Jonathan Toews summed up what everyone witnessed Saturday night and put it on record: “It was obvious our work ethic wasn’t there.”
Thanks, Captain Obvious. As if we all weren’t already concerned after the Canucks whipped the Blackhawks 5-1 in Game 1, Captain Serious reminded us the Hawks weren’t quite serious enough.
If you can’t get up for a playoff game against a bitter rival out for revenge, then something is wrong in the locker room, and it needs to be figured out starting tonight. Going back to Vancouver down 0-2 is like being on death row waiting for execution.
The Blackhawks have just about alternated quality efforts with each game in these playoffs. During the regular season against inferior competition, teams can get away with that. The playoffs are a constant battle against quality teams battling for the same prize in which there is no off day. After watching them struggle with Nashville and then get smacked by Vancouver in Game 1, I’m wondering if the Blackhawks have figured that out yet.
The Canucks came into the United Center with a plan of attack, executing it to perfection and making an all-important statement on the road. The Blackhawks came out seemingly without a gameplan waiting to see what Vancouver would do, then attempt to adapt.
However, the Blackhawks played Saturday like their water bottles were filled with Steel Reserve. With as many blind passes and weak clearing attempts coming off their sticks, I thought Coach Q cloned Helen Keller and dressed them all up in ‘Hawks sweaters.
Some may look at the numbers and believe things didn’t get bad until the second period, especially because the Blackhawks put 17 shots on Roberto Luongo. But we’re also talking about 17 shots Luongo saw relatively cleanly. The ‘Hawks made it seem like Dustin Byfuglien would be wreaking havoc all series in front of Luongo, but I didn’t see anyone giving him problems until late in the second period.
The goaltending effort also was suspect. Antti Niemi’s brief flash of brilliance in the first period came as the result of multiple rebounds he gave back to the Canucks. He directed a rebound right into the slot for a goal at the end of the period, and he also continued the trend of getting beaten far side. We saw our first sighting of Cristobal Huet because Niemi didn’t bring it Saturday.
Without skipping a beat, Q-Stache played Musical Lines again and had seemingly every combination covered by the time the game ended. I can’t remember a constant state of changed igniting the Blackhawks mid-game like he tends to expect. The continuous experimentation makes me believe Q-Stache is simply being out-coached. Nashville dictated a good portion of the previous series, and Vancouver executed a blueprint Saturday for which Q-Stache had no answer.
The Canucks did everything right, scoring a goal with each line and stealing home-ice advantage when Luongo didn’t play nearly what he’s capable of – which is scary in itself. They were the better team and deserve a great deal of credit despite the Blackhawks lack of energy and intensity.
If it’s so obvious to Toews the Hawks didn’t come out ready to play Saturday, he needs to flash that ‘C’ around the locker room and put everyone in their place. Did Marian Hossa dress Saturday night? He was invisible. Where have Dave Bolland and Troy Brouwer been hiding? Hopefully he pulls out these questions, among others, to help motive a flat ‘Hawks team that didn’t look like they belonged on the same ice as the Canucks.
Q-Stache needs to stop looking as if his dog got ran over each time the opposition scores first, seeing as the Blackhawks seem to sink into a hole each time that happens. He needs to put a solid scheme together and use the last-change advantage to create difficult matchups for Vancouver in Game 2. Just as much as it falls on the players, a lack of effort falls on the coaching staff.
A vast majority of people believed the Canucks would be TOO pumped up for this series and come into Game 1 making mistakes up and down the ice. I never bought that, and the Canucks proved me right Saturday. Their excitement and preparation combined for a dominating performance against a Blackhawks team which played like it just wanted to get the first game out of the way. Vancouver came to win, and the Blackhawks merely showed up – kind of.
Luckily for the Blackhawks, the Canucks couldn’t win the series with a single victory. Still, Game 2 becomes as much of a must-win situation as a Game 2 possibly can. Another sloppy, heartless performance means the Hawks would need to win four of six against one of the best goaltenders in the world and a top line featuring a Hart Trophy finalist. Sounds like a wonderful time.
Basically, Game 1 goes down as an embarrassing wake-up call to a Blackhawks team that shouldn’t need one. Playing Vancouver should be enough to put the Hawks in a search-and-destroy frame of mind. It’s a shame it’ll have to take a shellacking to prepare the Hawks for Game 2.
Hopefully Captain Obvious can get his teammates fired up.