Sunday, May 30, 2010
By Brett Ballantini
CHICAGO Raise your hand if you thought the first game of the Stanley Cup Finals would result in 11 goals, the most in 18 yearssince the last Stanley Cup Finals game played in Chicago, in fact.
OK, now, hold it up for awhile, because the IRS is on its way for a thorough audit, a sitdown with the lie detector and a date with the breathalyzer.
To be sure, the gritty Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers went for a very light sandpaper grade for the first 50 minutes of the game, resulting in 10 goals through just two periods and two rosters of completely discombobulated skaters.
There was a lot of action: Shootout at the OK Corral, said a relieved Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville postgame. Things settled down as the game progressed, but certainly, I dont think anybody envisioned 5-5 heading into the third period.
Quennevilles forwards, while enjoying the scoring thrust from their own side, were just as mystified.
When it was right around 4-3, 4-4, I looked up and said, What is going on out there? admitted Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp, who scored the clubs game-tying third goal. I dont think either club drew the gameplan up like that.
When we came off after the second I looked up, said the author of Chicagos game-tying fourth goal, winger Kris Versteeg, spinning a similar tale of shock and awe. I saw it was 5-5 and said, 'Holy crap, what is going on?'"
It certainly wasnt the game anyone expected. Yes, the Flyers entered action having scored more goals than anyone in the 2010 postseason and the Blackhawks had already scored five or more goals five times in 16 playoff games. But with blue line stalwarts on and aggressive forechecking forwards on both clubs, not to mention goalies who had combined to stop shots at a .950 clip in their conference finals, offense looked to be offset, bigtime.
While acknowledging Chicagos blueliners would need to buck up as the series progresses, Blackhawks alternacap Duncan Keith put the defensive debauchery in perspective.
Giving up five goals is bad, he acknowledged. But giving up six is worse.
And its that simple. In the end, the Blackhawks can say they played poorly in a number of areasfirst-line scoring, misbegotten penalties, turnovers, goaltending, lazy defense and forecheckingand still have a win to show for it. Putting one in the left-hand column makes it easier to grin about the way Game 1 played out.
There was one big difference, said Versteeg with regard to how his first true Stanley Cup game played out vs. the 1,000 road hockey Cups he won growing up. I dont think we ever scored as many on the driveway as we did tonight.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.