For the second time in as many weekends, the Blackhawks played an entertaining, frenzied game against an Eastern Conference opponent. This time, though, the Hawks left Buffalo without two points, losing to the home Sabres in regulation on the strength of the Sabres’ second period and former Hawk Patrick Lalime’s play in net.
It was all Hawks early – so much so, at one point, they led the shot tally 14-2. The first frame featured a Hawks’ 4-on-3 and two large saves by Lalime – one on Patrick Kane and another on a one-timer from Brent Seabrook on the mentioned man-advantage.
The Sabres were able to have their collective voice heard before the end of the frame, though, pressuring the Hawks and finding a few chances of their own.
The second period was the difference, however. Early, the Sabres found themselves on the power play. A shot came into Cristobal Huet from the point, and Thomas Vanek was able to slip enough away from Ham Sandwich’s grasp in front to control the puck, turn and slip it past Huet for the game’s first score. What’s more devastating, the goal came after Lalime stonewalled Marian Hossa on a shorthanded break-away.
Then, late in the period, a chest-high pass from the corner hit Clarke MacArtur in front of Huet. The puck bounced down to the ice and appeared to direct itself past Huet to give the Sabres a two-goal lead; it’s all they would need.
The Hawks turned things around in the third, peppering Lalime again. Patrick Kane also took over, making himself look like the lone Harlem Globetrotter on a sheet of ice full of Washington Generals. It paid dividends when Ham Sandwich kept a Sabre clearing attempt in. The puck bounced to Dustin Byfuglien, who quickly slipped it to Kane. Kane made a move to the outside to get around a defender and found Patrick Sharp streaking to the net. Sharp one-timed it past Lalime for the only Hawk score of the contest.
Alas, the third period played out much like the first. All told, the Hawks put another 16 shots on Lalime, and Lalime stopped 15 of them, preserving the win for the Sabres. Duncan Keith took a penalty with about 90 seconds left to play, and, as they say, that was that.
Yo, Listen Up to These Words!
— If nothing else, the Sabres are fast. They forechecked and pressured the Hawks like no one has this season, and it made for a highly entertaining game. The forecheckers gave the Hawks’ defensemen fits – and a large handful of bruises, I’m sure – all game. Brian Campbell was especially affected, coughing up the puck in his own zone a large handful of times.
— Speaking of Campbell, he is now officially public enemy #1 in the NHL. He is now booed in Chicago, San Jose and Buffalo. For a quiet red-head, that ain’t bad.
— Speaking of booing, the fans in Buffalo booed Kane every time he touched the puck. While I understand the booing of Campbell – he bolted for greener financial pastures after the Sabres attempted to retain him – the booing of Kane is a little less understandable, especially considering the fans ate him up in his visit there two seasons ago. I guess they just really love their city’s cab drivers.
— Speaking of Campbell and Kane, CSN showed video of the Kane love-fest that was his first visit to Buffalo two seasons ago. During the pregame festivities, he took a ceremonial face-off against … Sabre Brian Campbell. No one was booing.
— 13’4″ Tyler Myers will be special. He’s huge; he’s smooth; and he’s even a force on the power play. There is a Hawk connection, too: Myers went 12th to the Sabres during the 2008 NHL Draft. The team that picked 11th took a young buck by the name of Kyle Beach. The two were teammates the season before.
— If the Hawks take another offsides because Joel Quenneville continues to allow forwards coming off the ice to exit through the door located inside the zone, I’m going to lose it.
— Now other defensemen are doing the Brent Sopel block on the kill – ya know, the one where the defenseman turns to the side and drops to a knee. Please stop this. Thanks.
— Troy Brouwer channeled his inner 2008-’09 spirit on Friday evening. Brouwer had two fabulous chances off beautiful passes from teammates – and missed the net badly on both. One such miss came during the third period when the Hawks were scrambling to tie it.
— Again, Lalime was very good, ending the game with 39 saves on 40 shots. Reader and knowledgeable hockey man, Patrick, noted on the site on Thursday that it seems the Hawks get opposing goaltender’s best effort on a nightly basis. While I’ll admit I can’t explain the consistently great goaltending the Hawks have seen this season, I can explain that they’re now considered one of the league’s best clubs this season. That means they’ll see a steady diet of efforts like the Sabres’ last night from here on out.
— Next up, the Lightning tomorrow evening at the UC. I’m excited to see Victor Hedman in person.