04.28.09 12:46 A.M. ET
Congratulations Blackhawks, you've made it to the second round for the first time in 13 years. As a reward, you get to face either the Presidents' Trophy-winning Sharks, or the Vancouver Canucks and All-Star goaltender Roberto Luongo.
Talk about the lesser of two evils. In the Sharks, the Blackhawks would face a veteran-laden club, who would be coming off a grueling seven-game series with the Ducks. They shouldn't be fooled. San Jose won't be tired, they'll be battle tested, quite possibly for the first time in their history, and rearing for another fight.
In Vancouver, Chicago would have to deal with a defense and forward corps that isn't as decimated by injuries as the Flames were. The Hawks won't be able to push around the Canucks as easily as they manhandled the Flames. Even if Chicago manages to grab scoring chances, they will still have to face a rested and sharp Roberto Luongo.
Keys to the Second Round:
Vs. Sharks -- Nikolai Khabibulin has to keep playing like the superhero he was in the first round and the Blackhawks defensive depth has to shine. On paper the Sharks have more forward depth, more experience and a physical edge. To beat this tough squad Chicago will have to contain and frustrate the Sharks offense, drawing them into penalties, then capitalizing on the power play.
Vs. Canucks -- Physical game. Chicago can't rely on Khabibulin to outduel Luongo, it won't happen. They have to take the body on the Vancouver forwards. Chicago has a tougher forward corps than the Canucks do, and both teams match up well defensively, with Chicago holding a slight edge in two-way play.
Another first-round exit must have Calgary fans reeling. After dealing for Olli Jokinen and Jordan Leopold at the trade deadline, Flames fans had the Stanley Cup on their minds. Instead they face an uncertain offseason after a fourth-consecutive early spring exit.
Questions for the offseason:
Was Miikka Kiprusoff tired after playing 76 games this season?
How will they replace free agent to-be Mike Cammalleri's 39 goals if they can't sign him?
If Adrian Aucoin and Jordan Leopold choose free agency, who will replace their defensive depth?
Was the Olli Jokinen trade worth it, especially the first-round pick they gave up?
Is Curtis McElhinney a capable enough backup?
The Flames have over 40 million committed in salary for next season. What changes can be made with a limited amount of cap space available?
Has Calgary's window of opportunity closed?
Flames struggling to break out
04.27.09 11:15 P.M. ET
Despite two power-play chances for the Flames in the second period and outshooting the Blackhawks 33-11 through 40 minutes, Calgary has struggled to find the back of the net.
Their best chance thus far was a Rene Bourque shot off the crossbar.
Kris Versteeg, meanwhile, has moved into a three-way tie with Evgeni Malkin and Ryan Getzlaf for second in the playoffs in assists with the two helpers he collected in the first period. The rookie left winger is now leading the Hawks with 7 points (2g, 5a) in this series.
04.27.09 10:36 P.M. ET
The Flames look like a lackluster bunch after 20 minutes of play.
Quick hits after the first period:
Should Jarome Iginla drop the gloves? Will it inspire his teammates?
Should Dion Phaneuf have played in this game? Calgary was already missing Robyn Regehr -- will the loss of their other big D-man cost them the series?
If this ends up being the Flames' final game this season, who is more valuable, Jim Vandermeer or the third-round pick the Blackhawks got for him?
Has any Stanley Cup-winning goalie had as much to prove as Nikolai Khabibulin?
Has any Stanley Cup finalist been pulled more often than Miikka Kiprusoff?
Patrick Kane told Pierre McGuire that Dustin Byfuglien weighs 260 lbs. What's worse, the fact that Byfuglien weighs more than Zdeno Chara, or that Kane knew exactly how much the burly right winger weighed?
Didn't Mike Cammalleri have almost 40 goals this season?
Do you think the Flames are concerned that Eric Nystrom is outscoring Cammalleri, Phaneuf, Daymond Langkow, Craig Conroy and Todd Bertuzzi?
Hawks confident in postgame interviews
04.26.09 1:03 A.M. ET
The possibility of reaching the second round of the playoffs for the first time in 13 years might be a daunting task to some, but the young Blackhawks don't seem to be feeling the heat. As Brent Seabrook told the media after the Game 5 win, "We're ready for it."
But the Hawks are keeping things in perspective. Seabrook reaffirmed that Chicago's thoughts revolve around Game 6 in Calgary on Monday.
Regardless, others, such as Cam Barker, felt the result of Saturday's dominating win was overdue given the effort the Hawks have been putting in.
Seabrook and Barker's comments, as well as those of Joel Quenneville and Mike Keenan, can be seen here, courtesy of chicagoblackhawks.com:
Seabrook | Barker |Quenneville |Keenan
Hawks make it look surprisingly easy
04.25.09 11:36 P.M. ET
To call the Blackhawks' win tonight surprising is probably not doing it justice. No, it's not surprising that Chicago pulled off a win -- after all, they already had two this series.
