The Blackhawks walked out of the HP Pavillion in San Jose last night with two points in hand.
They should have walked away with not a one.
They have Lady Luck and Cristobal Huet to thank for that one. Huet stood on his head for about 50 of the game’s 60 regulation minutes, making some great stops on some point blank shots by the Sharks, eventually allowing the Hawks to score the game winner in overtime.
Last night’s game started out great, with the Hawks scoring three goals in a span of 3:21, all within the first ten minutes of the game. I even posted on my Facebook page that it was dejavu all over again, referring to the Hawks’ 7-2 beatdown of the Sharks in San Jose the night before Thanksgiving.
Once they got up 3-0, they seemingly went into preserve-the-lead mode, hoping that their defense would hold up. They stopped attacking, and they got too careful in their own zone. San Jose had a couple of big hits that brought the crowd back into it, they upped their forecheck, and slowly climbed back into the game. They peppered Huet with 19 shots on goal in the second period, which was completely and totally dominated by the Sharks. It wasn’t even close.
When the Sharks tied the game at the 4:56 mark of the third period, I considered turning it off and going to bed because I thought there was no way the Hawks could win. They had lost all momentum, and were quite lucky not to be down by two or three goals instead of tied.
But they all of the sudden woke up and decided to play hockey for the last 15 minutes of regulation. While they actually played really well after the equalizer and had several golden chances to pull ahead, Huet had to make some great stops to prevent the Sharks from totally completing their comeback.
It’s not like the Hawks to back off like that. They play such a high-flying, aggressive style that we’re not used to seeing them just sit back and try to wait it out. Especially not with 50 minutes left in the game.
Much wiser hockey people than myself say that part of playing on the road–especially in a game as big as the one last night–is weathering the storm of the first ten minutes. The crowd is going to be into it, everyone has fresh legs, and a team as good as the Sharks is liable to score a couple of quick ones. The Blackhawks executed that strategy to a T, putting three quick ones on the board and silencing the crowd. I hope Joel Quenneville learned his lesson last night, because they’re counting their lucky stars today on their way to Carolina.