Game Three: Blackhawks 5, Canucks 2

Of the many exchanges John and I had during our taking in of Monday’s Game 2 at the United Center, one now stands out more than the others.  It came just after Adam Burish and Ben Eager took a tag-team approach to “snowing” Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo.

After Shane O’Brien and Friends gently ushered Burish and Eager from the crease area following the goalie blizzard, I turned and looked at John in disbelief.  My look must’ve said, “This isn’t the same Canucks the Hawks played last year.  What the heck is going on?  Just 12 months ago, O’Brien would have put his stick where the sun don’t shine.” 

Without more, John said, “That’s not good.”

Well, consider that ship sailed. 

And, for that, you can credit none other than Dustin Byfuglien, whose three goals may not have necessarily been the highlight of his night.  Byfuglien was an absolute monster on Wednesday night in Vancouver, and from my seat, handed in the single best performance of any Hawk during any game this season.  Perhaps even more important, Big Buff seems to have single handedly turned the tide of the series, most notably ratcheting up the lacking physicality and intensity, and knocking the Canucks off their  “A” game in the process.

What Buff did Wednesday night was nothing short of fantastic.  Buff, generally a very mild mannered fellow, went from Dr. Banner to the Incredible Hulk yesterday evening, punishing Canuck defensemen, moving the puck at will, and potting three of the game’s eight goals.  It was a legendary performance that, if all goes well during the next few weeks, people will one day refer to as “the Byfuglien game.”  He was that damn good.

The night didn’t start off that well, though.  The Canucks came out of the gate hard, keeping the puck in the Hawk zone for much of the first frame and getting major pressure on goalie Antti Niemi.  Niemi stood strong, though, and a funny thing happened along the way.  Even after surrendering 16 shots, including numerous scoring chances, the Hawks took a 2-0 lead into the second period – a lead they had no business holding, save for Niemi’s performance.

One important sequence saw similar plays unfold in dissimilar ways for the two teams.  Already up 1-0, a Ryan Kesler tripping penalty put the Hawks up a man.  Jonathan Toews won the opening face-off to Duncan Keith, who quickly let a blast go.  Though the puck seemed to hit a set and square Luongo, it bounced straight out into the slot, where Buff was waiting.  Buff smacked home the rebound and put the Hawks up two.

Then, less than a minute later, Buff was called for interference.  The Canucks won the ensuing face-off in the Hawks zone back to the inside defenseman, who let fly a shot not unlike Keith’s.  Niemi swallowed it up.

Though the Canucks were able to cut the lead to one on two separate occasions, including during the last minute of the second period, they were never able to tie it. 

About eight minutes into the third, Patrick Sharp flung a shot on net from the top of the circle.  Hossa, racing out of the near corner, corralled the rebound, circled Luongo in front, and potted it to give the Hawks their third two-goal lead of the evening.  About six minutes later Alexander Edler – who has played very well for the Hawks this series – kicked a puck past Luongo on the doorstep to seal the deal.  The goal was ultimately credited to the man crashing the crease on the play: Byfuglien.

Yo, Listen Up!

–  Five Hawk goals last night; with all five coming on second chances.  When the Hawks talked about crashing Luongo and making life difficult for perhaps the league’s top goalie, they weren’t kidding.

– Everyone played well last night.  Even Jordan Hendry turned in a couple important shifts midway through the third.  Marian Hossa is starting to take shifts over; Toews was strong on the puck; Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith kept the Sedins off the scoresheet; and Niemi outbattled Luongo. 

– Credit Dave Bolland for adjusting his game in the last week.  Bolland, who has been incredibly underwhelming after signing a sizeable offseason deal, has stepped up his physical and defensive games this series.

– Someone please tell me why Byfuglien was on the ice during the game’s last 30 seconds.  Aren’t we just asking for problems at that point?  Luckily, the referees and linesmen were wise to the scene and settled everything down before it got out of hand.

– Is Alex Burrows the least likeable NHL player?  I think so.  Burrows’ stupid penalty during the second period last night – his behind-the-play roughing of Brian Campbell – led to a power play goal that gave the Hawks their 3-1 lead.  I bet it was the referee’s fault.

– In a game that got incredibly physical, ‘Nucks strongman Rick Rypien was intimately involved getting … Hold on, what’s that?  Oh, Rypien played less than four minutes.  Sorry.

