Last year, the Blackhawks played the Sharks in front of a sold out crowd and welcomed back Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita. They lost 3-2. This year, the Blackhawks played the Sharks in front of a sold out crowd and lost 6-5. The reason I mention both games is I attended both and came away with the same observation: the Sharks are really good. Last year, it felt like the Hawks had a chance to win for about 2 minutes. This year, they controlled the tempo at times and had a realistic shot to win for about 12 minutes. Certainly a lot of the credit could go to San Jose goalie Brian Boucher for keeping the Hawks in the game but nevertheless, the gap is closing.
Milan Michalek opened the scoring 42 seconds in the game by firing a shot past Cristobal Huet off of a set face off play. Minutes later, Brian Boucher presented gift number one to Kris Versteeg by coming out of his net to play the puck, and gave it right to Versteeg to put in the open net for the short handed goal. San Jose answered back about 20 seconds later with Joe Thornton ripping one past Huet on a 3-on-2 rush for the first Shark power play goal. (Quick side note: Thornton is an absolute pleasure to watch in person. He is a legitimate threat to score every time he’s on the ice. How Boston ever let him get away for 50 cents on the dollar is absolute lunacy.) Brian Campbell tied the game by scoring off the Hawks own set face off play. Sharp won the face off back to Havlat, who chipped it to Cam Barker; Barker went across to Campbell, who wasted no time blasting it past Boucher.
The second period was a tale of two halves. The first ten minutes were controlled by the Sharks. Dan Boyle scored about six minutes into the period for San Jose’s second power play goal. Jeremy Roenick then notched his first goal of the season off a sweet assist from Brent Sopel. Sopel tried going d-to-d and completely fanned on the pass, leaving JR to pick up the puck, deke Huet and put it in the back of the net. Sopel didn’t see the ice much after that. Almost two minutes later, the Hawks answered back when Kane fired a cross ice pass up to Toews, Toews tried to deke through two defenders but instead got the puck to the net where Boucher tipped it off his defenseman’s leg. Versteeg was crashing hard and got control of the puck behind the net where he shot it off Boucher’s stick and just over the line for gift goal number two. The ‘Hawks followed that goal with a flurry of shots and drew a penalty with three minutes left in the period. Cam Barker scored off a one timer with Toews providing the screen to tie the game. About ten seconds later, Thornton became frustrated with Dave Bolland dogging him and slashed him across the legs, drawing a penalty. With the face off inside San Jose’s zone, Toews won it back to Barker who showed great patience by sending it over to Campbell. Campbell skated in, wound up like he was shooting and sent it across the ice to Kane who beat Boucher upstairs from the top of the circles and gave the Hawks their only lead of the night.
The third period began about as badly as possible for the Hawks. Bolland was called for a tripping penalty 39 seconds in and San Jose didn’t waste much time capitalizing when Dan Boyle scored his second of the game. The Sharks controlled most of the third period and really dictated the tempo. There were plenty of sloppy plays made by the Hawks during the period, and they seemed to be hanging on for dear life. After a questionable Dustin Byfuglien tripping penalty, the Sharks put the Hawks out of their misery. Devin Setoguchi blistered a shot past Huet for his tenth goal of the season and another power play goal for San Jose (notice a trend here?). The Hawks didn’t muster much pressure in the last five minutes even after they got a make up call from the refs and ended up with their first regulation loss at home this year.