Blackhawks 3, Flames 1

After playing their worst game of the season, the Blackhawks responded with a nearly flawless performance against the slumping Calgary Flames.  Their breakouts were crisp, their turnovers were few and far between, and they were buzzing around Mikka Kiprusoff for most of the night.

If it weren’t for Kiprusoff playing such a terrific game, it could’ve gotten very ugly, very quick.  At the outset, the Hawks appeared ready to weather a Calgary storm.  It never came and the Hawks started dictating the tempo.  Kiprusoff had an answer for everything the Hawks threw his way.  His best save sequence came when he stopped a Troy Brouwer slap shot with the paddle of his stick and then moments later denied Patrick Kane on a penalty shot. 

The Hawks finally solved Kiprusoff halfway through the second.  After the fourth line drew their second consecutive power play, Jonathan Toews pryed the puck loose along the boards and spotted Kane wide-open in the slot.  In one motion, Toews swung a backhand pass to Kane who one-timed it through Kiprusoff’s legs to give the Hawks the opening goal.

Though it was only a one goal deficit, the Flames had the interest level of a team down six goals.  When Marian Hossa went off for holding at the end of the period, Calgary responded with their most sustained pressure of the game.  It paid off when Jamie Lundmark banged home a rebound to tie the game.  From there, the Flames started buzzing around the Hawks.  Unfortunately for them, the period was reaching its conclusion.

When both teams came out of the locker room for the third, it was much of the same.  The Hawks controlled the play and the Flames didn’t look all that interested in competing. 

Six minutes in, the fourth line came through again.  Moments after Marc Giordano took a run at Tomas Kopecky, Ben Eager finished off a Kopecky-led rush.  Kopecky carried the puck through the neutral zone, cut across the slot, and let a wrist shot go from the top of the circles.  Eager was crashing the net and the puck rattled off his leg, his foot, and past Kiprusoff.

Save for a few Brent Seabrook turnovers and Craig Conroy ringing a shot off Antti Niemi’s head and then post, it was smooth sailing from there on in. 

The win was capped off with Duncan Keith scoring the Hawks first empty net goal of the season.  With Patrick Sharp covering down low, Keith recognized he could jump up in the play.  Marian Hossa found him streaking down center ice and hit him with a perfect pass to seal the win for the Hawks.

Quickies 

–Really, I can’t state this enough.  The Hawks played a near-perfect defensive game and after the deuce they dropped in Ottawa, it was fantastic to see.  Even Cam Barker was entertaining to watch in his 10 minutes of ice time.

Brent Sopel didn’t play in the third period and was not on the bench.  Gulp.  As I stated on Sunday, the Hawks are probably on borrowed time with Sopel.  He’s going to break down, it’s only a matter of when.  And that’s not a good thing.  The Hawks are wretchedly thin on the defensive front after their top-4.  There’s Cam Barker, Jordan Hendry and…..nothing, unless Brian Connelly or Richard Petiot gets your juices flowing.  

There’s been a bit of scuttle about Scott Niedermayer lately, but Anaheim is waking up from their early season slumber and only 5 points out of a playoff spot.  He’s not going anywhere while they’re that close.  More likely, the Hawks will probably be in the market for a couple depth defensemen who won’t cost a whole bunch.  

–The Hawks fourth line was simply magical tonight.  They drew two penalties, kept the puck in Calgary’s zone, and scored the game-winning goal.  In the post-game interview, Ben Eager stated how they’ve started clicking ever since they figured out how to play with Kopecky.  I thought that was a bit off the cuff and rather interesting.  It ain’t no joke either.  For the past month or so, the fourth line has been outstanding.  

If it keeps up, I’m not sure where Adam Burish will fit in when he comes back.  He’s not nearly as skilled as Eager or Kopecky (who knew??) and I doubt he’s as good at face-offs as Fraser.  Of course, his mythical energy level will probably propel him above Kopecky or Fraser.  

Brent Seabrook really wants to be Team Canada’s 7th defenseman.  It won’t take long for Stevie Y and Mike Babcock to dress Drew Doughty if Seabrook keeps treating the puck like a birthday present from Osama Bin Laden.