– It’s amazing to me the line combinations that are working for the Hawks this late in the season.  After fiddling all season with the right match-ups and establishing certain truths to be self-evident – like Byfuglien and Kopecky not being top-six forwards – here the Hawks are in the playoffs having success with players in roles they weren’t fit for a month ago.  Odd, but fine by me.

– Is Byfuglien this generation’s Claude Lemieux.  Yes, I think so.

– I could go on for hours, but I won’t.  What a game.

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34 Responses to Game Three: Blackhawks 5, Canucks 2

  1. Dave Morris says:

    Buff finally puts his bashers to shame. And good on him.

    Toews said it best: “A lot of you guys like to talk about him this time of the year, maybe it gets him going a little bit. He does stuff all year. His body is such a big presence out there when he’s around the net. Maybe now it gets noticed a little more, so that’s good.”

    Now the Hawks need to nuke the whiniest team in the NHL, along with the sycophants in the Vancouver ‘hockey press’.

  2. AC says:

    To answer the question you posed in the post, yes, Burrows is the least likable player in the NHL. He is a player I would never root for, not even in the Indianhead Sweater.

    It was great to see Buff wake up and get going, his celebration after goal #2 was classic and will continue to cement him as public enemy #1 in Vancouver. The other guy I thought really showed up was Campbell. He has been very good in the playoffs since returning, but last night he looked like the 7 million dollar player. He hit, moved the puck, made a few tremendous defensive plays, cleared the puck well and even had a shot block I believe.

    The top 2 lines are cooking, hopefully they can keep it up and we can keep some of the pressure off of Niemi in the next game.

  3. Patrick says:

    Those two Vancouver broadcasters drove me nuts in their pre game routine, saying that the Canucks should have been up 2-0. I think you guys put it best, just because a team has a lead, it doesn’t mean that they will (or deserve to) win a game. Get over it, the Hawks are playing better right now, and I think we may be witnessing the “Vancouver Melting” that John was referring to in the blog roundtable.

    Other oberservations:
    1. Hossa is a beast – the things he can do with the puck when people are draped all over him are incredible. It’s only a matter of time when he explodes for eight goals in a game. He’s also probably the most complete player in hockey right now. BTW, who was the douchebag who took a run at him at the end of the game? Stupid.
    2. Hendry still scares me – yes, he did well in the third, but he didn’t do so well in the first.
    3. Niemi seems to have those rebounds under control now – or at least he did for one night.
    4. T-Kop doesn’t seem to be a liability anymore.
    5. Is Kim Johnsson still alive?
    6. Okay, Q, you have your lines and parings now – don’t fuck ’em up.

  4. Dale Halas says:

    If Buf was, well actually, buff he wouldn’t get as much abuse from fans. People see what he is capable of doing. If he was only in better shape he might be able to do it more often…

  5. feyer says:

    It’s nice to see all the ‘nucks talking about Buff again. Their concern with him was a big factor in the series last year, and that chatter had been mostly missing up to this point. There is no discounting the fact that this distraction takes them off their game. Maybe they should be more concerned that the twins have been largely shut out, but you don’t hear much about that, and I suggest it may be more important for them to fix that then to fix the Buff issue which even Luongo admits that they are powerless to correct. Also, I very much enjoyed watching Bolland get inside Daniels head. What a game!

  6. Lou says:

    6. Okay, Q, you have your lines and parings now – don’t fuck ‘em up. – AMEN

    I am amazed at how Vancouver fans think everything is a penalty and they do nothing wrong. Reminds me of Milton Bradley… Never them and always someone elses fault.

    Kesler is right behind Burrows as King Turd.

  7. Otter says:

    AC, thanks for pointing out how good Campbell was last night. He was every where. I’m enjoying this “What Hawks Defensive looks like a Norris Trophy Winner” thing they’ve got going… Seabrook in Game Two, and Campbell in Game Three. Meanwhile, Keith has played well.

    Hossa was amazing all night, but that shift when he didn’t have his helmet might have been the best.

    Kopecky… I’ve been meaning to say something about Kopecky for a while now, but he’s a totally different player post Olympics. It’s like he realized that he could play with the big boys when he was with Slovakia.

    And Byfuglien, what else can anyone say. You guys are right, that was one of the best Hawk performance in a long time. He was awesome. Should have had four goals too if not for an amazing save from Luongo in the 1st iirc.

