On the road in the past two series, the Chicago Blackhawks seem to be unstoppable. The San Jose Sharks will have to hope they can replicate the Hawks’ success on the road after dropping both of the first two games at the Shark Tank. Interestingly, Game 2 had twice as many goals as Game 1, despite the fact that the two teams managed just over half as many shots as they had in the first contest.
The Hawks got ahead early in this one and never looked back, and things got a bit chippy towards the end of the game as the Sharks showed their frustration over failing to garner at least one win in two games at an arena where they were so dominant all year long. Ryane Clowe got himself an early trip to the showers with his 10 minute misconduct in the last minute of play, and even sniper Dany Heatley got involved in a bit of rough stuff with Brent Seabrook. Joe Thornton and Dave Bolland, the defensive specialist for Chicago that has apparently been assigned to harass Jumbo Joe this series, seem to have developed quite a healthy hatred for one another, mixing it up more than once.
Andrew Ladd got the Hawks on the board midway through the first, beating Nabokov with a wrister from way out that beat him over his shoulder. The play very well could have gone the other way, as Kris Versteeg nearly coughed the puck up at the San Jose blueline but was able to regain it before the Sharks could take advantage of what would have been a 2-on-0, and got it over to Duncan Keith, who fed Ladd breaking into the zone. >
The Sharks were definitely still in the game at that point, but a pair of goals from the Hawks’ top line 90 seconds apart really put Chicago in control early in the 2nd. Dustin Byfuglien and Jonathan Toews scored almost identical goals, parking themselves inches from Nabokov’s face and redirecting shots from out front through the Russian netminder.
Patrick Marleau would answer for the Sharks a few minutes later, scoring the first of two goals on the night on a powerplay just past the 11 minute mark, but Troy Brouwer benefited from some good work by Marian Hossa on the forecheck and got to the front of the net to tip in a point shot from Niklas Hjalmarsson to restore the three goal lead for Chicago. Marleau netted his 2nd of the night and 5th of the playoffs with about 4 and a half minutes to go, but it was too little, too late for the Sharks.
Game 3 will be Friday night at the United Center, where the Sharks will have to find a way to solve Antti Niemi, who has been rock solid so far in this series, and in the rest of the playoffs, as well. The Hawks, on the other hand, would love to take full advantage of their home ice and wrap this one up as soon as possible. I’m guessing there’s still plenty of hockey to be played in this one, but the Sharks have a lot of work to do.