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29 Responses to Blackhawks 3, Flames 1

  1. Mack says:

    Burish is an outstanding penalty killer. That is his advantage.

  2. John says:

    Still don’t see where he would fit on the 4th best penalty killing unit in the league. Maybe he takes Fraser’s spot there but he’s not significantly better than anyone else.

  3. CT says:

    Burish does kill penalties well, but that’s the spot where this team is deepest. Toews, Hossa, Sharp, Madden, Versteeg, Fraser and Brouwer have all done an excellent job on the kill this year.

  4. Tom says:

    Not to mention when Bolland comes back, one of Brouwer, Byfuglien or Ladd will be forced down to the fourth line. This means even less space for Burish. At that point he has to beat out two other fourth line players for a roster spot, rather than simply one.

  5. Leonidas says:

    Maybe they can pull a reverse-Buff and make him a defenseman. If successful we would solve the lack of depth at D and Greekness on this team. We need at least one person with Peloponnesian blood on this team if all my ancient rituals and sacrifices are going to work come playoff time.

  6. Dave Morris says:

    Hey, good thing the Hawks signed Laraque in time for this one, eh.

    BTW Adam Burish fulfils a key role on this team, that of Harem Management. Keeps the boys from squeezing their sticks.

  7. blackhawkbob says:

    If I ever have a son, in an effort to make him a professional athlete, I’m going to get him lessons on (i) long snapping and (ii) helping teammates not squeeze their sticks.

  8. illinikc33 says:

    Come on guys, Kopecky sucks. He is bad at hockey. Sure, maybe he’s put together a nice stretch of games, but don’t forget his suckiness for the other 45 this year. Remember, he’s been so bad that Hendry, a defenseman, replaced him on the 4th line a few times earlier in the season. Burish returns, Kopecky is gone, Bolland returns, Fraser is gone.

  9. Dave Morris says:

    Scotty Bowman on Niemi, quoted November 2008 by Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal:
    “He’s played five games, has been first star in four of them, his save percentage is over .950 and he’s got a 1.56 (goals against) average. I know it’s only the American League but (Detroit Red Wings ace scout) Hakan Andersson said at the same age, Niemi is ahead of where (current Wild goalie) Nicklas Backstrom was when he played in Finland. Niemi is big and when the puck’s around the net, he looks like (Roberto) Luongo down low.”

    So we shouldn’t be surprised at this evident transition. As long as they get solid performances during the regular season from both Huet and Niemi–and steady two-way play from the rest of the team as we saw last night–the Hawks are in good shape.

    They probably will make a trade for a depth guy on defense.

    Bolland and Burish coming back can only be a good thing…both of them were key guys in the post season last year.

  10. John says:

    illini, I’m willing to wait this one out. As I said, if it keeps up, then Burish will have problems cracking the lineup. Emphasis on if. When decision time comes, though, the players will probably make it a fairly easy one.

  11. Otter says:

    As much as people try, The Legend of Adam Burish ain’t anything like the Legend of Aaron Rowand. In order of Burish to reach Rowand like levels of mythical standing, the Hawks have to start losing more than they did last year, not win more than last year.

    Everyone once in a while, I take a step back and think… wow this is the best (or 2nd best) team in the league without their starting second line center. And I feel happy.

  12. blackhawkbob says:

    Boys, boys, boys, everyone settle down. Who knew 14 NHL forwards would cause this much in-fighting?

    As tough as I’ve been on Kopecky all season, he’s been much better recently, and he brings a dimension that Burish doesn’t. Remember, though, that Burish played exceedingly well during last year’s playoffs and even contributed offensively.

    For my money, Burish is more of a “playoff player” than Kopecky. He also coasted through most of the regular season last year himself.

  13. Dave Morris says:

    TSN’s Bobby Mack is talking Special K smack again. From their site today:

    “The Calgary Flames are a team that may, and I stress MAY, be interested, however if they are they are going to have to talk about some of the big boys like Dion Phaneuf amongst others to be included.

    “If it’s not Phaneuf then there is a good chance that the Chicago Blackhawks will be interested. I’m not saying that talks have been made, but I am saying that guys like Patrick Sharp or Cam Barker or David Bolland will be in the mix. Legitimate bonafide NHL players is what Waddell is looking for in return, and he is looking for a couple of them.

