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THE FAR SIDE OF THE POND: Cue the “Rocky” Music, because it’s Time for a Big Fight!

05/24/2010 8:50 AM - By Chad Huebner

Home hasn’t always been sweet for my beloved ‘Hawks, and you have to figure San Jose will throw everything into this game to get back into this series. But the ramifications for potentially going up 3-0 this series are something worth fighting for. I’m primed and ready to go, filled with my favorite Chicken Carb and a beer or two. ‘Hawks are undefeated this postseason when I eat my favorite sandwich and write one of these recaps, and yes, just like every other fan out there, I feel that the routine I do affects my beloved Blackhawks. Let’s get this frakking party started! 

1ST PERIOD


Hearing the ‘Hawks staying in a hotel prior to tonight’s home game, I also thought they would wear their road whites for that added boost. They’re going with the red jerseys, which they always look solid wearing.

Dave Bolland bowls over Nabby in a rush to the net, so the Sharks start this game on the PP. Niemi made some nice stops, but on the second attempt, they get net presence, out-muscle the ‘Hawks for the puck and Joe Pavelski slides it pass Niemi for the first goal of the game. Or did he? Some replays make it look like it went in off his stick, some as a kicking motion off his skate. . .

. . . And it’s no goal! Boy, you know when things are good for your team when they have stuff like this go their way. Sure, there was still over a minute of PP to kill, but you know the ‘Hawks handled that in style.

‘Hawks getting some really good shot chances in this one, but Nabby so far has been solid. Sharks get called with a penalty, so now we’ll see if the ‘Hawks can score a legit PP goal. Too much transition on this one, which means the PP team can’t set up in the offensive zone for numerous shot attempts. Still, this has been a pretty good opening for the ‘Hawks at home. Crowd somewhat into it, but it’ll take a goal or a very pretty Niemi save to get them yelling.

Sharks veteran defenseman Rob Blake said that the main difference between his team and the ‘Hawks was that the ‘Hawks were faster. Well the ‘Hawks’ passes are rabbit-quick and they’re swirling around the Sharks with the puck. Speed kills.

Nabby looked a little unsteady on a pair of saves: once where he made the stop, but nearly lost control of the puck, and the other, where he thought he smothered the puck, then had it ripped out of his glove by a ‘Hawks stick. Could this be a precursor to the shaky play we witness in Game 2? Hope and pray on that one.

‘Hawks are putting incredible pressure on the Sharks in the neutral zone, something I really haven’t seen them do on a consistent basis during the playoffs. It’s almost as if they’re taking a page from the Nashville Predators’ playbook. Now if they could muster a goal or two, they could really dominate this game. Otherwise, things just look kinda ugly and stagnant right now.

Even with a guy draped on him, Hossa made a very nice shot attempt by shaking off the guy, taking the puck around the net, and getting a good backhand shot off. Yes, he should have more than 2 goals in 14 games, but at least he’s doing other things, such as passing and setting up other guys for good shot attempts, and every once in awhile, he comes up with plays like this.

22 total shots taken this period, but it certainly didn’t seem like that many, probably with all the muck happening in the neutral zone. ‘Hawks just need to get a bevy of shots on Nabby to see if he really has what it takes to bounce back after two sub-par games.

2ND PERIOD

Unfortunately, tonight’s game is not called by Mike “Doc” Emrick and Eddie Olczyk. They are by far the best tandem in hockey. For me, they’re right up there with Doc and John Davidson (before Davidson joined the St. Louis Blues to turn their fortunes around) and Gary Thorne and Bill Clement, who were a mainstay when ESPN and ABC covered the NHL. Of course, being a ‘Hawks fan; it doesn’t get any better than Pat Foley and Edzo. We fans already miss Foley’s calls of Niemi saves.

Speaking of which, Foley would’ve had a field day with Niemi’s last stop, another squashing of the puck in traffic.

Déjà vu with another Bolland penalty. Not good having one of the best penalty killers out of action. . .

And now it becomes 5-on-3 for 75 seconds as Hossa gets called with a hooking call. Pivotal moment in this game. Refs with a quick whistle on an apparent Niemi stop, even though the puck does come loose after the whistle, and a scrum in the net ensues. ‘Hawks need more of these to keep the poised Sharks off of their game.

This time, there won’t be a replay needed to judge the Sharks’ score, yet another Patrick Marleau goal. He’s been San Jose’s primary offensive weapon so far this series. ‘Hawks continue to struggle scoring at home, and the fans continue to struggle to find something good to cheer about.

Another scuffle near Niemi, but Sharks get nailed for a penalty on that one. I’ve seen other teams try to play more physical than the ‘Hawks only to fail miserably and get hit with a ton of penalties, no one seems to learn from this.

And the ‘Hawks make them pay! Sharpie on a beautiful back-door move and now the crowd explodes, about time for them.

