Allan Maki shares his opinion on the previous night's NHL action and looks at the early news of the day Monday through Friday during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Outside the arena there was thunder and bolts of lightning that struck the top of 110-storey Willis Tower. Inside the United Center, it took a bit longer to spark up the house but once things got going it was a power show all its own.
Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final started quietly in Chicago, what with the Boston Bruins building a 3-1 lead and playing that smothering brand of hockey. And then, like a jolt from the sky, the Chicago Blackhawks' found their game. They tied the score. They sent the game to overtime and then another. And another … Until all it took for the 'Hawks to cap a remarkable comeback with a game-winning goal was a doubly defected shot that snuck past Boston's Tuukka Rask at 12:08 of triple overtime. Not a slap shot in the first OT period but a goal that was turned as nicely as a baseball double play. The Chicago Cubs had Tinkers to Evers to Chance. The 'Hawks now have Michal Rozsival to Dave Bolland to Andrew Shaw.
Score it 1-0 Chicago in this NHL championship series.
We all knew this Chicago against Boston had the makings of a tight match-up with all kinds of subplots – speed versus power, offence versus defence, two outstanding goaltenders and an Original Six tie-in to give it a historical glow. But really, did anyone think it would get this good, this fast and last that long?
From the moment Patrice Bergeron scored to make it 3-1 for Boston, the game turned around entirely. Bolland's goal less than two minutes later sent a ripple through Chicago and its fans. Then it was defenceman Johnny Oduya catching a break when his shot hit the left skate of Boston defenceman Andrew Ference and deflected into the net to tie the score.
After that, it was 2 1/2 overtimes of stormy action, with give and take and oh so close chances until it ended 4-3. On a goal from Rozisival to Bolland to Shaw.
"He's a competitor," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said of the scrap-iron Shaw. "The bigger the stage, the bigger the challenge, he rises to the occasion. He knows where the front of the net is. Doesn't have to be pretty … He's one of those guys that you appreciate he's on your side."
Shaw spent as much time as he could in front of the Bruins' net jostling and stick fighting with 6-foot-9 defenceman Zdeno Chara. It was that show of defiance from the 5-foot-10 Shaw that inspired his teammates and infuriated the other side's coach. He insisted Shaw was guilty of trying to draw penalties by over-reacting, a well-worn postseason technique.
"We know he's an agitator," said Claude Julien. "We know he's good at embellishing, too, at times. We know all that stuff. We've done our research."
The 'Hawks fired 63 shots at Rask, gave up 54 on their goalie, Corey Crawford, and expressed their delight at coming away with the victory after playing for so long. Julien, though, spun the loss this way: "Last time we won the Cup, we lost the first two games to Vancouver. It never stopped us from coming back. This certainly won't."
And so we have a series, not just any final where the two teams are so beat up their games are more a matter of survival than skill, but one that's gotten off to a raucous, sensational start. On a night when the skies were crackling over Chicago, the 'Hawks and Bruins generated some pretty impressive electricity of their own. Ference finished with 10 hits. Chicago's Marian Hossa had 10 shots on goal, teammate Duncan Keith had 48 minutes and 40 seconds of ice time.
And it all came to a head with a deciding goal that Shaw best described in one word: "Luck."
At this rate, we can only imagine what Game 2 is going to be like. Better batten down the hatches.
Phoenix Rising, Sinking, Whatever
He may not have said much new on the fate of the Phoenix Coyotes, but then NHL commissioner Gary Bettman didn't go out of his way to insist the team was staying in Glendale, Ariz. That's something.
At Wednesday's news conference before Game 1 of the Cup final, Bettman and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly were peppered with Phoenix questions, as they have been for five years now. Most of the time Bettman can stickhandle his way through the toughest questions from the nastiest crowd. This time, he deliberately left his responses open to suggestion.
"There's a Board of Governors meeting on June 27th. There's a (Glendale) city council meeting on June 25th," Bettman said, "Stuff's going to happen."
He didn't say what kind of stuff but there's now more than media conjecture that the Coyotes could be relocated or even shut down. Daly clinched that by saying it was "possible the team won't play there next year." We've heard that before, just not from the likes of Bettman or Daly.
What remains the same are the keynote questions: Can Glendale's council operate an arena without a prime tenant? Can the Coyotes' prospective owners, at this moment Renaissance Sports & Entertainment, get the deal they want? Will this NHL soap opera ever end?
The answer is yes and the time is soon. Finally.
Shaw, Chicago's goal-scoring hero, did a post-game interview live with NBC and let fly the F word, and no, it wasn't 'forecheck.' Asked about it later, Shaw replied with a grin: "Slip of the tongue. I couldn't think at all, actually. Could barely breathe. I think I made up a word in there, too. I was never good in English."
He did get an A in profanity.