one-timer.
From there, the Hawks took the puck into Vancouver’s zone. A scramble in front of Luongo turned into a nice cycle by HavBolLadd. After a Havlat pass bounced off Duncan Keith, Bolland picked it up at the blue line and fired it towards the net. Ladd was there for the re-direction and the United Center was up for grabs. The series is now a best-of-3.
Leftover Thoughts from Game 4
–I’ve already heard on the two post-game shows about how solid the Blackhawks defense was because they only let up 15 shots. Let’s say that is probably not the most accurate statement. Walker, Barker, and Duncan Keith were all a heart attack waiting to happen in their zone. Keith and Walker were the worst. Keith probably missed on at least six breakout passes in his end that led to continued pressure by the Canucks. Walker doesn’t really need an explanation.
The best defense the Hawks had tonight was Vancouver settling for one goal. The decision to stick 5 guys in the neutral zone and muddle up all the space is great, but if you don’t win, you open yourself up to a lot of criticism. Vancouver could have very easily extended the lead against the Hawks with the way their defense was coughing up the puck deep in their end.
–Vancouver has done a terrific job of eliminating any room for Marty Havlat in this series. They made their first mistake against him tonight and he made them pay. It was, without question, the biggest goal of the season for the Hawks.
–The save Khabibulin made on Burrows in overtime should not go unnoticed. That was the game right there after another lousy play in the defensive zone by the Blackhawks. I’m not sure when Khabibulin turned into Patrick Roy with all these turnovers, but it has got to stop. He made another one in the third period when Cam Barker very easily could have gotten to the loose puck. Instead, Khabibulin played it right to Taylor Pyatt and he had to make a save he never should of had to make.