For the second Sunday in a row, the Hawks came out of the gates a little flat against the Ducks, at least on the defensive side of the puck. Last week, it didn’t hurt them; this week it did.
Seven minutes into the game, Patrick Sharp took out a chunk out of Mike Brown’s leg in the neutral zone and was sent off for two minutes. On the ensuing power play, Antti Niemi bumbled the puck behind his net when he tried passing it to Brent Seabrook. In a scramble to get back, Niemi poked the puck off Corey Perry’s stick. But in a bit of bad fortune, Perry was able to re-acquire the puck and sent it through Niemi’s legs for the opening goal.
Then, Patrick Sharp and Jack Skille got caught a little too low in the Anaheim zone and Andrew Ladd took a poor angle on the Ducks breakout. The mistakes resulted in Bobby Ryan streaking down the left wing, stopping on a dime and firing a puck to an uncovered Saku Koivu while Jordan Hendry watched admirably.
With the two goal lead, the Ducks were more than happy to let the Hawks break out of their zone, dictate the tempo, and control the puck. The Ducks employed the always fun to watch “Stick five guys in our slot and pray for the best” strategy.
What resulted was a final two periods of play where the Hawks had the puck about 92% of the time. Of course, the reason why this strategy worked so well was because goalie Jonas Hiller channeled his performances from last year’s Western Conference Semi-Finals.
Hiller stopped all 18 Hawk shots in the second period. Then, in the third, the Hawks really started moving the puck around. They moved it from side-to-side with lightning quickness to get Hiller’s feet moving. He responded by making his best save sequences of the game.
Finally with just under five minutes left, Duncan Keith’s point shot caught Hiller in an awkward position and went past him to cut the deficit in half. The Ducks’ blood was in the water and the simple act of clearing their own zone was greeted with the difficulty of solving the world’s climate crisis.
In the end, that’s actually what came up to bite the Hawks. With their top line of Kane-Toews-Brouwer on the ice at the 2 minute mark, the puck never left Anaheim’s side of the ice. The subsequent scrambles in front of Hiller and tight-checking never allowed them to change their lines.
So with about 45 seconds left, Patrick Kane’s in-zone pass to Dustin Byfuglien was coughed up and sent into the Hawks end. Duncan Keith blindly fired a pass up the wall that was picked off by Saku Koivu. He found Todd Marchant who fed Teemu Selanne so he could score his obligatory goal against the Hawks and that was that.
–What was Duncan Keith thinking at the end of the game? No, not just firing the puck up the wall without a clue. Rather, after Selanne scored the empty-netter and with Patrick Sharp diving past the net, Keith flung his stick at the empty net with Sharp’s skull just a few inches away. We get it, you’re upset you lost, but you’ll probably be more upset if you’re the reason your teammate no longer has a head.
–The Marian Hossa injury is making me very itchy. According to Tim Sassone, all the Hawks would say is he is out with a lower body injury and offered no additional details. That doesn’t seem like a very good sign; hopefully it is just day-to-day though.
–Any guesses as to what Scott Niedermayer had to pay for tonight’s open skate session. Niedermayer looked completely disinterested during his 26 minutes of ice time. Not once, not twice, but three times Patrick Kane knocked Niedermayer off the puck like he was John LeClair.
–Yes, Dustin Byfuglien is not a defenseman. However, with Cam Barker out with an upper-body injury, the Hawks options for point-men on the power play is rather limited. Would you rather see Brent Sopel, Ham Sandwich, or Jordan Hendry wheel and deal with the man advantage? The only one I’d like to catch a glimpse of is Ham Sandwich but I don’t think his game is developed enough for that type of responsibility.
–Not a very good back-to-back set for Jordan Hendry. After he coughed up the puck that led to Latendresse’s tying goal on Saturday night, Hendry stood and watched while the muscle-bound Saku Koivu planted his tiny ass in front of the net for the Ducks’ second goal. Up until that point in the first period, he had six shifts. Hendry only saw six more shifts the rest of the game. That sound you hear is all the fantasy GM’s around town erasing him from their 2010-2011 Blackhawks defensive depth chart.
–Perhaps Saturday night’s heartbreaking loss will cloud people’s judgment but make no mistake, there is nothing different with tonight’s Hawks team than the one you’ve seen all season. It was laughable to hear Pat and Eddie say how well the Ducks played halfway through the third and the stats didn’t tell the whole story. A team that hadn’t touched the puck since the first period was being commended? Just plain silly. The Hawks made two mistakes and they ended up in their net. The Ducks made countless but the Hawks couldn’t find twine. Such is life in the hockey world.
*Weekend Farm Update*
–Friday Night: Houston Aeros 5, Rockford 3– Corey Crawford and Akim Aliu both returned from injuries, but it wasn’t enough. Crawford stopped 25 of 30 shots in the loss. Jack Skille, Bryan Bickell and Rob Klinkhammer scored for Rockford. Brian Connelly added two assists. He is now 16th in the “A” in points among defenseman with 21.
Saturday: San Antonio Rampage 2, Rockford 1– Matt Keith scored in the first period with an assist from Mark Cullen. Then, it was lights out the rest of the way. Joseph Fallon got the start and stopped 35 of 37 shots.
Sunday: Rockford 2, Houston Aeros 1 (OT)– The IceHogs avenged their Friday night loss with an overtime win in Houston. Kyle Greentree scored their first goal with assists from Akim Aliu and Bracken Kearns. In overtime, Mike Brennan got the game-winner with help from Greentree and Evan Brophey. Corey Crawford rebounded with a solid performance stopping 26 of 27 shots.
—Shawn Lalonde: Friday- No points and a -2 in a 5-1 loss to the Ottawa 67’s. Saturday- An assist in 7-0 win over the Sudbury Wolves.
—Byron Froese: Friday- Did not play in 3-0 win over Seattle Thunderbirds. Sunday- Scored Everett’s first goal in a 4-3 shootout win over Kyle Beach and Spokane. Froese didn’t score in his shootout attempt.
—Kyle Beach: Friday- No points in 3-0 loss. Saturday- No points in 2-1 win against the Tri-City Americans. Sunday- A goal and an assist in 4-3 shootout loss to Everett. He was denied on his shootout attempt.
—Dylan Olsen and Dan DeLisle: In a weekend sweep against Colorado College, neither Olsen nor DeLisle registered a point and had an even +/- of 0.
—Billy Sweatt: Scored a goal on Friday night in 5-2 loss to Minnesota-Duluth.
—Brandon Pirri: Had two assists in Sunday’s 4-1 win over Princeton. The game was televised on ESPNU. While my fiance is more than understanding when it comes to me and all things hockey, something about telling her I planned to spend my Sunday afternoon scouting the Hawks ’09 2nd round pick probably wouldn’t have played to much critical acclaim. The good news is I DVR’d the game so expect a full rundown of Pirri in the middle of this week.