Monday, May 31, 2010
By Brett Ballantini
CHICAGO You wouldnt think that in a Game 1 that featured 10 goals in the first 40 minutes that the Chicago Blackhawks would have thought to do any scoreboard watching.
But even in a game featuring four ties and three lead changes, as time started ticking short and a 6-5 lead had fallen in their laps, the Redshirts couldnt help but hope to bleed the puckand watch the clock.
As usual, Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg put one of the more humorous wraps on the end of Game 1.
Im looking up at the clock in the third and its eight minutes, 7:59, 7:58 he said. Im thinking, Im not going to live to see the end of this.
Defenseman Brent Sopel, already embarrassed over the unanticipated explosion of offense his blueliners allowed from the Philadelphia Flyers, wasnt counting the clock, however.
No way, I wasnt thinking we could just hold the lead and get out of there, Sopel said. I was thinking, Oh my God, whats going to happen next?
In a game where no lead is safe, there is no player who wants more to skate off the ice having stolen a win than the goalie. And Blackhawks netminder Antti Niemi, always honest after games, was itching to exit stage right: In the third, I was pretty much waiting for the end of the game.
Both sides anticipate a more buttoned-down Game 2 tonightbut that doesnt preclude some scoreboard watching once the team gets a lead. If youre at the United Center, bring those binocs and see whos gazing heavenward.
One guy who wont be is the chronically down-low Dustin Byfuglien. No line of excited questioning got Big Buff to admit he was hoping the clock would speed up at the end of Game 1.
The most the brusque forward would share about the end of Chicagos first Stanley Cup triumph in more than 37 years, in characteristic deadpan? The bench was pretty crazy.
Bolly Just Keeps Rolling
Speaking of deadpan Blackhawks, you simply cant rattle inimitable center Dave Bolland, who is hitting his stride at just the right time this season.
Offensively, Bolland has six goals through 17 games in the playoffs, equaling his season output (in 39 games). Two of those tallies have been shorthanded, including Saturdays first-period shortie that gave the Blackhawks their first lead of the Stanley Cup Finals. Defensively, the fifth-year man has centered Chicagos erstwhile checking line, (flanked by Kris Versteeg and, alternately, Tomas Kopecky or Andrew Ladd), making life miserable for forwards from the Sedin Twins to Joe Thornton.
But ask Bolland to chat about it any of his numerous recent accomplishments and, well, youre just going to get an aw-shucks grin and little elucidation. Heres the wordiest answers gathered from Bolly since media day:
On the relative mellowness of Game 1: It wasnt very feisty, I dont know why. It was pretty calm. Nothing really happened.
On his sudden, steely skill on shorthanded attempts: I dont know about that. I couldnt tell you what I was doing out there. I was trying to go five-hole on Philadelphia goaltender Michael Leighton, but I missed. It tipped off his stick and he let it in.
On Blackhawks coach Joel Quennevilles mentoring: Weve talked a lot. Hes helped me out when my speed or stick-handling wasnt there. Hed call me in, give me little pointers. His confidence was reassuring.
On what he watched while recuperating from back surgery during the season: DVRd shows like Nurse Jackie, Weeds, Californication.
The Human Soundbite
No one will ever confuse Blackhawks grinder Adam Burish with Wayne Gretzky on the ice, but the gritty forward is an All-Star in the dressing room, never failing to entertain with honest and unfiltered comments.
Today, Burish was asked about what the NHL can do to make hockey even more popular in the United States, and he ran off a number of answers, concluding with this assumptive gem: In what other sport can you punch a guy in the face or chase another guy around with a weapon in your hands?
Surprisingly, as dressing room time ran short it seemed Burish hadnt yet been asked whether hed sized up his series rival yet, a Philadelphian who hed target for extra checks, jawing andor fighting.
No, Ive still been trying, Burish said with a smile. Aaron Asham and I exchanged a few words after all the Dustin Byfuglien stuff in the first, but that died down. Im still working on it. The series isnt aggressive enough yet. But it will be.