Anyone else hear this was a trap game for the Hawks?
After coming home from a six-game, sixteen day road trip, the Hawks welcomed in their division rival, the Columbus Blue Jackets for the first time this year. The Hawks started off quickly with a ton of pressure in Columbus’ end. Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, and Cam Barker all had shots graze off the post on their first shifts.
When Troy Brouwer went off for interference at the 13 minute mark, the best power play unit in the league had their second opportunity to score the first goal of the game. With Jakub Voracek playing the point on the power play, John Madden beat him to a loose puck and fed a streaking Kris Versteeg. Versteeg came in on Kris Russell, made a toe-drag move to get past him, felt the pressure behind from a back-checking R.J. Umberger, made another toe-drag move, and beat Steve Mason to the far side to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead.
In the second period, the Jackets were recepients of two glorious gifts from Cristobal Huet.
On the first, Kris Russell flipped a shot towards the net that Huet had in his glove and bounced out. Duncan Keith whiffed as the puck lay in front of him and after that, there was no way that puck wasn’t going into the Hawks net. Antoine Vermette banged home his 103rd career goal against the Hawks and the Jackets tied the game at 1.
Just a few minutes later, Sammy Pahlsson corralled a loose puck after another goofy bounce off the United Center glass. He curled around the top of the circles and wristed a shot towards the net. Huet, either confused by the bounce or by the screen in front of him, let it harmlessly float past him.
With just under five minutes to play, Dustin Byfuglien drew an interference penalty when he crashed the net as Patrick Kane was trying to get him the puck. On the ensuing power play, Kane grabbed the puck, made a couple turns to wait for Patrick Sharp to get open, then fired the puck in his direction. Marian Hossa, obviously not familiar with the Kane-Sharp love connection, tipped the puck to Sharp. Sharp calmly collected himself and deposited it past Mason.
The third period didn’t start exactly as planned. Kris Russell lasered a slap shot over Huet on a 4-on-3 rush just 40 seconds into the period and Columbus was back on top.
Four minutes later, Madden’s line drew a high-sticking penalty after a cycle behind the Columbus net. Toews won the subsequent face-off, Keith walked the blue line and let off a one-footed wrist shot towards the net. The puck glanced off Mike Commodore and then Toews’ skate and the Hawks scored their second power-play goal of the game.
The rest of the third period was the Hawks getting sustained pressure in Columbus’ end and Rick Nash trying to single-handedly win the game in regulation for Columbus. Neither team was able to capitalize and the Hawks went to overtime for the second straight game.
Overtime was back-and-forth. Both teams had decent opportunities to win, but neither did, so it was on to one of the most maddening shootouts of all-time.
It started off well enough. Cristobal Huet shut down Kristian Huselius and Rick Nash. Marian Hossa blistered a shot past Mason. Then Voracek picked a corner out on Huet and it was on to extra innings.
The shootout lasted a whopping 11 rounds. Versteeg and Vermette each hit the post. Huet and Mason made stop after stop. It wasn’t until Brent Seabrook beat Mason with a back-hand deke did it finally mercifully end.
–Yup, Joel Quenneville needs to give more shootout opportunities to Andrew Ladd. That was one of the most hilarious/sad attempts in recent memory. With a chance to win the game, Ladd accidentally pushed the puck nearly to the Columbus goal line before Mason just poked it off his stick. As an encore, Tomas Kopecky came barrelling in, fired a shot off, then caught an edge and crashed into the Columbus net after Mason stopped it. This is what happens when shootouts go more than four rounds; you get to watch unskilled players partake in a skills competition. In the end, everybody loses.
–Has Vince Vaughn entered Jim Belushi territory? If he’s not there yet, he’s definitely getting within the area code.
–The Hawks raped the Jackets in the face-off circle winning 34 out of 54 draws. The best face-off man of the night for the Blackhawks? Kris Versteeg, of course, winning 10 of 12 face-offs.
–Leave it to Blackhawk fans to let Sammy Pahlsson feel their wrath for his uneventful stay in Chicago. Playing as a 3rd line center but never drawing the top checking assignment while with the Hawks, Pahlsson was pretty much out of position from the moment he arrived. Don’t tell that to the people, though, who thought he was supposed to be Eric Staal. When he was announced as a shooter during the shootout, the United Center crowd treated him as though he was Hannibal Lector. Deep down, I was actually happy he scored his first goal tonight just so all those people who cursed him last year could curse him again.
–Someone should probably show Steve Mason the video of Tomas Vokoun getting decapitated by an angry teammate from Monday night. After losing the game, Mason swung his stick around like a drunken lumberjack. All it would take is one Blue Jacket in the wrong place and they would’ve gotten knee-capped by Mason.
*On the Farm*
—The Rockford IceHogs announced the signing of former NHL goalie, Dan Cloutier, to a professional try-out agreement. This whole Corey Crawford thing is somewhat bizarre. You would think with the IceHogs calling up Alec Richards and now signing Cloutier, they’d make a point of saying these goalies are here because Crawford is dealing with an injury.
The IceHogs are being fairly quiet about the matter. The only thing they’re saying is Crawford is dealing with a lower body injury and is expected to miss another couple weeks. And they didn’t make a formal announcement about the injury until a week ago, even though he hasn’t played since the beginning of November.