Game 2: Canucks 4, Blackhawks 3

For those of you who wondered where the Sedins were on Wednesday, they had an answer for you on Friday evening.  Daniel had two goals and an assist, and Henrik added an assist in the Canucks’ second win in as many games.  On the other end, on a night the Hawks got two tallies from Ben Smith and another from Viktor Stalberg, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa combined for four shots on goal and a minus-1 rating.

While the game was much closer with a slower pace, the second period was the proverbial back-breaker where the Hawks managed to break the same cardinal rule of hockey two different times.  The Cancuks scored during the first minute of the period on the power play, and with the Hawks threatening to tie the game late in the frame, an Alexander Edler shot from the point made its way to the net, beating Corey Crawford and creating some space on the scoreboard for the home team.

The Hawks scored twice during the third, but weren’t able to tie it with Daniel Sedin adding his second of the game about half-way through the frame.  With the Hawks’ defensemen jumping into the play down a goal late, Sedin found himself as the puck carrier in a 3-on-2 against Duncan Keith and Hossa.  Sedin skated to the middle of the ice, waited, forcing each of Keith and Hossa to the offensive player streaking down his side, and Sedin beat Crawford with a neat little wrister to the glove side.

Ben Smith added his second of the game a couple minutes later, but it wouldn’t be enough.

Let’s Just Forget This One, Shall We?

– I suppose it may be cliche to rely on cliches during the NHL playoffs, but as they say, a series doesn’t get started until a home team loses.  The Canucks have used explosive starts each of the first two games to set the tone and take the lead, and the Hawks will have the opportunity to use their home crowd to do the same during games 3 and 4.

– Yeah, the stars didn’t necessarily pull their weight last night.  Toews was downright bad; Hossa played his now-typical game, which resulted in nothing; and Kane’s size has been made a factor by the ‘Nucks.  The good news is that, while you may be able to write off Hossa, per usual, I wound’t expect the same from Toews and Kane at home.  What’s more, Sharp was a factor in Vancouver, and if history is any indicator, he should produce here.

– Did anybody else see any significance in Patrick Sharp’s first period tripping penalty?  Sharp was knocked to the ground in front of Roberto Luongo, after which he stood up and aggressively tripped Christian Ehrhoff.  It was the kind of penalty the Canucks took regularly during the past two playoff series with the Hawks – one of those that showed the Canucks to be frustrated and worried more about the Hawks’ state of mind than their own.  Probably not a good sign.

From a physical perspective, you don’t have to be a hockey lifer to see that the Canucks are absolutely dominating the Hawks.  What’s worse, they are controlling themselves after the whistles and not getting themselves into penalty trouble – not that the Hawks power play is capable of doing anything these days, but you know what I mean.  Don’t forget how the ‘Nucks beat themselves a few times during the past two series; they seem intent on not doing that this time.

– Otherwise, Sharp has changed his game up a bit, showing a gritty side he doesn’t often show.  While it’s generally great to see a leader stepping up and paying more attention to the little things, perhaps it’s also a sign that one of the Hawks’ best players is grasping at straws.

– Last year when Duncan Keith was impervious to criticism, we shouted from the mountain tops whenever he made a risky play but got away with it to deaf ears.  Fast forward to the present and Duncan Keith is now being blamed for the Hawks struggles, the slow US economy, the down housing market, and the Libyan rebel revolution.  The pendulum has swung in such the opposite direction now that Hawk fans find any Keith miscue and blow it completely out of proportion.

He hasn’t had the best year, this much is evident.  But for Hawk fans now to be fantasizing about shipping him off for a bag of pucks is as dumb as it gets.  Keith is still one of the best defensemen in the game and he’s been far from their biggest problem in this series. 

Here’s an extra credit assignment for all our Feather-ites: Watch Drew Doughty or Shea Weber in their first-round series.  Mark down every time they make a mistake.  Be sure to grade them as critically as you would Keith.  Then compare it to what Keith did.  You’ll be surprised how similar the numbers will be and maybe we will all realize that even the best defensemen will look stupid from time to time.

– The better Ben Smith keeps playing, the question of why he wasn’t around here sooner will linger like a stale Bob Pulford fart.  How many games this year did the Hawks feel like John Scott and Jordan Hendry were better options on their fourth line, only to play 3 minutes.  Meanwhile, the Hawks  would blow a tie game in the third period because everyone else was running on fumes.  Just one of those points would have put the Hawks in a different opening round match-up instead of being fed to the lions like they currently are.

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22 Responses to Game 2: Canucks 4, Blackhawks 3

  1. BobbyJet says:

    If Leddy played like Keith has this year he would have been shipped back to Rockford. I’m sick of people claiming he hasn’t been that bad. He’s been worse than just bad and if Q’s hands weren’t tied he would have had him sitting on the bench regularly throughout this season. Unfortunately he couldn’t without compromising the team that lacks depth in the back end.

  2. Cam says:

    Let’s not go where some of the Bowman haters are going with Smith.