    Niemi was great, Luongo was just okay. Vancouver can’t win if Luongo is just okay (and the Hawks stay out of the box).

    Bolland for a Sedin twin… I’ll take that every day and twice on Sunday.

    The last two games have been great hockey matches… up and down, hitting, fast… I loved them and the Hawks winning both only makes it better.

  8. Ed says:

    @ Patrick

    I think the correct question is:

    Is Johnsson still dead?

  9. Big Tony says:

    I’m offically eating my words re: Buff. That was about as bestial a performance as I can recall. It was the epitome of “series changing”.

    Barry Rozner, who I generally like, today said Vancouver was the better team last night? Seriously? What game did he watch? At minimum, the teams were evenly matched except for the goalie play.

    There are rumblings that big, bad (stress bad), Darcy Hordichuk will dress tomorrow. OH NOES! HOW WILLS WE COPE WITH HIS 7 MINUTES OF ICE TIME? Ten Hordichuks wouldn’t make a difference. This series is over if this is their last bullet.

    Bieksa and Burrows are both douchenozzles of the highest order. I hope they cry like the bitches they are after we knock them out.

  10. Patrick says:

    Burrows – he’s a hair-pulling douchebag and I wouldn’t root for him if he were on the Hawks.

    Kesler – he’s a dickhead motor-mouth that I’d love to see play for the Hawks (but there’s no way he’d fit under the cap). He brings it every game.

    Just wanted to throw that out there. Discuss!

  11. Otter says:

    O’Brien kind of sucks too. I even shouted that he was giving the Irish like me a bad name at the bar last night.

    What I find odd is that it’s clear the Hawks are the better team 5-on-5 against the Canucks, but that wasn’t the case against the Preds. While the Canucks are nearly as talented as the Hawks, but the Preds weren’t even close in that department. It seems to me that the big difference seems to be that the Canucks don’t have Weber and Suter. The Hawks are able to enter the zone with ease and the Canuck D can’t clear a rebound to save their lives. If they ever got a Pronger or someone close to Satan himself, watch out.

  12. Patrick says:

    The Preds played a system and forced the Hawks to adapt. The Canucks have no system and the Hawks seem to be able to do what they want when they need to. Luongo is probably the only (main) reason why it’s 2-1 and not 3-0.

  13. JimH says:

    Niemi was just outstanding in the first period and the rest of the team seemed to feed off his confidence. Over the final 50 minutes, I thought the defensemen played as well as a unit in their own zone as I can remember. Great skating, passing, and decision making. Really crisp execution from the blue-liners.

    It’s clear that Buff has single-handedly gotten into the collective Canuck heads based on their post-game comments. Even the Sedins were losing it. I heard Kesler on the Jim Rome show this morning and he flat out said “we’re going to have to run their goalie”. I hope Q channels his inner Phil Jackson and makes the referees aware of those comments.

    Is it me or do the Hawks seem like they have more energy on the road? I think they love being the villians and Buff clearly loves being public enemy #1. His little celebration in front of the glass after goal #2 where the fans were flipping him off was a beauty. Stay classy, Vancouver.

    Friday night should be a shitstorm of physicality. Can’t wait.

  14. Razzberry says:

    I actually really liked Q’s decision to ice Buff at the end of the game. He’s not one of the players you really need to bench and protect in a game like that. Kane, Toews, Sharp or Hossa? Sure, bench them to prevent an shenanigans. Buff? No way! He’s bigger than all of the Canucks and putting him out there was essentially taunting the Canucks (and their fans) to start something, which was a bold move and a bit of a mind game. As expected, the Canucks wussed out and didn’t even bother to engage him until after the buzzer when Bieksa knew the linesmen would break it up before it would go anywhere.

  15. AC says:

    One other thing. To all the Vancouver fans (obviously not here) that are complaining about the lack of an interference call, how has O’Brien been kept out of the penalty box. He hit 3 different Hawks in the head with his stick last night (including 3 blows to Hossa’s head late) and punched 2 more Hawks in the back of the head after the whistle blew.

    I understand the desire for a call on the goal, or especially on the slash of Henrik’s stick by Buff, but it evens out throughout the night.

  16. If (when?) the Hawks can do it again Friday, this series is over. The Canuckleheads would have to win 3 straight. They can’t do that.

    Well. theoretically they could…….. Naw! aint gonna happen my friend.

