What looked like a possible Blackhawk blowout early turned into a victory of the slimmest margin by the 60th minute Friday evening at the United Center.
The Blackhawks started early when, less than four minutes in, the Hawks’ fourth line forced an icing by the Leafs. Following the face-off, Patrick Kane picked Luke Schenn’s pocket from behind right in front of the Leaf net. Kane turned and shot in one motion, blowing it by Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala to give the Hawks a one-goal lead.
Almost ten minutes later to the second, Duncan Keith put a puck on net from the blue line. The puck was redirected at least once and slipped by Toskala. John Madden, who was “miked for sound,” said following the play that he did not tip the shot, but the United Center scorer gave him credit for tally. It was his third of the year.
Then, as the first period wound down, Niklas Hagman found himself hacking and whacking at a puck at the doorstep of the Blackhawks’ net. While the replay seemed to show the Leafs had their first goal of the night, there was no visual evidence showing the puck actually crossed the line, and the Hawks kept their two-goal lead heading into the first break.
After the Hawks came out with a vengeance during the second period’s first five minutes, Alex Ponikarovsky skated into Cristobal Huet, giving the Hawks a power play. During the man advantage, a Patrick Sharp shot from the outside found the stick of Troy Brouwer for the second time in three games, giving the Hawks a three-goal lead 25 minutes into the match.
It wouldn’t last. Midway through the second period, Troy Brouwer accepted an invitation to scrap with Luke Schenn, the second-year defenseman. Following the scrap, only the Leafs would score.
Both Leaf goals were scored by Phil Kessel – one at the end of the second period and another five minutes into the third.
The Hawks bent but didn’t break during a tough third period, giving the Hawks their third victory in three games this week.
— Phil Kessel may be the nearest player to Alexander Ovechkin in the “dangerous from anywhere” category. His shot from outside is as quick and heavy as they get.
— The Andrew Ebbett as second line center project may be dead. His stay last night was short. And, the reality is that once Marian Hossa comes back, something has to give. The easiest move may involve Ebbett, as most any other move would involve breaking up the third line. Think about it.
— How active is your stick?
— Leaf goalie Vesa Toskala had given up at least four goals in each of his four full games this season, previous to Friday evening.
— During the second period, Eddie O did his normal, “Bid on our CBOE auction seats” routine, encouraging fans to place a bid on the two seats in between the two UC team benches. Afterwards, Eddie asked Pat Foley if he would like to call a game from those seats. Foley said, “Honestly, no … I’m not sure there’d be a good view from there.” And … sale lost. Don’t quit your day job, Mr. Foley.
— Another interesting exchange from the Comcast broadcast: John Madden, who, again, was miked for sound, told the equipment manager during warm-ups that his gloves were not “game ready.” It probably wasn’t a unique exchange, as players are always rotating pairs in and out – even during the same game. But, I always wonder about teams playing in alternate uniforms with alternate gloves – like the Penguins in their light blue duds or the Canadiens this season with their leather-colored gloves. Those players have to make a strong effort to have those gloves ready for alternate jersey game dates. And, if not, well, they can’t tell the equipment manager to get the old pair.
— Memo to Leafs GM Brian Burke: you need more than “sandpaper” to build a house.
— With more than 10% unemployment in the U.S., it’s amazing Wayne Primeau has a job.
— With so many traveling fans watching a putrid team, the Maple Leafs are the Notre Dame Football of the NHL.