PLAYOFFS!: Hawks 0, Canucks 2 (Canucks Lead Series 1-0)
And, welcome to the real season. Each NHL team has played 82 games to reach their goal of eliminating the Edmonton Oilers, Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers. Now it's time to get down to business.
The Hawks faced off against their good friends the Vancouver Canucks for the third straight playoff season and for the third straight time dropped the opening game of the season. But there were some good signs there. While the Canucks owned the first period, taking a 2-0 lead, the Blackhawks didn't fold up and were the better team in the second frame.. Only by the grace of Luongo and his lucky goal posts did Chicago not come away with the lead in the second period. The third saw the Canucks content to sit back and clog things up and counter-attack when given the opportunity (probably a reaction to nearly getting beat by their gambling in period two). So, Vancouver takes game one, and the Hawks will come back and try to steal home ice advantage on Friday.
Roberto Luonogo - credit where credit is due on this one. Bobby Lu came into the series with all the pressure on him. And during the 2nd period of the tonight's game, he held the Hawks at bay despite numerous excellent scoring chances. Hat's off to him on this one.
The 2nd Period - the middle frame saw the Hawks dictate play. They generated 4 or 5 terrific goal scoring chances and only the play of the aforementioned Luongo saved the Canucks.
Corey Crawford - the Vancouver crowd was all over Crawford after he gave up two goals in the first, but neither were soft goals. The first came on a redirect of a shot from the point, and the second on a breakaway after Duncan Keith and Brian Campbell played Keystone Cops at the Canucks' blue line. I thought Crawford probably should have broken out of the goal to track down the loose puck that Jannik Hansen put past him, but I can give him some benefit of the doubt as there was a broken stick laying directly in his path. The rest of the night, Crawford was solid in net, not letting his mistakes get to him.
Duncan Keith - Keith was an absolute train wreck in the first period, making several terrible turnovers and handling the puck in his own zone in a manner that hockey historians can only describe as "Hjalmarssonesque".
Hitting - We've known for a while that this team isn't overly physical and will nearly always get outhit, but tonight was particularly bad. The Blackhawks seemed unprepared for the Canucks onslaught in the first period, and while they fared better after that, they were ultimately outhit 47-21. I don't expect a reversal of that number, but guys like Brouwer, Bickell and Stalberg (yes Stalberg) are going to need to get these numbers closer.
Already with the injuries? Just when Joel Quenneville had finally decided that the Johnson/Kopecky/Stalberg line should just stay together even if nobody can figure out why they're effective, Kopecky goes down with an upper body injury and Johnson injures his leg late in the game. Neither returned to play, however in Johnson's case I'm not sure if that was due to injury or the fact that the Hawks shortened their bench due to the late 2 goal deficit. Regardless, I say it's time for KYLE BEACH! Or Rob Klinkhammer. Whichever.
Up Next: Same thing on Friday. See you in the Shoutbox.