One of the wackiest series in NHL history continues to boggle the mind, and perhaps nothing is more difficult to understand than the Blackhawks’ inconsistency on defense.
They played their two best games without Brent Seabrook, which makes little sense since he was their best defenseman this season.
But Seabrook came back for Game 6 and didn’t play well, while Duncan Keith and Brian Campbell — so good with Seabrook gone — weren’t nearly as sharp when Seabrook returned.
Campbell passed up a couple of wide-open shots, which remains an odd behavior for an offensive defenseman, and Keith was fighting the puck all night.
They weren’t as bad as Niklas Hjalmarsson, who made awful pass after awful pass as the Canucks had the Hawks pinned deep and outplayed them for most of the third period and overtime.
Nick Leddy also had too many moments when he simply didn’t know where to go with the puck, but with the Hawks running around so much the initial pass was hard to locate.
The defense blocked 17 shots, led by Chris Campoli’s 6 and Campbell’s 5, but the defense also had 12 giveaways, twice as many as in Game 5.
The amazing part is the way Corey Crawford played in the third period and overtime when the Hawks were outshot 22-14.
The rookie stood tall and allowed the Hawks a chance to tie the series while the Canucks were playing their best minutes of the six games.
So now the teams return to Vancouver for Game 7, with all the pressure on Vancouver and with the Canucks having no choice but to play their $10 million goaltender, and at the same time having no confidence in Roberto Luongo.
“We completely believe in our goaltender,” said Hawks Captain Jonathan Toews. “It’s a great feeling.”
Patrick Sharp didn’t record a point Sunday night, but he played with an edge, skated hard and tied for the team lead in hits with 4.
Sharp also made the crucial pass to Marian Hossa from deep in his own end that began the game-winning play.
He offered Duncan Keith great support, gave Keith a play to make behind the net, and then hit Hossa just outside the Hawks’ blue line.
Largely ignored, but a very responsible play defensively led to the biggest goal of the year.
In our increasing efforts to educate so many Canucks fans new to hockey, let us discuss the Bryan Bickell hit on Kevin Bieksa’s thick noggin, as it relates to Raffi Torres’ attempt to separate Brent Seabrook from his head.
For one thing, Torres is a repeat offender known for such hits, and Torres played only 6:16 in the Canucks’ biggest game of the year.
Bickell, now done for the year because of wrist surgery, is an honest player who scored a goal in the Hawks’ biggest game of the year and played 18:50, which is — for those in Vancouver not adept at math — more than three times as much as Torres.
Furthermore, Bieksa had the puck and Seabrook did not.
Nevertheless, the Bickell hit — while very satisfying for Hawks fans — was very dangerous, but this is what you get when NHL execs — and coaches like Alain Vigneault — don’t police guys like Torres, Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis.
It was Bieksa who jumped Viktor Stalberg in a rout, Hamhuis who got in a head shot on the recently concussed Dave Bolland, and Torres who tried to end Seabrook’s career.
When this kind of garbage takes place, and players won’t answer for it, you’re going to have teammates looking for revenge, which is precisely what Bickell did.
Meanwhile, we’re still waiting for the NHL to show everyone the page in the rule book as it describes the mysterious spot behind the net where no check can be considered a blindside hit because they are all north-south.
Of course, no one’s ever heard of this before, but that’s the way it works in the NHL.
On “Coach’s Corner” Saturday, here was Don Cherry: “I come up when there was six teams … It was rough, tough, mean hockey. But it was never like this. This kid (Dave Bolland) has a concussion (and is) coming back (and Hamhuis) bangs his head up against the glass. That is the most despicable thing.”
Corey Crawford in the 2011 postseason: 2.27 goals against with a .922 save percentage.
Roberto Luongo in the 2011 postseason: 3.45 goals against with an .888 save percentage.
Antti Niemi in the 2011 postseason, going into Monday’s game: 4.30 goals against with a .855 save percentage. Niemi was second to last in goals against and last in save percentage.
Michael Frolik: “We just enjoy playing hockey, and every time we win a game it means we get (to play) more hockey.”
ŸListen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score’s “Hit and Run” show at WSCR 670-AM.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.