Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to the Antti Niemi show. After a sluggish Game 1, Antti Niemi could have packed it up and crumble, but in Game 2 we saw the Finnish Fortress stand on his head time and time again to help guide the Blackhawks to a 2-1 victory and a 2-0 series lead.
In a complete 180 from Game 1, both teams came out prepared and smart not allowing the other to gain the zone and get easy opportunities. In Game 1 was a finesse type approach with both offenses scoring at will, Game 2 saw more hits than your typical NFL game.
From the very beginning you could tell it was going to be physical, with Dave Bolland and Mike Richard’s jawing with each other off the opening draw, from there on out it was smash-mouth in your face hockey. Every time a player touched the puck he was harassed or knocked down. There would be no gimmes in this game. ‘
In fact there would be no goals scored in the first period at all, quite the turn of events from Game 1 that saw 5 goals scored. It would not be until 17 minutes into the 2nd period, that the first goal would be scored. After a Patrick Sharp shot from the hight slot, Marian Hossa beat Lukas Krajieck to the puck and beat Michael Leighton to the glove side to put Chicago up 1-0.
Michael Leighton would not get time to reflect on the goal, as 28 seconds later the Hawks would strike again. After a Philadelphia turnover in the neutral zone, Dustin Byfuglien found Ben Eager. who had just replaced Patrick Kane on the ice, who skated to the top right circle and let a wrist shot go that beat Leighton over his glove into the net.
Philadelphia would cut into the Chicago lead in the third period, when Simon Gagne scored on a bouncing puck. After a Troy Brouwer penalty, Philadelphia looked to capitalize, but Chicago would show a great penalty kill, killing 1:58 off. That two seconds was all Gagne needed as he settled a bouncing puck and let a shot go that looked to be deflected, as it started ice level but elevated as it went over Niemi’s shoulder.
That would be all Philadelphia would get though thanks to a brilliant performance by Mr.Niemi. Facing a furious Flyer attack late in the third, Niemi stood tall and stopped shot after shot. Even when the Hawks looked out of palce, Niemi was there to bail them out, stopping 32 of the 33 shots he saw.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly:
The Good: Antti Niemi, the man that has single handily quieted the critics. Unlike Cristobal Huet, Niemi does not let a bad game slow him down and he always bounces back, as evident by his Game 2 performance.
The Bad: The Blackhawk third period. Philadelphia dominated the period holding the Blackhawks to four third period shots, while having 15 of their own.
The Ugly: Kris Versteeg. Eddie O pointed this out during the game, Versteeg at times refused to dump the puck in. Instead of getting offensive pressure, Versteeg was a rally killer.