Sunday, April 19, 2009

You mean that we can come from behind?

Well, I was surprised. Were you? The Blackhawks started both of the first two playoff games shakily. That part didn't surprise me. What did, was that they were able to shake it off.

Game 1 was in Chicago, and the Blackhawks came out with their eyes glazed over. It was as if the word playoffs had taken away all their abilities. To say that the first period was atrocious is an understatement. The Hawks were unable to keep possession long enough to get any decent attempts. In fact, they only had a paltry four shots on goal in the first period, while managing to give up 10 to Calgary, which included a goal.

The Blackhawks began to pick it up in the second period with a goal by Cam Barker. They started to pull closer in the stats and left the period with a tie game. Barker's goal had definitely re-ignited the crowd and gave the Hawks a chance.

However, it seemed their chances were snuffed out by a goal from Mike Cammalleri early in the third period. But Calgary managed to give up another soft goal as they allowed Martin Havlat to charge the net through three defenders, take a shot, get the rebound, and slide it home. Regulation ended in a tie. They were going to overtime.

Calgary won the faceoff in OT and drifted back into their zone to set up. A cross-ice pass was knocked down by Dave Bolland who charged up the ice with Andrew Ladd coming alongside him, and Havlat a ways behind him. Ladd drove to the net, distracting Calgary goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff as Bolland dropped a pass back to Havlat to sniped it in for the game-winner, 12 seconds into OT.

The goal, however, was highly contested by Calgary, because, as Ladd cut to the net, and Havlat put the puck home, Ladd made contact with Kiprusoff. However, Ladd would have never touched him had Calgary's defenseman not blocked him into Kiprusoff. When I saw the replay the first time, I thought, "That's a cheap goal." But, after watching it a few more times, you see that Ladd wouldn't have made contact had he not been blocked down. Also, Ladd's contact did not restrict Kiprusoff from moving to the side that he needed to in order to make the save.
The second game started a little better. The Blackhawks played like they had all season, unfortunately that wasn't good enough to keep the Flames at bay. They scored two goals in the first frame; one of them a powerplay goal by Jerome Iginla. Down 2-0 after one period, I had already written off my Blackhawks.
That night, the Blackhawks taught me that writing them off wasn't fair. The Blackhawks put the game within manageable reach when Jonathan Toews scored a one-timer early in the second. Later in the period, the Hawks got on an odd-man rush, with Patrick Kane bringing the puck down the right side. He made a quick pass to Patrick Sharp who was gliding in right up the middle. Kiprusoff slid across the paint to the his right, but Sharp knocked the puck the other way before putting it home. The game tied at 2 and the fans going crazy, the Hawks weren't done yet in the second period as Jonathan Toews scored his second goal of the night on an in-tight goal. The Hawks had turned around their fate as they headed into the third period, up 3-2.
The third period was a defensive struggle. Both teams had a few opportunities, but no one was able to score. The Blackhawks had pulled it off, a come-from-behind win; a rare feat for this team. However, the Blackhawks have come from behind in several of their most recent games. We've already talked about the two playoff games, but let's also mention the game in Detroit during the home-and-home at the end of the seaon and their win over the Predators not long before that.
This new talent that the Blackhawks have picked up is going to be highly useful during the playoffs. It seemed that for most of the season, if the Blackhawks didn't score first, they didn't win. Now, it seems like that's the only way they win. It's especially helpful since they haven't been the first to score in a lot of their more recent games.
The Blackhawks traveled to Calgary yesterday and play tomorrow at 9. I'm interested to see how the Calgary crowd will affect the Blackhawks game. Sure, I think the home crowd had a lot to do with both of their playoff wins, but they also came from behind in Detroit, who hates Chicago (and vice versa). I think they have what it takes to take them down at home, but tomorrow will tell.

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