Monday, April 25, 2011

Recap: Blackhawks 4, Canucks 3 (OT)

What an outstanding game. It may as well have come out of the Olympics.

Vancouver got the party started early in the first, as Daniel Sedin's wraparound try caromed into the net (off of Corey Crawford's stick, I think). Chicago responded later off a broken play. The talking heads were commenting on how Cory Schneider, not having played in the playoffs, was out of the rhythm of the game and not used to the increased speed, and that was apparent on Chicago's first goal (by Bickell) as Schneider's pass to Hamhuis was rather slow; Hamhuis' hurried pass caromed off of Dave Bolland (who then creamed Hamhuis) and into the slot, where Bickell buried a shot. Vancouver, though, quickly re-took the lead late in the first as Alex Burrows got the puck in the slot on the rush and put a shot blocker side past Crawford.

Chicago once again tied the game in the second, off another miscommunication between Schneider and his defensemen. Schneider played the puck from behind the net right past his defenseman and to Patrick Kane. Kane quickly centered to Dave Bolland, who had an open net and didn't miss.

I'd flipped channels to watch the end of Orlando-Atlanta in the NBA, and when I flipepd back, Vancouver had tallied. The third period started 4-on-4, and Kevin Bieksa slammed in a rebound off a 2-on-1 with Mason Raymond. I got really worried at this point, since Vancouver was continuing to play well and Chicago was continuously dodging bullets and not generating much zone time offensively, either. Thankfully, Michael Frolik broke in alone and got tripped by Bieksa, drawing a penalty shot. Frolik converted, and the game was tied. At this point, Cory Schneider succumbed to cramps, and Roberto Luongo came in. He only saw two or three shots for the rest of the third.

In overtime, Chicago found their legs again and began attacking. Ben Smith finally scored on a rebound to send this series back to Vancouver for Game 7. Who woulda thunk if after Game 3?

Some more thoughts:
  •  Chicago really didn't deserve to win this game, but I'm glad they did. I hope Vancouver gets demoralized and can't do much in Game 7.
  • The Chicago D are very mobile, a quality which, I thought, saved them from getting hemmed in their zone multiple times. It helps to have 5 defensemen that can skate the puck out of the zone, especially against a speedy forecheck. It also kept both teams' D from taking huge hits each dump-in like Mike Green.
  • Both Chicago and Vancouver have a ton of speed up front, and that speed was on full display. Moreover, aside from guys who try to "slow" the game like the Sedin twins and Patrick Kane, the puck was moving from player to player really quickly. Rarely did a player have more than a second or two with the puck before moving it along. That's playoff hockey at its best.
  • The Corsi for this game shows Vancouver at +32. I think that's very misleading. Corey Crawford's rebound control and lateral movement is "meh", and Vancouver looked to be trying to exploit those weaknesses.
  • All three goalies came up with some big saves in this game. You have to wonder about what Luongo was doing on his stomach on Ben Smith's OTGWG, though.
  • Both power plays were moving the puck well in this game, although neither scored on the power play. Chicago had a 5-on-3 for nearly two minutes in the second, down 2-1, but couldn't convert.
  • The referees looked pretty consistent to me, only calling the black-and-white (delay of game) and the hardest penalties, but leaving the rest out of it. That being said, Chicago had several borderline plays which they could have been called for, but weren't (Vancouver had some too, but not nearly as many).
  • Bryan Bickell made a controversial hit on Kevin Bieksa, one which has drawn comparisons to Torres-on-Seabrook. I see initial contact shoulder-to-shoulder (though Bieksa's body position makes the hit end as forearm-to-head, scary since Bieksa has a concussion history). I also don't see Bickell leaving his feet prior to the hit (even though he ends that way, to nail a player, you "explode up"). I don't think there will be supplementary discipline.
  • Dave Bolland, should the Hawks make the Stanley Cup Finals, may deserve the Conn Smythe Trophy. Seriously, he's completely wrapped up the Sedins and has contributed on offense as well.
  • Ryan Kesler is who I thought he was: a gritty, smart defensive player who isn't really an offensive "game-breaker." He's done a decent job making life difficult for Jonathan Toews, but has been a no-show offensively.
  • Kudos to the talking heads pointing out that Malhotra's absence, and Kesler's subsequent defensive-responsibility-adoption, is a huge reason why Kesler hasn't done much offensively in this series.
  • Marian Hossa needs to be better. Patrick Sharp needs to be better. Jonathan Toews needs to be better. Brian Campbell needs to be better.
  • One time Alexandre Burrows stopped in front of Corey Crawford and, after Crawford had frozen the puck, was getting chirpy. John Scott came in and dumped Burrows in one fell swoop. Awesome. Another time, Henrik Sedin gave Corey Crawford a light shove after this whistle, and Brian Campbell came in and...Sedin got mauled by some sort of carnivorous bird, or something. Campbell got 2 for cross-checking (joke), Sedin 2 for diving (legit).
  • Michael Frolik had a great two-way game, as did Ben Smith and Dave Bolland. All three made some great plays in all three zones.
  • Chris Campoli can play. 
  • Both teams, while great at possession, do it differently from Detroit. Detroit I think is a bit more conservative on the attack, and their greatest strength is puck retrieval. Vancouver and Chicago are much more aggressive and keep trying to get something going, rather than waiting for good plays to develop. They both have defensemen constantly pinching and cycling, and play a much higher-octane offensive style than the slow, methodical, possession Detroit game, and limit shots against by keeping play to the outside, rather than just keeping the puck (In other words, I think Vancouver and Chicago have better Corsi than zone time, while Detroit has better zone time than Corsi). I feel Detroit, the Sedins, and Kane-Toews play a more finesse, perimeter game (which is only bad if you can't adjust, like Semin could not against Montreal), while the rest of the Vancouver and Chicago rosters play much more in-your-face, like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia (at their best). The Caps fall somewhere in between.
  • The Caps absolutely need to use their size to slow down the game against speedy teams like Vancouver, Chicago, Montreal, or Buffalo. They can't keep up, so next best is to slow the game down. Vancouver and Chicago both weren't great at generating offense down low (except for the Sedins, who've been taken care of by Bolland's line and Seabrook/Keith/Hjalmarsson) and relied on defensemen generating the offense with shots from the point, pinches, and shots from the boards. Buffalo and Philadelphia are better down low. I like the Caps' chances against the former more than the latter.
  • The third Vancouver forward in the defensive zone helps down low, and will chase the puck back to the point if it gets there. Ovie, learn. Shorter shifts, more effort defensively.
Let's go Hawks.

    1 comment:

    1. I think your comment on Detroit's style is dead on. They are definitely more methodical and like to set up in the zone a lot more and use Lidstrom, Rafalski and Kronwall to fire shots from the point and get tips and deflections near the net. They have guys on each line who are designated to be "net front specialist" (Holmstrom, Franzen, Cleary, Bertuzzi, Drew Miller, Abdelkader have all filled this role) and much of their offense revolves around driving to the net or getting traffic in front of the net. In order for that to happen, though, it takes awhile for plays to develop and their centers (Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Filpulla, Helm) have to be real patient with the puck.