    The kid was in college last year and was not regarded as an NHL prospect by anyone. There was no reason to expect him to be able to contribute as well as he has in–and this is important–LIMITED action. It’s quite possible that if he’s a 4th liner next year that he goes 6-8-14 with a -12 or something. I like what I’ve seen, but let’s not pretend he’s Tim Kerr.

  3. Otter says:

    Three things:
    1) The Canucks are really good, not as good as their fans think they are, but they’re really good. Just giving them props.
    2) I’m not going to wait… why the hell was Ben Smith in the AHL all season? The guy has solid 4th line player written all over him, and the Hawks keep him in Rockford? He was probably the best Hawk forward last night, not including the two goals. I know, one game, but he wasn’t that bad in Game One either. WTF were the Hawks brass thinking this year?
    3) The power play is complete garbage right now. I know the Canucks kill is pretty awesome, but come on guys. That was down right embarassing. If the power play had clicked last night, we’re talking a completely different game and maybe series. Obviously the Hawks aren’t going to come back if the power play keeps doing whatever it is they’re doing.

    @BobbyJet… I don’t think Keith has been as bad as you say. I would agree that Q might have thought about scratching him back in late Novemeber/early Dec to send a message to everyone, but he’s been the Hawks 3rd best defenseman and whoever was 4th is way way way behind him.

  4. John says:

    BobbyJet- That extra credit assignment pertains especially to you.

    Cam- No one is claiming Ben Smith is Tim Kerr. But even 6-8-14 would have been better than John Scott and Jordan Hendry.

  5. Ray says:

    For the life of me I can’t figure out why people think Duncan Keith is a better defenseman than Brent Seabrook. Both guys make mistakes, but one guy actually knows how to hit people and play defense.

  6. BobbyJet says:

    I thought Keith should have won the Conn Smythe last year. My how things have changed. I’ve seen every Hawk game this year and Keith has not even been close to the player he was last season. Someone mentioned a while ago that Hawks are only as good as Keith and I believe that to be dam accurate and is why we are where we are. Squeaked into the playoffs and up against the wall, unless we see a drastic turnaround. As for extra assignments. I suggest some should forget the past , take the rosy glasses off and see Keith for what he is at this time. A liability.

  7. Cam says:

    “But even 6-8-14 would have been better than John Scott and Jordan Hendry.”

    I assume you mean when Hendry was used at forward for a couple of games. Maybe, maybe not. Again, I like Smith’s effort, but he was 2-2 on his shots last night. The puck found him and he made the most of it. He probably would’ve been useful as a 4th-liner, but I still contend it’s the subpar seasons by the bigger names that cost them a dozen or more points.

  8. Dominic says:

    Good synopsis. Sunday night, biggest game of the year(for the 35th and final time). While we all are passionate fans, lets try to keep some things in perspective.

    1. Last years team was probably not as good as we think they were.

    2. This years team is not as bad as we think. Yes getting in by having Dallas lose a little weak, but 97 points is nothing to sneeze at in this league.

    3 Hockey is a game whereby the margins between teams is the thinnest and the lucky bounce/break factor is so huge. The luck/momentum factor is just one play away. I am hoping that we are able to win the next one and play a little looser. Last year all the breaks went our way, for example all of Keiths pokes and passes worked, this year they are not. Doughty had the same year, Backstrom on Washington.

    4. Before I ramble too far off, my point is lets avoid being too overly critical of the team. Sure we expect a lot out of them, but for these young core guys that experienced the growth of learning to win, now they have to learn how to perform with higher expectations. And more importantly be a conduit for new players to better assimilate.

    5. The beating of young players and core guys, that volley the last month is really funny, because what is not highlighted is how it all is/was correlated with Bollands injury. That is the organization decided that Sharp was going back to wing and Bolland was going to be 2nd line center. Bolland was playing great hockey the month before his injury. Many people seem to forget that. If he is healthy now, we are the 4 seed. His absence and Sharps injury have pushed a lot of guys up at the worst possible time.

    All in all, I still like the club, the core, the pipeline etc. Injuries and breaks are tough, yes all teams deal with them. At the end of the day there are no excuses. A final thought on some guys

    Hammer – lest remember he is a 2nd year guy. Yes a step back this year, but that is because he set the bar high his first year.

    2. Leddy – John will disagree, but he will be a stud. I do not believe his growth will be stunted one bit. He played 25 games in Rockford doing to learn the system etc. The flashes he shows moving the puck etc is great I will argue elite. His weakness is positioning around the net..no doubt…net net though still a positive for a 6th dman.

    3. Kruger – only seen glimpses of him, but always on the right side of the puck and play. Will be third line center next year.

    4. Smith – a more intense version of Kris Versteeg. Little guy, great hands and instincts. Not as flashy as Versteeg, but will kill penaltys and play some power play. Great 2nd/3rd line guy next year. I am not simply jumping on his bandwagon for the last 3 games, he has a pedigree of success at any level and playing well on the biggest stages.

  9. Francis Roberts says:

    Good post, Blackhawk Bob, and Otter, I think you are spot on. The Nucks are playing very good hockey, and the Hawks are simply a step or two behind. Who knows how good Smith will be next year, but right now he is bringing energy and a high level of play, which puts him above just about every other forward. Keep it coming, kid. I think Keith, Toews, Seabrook, Hoss and most of the other top guys look totally out of gas out there from the first period on. This is not a long term, “get rid of them” comment, just a view on where they are right now. Among them, only Sharp is playing with any kind of an edge. This is not over yet, but obviously game three is crucial. Who steps up?

