For the first time since 1981, the Chicago Blackhawks have won seven straight games. As the Associated Press story summarizing the game points out, the last time the Blackhawks won seven straight, fifteen current ‘Hawks weren’t even born yet. The seventh this time around came Saturday night in Vancouver, where the ‘Hawks tipped the Canucks 3-1 in a game where the ‘Hawks added an empty net goal late in the third.
Vancouver started the scoring in the first when Daniel Sedin capped off a few sloppy Blackhawk minutes by squirting a puck into a gaping net. It was the only lead Vancouver would have all game.
Accordingly, the second period belonged to the ‘Hawks, as Patricks Kane and Sharp each tallied even strength goals within just a few minutes of the other. Kane’s goal came off an Andrew Ladd pass that put Kane in on his backhand against a Vancouver defender and goalie Curtis Sanford. What is normally a disadvantage for NHL players quickly became something worthy of a highlight reel when Kane got off a quick backhander that beat Sanford up high. Just four minutes later, Jonathon Toews did his best Patrick Kane impression, when he pulled up after he entered the Vancouver zone. While waiting for ‘Hawk teammates to enter the attack, Toews found Sharp skating into the high slot. Sharp beat Sanford high with a wrist shot that would’ve made Joe Sakic jealous – mangled snowblower hand and all. And, that was all the scoring the ‘Hawks needed, as Cristobal Huet shut the proverbial door from then out, stopping 30 shots in all and a handful of good Canuck chances.
As for the stories of yesterday evening, while the players waited for the puck to drop for the beginning of the third period, right wing Dustin Byfuglien skated into the face-off circle to tell his captain, Toews, something quickly. The referee obliged and allowed Buff to say a few quick words. As I see it, the ‘Hawks winger could have only said one of two things:
- “Hey Tazer, if I get a chance, I’m gonna blow it, OK?”
- “Tazer, if you need me, I’m going to fall on my ass, alright?”
Well, maybe he didn’t say one of the above quotes, but as a Byfuglien defender much of this season, it’s becoming more and more difficult to leave my house. I’ll just say this: Buff, when you’re in alone on the goaltender – as you were twice last night – just hit the net. And, just try and remember that you’re a huge, huge man. OK? Thanks.
Elsewhere, in Saturday’s edition of Eight’s a Crowd, Joel Quennville opted to give James Wisniewski a rest on the second of back-to-back nights and played Brent Sopel on the third pairing with Matt Walker. Both played fairly well. Sopel and Cam Barker each played about four minutes in the final frame of the (then) one-goal game. Walker played eight.
Finally, in my quarter pole review of Dale Tallon, printed on Noevember 26, I had this to say about the Tuomo Ruutu-for-Andrew Ladd trade:
The Andrew Ladd acquisition for Tuomo Ruutu was not one of Tallon’s best. Though the ‘Hawks saved about $800,000 this season on Ladd as compared to Ruutu, Tallon replaced a true “heart and soul”-type player for one who isn’t as effective physically or offensively this season. While Ruutu, as expected, has become a fan favorite in Carolina, he’s also produced in the first quarter, contributing seven goals and 13 points for the ‘Canes. Meanwhile, Ladd has struggled to generate scoring opportunities on the third line, and to date has only three goals and eight points. In my opinion, Ruutu would, salary aside, be a much better fit on the ‘Hawks third line. With that said, Ladd plays hard every shift, and he’s only twenty-two years old. Let’s cut him – and Tallon – a bit of slack – for now.
Now, nearly a month later, Ruutu has ten goals and nine assists, while Ladd has six goals and 16 assists on the season, including a five-game scoring streat. Additionally, Ladd has played the third line part nearly perfectly and has picked up his offensive game since Martin Havlat joined his line. While I’m not ready to anoint Andrew Ladd “Al Secord” quite yet, he has recently shown himself to be an intelligent and capable winger who can score, too. My recognition of this only helps to make my initial point: Tallon has done a decent job as Blackhawks GM.
And, though the Blackhawks are off until Friday evening when the Flyers visit the (sure to be rockin’) UC, the Fifth Feather will take no such vacation. Check back everyday this week for new Blackhawks and NHL opinions and content.