Blackhawks 2, Penguins 1 (OT)

It may well be remembered as the most entertaining game of this regular season, and the Blackhawks took two points, beating the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh on Saturday night.

This one featured enough speed and physicality to appease even the most hardened fan.  While the game got off to a quick start, it wasn’t until Duncan Keith and Matt Cooke traded violent blows in the first that things reached the next level.  On the Hawk power play, Cooke’s shoulder drove into Keith’s head while Keith stood still deep in his own zone after having retrieved a dump-in.  Just a moment later, Cooke found how it feels when the shoe is on the other foot, as Keith did the same to him.  Keith received an interference minor, and, as they say, it was on.

Only a minute later, during 4-on-4 play, Patrick Kane entered the Penguins’ zone with speed and found a trailing Brian Campbell.  Campbell’s shot was stopped by Mark-Andre Fleury, but the rebound fell in Marian Hossa‘s lap.  Hossa made a quick play and potted it from the door step.

It wasn’t until 90 seconds left in the game that the Penguins were able to even it up.  Coming off a home team timeout, Evgeni Malkin got a clear look from the outside, and, just like the Hawks’ lone regulation goal, the rebound came right to Jordan Staal, who made no mistake tying it.

In between those strikes, speed and physical play ruled the day.  In a twenty-minute time period between the last half of the second and the first half of the third, the Penguins created a large handful of chances, but Annti Niemi stood strong on each.  His night included two Penguin posts and a beautiful side-to-side save late in the second on a Sergei Gonchar one-timer.

Niemi was fantastic, guaranteeing the Hawks a point in Pittsburgh a night after a rare home loss. 

Yo, Listen to These Words!

— With the OT win, Niemi is now 5-1-1 with a save percentage just over .930 and a goals against average well under 2.0.  Not bad at all.  His effort Saturday night didn’t look much different from his last game in Vancouver on the circus trip.

Tomas Kopecky was given the night off in favor of Jordan Hendry on the fourth line wing.  As I’ve said before, Kopecky has a top-six skill set, but lacks top-six skill.  It’s not the collection of skills the Hawks need on a fourth line that struggled leading up to Saturday’s game.  All told, the line played a larger role in the victory, but it’s more likely due to Ben Eager‘s improved performance.

— The line-up continued to keep Hossa and Kane separated.  This time around, Joel Quenneville played Toews with Hossa and Kris Versteeg; Sharp in between Kane and Ladd; Madden with Brouwer and Byfuglien; and Fraser, Eager and Hendry.  Q used a few different combinations down the stretch, though, especially for defensive purposes. 

— The Toews/Hossa/Versteeg combination is an intriguing one.  The line was productive when Versteeg wasn’t stickhandling them into submission.

— Q showed the world why he has won 500 games as an NHL head coach.  With the last change on the road and Malkin in a black sweater, he was masterful with his third period changes.  Keith and Brent Seabrook were involved in most every face-off, and many times left immediately to save energy for a Malkin shift.

— Is Troy Brouwer playing with an injury?   

— At this point, I’m beginning to think Cam Barker is like a fourth grader caught in third grade.  He seems disinterested playing with and against fourth line grinders.  Let’s hope that’s the explantion, anyway.

— It’s time Patrick Sharp did something.  Playing center may not help that, though.

— Finally, I’ve made no bones about my distaste for a forward on the power play point.  Sure, it works occasionally, but for every successful example, there are 50 examples of failure.

Allow me, then, to point out that the game became overly physical because of Patrick Sharp on the power play point. 

On a Pittsburgh dump-in during the Hawk power play, Keith and Sharp headed back to retrieve the puck.  As Keith got to the puck, rather than heading to the other side of the ice to provide Keith with an outlet option, Sharp attempted to slow the forechecker while standing within 10 feet of Keith.  Seeing nowhere to move the puck with his partner within spitting range, Keith held on to it and absorbed the Cooke hit that changed the pace of the game.

