These are so much easier to write riding a win. But fair is fair, and although the Chicago Blackhawks might not have played perfect games here in San Jose, they left with the perfect result: a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Tonight they were in comfortable control for almost all sixty minutes, handily winning 4-2 in front of a frustrated crowd. For historians, this was the 7th straight playoff road win for the Hawks, a record.
Think it’s been hard so far? Wait until the teal and white touch down in the raucous United Center. You don’t even need to ask Mr. T. for this prediction: Pain!
The Sharks played well in the second period, and in the last few minutes were taking it to Chicago with wave after wave of offense. At that point the clock saved the Blackhawks. But the damage had already been done earlier. Ladd’s opening goal was a long-distance softy that silenced the HP Pavilion crowd. Despite the slick curl-and-drag, Nabby should have stopped that one. Instead it sucked the life force out of the entire team. He’ll need to do much better if the Sharks have any chance of mounting a series comeback.
Kanes, Toews, Sharp and most of the Hawks started the game strong and looked dangerous for almost all of it, save for the later part of the aforementioned second period when they were on their heels. Even though I was not at this game, the hometown crowd sounded downright testy. Boos grew louder through the earlier part of the game; something I don’t like. I’m sure the Sharks’ deserved it, but it’s not what they need right now.
Byfuglien scored again, for the second game in a row. Unlike his 30-foot shot from game 1, this was a trademark Byfuglien buster: Stand in front of the net, knock heads, then tip in a shot for a goal. Vancouver knows this all too well. Now the Sharks are getting a dose.
Marleu’s sniper shot, on a nifty pass from Thornton finally put San Jose on the board in the second period. Still, the desperation was obvious; players looked skittish with the puck. Nerves were rattled. What was happening here? Not again, they must have been thinking. If there’s one thing I’ve learned (and I’m probably not alone…) is that the Sharks never make it easy on themselves.
Watching the third period was a cringe-worthy exercise—the totally uncalled for slashing penalty by Thornton being a nauseating low-light. The Sharks looked dead. The crowd had been shocked, and dulled. The Blackhawks made like Taylor Swift’s band, finished the gig haphazardly (even somehow scoring without much effort), then got out of Dodge, amazed that they had fooled everyone. But the talent!
Marleau’s second goal with 4:28 remaining was bittersweet, but a deserving nightcap. He was one of the few Sharks that was skating. It would be nice, though, if another superstar or two showed.
The good news: This is a best-of-seven series, and the Sharks have shown fortitude with their backs against the wall. Ah, the NHL playoffs, I can always count on you for a few more lost hairs.
Like I’ve said before, watch out for the Original Six in the playoffs. But, only in the West… only in the West mes amis.