    “I think that at the end of the day both Chicago and Calgary will be in that group to pursue Kovalchuk and pursue him hard.”

    Make what you will of that one.

    IF this *were* happening, Sharp, Barker, Huet, a pick and a prospect would go for K-Chuk, Ondrej Pavelec and Boris “Lurch” Valabik. And Miss PMOY 2009 would be meeting me for lunch tomorrow.

  14. John says:

    Too much sexiness in those rumors. Give me someone like Greg Zanon. That’s all the Hawks need.

  15. Patrick says:

    – 6 out of 8 points on the road trip so far – not too shabby.

    – For all of the “Niemi-should-be-starting” folks out there, you need Huet to play well for the Hawks to have any chance at trading him to help solve Capapocalypse.

    – I liked the deal that Mr Morris proposed a while back – Barker to FLA for D Siedenburg and a goalie prospect. If the Hawks can throw in Kopetcky to move some extra salary for next year (with Burish coming back), would it be a good deal and have a shot at happeneing?

  16. John says:

    I approve of this trade rumor.

  17. John says:

    For what it’s worth, Aaron Ward’s name sticks out to me just like John Madden’s did on June 30th.

  18. cb says:

    I’d be curious for folks to lay out Kopecky’s admirable qualities. He’s played better the past few weeks but I still see him as weak in every facet of the game. He’s not fast, he’s not strong on the puck, he doesn’t do well along the boards, he’s not a strong hitter in spite of his size, and he’s not exceptionally smart. He’s demonstrated an ability to snap off a nice wrist shot here and there, but do arguments in favor of Kopecky sticking around essentially boil down to the chemistry that the fourth line has recently developed?

    Obviously two of the twelve have to go for both Bolland and Burish to return. With someone like Byfuglien or Ladd getting bumped to a fourth line anchored by Eager, is Kopecky really at all in the picture if Bolland is indeed returning this year? Or are we considering a fourth line of Buph/Ladd, Kopecky and Eager?

  19. Dave Morris says:

    @John> the Seidenberg idea might be advantageous for Chicago, but I don’t know what Randy Sexton wants to do with the Panthers…make a run for the playoffs or plan for next year.

    Aaron Ward is probably available for a book of Lucky Green Stamps and a JR bobblehead.

  20. John says:

    Basically, the argument is if it ain’t broke, why fix it. Along with Kopecky having a bit more offensive skill than Burish. Not to mention, there’s no guarantee that Burish is going to come back from major knee surgery and automatically be the same player we all saw in April and May.

    If the Hawks 4th line keeps clicking and that is a big IF, why should they have to basically hit the reset button by plugging in Burish. He’s not that good of a player to get that kind of treatment.

  21. cb says:

    Fair enough, but what about Fraser centering Eager and Beufph/Ladd? I guess my main point is that adding Bolland necessarily means that a fourth liner gets the axe.

    Frankly, I’m concerned about what kind of shape Bolland will be in when he gets back. Of course with so many Olympians and so many intense games on the horizon, injuries could make this question a lot easier, if more unpleasant.

  22. Dave Morris says:

    John> seeing as there are no cap issues raised by the return of Bolland and/or Burish from IR, the Hawks can afford to carry all players and give themselves some depth for the playoffs.

    Also, I suppose we can expect *someone* will be moved before March 3, if only to address potential problems regarding blueline injuries, experience, depth, etc.

    ‘Too many good players’ is rarely a bad place to be.

    The 40-60 game period being where a team usually sees its real strengths and weaknesses, the Blackhawks appear thus far to be in a favorable position. If they can finish this road trip with 11 or 12 out of the 16 possible points, great.

  23. illinikc33 says:

    While Kopecky has more offensive ability than Burish, he is = or < Burish in every other aspect of the game and, quite frankly, the 4th line is asked to bring energy and bang & crash, not to produce offensively. It has become readily apparent to me that Eager is what makes the 4th line click. Plus, it's not like Eager + Fraser don't know how to play with Burish, as they did that all of last year so there wouldn't really be any chemistry issue.

