It seems many of the Blackhawks’ most physical games this season have been played against inferior, desperate teams. Saturday night in St. Louis against the Blues was no different.
It all started with the referees giving the dirty physical play their blessing by allowing Barett Jackman to give Patrick Kane a forearm shiver at center ice. There was no call, and everyone in the building – apparently, except for the refs – and everyone at home knew the game would get out of hand; it certainly did.
Lucky for the Hawks, though, while the Blues were focused on ratcheting up the dirty, desperate play, the Hawks were busy burying them on the scoreboard. Both succeeded.
After two first period goals by Thomas Kopecky and the fourth line and a Ben Eager sponsored beating of BJ Crombeen, the Hawks were beating the Blues at their own game and where it counts.
Before the first ended, another fringe NHL-er – though it was hard to tell one from another last night – Mike Weaver, took an open-ice run at Patrick Sharp, sending Sharp into the air and onto his back. Cam Barker immediately stepped in, fighting Weaver. Of course, as is appropriate in today’s NHL, Weaver received no penalty – not even a fighting major – and Barker received 17 minutes of infractions, including a game misconduct.
The scoreboard beating took off in the second, when Brian Campbell and Kris Versteeg goals gave the Hawks breathing room. The goals came amidst more physical play, including Jonathan Toews’ first fight of the season against David Backes, a huge Ben Eager hit on Carlo Calaiacovo and offsetting penalties to Versteeg and David Perron. The Versteeg/Perron penalties came after Versteeg pulled Perron from a fracas and Perron threw Versteeg to the ground before pinning his head to the ice. It was another lesson on how to let a game get out of control.
The third saw Sharp get the only payback that matters. As Mike Weaver played a -3 game, Sharp added two goals within 123 seconds of each other early in the third. It gave the Hawks a four-goal lead, and ensured St. Louis would pull out all the stops a team that has been beaten badly usually does.
Cue Cam Janssen – he of the zero ’09-’10 points. Janssen was a one-man wrecking crew, consistently throwing himself into anything that moves and looking to send a message. (“Look, ma! I’m a fringe NHL player at best!”) Message delivered. Less than two minutes into the final period, Janssen got a two-minute charging call for starting a brawl.
It was another nice lesson on how to lose control of a game; allow the fourth liner with zero points to start final period brawls with no repercussions. Gee, you think he’ll be heard from again?
After Keith Tkachuck’s mouth made it a three-goal game, Janssen was at it again. Janssen made the referees look downright silly when he threw a flying elbow at Brent Sopel with less than four minutes left to play in the game. No one seems to know quite what happened in the ensuing melee, but you can guess the rest: a phantom match penalty for Ben Eager and … wait for it … wait for it … a three-minute power play for the home Blues.
Ain’t the NHL grand?
Taking Deep Breaths…
– I suppose we can put the enforcer debate to rest once and for all. On a night the Hawks toughness was challenged, the fourth line scored the game’s first two goals. Though the Hawks ended up with over 60 minutes in penalties, the Blues’ fourth line showed that they were far out-classed by the Hawks fourth liners. Case closed.
– It was said nearly 100 times last night, but Brent Sopel was fantastic. He’s been solid all year, and his performance on the kill last night earned him some late power play time. Much deserved.
– Jordan Hendry has shown improved confidence with the puck during the last few weeks.
– No team with Barett Jackman as a top pairing defenseman will ever be good. When Patrick Kane blows by you and throws you to the ground on the same rush, you might be an AHLer.
– I’m not sure what to make of Toews’ challenging of Backes early in the second, but I suppose I can’t condemn it. In a physical game that would soon get well out of hand, I think it was refreshing to see the Hawk captain grab a 6’3″ man and attempt to pound him at center ice. Moreover, the stat sheet shows the Hawks scored four straight following the spirited scrap.
– New Blues (interim) head coach [insert first name that I (i) don’t care about and (ii) will never need to know after the world sees how bad the Blues are over the next few weeks] Payne was apparently looking to send a message during last night’s beating. ‘We’re horrible, but we’ll try to kill you.’ Good luck with that in another league, coach. Take half of your roster with you.