Not because Chicago outplayed us. Not because Luongo played really well last night, and wasn’t rewarded by his team. Not because the refs decided “you know what? That Luongo has so much padding … let’s just let the Hawks take runs at him and stick him in the face a few times. Oh and what the hell, that blue paint is clearly there just for decoration, why not let people enjoy this area?” Not because the media seems to want to push this whole “Anti Niemi always follows up a bad game with a good one!” thing, as if this is some kind of desirable trait – despite the fact that it’s not even true. Not even because I had to listen to the awful Blackhawks broadcast and analysis last night (really, is it too hard to get the Canadian feed? It’s so much better. I feel like they know what they’re talking about at least).
No, I’m disappointed because we had one of the top teams in the league on the ropes and we let them out of the corner. Wow, what a stinker we played for the final 40 minutes. I thought, after a gangbuster first period in which we attacked the net, skated hard, got some good shots on goal, and made the Hawks pay for bad penalties and poor defensive decisions, that we would naturally carry that momentum through the rest of the game. No such luck. The Canucks team that went into that dressing room left after the first period, only to be replaced by a slower, lazier, much more tentative team for the rest of the game.
You could see it immediately; it was like we ran out of gas, which is inexcusable, given a) it’s the playoffs – if you can’t get up for a game at this time of the year, you might as well not play, b) you have a lead in the series, a lead in game 2 and you’re heading home for games 3 and 4, and c) the opposing team looks shaky in net, shaky in their own end, and wasn’t really generating any good offense. And that’s the big point here: the Hawks looked completely out of sorts to start the game. The 2 quick goals, Bieksa’s post (god, he played like trash) – we seemed like we were heading for another blowout. And the Hawks knew it too! Seabrook’s goal was the result of a miscommunication between Henrik and his defence. Other than that, the Hawks knew they were sucking it up in their own building. If Bieksa scores, I’m willing the bet the Hawks would have started to panic, and the goals would have started to pour in. Then, it’s a completely different series, as Quenville would have to either dump Niemi and shatter his confidence (and play Huet – effectively spelling Chicago’s doom) or stick with him while we pick him to pieces over the course of the next 2 games. The fans knew it – they were completely silent. The coaches knew it. EVERYONE KNEW IT. Now if you want to crown them, then crown their ass! But they are who we thought they were! And we let ’em off the hook! </Dennis Green>
I guess the bright side of this is that the Hawks are very beatable, and that we stole home ice advantage away from them. In particular, I love how the media is gushing about Niemi and how he “always bounces back after a bad game.” Gimme a break. He was horrible last night. I mean, he made all the saves on the long shots and dump ins in the 2nd and 3rd periods – I would expect at least that of an NHL goalie. But it’s not like he played outstanding in the first: he was 11-13, a save percentage of just .846, and, if Bieksa could still play hockey, he would be .786. I know the NHL has changed in the last few years, but the last time I checked, .846 does not mean that he has exorcised whatever demons he had from game 1.
Vancouver fans attending games 3 and 4: it is your responsibility to rattle the Blackhawks back teeth with your raucous cheers. I’m invoking whatever love and passion you have for this team – DO NOT LET THE HAWKS OUT OF GM PLACE WITH A WIN.