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Sunday, May 2, 2010
Playing catch-up not in Hawks' plans

By Jesse Rogers

CHICAGO -- Let’s face it, the Chicago Blackhawks aren’t a great come-from-behind team, despite their Game 5 heroics in the opening round against the Nashville Predators. Saturday marked just the 14th time in 88 games this season that they trailed after one period. They were 5-8 in the previous 13 tries. So maybe this one got away from them.

"Playing catch-up played right into their hands," coach Joel Quenneville said.

Brian Campbell
The Blackhawks' Brian Campbell shoots the puck during the third period.
Maybe it did, but what happened to put the Hawks behind the eight ball in the first place? How about poor goaltending and poor defense.

It’s almost as if the Hawks forgot what kind of offense the Vancouver Canucks possess or were so used to the Predators that they needed a game to adjust.

"We were slow out there," Duncan Keith said. "Right from the start. We were slow to react, slow to loose pucks, slow everywhere. For whatever reason we weren’t moving out there."

Or maybe the Canucks were moving so fast it made the Hawks look slow. Kind of like jumping from a hot tub into a pool. You know you're going to feel the cold and there's nothing you can do about it. There wasn't much the Hawks could do about the Canucks' offensive attack.

"We didn't manage [the puck] well in all zones," Quenneville said. "I thought the first three goals against us were all plays that technically or mentally we played very poorly."

That's pretty blunt but mostly correct. John Madden knows a little something about playing defense and he didn't see much of it on Saturday.

"The better defense you play, the more frustrated they'll get, and you'll get more chances out of it," Madden stated. "We need to drill that in our heads and go from there."

Of course, if Antti Niemi can smother a puck or two maybe the first period goes a little different. Still, that wouldn’t solve any of the offensive woes of the evening. Exorcising some Game 6 demons, Roberto Luongo did what he does best when he’s on: stop pucks.

"Yeah, maybe," Patrick Kane said of Luongo stealing that first period. "He played really well tonight. You have to give him credit. ... Sometimes you have to tip your cap to the goaltender and say good job to him."

Seventeen stops in the first. You could make the case the game was won right there.

"Big difference tonight was we were able to finish and they weren’t," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said.

It marked the second straight playoff series this year and fourth in a row overall where the Hawks lost the opening game, including to this Vancouver team a year ago.

"We're still a confident group," Keith said. "We know tonight wasn't good enough and that can’t happen again. It's happened before in the Nashville series and its happening again. We have to look at it in a positive way and know we have another shot at it at home, next time."

So once again the Hawks need to use a mulligan to get back into the match. If Vancouver is indeed better than last year—as most Hawks would admit—than dropping home games so easily may be harder to recover from than previously.

"Put it this way, it can't get any worse," Keith said.

But can it get better?

NOTES
  • Early and late in period goals never sit well with a coach or team. The Hawks did both giving up one with less than a minute to go in the first and then 32 seconds into the second. "That kills you," Madden said. "It just kills you."
  • Quenneville thought the second and third goals were obvious back-breakers. We lost all pace of the game, and we were on the receiving end," he said.
  • The Hawks have a 17-39 series record all time after losing Game 1. They’ve won two of their past three series after dropping the first game.
  • In one game, Vancouver already has as many power play goals as Nashville had in six: One.