Daily Herald
When flash-and-dash Hawks show grit, it always pays off
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Columnist
Published: 5/4/2010 12:23 PM

VANCOUVER, British Columbia - There isn't another team still alive in the Stanley Cup playoffs that flies up and down the ice like the Blackhawks.

The Washington Capitals did, but they're done for the year.

But it has been proved more times than not that flash and dash rarely wins in hockey's postseason. You have to get down and dirty and win battles in the tough areas, which is what the Hawks did in Game 2 and it paid off in their 4-2 win over the Canucks that evened the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series.

The Hawks are at their absolute best when they mix in the grit and nastiness to their already formidable skill level. It's the recipe that carried the Hawks to the conference finals last spring, but Monday marked the first time in these playoffs that it all came together like it's supposed to.

As good as Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo is - and that's easily top five in the world - he is going to have difficulty stopping shots when there are Hawks either in front of him, next to him or bumping him.

On Monday, if it wasn't Andrew Ladd getting up close and personal with Luongo, it was Dave Bolland or Jonathan Toews. Wide-bodied Dustin Byfuglien was around the net much of the night, as were Marian Hossa and Adam Burish.

Ladd was a presence in front of Luongo on the Hawks' first goal by Brent Seabrook, and also the game winner by Kris Versteeg with 1:30 to play in regulation. Ladd played only 10 minutes, but he made each one of them matter.

"Luongo is a great goaltender, but he's like any other goalie in that he can't save every single shot," Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. "The more shots you throw at him he's bound to let one in. You've got to get him moving and get rebounds."

Inserted back into the lineup for Game 2 to annoy and agitate, Burish did just that. Burish even sprayed Luongo with ice after one stoppage of play, perhaps just for fun.

The key to the rest of the series for the Hawks is keeping up the heat on Luongo, who spoke of being "run" by the Hawks after Game 2.

Maybe, just maybe, the Hawks can start getting in Luongo's head again like they did last spring in the playoffs.

Certainly the Canucks' plan for Game 3 Wednesday night at GM Place will be to do a better job keeping Hawks forwards away from the crease area.

"Luongo is a great goalie and they're going to do everything they can to get to him," Canucks forward Daniel Sedin said. "We can't retaliate. It's up to the referees. They're going to slash him and they're going to be in front of him."

The Hawks' response should be: Try to stop us.

"We have to come out there the next game and get guys to the net again and make it hard for him," Keith said. "We got to the net (in Game 2) and made things happen, and had guys standing there all night."

Luongo admitted it's something he is must deal with and battle through.

"Chicago has a lot of skill and they just don't quit," Luongo said. "They keep coming at you, and we're going to have to make adjustments when we go home.

"I don't feel that they had any more traffic than they did in the first game."