How can you not be impressed by the poise and maturity of the Chicago Blackhawks?
Going into Calgary in game seven, you would think a young team like Chicago would collapse under the pressure and expectations. Instead, they went in and won the first round of the playoffs.
The Blackhawks were aided by Calgary playing without defenseman Dion Phaneuf and by the stellar play of their goalie, Nikolai Khabibulin, who missed the bus to the Saddledome. You can’t tell me spare goalie Cristobal Huet wasn’t behind that move.
Out in Anaheim, the Ducks beat the Sharks to once again leave San Jose out of the second round of the playoffs. People have questioned Joe Thornton’s playoff skills and desire but I think he put that all to bed by fighting Ryan Getzlaf moments into the first period of game six. Obviously, it didn’t work for San Jose, but it was a gutsy move. Two of Anaheim’s goals deflected off of Sharks sticks, which is a tough break. But it shows what made the Ducks such a tough team (in addition to goaltending): lots of chaos in front of both nets.
Tonight, we get to see the Eastern Conference resolve its last two pieces. Rangers-Capitals should be especially good if for no other reason than coach John Tortorella seems wound especially tightly. Rick Carpiniello transcribed Tortorella refusing to answer Larry Brooks’ questions about being suspended for game six. If the Rangers bring one-quarter of that intensity and resolve to game seven, they might actually win.