2010 Playoff Nightcap: Hawks Finish Sweep to Punch Ticket to First Cup Finals in 18 Years

Dustin Byfuglien shows the way to the Stanley Cup Finals for the Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

For about 33 minutes, it looked like the San Jose Sharks were finally getting their share of the breaks in this Western Conference Finals. They got an early lead from an unlikely source and then extended the lead on a short handed one timer from Patrick Marleau just moments after Marleau's clearing attempt hit Chicago's Duncan Keith square in the mouth causing seven of his teeth to break.

And instead of San Jose taking penalties out of frustration, it was the Blackhawks who were getting peeved at getting stoned by Evgeni Nabokov time after time. At the 12:48 mark of the second period, the normally composed Jonathan Towes allowed frustration to get the best of him as he took his team off the power play with a silly cross checking penalty on Marc Edouard Vlasic.

But 27 short seconds later, the Hawks would get the break that turned the game around.

More analysis after the jump

During the ensuing 4-on-4 play, Dan Boyle did what any good defenseman is taught to do when he's facing his own net and corrals a loose puck in the goal crease.

Push the puck back into your goaltender's pads.

Unfortunately for Boyle and the Sharks, Nabokov simultaneously tried to corral the puck. And since he didn't completely seal the five hole, the puck traveled behind Nabokov and over the goal line just before Douglas Murray could sweep it away.  And furthering the misfortune, Tim Peel didn't bail the Sharks out with any intent to blow the whistle.

Video review confirmed the goal, the game was back to a one shot game, and the Sharks failed to stem the tide during a 53 second power play that followed 4-on-4 play.

Then Dave Bolland won a 50/50 puck battle behind the net against Logan Couture and carried the puck out front. Apparently, the site of Bolland was enough for Nabokov to commit too early as he dropped to a knee. When he did, he left gobs of net for Bolland to shoot at and shoot high is exactly what Bolland did.

Kent Huskins tried to block the shot in mid air, but instead, simply deflected the puck over his sprawled netminder at the 18:38 mark.

From up 2-0 and in control to 2-2 in less than five and a half minutes.

And once the third started, the unraveling continued as San Jose took three penalties. And of course, Dustin Byfuglien was happy to oblige when it came time to drive the final stake through the hearts of the Sharks.

Nevermind that the Sharks didn't seem too terribly interested in stopping him from playing this all too familiar role. At least in the second round, the Vancouver Canucks made Byfuglien earn his goals.

On his three game winning goals in the Western Conference Finals, not a single Shark laid a finger on Buff.

I take that back, Vlasic did make contact with Byfuglien's stick on his game winning power play goal today. So there's that, Sharks fans.

There's also the very real prospect of seeing an overhaul in the Sharks roster, in spite of exorcising their playoff demons from season's past as James O'Brien points out at ProHockeyTalk. Marleau and Nabokov are UFA's and Devin Setoguchi stands to get a raise in restricted free agency.

And if the cap situation isn't reason enough, Doug Wilson is going to enter another off season where some hard questions will have to be asked. To be sure, they're not as hard as offseason's past when San Jose failed to advance past the second round.

But the fact remains that the club fell short of it's stated goal of winning the Cup. And even though they were competitive in three of the four games in the Western Conference Finals, a sweep is still a sweep.

And for Chicago, a sweep means a little extra rest before the Cup Finals begin. Rumor has it Keith is at a dentist to repair the damage on his seven broken chiclets. And let's not forget that Andrew Ladd left today's game early with what appeared to be a wrist or hand injury.

Even as deep as Chicago is, any extra rest this time of year is good rest.

Oh yeah, we also had another observance of a superstition that Art finds absolutely stupid when Jonathan Towes and his chin curtain beard failed to pick up the Clarence Campbell Bowl. Last year, Sidney Crosby gladly picked up the Prince of Wales Trophy and his Pens went on to win the Cup.

We'll see in a few weeks if Toews pleased the hockey gods or angered them.

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