    Personally I think that the big problem will be that they can't carry an extra forward, unless they decide not to carry a 7th D-man. If they could, then I could foresee Kopecky and Burish splitting time to determine the better course of action come playoff time.

    But either way, once Bolland & Burish come back Kopecky will be canned in favor of Ladd/Buff/Burish, and I have believe it will be Buff on line 4 with Burish/Fraser at center and Eager on the other wing. Burish will have a tough time beating out Fraser, IMO, if he wants to crack the lineup, not Kopecky.

  24. John says:

    Dave–Agreed, to me, their only true weakness is a lack of defensive depth. Shoring that up will go a long way towards pushing them above the rest of the field. I liken it to Detroit acquiring Brad Stuart a couple years ago at the deadline. That was a huge move for them.

    illini–Can’t disagree with anything you said. It’ll be interesting to see once/if Bolland and Burish come back.

  25. Lou says:

    Let’s go get Dion Phanuef. Okay let’s not. He won’t fit into Burish’s harem management program. Great one there Dave. Right up there with kerfuffle

    If Bolland and Burish come back, it obviously gives us the option to rest some guys too and play matchups in the playoffs.

    As for a trade, I am all for the blueline depth and would like to see us free up some space to sign some of our role players in addition to Ham and Niemi. I think the Ladd’s and the Eager’s make this team go too.

  26. Dave Morris says:

    John> the Brad Stuart analogy is a very good one.

    BTW an article today by Tim Sassone re: StanBow’s views on March trades, worth everyone’s attention:
    http://www.dailyherald.com/story/?id=353164

    Stan says he may stand pat…or he may not. The article’s a good read.

    The polar opposite of Tallon, he’s saying exactly what he should say to keep everyone guessing. Why tip your hand in a poker game?

    The way the Hawks are being fine tuned, follows the Scotty Bowman Blueprint. Bowman came to Chicago to do what he’s wanted to do for a long time…help build a perennial contender that has realistic chances at becoming a Stanley Cup Champion.

    After Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment snubbed him, the opportunity in Chicago, following his son’s recovery from cancer, couldn’t be more fortunate for Blackhawk Nation.

    And a brilliant move by Rocky Wirtz to bring him on board.

    Some people, nonetheless, mock the ’eminence grise’ that Scotty prefers to be, and make fun of Stan because he’s ‘Scotty’s boy’ (which is just plain stupid).

    To have the chance to work with one’s father in one’s profession, when that man is one of the most brilliant in the history of that profession, has to be something very special.

    Scotty Bowman has a track record as a winner unequalled in the hockey world. Smart guy.

    Stan Bowman’s also a very smart guy. We’ll see if he’s as smart a GM, very, very soon.

    On a completely different but not unrelated topic, the team that dethroned the Canadiens powerhouse–the New York Islanders–won the Stanley Cup with two netminders, Billy Smith and Chico Resch.

    They did so in 1979-80 and repeated the feat with the same tandem the following year, despite Smith and Resch’s number being much less than impressive.

  27. Dave Morris says:

    FYI> relative to Stan Bowman’s interview in The Herald…at this point, the Hawks have $1.069 million in cap room, allowing them to add a contract with an annual cap hit up to $2.6MM (source: CapGeek).

    If that source and the math is correct, that would make the following pending UFA players affordable without having to shed salary:

    Defensemen:
    Joe Corvo
    Henrikl Tallinder
    Anton Volchenkov
    Brian Pothier
    Aaron Ward
    Adrian Aucoin
    Dennis Seidenberg
    Dan Hamhuis
    Mark Eaton
    Shaone Morrisonn
    Niclas Wallin
    Nick Boynton
    Milan Jurcina
    Zbynek Michalek
    Carlo Colaiacovo
    Sean O’Donnell

    http://nhlnumbers.com/sort.php?pos=D&type=capnumber&order=DESC&i=100

    Take your pick.

  28. Jack says:

    Said in the same way Billy Dee Williams as Gale Sayers said about James Caan as Brian Piccolo in the Made for TV Movie “Brian’s Song”…”I Love Dave Morris!”.

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