What was surprising to me was the ease with which it came. This series has been marked by competitive play from both teams, and even on nights when large leads seemed safe they inevitably weren't. Tonight was different, however. The Hawks jumped in front quickly and the Flames, down three goals with just 11 minutes gone by, looked lifeless for the rest of the night.
There are so many reasons why Calgary's play in such a crucial game was entirely unexpected. The chief shock for me was not seeing Jarome Iginla do something to spark the Flames. Iginla is not only a talented scorer and a physically tough forward, but he is also a natural leader, one of the best in the NHL. Tonight's performance should not deteriorate his reputation -- Iginla was not the only player on the ice for the Flames -- but I simply had difficulty not imagining him rounding up the troops on the Calgary bench.
But the Flames do live to see another day, of course. When these teams reconvene on Monday, I will be stunned if we do not see a rejuvenated Calgary squad come out and force a Game 7. Or failing a Game 7, I certainly would expect them to play better than they did tonight.
This is not to take anything away from Chicago. The Hawks deserved the win, having thoroughly outplayed the Flames in every facet of the game. But I suspect we will see a far different competition in Game 6 than we did in Game 5.
Let sleeping dogs lie
04.25.09 11:02 P.M. ET
With the outcome seemingly secure, it seems like the best strategy for Chicago in this period is simply not to awake any sleeping dragons. The Hawwks haven't exactly adhered to that strategy so far, as Ben Eager has already gotten into a physical altercation with Calgary's Adam Pardy.
While the two are both now spending a good five minutes in the penalty box, it would be surprising if this game didn't get somewhat chippy before the period is over. It's already been established that these teams aren't particularly fond of one another. At the same time, it would hardly be surprising for the Flames' frustration to boil over.
It would be best for the Blackhawks to just let the clock run out quietly, but don't be surprised if we see some post-whistle shoving at the very least. If something more significant happens, it would surely stoke the fires for a very intense Game 6 Monday at the Saddledome.
Blackhawks well in control after two
04.25.09 10:44 P.M. ET
Dustin Boyd's score early in the second period may have brought up the notion of a Calgary comeback, but that idea has gone the way of the dodo at this point. Andrew Ladd's tally may have re-established Chicago's edge and sent Miikka Kiprusoff off for the night, but Cam Barker's goal, his third of the series, looks to have wrapped this one up pretty clearly.
The body language of both teams speaks volumes about how they've come out tonight. The Blackhawks look as though they're kids enjoying a game of pond hockey, while the Flames look like tonight's job assignment is a drudgery.
Considering how hotly contested the first four games of this series were, tonight's, at least so far, is shockingly one-sided. As long as there is time on the clock a comeback is still possible, but it seems rather unlikely that there will be a change in the winds in the final 20 minutes.
Welcome to the postseason Curtis McElhinney
04.25.09 10:13 P.M. ET
Calgary finally got on the board with a tally by Dustin Boyd at 2:45 of the second period, but Andrew Ladd filled in the Chicago response three and a half minutes later to put the Hawks back in front 4-1.
Mike Keenan decided that was enough of Miikka Kiprusoff for the night. After being pulled, Kiprusoff appeared visibly angry as he left the Calgary bench and went to the locker room. Whether this is related to his own feelings over his performance tonight or perhaps some disagreement with Keenan remains to be seen, but for now Flames backup Curtis McElhinney is between the pipes.
McElhinney appeared in 14 games this year, but his 1-8 career record does not inspire confidence as the Flames look to rally back at the United Center.
It appears to me that Kiprusoff can't be entirely to blame for the current deficit. The Blackhawks have controlled almost the entire game from start to finish and no goalie, no matter how great -- and Kiprusoff is one of the best there is -- can survive if his team is not performing in front of him. The Flames have not performed tonight.
However, considering Kiprusoff's reaction after leaving the ice, while losing this game may be a foregone conclusion, the Flames' bigger concern may be not alienating their star netminder as they look to move on in the postseason.
Flames hurt by being physical?
04.25.09 10:01 P.M. ET
Chicago has apparently complained to the officials about Calgary delivering late hits after the whistle during the first four games of this series. Not only do the refs seem to be listening, but the Hawks are taking advantage.
The Blackhawks' first-period offensive run got started on a power play resulting from Cory Sarich's late leveling of Dave Bolland. If the refs are listening, and the Hawks are taking advantage, it begs the question of whether or not Calgary will back off physically.
And if that happens, will the Flames be less aggressive and back on their heels? If they hope to come back tonight, they'd be better off maintaining their edge rather than holding back.
