Depth makes up for top line struggles

May, 30, 2010
5/30/10
1:32
AM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- All right, let’s play the glass is half-full game again.

The Chicago Blackhawks' top line since the conference semifinals had, by far, its worst game of the playoffs and the home team didn’t get even one power-play attempt. And yet they still won.

Depth is the name of the game, and the Hawks proved to have plenty of it again. Stop our top line, we have two more that can hurt you.

[+] EnlargeDustin Byfuglien
Andre Ringuette/Getty ImagesDustin Byfuglien's line was outplayed by Daniel Briere's line in Game 1.
The Hawks needed every bit of the Patrick Sharp-Marian Hossa-Troy Brouwer trio to come up big, and they did. But so did the third line. Kris Versteeg, Tomas Kopecky, and Dave Bolland all scored a goal with Kopecky coming off a five-game layoff to put home the winner.

The Flyers had some answers, but not enough to win the game.

By all accounts, the layoff, the emotions, and the unfamiliarity of the two opponents contributed to the wide open affair in the first 40 minutes. But the Hawks got better as the game went along, culminating in a solid final 20.

Something was off with the Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Dustin Byfuglien line. They were outplayed by Daniel Briere’s line and after the game, coach Joel Quenneville didn’t mince words.

"You look at the lines tonight, that was the one line I think out of the four that needed to be better," Quenneville said. "That [Bolland] line was good. Sharpy [Sharp], Mad Dog [John Madden]. That [Toews] line can really improve off of today's game."

Kane in particular could improve the most. He took a bad penalty and got lazy on the Briere goal with 30 seconds to go in the first period.

Speaking of penalties, just like in San Jose in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, it’s possible a couple could have been called against the opponent, but the four the Hawks took were bad.

Ben Eager came out for blood, hitting everything in site but got carried away with a cross check. Adam Burish incurred his first minor of his playoff career with a bad boarding infraction behind the play. Kane’s slash and Brian Campbell’s high stick weren’t exactly the type that were taken to save a goal against. That has to be better.

"It’s something we talk about," Duncan Keith said after the game. "Sooner or later we have to do it."

Having said that, to stay out of the box but come out even in the special teams battle has to be demoralizing for the Philadelphia Flyers. No one knew it would be a one-goal Hawks victory, but the short-handed goal by Bolland turned out to be a key moment in the game.

"[Braydon] Coburn was fumbling it," Bolland said. "I poked it right out of him. The ice was pretty bad. ... it was fumbling around but I got a grip of it and went in and scored."

Antti Niemi seemed a bit shell shocked by the Flyers skill but recovered to finish strong.

"Especially in the first, they came really strong," Niemi said. "Maybe they had the best speed so far [in the playoffs]."

And that’s the other issue. Philadelphia showed more offensive punch than certainly San Jose and maybe even the Vancouver Canucks. The only problem? Their top line did not contribute in a close loss. They can’t be happy with that result.

So Richards and Toews cancel each other out in Game 1. No one would have thought it would be in a negative way, but that’s how it turned out. Safe to say, both will have better nights to come, but if not, the Hawks can always rely on someone else. They did on Saturday.

At the end of the day, and maybe the series, the Hawks' offensive fortunes might lie at the feet of Flyers’ goaltending.
Michael Leighton was simply not a championship netminder in Game 1. Can you recall one big save he made in his short stint?

Four of the goals he gave up screamed a need for a big stop, and he couldn’t come up with one. Both Brouwer tallies as well as Bolland’s breakaway and Sharp’s two-on-one score were not easy saves to be made. But a goalie has to make one. Not all four, or even three, or two, but one big save can make the difference.

Who starts Game 2 for Philadelphia is anyone’s guess.

Notes

  • Niemi’s mask came off twice in the game during play. "[The] first time it just opened…the second time the strap was cut." So when the barrage hit, what was Niemi thinking in the net? "It’s not easy to put goals behind you."
  • Toews’ consecutive playoff point streak came to an end at 13. He’s still three points shy of the franchise record for points in one postseason held by Denis Savard.
  • Jesse Rogers | email

    Chicago Cubs beat reporter
    Jesse joined ESPN Chicago in September 2009 and covers the Chicago Cubs for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN Radio 1000.

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    TEAM LEADERS

    POINTS
    Patrick Sharp
    PTS GOALS AST +/-
    78 34 44 13
    OTHER LEADERS
    GoalsP. Sharp 34
    AssistsD. Keith 55
    +/-M. Hossa 28
    GAAC. Crawford 2.26