  17. Nick says:

    It made me so happy to see Bolland realize that if he can’t contribute offensively, at the least he can step up his back checking and he even had Daniel rattled. Much more than I asked for and it’s greatly appreciated.

    Buff. Enigma. Conundrum. Bane of Western Canada.

  18. I just hope that the “boys” can avoid a bare chested limo ride with the locals!

  19. Dale Halas says:

    As Otter says, Canucks don’t have Weber and Suter. I think that has been a huge difference between these two series.

    What I find totally amusing, however, is reading the Canucks fansite. They are complaining about the “roughness” of the Hawks play. Sorry, couldn’t resist mentioning that here…

  20. Ha Ha!

    From the Canukleheads fan Forum.

    “Beware the Curse of Hossa. Towel Power is our greatest weapon against it. ”

    If that is their greatest weapon we have nothing to fear!

  21. OK, one more from their site.
    Read on and let us know what you think!

    “Ok, I hate being negative. Often to scared to voice opinions directed at our Captain, but the result last night was simply to much for me to handle.
    So i must speak, and hope there are others who feel the same way.

    Your simply out of your mind if you believe that Luo isn’t harshly overrated. Single handed he lost us last nights game, single handed he lost us last years series. This guy has zero edge. Most goalies that feel like their being pushed around in their crease stand up for themselves. Fight back push back throw a punch something. I’ve never in my life seen a goalie so awkward and ugly in his own crease.

    Unless he toughens up stands his ground and pushes guys out of his crease this series is over. We have a great team, best team we assembled in years. I have alot of faith in getting passed the hawks. But if we do, please know it has nothing to do with Luo and everything to do with the balance between speed and toughness.”

  22. OK, couldn’t resist!

    Yet one more from the Canuckleheads site.

    “The question of who is the most over-rated player in the league is interesting. Luongo is certainly a strong contender. I am not saying he is a poor goalie. He is obviously a good goalie (although he had a bad game last night). On his career numbers he is in top third of NHL first-string goalies. However, he is nowhere near being the best in the league or even in the top three of four.

    But I don’t know how many times I have heard Luongo called the “best goalie in the world” or “a great goalie” or just “one of the best goalies in the NHL” or a “world-class” goalie, none of which are true or, IMO, even close to being true.

    Also, I believe Luongo is the highest paid goalie in the NHL and I think his next year’s salary of about $10 million (not his cap hit, but his salary) will be the highest in NHL. So far in the playoffs he has been up against two young inexperienced low-cost goalies playing for LA and Chicago and has not outplayed them.

    This suggests to me that Luongo is over-rated. If he isn’t the most over-rated player in the league who is? “

  23. MarkC says:

    I like what the guy is saying, but I have serious concerns about this guys ability to use the correct spelling of words in different situations!

    More importantly every aspect of buffs game was a marked improvement. Strangely what struck me most was his passion in the minor scrums. During the season he looks mildly amused when people get in his face after whistles, last night he looked downright homicidal. This obviously translated to his play

  24. Brian Davies says:

    @ Patrick

    Re: #1 — the douchebag who ran Hossa was Shane O’Brien.

  25. Big Tony says:

    Can you post a link to that Cuntnucks forum? That’s gotta be too funny for words.

  26. Dale Halas says:

    http://www.nucksmisconduct.com/

    Is where I have been talking to people but they are cross-posting on Second City Hockey, too…

    Normally I don’t talk in the “we” form when I am talking about sports teams but I can’t help hymning “we are the goons, we are the goons” when reading these posts. They are just too funny… 🙂

  27. Lou says:

    REad Burish’s statements about Vancouver clowns on ESPN

  28. Hey Lou!

    You got a link to that?

  29. Lou says:

    espn.com and the nhl page its a story there

  30. Razzberry says:

    Game 4 was so good, words alone cannot describe it. 😉

  31. Dale Halas says:

    Is everybody OK here?

    Or did you guys go find KJ and are now trapped in the same wormhole?

  32. Razzberry says:

    Wait, what happened to the Game 5 recap?

  33. Razzberry says:

    Disregard. There’s some crazy Twilight Zone stuff going on over here.

    I blame Kim Johnsson.

  34. JM says:

    I remember reading a game 5 recap this morning and thinking, “Oh good. They’re not dead.”

    Where did this memory originate from?

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