Game 2: Blackhawks 4, Sharks 2

I’ll just do some thoughts today rather than a full recap. Anything after 9:45 pm is late in my world, as my body is set to the time zone of the western Atlantic Ocean.

And, many of you may have probably noticed John’s recent absence and the lack of posts during that time. You’ve also probably put together that he’s on his honeymoon – practicing his active stick – but he’ll be back in the next couple days. Until then, let’s all just get along.

– The game’s first 12 minutes seemed to following same general format Game 1’s first minutes did; the Sharks came out fast, and the Hawks struggled to prevent chances. Lucky for us, though, Antti Niemi has been nothing short of spectacular so far this series. It very well could have been 2 or 3-0 by the time the first frame was half over.

– On the other end, the Hawks’ first goal was a soft one for Evgeni Nabokov, Andrew Ladd’s toe drag notwithstanding. And, shame on Eddie O, who’s seen Ladd play at least 150 games during his career, for not realizing or mentioning that Ladd doesn’t shoot any other way; Ladd never shoots in-game without first dragging it towards his body to change the angle. Six or eight times a year, the results are glorious.

– The second goal of the night – courtesy of Dustin Byfuglien – was the real backbreaker for San Jose. The Sharks had spent the previous two minutes running Hawks – two Douglas Murray hits stick out – and getting the nervous crowd back into it. Then, bang, a Patrick Kane shot from up top deflected off of Buff, who was neatly stationed just in front of Nabokov. Extra kudos go to Buff who battled hard – harder than I’ve probably ever seen him battle – for a rebound about 15 seconds before Kane’s shot. After that, the crowd came and went – mostly went – and the Hawks were in the driver’s seat.

– At the end of last season, I remarked that the best thing about the Hawks’ season was that it appeared Jonathan Toews was one of those players who would one day win a Stanley Cup. I reaffirm that stance. Thanks.

– After a season filled with back issues, Dave Bolland is once again back as the Hawks’ shut-down playoff center – and he’s done very well at it. (I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a center take such a blatant slash at his counterpart on the puck drop like Joe Thornton did last night. Bolland is clearly in his head. Too bad it’s May, and slashes and dives are the extent of Thornton’s provisions.) Is it wrong of me, then, to think about how Dave Bolland is probably playing his way out of town? Sure, he’s done well to shut down the Thornton line, but in doing so, he’s established himself as the Hawks’ third line center – who just happens to be paid like a top-six center. (Remember, he got David Krejci money last summer.) With Patrick Sharp’s recent re-emergence as a bona fide second line center and the impending salary cap issues, it seems to me Bolland’s recent play will lead to the end of his days as a Hawk.

– The feared trio of Thornton/Marleau/Heatley is now a combined -8 two games in. How’s that for a winning formula?

– From the “needs to be said” department: Ham Sandwich is a top-four defenseman, no doubt. But he’s not Nicklas Lidstrom. Ham Sandwich has become so renowned for being underrated he’s actually now overrated. He’s putting together a very solid series, though.

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31 Responses to Game 2: Blackhawks 4, Sharks 2

  1. Dave Morris says:

    The Hawks spear the Sharks twice in their own tank, and you’re speculating about Bolland playing his way out of town?

    San Jose hasn’t had an answer for the Blackhawks ability to exploit Nabokov’s mental weakness and their own d’s lack of speed.

    The penalty Kane drew last night against Blake in the last few minutes to effectively kill SJ’s chances was an excellent example. It was also an excellent example of how this team is playing with far more intensity and cohension than most of us could have hoped for.

    Now let’s see if Les Hawques can finish off the Fish in front of their home crowd.

  2. Mark Giangreco Roman Wrestler says:

    Hawks are woefully thin at the Center position in the system and forget about this “Bolland makes too much hay to be a 3rd line center”. It’s pretty valuable to roll 3 quality centers in the playoffs as the previous two Stanley Cup Champions can attest to. I still say the depth the Hawks system has at the wing, makes Versteeg the odd-man out, not Bolland.

  3. Big Tony says:

    Oh, to make David Kreijci money!

    The corpse of Rob Blake has been doing a great pylon impression. Them 40 year old bones don’t look too good.

    Joe Pavelski…paging Joe Pavelski…your team requests your services in Chicago.

    If the Hawks just cut Huet, does his contract still count under our cap? There’s virtually no way we can let the Finnish Monster walk, especially if we win the Cup.

  4. Lee says:

    No way Bolland goes. Somehow, someway they will find a way to get rid of Huet and his contract and then will see what happens

  5. illinikc33 says:

    Look, bolland hasn’t been right all year. I fully expect him to return to form next season scoring wise. let’s worry about that in July, shall we?