  10. Jim says:

    Copper N Blue has some interesting takes on Game 2

    1. They say numbers give Hawks some hope still
    2. Ben Smith’s game was horrible besides 2 goals
    3. Calls out Seabrook for bad game – says a lot of the series hope hinges on Seabrook/Keith

    Link:
    http://www.coppernblue.com/2011/4/16/2114544/canucks-and-hawks-game-two-scoring-chances

  11. BobbyJet says:

    Seabrook is one of the few Hawks dishing it out rather than taking it. I suppose it’s only natural but too often we see these analyst types tendency to mention 7 and 2 in the same breath. Seabrook has been ok to sometimes stellar in his play and, imo, will only get better. I agree with Dominic in that this team is still pretty solid but 6 rookies started this series for Hawks. That’s easy to forget.

  12. Grunfeld says:

    That Copper & Blue site is a good read. The fellow over there wrote in his game 2 recap (in the comments) that he thinks Kane has been ‘great’ through two games and Toews ‘pretty good.’ There are plenty of people who would disagree with him on both counts. Hockey analysis does seem to have a wider variance of thought compared to the other major team sports. I can’t think of any example where a knowledgeable observer thought a quarterback or pitcher was great while others, seemingly as knowledgeable, thought he was bad or worse.

  13. BobbyJet says:

    That’s the beauty of hockey Grunfield. So many things happen in a hockey game, the obvious and the subtle that will often go unnoticed… making it difficult to break down unless you are on the ice or you watch the replays several times over. I doubt too many media folk will sit and watch the games again after the fact, so their original impression is what they write.

  14. nesterenko's ghost says:

    There’s a philosophy too, that Ben Smith might not have been ready until now…I am one of these believers…

  15. John says:

    Dominic- This is Hjalmarsson’s fourth year in the league.

    Cam- I would strongly disagree that subpar seasons from their stronger players cost them a dozen or more points. I mean, unless you were expecting every one of them to have career years that would far surpass any other numbers they put up prior to this year. 12 more points would put this team with a higher output than the team of two years ago. That’s some pretty high praise for this team.

    I don’t know how many times I keep reiterating this, but in hockey, unlike every other sport, every player makes a difference in every game. The trickle down effect of having two forwards incapable of playing more than 5 minutes, unable to help out in any special teams capacity, weakened this team more than anything else. It weakens Jonathan Toews, who has to bust his ass for 23 minutes instead of 19, or Patrick Sharp who has to spend even more time on the penalty kill than he should. The Hawks were one of the worst third period teams in the league this year. I don’t see how anything other than bad luck, being shitty, or fatigue were the factors for that. Considering they have a pretty talented team, I’d say it’s not because they suck.

  16. John says:

    Copper & Blue should be mandatory reading for all. They absolutely kill it in their game breakdowns. I just wish more people had an open mind about reading that stuff. It would really make for more intelligent debate rather than “X player is great because he scored” and “Y player is awful because he didn’t”. Not that I’m singling anyone out here, but just in general.

  17. Grunfeld says:

    “So many things happen in a hockey game, the obvious and the subtle that will often go unnoticed…”

    I agree completely, BobbyJet. And I think this is the most glaring thing that those who don’t follow the game don’t understand.

  18. CT says:

    And, we are officially grasping at straws: John Scott will dress tonight:

    http://prohockeytalk.nbcsports.com/2011/04/17/blackhawks-put-68-john-scott-into-lineup-for-game-3-is-he-the-new-dustin-byfuglien/

    To answer the question posed in the lineup: NO.

  19. kbears says:

    While he’s attracted attention for the turnovers, I think Keith’s play is noteworthy as much for the lack of positives as the negatives. He doesn’t play with the physical edge that Doughty and Weber bring, which I feel makes it an unfair comparison – Watching the highlights from Saturday nights games… seems like a bit of bad karma picking that day to compare Keith to Doughty (2 goals, 2 assists) – and if you’re looking to compare Keiths play to others, why look farther than his mates on his own blue line? Seabrook has better offensive numbers this season (which has a lot to do with the increase in PP time, no doubt, though I didn’t look up the numbers to back it up) and Campbell has been eating up more minutes as of late (with a nagging injury I’m led to believe). If we’re sampling only the last 10 months, how do you value Keith over either of these two?

  20. Cam says:

    “12 more points would put this team with a higher output than the team of two years ago.”

    I could go game-by-game and tell you where they blew those points. Twelve might be a conservative estimate.

    They simply found ways to lose as they have done in Game 3 tonight, incidentally.

    When this series is over, an APB needs to be put out for Kane, Toews and Hossa.

  21. Cam says:

    Who would’ve thought the Hawks would find a way to lose a game that they went into the 3rd period tied in? It’s stunning really.

  22. Dominic says:

    John, lets not split hairs here, this is Hammer’s 2nd full season.

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