Big Ben: Hawks get even on Smith's heroics

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Big Ben: Hawks get even on Smith's heroics

Sunday, April 24, 2011
Posted: 9:54 p.m. Updated: 11:14 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

Ben Smith said he couldnt come up with the words to describe how he felt after netting the game-winning goal on Sunday night. His smile, which reached from ear to ear said it all.

WATCH: Frolik, Crawford full of confidence

Smith knocked a rebound past Roberto Luongo with 4:30 remaining in overtime, and the Chicago Blackhawks forced Game 7 with their 4-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. For Smith, it was undoubtedly the biggest goal of his young career, although he certainly wouldnt have drawn it up that way.

I guess when youre growing up youre thinking overtime, a couple seconds left and a breakaway. But it was a greasy goal, it was ugly, and thats the goal that was going to go in in overtime for either team, Smith said. It was going to be an ugly goal.

It was, but it led to a pretty scenario for the Blackhawks, who were once down 3-0 in the series and are now riding a wave of confidence theyll take to Game 7 in Vancouver on Tuesday.

WATCH: How Hawks went from 3-0 hole to Game 7

We feel so much in control, said Dave Bolland, who had a goal and an assist. The momentums going our way. After winning three games straight, its huge for us.

It was a stunning ending in a game full of interesting subplots. Brent Seabrook returned after missing a week from a concussion and Michael Frolik scored the first penalty shot in Blackhawks postseason history to tie the game early in the third period. Cory Schneider started Game 6 instead of Roberto Luongo, but Luongo was back in at the end after Schneider said he cramped up on Froliks tying shot.

I got a long shift before that and I was kind of gassed, Frolik said. I kept my breath and calmed down and tried to focus on myself and my moves and that hopefully it would work.

Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said they decided Saturday to go with Schneider.

All year long weve used both goaltenders and to tell you the truth, I went with the guy, I thought Cory could give us a real good game tonight, Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. I think we played our best game of the series so far tonight, we were down early to five defensemen (minus Sami Salo), and we just kept pushing.

Corey Crawford had another big outing for the Blackhawks. He was especially strong in the third period and overtime, when he stopped 21 of the 22 shots he saw. Seeing or maybe hearing Smiths game-winning goal was a relief.

I kind of got a glimpse of his stick swatting at it backhand, Crawford said. I was hoping it was going in and I saw the crowd jump up and that was pretty much it. It was awesome.
Corey Crawford makes one of his 32 saves on a 2-on-1 rush for the Canucks in overtime. (US PRESSWIRE)
Bolland was once again a factor. His hit on Vancouver defenseman Dan Hamhuis forced the turnover that went to Bryan Bickell, who scored the Blackhawks first goal. Bolland later scored when Schneiders clearing pass went right to Patrick Kane, who fed it to him. Bolland now has six points (two goals, four assists) in his three games this series. He has 17 points in 15 career playoff games against the Canucks.

Hes got a lot of jump in his game. And coming off an injury like he had, youre not sure how effective hes going to be, coach Joel Quenneville said. But hes been pretty remarkable.

The Blackhawks are somehow still alive. They staved off the Canucks furious attempts to win in overtime.

Weve got a great feeling in this locker room and thats what you get when you win three games in a row, Jonathan Toews said. Were fighting our way back; even coming into this game, people were talking like we were up. We knew we werent, that we still had a lot of work to do and we still do. Theres one more game and anything can happen.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

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Five takeaways from Blackhawks' shutout win over Bruins

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' shutout win over Bruins

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 1-0 victory over the Boston Bruins on Friday night:

1. A sluggish start.

The Blackhawks have gotten off to some solid starts lately, scoring the game's first goal in the opening frame in five of their last six contests heading into Friday. But they were lucky to get out of the first in a 0-0 tie this time.

They had 15 shot attempts (six on goal) through the first 20 minutes while the Bruins had 30 attempts (17 on goal). Fortunately for the Blackhawks, Scott Darling stopped all of them that came his way.

Boston's third line of Ryan Spooner, Riley Nash and David Backes dominated possession, leading all skaters with a plus-12 Corsi in the period.  

2. Scott Darling steals two points.

Joel Quenneville decided to go with Darling in an effort to give a slumping Corey Crawford a chance to reset, and the Lemont native an opportunity to play in front of his father away from home, where he's used to watching him shine. It's safe to say he made his papa proud by putting on a great show.

Darling turned aside all 30 shots he faced, including 17 in the first period, for his second shutout of the season and fourth of his career. He has now allowed two or fewer goals in eight of his last 12 starts. 

Asked after the game whether he will earn a second straight start Sunday when the Blackhawks host the Vancouver Canucks, Quenneville responded, "We'll see."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

3. Special teams not a factor.

In a game that featured only one goal, you'd think the way to crack the scoresheet would be on the man advantage. That didn't happen.

The Blackhawks went 0-for-3 on the power play, while the Bruins failed to cash in on their only two opportunities. Boston entered the contest by going 7-for-17 on the power play in their previous five games, good for a 41.2 success rate.

It was a nice bounce-back game for the Blackhawks' penalty kill unit, which allowed a goal on the man advantage in their previous two games.

4. Third line steps up at crucial moment.

The Blackhawks' third line of Vinnie Hinostroza, Marian Hossa and Tanner Kero had the worst possession numbers among all skaters, each registering a 24 percent Corsi or below. But when their team needed them the most, they stepped up.

With 1:26 left in regulation, Hossa ended his 10-game goal drought by burying home a terrific feed from Kero to snap a 0-0 tie and give the Blackhawks their second consecutive win. It's Hossa's 17th goal of the campaign, which ties Artemi Panarin for second on the team, and his fifth game-winning goal of the year. His 83 career game-winning goals now ranks 24th in NHL history, surpassing Mike Bossy, and remains fifth among active players.

Hossa's goal also moved him within a tie of Pierre Turgeon for 37th on the all-time goals list with 516.

Kero has six points in his last six games, while Hinostroza has two goals and one assist in his past two.

5. Despite recent struggles, Bruins in good hands with Claude Julien.

It seems like this is a discussion every year, but firing Julien would be a huge mistake for a Bruins team that fell to 3-5-2 in their last 10 games. They're still the No. 1 possession team in the NHL, controlling 55.42 percent of the even-strength shot attempts, and give up the fifth-fewest high danger scoring chances with 326, according the naturalstattrick.com. They average the second-most shots on goal per game at 33.9, and allow the second-fewest at 26.5.

To back it up, their PDO is 97.5 percent, the sum of a team's even-strength save percentage and shooting percentage that usually works it way toward 100, which indicates they're due for a fairly large correction. They're not getting bounces right now, but they're playing the right way and a change behind the bench would be a step in the wrong direction, considering Julien is easily a top-five coach in the NHL.