The Chicago Blackhawks had their collective eye on the prize, a berth in the Stanley Cup Finals. That eye is now closed following the team's 2-1 overtime loss in game five, which eliminated them from the playoffs, to the defending champion Detroit Red Wings.
Chicago lost despite goaltender Cristobal Huet's outstanding 44-saves performance. He made countless tough saves. But his best came late in the third period on a Johan Franzen backhander off the initial rebound, when Huet was sprawled out from stopping a one-timer on a Detroit two on two. It was likely the best playoff game of his brief, undistinguished career.
As a goalie, when a team as offensively potent as the Red Wings needs a beautiful deflection right in front of the net and a lapse in defensive coverage from your guys to score their two goals in a game against you, you've played a game for the ages.
In the few cases where Huet couldn't make the play by himself, his defense usually did the little things necessary to clean up the play, like clear a loose puck out of the vicinity of the net. The Red Wings scored on the time or two that they didn't step up.
Huet wasn't the only Blackhawks who dazzled fans and neutral onlookers. Patrick Kane elevated a nifty backhanded shot over the left shoulder of Detroit goalkeeper Chris Osgood at the 12:53 mark of the third period, when the clock started to become an enemy for the 'Hawks. It was Kane's first goal of the playoffs, and it couldn't have come at a better time.
Both teams got quality chances in the remaining minutes of the final period, but none could be converted, thanks in large part to the commendable work of the net minders. The game subsequently went into overtime.
In the extra period, the 'Hawks seemed out of gas. They lost too many battles for the puck, and their defensive zone coverage wasn't as sharp as it had been through the first three periods. Because of that, Brett Lebda was able to find an excellent spot to shoot from the center point, and he slung a wrist shot at the net, which Huet rejected with one with his right pad.
But Detroit's Tomas Holmstrom and Darren Helm were stationed in front of the net, waiting for the rebound Huet gave up. Holmstrom corralled the puck and centered it to Helm, who buried it for the game winner.
The young Blackhawks just didn't have enough skill or experience to matchup with the Red Wings. That's why they're going to be watching the Stanley Cup Finals from their living room couches instead of playing in them.