In an elimination game staring down the abyss of the off-season, with Vancouver playing its best hockey of the series, and in sudden-death overtime, the Blackhawks came out the other side to force a winner-take-all Game 7 on Tuesday night.
It took Marian Hossa 74 minutes to do anything productive, but when he did, he made it count. Hossa gathered the puck deep in the Canuck corner and held on to the puck despite three defenders hanging off him. He waited long enough for Niklas Hjalmarsson to give him an outlet pass; Hjalmarsson fired a quick snap shot towards the net, Ben Smith redirected it, Luongo couldn’t hang on the misdirected puck and Smith poked his rebound through for the game-winner.
Hold on to your butts
—This game was pure torture from the word go. Vancouver had seemingly everything go their way. They got an early lead, they never trailed, and in the final two frames, got the majority of the better scoring chances (minus the penalty shot of course). In overtime, watching the Sedins dangle deep in the zone with Viktor Stalberg, Ben Smith, Ryan Johnson, Nick Leddy and Duncan Keith on the ice was akin to being Mel Gibson in any Mel Gibson movie. At one point, I’m pretty sure I begged for a quick killing just to get it over with already.
I’m pretty glad it didn’t.
–The Hawks had so many key contributors in the final two periods, I know I’m going to forget somebody. Michael Frolik was pretty outstanding in every zone. Ryan Johnson saved the game-winning goal by kicking a juicy Corey Crawford rebound to the corner on a blatant Vancouver 2-on-1. Nick Leddy had an outstanding stick on a Mikael Samuelsson shot on a 5-on-2 as the Hawks got caught with their pants down on a line change (Not really sure what happened there, but that was not amusing). Corey Crawford, obviously. Niklas Hjalmarsson just getting the puck to the net on the game-winner. Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, and Jonathan Toews were pretty much the only Hawk line that generated consistent pressure in the overtime and 3rd period.
(Ok, I’m sorry, I just have to here….) Not a key contributor tonight: John Scott. Two shifts the entire 74 minutes and the only thing of significance he does is choke slam Alex Burrows. It intimidated Burrows so much that he put together the best playoff game of his career against the Hawks tonight.
I’m sure I forgot another key moment that saved the Hawks season. Feel free to add on.
–One thing we should probably not complain too loudly about was the officials. The Hawks had three huge turning points go their way tonight. The first one was Nick Leddy’s flip shot going out of play late in the third period. It was close and I have no idea whether it went over the glass and then the Hawk bench, but it was certainly so close to call, that it probably could have gone either way.
The second was Michael Frolik getting awarded a penalty shot in the third period. Granted, he still had to score on it, but in that moment, at that juncture, many times, the official is going to simply award a 2 minute penalty and not open himself for second-guessing. I think it was the right call, but it was another one that could have gone either way.
The third was obviously Bryan Bickell’s huge hit that sent Kevin Bieksa helicoptering early in the overtime. Raffi Torres was awarded a 2 minute minor for a similar hit in Game 3 that supposedly sparked this great Hawks comeback. Granted, the hits were only similar in their violent nature to the skull. Bickell didn’t throw an elbow up nor did he seem to leave his feet, but it was still a play where a penalty would have been justified. (Ok that’s enough about this because these hit debates are as pointless as arguing about a car crash. Everybody sees something different and somebody else is always to blame.)
–10 minutes left to go in possibly the season. The Canucks threatening to score every time they have the puck and Pat Foley figures this is the perfect time to spotlight the scorekeeper at the United Center. It would have been fine if he simply said the guy’s name, how long he’s been in the position and then moved along. Nope, Foley went on a 5 minute story that I think had something to do with how they kept time at the old Chicago Stadium. I can’t say for sure as I was hardly paying attention and his story was merely serving to aggravate because he was trying to tell a story and do play-by-play at the same time. Meanwhile, Vancouver is housing the Hawks down low and getting opportunity after opportunity. The timing was not impeccable.
–Oh, and hey, the Hawks had a 5-on-3, didn’t score, and still won the game. Feel free to pass that information along to Pat Foley next time he deems a power play “the game” with over 30 minutes left to play.