On this Valentine’s Day, love was in the air.
The ‘Hawks responded to Friday night’s debacle in St. Louis by scoring six goals and beating the streaking Dallas Stars, getting great efforts from top players, recently scratched players, and a handful of players in between. The big story, however, was the injury to leading goal scorer Patrick Sharp less than a minute into play during the first period. After a Steve Ott hit looked to hyperextend Sharp’s left knee, Sharp labored off the ice with help from Jonathan Toews and the team trainer, and never returned. Following the game, Joel Quenneville quickly pronounced Sharp out for the upcoming three-game road trip, adding the team would know more on Monday. Whatever the team story, the injury – and Sharp’s reaction to it – did not look good, and it’s likely he’ll miss significant time. Though Sharp is certainly one of the best ‘Hawk players, he’s been struggling of late, and he’ll be easier to replace now than in November when he was producing as a top NHL forward. His replacement will likely be determined after it’s decided whether he’ll go onto Long Term Injury Reserve, which would allow the ‘Hawks to add salary to the already tight fit under the cap. Perhaps Jack Skille will be added if Sharp goes to LTIR; look for Pelletier to be added if Sharp is only scratched from the upcoming games.
The ‘Hawks jumped out to a rather quick 3-0 lead, including goals scored in the first two periods when they outshot the Stars 27-12. Troy Brouwer scored the first and Martin Havlat added the next two. Dallas goalie Marty Turco was very good, but Dave Tippett pulled the ‘tender for the beginning of the third, feeling the team was leaving Turco out to dry. He was replaced by Brent Krahn, though the public address announcer’s introduction of Krahn at the beginning of the third sounded like “Red Rum,” leaving many to wonder exactly what would happen next. The answer? Two quick goals, scored by Toews and Colin Fraser, to make the lead 5-0. Though the Stars scored two during the third, Kris Versteeg added the Blackhawks’ sixth of the night in the game’s last seconds to add the proverbial icing on the cake.
The other story of the night was solid play by many ‘Hawks. Martin Havlat continued his excellent play, adding an assist to the two goals; recently scratched Dustin Byfuglien played much of the evening with an aggressiveness absent for most of the season; Patrick Kane had two assists and looked as comfortable with the puck as he did in December (though Dallas’ typical box penalty kill gave him more time along the wall than he’s recently become accustomed to); and Troy Brouwer played very well in both zones, adding a one-time goal from the slot in the first and a couple big hits. Cristobal Huet was solid in net.
The final big story: the Wave has come to the United Center, and it drew much attention during WGN’s post-game radio show. A group of – presumably, drunken college-aged – fans at the top of the 300 Level in one of the corners behind the ‘Hawk net tried very hard to begin a Wave about mid-way through the third period. A few attempts saw the Wave extend all the way to the opposite corner of the stadium, only to have it stall. One subsequent attempt, however, made it all the way around the rink, making it official: the Wave is here. Though I realize the Wave is more polarizing among sports fans than the Civil Rights Movement, I’m not sure I care very much either way. It started while the ‘Hawks were up big during the third, and seemed to provide many folks with some side entertainment, so I’m not sure I can get as angry about it as many others.