Playing it cool when things get hot
Posted on: May 8, 2009 12:36 am
Edited on: May 8, 2009 12:40 am
You're supposed to teach kids that playing with fire is a dangerous thing, right? Well maybe someone will get that message across to the Chicago Blackhawks one of these days.
In the meantime, this upstart young team just seems oblivious to it all and continues finding ways to keep from getting burned. No matter how close it comes. Like tonight for example when the Blackhawks avoided being pushed to the brink of elimination with a dramatic late rally that forced overtime and led to a series tying 2-1 win against the Vancouver Canucks.
Chicago had fallen behind in each of the first three games of this series, which is not something that is widely recommended at playoff time, and it continued that troubling habit again, albeit to a lesser extent than before. Of course the Canucks helped the process along by executing another near perfect road effort, which to those of a certain age might bring back less than pleasant memories of trap happy style of play popularized by the New Jersey Devils of the mid 90s.
It's a yawn inducing style of play, dependent on clogging up the neutral zone and overloading in your own end, but for the Canucks, it has proven to be a pretty effective way of dealing with the explosive Blackhawks in their own building. For the second game in a row, Vancouver seemed less interested in pressing their attack -- the Canucks had only 15 shots in total -- than in preventing Chicago from mounting one of its own. That was especially true once the Canucks went ahead midway through the second period on a goal by Darcy Hordichuk, who had scored only 17 times in eight NHL seasons and never in the playoffs.
That in itself should have been a bad omen for the Blackhawks, who found themselves kept to the outside for the most part and without many quality scoring chances. The few they did get, most notably by Troy Brouwer and Patrick Sharp, were met by sparking saves from Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo, who seemed destined to get his second shutout of these playoffs and put the Original Six franchise into a series deficit it has never overcome.
But Chicago has proven throughout the post season that it doesn't need much of an opening to make things happen fast. The Blackhawks overcame a three goal deficit for the third time when they nearly won the series opened in Vancouver and then rebounded from a two goal hole to win Game 2 there. This time, Chicago was only behind by a goal as time, and possibly its season was winding down. The Blackhawks put together a desperate fore check, freeing up the puck for sniper Martin Havlat, who found the glove side opening on Luongo that his teammates has been searching for all night.
The momentum turned in that instant and carried through the overtime that ended when Andrew Ladd tipped in a shot to give the home team a win and a new life. And for their sake, a reminder about how risky it is to play with fire.