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.

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Eight draft picks in about 3 ½ hours. It was a busy Saturday for the Blackhawks, and when general manager Stan Bowman talked that afternoon about the team’s Day 2 haul, he came prepared.

“I have my little cheat sheet,” Bowman said of the paper on which he had written the Blackhawks’ eight newest prospects.

After a few days’ worth of moves the Blackhawks focused on the future, taking nine players over two days at the NHL Draft. It was a successful weekend for the Blackhawks, who hosted the draft for the first time and built up assets, especially on the blue line. Five of the Blackhawks’ nine selections were defensemen.

“One of the things we talked about was looking at the market. There’s a high value on defensemen. We’re not necessarily looking at the draft but our team this year and over the next couple of years; those are the assets that are valuable around the league,” Bowman said. “Look at the trade Calgary made [for Travis Hamonic], defensemen are a valuable commodity. That was a priority coming in and we were able to accomplish it.”

What comes next

The Blackhawks got what they wanted at this weekend’s draft but the focus will soon shift, as free agency opens on July 1. It remains to be seen what the Blackhawks will have cap-wise come a week from now. Currently, according to CapFriendly.com, they’re $1.445 million over the $75 million cap. It’s doubtful the Blackhawks apply the long-term injured reserve tag on Marian Hossa during the offseason. It’s possible they could still trade Marcus Kruger to gain some space. Bowman said, one way or another, “there will be some movement.”

“We’ll bring some players in, I don’t know how many, what position or what level,” he said. “This is where there’s a lot of activity, the couple weeks in the middle of June until the middle of July. That’s when the most changes happen. We’ll go to work, now that we’re past this.”

Wait for it

The Blackhawks also have to decide whether or not to qualify restricted free agents Dennis Rasmussen and Tomas Jurco. Bowman said that’ll be decided by Monday.

“I’ve had discussions with both agents,” he said. “I don’t have an answer right now but we’ll have that worked out in the next day and a half.”

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson heard some of the rumors, but not to a large degree. The former Blackhawks defenseman wasn’t spending a lot of time on the internet reading up on his potential fate. He figured he’d still stay put in Chicago.

“But when my agent called me about the 10-team list, I understood it was serious. Stan [Bowman] wouldn’t ask for that unless they made up their mind already,” Hjalmarsson said via conference call on Saturday. “That’s when it hit me that I’m probably not going to put the Hawks jersey on anymore.”

Indeed, Hjalmarsson’s next jersey will be that of the Arizona Coyotes, who acquired him in exchange for defenseman Connor Murphy on Friday. Hjalmarsson’s departure marks the end of the line for another Blackhawks core player, and this one is jarring in how it will change the team’s defense.

Speaking of change, Hjalmarsson faces a lot of it himself now. Sure, there’s the obvious change for a guy who’s played his entire career in one place. It’s new surroundings and a new team, on which he knows former Blackhawks teammate Antti Raanta and fellow countryman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

But the Coyotes have dealt with a lot of upheaval lately. Goaltender Mike Smith is gone. So is veteran Shane Doan. On Thursday, head coach Dave Tippett and the Coyotes parted ways.

“They’re on a rebuild, a lot of new faces, lot of changes,” Hjalmarsson said. “It’s tough to know what to expect but I think they’re a hungry organization that wants to win like other teams. I’m looking forward to try to contribute with playing my game, just try to get the organization back in the playoffs.”

Hjalmarsson should find chemistry with Ekman-Larsson – the two were teammates in the Winter Olympics in Sochi – and Hjalmarsson will likely play a bigger role with the Coyotes. Arizona will probably look to Hjalmarsson a lot during its rebuild, given his Cup-winning history.

The first 24 hours were full of mixed emotions of Hjalmarsson. With his limited no-move clause, he was always a likely candidate to be moved from a Blackhawks team laden will full no-move clauses. He’s turning a page, but he won’t forget his time in Chicago anytime soon.

“I’m trying to always be a positive guy,” Hjalmarsson said. “I spent my whole 20s in Chicago, 10 unbelievable years. I didn’t think I’d win three Cups. Hopefully I can get one more before my career is over. I had the best time in Chicago, enjoyed every single year, playing in front of the best fans in the league. I’ve been spoiled. Now it’s time for me and my family to move on and seize the opportunity in Arizona and create some new fond memories.”