Who knew getting the puck deep into Detroit’s zone could be so difficult?
The Hawks wasted plenty of chances tonight to get pucks deep into Detroit’s zone and tee off on their depleted defensive corps. Instead, the Hawks made it too easy for the Wings to gain entry into the offensive zone with a full head of steam. Too many times, they coughed up pucks in the neutral zone and let Detroit go to their bread and butter, their neutral zone transition.
For two periods, the much-maligned Cristobal Huet and the no longer worthy of any criticism Chris Osgood turned in a classic goaltenders’ dual. Both goalies came up with a number of terrific saves to keep their teams in the game. Unfortunately for the Hawks, it was always the wrong guy who had his puck on his stick.
Colin Fraser and Troy Brouwer had enough opportunities between them to light a village. Fraser had two point blank shots from about ten feet out and each time Osgood was better. Brouwer led the Hawks with 5 shots.
In the third period, Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien each had an opportunity to clear the defensive zone but failed. When the puck found Brett Lebda’s stick on the blue line, it was only a matter of time before it found twine. It did when his knuckling puck was deflected by Phil EspositoDan Cleary past Huet’s short side.
Six minutes later, Patrick Kane found the most room he’s had all series and made the Wings pay by putting together a highlight reel goal. He picked up the puck at center ice, made a slick move around Jiri Hudler, then went right past Brett Lebda. Osgood gave him about an inch of space over his shoulder and Kane found it with a wicked back-hander.
The goal breathed some life into a Hawks team on life support. They had a ton of shots to close out regulation. Adam Burish and Dustin Byfuglien were both denied from in close.
Cristobal Huet, though, came up with the save of the night in the waning seconds. Marian Hossa blew right past Duncan Keith and came in with Johan Franzen. Hossa pushed the puck towards Franzen who had to turn around to pick it up. Huet, meanwhile, was flat on his belly. Franzen picked the puck on his backhand and shoveled it towards the net. In a last ditch effort, Huet lifted his leg to stone Franzen and send the game to overtime.
In overtime, the Hawks looked extremely tentative and the Wings looked like a team determined to close out the series. It didn’t take long, either.
After the Hawks performed another fire drill in their own zone led by Matt Walker standing at the top of the circles, Darren Helm banged it home on a scramble in front of the net.
Just like that, it was game over. Series over. Season over.
Leftover Thoughts from Game 5
—If there is any saving grace to the Hawks season ending, it’s that we should never, ever, ever see Matt Walker in a Blackhawks uniform again. Walker displayed again tonight why he is an eighth defenseman. In overtime, with the Hawks scrambling in their own end, Walker found himself in no-man’s land standing at the top of the circles. When the puck came down low, the Wings outnumbered the Hawks 3 to 2 and it didn’t take long to outscore them 2-1.
I really wouldn’t have a problem with Walker if he would just realize who he was: a defenseman with limited skills. Maybe playing most of the year with Brian Campbell made Walker think he was someone else, but most of his mistakes are caused by his delusion that he can push the puck up. He can’t. So, goodbye sir, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
–Can’t blame Cristobal Huet for this one. His performance tonight should get most of the fans off his back for a little while. At least, until he gives up his first goal of the 2009-2010 campaign. Most of the year, he was playing under the pressure of his contract and the scrutiny of a strict goaltender rotation. Now after living through it, I fully expect him to bounce back and have a season better than the one he just put together.
–Where was this Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook for most of this series? Other than the last rush in regulation, they put together a game that makes you wonder what if they played like this the whole series. This kind of performance is what we should’ve seen from Game 1.
–So all the people that wanted Kris Versteeg benched in Game 4, you got your wish in tonight’s game. Versteeg only saw 12 minutes of ice time with Q deciding that offensive juggernauts Colin Fraser and Troy Brouwer were more important to the team’s success tonight. Yes, Versteeg can be maddening with the puck in the neutral zone but he is dangerous. That’s more than Fraser or Brouwer could say.
–I suppose we’ll find out soon enough, but Patrick Sharp only seeing 12 minutes is a tad bit curious. There have been whispers that he’s been playing with a significant injury since getting his knee sliced against Nashville. If Sharp isn’t hurt, Q needs to answer why in a must-win game, would he feel that Brouwer and Fraser were more deserving of ice-time over one of his offensive leaders.
–Here is the most important thing the Hawks learned in the playoffs: The Kids can Play. When I say kids, I mean the franchise, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. When the playoffs started, no one really knew what to expect from them. Well, here’s what: Kane finished second on the team in scoring with 9 goals and 5 assists. Toews finished third with 7 goals and 6 assists. That is by far, the most positive thing to come out of this long journey.
–Well, this is the end of the road. But don’t fret friends of the Feather, Bob and I will be here with you through the summer. Here’s what you can expect from us: A diary of the NHL Draft which I believe is in a month, a recap of each player’s season, any transactions, and plenty of other random thoughts. The updates may not be every day like during the season, but at least 4 to 5 times a week.
Here’s something you won’t see: We will not respond to every ridiculous rumor that pops up on the Internet. It’s too time consuming and in the end, it’s mostly a waste of time. The only time we’ll use something is when it’s just too preposterous not to post. In the mean time, feel free to let us know if there’s anything else you want us to cover.
I’m already making a promise to you now, we will spend more time next year giving some in-depth looks at guys in Rockford and juniors.
This is the end, my only friend, the end….