Well that was fun wasn’t it? The Blackhawks and their fans will go at least 2 more mornings without shaving thanks to last night’s blowout of the Vancouver Canucks. Dave Bolland’s return sparked the Hawks to hanging 6 on Roberto Luongo before he gave way to Cory Schneider who allowed one more before the game devolved into the clownish antics typical of the Canucks when things don’t go their way. The game saw six 10 minute misconducts handed out in the third period, 4 to the Canucks and 2 to John Scott. The lone actual fight saw Kevin Bieksa jump noted tough guy Viktor Stalberg from behind. The end result is that there will be a game 5 and many in Chicago are now calling for the Hawks in 7.
I’m not ready to jump on the bandwagon just yet however. Sure last night was fun, the UC was rocking right from the anthem and Bollands return and assist on his first shift set the tone for the night. But there is a reason the Hawks are the 8 seed, they have yet to show an ability to play consistently yet this season. Yes, they did go on an 8 game winning streak in late February but that was a healthy Chicago Blackhawks, and this group is anything but. If the Hawks are going to do the impossible however last night’s game is the blue print.
Much has been made over the course of the season of Luongo playing farther back in his net than he has in past years. This should help him get post to post quicker and shut down room for rebounds to get past either side of him. The change seems like a direct response to how the Blackhawks beat him each of the last two years. The downside to playing farther back is that he should be vulnerable to high hard shots which give him little time to get the blocker or glove up. That is exactly how both Brian Campbell and Duncan Keith beat him early in the second period. The rest of the night Luongo seemed to be playing a little more out from the net, though he was still back on the goal line when Sharp beat him for the 6th goal of the night, but no goalie would have made that save.
More important than the scoring rampage the Hawks went on last night was the defense in their own zone. The Hawks only allowed 23 shots on the night, 10 of which came in the third period once the game was already a blowout. Bolland was a big part of this as well, evidenced by his +13 CORSI while matched up mostly against the twins. But it wasn’t just the return of Bolland. There appeared to be more of an overall commitment to team defense. Duncan Keith played a particularly strong game despite his -2 CORSI, and the Nik Hjalmarsson, Brian Campbell pairing played a strong game as well. Even John Scott played a solid defensive game.
It not just what Bolland does while on the ice however, its also how the rest of the roster falls into place when he is in the line up. With Patrick Sharp now centering the second line with Marian Hossa and Ben Smith, Michael Frolik can go back to his natural position on the wing. In related news Frolik had his best game as a Hawk. Also with Bolland back to shutdown the opponent’s top lines it frees up the Jonathan Toews line to play offense. The Toews line then typically drew the Canucks checking line, which gets Sharp and Hossa more room offensively.
If the Blackhawks are going to come back in this series its going to take more efforts like last night’s defensive performance. Another quick start goal like last night wouldn’t hurt either. No matter what, after Thursday night’s game the Blackhawks will be getting on a plane headed to Chicago, they might as well bring the Canucks back with them.