When two teams that have played each other as often in the playoffs as these two, there are no surprises. Everybody knows each other. Hate does build up though. This game was a prime example. Intense, filled with hits that were not just finishing their check hits, but, “I am going to need some ice bags afterwards” hits. This was an entertaining, intense game.
The Canucks looked like they could put it away at a couple occasions, but credit the Hawks. They gave this game their all. Its only 2-0, and you have to win four to move on, but the Hawks played this one like a seventh game. They know that going down 2-0 is going to be a tough one to come back from.
It was a tough one to play in too. In Game #1, the hit count was 47 to 21 in the Canucks favour. This one, the hit count ended up in their favour as well, but only 45 to 40.
It started out much like Game #1 as well, with the Canucks the aggressors on the boards, and the offensive zone. A somewhat weak holding penalty on Jannik Hansen five minutes in gave the Hawks the first power play. They just were not that good on it, and the Canucks seemed to get the momentum from it. Hansen, with Samuelsson sick and not in the lineup, was the Sedins’ linemate after a penalty kill instead, and it was his dogged play that led to the first goal. After making a good play to keep the puck in,Hansen went to the net, and while the defense watched the Sedins, Hansen found the open ice and beat Crawford his to make it 1-0.
The Hawks tried to push forward, and did have some chances. Brouwer made a strong cut to the net, and was denied by Luongo and then buried. Keith had two good chances that Luongo made great saves on. The defense were doing a fine job on clearing rebounds and hitting in the corners. A great example was Edler, who nailed Kane a couple times ( he was hit four times in the first period alone ) early. You could see Patrick Kane bailing out often as a result the rest of the game.
A plain old stupid penalty on Patrick Sharp for tripping Ehrhoff in the Canucks zone gave the home team their first power play. As often happens with the bad penalties, the Canucks made him pay. Although they killed off the rest of the period down a man, the Hawks could not do the same to start the second, as Kesler fed the point, Ehrhoff got it on net, and Daniel Sedin made a pretty tip to give the Canucks a 2-0 lead.
Even when the Hawks got another power play when Hamhuis interfered with Sharp, it was the Canucks with the better chances shorthanded, as both Kesler and Raymond had opportunities to get a shorty.
The Canucks were doing a strong job on the Hawks stars, with one play in particular the best example. Hossa beat Hamhuis and Bieksa at the blue line and looked to be in alone, but Hamhuis got back and took care of him without a shot even being credited.
The Canucks were given another power play opportunity by Seabrook for interfering with Burrows, but this time, while they had some chances, the Hawks were able to kill it off.
It would lead to a seemingly innocent play giving the Blackhawks their first goal of the series. Campbell made a nice breakout pass, Bickell a great cut to the net, and Henrik Sedin lost his check, rookie Ben Smith. The puck came to him in front, and he buried it to bring the Hawks back into the game.
The teams took the momentum back and forth, with neither side getting pucks through. When they did, both goalies were up to the task.
However, in the late going of the second period, it was the Canuck rookie Cody Hodgson that showed a bit of exactly why he was taken 10th overall. In a play that looked like a flashback to the WJC, he was calm behind the net, and smartly fed the point to Edler. He got a rocket off, but it went off of Ben Smith’s stick, and Crawford had no chance. Instead of getting out of the period down one, the Hawks were heading into the final stanza down two again.
This is the Stanley Cup Champs however. They were going to push back. It was one of the lesser lights once again, however. Viktor Stalberg checked Edler when a puck bounced on him, on a seemingly innocent pass. He came off the boards, and his strong wrist shot through Ehrhoff’s legs ( Luongo may have been screened there ) beat the goalie cleanly with a goal just two minutes in.
The Hawks were down only one now, but could not break through the Canuck blue line. When they did get in, checking and hitting prevented many chances, though Kruger did get off a hard wrister from the slot that forced a very good save from Luongo.
The home team would once again go up by two, on a play that the Hawk defense must be seeing in their sleep tonight. Hamhuis got the puck up to Daniel Sedin, and he made a nice play and rush. But with the two back being Keith and Hossa, he smartly went to the forward, who continued to back in. Daniel made a great shot, beat Crawford off the post, and gave his team the two goal lead once again.
It was good that he did, because only a couple minutes later, Ben Smith once again made his mark. A long shot on net was saved by Luongo, but he gave up a bad rebound, right to the slot. The Hawk rookie beat everyone to it, and roofed it to make the score 4-3.
Last year, that goal may have been a backbreaker. This year, it was just another play. The Canucks went to work keeping the Hawks away from their net, and though they got a few good shots with the goalie pulled, that was all they got in the 7:10 remaining. Nice saves on Sharp and Campbell shots by Luongo put this one away.
So, now, maybe the third time is the charm. The Canucks deeper defense was a definite reason why the Hawks comeback fell short, and for the first time , they go into Game #3 with a two game lead.
The United Center should be THE place to be on Sunday. Can’t wait.