First two games provide plenty of action

CHICAGO -- There are a couple of sayings when it comes to playoff hockey which now apply to the Chicago Blackhawks and Phoenix Coyotes:

  • No postseason series really starts until a team loses on its home ice.

  • The dislike between two teams becomes real as soon as a goalie gets run.

    Ok, maybe the latter sentiment isn’t exactly a known saying, but maybe it should be. Either way, the following two words apply to the rest of the best-of-seven series: Game on.

    The first two games in the desert didn’t lack for drama, that’s for sure. The Hawks scored first in both games before Phoenix stormed back to take the lead, only to see those leads improbably evaporate in the closing seconds of regulation -- first with 0:15 to go then with just 0:05 remaining. Each team got its game-winner in overtime and neither has led by more than a goal.

    “It’s [gone] exactly the way I thought it was going to be,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said after Saturday’s 4-3 victory by the visiting Blackhawks. “Tight and very contested.”

    Heroes and villains are born in the postseason and it was a star himself, Jonathan Toews, who pointed out “it can be anybody” in referencing the latest good guy for the Hawks, Bryan Bickell. Bickell scored twice, once in the first period and then to end the game in overtime.

    He may have accidentally earned himself some more power-play time with his mid-air rebound goal to open the scoring on Saturday night. It came at the end of a man-advantage try and Bickell was probably only on the ice because coach Joel Quenneville sent out his normal third line instead of a power-play unit. Bickell saw more power-play time later in the game in the place of Andrew Shaw, who had been kicked out of the contest.

    Just as Duncan Keith won’t be attending any of Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin’s future birthday celebrations, Shaw shouldn’t expect any invites from Phoenix goalie Mike Smith. The way Smith went down after Shaw’s second period hit on him, it’s hard to understand how he stayed in the game or how he could declare himself “100 percent” afterwards. But that doesn’t take away from the fact contact was made shoulder to helmet.

    Shaw needs to be more careful in a situation like that. Referees often treat goalies like quarterbacks. They get the benefit of the doubt. And lest you think they should be treated different when they leave the crease then you’ll need to petition the NHL to change the rulebook:

    “A goalkeeper is not “fair game” just because he is outside the goal crease area. The appropriate penalty should be assessed in every case where an opposing player makes unnecessary contact with a goalkeeper. However, incidental contact, at the discretion of the referee, will be permitted when the goalkeeper is in the act of playing the puck outside his goal crease provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact,” states rule 42.1 under charging, which was the infraction Shaw was assessed.

    You can argue that Shaw made “incidental contact” as opposed to “unnecessary contact” but the referees saw it the latter way. The real argument comes down to the severity of the punishment: A five-minute major penalty to the Hawks -- which Phoenix subsequently scored during -- and a game misconduct for Shaw.

    In the strange world of the NHL, Smith helped both his team and (later) Shaw by first taking his time to recover and then saying he was fine. His time lying on the ice probably increased the penalty to Shaw, but if Smith had left the game instead of continuing, and the Coyotes left his status uncertain for Game 3, then Shaw might be facing additional punishment.

    With Shea Weber of Nashville getting away with a head slam on Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg (because Zetterberg wasn’t injured on the play) at the end of Game 1 in their series, then it seems Shaw’s absence for the rest of Game 2 should be sufficient punishment. He missed more ice-time than Smith did. Case closed. And in no way does Phoenix want a Smith-for-Shaw trade off.

    As a side note, does anyone believe this will be Shaw’s last controversy? It was his first, but considering the edge he plays with, it won’t be his last. And just as the Wings’ Todd Bertuzzi immediately challenged Weber to a fight in Game 2 in Nashville, Shaw might need to grow some eyes in the back of his head until further notice.