  6. Otter says:

    My favorite moment of last night was Joe Thornton giving the “I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING WRONG, THIS IS A BS CALL REFS!!!” routine after nearly cutting off Bolland’s hand at the wrist. Boston hasn’t really missed him one bit since that trade (well other than in November). What a waste of size and talent with a 1 cent head.

    Is there anything wrong with the Hawks right now other than Burish playing ahead of Kopecky? The top two D-lines have been great. The first line has been great. The second line has been good. The third line has been great. And the fourth line has done its job. Sopel skates in slow motion, but that hasn’t hurt the Hawks. And Nemeni has been awesome. Should we nit pick Hossa? Or just be happy that the Hawks are two games from the Stanley Cup Finals?

  7. Otter says:

    Oh, and btw, whenever Setoguchi’s name is said, I feel like a bidding war between the Yankees and Red Sox is about to break out.

  8. Big Tony says:

    After seeing how good Hossa is in all aspects of the game, epsecially how he created the last Hawks goal, you’d have to be a real nitpicker to find fault with his game. He’s relentless on the fore and backcheck, he is a beast with the puck and is effective without it.

    Most of all, you can see his desire to finally win it all. You can bet yer ass everyone in the locker room sees it too.

  9. CT says:

    Nitpick Hossa? The guy single-handedly set up Hjlammer’s goal. Marian the Barbarian may be squeezing the stick too tight on the shots (as evidenced during the Hawks attack on San Jose’s empty net), but he’s doing everything else right. That’s the difference between Hossa and a guy like Thornton. When Thornton’s not scoring, he’s useless, while Hossa doesn’t abandon the rest of his game when his shot is missing the net.

  10. feyer says:

    Perhaps the playoffs are where you play yourself on to the team. So far, Bolland has more then answered that call.

  11. Patrick says:

    Great game last night – loved the way the Hawks wouldn’t quit. A few quick notes:

    1. The things that Kane can do with his stick are amazing, but the things he can do when the puck is in his skates in regards to controlling it, are incredible.
    2. Versteeg is playing smart hockey right now – several times I saw him do a dump-in where required, rather than stick-handling into a wall. Never thought I would use the words “Versteeg” and “smart” in the same sentence.
    3. Joe Thornton is a tool – that hit on Bolland was bush league. Thornton should be Eager’s #1 assignment.
    4. Marleau is the only player on the Sharks worth anything right now – too bad he won’t be with them next year.

    Until Friday…

  12. Matthew says:

    I don’t see anyone who isn’t playing themselves off the team. That’s what happens when a team with cap issues plays this deep into the post-season. Obviously, they won’t get rid of our 19, 81, 88, 2, 51, but beyond that, everyone has put their future with the Hawks organization in jeopardy. I predict that the only players left when the season starts in October will be Burish, Eager and Kopecky.

    Also, Hjammer isn’t overrated yet. He’s just rated.

  13. blackhawkbob says:

    Yikes, I struck a nerve with the Bolland thoughts. Hey, I’ve got a blog; I’ll say what I’d like. We spoke all season about who stays and who goes – now we can’t?

    As for the comments, I said that Bolland is playing very well. Why pointing out the fact that he’s not filling the role was signed to is such a crime, I’m not sure.

  14. Patrick says:

    Bob – I’m with you. Cap issues are going to force this team to make some moves and I think that if the Hawks traded Bolland or Buff or even Versteeg, they’d be trading them at peak value right now, based on the playoffs. That’s not a bad thing. A popular player will need to be moved, that is unless we can get DT to take a second flier on Huet.

    Other than that, I’d add Seabrook to the untouchables list, and maybe Sharp and Hjammer too.

    Oh, to be a roto-GM…

  15. CT says:

    We won’t need Bolland anyway, once John Madden signs that multi-year deal.

  16. Otter says:

    Seabrook has to be on that untouchable list… he isn’t the offensive player that Keith is, but Seabrook has, once again, been the Hawks best defenseman in the playoffs (imo).

    If we were to rank the most irreplaceable Hawks that aren’t on the untouchable list… my list would look like this:
    1) Buff
    2) Bolland
    3) Ladd
    4) Versteeg
    5) Brouwer
    6) Sopel
    7) Madden
    8) Burish
    9) Eager

    And huh? http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/news/story?page=cspr/

  17. Mark Giangreco Roman Wrestler says:

    Bowman has been handcuffed with that Curtis Brown deal. No capocalypse this offseason.

  18. Lou says:

    Hey Boogard is gonna be an UFA. His 56 games and 6 min avg at 1.25MM seems like a bargain. Ohh wait we got Kyle Beach

    I think Versteeg is the first to go. He is going to have a hard time cracking the top six on a regular basis

    Tallons presser on XM yesterdy was a classy discussion by Dale in support of his kids.