Here Come the Hawks
04.25.09 9:32 P.M. ET
A tenuous one-goal lead for Chicago was increased rather quickly. Brent Seabrook's score at 9:19 seemed like it was only a matter of time in coming, but Patrick Sharp put one past Miikka Kiprusoff 90 seconds later, and Kris Versteeg's second tally of the playoffs made it a three-goal advantage just 19 seconds after that.
Suddenly the tense opening moments of this game are a distant memory. Of course with two whole periods left to play this game is nowhere close to over, particularly since we've seen several three-goal leads erased this week alone. But for the time being, the Flames are being outplayed all over the ice and will likely have a stern talking to from Mike Keenan once the intermission comes.
They may regroup and come out stronger in the second period, but right now those Flames have a high mountain to climb when they do.
Starting lineups from Chicago
04.25.2009 9:05 P.M. ET
Here are the starting lineups for Game 5 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal between the Hawks and the Flames.
Forwards: Andrew Ladd-Dave Bolland-Martin Havlat
Defense: Duncan Keith-Brent Seabrook
Goalie: Nikolai Khabibulin
Forwards: Rene Bourque-Olli Jokinen-Jarome Iginla
Defense: Jordan Leopold-Don Phaneuf
Goalie: Miikka Kiprusoff
NOTE: Daymond Langkow and Craig Conroy are on the bench for the Flames.
--Mike G. Morreale
Surprise! Keenan divulges nothing
04.25.09 8:30 P.M. ET
During his daily media gathering on Saturday, Calgary coach Mike Keenan wasn't about to reveal any secrets prior to the opening face-off.
Hey coach, what elements of Games 3 and 4 made you successful that maybe you didn't do in Games 1 and 2?
"That's a good question, but I'm not going to answer it," smiled Keenan. "I'm not going to divulge the strategy that we're using against the Blackhawks in this building or even in our own building with the games being so critical. Any edge you can pick up, would be advantageous for either team so that's a question I'd prefer not to answer right now."
Keenan was actually Chicago's bench boss from 1988-1992, leading the team to postseason appearances all four years while racking up a 153-126-41 regular-season record. He also serves as Chicago's general manager in 1992-93.
"(Chicago) has played very well here and we've played very well in our building and it's a very tight series," the sure-spoken Keenan said. "I think both teams have proven they can perform well in energetic environments in both cases. We have to play our best tonight (in Game 5) or better than we've ever played here in order to win and that's what we expect to do."
The Blackhawks established a single-season attendance record in 2008-09, hosting 871,337 fans in 40 home dates at United Center. That surpassed the previous mark of 835,971 set in 1995-96. The Hawks also established an NHL club record by attracting an average of 21,783 to their 40 home dates. Of course, that didn't include the 40,818 who filled Wrigley Field for the Bridgestone Winter Classic on New Year's Day.
--Mike G. Morreale
From one American to another
04.25.09 6:15 P.M. ET
Chicago forward Patrick Kane was happy to hear that former World Junior Championships teammate James van Riemsdyk signed with the Philadelphia Flyers earlier this month.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound van Riemsdyk, who was chosen with the No. 2 pick after Kane went No. 1 in the 2007 Entry Draft, signed a multiyear, entry-level contract that will kick in next season.
Van Riemsdyk of Middletown, N.J., will forego his last two years at the University of New Hampshire to begin his professional career.
"Going into that '07 Draft, we were pretty good buddies and we played with one another at World Juniors (in 2007) and I think one of the things we wanted to do was go 1-2 in the Draft, so that was pretty cool," Kane said. "After I got drafted and was doing my interviews, I was listening with my other ear to hear if van Riemsdyk's name would be second, and I was really happy for him."
A record 29.4 percent of the players drafted in 2007 were American -- 62 out of 211. On top of that, for the first time in history, Americans were chosen with the top two picks. History was also made with Americans being taken with the top pick in the draft in back-to-back years -- Kane in '07 and defenseman Erik Johnson (Bloomington, Minn./St. Louis Blues) in '06.
"It was exciting for Americans to go 1-2 in the draft and we made some history there a little bit," Kane said. "James is a great player and he's going to do some great things at this level. I think he has great skill and he's a big player so he has it all. I remember watching him at World Junior tryouts and marveling at his ability on breakaways -- he connected on just about every one."
--Mike G. Morreale
Nystrom expects to do some digging
04.25.2009 04:45 P.M. ET
The ability to set up shop in front of Chicago goalie Nikolai Khabibulin was one big reason the Calgary Flames were able to score nine goals against the 36-year-old Russian in the last two games.
Flames left wing Eric Nystrom, who registered his first career multi-point game in the playoffs with the game-winning goal and two assists in a 6-4 victory in Game 4 on Wednesday, knows that traffic in front must continue.
