Three different Blackhawks scored and Cristobal Huet provided his usual effort as the ‘Hawks nearly blanked the streaking Stars in Dallas. And, boy, did it start to get ugly early. Ten penalties – including misconduct penalties for Dave Bolland and Steve Ott – were called during the first frame; and Krys Barch and Mike Ribeiro took turns dishing out big hits. In spite of being outhit 21-8 during the first, the ‘Hawks responded to sweep the season series against Dallas.
Though the ‘Hawks started with a poor power play during which the Stars had the best scoring opportunity and Dallas came out hitting – especially Barch and Ott – the visiting team scored first. On the power play, Martin Havlat found James Wisniewski stepping in from the point, and Wizniewski one-timed a shot from just above the right circle past Stars’ tender Marty Turco.
From there, the Stars stayed out of penalty trouble, but it didn’t help. The ‘Hawks added two in the second to put the game out of reach before the third frame, and Kris Versteeg struck the crossbar off a Martin Havlat pass during the first few minutes of the period. On a delayed penalty call with the extra skater – Jonathan Toews – on, Toews attempted a pass across the slot. The pass attempt hit traffic in front, and like an “ugly finder,” found the new-look Patrick Kane, who scored a hair cut in Texas, and Kane made it a two-goal game. Next, with the seconds dwindling down on the second, Matt Walker scored his first of the season and second of his career on a long shot from the point off a cross-ice pass from Brian Campbell. Though it appeared that Ben Eager may have tipped it in front, the puck indeed tickled the twine untouched. And, that was all the ‘Hawks would need. Though the Stars were able to get on the board during the third – courtesy of Ott – it wouldn’t be enough. Huet made a few tricky saves in the final twenty minutes, but, for the most part, Dallas was unable to generate the offense necessary to score three during the third.
As mentioned above, the ‘Hawks sweep the Stars 4-0 during the Western Conference regular season series. The Stars, now without Brad Richards and without Brendan Morrow and Sergei Zubov most of the season, just weren’t able to match up versus the ‘Hawks all season, losing three of the four games by three goals. The Stars were 10-3 in their 13 games previous to Saturday’s game, and they currently sit in seventh place in the Conference. They have only four scorers with at least 30 points.
Next, a public apology: During the first months of the season, I routinely slighted ‘Hawk defenseman Matt Walker. After Coach Joel Quenneville began playing Walker as a top-four defenseman in the place of Cam Barker, James Wisniewski or Brent Sopel, I ripped Walker’s hands and passing. Though I thought he provided some nice depth and decent size, I was against playing him nearly 20 minutes a night. Well, I’ll relent and admit Matt Walker deserves to play top-four minutes on this team; I’ll admit his passing has recently been much better than I’ve given him credit for. He also seems to be a nice compliment to Brian Campbell.
Now, doesn’t that feel nice?
Finally, the Fifth Feather will contribute to tomorrow’s issue of the Committed Indian, sold outside the United Center before the game. Pick one up, and check us out.