THE FAR SIDE OF THE POND: Okay, so we'll Spot you a 2-0 lead, and Then. . .

By: Mike Peck
05/04/2010 10:05 AM - By Chad Huebner

It was only one game, I keep telling myself. Only one frakking game.

At least they didn’t give up any more goals in the third period, preventing their Game 1 loss from looking any uglier than it was already. Heh, small consolation.

Changes will be made, but more than putting some familiar faces in the lineup will be the key to winning Game 2 and maybe this series. Change of attitude, for one thing. I was surprised to hear some of the ‘Hawks say they were a bit tired in Game 1, considering they had five days between games. Maybe they were too relaxed. Whatever the case, their attitude needs a tweak. They need to play hungrier, stronger and faster than the Canucks, who are salivating at the prospect of taking out the young, upstart ‘Hawks as soon as possible. They’re not one of Canada’s best hopes for winning the Cup for nothing.

Forget Game 1. That’s over and done. Win tonight, and go into Vancouver with some renewed confidence. Get under their skins like they did last year. 

(And a nice, juicy rebound served up by “LUUUU!” wouldn’t hurt, either.)

1ST PERIOD

Well, it only took 82 seconds for me to lose my confidence. Yes the ‘Hawks come out playing chippy, but once again the puck remains on their side of the ice. A scrum right in front of Niemi results in the Canucks chipping the puck in the net. Chip-chip-chiperoo.

And not more than a minute after that, the same play occurs, only this time, Niemi stops the first shot with a sweet toe-pad save, and then the Canucks’ second shot goes bouncing off the pipe. The iron unkind, at least this time.

I finally have time to talk about one of the line changes: putting Troy Brouwer back with Kaner and Toews. Grit with shooting power. At least I hope that’s the case this time around. The first time with this matchup, Brouwer didn’t score.

More uneasiness with a puck clear going out of the ice for a delay of game penalty on the ‘Hawks. It’s also depressing to hear 22,000-plus not make much noise.

But they do boo when the ‘Hawks are hit with a second penalty, this time the ref stupidly calls Seabs for delay of game, for intentionally knocking the net off his moorings. Replay clearly shows he was clearing the puck out of the crease from a sprawling Niemi and then ran into the left post. Two-man advantage for over 80 seconds. This is slowly going from crappy to bad to worse.

Make that #$@ing worse. Even with a somewhat heroic effort, the ‘Hawks can’t keep the swarming Canucks away from the net the entire time and Mikael Samuelsson, their leading scorer (and their best offseason acquisition) digs the hole a lot deeper for the already floundering ‘Hawks. We’re not even close to being at the halfway mark of this period.

I’d say all of this is something new to me over the last two postseasons, but it reminds me when the ‘Hawks tried to take on the Red Wings in last year’s Conference Finals. You could clearly see the difference in level of talent between the two clubs. Similar thing here. For whatever reason, the Canucks are flying and incredibly aggressive on the forecheck, the ‘Hawks are timid in their own zone and can’t sustain any sort of offensive rush.

BUT!

Now it’s only 2-1! Seabs pots an easy goal for his first tally of the playoffs on. . . ? That’s right, a nice, juicy rebound, cooked medium rare and slathered in a creamy parmesan sauce.

‘Hawks are starting to play with purpose and fierce forchecking. They’re starting to hold onto the puck a little bit more. Unleash the fury.

but. . .

a bad tripping penalty means the Canucks are on the PP for the third time in eleven minutes. They’re playing with fire in a room full of rusty gasoline cans.

Now it’s more of an up and down game. The ‘Hawks may not always be able to do something with the puck in the Canucks’ zone, but at least they’re making concerted attempts at climbing back in this game. Sharpie fires a high hard one at “LUUUU!” that has to be the hardest shot I’ve seen the ‘Hawks attempt on the gold-medal winner this series.

But WTF has happened to Hossa and Byfuglien? I haven’t seen Hossa do much with the puck so far, and Big Buff needs to start parking his sizable rear right in front of “LUUUU!” Make him smell that bad boy, smell it!

Adam Burish is already making his pesky presence known. ‘Hawks are 3-0 in games in which he’s played in.

Now, if that’s the case, why not put him in every frakking @#$!ing playoff game?! He’s more of a good luck charm then my Chicken Carbs are.

Oh hey, here’s a new concept: a ‘Hawks PP. Tomas Kopecky (who hasn’t caused any stupid penalties yet) takes the puck alone and deep into the Canucks' zone, manages to get in a close shot on “LUUUU!” and draws the penalty. Dare I say the ‘Hawks are showing signs of a “Never Say Die!” attitude?

Unfortunately, the ‘Hawks can’t come up with a last-second tying marker. A tie game after one would have been a major moral victory for the ‘Hawks. As it stands, they’re at least waking up to the fact that these games do count.

2ND PERIOD

No slow starts tonight, ‘Hawks. Please, you better come out swinging right from the start of this period. Play with a small measure of desperation.

Okay, a high-sticking penalty is not what I was talking about, Andrew Ladd! It feels like it’s one step forward, two back in this series, compared to the previous one where the ‘Hawks were only stuck in neutral. Nice PK though. Maybe it’s something to build on.