"It's not an easy to get in front of the net, especially at the right time," Nystrom said. "There are some big bodies there who are trying to clear you out, but it's the job of the defenseman to get the puck through and it's the job of the forward to be in front of the net and if those two things happen, then the results will be good.
"I think if you look at every single team in the playoffs, they're game plan is to get to the goalie," he continued. "We need to get pucks there, get bodies there -- you have to dig around the tree. It's the same game plan for every team, but it's the team that can do it best and with the most success that's successful."
"Dig around the tree?" I wonder if Eric's dad, New York Islanders legend Bob, fed him that one?
Nystrom knows the Flames must win one game on the road in this series in order to be successful. He hopes it's Saturday.
"It's pretty simple, we need to win on the road; it's not a crazy equation," he said. "It's a pretty simple game plan -- and if you execute it well, you can win a road game in this series."
--Mike G. Morreale
Stan's still the man
04.25.2009 04:01 P.M. ET
Blackhawk legend Stan Mikita was spotted sitting comfortably in the lower level of United Center during the Hawks' morning skate on Saturday.
Mikita, inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983 and into the Slovak Hockey Hall of Fame in 2002, currently serves as an ambassador for the Blackhawks' organization. He won a Stanley Cup with the Hawks, with whom he played his entire career, in 1961.
As an added treat, Mikita's daughter, Jane, was also there with her three sons -- Charlie, Billy and Tommy. At one point during the practice, Blackhawks bruiser Dustin Byfuglien saw the boys sitting in Row 1 and slammed himself against the glass, rocking the panes directly in front of the boys, ages 6, 4 and 2.
Billy, 4, looked back at his grandfather for a little advice and the elder Mikita said, "Hey Billy, go like this (and he proceeded to extent his arms out and move his hands in a manner that would say, 'Come get me big boy')."
An interesting side note that Jane told me about was the fact her brother, Scott, is performing on Broadway City in "The Phantom of the Opera." Scott Mikita plays a swing role in the show, meaning he's capable of filling several different parts, depending on the director's needs. Scott Mikita, a graduate of Northwestern, played Raoul and The Phantom in three other versions of the show. He's also appeared in Hal Prince’s "Show Boat," "Into the Woods" and "Martin Guerre." Regionally, he's performed in "She Loves Me," "Company," "A Christmas Carol," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "Great White Hope," "Lend Me a Tenor" and "Crazy for You."
That Mikita family is some talented bunch, eh?
--Mike G. Morreale
Compliments from Campbell
04.25.2009 03:30 P.M. ET
Despite the fact Chicago coach Joel Quenneville has attempted to have his shutdown defensive pair of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook on the ice whenever Olli Jokinen's line has hopped on, fellow defenseman Brian Campbell couldn't help but offer his assessment of Jokinen.
"Maybe I'd compare him to Mike Modano a little bit," Campbell said. "When he gets going and when he winds it up, he reminds me a lot of Modano, who kind of does it the same way. We know he's trying to hit the middle of the ice and make those passes through the middle, so you have to be aware of him and the speed he's coming with."
--Mike G. Morreale
Keenan: "Hockey players are incredible"
04.25.2009 03:25 P.M. ET
In case you missed it last week, Flames coach Mike Keenan offered this enlightening endorsement to the finest athletes in the world.
"(Hockey players) are the most incredible athletes," Keenan said. "They're skating on pieces of steel a quarter-inch thick and they're going 30 miles per hour, body-checking is legal, they have a club in their hand and they're executing passes at speeds no other sport provides. We have to give them an incredible amount of acknowledgment of what great athletes they are."
Spoken like a true hockey fan.
--Mike G. Morreale
04.25.2009 02:57 P.M. ET
Good afternoon from United Center in Chicago, where both the Blackhawks and the Flames teams have just completed their morning skates in preparation for Saturday's Game 5. The Blackhawks, of course, are looking to hold serve as the home team has won every game in this best-of-7 Western Conference Quarterfinal series.
I just wanted to touch base very quickly regarding some pertinent issues coming out of the skates -- in particular, that of the Flames.
There were several Calgary players who were either scratched or sidelined at some portion of Game 4 on Wednesday, including forward Rene Bourque, a late scratch due to an ankle ailment, along with centers Craig Conroy and Daymond Langkow (hand).
All three were on the ice for the morning skate on Saturday and, according to coach Mike Keenan, should be ready to go. Or will they?
"I would suspect they all three are ready," Keenan told the media at his morning media gathering. "They will be game-time decisions, but I would suspect that they are."
Bourque, who admitted to tweaking his ankle in Game 3 following a thunderous collision with Chicago's Brent Seabrook, looked fine on the ice. Then again, he skated prior to Game 4 and didn't suite up. Langkow was hit on the hand by a shot from Brian Campbell and Conroy left with an undisclosed injury. Both players skated well, and I'd be surprised if either were sidelined in this all-important fifth game.
