Martin Havlat Leads by Example in Chicago

R LSenior Analyst IApril 17, 2009

Persistence is the key when dealing with repeated injuries. You don't have to tell Martin Havlat how disappointing and frustrating they are. Ottawa's 26th overall draft pick in 1999 played at least 67 games in his first four seasons with the Senators.

Following the NHL lockout, everyone was pleased that hockey had returned. For the Czech native, it hadn't nearly been as joyous. Havlat went on to play 18, 56, and 35 games in three years for the Senators and Chicago Blackhawks due to constant injury troubles.

He was extremely effective while on the ice. The problem was that he couldn't remain healthy for an extended period of time. Due to these injury-filled campaigns, Havlat was a massive question mark heading into 2008/2009.

The 27-year-old played 81 games, scored 29 goals, set new career-highs in assists (48), points (77) and plus/minus (29). On a team featuring young superstars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, it was Havlat who led the team in scoring during the regular season.

Considering the fact that the Blackhawks lost 21 of the 30 games he failed to produce a point in, it's an understatement to say his contributions were necessary.

Offensive capabilities, marvelous speed, and dogged determination become useless if one can't remain healthy. At last, Havlat had proved to Chicago he could remain 100 percent physically.

Then, the playoffs arrived and the Blackhawks would be involved for the first time since 2001/2002. Along with Havlat, the entire team was now a question mark due to their lack of postseason experience.

Fortunately, the team finished fourth in the Western Conference and would match up against the Calgary Flames. Because Chicago swept the four-game season series, it was a draw they couldn't dislike.

As we all know, hockey at this time of the year is much different. Despite Calgary's three consecutive first-round exits since their Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2004, the team's players had been there and done that for the most part.

Only 10 of the Blackhawks’ players had previous postseason experience entering this first-round series. Aside from Nikolai Khabibulin, Havlat saw the most playoff action from his days with the Senators.

Down 2-1 late in the third period, Calgary appeared to be heading towards a 1-0 lead in the series. Chicago needed a hero.

They got it.

Havlat fired a shot that Miikka Kiprusoff handled. However, the Finnish goaltender allowed a rebound and the veteran pounced on it to tie the game with 5:33 remaining in regulation.

Overtime would follow and another individual would generate the heroics. Or so we thought.

Dave Bolland knocked down a clearing attempt and dropped the puck to Havlat inside the blue line. Skating into the high slot, he fired a wrist shot past Kiprusoff with Andrew Ladd causing traffic.

The first overtime period of these playoffs lasted all of 12 seconds and the Blackhawks achieved a victory that had been craved for seven years. It was the third-fastest overtime goal in playoff history bested by two others that occurred prior to the 1990's.

For young players making their postseason debut, the first game is normally considered the toughest. Chicago worked hard for the victory and could easily build off of it for their remaining contests.

Toews may be the captain, but Martin Havlat has guided this team the entire year with his offensive flair.

Game One was no exception.