Hawks in control and heading home

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Halfway to the Stanley Cup Finals. And this one wasn’t even close.

The Chicago Blackhawks completed a road sweep to open the Western Conference Finals and return home with a 2-0 series lead after a resounding 4-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks.

Unlike Game 1, the Hawks did not have to rely on an all-world performance by their goaltender, Antti Niemi. After weathering an expected early storm by the home team, the Hawks took control.

The play of the game came on the Blackhawks’ first score, midway through the opening period. Kris Versteeg was knocked down by Patrick Marleau with the puck near center ice. He was the lone Hawk between two Sharks and Niemi. An easy 2-on-0 was about to take place.

But Versteeg popped up as quickly as he went down and tipped the puck along the boards to Duncan Keith, who centered it to Andrew Ladd. Ladd made a toe drag move inside the Sharks’ blue line before firing one past Evgeni Nabakov, using defenseman Niclas Wallin as a screen. The sequence from start to finish was a thing of beauty.

The Hawks opened the second period with two more goals on nifty tip-ins, first by Dustin Byfuglien and then on the power play by Jonathan Toews. The Sharks managed a power-play goal by Patrick Marleau later in the period to cut the lead to 3-1, but it would be as close as they would come.

A Troy Brouwer tip of a Niklas Hjarmalsson shot in the third iced the win. On the play, Marian Hossa stole the puck behind the Sharks’ net and sent it back to the point when Hjarmalsson put it on net.

After that score, seven of the Hawks’ top nine forwards had earned at least one point in the game. Jonathan Toews now has an 11-game playoff point streak, tied for most by a Blackhawk in franchise history with Stan Mikita.

Marleau scored again for the Sharks in the third period to cut the Hawks' lead to 4-2, but that's where it would end.

A journey that began a week ago Monday, May 10 ends in perfection. The Hawks closed out the Vancouver Canucks the next day, then continued on to San Jose where their two wins extended their playoff road-win streak to seven. That ties an NHL record set by four other teams. Three of them went on to win the Stanley Cup.

The Hawks have put themselves in position to break that record, and maybe they won’t have to do it until the Finals. Game 3 is Friday night at the United Center.