--Mike G. Morreale
If I'm this tired, how must the players feel?
04.23.2009 12:58 A.M. ET
I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm exhausted just from watching this one. The best games of the Stanley Cup Playoffs are the ones loaded with rallies and momentum changes -- and this one had more than a few.
If Olli Jokinen's first two playoff goals weren't an impressive sight, than surely a stunning three-goal comeback by a Blackhawks team that looked like the walking dead just moments earlier was particularly attention-grabbing. The second period of Game 4 was possibly the most bizarre yet entertaining 20 minutes of hockey we've seen so far this postseason.
And the game as a whole taught us a thing or two.
For one, it is clear that this Chicago team is undaunted. While some might have expected the young core of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Kris Versteeg, among others, to crumble under the bright lights of the playoffs, the Hawks have shown not just firepower but fortitude with multiple rallies.
Perhaps more important, however, is that Calgary is equally fearless. The Blackhawks' comeback tonight was the fourth time they have rallied to tie a game this series. After squandering yet another lead, a lesser team might have folded in the third period. Instead, the Flames hit the ice and scratched for possessions that eventually led to Eric Nystrom's game-winner. And what's more, knowing a one-goal lead is hardly safe against these Hawks, the Flames continued finishing checks and scratching for the puck until Jarome Iginla's empty-netter had sealed the victory.
Each game is showing this series to be an equally-matched battle between two teams that, while they may not be considered among the League's Elite, are playing like they want to be.
Frankly, Saturday is too long for me to wait to watch these teams play again, but there is one silver lining in the three-day delay until Game 5.
At least we can all get some sleep.
Perhaps I spoke too soon
04.23.2009 12:21 A.M. ET
And just like that, the stalemate is broken. Cory Sarich's shot from the point was stopped by Chicago goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, but Eric Nystrom banged the rebound through the five-hole to put Calgary back on top 5-4.
Aside from putting the Flames just minutes away from tying the series, the goal has dramatically changed the strategy for Chicago, which put the puck on net several times in the first few minutes after Nystrom's score. The Hawks appear to be much more aggressive now than they were for the first half of the period, but the Flames hold a decided advantage as they can try to play keepaway and try to kill of what remains of the clock. Despite that, I imagine there will be more than one flurry in front of the Calgary net before we're done.
Opening the third period with a game of hot potato
04.23.2009 12:14 A.M. ET
If the momentum was squarely on Chicago's side at the end of the second period, right now it appears to be on no one's. The first half of the third has been filled with traded possessions and few chances. Calgary likely had the best opportunity, causing a turnover in front of the Chicago net, but the Flames were unable to convert.
The Blackhawks' strategy appears to be trying to stretch the Flames thin by clearing the puck from the defensive zone with repeated home-run passes to the Calgary blue line, where a waiting forward attempts to make a quick break on the net. So far this strategy has resulted in Calgary quickly taking the puck back and attempting to reset in the Hawks' zone. So far neither team seems to be making hay.
There's still plenty of time to break the stalemate, and it's too early to talk about overtime, but if this back-and-forth continues, we may be headed there for the second time this series.
Where'd it go?
04.22.2009 11:51 P.M. ET
While Kris Versteeg's goal at 12:13 of the second period drew the Blackhawks within two goals of the Flames, it didn't seem to stunt the enthusiasm of a crowd still jubilant following the offensive display by Olli Jokinen in the first half of the period.
But Cam Barker's tally with 3:16 to go before intermission made things awfully quiet. With the energy clearly sapped from the Saddledome, excitement was replaced by anxiety -- and then Sammy Pahlsson scored a power-play goal just 33 seconds before the break.
Suddenly we're all even with 20 minutes to play. If Chicago goes on to win this series, we can look to this stretch, when the Hawks made a three-goal lead disappear just as quickly as Calgary built it. Of course the game is not over. As New Jersey and Carolina showed last night, rallying from three goals down doesn't assure victory. But at this point, the momentum is squarely on Chicago's side.
Olli likes it in Alberta
04.22.2009 11:35 P.M. ET
Less than halfway through the second period, the Flames have made it abundantly clear they want this series to come back to Calgary. With a win tonight guaranteeing a Game 6 Monday night back here at the Pengrowth Saddledome, the Flames came from the first intermission with a flourish, scoring three goals in the first 9:16.
Olli Jokinen got the ball rolling quickly by scoring 50 seconds into the period. After Jokinen assisted on Adrian Aucoin's second goal of the postseason at 8:10, he lit the lamp for the second time 66 seconds later. In his first postseason, the talented Finn has the C of Red jumping after an explosive 10 minutes.