Toews gets an assist on the goal, and his great feed to Sharpie gives him the record for longest consecutive point streak in the playoffs in ‘Hawks history, surpassing the legendary Stan Mikita, who still looks like he could shoot and hit with the best of them, and does it on Mikita’s birthday. How cosmic is that?

Okay San Jose, just keep playing stupid and we’ll take care of the rest. You’re playing more like the Sharks in “Finding Nemo” than the one in “Jaws.”
 
Another surge by the ‘Hawks results in a flurry of very, very close calls. Nabby is holding onto the puck by a thread right now. Hossa’s getting a little ticked for coming so close to having the go-ahead score a few times.

Sharks come right back with their own surge, and a few times make it look like they’re on the PP in the ‘Hawks zone they way they’re handling the puck. Good saves and good clears are keeping Chicago in the game so far. They actually might be a little guilty for holding on to the tie until the second intermission, but they’ve been very hard-working this second period, so they may just need a rest to jumpstart their attack.

3RD PERIOD

This game has the feeling of Game 1, only that I could see this going into OT. Both clubs are taking swings at each other, with neither side getting a distinct advantage.

Third straight period the ‘Hawks start on the PK, this time it’s Dunc, who normally doesn’t get called for penalties and is pretty good on the PK too. Every penalty is nerve-wracking time for my team, but every great penalty kill just gives them a little more oomph later on.

First “LET’S GO ‘HAWKS!” chant I’ve heard tonight, and it’s a pretty impassioned plea by the fans to take control of this game.

DING! Well, really it sounded more like CLUNK! Either way, bruiser Ben Eager was that close to giving the fans what they wanted. They still gave Niemi a standing “o” for yet another great save after giving up a juicy rebound.

Crap, Big Buff gets called for the latest penalty, a tripping call, which was more like a pushing-the-guy-to-the-ice call. Sharks on their fifth PP, just like in Game 1. And just like in Game 1, the Sharks aren’t getting much of anything done a man up. Heck, it took them to be two men up in this game to get their lone goal.

Okay, this is getting downright ridiculous. Bolland with another tripping call, and takes another trip to the box. ‘Hawks are not merely playing with fire at this point, they’re bathing in it. Coach Joel Quenneville is clearly not pleased with the ‘Hawks play, so they were probably really glad they turned in another perfect penalty kill. Crowd cheers the effort, hoping they have more to cheer about with seven minutes to go. . .

AND THEY DO!!!!!!!! Bolland was The Pest in Game 2, started out as The Goat this game, and now he becomes The Redeemer, taking a breakaway pass from Toews and dekes Nabby for the go-ahead goal everyone was hungering for. It hasn’t been pretty, but the ‘Hawks have been fighting all this game, taking on everything San Jose could throw at them and patiently waiting for the big break. It’s been a winning formula all postseason long.

Now these last six minutes are going to seem like 60, I’ll bet.

Wait, this isn’t supposed to happen. The Sharks tied the game?! Seriously?! Marleau is the man again for the Sharks. Oh boy, remember what I said about going into OT? With only four minutes left in regulation, the ‘Hawks must climb the mountain all over again.

One minute to go, both teams get good looks at the net, but it’s the combined D that thwarts anyone from taking this before OT. We’re going into new territory with these playoffs, as every ‘Hawks playoff game so far hasn’t need the extra frames. Hopefully, it’ll turn out like it did last year, where the ‘Hawks ended OT play quickly with a timely goal.

1ST OT

(Okay, we need Rob Blake or some Sharks defender to lose control of the puck in their own zone and have it go off of Nabby and into the net. It’s happened before. Just sayin’.)

Suddenly, the game is being played with that up-and-down style the ‘Hawks crave. They’re controlling the puck, but the Sharks are getting off some bone-crunching checks. Just a couple of grizzled heavyweight fighters trading big punches.

Versus play-by-play guy rips off Foley with a “Nabby says noooo!” call. Just not the same unless Foley calls it. . . and of course Niemi makes the save.

I almost didn’t have enough strength left to do this, but. . .

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!

Big Buff brings this slugfest to an end with a pretty goal off of a behind-the-net pass from Bolland (The Redeemer Part 2), and of course he makes another “look at me!” pose, only this time in front of a friendly crowd. No one covered Buff in the slot, very strange for a Sharks team so good at marking their man in their zone, until that moment of course.

Just like in Game 1, Niemi turned in another phenomenal goaltending performance, this time stopping 44 of 46 shots. Toews is certainly the inside favorite for the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP, but Niemi has to be a very close second for his overall command of the net.

And just like that, we are on the verge of an area this ‘Hawks team hasn’t been before. Say it with me folks. . . just one more win. Just one more win. JUST ONE MORE WIN!!!!!!

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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