Game 5: Red Wings 2, Blackhawks 1 (OT)

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….

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12 Responses to Game 5: Red Wings 2, Blackhawks 1 (OT)

  1. JG says:

    What a game! What a series! Fitting that a duel of goaltenders would take center stage, that 3 of the games went to OT, and the lessons of hard work and determination played out in front of our eyes. Chicago has an exciting team and I hope they can keep that core group together. I look forward to watching your success in the years to come.

  2. cb says:

    Time for the “Detroit suck(s)”ers to shut up. The Hawks-Wings rivalry is a myth created by those who aren’t old enough to remember that the Hawks had other equally fierce Norris Division rivalries. Sure, there’s something of a budding rivalry now, but it’s still basically one-sided, like a Wisconsinite’s resentment of Chicago, or a Canadian’s resentment of America. And that’s another thing we shouldn’t kid ourselves about: we don’t hate the Wings, we RESENT and ENVY their success. Let’s not pretend like we’ve had a professional hockey team in Chicago these last dozen years and have been losing in the Conference finals to the Wings every time. I’m glad this rivalry is going again but let’s not lose perspective and make asses of ourselves in the meantime.

    Cheers to the Wings. I can’t help but hope the Pens take them out in the finals, if only because it’s a more interesting story line, but it should be a fantastic series. What’s to hate about the Wings beyond their ability to dismantle the Hawks with relative ease? They’re much less detestable than either of our previous two playoff opponents. Their coaching philosophy seems to be the opposite of Reggie Dunlop’s. (To the Wings, “let ’em know you’re there” means “put the puck in the net as often and as efficiently as possible.”)

    I suggest that anyone who talks about Experience being a factor in this series should do better to quantify it. Let’s start with what the Wings did so much better than the Hawks and then identify the reasons behind it. My first question is why the Ducks did so much better against the Wings than the Hawks did. I didn’t see much of that series so I’m not very qualified to say. I’m not in the mood to go read some Wings blogs and ask this question there, but maybe we’ll get some visitors.

    Huet did a great job last night and it’s also worth noting how well our very inexperienced defenseman Hjalmmy played. So next year we add Sopel to the mix?

    Other than that, I find I have little to say about the game. It wasn’t anything new. Scores were tight but Detroit dominated the series. Sure, three games were decided in overtime, but the other two were very lopsided. The Hawks got plenty of chances but you never had much confidence in their ability to control the play.

    That said, I’m very much optimistic about next year. We’ve got lots to look forward to.

  3. Lou says:

    Great season. Sad it is over. Detroit is that good. But we have nothing to be ashamed of. We finished above .500 in the playoffs and have a young emerging team.

    I think it was said best, a fire drill in our defensive end. It seems like that many of their goals were scored that way or Dan Cleary on a breakaway. They pressed us and we would panic and were unable to clear the puck. Icing is okay once and a while and hopefully we learn from it.

    Some thoughts on players:

    Walker – just plain needs to go. Other than his occassional fight, he is not good. He wasn’t hot enough to leave Johnson on the bench the entire series.

    Ham Sandwich – needs to learn some additional moves besides the dump in.

    Huet – can he bring a consistent effort all year next year and keep his five hole closed? During the season for a drop down goalie he gave up a lot of those goals. And can he save the high goal.

    Khabi – Dos Vidonya – Vaya con dios – Happy Trails – good luck, thanks for the year but don’t re-sign him.

    Fraser – Brouwer experiment – I cringe every time these guys get the puck in the offensive zone. Maybe an electric fence at center ice owuld be good for them. If we keep Sami, I think Fraser is relegated to sitting a bunch. You can only have so many defensive non scoring guys and Burish is more versatile and a hell of a lot faster. Brouwer needs to do more than bang in corners or along the boards…SKille learn to play along the boards!

    Eager – Is there room for both him and Beach and/or Aliu? And are either one of those head cases gonna be able to stay out of the box????

    Havlat – what do we do here? Don’t want to see a 10 yr deal like some scuttlebutt had.

    Finally, should Holmstrom switch to UFC – in the Fraser scrum it looked like he was trying to knee him and he just plain kicked at walker. That is one guy that I would like to see leveled once and a while. He is kind of cheap in his physicality which overshadows his talent.

  4. John says:

    cb, quite simply, the Wings matched up better with the Hawks. The Hawks were like a jr version of themselves so it’s pretty easy to see why they had such an easy time picking them apart. I wouldn’t call Game 1 lopsided though. It was a two goal game with an empty netter.

    The Ducks, number one, had a red hot goaltender in Jonas Hiller. Huet’s performance last night was what Detroit saw for seven games. They were consistently getting 40+ shots and only scoring 1 to 2 goals in the games they lost. Goalies are the great equalizer and we saw first hand last night.

