It didn’t take long for the Blackhawks to match their goal output from their last game. Sixty-one seconds into Thursday’s tilt against the Blue Jackets, the Hawks struck first blood.
Columbus defenseman Mike Commodore coughed up the puck just inside the Hawks blue line. With no Columbus forward lending support, Kris Versteeg led the ensuing 3-on-1 rush. Versteeg kept himself in a shooting position the whole way down, looked off Jan Hedja, and found Brian Campbell streaking down the right wing. Campbell blasted the puck past Matheiu Garon to give the Hawks the much important first goal.
The Hawks controlled the rest of the opening period and it looked like it would be a smooth ride to two points.
Apparently, the Hawks defensive corps didn’t get that memo. Far too much time was spent in the second period with the Hawks scrambling around their net. Their biggest problem was their inability to get off a clean first pass on the breakout. Ham Sandwich, Jordan Hendry, and Brent Sopel all took turns giving less than stellar breakout passes and the result was the Blue Jackets having sustained pressure around Cristobal Huet.
Huet, though, played his part and made several key stops on the Jackets’ best offensive players. Late in the period, Huet kicked away a Rick Nash shot from the slot and it kickstarted an odd-man rush for the Hawks. John Madden carried the puck over the blue line, waited for Dustin Byfuglien to open up, and set him up perfectly for the one-timer. Byfuglien got every piece of it, and more importantly, hit the net. Garon had no chance at stopping it and the Hawks took a two-goal lead into the final intermission.
The third period started off a lot like the second with Columbus taking advantage of the Hawks inability to break out of their zone. Huet turned away the early pressure and the Hawks’ superior talent once again took over.
Marian Hossa entered the Columbus zone 1-on-3. He spun and waited for help, then chipped the puck in deep for Patrick Sharp. Sharp immediately found Duncan Keith streaking down the slot and Keith’s slapper beat Garon to the far side to give the Hawks all the lead they’d need.
The only tension for the rest of the game was whether Huet would hold on for the shutout. With the Hawks spending the last 7 minutes of the game in the Jackets’ zone, it wasn’t exactly a tension-filled experience.
—At the ten minute mark of the third period, Pat Foley went on his standard Heritage Night rant. Come on, you probably know it word-for-word by now. “And how great is it that the Blackhawks have brought back all these familiar faces. For so many years, they were turned away.” On and on he goes. One has to wonder if Foley’s whole schtick is just a pre-recorded bit or if JWoww is merely turning on his Stepford Foley.
–Any truth to the rumor that Jay Blunk lost all his hair when they surgically removed his head from JWoww’s arse?
–Maybe it’s one big coincidence, but it seems like Ham Sandwich hasn’t been the same since taking a puck off the ear on New Year’s Eve. Other than blocking about a half dozen shots, he looked very pedestrian. He set up Rafi Torres beautifully in the second period when he coughed up the puck in front of Huet and made a few other mistakes which nearly cost the Hawks. In other news, he was named 2nd star of the game, so what the hell do I know.
—Ben Eager had an entertaining sequence half-way through the second period. Ham Sandwich got tattooed by Derek Dorsett who made no attempt to go after the puck. Eager immediately got into the picture and gave Dorsett a bit of a whack. When Dorsett showed he wanted no part of Eager, he took his vengeance out on Kris Russell. Russell gathered the puck at his own blue line; Eager took a run at him from about 20 feet away and sent him head over heels. Eager went off for charging, but it was two minutes well worth it.
—Cristobal Huet earned the shutout in the second period and first part of the third. While I tip-toe the line here so I don’t start a holy war, let me say this: It’s perfectly ok to be worried about what might happen in the playoffs. However, I would add that all 16 fanbases should be nervous about their goalies come playoff time. Seriously, this formula works for every contending team: “If Goalie X doesn’t play well in the playoffs, we’re not going to win anything.”
You could go right down the list of goalies. Every one of them has laid a turd come playoff time. Even the great Marty Brodeur, with whom Huet is so unfairly compared to by many, has had his share of playoff disappointments. So go ahead and be nervous, but just know that there are 15 other fanbases sharing in your misery. If you want to think the Hawks are the only team concerned about their goalie crapping out in the spring, you’re sorely mistaken.
*On the Farm*
—Shawn Lalonde had no points in Belleville’s 5-1 loss to the Peterborough Petes.