Western Conference Finals Game 3: 4:23 and Thunder

Michael MrockCorrespondent IMay 24, 2009

CHICAGO - MAY 22:  Martin Havlat #24 of the Chicago Blackhawks checked hard to the ice by Niklas Kronwall #55 of the Detroit Red Wings during the first period of Game Three of the Western Conference Championship Round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 22, 2009 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jim Prisching/Getty Images)

Friday's 4-3 win in overtime by the Blackhawks over the Red Wings was not a pretty game by either side. Each team would show flashes of brilliance and also show times in which they let the opposition exploit their weaknesses.

However. Chicago would win in the end to prevent the Wings from going 3-0 in the series.

The Chicago goals in regulation by Patrick Sharp, Andrew Ladd, and Sammy Pahlsson reflected both a breakdown in defensive positioning by the Wings and lackluster goaltending by Chris Osgood.  The first goal was scored on a rebound and the second a minute later was a loose puck that slowly went through the scrum and past Osgood. 

The third goal in the first minute of the second period was on a redirection that at least in the replay seemed quite easy for Osgood to stop. 

If Chicago scored again, it looked like Ty Conklin might have to make his playoff debut for the Red Wings.  However, Osgood was able to buckle down.

In the second period, Wings defensemen Niklas Lidstom, Brian Rafalski, and Jonathan Ericsson let loose successful shots through forests of players and past Nikolai Khabibulin within 4 minutes and 23 seconds.

For the Wings to three goals so fast and all of them by defensemen meant that the 'Hawks did a terrible job of preventing the defensemen from lining up their shots on net. 

Their barrage of goals quickly quieted the Chicago fans in the United Center. At the end of the second peroid Blackhawks head coach Joe Quenneville pulled Khabibulin and placed Cristobal Huet in net to start the thrid period. 

Also he had 12-year-old-looking Corey Crawford sit on the bench in Khabibulin's place.  Such a move is surprising in that not only did he pull Khabibulin out of net, he also took him out of the game and left him in the locker room.

The overtime winner within the first minute of the extra time by Patrick Sharp was scored because Lidstrom broke his stick and Valteri Filpula gave him his stick which put Chicago on a pseudo-power play.  Sharp was wide open and undefended when the rebound arrived in his firing range.

However the talk of the game was the hit by Niklas Kronwall on Martin Havlat.  In the first period, Havlat went pass the puck out of the Chicago zone and Kronwall went in for the hit. 

Kornwall's check created a thunderclap with Havlat and he dropped in a heap to the ice.  Chicago. quick to retaliate got into a scrum with Kronwall while Havlat lay unconsious right next to him. 

The look on Havlat's face reminded me of Andre Arlovski's expression after the KO punch he recieved from Fedor Emeilanenko in their fight on Jan. 24. In each case, Arlovski and Havlat had their eyes open but not a lot of blinking or movement from the rest of them. 

The refs gave Kronwall a five-minute major for interference and tossed him from the game.  Such a call seems excessive as there was no blood and the puck was there when Kronwall went in for the check.  However the call was probably made because Havlat was on the ice out cold.

Game Four will be a game of many questions.  Will Pavel Datsyuk be back on the ice or another game for Ville Leino?  Will Havlat be back or is he still figuring out which jersey to wear?  Will Chicago go after Kronwall in retaliation of his hit on Havlat?  Will Khabibulin be in net or will Huet start instead? 

Sunday at 3 on NBC will answer these questions.  It is also the kind of game that will reflect how Mike Babcock and Joel Quenneville have worked with their teams to prevent the shooting gallery atmosphere that both teams got away with in Game Three.