The 2009 circus trip is finally over, and the verdict is in: success. With a point in Los Angeles on Saturday night, the Hawks grabbed their 17th point in their last ten games, including a 4-1-1 road trip on the west coast of North America. Not bad.
And, if nothing else, it was an entertaining tilt. Joel Quenneville set the tone early when the Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane line had two full shifts by the 2:15 mark. It helped the Hawks set the pace in the first, but they were unable to cash in, with the Kings limiting their number of opportunities. Their one chance of the period came when Kane found himself in alone from the circles in, but got caught on his backhand. He was unable to lift it over the glove of Jonathan Quick, and the Kings took a tie into the second.
Then, less than three minutes into the second frame, a seemingly harmless Michael Handzus and Wayne Simmonds 2-on-2 turned into a King lead, when Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith managed to cover neither Handzus nor Simmonds. Simmonds dropped the puck to Handzus and slipped past Keith, and Handzus quickly head-manned it past the defenseman before Simmonds slipped it past Cristobal Huet for the lead.
Despite a handful of good chances, the Hawks were only able to muster a tie by the end of regulation. The lone goal came following a Handzus holding-the-stick infraction and after Kane wheeled into the slot on the ensuing power play. Quick stopped the first shot, but Toews tucked in the rebound to tie the game.
The last half of the third and overtime were both played without a tally by either team, but the sort of play was what the NHL envisioned when it changed the overtime frame to 4-on-4. The five-minute extra period included a minute of 4-on-3 for the Hawks, who were unable to take advantage.
In the following shoot-out, both Anze Kopitar and Jack Johnson were able to beat Huet, and Toews and Kane were both blanked by Quick.
Yo, Listen Up to These Words!
— Jonathan Toews’ power play goal was the Hawks’ first power play tally since November 21 against the Oilers in Edmonton. (It was also the Hawks’ first goal in 115 minutes.) That made it about four full games since a goal with the man advantage. For perspective, let’s take a look back at the world on November 21, 2009:
Average Price of Gas per Gallon in Chicago: $2.76
Average Price of a Loaf of Bread: Between $3 and $4
Price of an Average Automobile: About $22,000
— Speaking of Toews, he was fantastic again. His offensive zone puck pursuit is second to none. It almost gave the Hawks a victory late when he beat Drew Doughty with the puck and set up Hossa, who was unable to bury it.
— The Marian Hossa era is in full gear. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been himself, letting passes bounce away from him and not being able to find his spot with the shots he gets. Obviously, he’ll be fine, but how long will it be before he receives the Huet/Campbell/(2008)Byfuglien treatment from the home fans?
— All the “Who will Hossa play with when he’s healthy?” questions were made a mockery of when Quenneville switched the lines at the beginning of the third last night. That made a grand total of 160 minutes (or eight periods) that Hossa played with Toews and Kane. And, while there’s no guarantee Q won’t go back to those lines, I’d prefer to see it this latest way.
This way sees Toews with Hossa and Ladd; Sharp and Versteeg with Kane; and Madden centering Byfuglien and Brouwer. I happen to be of the mind that Kane and Sharp should always play together and that Byfuglien is a very effective third line player. Toews and Hossa can take care of themselves on the top line.