Tuesday April 28th, 2009

Some random thoughts and observations on the Blackhawks ousting the Flames in six:

• The veteran-heavy Flames were supposed to have the edge in grit, but it was the young Hawks who established the physical tone throughout the series. Guys like Adam Burish, Brent Seabrook, Dustin Byfuglien (series-leading 23 hits), Ben Eager and Matt Walker (he of the now legendary dislocated finger) wreaked havoc along the boards and maintained a level of intensity that Calgary couldn't match.

• The Flames scored once on 44 shots in Game 6 on Monday night. The Hawks: four times on 16, including two of their first three. Miikka Kiprusoff gave up a fat rebound to Patrick Kane on the first goal and failed to read the pass that Burish buried for the second. Pretty typical of his series. Kiprusoff wasn't bad, but he wasn't able to match the level of Nikolai Khabibulin.

• Calgary had the right idea in their struggle to solve Khabibulin, firing pucks on the net from all over the ice. Problem was, they didn't follow up on most of them. The Bulin Wall had no problem stopping the long-distance bombs or odd angle prayers, and when he did cough up a beefy rebound (and there were a bunch of those in the first) there were no red sweaters within striking distance. That was the real difference in the game -- the ability of the Hawks' defense to minimize quality scoring chances.

Jonathan Toews had another light workload, including just 58 seconds of power play time.

• Moving Byfuglien to the checking line for this series led to the best six-game stretch of his career. He was pressing less, and seemed more confident in the role.

• Forget how well Sami Pahlsson is playing right now. If he can teach Dave Bolland (seven of 24 on Monday) to at least break even in the face-off circle, then it was worth trading away James Wisniewski to acquire him.

• He scored his first goal in 15 games, but any chance that Todd Bertuzzi would be back next season dimmed with a pair of inexcusable penalties. He threw an elbow at the head of Seabrook less than two minutes into the first, and then was the guilty party in a second-period too many men on the ice infraction. The Hawks capitalized on both chances.

• Best line of the week (courtesy of several readers): Expect Olli Jokinen to earn a Selke nomination on Tuesday. The guy was masterful in shutting down Jarome Iginla and Mike Cammalleri. Funny . . . but not exactly fair. Jokinen did come up small on Monday nnight, failing on a breakaway in the first and later muffing a spectacular chance in tight while the game was still in reach, but he seemed much more willing to pay a physical price than did his linemates.

• Iginla was given nearly 25 minutes of ice but was a non-factor in the do-or-die game. Credit Seabrook and Duncan Keith for turning him into a perimeter player and limiting him to just two shots, and give the goat horns to Mike Keenan. Hard to fathom how the home coach, playing with the benefit of last change, couldn't work more favorable match-ups for Iginla. But that was emblematic of his problems throughout the series. The Flames were disorganized on the bench and on the ice.

• In the absence of Dion Phaneuf, Robyn Regehr, Rhett Warrener and Mark Giordano, the Flames were short four of their top-seven defenders. Hardly ideal conditions, but certainly not the reason they dropped this one. Keenan gave the bulk of the ice time to Adrian Aucoin and Jordan Leopld, but it was Cory Sarich and Adam Pardy who really stepped up with a pair of spectacular performances on the back end.

• Not much solace at this point, but Flames fans have to love what they saw out of Eric Nystrom. He doesn't have the hands to be a top-six player, but he finds a way to make you notice him every single shift.

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