Blackhawks Battle But Ben Smith Can’t Bring Them Back

In what became a duel between two scorers, Daniel Sedin and the Canucks squeaked out a 4-3 win.

While one of the Sedins leading the way for Vancouver isn’t surprising, the name Ben Smith might not have been familiar to many Hawks fans before Friday night.

The game was as physical as most would expect coming into a heated rivalry matchup; the Hawks and Canucks combined to dishout 85 hits in the game. But the Blackhawks ability to play physical hockey may have been diminished moving forward in the series when Bryan Bickell appeared to have a wrist cut by a skate in the third period.

It was kids – Smith, Marcus Kruger and Viktor Stalberg – that carried the offense for the Blackhawks for a large part of the night despite not playing top-line minutes. Kruger was only credited with one hit in the game, but was physical and willing to go into corners to get the puck; a battle along the boards set up Stalberg’s goal.

The story of the night, though, was Smith. He was credited with two blocked shots, two hits, one takeaway and scored his two goals on only two shots. He has been a revelation in the two games of the series.

Unfortunately, the group of defensemen wearing the Indian head sweater has been awful so far in the series.

Duncan Keith and Brian Campbell appeared to be blindfolded at times, and Niklas Hjalmarsson didn’t appear to be communicating with anyone at times. Brent Seabrook led the Hawks with seven hits, but took himself out of position on a number of occasions trying to make an unnecessary hit; Vancouver first goal came after Seabrook went for a hit, leaving an open passing lane.

Corey Crawford battled, but just wasn’t good enough. He allowed four goals on 27 shots, but didn’t get much help from the guys in front of him. When the Blackhawks needed a big save, more times than not he made it. Unfortunately, he couldn’t score a fourth goal to push the game to overtime.

The game was as close as the score indicates, and the Blackhawks made a furious push at the end. Chicago should be encouraged, and have at least a little momentum, from a strong third period. But the series still stands at 2-0 in favor of the Canucks, Game Three is absolutely a must-win for the Hawks.

However, coach Joel Quenneville showed enormous confidence in Smith – and a strong lack of confidence in his veterans – by sending the rookie out for the final shift of the game. Jake Dowell was a confirmed healthy scratch in the game, with Quenneville preferring Kruger instead.

Postgame, Quenneville indicated that Bickell was cut in the third period, but said he should be “fine.”

5 thoughts on “Blackhawks Battle But Ben Smith Can’t Bring Them Back

  • April 16, 2011 at 4:04 am

    And something I might add that I haven’t seen really mentioned this season, our passing has been absolutely horrible. We had pin-point accuracy last year. This year, my three year old could pass the puck better. How many times have we heard Pat Foley say, “and the pass was just out of reach.” The passing blunders seemed to be led last night by our veterans, Kieth and Hossa. Toews wasn’t as Sharp either. We have done well this season when we take it back to the basics, putting the puck to the net and not getting too fancy. I feel our biggest weakness is that we won the cup last year and our leaders are trying too hard to repeat their play from last year. If they would just play how they play, the would duplicate performance.

    On a positive note, we did have good net presents. We know what works with Luongo and by the end it awarded at least three goals. Bobby Lu hates the Madhouse so hopefully we can exploit his psychological weaknesses and make him break another stick on the rim of the tunnel!

  • April 16, 2011 at 10:22 am

    I can’t decide if I am encouraged by certain aspects of last nights game more than I am discouraged by others. Our core is AWOL…all of them. There were times that we looked absolutely outclassed, frenzied and embarrassed yet some of the kids (it’s hard to believe that when I say kids now it’s not about JT/PK) played very well. Bravo to Smith, Kruger and Stalberg…but again, when is the real Toews, Kane, Sharp, Hossa, Keith, Seabrook, Hjalmarsson & Campbell going to make an impact? Kopi’s got to come back if he can…he brings effort and he’s willing to hit and play the role given him. GOTTA GOTTA GOTTA take Sunday night, preferably not a close one but an easy win to regain some momentum and confidence…we can but the core has to get it done.

  • April 16, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    Tab, your observations on this series have been spot on. Let’s remember, the Hawks had a string of games at the end of regular season in which the offense had lost its ability to score consistently. Ben Smith’s effort last night was exemplary, as was those of his line mates. Like the way this kid plays. It’s great to see someone step it up and carry the team, while our top players continue to struggle to put the puck in the net. Hoping we seem him with the team next year, but that’s another topic. To me, the two biggest things missing from this years team are physical play and net presence. First, last years team had a perfect mix of talent and role players. This years team does not have a Ladd, Burish, Eager, or Byfuglien. All players of whom can take opponents out of their game with their style of play. And two, I really hate to say this (I really, really do, please don’t chastise me), but maybe it’s time to shackle Jon Scott to the goal post in front of Luongo. His 6’8″ 260 lb. frame could possibly make a difference. Believe me, I have been a Scott naysayer all season, as you have, but Bobby Lou has not been screened or pestered yet in this series. Without someone or something in his head, he will continue to dominate. Not sure if it works, and down 2-0, it can’t hurt, can it?

  • April 16, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Sorry boys, but not this year. I’m afraid your g.m got rid of the wrong players when it came down to trimming the fat. You guys had no depth. Hossa is invisible. Kane is jumping to avoid being hit. I’m thinking you MIGHT take one game at home……but your toast. Try to enjoy the remaining couple of games while you still can.

  • April 17, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    The Nucks began to worry in the final minutes of game 2, and that is something to build on. However, if Toews & Co. are going to remain absent off of the score sheet then it is going to be all for not.

    The secondary scoring showed up in game 2 only to find the primary scoring MIA. The net presence was a little better in game 2, not good, but better. and they were able to pin 3 on Lu as rebounds began to develop. This needs to keep getting done and it has to be done from the outset for the Hawks to have a chance Sunday, John Scott is not the answer everyone is thinking. Just be cause you are a big body does not mean you can play in front of the net. Scott will be pushed around like he isn’t even there because he has no balance and does not know how to play in front of the net.

    Oh by the way, nice post Kessler Rocks. You must be a real hockey insider to come up with that analysis. Where were you the last 2 years? That’s what I thought.

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