Kris Versteeg and Cam Barker scored to close the gap to 4-3, but no team has come back from a three-goal deficit to win during this year's postseason -- so the odds are still good that we'll be back at the Dome in five days.
You could cut it with a knife
04.22.2009 10:53 P.M. ET
While the rest of the first period didn't produce any more scoring, we saw some hints of bad blood brewing. Just over 16 minutes into the period, Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook took exception to a hit by Olli Jokinen that sent Duncan Keith into the left post of his net.
Jarome Iginla made a point to get into the mix immediately and, while some jostling and jawing ensued, the refs broke up whatever tension was brewing. Make no mistake, though, it's becoming very clear these teams don't like each other. Perhaps the best thing for the officials is that the game is close, meaning neither team can afford to take careless penalties for rough play.
04.22.2009 10:23 P.M. ET
Early on this game hasn't had the same physical aspect we might have expected after the conclusion of Game 3, but it has featured entertaining offense and one of the prettiest goals so far this postseason. As well, we've gotten an indication of how Patrick Kane is doing with the flu.
I think he's OK.
Kane scored the first goal of the game after ripping a shot past Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff, but the score was set up by a gorgeous move from Patrick Sharp, who moved the puck past Adrian Aucoin on the left wing and centered it to the waiting Kane.
Not to be outdone, the Flames put on a little show of their own in the offensive zone, as Jarome Iginla scored a power-play goal just 67 seconds later to tie the game. With both teams displaying strong form early, it looks like we're in for a good one.
Storylines abound in Game 4
04.22.2009 8:18 P.M. ET
As the opening faceoff approaches, there will be plenty to look forward to tonight when the Hawks and Flames drop the puck at the Pengrowth Saddledome. Calgary will be trying to tie the best-of-7 series before it heads back to Chicago, and Blackhawks star Patrick Kane will be back in the lineup after missing Game 3 with the flu.
But more than likely, all eyes at the Dome will be on Chicago's Adam Burish and whichever Flame decides to take a shot at him first. The Flames were none too pleased with Burish's shots on Calgary's Rene Bourque, a former teammate during Bourque's time in Chicago, and Burish's exchange with Flames captain Jarome Iginla. The run-in between the two near the end of Game 3 has left Burish with a rather sizeable target on his back.
Expect the Flames to go after Burish early and often, and for Iginla himself to let his own physicality do some of the talking. While Burish isn't likely to back down, he'll probably have a few bruises by the time it's all done.
-- David Kalan
04.22.2009 3:42 P.M. ET
The Blackhawks may be leading this series 2-1, but it appears they angered Calgary star Jarome Iginla and that is bad news for Chicago since Iginla plays his best hockey while ill tempered.
Nobody who watched Game 3 of this series can shake the image of Chicago agitator Adam Burish jawing at Iginla in front of the benches. That isn't likely to change any time soon because Burish has no plans of stopping.
"Obviously, when you play somebody this many times in a row, you get sick of seeing the same guy across from you every night," Burish told the Calgary Herald. "And he continues to yell at you the same way every time.
"It's just like when your mother yells the same thing at you over and over. You get kind of sick of it. You want to yell back. Every game there's a little bit more intensity. Guys get a little bit more angry and frustrated. You walk a fine line."
That's fine with Iginla though because he knows how to handle the scrutiny and is aware that players like Burish are just trying to get him off his game and he prefers action, which speaks louder than words.
"Verbally you can take that and maybe dish it out a little bit," Iginla told the Chicago Tribune. "We'd rather dish it out."
-- Adam Schwartz
Hawks look for rebound in Game 4
04.21.2009 12:52 A.M. ET
It wasn’t the prettiest game for the Blackhawks, that’s for sure, but I think they will be ready to go in Game 4. It didn’t help that they were missing Patrick Kane due to the flu tonight.
The Hawks got off to a tremendous start in Calgary with Patrick Sharp’s power-play goal just 2:03 into the game, but that lead only lasted for 4:37. And from that point on it was pretty much all Flames.
Jonathan Toews continued his stellar play in this series, racking up a pair of assists, giving him two goals and three assists in three games so far. Tonight’s loss also saw Sharp and Game 2 hero Martin Havlat notch a goal and an assist each. Havlat’s marker came at 15:35 of the third period, so look for Chicago to build off that goal in Game 4.
Speaking of momentum, boy did the end of that game get ugly. The third period had 13 minor penalties to go along with five 10-minute misconducts. Most notably, Adam Burish snapped his stick in half when he landed a vicious cross-check into Rene Bourque’s upper arm, and eventually, after minutes of scuffling, Burish was ejected.
