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Blackhawks Tue May 04 2010

Seabrook helps Hawks even up series

A few thoughts on last night's exhilerating 4-2 Blackhawks win over Canucks, evening up the series 1-1 as the two teams head to Vancouver for tomorrow's Game 3.

Full video highlights are available after the jump, which is about all you need to know in terms of a recap. Vancouver came out and owned the Blackhawks for the first 5 minutes, setting a tone in jumping to a quick 2-goal lead, but the Hawks proved resilient, and as the game wore on the momentum was more and more in their corner, culminating in Kris Versteeg's game-winning goal with 90 seconds left. It was a great game, and a must-win for the Hawks, and they finally woke up and delivered.

The biggest factor in the game was Brent Seabrook, who following a costly delay-of-game that led to the Canucks 2nd goal, was an absolute force on the ice. Just look at the following line: 1 goal, 2 assists, +4, 1 blocked shot, and 8 hits, and a +5 in shot differential while on the ice. Seabrook's the one Hawks defenseman who can set a physical tone, and he was able to do that tonight, while factoring into all the team's scoring. With his linemate Duncan Keith struggling for the 2nd straight game, Seabrook's effort helped stabilize the pair.

For Vancouver, the Canucks biggest strength is the Sedin twins, who were a complete non-factor. Give credit to the 3rd line of Versteeg, Andrew Ladd and Dave Bolland, who were matched up with them all night long. After struggling to keep pace with the Canucks top line in Game 1, the Hawks limited them to no shots in even strength play. If the Sedins were able to get going, this could have been a different result. Versteeg was all over the ice, and while he made his typical rash decisions and turnovers, he also prompted some major scoring plays. Ladd was his usual understated self, having another strong game with little fanfare. While Bolland continues to struggle offensively and in the face-off circle, he did his job in his own end.

Ben Eager and Adam Burish were both dressed after sitting in the pressbox in Game 1, and having them on the ice gives the Blackhawks an entirely different dynamic. It wasn't a great game by either player, but they brought the energy, made some hits, kept out of the box, and presented matchup problems for the Canucks. Their grit is something that was sorely lacking in the first game, and Coach Joel Quenneville has to see that while they're not scoring threats, they bring intangibles necessary in a series like this.

And finally, answering the bell after a shaky Game 1 was Antti Niemi. Niemi was bombarded in the first 5 minutes, and despite giving up 2 goals (one on which there was nothing he could do), he stayed cool and continued to make plays as the Hawks battled back. Make no mistake, the defense in front of him tightened up considerably, but after the see-saw Game 1 and the start to Game 2, he could've wilted under the pressure. While he still needs to work on controlling his rebounds given Vancouver's offensive positioning, Niemi's proving that, given some help, he'll keep making saves.

Full game highlights below:

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