And, all of this happened while power play wizards Barker and Campbell sat idle preparing to play with Madden, Byfuglien and Versteeg on the second leg of the man advantage.

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10 Responses to Blackhawks 2, Penguins 1 (OT)

  1. Lou says:

    Great analysis!

    I think Barker is playing like a guy who has been told he is going to be traded.

    Thank you for bringing up the Versteeg stickhandling thing. It is excrutiating to watch him try to out duel 3 and 4 guys and then cough up the puck. Granted he scored the game winner but he didn’t have his best game and Q gave it to him…He just seems like he loses his hockey sense.

    According to Foley, Brouwer hasn’t had a hit in four games on the stat sheet. You must to have to kill someone to get a hit.

    I was very surprised in the cheap crap from Pittsburgh. Cooke, after Keith knocked him on his ass in return for Cooke’s hit, had to play the “last hit” game and sucker Keith in the face. And Malkin cross checking Fraser on the ice was priceless. He is arguably a top three player in the enitre league and both him and Ovie have tempers (mental note for spring…) Ill take Malkin-for Fraser off setting penalties any day of the week.

    I know there is lots of scuttle on what the Hawks are or aren’t going to do in terms of a move but I firmly believe that we are most successful when we roll all four lines. Some how, we need to make a move to allow us to do that. Hendry is a nice 7th Dman not a 4th line forward. Granted Crapecky Kopecky needs a kick in the pants. He hit a lot last year and isn’t hitting anything this year. It sure would be nice to get in a position to bring up one of our kids to play on the 4th line and provide a spark. At least until Burish gets back.

    Finally if Campbell is a PP QB then play him on the first unit. This 4 forward thing is not working. If Campbell is no longer out PP QB then maybe see if you can move him b/c he isn’t a shut down D or PK guy. Fifth guys, be interested on your thougts on this.

  2. Dave Morris says:

    Pretty darn good recap of a pretty darn good hockey game.

    Well, some fans may now see The Nieminator as a reason to dump Huet. Funny how some fans do that, idinit?

    If we were worried the Hawks would be hobbled by a Huet-Niemi tandem, we can all put away the Prozac and HypoTiq, and start realizing the Blackhawks ARE an elite team and they CAN beat the elite teams–IN THEIR OWN BUILDINGS.

    NOT small potatoes, as my old grandmother used to say.

    Hendry appeared to fit in well with Mssrs Fraser and Eager, so Mr Kopecky may want to bring his inflatable seat cushion for the next few matches.

    Like you, I suspect Truck Brouwer has a dreaded ‘upper body injury’.

    In that case, the few days off until King Henrik and the other Slovak sniper named Marian hit town, is welcome respite.

  3. John says:

    Not even taking his salary cap hit into account, Campbell has a no-movement clause so even if you try to move him and have a taker, they still have to get his approval. Not sure why he would accept a trade.

  4. cb says:

    Two points but it wasn’t exactly pretty. Marcdré made a number of very impressive stops but all in all I’d say Niemi had a more challenging night; it was frustrating watching the Hawks have so much trouble clearing the puck out of their zone. Of course they did win the game, so they couldn’t have played too badly against the champions. It’s a different game with Crosby in the action, but we’ll take the two.

    I really missed Sub-Slovak out there (#82). Or something.

    Foley and Edzo got awfully worked up about Campbell’s “failure” to defend noble Colin Fraser’s honor. They really belabored the point; you could almost hear the spittle flying out of their mouths. Which brings me to my next point: Old Time Hockey.

    Which is to say: does Keith’s retaliatory penalty have a purpose? Hockey players lose their heads and need to let off steam. But one also hears talk of “setting the tone.” But did his retaliation serve the end of the Hawks winning the game? Obviously it negated a power play. I’m not too worked up about it but I would prefer to see Keith pick his spots for revenge rather than take an unnecessary penalty to even the score with a Matt Cooke.