This series has the making of a classic matchup and I look forward to seeing plenty of action in Game 4; whether it's finesse goals or the nasty physical play that we saw at the end of tonight’s game remains to be seen.
-- Matthew Cubeta
Keep your eye on the prize
04.21.2009 12:15 A.M. ET
I'd love to extol the virtues of the unsung heroes on the Flames. I would love to talk about how the second- and third-line guys were the reason Calgary won. But I have to talk about Jim Vandermeer and Dion Phaneuf.
Just before Martin Havlat made it 4-2, Phaneuf laid out Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. It was a beautiful hit. It was so beautiful Vandermeer forgot to keep playing hockey. He paused to watch the carnage and Patrick Sharp took the opportunity to blow by him and set up Havlat's score.
As Calgary had a three-goal lead, that play doesn't mean much or affect the outcome of the game. But it will be exciting to see if that hit and subsequent schooling of a veteran defenseman, who should clearly have been following the play, gives the Blackhawks the confidence needed to bounce back in Game 4.
The last thing the Flames needed was to stir up a team they were beating handily. Vandermeer's gaffe may have just given Chicago back the momentum Calgary badly needed to take away from this win heading into a crucial Game 4.
-- Deven Persaud
Back from the depths
04.20.2009 11:45 P.M. ET
Depth scoring is proving to be the answer the Flames were looking for. The big guns were being shut down by the top defensive pair of the Blackhawks. But the second-line snipers were finally able to break through. Scores from two 20-goal men, Rene Bourque and David Moss (who has a pair), were the antidote to the stifling Chicago pressure on the Calgary first line.
It will be interesting to see if this three-goal lead forces the Blackhawks into a more wide-open game. If so, then Jarome Iginla and Olli Jokinen should see more open space on the ice, which could possibly lead to more scoring chances for the Flames captain and his Finnish linemate.
-- Deven Persaud
Hawks hit the box
04.20.2009 11:06 P.M. ET
Well, the Blackhawks stayed out of the penalty box for the first 24 minutes of Game 3. But back-to-back penalties have Chicago on the ropes a bit here in the second period. Dustin Byfuglien took a slashing minor 6:02 into the second stanza, a bad offensive zone penalty. One thing I was told throughout my hockey career was that you never take a penalty in the offensive zone. There is just no reason for it; it’s usually the result of laziness, truthfully. I’m sure Joel Quenneville wasn’t too happy with Byfuglien.
And just 1:07 after Byfuglien’s slashing penalty, Patrick Sharp found himself in the box for tripping. Fortunately for the Hawks, Calgary negated about half of Sharp’s penalty by taking one of its own.
The Hawks did a great job on both kills though, allowing no real scoring opportunities. We’ll see if Chicago can build some momentum off these kills. I’ll be interested to see if Byfuglien will see his normal ice time the remainder of this period after taking a bad penalty.
-- Matthew Cubeta
For better or for worse
04.20.2009 10:41 P.M. ET
Calgary needs to stay out of the penalty box. Chicago went 1-for-3 with the man advantage in the first 20 minutes. At this rate, they'll have three power-play goals by the end of the game. Three goals against has been enough to beat the Flames 26 times during the regular season, and in both their playoff losses.
Simply put, Calgary's best players have been their biggest detractors, with Olli Jokinen and Todd Bertuzzi taking two needless minors in the first period. Until these stars start putting the puck in the net instead of their rears in the box, the Flames will continue to have little success this postseason.
-- Deven Persaud
Nystrom the great?
04.20.2009 10:18 P.M. ET
Eric Nystrom. Eric Nystrom scored for the Flames. Not Jarome Iginla, not Olli Jokinen, not Mike Cammalleri, not Daymond Langkow, not Dion Phaneuf. Next you'll tell me Kyle Greentree and David Van Der Gulik scored -- if that happens I will eat my computer.
If the Flames intend to compete with the Blackhawks they can't depend on timely goals from their fourth line. The playoffs create new heroes every night. But if Eric Nystrom is the hero Calgary fans have been waiting for, this will be a quick series.
I like Nystrom. He has the pedigree -- he’s the son of former New York Islander Bob Nystrom –- he’s got the grit and he’s got the heart. He even said before prior to Game 3 that he would be a difference-maker. But I doubt that anyone -- even Nystrom himself -- thought it would be as a goal scorer.
-- Deven Persaud
Toews continues to impress
04.20.2009 10:16 P.M. ET
Captain Jonathan Toews continued his dominant play in this first-round matchup. Just 2:03 into Game 3 he set up a beautiful power-play goal by Patrick Sharp. With Patrick Kane out of the lineup I thought the Flames would pay a little more attention to Toews, but being shorthanded gave Toews the space he needed to make the play happen.