Fans start a small chant of “Let’s go ‘Hawks!”, but just like the ‘Hawks aggressive play this game, it’s not very spirited and it doesn’t last long. Canucks always seem to have four skaters in their zone when the ‘Hawks are trying to generate something offensively. Things are way too tentative for a team that needs a big emotional pick-me-up.

‘Hawks breakaway by. . . Burish?! Good effort, even for him, but “LUUUU!” is on his game again. Ditto the second chance off of Burish’s shot.

Double ditto on a Versteeg breakaway, as “LUUUU” swallows the puck. But with all those salvos, the ‘Hawks finally draw another PP. They need to be like the Kings were against the Canucks in the first round of the playoffs and cash in on every man-up situation. Only two good scoring chances are generated, while the Canucks get a 3-on-1 rush going, but Niemi stands tall with the glove save.

Suddenly, the Chicken Carb is sitting uneasily in mah belly.

YES! but NO!

‘Hawks thought they scored; fans at the UC thought they scored; I even thought I saw the puck bounce past “LUUUU!” But the replay shows that while the puck tried to sneak inside the left post, “LUUUU!” used all of his mass to squeeze the disc out of the crease. Yes folks, the ‘Hawks have been that close just to tie this game. A year ago, that puck would’ve gone in for an easy score. Heck, the ‘Hawks would’ve been up 5-2 by now. This time around, “LUUUU” is the Great Wall of Canada.

So with all the good offensive play generated by the ‘Hawks, with all the unbelievably close scoring chances, the score’s now. . .still 2-1. ‘Hawks have gone from not playing aggressively enough to throwing everything at “LUUUU!” but the kitchen sink, and the results are still the same. It’s frustrating and nausea-inducing all at the same time. The Chicken Carb won’t work its magic if I suddenly have to get void it from mah belly.

3RD PERIOD

What more can the ‘Hawks do? Everything they’ve already done, times 1000.

Not an encouraging stat: Canucks are 2-0 in the playoffs when leading after two periods, the ‘Hawks are 0-2. There was magic in this building against these guys a year ago, can there be more found this time?

Seems like the ‘Hawks start every period having to kill a penalty. At a time when they need to be concentrating on what they want to do in the offensive zone, they have to deal with the muck happening in front of their own net. This is putting quite a strain on a dominant PK and also any slim chance of the ‘Hawks simply tying this game.

Speaking of not having too many good chances, the fans are not having any good chances of getting vocal in this game. . .

until. . . “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!”

Sharpie picks the puck off of the boards, has a breakaway, and finally puts it behind “LUUUUU!” instead of really close in front of him. Soooo. . . is this “The Turning Point?”

(Chicken Carb! CHICKEN CAAAAARRRRRRB! Beware its almighty powah!)

Guh, bruh, iggy-miggy-magoo. . . my brain is starting to turn into custard. It’s (pick any game against the Preds in the previous series) all over again.

You know what’s been a nice surprise? The new line of Burish, Ben Eager and John Madden: two bruisers and one attacking forward. They’ve actually created quite a few scoring chances so far and they’re banging Canucks against the boards. I’m all in favor of keeping these guys together for the rest of the postseason, how about you?

I love wraps, sandwich wraps that is, but I also love wraparounds. No goals just yet, but the ‘Hawks keep doing this and you figure one of these times the puck will sneak underneath “LUUUU’s!” pads. My three favorite wraps, in no particular order: the Big Mac Snack Wrap, the McDonald’s Chicken Wrap and a good chicken Caesar wrap.

Oh boy, another stupid ‘Hawks penalty. Haven’t had a too many men on the ice in awhile, how about that one? Scratch-scratch-scratch goes the match in that room full of rusty gasoline cans.

But. . . another big breakaway by Sharpie, andddddd. . .

You have to be #$@!ing kidding me! “LUUUU!” comes up with the biggest save of the series, for the 425th time. Pat Foley gives a spirited “LUONGO!” call on that play, which I don’t really blame him, since it was in the heat of the moment.

AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!

‘Hawks bide their time, get the puck out of their zone with Ladd-Versteeg-Bolland flying down the ice. Versteeg holds it, holds it. . . hoooollllddddsss ittttt. . . makes the shot and it goes off  “LUUUU!” from Seabs to Keith back to Versteeg, who roofs it for the go-ahead marker all with only 90 seconds to go.

“LUUUU!” gets pulled. . . Canucks can’t get assembled for one last rush. . . and Kaner flips the puck towards the empty net for the easiest goal in the world.

This happened. . , so fast. I mean, did the ‘Hawks really win this one? We go from almost absolute panic to a little hope to small trepidation to “The Turning Point” and now to where I thought the ‘Hawks would be after two games.

But the ‘Hawks can’t play the way they did in the first few minutes of this game and expect to win anything in Vancouver. They won’t be able to pull on the fans for support in that den of lions out in the great Canadian Northwest. Take the way they played in periods two and three of this one, and bottle it. 

Remember; e-mail me at chadhuebner1972@yahoo.com for anything on your mind. Best responses and/or questions will be answered publicly.




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