    Kudos to Fraser for tying up Malkin and drawing a penalty. Kudos to the refs for falling for what I suspect was Fraser artfully making it look as though Malkin was cross-checking him into the ice, and then subsequently pissing off Malkin so as to ensure the coincidental minors.

  5. cb says:

    After a night when Campbell notches two assists (ie on 100% of the Hawks’ goals) we’re talking about moving him? If you ask me, the problem isn’t that he’s not a PP QB but rather Q isn’t putting him in the position to succeed in that role. He’s more than capable.

  6. Blueliner says:

    Re: Hendry
    Don’t put too much into Q putting him in the 4th line and scratching Kopecky – Sopel took a nasty shot to the knee 24hrs earlier and Hendry was an insurance policy should one of Sopel’s wooden legs give out.

    Re: PP
    Campbell on the 2nd PP line is more of a function of Barker playing like an AHL journey man instead of a 3rd overall 1st round pick. Also, has Seabrook been on the PP since he returned from injury? I don’t think so. (feel free to correct me on that)

    The whole fwd on the point seems to be more of having a righty on the point (not named Sopel) than anything else. Q loves him some one-timers from the point…

    Re: Fraser v. that Russian guy uglier than Sopel
    Campbell didn’t jump in for 1 reason and 1 reason only – the ref’s hand was up. No need to go into a scrum and potentially give the refs a reason to give the Pens a PP or an off-setting penalty. Funny thing was, the refs already had a reason to give off setting penalties – it’s Pitt.

    This was not #51 being a wimp or not giving a damn about a team mate – this was discipline. Coaches let you know when you can mix things up and when you can’t…it was obvious this was not one of those times.

    Campbell did the right thing – letting Malkin sit in the box and feel shame.

    Re: Keith v. the guy who lost 1/2 of his teeth
    Cooke charges Duncan Keith in a blatant attempt to injure. Keith then charges Cooke, in retaliation, and knocks him into next week (minus a few teeth). Mmmm…makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

    Any ‘suspension’ talk is bullshit.

  7. Lou says:

    @cb, you might be right but at the same time, it’s one game. He gets paid a lot of money to be the PP QB and do that more often than not. One would surmise that he would then be on the first PP unit. He is not for some reason whatever that may be,

    If he is not going to be that PP guy at least consistently, what else can he bring? It surely isn’t the defensive side of the game. Yet, he has some games where he really hits like he did last year in detroit. So what do you do with him?

    I asked the rhetorical question that always exists, should you try to move him? Again, great he had two assists last night but that is a data point in the bigger picture. And John points out a NTC issue which I think eliminates anything that isn’t west or closer to his home in Ontario.

    At the end of the day, he has talent and if they keep him (highly probable that they do), Q needs to play to his strengths and our PP isn’t that great lately…In the bigger picture, IMHO, I think we need to free up some cap space to gives us some flexibility on the roster especially on the first line. Campbell was just a name to discuss.

    I truly think it is going to be Barker or Buff that go first and if they can package Kopecky even better.

  8. John says:

    cb– considering this was a game in early December against an Eastern Conference opponent, I have no problem with Keith smoking someone who took a run at him. If this was the playoffs, then, yeah, he should wait for his chance at revenge.

    Blueliner– Seabrook has seen limited action on the PP since his return from a concussion. While Hendry may have well been an insurance policy for Sopel, Kopecky was chosen as the odd man out for a reason.

    As for Foley and Edzo breathing hot fire about Brian Campbell not jumping in, I must have missed that dialogue. I was too focused trying to figure what sexual position Malkin was experimenting with on Fraser.

  9. Lou says:

    It is hard to believe that someone might be uglier than Sopel.

    @John, it was typlical Foley Edzo dribble. Similar to Hawk or Harry Caray babble. You didn’t miss much

  10. Dave Morris says:

    Boy, reading all this stuff about Edzo and Foley going all Krakatoa, I’m glad I watched this game on the French language network RDS.

    😉

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