Blackhawks 2, Sharks 1

All’s well that ends well for the Blackhawks in San Jose on Saturday afternoon.  Even though the Hawks surrendered 45 shots – six each from Ryan Clowe, Devon Setoguchi and Dan Boyle – and didn’t have a power play all game, they were able to take a tie game into the third period and took over much of the last frame en route to their first Game 1 victory of this year’s playoffs.

The first belonged to the Sharks, though.  After coming out of the gates hard, the Sharks found themselves on the power play – the second of their five overall – due to a Dustin Byfuglien interference penalty along the Shark blue line.  On the man-advantage, Patrick Marleau corralled a puck before it escaped the Hawk zone and floated a pretty backhand mattress pass across ice to Jason Demers, newly registered Hawk killer.  Demers fired a quick shot on net from the top of the circle.  On its way to the net, the puck seemingly deflected off of Duncan Keith, the nearest Hawk defender.  Antti Niemi didn’t react in time, and the Sharks had themselves a one-goal lead.

The Hawks wouldn’t be outdone, though.  Niemi was nothing short of fantastic, especially during the game’s first two periods, where he saw a handful of great chances and dealt with a few dangerous scrums in front.  One memorable save came on the penalty kill late in the second on Clowe, who was staring at an empty net to Niemi’s glove side.  Niemi recovered to his left and smothered the shot along the ice with his glove.

After otherwise weathering the Sharks’ first period storm, the Hawks went into the second with the goal of turning up the tempo.  After “activating the d-men” (to borrow a phrase from Eddie O), the Hawks were able to force the pace.  (Each of the last two periods saw a combined 32 shots compared to the first period’s 21.)  It paid dividends when the Hawks entered the Shark zone on a 4-on-3 about seven minutes into the frame.  Keith crossed the line and sent a pass to the trailer, Patrick Sharp, in the middle of the ice.  Sharp let a one-legged wrister go, and the puck hit a Sharks defender on the way to Evgeni Nabokov, who was beat 5-hole.

So, even after being outshot 31-22 during the first 40 minutes, the Hawks were able to enter the third tied.  It would last just 13 more minutes.  That’s when Jonathan Toews won a draw to Patrick Kane on the outside.  Kane took a step towards the middle of the ice and found Dustin Byfuglien in the high slot.  Big Buff caught the pass and let go a snap shot that beat Nabokov to the blocker side.

It was a rather long seven minutes that would follow, though.  The Sharks pressured the Hawks for the last portion of the third, racking up another 14 shots during the final frame.  Things came to a head when Dave Bolland took a tripping penalty with a minute left and Nabokov pulled.  The referees made a mistake, sending Kris Versteeg to the box and leaving Bolland available to kill the penalty.  The Sharks whiffed on a couple  attempts and Niemi made a stop on Boyle with about 30 seconds left.

The win gives the Hawks the inside track on representing the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals, but don’t forget: it takes four wins to win a series.  The first is nice, but they’ll have to take three more to make this a memorable spring.

Back with more thoughts sometime tomorrow.

Enjoy your Sunday evening (and Monday morning).

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18 Responses to Blackhawks 2, Sharks 1

  1. jay says:

    Niemi was a beast. It will suck to have 10 mil. or more of the cap money going to the goalies next year. That is if he continues this performance.

  2. Big Tony says:

    As badly as the refs wanted SJ to win, it was nice to see the Hawks be able to overcome that laughably bad officiating and eke out a one-goal win on the road. I’m not complaining about the calls against us…all were legit. The fact that SJ was whistled for ZERO penalties was a damned joke. That slash on Versteeg in the slot, right in front of a ref, was inexcusable. The refs need to do some explaining. There is no way on God’s green earth they played penalty-free hockey. Things should be called fairly in game 2.

    It was great to see the mobile, fast and active Hawk team in full stride again. We had some really dominant stretches out there and I thought we were the better team for the most part 5 on 5. Our top players like Toews, Hossa and Keith were fantastic. If Hossa starts potting his chances, we shouldn’t lose more than a couple games from here on out.

    Now, onto the Finnish Monster. Can anyone recall such a case of robbery? He was simply brilliant, and any other adjective is superfluous. 7 more like that and Lord Stanley is ours.

  3. Patrick says:

    Looks like we know what refs are headed for early tee times. As a Hawks fan, I;ll take it, but putting Versteeg in the box at the end of the game was crazy.

    One more thing, but is it just me, or is the SJ booing of Campbell just plain stupid at this point. Get over it – he was a rental player for you.

    Now, for a real comment, the Hawks simplified their attack and were rewarded for it. No running around and no critical mistakes. They were patient and won the game. More, please!

    It’s a good day…

  4. Otter says:

    First game all playoffs I felt the Hawks ‘stole’. I’m not sure the Sharks can play any better while staying out of the box at the same time. And there was Niemi to make sure the Hawks were in the game. Nice to have a win thanks to the goaltender.

