On a Sunday afternoon in the middle of January, the Blackhawks and Red Wings combined to put forth one of the most entertaining games you’ll see in the regular season. Both teams took turns controlling the game; both goalies made their share of big saves, and the overtime was played with desperation that usually isn’t seen until spring.
The Hawks, for the second game in a row, jumped out to a 2-0 lead. And for the second game in a row, they gave it right back.
Troy Brouwer put the Hawks on the board first when his finished off a 2-on-1 with Jonathan Toews. Brouwer fired the puck through Jimmy Howard’s legs for his 14th goal of the season. The goal finished off a wild sequence where Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader was stoned by Antti Niemi twice from close range. The puck squirted out to Cam Barker who started the scoring play.
The rest of the first period was the Wings trying to keep up with the Hawks and the result was Detroit spending a ton of time in the penalty box. Patrick Kane finally made Detroit pay after their third penalty when he corralled the puck along the right wall, stepped out to the slot, and lasered a low hard one past Howard.
With a chance to step on Detroit’s throat, the Hawks gave them some much-needed life at the end of the first when Duncan Keith and the rest of his icemates turned a 3-on-3 situation into a 2-on-1 and finally into a 1-on-0.
Henrik Zetterberg carried the puck into the Hawks zone. Marian Hossa was back-checking like a mad man but instead of covering the trailing forward, he went for the puck carrier. Keith went after Zetterberg even though Hossa had him all but tied up. What happened was he left Pavel Datsyuk unattended who Zetterberg immediately found. Datsyuk slipped it across to Niklas Lidstrom and he didn’t miss. In the meantime, Patrick Sharp was coasting through the neutral zone as his man, Lidstrom, was celebrating his goal.
The second period was a role reversal. The Hawks couldn’t stay out of the box and the Wings controlled the play. After successfully killing off two penalties in a row, the Hawks were unable to kill off Patrick Sharp’s trip. Brent Seabrook overcommitted just a bit too much on Datsyuk and that small slice of open ice was all Zetterberg needed. Datsyuk slipped it across to him; he made a nifty kick-to-the-stick move and found room in between Niemi’s legs to tie the score at 2.
The Hawks answered back three minutes later when Duncan Keith made a terrific cross-ice pass to Patrick Sharp who did an even better job of staying open and the Hawks were right back in front. What made that play so nice was instead of just going hard to the net, Sharp timed his dash nicely so that as soon as Keith was firing the pass, he was in the perfect position to just tap it in.
In the third, the Hawks were perfectly content with sitting on the one goal lead and forcing Detroit to go the length of the ice. It was going well enough until Patrick Eaves finished off a set face-off play halfway through the period. There was really nothing anyone on the Hawks could have done about it, save for maybe winning the initial face-off. Every Wing was covered, but with Niemi screened, Eaves’ well-placed wrist shot found the back of the net.
Neither team could score the rest of the way in and the overtime was a study in madness.
It started off awfully with Brent Seabrook coughing up the puck to Zetterberg and only Niemi’s right leg prevented the game from ending right there. Datsyuk nearly finished it when he powered his way past Brian Campbell. Again, Niemi made a kick save.
The Hawks had plenty of chances of their own to finish it too. Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa each had golden opportunities to be heroes. Hossa, in particular, had the best chances of the extra frame. Twice, he buried a point-blank shot into Howard’s chest. Then, with time ticking down, Sharp fed him on a 2-on-1 and Hossa shanked the shot badly with a mostly wide-open net staring back at him.
The shootout was, well, a shootout. Datsyuk scored on a wonderful slow-play drag move. Toews fired it through Howard’s legs. Bertuzzi did some sort of retarded spin-o-rama. Hossa sniped it low on Howard and Sharp won it with a slight hesistation move beating Howard over his glove.
—Detroit currently sits at 9th place of the Western Conference. They keep playing like this, they won’t be there for long. Look for them to nab a 4th or 5th seed before this season is over. Of course, that’s assuming they stay healthy the rest of the way in.
—Jeremy Roenick made his debut on the NHL on NBC today. While he was fairly entertaining to listen to and watch, I fear that he’s well on his way into becoming a parody of himself. Or in other words, the next Brett Hull. Give it a couple months and we’ll probably be subjected to him screaming hockey cliches at us. A few more months and there will be whispers about him interested in signing Sean Avery to a long-term deal.
—Marian Hossa wore out the wheel on Jimmy Howard’s sweater. With a team-high 7 shots in the game, Hossa buried nearly every shot into Howard’s chest. When his turn came up in the shootout and the Hawks needing a goal to stay alive, I thought there was a .0000021% chance of him scoring. Instead, he calmly came right down and picked a low corner to keep the Hawks alive.
–With his 20th goal of the season, Patrick Kane now leads the team. What was so remarkable about the goal was Kane’s decision to fire a low hard shot. Nearly every open-ice goal Kane has scored this year, he’s picked out an upper corner. If he starts picking out areas around the ankles, you might be looking at the Hawks next 50-goal scorer. Not this year, mind you, but some day.
–After Detroit’s first goal, Kris Versteeg and Patrick Eaves partook in a wildly entertaining scrap. What was even more humorous was listening to Pierre McGuire wax poetically about Eaves’ bravery in standing up to the chiseled Versteeg. McGuire explained that Versteeg, a former Lethbridge Hurricane, was used to scrapping because of his junior days while Eaves, a 6-year NHL veteran, wasn’t because he attended Boston College. Even if you ignore all of that non-sense, McGuire kept going on about Versteeg’s fighting experience in the NHL. So to recap, here’s his track record: Pulling an unaware Kyle Turris out of a pile and getting cracked in the head by Willie Mitchell. Yup, a real heavyweight.
—Cam Barker’s last shift of the game came at the 13:00 minute mark of the third period. He capped it off by trying a goofy cross-ice flip pass that Eaves picked off and nearly snuck past Niemi.
–And we nearly saw the last of Barker’s defensive partner, Brent Sopel, today too. Halfway through the third, Sopel went crashing into Niemi and slammed his surgically-repaired elbow hard into the boards. He went off the ice in an extreme amount of pain. Sopel ended up returning to finish the game.
Now, I hate to say this, but we might be on borrowed time with Sopel. The type of game the rugged defenseman plays doesn’t exactly lend itself to longevity. In fact, the last time he played more than 80 games in a season, the NHL had yet to cancel an entire season because of a work stoppage. Plus, you add in he’s 7 years older along with the heavy mileage. For the Hawks to think there won’t be any hiccups would be very short-sighted. And to think he won’t be missed would also be short-sighted.
–The Blackhawks weekend farm update will be coming within the next day or so.