  19. Dale Halas says:

    They are Versteeg and Huet’s contract over the cap for next year. At least they are if they want to suit up a team of more than 14 players. You need to clear up enough space to both pay for the new extended contracts and replace the guys you are moving to clear up that space…

  20. illinikc33 says:

    My beef is that you’re writing off a guy who played the first 15 games with a back so injured it required surgery, and then was immediately thrown into the #2 center role with 20-25 games left in the season and expected to produce immediately. Writing off Bolland as an offensive producer simply because he hasn’t been offensively productive after enduring mid-season back surgery is a tad drastic, especially for a 23 year old. Now, the back surgery at 23, well, that’s a different discussion altogether.

    We’ve seen this year that our 4th line is relatively useless; last season the key to our success was a successful 4th line, but this year its effectiveness has been minimized, both during the regular season and the playoffs. I fully expect all those guys to be gone in favor of the likes of Bickell and Dowell; of the Kopecky, Eager, Burish, and Fraser quartet, all of whom I believe have expired contracts, the only one I can see returning would be Fraser.

    I expect Versteeg and Buff to be gone (though Buff’s playoff performance does make me salivate, just like last year), as well as Sopel. If we can somehow get rid of Huet, I’d guess that Buff would be the one of those 3 to stay.

  21. Ban says:

    Otter: Why isn’t Niemi on that list? I’d put him above everyone except for maybe Seabs and Hjalmarsson.

  22. Brian Davies says:

    @ illinikc33 – Kopecky’s under contract for another year. Burish is a UFA; the other two are RFAs.

    The trouble with ditching 4th liners in favor of Bickell and Dowell is that it doesn’t make us much cheaper.

    My prediction is that Madden is the first to go. He’s been great on the PK, but there are other guys who can fill that role, and he’s been good on faceoffs. But $2.75M for a 4th line center is hard to justify, he’s a UFA, and he’ll be 37 next season.

    I think Sopel probably stays, just because I don’t see anyone who could do the job any cheaper.

    I’m torn on Huet. On the one hand, if we bury him in the AHL (I don’t see anyone taking his contract off our hands) most of our cap problems disappear. On the other hand, I’ve seen a lot of rookie goalies regress their second year…

  23. Dale Halas says:

    If Huet is in the minors it is a 1.5M cap hit for the summer counting against next year. Then you have to replace the backup goaltender so it would be about a 3 million savings? You still need another 3-4 not counting the cost of replacements…

  24. Lou says:

    Crawford is already under a two way contract… I think he has one year left. that may solve the back-up issue

  25. dominator says:

    Huet can be buried in the AHL without a cap hit. Now if you bought him out…..

  26. Mark says:

    I don’t see any way that Bolland isn’t on the roster next October. Madden will not be back for sure. That leaves you Three centers if you move Bolland. One of those isn’t really a center and another is Fraser who is strictly a fourth line center. We won’t have money to spend to get a center.

    So unless Toews plays 35 minutes a game and Sharp plays 25 minutes you would be hard pressed to move Bolland.

    Versteeg is the first to be moved. Obviously if they can get someone to take him and Huet in return for a bag of pucks they will jump on it. Since that probably doesn’t happen (can we pay part of Huet’s salary in a trade?) they are going to have to trade someone they don’t want to. Buff has made this a lot tougher because he looked to be next in line. This post season is making it much tougher to move him.

  27. Dale Halas says:

    “Huet can be buried in the AHL without a cap hit.”

    Actually no, we had that conversation here once already. From July 1st to the day before the beginning of the season all one way contracts count against the salary cap. So he counts for about 90 days. Then he has to pass through waivers and then he can be in the minors. At which time he no longer counts against the cap.

  28. Lee says:

    If you listened to Tallon on Espn 1000 and The Score, my bet is he gets rid of Volkum and takes on Huet’s contract. Call me nuts but wait and see

  29. Dale Halas says:

    “gets rid of Volkum and takes on Huet’s contract.”

    I wouldn’t say “get rid of” in this situation. However, there is the concept of selling high and buying low.

    It really would be what assets you would get by selling and what liabilities you yourself can get rid of when buying in both of those situations.

  30. Big Tony says:

    Did anyone hear Brian Engblom just now on the pre-game? He said if the Sharks play like Thornton has been playing, then SJ will win the series.

    For the record…Thornton has ONE point and is a minus 4 so far. How is SJ gonna win if they play like this guy? Being out-skated, out-worked and being frustrated is gonna win them the series?

    Engblom is a douchenozzle of the highest order if he believes this.

  31. Dale Halas says:

    Uh, Tony you are entitled to your opinion. But look, Hossa has been doing a whole lotta things right for the Hawks. He just hasn’t been putting up a lot of points. You can easily make the case that Thornton has had a similar series.

    The difference is that the Hawks can “get away with” Hossa not scoring. The Sharks NEED Thornton to be generating points, at least assists…

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