Well, I guess we can all be thankful that this Blackhawks-Coyotes series hasnt degenerated into what we have seen between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphis Flyers -- at least from Pittsburghs perspective. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are one last knockout punch away from their summer vacation after so many national experts had them as their 2012 Stanley Cup champion.
It just goes to show the unpredictability of this time of year.
Why wouldnt Phoenix feel good with a one-goal lead in the final seconds of each of the first two games with the Hawks? This is a team that came into the playoffs with the leagues hottest goaltender, and had allowed all of 16 third-period goals over its final 31 games! So now, the Hawks are in the playoff record books for forcing overtime in consecutive games in a series by scoring with under 15 seconds remaining.
Then theres that next-to-last Coyotes power play unit from the regular season. They banged home a couple in Game 2 to make the Hawks pay for their penalties. Or were they penalties?
I know one definitely was, and their goal on that second one came if it was even just a two-minute penalty Andrew Shaw probably deserved, in hindsight. Still, you just cant hit quarterbacks, err goalies. Anytime. Anywhere. Id like to think of them as hockey players too. I think they are. Put the pressure cooker up there with baseball closers and QBs.
But Im still saying Smith did a Dennis Rodman flop there. He got two big calls Saturday night, and the Hawks were good enough to persevere through that. Who knows if that collision (I still believe without any malicious intent on Shaws part) ends up resulting in a greater penalty than Shea Weber taking Henrik Zetterbergs head and slamming it into the plexiglass right in front of a referee? The league office has been as inconsistent and unpredictable lately as this first week of the playoffs.
After their first win over the 'Yotes in their last five tries, its on the Hawks to use home ice to establish more consistency and tempo in their game, and not give that home ice back. Phoenix and head coach Dave Tippett deserve credit for playing a better overall game for most of the first two games, but the Hawks can certainly use this momentum and this opportunity to take control of the series. Easier said than done.
Yet even by taking control, theyd still need a fourth win. Ask the Canucks from last years first round how tough that is to do. Or the Boston Bruins against the Flyers two years ago. You can bet every Philly holdover from that series will be thinking about that until they get win No. 4 from their in-state rival.
Seven of the last eight games the Hawks have played have gone beyond regulation. We can ask them not to keep us up too late Tuesday and Thursday, but we wont count on it. Its the playoffs.