05/11/2009 8:13 AM
By Chad Huebner
This is obviously a pivotal game, but the Canucks have a chance to steal momentum from a team that has apparently been blessed by His Holiness, the Pope. I can’t explain why the ‘Hawks have been so lucky, other than after all those years of having such bad luck in the playoffs among all the Chicago sports teams, someone’s smiling on the ‘Hawks and giving them all the breaks. It hasn’t been the refs, who have called a clean, even series so far.
But while luck and maybe karma have helped out the ‘Hawks, it’s also been the ‘Hawks adaptation to different styles of games. They proved they can play an open, up and down game, but they also proved they can play a tight-checking, slow as molasses game in the zone like Game 3. For a team with such minimal playoff experience, they’re playing like the Red Wings, who seem like they’ve made the playoffs every year since the Pleistocene Age.
Surprising that Comcast doesn’t show the National Anthems. I think they’re so emotionally charged that they’d be standards for good TV. We do get to see a flurry of white towels waved once again. Seems both teams like doing this. I wish the ‘Hawks would go with a red towel, or how about a black one? A sea of black in the crowd would be something different to see.
Okay, so play gets whistled while Troy Brouwer has his back to the Vancouver goal. A Vancouver player pushes him, and Brouwer winds up in the crease. “LUUUU” gives him a high shove, as if Brouwer meant to be there, and the crowd boos Brouwer. Obviously, there wasn’t a penalty given to the Canucks, but I’m surprised the refs didn’t warn “LUUUU” for doing that, because Brouwer couldn’t help being in the crease. Oh well, I guess you know this game isn’t in Chicago anymore.
Nearly halfway through the first period, and I can tell this game is a bit more freewheeling than the soul-crushing experience last game. I’m wondering if Vancouver is a little scared to play the neutral-zone trap again. I have to admit, the trapping worked for Vancouver nearly the entire game, except for the last three minutes of course. I think it would help the Canucks if they scored more than one goal then try to hold onto the lead.
As a ‘Hawks fan, though, I hope they don’t listen to my advice.
Best ‘Hawks chance so far was having Brouwer and Kane try to dig the puck out from under “LUUUU” and push it through. “GET TO THE NET” should be tattooed on every ‘Hawks player so they can remember that basic, but effective piece of strategy.
Bulin had a similar thing happen to him later on the period, but he’s been solid on the few scoring attempts the defense has led through. In fact, the ‘Hawks’ defense so far has been playing like the Canucks’ D in Game 4, as they’ve been able to force turnovers inside the blueline.
“LUUUU” uncharacteristically gives up a big rebound on a long shot by Brian Campbell, and Big Buff flips the puck into the net as the ‘Hawks score first for the first time this series. They’ve certainly buck the stat that says most teams win in the playoffs when they score, now they have to make the stat work for them.
We have our first retaliatory penalty in this game, and unfortunately, it’s on the guy that scored the winning goal in Game 4. Andrew Ladd loses his cool on a scuffle in front of Bulin and gets sent off for a roughing penalty. Aside from that, this period has been physical without the extra-curricular stuff and penalties. Selke nominee Ryan Kesler appears to get credit for the game-tying, PP goal as a pass goes off him and into the net, but on the replay it looks like it didn’t touch him. No matter, Canucks have been good on the PP so far this series.
While I don’t like the fact the Canucks tied the game, I enjoyed the period overall. Lots more flow, so lots more speed in both zones, and the period was physical without being bogged down by stoppages due to scuffles. It would have been an excellent road period for the ‘Hawks had they been able to hold onto the lead.
While the ‘Hawks continue to have a huge advantage in hits, it just seems like the Canucks get more of those big boomers along the boards, the ones that get the crowd crazy. Maybe if the ‘Hawks start getting those hits, they could really silence the crowd.
On the ‘Hawks first PP, they had some nice shot chances, while the Canucks had some nice clears. Rare is the PP situation where both sides equally look good.
Coach Quenneville’s barking out orders, doing all the . . . coach stuff. I just realized there must be something with head coaches in Chicago who have big moustaches. Mike Ditka, Phil Jackson, now Quenneville. There must be something successful going on there.
Canucks on an odd-man situation (there’s that familiar term) due to a Sammy Pahlsson turnover, and Mats Sundin has his first goal in quite awhile. ‘Hawks have been successful in keeping him quiet for most of this series, but the ‘Hawks commit their first big mistake of the game. Not a surprise the first ‘Hawks early lead evaporated so quickly.
