Hawks can't dig out of first-period hole

June, 5, 2010
6/05/10
12:11
AM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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"It just started bad with two bad plays by me. I felt like I let the team down a little bit today.” -- Niklas Hjalmarsson, after the Hawks' 5-3 Game 4 loss

PHILADELPHIA -- If not for a third-period comeback there may have been more anger by the Chicago Blackhawks in their dressing room after their 5-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals.

The final 10 minutes is something they want to build off of.

[+] EnlargeNiklas Hjalmarsson
Barbara Johnston/US PresswireNiklas Hjalmarsson turned two pucks over, leading to the Flyers' first two goals.
There is no building off the first period, though. It’s one they want to forget, starting with Niklas Hjalmarsson, who turned two pucks over, leading to the first two goals by the Flyers.

“I thought I had some more time on the first one there and [Ville] Leino did a good play and scored one,” Hjalmarsson said.

Actually, it was Mike Richards who stripped Hjalmarsson from behind and backhanded one past Antti Niemi. Ten minutes later, another clearing attempt didn’t make it very far.

“I thought I had a guy behind me, and I just tried to shuffle the puck away, and I just gave it to another guy,” Hjalmarsson said.

That guy was Matt Carle who scored his first of the postseason. Hawks coach Joel Quenneville tried not to kick Hjalmarsson while he’s down.

“Tough start certainly,” Quenneville said. “A couple of plays there you would like to have back. You have to like and commend the kid on how he's competed all year and how he plays. Some nights some tough things can happen.”

Mistakes happen, but the bigger issue is the Flyers' forecheck and skill within the Hawks' zone. They were at their best in the first period, and the Hawks had no answer.

“They’ve been relentless all four games,” Brent Sopel said. “I thought we played a fairly good first period, but we made a couple mental mistakes. Give them credit, they capitalized. Obviously, we don’t make those mistakes very often.”

No, they don’t, but if the mistakes are happening because of the Flyers attack, how will it change moving forward?

“It comes down to getting back for pucks quick and making a quick read and having support there for our wingers,” Duncan Keith said. “We could do better at that.”

Nick Boynton played in his first playoff game so his perspective on the Flyers is fresh.

“You don’t have much time back there,” he said. “They play a good system all over the ice.”

This isn’t Game 1. In that contest, the Flyers may have shocked all newcomers by their abilities within the offensive zone. By Game 4, they need to earn it more than they are.

“I thought we were very generous in the first period on what we gave them as far as goals went,” Quenneville said. “We have to be smart and more composed in the discipline area as well.”

In other words, cut down on the turnovers and the penalties and maybe the Hawks won’t be in their zone struggling to get out so much. It might be easier said than done, but if it doesn’t change, and soon, the Cup run might come to a screeching halt.

NOTES

  • Boynton was a surprise dress for Game 4. It was his first playoff game this postseason. “This is why you play the game,” he said. “These are the situations you dream of growing up as a kid. It was exciting to get back into it but the outcome wasn’t what we hoped for.” Boynton was told Friday morning he would be playing and was asked how ready he really was. “I’ve been skating for a long time. Adrenaline helps a lot, too.”
  • Duncan Keith isn’t buying any bad bounce excuses. “I’m always a believer you work for your bounces and you work for your luck,” he said.
  • Andrew Ladd returned since leaving Game 4 of the conference finals and promptly took a penalty on his first shift. “I felt good the last couple days and was progressing well and I was good to go,” he said.
  • Patrick Kane was minus-4 for the game while Chris Pronger was plus-4. They were both on the ice for the empty net goal.
  • Who says you have to beat Antti Niemi high? Accoring to ESPN’s Stats & Information, the past 10 Flyers goals have beaten him low.
  • 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 Kane
    PTS GOALS AST +/-
    39 18 21 10
    OTHER LEADERS
    GoalsP. Kane 18
    AssistsP. Kane 21
    +/-K. Versteeg 15
    GAAC. Crawford 2.00