Could it possibly be that, after 18 years, the Blackhawks are now just a day away from clinching a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals? Certainly seems that way.
The Hawks took Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals on Friday evening in their first home game of the series, and they did it coming from behind.
Even after an apparent Sharks goal was waved off in the first – it was ruled that Joe Pavelski kicked the puck into the net without touching it was his stick on the way in – Patrick Marleau snuck down into the slot on a second-period 5-on-3 and pounded in a loose puck for the first goal in the game.
But, as has been the story all series, after the Sharks picked themselves up, the Hawks threw them down again. This time the Hawks found themselves on the power play, courtesy of Ryan Clowe, and just three minutes after Marleau put the Sharks up, Patrick Sharp tapped home a beautiful cross-ice pass from Jonathan Toews in the corner.
Then, with about seven minutes left in a tied game, Jonathan Toews blocked a Dan Boyle point shot and Dave Bolland took it in alone the other way. Bolland beat Evgeni Nabokov clean with a move to the goaltender’s glove side, and the Hawks had their first lead. (Apparently Boyle was too busy giving people the finger to see the three shot blockers within 20 feet of his shot.)
It wouldn’t last. Just over two minutes later Marleau, who is the only Sharks goal scorer during the past two games, potted a rebound during a scramble around Niemi. The game would go to extra time.
Thank goodness for Danny Heatley and Dan Boyle, though. Each player inexplicably fell asleep while the puck was moved around the Shark zone; Dustin Byfuglien was allowed to walk untouched through the slot en route to his gathering of a pretty behind-the-net pass from Bolland and a one-timer past Nabokov.
There’s your 3-0 lead.
More, more, more…
– I think we can end the “Ryan Clowe is a legitimate top-six forward” debate right here and now.
– We’re also a few days from the “Blow Up the Sharks” debates. My take: just get it over with; blow it up. It would certainly be fun to watch, but they’d likely be selling low on both Heatley and Thornton.
– Put Dave Bolland with Antti Niemi, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Dustin Byfuglien in the series MVP discussion. He’s obviously done the job in his own zone (his three penalties last night notwithstanding), but he scored the second goal and set up the third. After a rough regular season, the bright lights of the playoffs seem to have gotten him going.
– As for my comments during the week about how he may not be back next season, consider this: assuming Dave Bolland is the second line center many of you apparently believe he is, the Hawks have two second line centers: him and Sharp. That’s one too many, folks.
– Anybody else scratching their head on this “Rat” thing? I can swear to you that I’d never once heard of the nickname until maybe three days ago, and it’s now everywhere. They’re even referencing it on ESPN.
– At this point, it may take a colossal breakdown of Cub proportions to keep the Hawks from the Finals. But, remember: the beauty of the NHL playoffs is that anything can happen. Each of the Flyers and the Canadiens are more than capable of beating the Hawks in a best-of-seven.
– It’s easy to see why people have become so frustrated with Joe Thornton. The man disappears for long stretches and only emerges to take blatant slashes at Dave Bolland or cross-ice runs at Andrew Ladd. I’m sure we could debate it all weekend long, but he’s a fantastic talent I just wouldn’t want on my team.
– All those goaltending articles during the regular season sure seem like wasted breath now, don’t they?