Well, that was something, wasn't it? I don't think anybody expected game 1 to go the way that it did, but let me tell you, I'll take it. Apart from the first scoreless ten minutes, it was a relatively stress-free hockey contest, as the Canucks got up in the first, and sapped any possible Blackhawk momentum with goals late in the first and early in the second. And to Patrick Kane, who said after the game he thought this would be an easier series (you idiot, you never say something like that EVER), don't act so shocked. This exact same thing happened back in January.
Yes, I watched this game. I can't say where Skeeter was all night--I called his house about fifty-six times--but I definitely watched it. And when it was over, I watched it again. It was that satisfying. Here are some observations:
- Mason Raymond was fantastic tonight. 1 goal, 1 assist, +2, and he was using his speed all over the place. He did some remarkable backchecking, covered for defenseman when they got caught up the ice, and displayed the facet of his game he's been working on all season: strength along the boards. He earned that assist on the opening goal, making a fool of Brent Sopel like he was a cracker (double joke: Raymond's from Alberta and they're all crackers in the cowboy province), and getting the puck to Christian Ehrhoff.
- Jim Hughson, in regards to how quiet Antii Niemi is: "He makes Kiprusoff look like a veritable Jabberwocky." That's not what a Jabberwocky is, Jim.
- It would all turn out to be much ado about nothing, but, by the first commercial break, my palms were all sweaty. Good pace, great scoring chances, and big saves on both ends. There was more nervous action in four and a half minutes than the first night of my honeymoon. Get it?
- Luongo was fantastic tonight, just like he's been since game 4 of the last series. His biggest save of the evening was on the Pat Kane breakaway. Sure, Kane was hooked ever so gingerly, but he still got off a quality shot, and Luongo made like Whoopi Goldberg on the box of Jumpin' Jack Flash and got his shoulder on it. He also made a bunch of other quality chances look fairly routine.
- I wonder if the Blackhawks' problem tonight wasn't so much an underestimating of the Canucks' abilities, but a mistaken belief they knew this team from last year. This year's Canucks are faster, more skilled, and smarter. Their defense isn't as slow and it's far more dangerous. While the Blackhawks are fairly similar to last year's team, the Canucks are much improved--maybe more than Chicago realized.
- I don't think we've said enough about Christian Ehrhoff's impact on this team. As the TSN guys said, he was all over the highlight package.
- The Canucks did a fantastic job of taking the crowd out of it, especially with the goals to bookend the first and second periods. However, I don't know if you noticed, but they also took their sweet time on faceoffs, especially when they were waved out. The Blackhawks play at a high tempo, and Kesler and Sedin making like MLB pitchers is a brilliant way to slow down the game for the crowd. I counted a handful of faceoffs where somebody was waved out, and didn't give way to his winger for a good four or five seconds.
- Don Cherry has been ribbing Ron Maclean about his "friendship" with Alex Burrows since the incident on HNIC earlier in the season. He keeps referring to Burrows as "your buddy". Funny stuff.
- My wife: "Wait, Brent Sopel plays for Chicago? I thought people always said the Blackhawks' defense was so good?"
- Kyle Wellwood played an excellent game, although perhaps not like a man possessed. He was a real warrior, though, on the fourth goal, as he took an elbow in the face from Brent Seabrook while lifting his stick in order to pot it. Typical Kyle afterward, as he looks downright uncomfortable while his teammates hug him, then completely disinterested while giving fist bumps on the bench. Then he looks downright sad, like he just thought about war babies or something. After the play is reviewed and the goal is counted, he gives a bizarre "I could take it or leave it" face. (As a reference point, It's the face you make when your wife comes out of the changeroom wearing capris and asks what you think.) The whole sequence is here, but sadly, it misses his "whatever" face.
- As far as bad blood and hitting went, there was almost nothing, and I think that only benefits the Canucks. The Blackhawks barely responded at all, and the Canucks smartly avoided any conflict once the game was out of hand. If they're going to sleep in, let 'em.
- Samuelsson looks like a star winger out there, does he not? He's so patient and dangerous with the puck. You'd think we were paying him more than 2.5 million.
- Dustin Byfuglien looks about as dumb as ever. Aside from being a net presence, you wonder if he shouldn't have ice skates affixed to his knees as well, considering the way he lumbers around the ice like a quadruped.
- Speaking of seemingly quadrupedal lumberers, Andrew "Barabbas" Alberts played well tonight. I apologize to Canucks fans everywhere, but I'm quickly becoming an Alberts fan. He's the biggest player on the ice and he plays like it in every way. He took a pretty good hit in the second period and it looked like somebody has just thrown a medicine ball, he moved so little.