Sparked by the debut of superstar Marian Hossa and three shorthanded goals, the Blackhawks absolutely destroyed the San Jose Sharks – thought by many to be the best team in the NHL prior to Wednesday night’s game – in San Jose Wednesday night.
The game started as a track meet for the Hawks, who went up and down with the speedy and talented Sharks. Each team traded chances throughout the first until San Jose made its first mistake of the evening: allowing Brent Seabrook to take a holding call in the Hawks’ zone. It would set into motion a beating the Sharks are more accustomed to giving than receiving.
On the ensuing kill, Troy Brouwer found some space skating into the Sharks’ zone against Dan Boyle and rifled one from the top of the circles past a stunned Evgeyni Nobokov.
A few minutes into the second, the Sharks made the same mistake again, this time allowing Troy Brouwer to take a boarding penalty. With the game’s first goal scorer on the bench, Marian Hossa struck with a ‘oh yeah, this guy can kill penalties, too’ moment. On the kill, Hossa found himself in alone against Nabokov and effortlessly blew the puck past the Shark netminder’s blocker side, scoring his first goal of the season and his first as a Hawk.
Then, just 28 seconds later, still on the kill, Patrick Sharp also found himself in alone – after a Jason Demers blow-out at center ice – and deked Nabokov before putting one to the back of the twine. It was the Hawks’ third shorthanded goal in two kills, and it was the nail in the coffin for the Sharks, who spent the rest of the evening skating around like someone had just kicked their dog.
The Hawks would add four even-strength goals during the second and third periods before the Sharks mustered two late tallies, including a Dan Boyle power play goal that spoiled the shutout for Cristobal Huet with less than four minutes left to play.
The highlight of the game’s last six goals, though, was Hossa’s second goal of the game. The goal was more of a Brent Sopel highlight than anything, as Patrick Kane curled into the slot and dished off wide to Sopel, who immediately found a streaking Hossa on the far side. Hossa made no mistake, tapping the beautiful feed into the back of the net.
Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Seabrook and John Madden also scored for the Hawks.
Yo, Listen Up!
— This Marian Hossa guy may just be the real deal. As Tim Sassone pointed out as a possibility yesterday in his Daily Herald blog, Hossa’s two goals in San Jose equals Martin Havlat’s total goal output for the season in Minnesota.
Hossa plays with an ease only seen in superstar players, and just like that, he’s the Hawks’ most dangerous offensive player. As Sharks’ coach Todd McLellan said before last night’s game, though, it’s not unusual for players returning from injuries to have a couple great games before struggling for a period. All-in-all, his debut was a wild success, and his impact should be more than Havlat’s from last year.
— With the debut of Hossa, the Hawks changed up the power play, playing four forwards with only one defenseman and allowing the high forward to come down as he chooses. There should be no confusion about my distaste for forwards on the point of the power play, but I’ll give this set-up a chance – if not only because I’m intrigued by it.
— Patrick Sharp is sexy? They Hawks played so many commercials concerning Sharp’s inclusion in a Chicago’s Sexiest Athlete poll, John watched the entire game with a massive erection. The Hawks even used an in-game scroll to encourage fans to vote for Sharp as the sexiest.
— With a power play unit of Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle and Kent Huskins, it’s safe to say San Jose’s power play won’t make a habit of watching the other team’s penalty killers score while they don’t produce. I wouldn’t count on it for next time.
— Is it just me, or have the referees and linemen started enforcing the red line for purposes of icing? That’s two games in a row the Hawks were flagged for icing on a dump-in that was just a step short of center. I suppose, too, that referees are more apt to call an icing against a fourth line player – Eager, in this case – than a scorer, who the refs would believe is not necessarily counting on a dump-in.
— Brian Campbell was, as usual, “booed” each time he touched the puck by his former supporters in San Jose. Three memorable months haven’t caused this much scorn since the John/Forklift break-up.
— The Hawks outshot the Sharks 41-24 and led 26-7 at one point in the second frame.
— Nabokov was pulled after the second period, leaving Tom Greiss to face the firing squadron that was the Hawks last night. Greiss let in three.
— Duncan Keith had three assists and was a +4. Kane, Seabrook, Sharp and Madden had five shots each, and Hossa had four.
— Heatley, Thornton and Boyle were each -4.
— The win ensures a “good” trip, over and above a “meh” trip, per John’s Wednesday post. To me, eight points on the six-game circus trip is “take your pants off “good.
— Next up, Anaheim and L.A.
— Finally, what does it all mean? Aside from two tough west coast points, not much. A victory in San Jose last season meant the Hawks were for real, but the same outcome this year isn’t as noteworthy. It’s hard to understate the impact Hossa will have, though.
*On the Farm*
–The IceHogs were nursing a 1-0 heading into the third period against the Manitoba Moose. Kyle Greentree scored his second goal of the year with assists from Jack Skille and Brian Connelly thirteen minutes into the second period.
At the 8 minute mark of the third period, Manitoba’s Matt Pettinger (who just returned to Manitoba after an extended stay with the Vancouver Canucks) scored on the power-play. Forty-three seconds later, Pettinger scored again and it was all the Moose would need for a 2-1 win.
Alec Richards got the start in net for Rockford and stopped 19 of the 21 shots he faced.
—Kyle Beach was invisible during Spokane’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Everett Silvertips. Beach was benched during most of the third period in his first return to Everett since being traded by them last December. Byron Froese did not play as he was representing Team WHL in the Subway Series.