  5. mk says:

    In the tradition of handshakes and congratulations at the end of a season, I wanted to congratulate you guys for a great website. I’ve enjoyed reading your comments and recaps this season.

    Good season. ::hearty handshake::

    As disappointed as I was last night, I remember now that walking out of the UC after the first win against Phoenix in October, I was looking forward to the possibility of a playoff appearance. After the New Years home at home, deep down I didn’t really think the Hawks had much chance in a 7 game series against the Wings. I didn’t really think they were gonna get past the Nucks, so this series was gravy.

    It’s been fun being a Hawks fan this year.

  6. Leonidas says:

    Last night was the most content I’ve ever been for a Chicago playoff elimination, and it reflects the epic journey that made the entire season such a joy, even when it looked like the Hawks were going to melt into the 6th seed in the West.

    I agree with the consensus that Detroit is a superior team, and their cohesion, discipline, and control in the neutral zone would have been difficult to solve no matter how the Hawks approached it. However, I will venture out on a limb and postulate that the Blackhawks in the end beat themselves. Perhaps if we ran the series 100x they still commit as many turnovers and succumb to as many mismatches and strategic errors as they did, but in the final analysis Detroit’s ability to capitalize on mistakes inherently exists as a function of the Hawks making mistakes. That’s what makes Detroit so great: they play terrific defense, are disciplined with the puck, and wait for your mistakes (penalties or turnovers) to punish you.

    Hopefully, this is what the young players will learn, and Q and the staff will learn how to coach them towards eliminating the brain freezes and strategic blunders which crippled the team during the 2nd and 3rd periods (and OTs) of most games. Keep instructing Kane on back check, get players like Buff more involved in defense and this team should be able to progress.

    Huet showed good playoff form, and we can only hope he doesn’t become lax when he is given full time number 1 goalie duties next year. Last night was a preview of next year’s team, and that brings me to crux of my post. It’s nice to pine about the future of the ‘young Hawks,’ but I once again caution everyone to be weary of assuming a natural, linear progression of success. Nothing is assured, and Tallon has a raft of tough decisions to make. I heard this morning that the cap is going to decrease around 2.5M next year and 2.5M the following year, putting the total at around 50M in two years. That’s going to create a minefield for the Hawks management (and admittedly other teams too) given blockbuster signings like Campbell.

  7. Patrick says:

    Good season by the young Hawks and last night showed that the team they’ll have should be a good one for years to come (barring injuries, etc). Even though it wasn’t enough, I’m glad that Kane got on the board in the Wings series as I think that the off-season would have been worse for him if he hadn’t.

    Great posts and now onto next year.

    One suggestion – do a post like Sam Smith would do every year (before the NBA trade deadline) and have readers suggest trades that you would either stamp with approval or shoot down without mercy.

  8. John says:

    I like that suggestion Patrick, could be fun.

    Leo, no one here is expecting a natural progression of success. In fact, I think the true progression will come in two years. There’s just too much going on next year for the Hawks (Opening the season in Finland, Olympics, short summer). I expect them to be fully gassed by the time the playoffs roll around. Alas, that’s a full year away so who really knows.

  9. jm says:

    The shrinking salary cap does worry me.

    This was an incredibly fun team to watch, and it’s a little sad to know we’ll never see that team again (Matt Walker being the glaring exception) But that’s life.

  10. Jim says:

    I had figured the Wings would win in 5, so I can’t be disappointed by law.

    Really nice work, guys. I appreciate all your work, and it makes it a helluva lot easier for a long-distance fan to parse through all the noise.

    “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.”

    I didn’t know Kenny Williams was such a big Hawks fan.

  11. John says:

    ‘I didn’t know Kenny Williams was such a big Hawks fan.’

    Haha, I didn’t mean for that statement come across like that. The Canadian media gets a little out of control in the summer time so I just didn’t want to simmer the masses every time a canuck imagines a fantasy trade while day-dreaming about ice fishing again.

    I should be thanking you Jim. You were one of the first to help us get our ‘Internet feet’ off the ground. Not to mention, I figured if a Mizzou Journalism grad could do something like this, how hard could it be for a U of I journalism grad.

  12. Craig says:

    Folks…

    Been gone for the last few days, but I wanted to post this. From a Detroit Fan…thanks for a fun series. I am excited that the Blackhawks are back. Huet will be fine. He will be a solid goalie for you.

    Kane and Toews are the real deal. Lots of skill. Byfuglien, if he works on his skills a bit more, could be the next Pronger (that’s a compliment.)

    And…this blog is really friggin’ good.

    See you next year.

    A Wings fan.

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