Credit: Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune

Slipping Away: Game 2 Boxing with Blackhawks/Canucks

The Blackhawks are doing just enough to piss off everyone. There’s hope, then it’s ripped away. And with the glimmer flickering its last gasps, it’s all over.

Vancouver 2, Blackhawks 0. The way things have gone, I implore you to find a reason it will change on home ice.

The obvious fact: The Canucks are flat out better than the Blackhawks. That wasn’t a state secret coming into this series. The not-so-obvious fact? Vancouver has put together a fantastic gameplan to slow down the Blackhawks and take away their speed. The Canucks have controlled the neutral zone, taking away the ‘Hawks’ ability to skate into the zone with much threat for most of the series.

Vancouver’s aggressive forecheck has done the ‘Hawks in on numerous occasions, forcing the Blackhawks into turnovers and rushing the decision-making while keeping the ‘Hawks’ speed at bay. On top of that, notice how the Canucks clear the puck from their zone. It’s flipped into the air into the center of the ice, avoiding icing and making the Blackhawks chase. More often than not, the puck is not rung around or banged off the side boards to simply clear the line.

The puck floats, bounces harmlessly into the Blackhawks’ zone waiting for a defenseman to finally get his stick on it. This time is allowing the Canucks forwards and defensemen slip into the neutral zone and set up. This might as well be 1989, because the Blackhawks haven’t been able to complete a two-line pass with any sort of efficiency. The ‘Hawks are being shut down and taken out of their game.

And that’s the reason the fourth line came up with all three goals Friday night. The ‘Hawks skilled players are being neutralized by Vancouver, and that’s the reason you’re not seeing Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, etc., do anything of substance in this series. If the Canucks are allowing goals to only the fourth line – which sees limited minutes  – against their bottom six, Vancouver seems to feel its in good shape. And its the correct gamplan, seeing as the Canucks hold a 2-0 advantage heading to Chicago.

Not to take anything away from Ben Smith, who played an outstanding game. The same goes for Viktor Stalberg, who not only scored but after 84 games decided it was time to be a bit physical. Kane looks scared shitless, and only for the last six minutes of the game decided to fight through checks. Toews? Hossa? Sharp? Coach Q needs to watch some tape and figure out how to get these guys in position to score against Vancouver’s aggressive – yet very skilled – play.

Enough can’t be said about Corey Crawford. He is facing the Dustin Byfuglien treatment the Blackhawks laid on Roberto Luongo the last two postseasons. The Canucks are parking people in front of the net and disrupting Crawford’s line of site through the first two games. But he stoned the Sedins on a 2 on 0 and faced enough odd-man rushes to make my farts seem pleasant, yet stood tall and kept the ‘Hawks in the game the best he could.

The rushes came from the ‘Hawks using their defenseman to pinch more frequently and carry the puck into the zone as often as possible in order to put some sort of pressure on Luongo. Problem was, it didn’t work. Vancouver broke free for numerous scoring chances, and luckily they took 400 offsides penalties or this game might have ended 10-3.

Friday’s game was lost in the second period. Sharp’s retaliation trip led to Vancouver’s power-play goal in the first minute, then a deflection goal with 13 seconds remaining took away the momentum after Smith pulled Chicago to within one.

There’s a whole ton of shit that needs to be figured out in two days, and it’s going to be a chore to actually do it. My feeling is the Blackhawks are going to need more than just the motivation of the home crowd, because the Canucks seem confident enough not to give a rat’s ass what color the jerseys are.

With all of that said, this series is far from over as much as it may seem like it. There’s still a decent amount of positives to take from these two games. If the top six show up, there’s a lot that can be done.

Onto Boxing, if you can stomach it.

  • Phil

    Duncan Keith looked horrible & for that matter so did Seabrook. This D has been giving up too many mistakes, both in the offensive & defensive zones.

    Here is a message to the D. Why must you always wind up for that slapshot. By the time you need the player is in position to block it. Use a wrist shot, just get the PUCK TO THE NET.

    & how can the Hawks win a game with a guy like Pisani on its team. This guy shouldn’t even be in the league but I guess that just goes to show you how inept this league is. If Pisani is still playing anyone could play.

    & Kane now that you got rocked, it looks like you are afraid.

    Toews is driven, the only guy i see with heart, if it wasn’t for that puck slipping off his stick at times, this guy is due.

    But I give credit for Nuckers intensity, especially their 4th line.

    2-0 maybe ends up being 4-1.

    • Bartl

      Phil, I appreciate your pessimism. I wrote a good chunck of it myself because, frankly, there isn’t a ton to get wet over. While I’m still optomistic, I guess I’m not going to start stating the reasons why because the fact remains the ‘Hawks are down 0-2 for more bad reasons than good.

      I saw people questioning this team with profanity-laced tirades in Jan/Feb wondering why the ‘Hawks even deserve to make the playoffs. Now the Blackhawks can’t figure out a team which is superior, might have two games left in the season, and now these same people are telling everyone to calm down? Nah, that doesn’t seem right to me.

      However, let’s see how the ‘Hawks play on home ice before we start writing them off completely. A solid Game 3 could lead to a fantastic Game 4, and maybe the ‘Hawks can head back to Vancouver for a critical Game 5. That’s the “hope,” anyway.

      Thanks for the comment, Phil.

  • rich lindbloom

    Damn Jeff, that was a pretty good wrap. On Hansen’s goal, Ben Smith seemed mesmerized by Sedin behind the net. Just curious, shouldn’t he have looked behind him and picked Hansen up?

    • Bartl

      Rich, completely agree on that as well. I tried to keep the praise with Smith, because he was the main reason the ‘Hawks were even in the game at all. I feel Leddy’s positioning ultimately is what did the Blackhawks in on that goal, however, because it gave Sedin a clear look to the streaking Hansen. Yes, Smith needs to keep site of his man. I just would have liked to see Leddy make a bit more of an effort than just laying his stick out there in hopes the puck hits it.

      • rich lindbloom

        I totally agreed with your Leddy comments. I may be nuts, but it appears Leddy was more comfortable withthe puck than Keith – obviously an unfair comparison due to minutes played, but Dunc got to pick it up.

        Great to get a boxing synopsis back again

    • kevin

      It is fairly clear the size and agressiveness difference from last year to this year. We are getting pushed around and are winning very few one on one puck battles. Overall it was quite a good year despite the mass exodus at the end last year, and hopefully stan can remedy some of these issues.

  • Confused

    The Hawks better hope the Canucks don’t bring any of their one-dimensional play on the road. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

  • Jeffrey Bartl

    I know you’re “confused,” but please read the names of the writers on the articles you’re commenting on before you start talking shit. Just because we share a site doesn’t mean we agree on everything, and I was pretty complimentary to your team in this post. I haven’t said one thing about the fans of the Cancucks out of respect for the competition, but you’re coming close to being the first person I call an asshole Canucks fan.

  • Trevor

    I want to give you credit for this article. I have to admit I didn’t expect a lot from the articles on this site after I saw the Game 1 review. This is a great review and it’s nice to see some respect and objective views. It’s not over until it’s over but it shouldn’t be impossible to give your opponents some credit.

    I was very impressed with that Ben Smith in Game 2, obviously made a few mistakes, but for a 22 year old kid with 7 prior NHL games under his belt, he was very calm and poised and seems to have good hockey sense. And Crawford has, in general, been very good; the stats don’t do him justice.

    Anyway, I wanted to say thanks for a very well-written and objective article that deserves some kudos. Great job.