Ladd gets sent to the box again, but ‘Hawks have a legitimate beef that there should have been a Canuck sent off, because after Ladd pushes a Canuck in the back in the crease, he gets nearly bent in two over the net by “LUUUU.”
We have our first scuffle develop into something of a fight between Kris Versteeg and Bieksa of the Canucks. Then shortly after that, Canucks O’Brien hits Matt Walker in the face. The fast pace set in the first period has grounded to a halt. The hard hits are starting to get to the young ‘Hawks and they’re starting to fight back and try to regain some respect. With two Canucks serving penalties and only Versteeg in the box, the ‘Hawks get a well-deserved PP out of all of this. And Big Buff strikes again! Two of his three playoff goals have been scored in this game. I think the message of tonight’s game is give the puck to the big man down low. It’s kinda like giving Shaq the ball in the paint.
‘Hawks squeak through another period, even though they were outplayed for most of it. That seems to be their M.O. for the entire playoffs. It was like this in Game 2 in Vancouver, now it’s a matter of the ‘Hawks able to regain the lead and put this game out of reach. Sorry if I sound like a play-by-play guy, but it seems so easy to do when I type this stuff. The challenge is to be funny while doing this, and fart jokes don’t really translate well into the written word.
‘Hawks are coming up short on some of their passes, and the Canucks are starting to jump on those for easy turnovers. Thankfully, Bulin’s been on his game, and the ‘Hawks haven’t paid for such mistakes so far.
Kaner gets hit square in the face with the blade of a stick for the second time this night and the refs still don’t call anything for it. Yeah, I’m sure he meant to jerk his head back and fall down on his back all of a sudden without anyone hitting him. Riiiiight.
‘Hawks dodge a Kirstie Alley-sized bullet when the Canucks get yet another odd-man rush and rip off a good shot, but Bulin deflects it off a pad. It’s the closest the Canucks have come to taking the lead in this period.
The Kaner can’t buy a break! Johnny Toews feeds a nifty pass to a speeding Kaner on an open net, and gets tangled up with a Vancouver defender that does everything but trip him. I’ve been generally happy with the officiating in the playoffs, but the refs have been missing some obvious calls in this one, and I’m not complaining because I’m a ‘Hawks fan. I think the ‘Hawks have gotten lucky with some missed calls.
But the high stick the refs call on Bieksa is the correct call. ‘Hawks get a seemingly crucial PP with just over six minutes left in regulation. Canucks steal the puck and get a good 2-on-1 the other way, but Bulin stands tall in the net again. The Canucks haven’t got off too many shots tonight, but the ones they have, Bulin need to do everything to prevent more than two goals so far.
The Kaner gets a little back after all the high-sticking by feeding a wide-open Dave Bolland, who puts it into a wide-open goal as “LUUUU” can’t quite dive quickly enough to stop it. If I were a Canucks fan, I’d be seriously thinking of throwing my beer bottle at the TV now. It seems like no matter what the Canucks do, the ‘Hawks manage to come back.
And now the ‘Hawks get another chance on the PP as Kesler gets called for grabbing Brian Campbell, even though Campbell could’ve been called for a dive on the play. Kesler whangs his stick against the glass and fans start throwing trash on the ice. See what I mean? Canucks fans have to be frustrated this series, even though they’re looking at being down only a game.
‘Hawks don’t score on the PP, but they’ve wound the clock to down to less than two minutes. “LUUUU” races off the ice with 1:14 left, but the ‘Hawks force a crucial turnover in their zone and Havlat zooms down the ice for the empty-netter at the 1:02 mark. More trash-throwing on the ice, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of it is some familiar-looking white towels. Eddie O points out the Quenneville-Ditka connection, making me look like a genius, at least in this column.
Canucks still have “LUUUU” off the ice, trying to steal some of the comeback magic from the ‘Hawks, but that doesn’t happen tonight. ‘Hawks lead the series for the first time, and now have a shot of eliminating the Canucks at home in Game 6. I guess I better finish this column in my play-by-play voice: “From ‘The Far Side of the Pond’, I’m Chad Huebner and we’ll see you Monday night, where the ‘Hawks have a chance to go to their first Conference Finals since 1995. See you there!”
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