    I’m also pretty sure that we’re due a game where Nabokov falls apart.

    When was the last time a team wasn’t called for any penalties in an entire game? I can’t think of it ever happening, but I’m also not someone who watches 250 NHL games a year…

  5. Patrick says:

    The last game the Hawks and Devils played this year (April 2) was penalty free on both sides. That was the first time in 9 years…

  6. JM says:

    Patrick, more than stupid, its just…wierd.

    I can’t think of any other example in any pro-sport where a half year rental is still booed every time he touches the puck after this much time. I’d give them credit for their persistence except it seems so counter-productive. Campbell, like most professional athletes with a head on their shoulders, seems to play better when booed on the road.

    And he had a great game yesterday. That one play in the second (the third? the last 40 min was so fast it all blurred together) where he single-handedly completed the breakout, sprinted through the neutral zone, passed it off, then followed up the play by jumping on the rebound with a beautiful cross-crease pass that just missed Buff’s stick was vintage Campbell.

    So please, SJ, keep booing. You’re just encouraging a great player to bring it every single shift.

  7. Dave Morris says:

    The euphoria from this win should subside in time for the Hawks to get down to business Tuesday night.

    The Sharks also dropped Game One at home in Round One to the Avs, and then came back to take the series in six.

    So, no reason to feel complacent. These aren’t the Nuckleheads, and Todd McLellan’s a much better coach than Vigneault.

    That said, a fine victory, and an exceptional game from the Nieminator.

  8. JM says:

    Dave,

    Right on. However, one of the things I’m encouraged about was the amount of ice time SJ had their top 6 received, and how the Hawks really seemed to take over and assert themselves in the third.

    If McClellan insists on giving his forwards D-worthy ice time, I think the hawks ability to roll out 3 lines, with a burst of energy from their fourth over 60 + minutes will prove to be what allows them to finish on top.

  9. Big Tony says:

    I said on another message board before the series that balance and depth would be the keys to a series win. That held true yesterday. SJ can’t match our depth and if we sustain what we did yesterday, we should be awfully tough to beat.

  10. Dave Morris says:

    JM>here’s an interesting factoid…per ESPN.

    “The Sharks have never won a home game in the conference finals. In their only other appearance (against the Calgary Flames in 2004), they managed to lose all three home games.”

    The Hawks have a golden opportunity on Tuesday night.

  11. Patrick says:

    Happy for Tallon, but do you think there’s anyway we could get him to take a second chance on Huet?

  12. JimH says:

    Kane was noticably laboring in open ice in the 3rd period. Didn’t have the same burst. He lost his footing and slammed hard into the boards legs first and then took a shot to his knee late in the 2nd before struggling off and missing a couple shifts. Hopefully nothing serious.

    I have a feeling Q is not going to let them feel too good about the victory. Way too many chances around the net (although you have to give SJ credit – that’s their game), and some real stupid penalties (what the hell was Seabrook thinking pulling a jersey?). Need bodies in front of the net. Buff seemed lost until well…..he potted the gamewinner. Hopefully he doesn’t think he’s Mike Bossy after that. Get your big ass in front of the net.

    On the plus side our speed has to be a concern to SJ and especially from our defenders. Campbell, Keith, Seabrook, and even Hendry led a bunch of rushes that yielded good scoring chances. Have a feeling that was a concerted effort to let the D carry into the offensive zone. As this series goes on I wonder if the Sharks will wear down from an end to end game. They have some big boys that don’t seem to like to chase the puck. That’s what appeared to happen late in the game when the Hawks got the cycle working.

  13. Patrick says:

    Kane isn’t hurt, he just got caught out on the ice for a very long shift at the end of the 2nd – it was 2+ minutes, mostly in the defensive zone and he was winded, but of course, Pierre McGuire jumped to conclusions that he was hurt because he didn’t think the situation through. Kane’s fine.

  14. Dave Morris says:

    Patrick>you’ll see a lot of wishful thinking and speculation about Tallon taking contracts off the Hawks’ hands.

    The Florida franchise has been more dysfunctional for longer than the Hawks were…and in a terminally weak market to boot.

    As for Pierre McGuire, turning the sound down every time he opens his mouth is the best solution.

  15. Big Tony says:

    I didn’t think Kane was hurt either. I’ve learned by now that McGuire is the hockey equivalent of Tim McCarver….an egotistical jerk who thinks he spouts the gospel of the sport he covers. You need a whole shaker of salt when you listen to what his brain belches forth.

  16. Patrick says:

    Dave, I know, but a boy can dream, can’t he?

  17. feyer says:

    I think Savvy didn’t get it quite right when he said your best players will cancel out their best players. What he meant to say was that Bolland would cancel out their best players.

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