Toews is clearly showcasing his talent in the playoffs thus far. He has been the best player on the ice this entire series and I look forward to many years of watching him play. It’s not just his ability to put up points, but his leadership is remarkable, his hockey knowledge never seems to disappoint and most importantly, he seems like a natural-born winner. Toews is the full package and I hope every little kid watching these playoffs would strive to play the game this way.
-- Matthew Cubeta
Kane out for Game 3
04.20.2009 8:08 P.M. ET
Youngster and All-Star starter Patrick Kane will be out of the lineup for Game 3 against the Flames due to the flu. He did not participate in the morning skate and Chicago just announced that he will not dress tonight. In their first two games of the series, Kane recorded just one assist, but he has certainly drawn plenty of attention from the Flames’ defensive core.
Look for a little shake up in the lines for the Hawks with Kane out, and more pressure to fall on the shoulders of forwards Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Martin Havlat.
-- Matthew Cubeta
Blackhawks 3, Flames 2
04.19.2009 12:03 A.M. ET
The one reason I believe that this young Chicago squad can succeed: veteran goaltending. Nikolai Khabibulin has been stellar in the third period. He has been unbeatable when the Blackhawks' D has a lapse and solid when making routine saves.
On another note, what has happened to the Flames? They are a team built for the playoffs. They have hard hitting forwards, a solid, unflinching defense and an all-world goaltender. Calgary has enough experience that it shouldn't be relinquishing leads in the postseason.
A return to the "Sea of Red" Monday night should provide the lift Calgary needs. But I expected this veteran-laden club to take it to the Blackhawks and steal at least one game in Chicago. Now the Flames will head home hoping that the Saddledome crowd provides the intimidation they could not.
-- Deven Persaud
04.18.2009 11:02 P.M. ET
General hockey wisdom says, don't give up a goal in the first minute or the last minute of a period. It is advice the Flames should have heeded as they gave up both in the second period, and both were courtesy Jonathan Toews.
It seems like a matter of when, not if, the Blackhawks will win this game. They sure can fly and are tougher than I expected. Patrick Kane is only 175lbs but he is skating through every check the Flames throw at him. That's no easy task when it's Dion Phaneuf and Jim Vandermeer dishing out the hits.
-- Deven Persaud
Thoughts after 20 minutes
04.18.2009 9:56 P.M. ET
It's a shame these two goaltenders have to play each other in the first round. Both have been exceptional this game, making fantastic stop after stop.
Much has been made about the lack of big-game experience on the Chicago roster. However Jonathan Toews scored three times in a classic shootout game during the 2007 World Junior Championships, Dave Bolland was a member of the 2005 Memorial Cup champion London Knights and Cam Barker won two World Junior Championships as a member of Team Canada.
Just because players are making their Stanley Cup Playoff debuts doesn't mean they don't know how to step up when something is on the line. Don't forget, Cam Ward had never played an NHL playoff game prior to 2006. All he did in his first postseason was win the Conn Smythe and take home the Stanley Cup.
-- Deven Persaud
04.18.2009 9:06 P.M. ET
Mike Keenan isn't divulging his Game 2 strategy. I'm going out on a limb and guessing that it involves a lot of Miikka Kiprusoff and a plethora of Jarome Iginla. Iron Mike loves to ride his star players and there are no bigger stars on the Flames than the captain and the goaltender.
Both need to be better if Calgary has a chance to even up this series. Kipper was solid but unspectacular in Game 1, and Iginla has yet to impose his will on this series. There is no one player on the Blackhawks who can match the skill set of the Flames captain. Iginla must hammer the Chicago defense over and over again.
For the Blackhawks to be successful they need to continue to use their speed and skill, specifically when moving through the neutral zone. Chicago can roll multiple scoring lines that will try to sneak into the slot for a scoring chance.
-- Deven Persaud
Please allow me to correct myself
04.16.2009 11:58 P.M. ET
So often in life we make bold statements only to find ourselves with egg on our face moments later. Assuming an overtime game can go on for hours and then watching it end 12 seconds after the opening faceoff would certainly fall into that category. So, imagine my surprise as I had barely settled into my seat when Martin Havlat took a pass from Dave Bolland and fired a wrist shot from between the faceoff circles and into the Calgary net to end overtime almost as quickly as it started.
We all make mistakes.
Havlat's game-winner, made all the more remarkable by his game-tying score with just over five minutes remaining in regulation, was a fitting coda to a spectacular opening game of this Western Conference Quarterfinal. The Hawks and Flames traded quality scoring chances all night, while Nikolai Khabibulin and Miikka Kiprusoff, facing each other for the first time in the postseason since Game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Final, both made one great stop after another.
One can only hope the rest of this series is as exciting as Game 1 promises it to be. And if the remaining games are as good as the one we just witnessed, I think I can accept being wrong.
-- David Kalan