For the first time since 1996 the Chicago Blackhawks are moving on to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs after eliminating the Calgary Flames with a 4-1 victory at the Pengrowth Saddledome in Alberta Monday night. Ironically enough, that last team the Hawks beat in a playoff series was also the Flames 13 years ago.
Without a doubt the star of the night for the Blackhawks was goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin who faced shot after shot all night long, and stopped all but one of them. When the night was over the Bulin Wall stopped 43 of the Flames 44 shots on net, as Calgary outshot the Hawks 44 to 16. Fortunately for the Hawks, a quarter of their 16 shots reached the back of the net.
It was a nice turnaround for Khabibulin after he allowed nine goals in games three and four in Calgary earlier in the series, both of which were the only Chicago losses in the series. Monday night's performance was exactly the reason why the Hawks brought Khabibulin to Chicago four years ago after he won a Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and though it took the team a while to cash in on their investment in him, it's more than paid off now.
Patrick Kane got the scoring started for the Hawks early in the first period after another bad penalty by the Flames early in a game, this time an elbowing call on Todd Bertuzzi. Adam Burish would put the Hawks second score of the game past Miikka Kipprusoff eight minutes later after a beautiful feed from Dustin Byfuglien.
Brian Campbell would score his first goal since January 8th to give the Hawks a 3-0 advantage in the second period.
The lone Flames tally came off of Todd Bertuzzi's stick less than a minute into the third, but then Khabibulin put the clamps down on the Flames over the final 19 minutes before Byfuglien scored on an empty-netter in the closing seconds to put the finishing touches on Calgary.
The Hawks now await the finish of the San Jose-Anaheim series to see who they'll be playing in the second round. Should the Ducks hold on -- as of publication the Ducks lead 3-1 in the 3rd period -- to finish off the top-seeded Sharks the Hawks will fly on to Vancouver to start a series with the Canucks.
If the Sharks comeback to take Monday's game and then game seven of their series, the Hawks will go to Detroit to take on the rival Red Wings.
Of course, no matter who they end up facing, the fact they've reached the second round is all that matters to the team at this point.