Blackhawks 4, Sabres 3

It’s hard to imagine Monday night’s game starting off any worse for the Hawks.  Coming off two straight losses and with their backup goalie Corey Crawford starting his fifth career game, the Sabres scored a pair of goals within the first three minutes.

Luckily, it didn’t get any worse. 

After some sustained pressure from the Sabres, the Hawks finally started getting their legs into the game.  Marian Hossa drew a tripping penalty in his own zone and the power play went to work.  Thanks to some truly horrendous clearing efforts by the Sabres and solid puck movement from the Hawks, Patrick Kane buried a low wrist from the top of the circles to get the Hawks on the board.  Instead of his patented fist pump to celebrate the goal, Kane busted out what could be best described as ‘the sack tickler’ for the hometown crowd. 

Towards the end of the first, Niklas Hjalmarsson got a 5 minute boarding call and game misconduct for bouncing Jason Pominville’s head off the boards on a truly dangerous check.  Corey Crawford made one huge save in the first minute of the man advantage and the Hawks penalty kill was nails the rest of the way.

The Hawks put their best period of the young season together in the second.  They dominated the play on both ends of the ice and their reward was turning a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead.  Nick Leddy scored the first NHL goal of his career when his point shot bounced all over the place on its way past Ryan Miller.  Then Marian Hossa closed out the period with his first snipe job of the night.  Hossa faked his typical slap shot from 15 out, waited for Miller to make his move, and then buried the puck past him.

Hossa added his second early in the third when he picked up a loose puck at the Sabres blue line and on a 3-on-2, elected to keep it himself, and beat Miller to the glove side.

Tim Connolly scored two minutes later to cut the lead in half after Jake Dowell had all sorts of problems down low in the defensive zone.  Corey Crawford and the Hawks penalty kill stood tall the rest of the way and the 2010-2011 Blackhawks were on the board.

Thoughts

The Hawks penalty kill was outstanding tonight.  They killed all 5 penalties, including what could’ve been a devastating too many men penalty with 2 minutes left in the game.  The Sabres rarely had a clean look and when they did, Corey Crawford was there.  If the Hawks power play is going to be skittish this year, then they better have a excellent penalty kill.  You can win with one unit being mediocre and one unit being excellent.  You can’t win when both are mediocre.

–It’s been almost a nightmarish start of the season for Niklas Hjalmarsson.  After being on the ice for the first seven goals allowed, Hjalmarsson got ejected for his check on Jason Pominville and will most certainly get a call from the league office. 

Things can’t really get worse for him, so here’s hoping it gets better.  Because if the excuse for Hjalmarsson’s struggles are Brian Campbell’s absence, then he’s nothing more than a 4th defenseman.

–It took Joel Quenneville nearly a month (counting training camp and pre-season) to realize Troy Brouwer, Dave Bolland, and Bryan Bickell were not a very good combination.  Mercifully, he moved Jack Skille and Viktor Stalberg up to Bolland’s line.  They responded with some very strong shifts.  Skille, in particular, looks like a legitimate top-9 forward for the first time in his career.  He’s flying all over the ice and it should be only a matter of time before pucks start finding the back of the net for him.

–Nick Boynton and John Scott should be good enough to get the Hawks to the March trade deadline.  Then it’s time to swing a deal or two.  Otherwise, you’re just playing with matches over jugs of gasoline.

–The Hawks gave up 35 shots.  That’s two of three games so far where the shot totals have bordered on pornographic. 

–Hossa’s second goal was especially comforting to see.  Hossa, too often, passes up a glorious chance to put the puck on net.  Instead, he’s looking to make a pass that isn’t there.  For example, in the first period, he completely undressed two Sabre defensemen with a toe-drag move and instead of shooting from 10 feet out, he tried passing it back to Tomas Kopecky.  You’re Marian Hossa.  He’s Tomas Kopecky.  This isn’t difficult to figure out.

–If this is the grand plan for Troy Brouwer this year -playing 9 minutes a night on the 4th line- then the Hawks are better off cutting bait with him before he has zero value left.  I’m not sure what Brouwer did to be banished to Never-Never Land but it makes no sense for someone of his ability to see less ice time than Jake Dowell.

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11 Responses to Blackhawks 4, Sabres 3

  1. Cam says:

    Hjalmarsson’s hit wasn’t more than hitting from behind, and that just barely since he got Pominville slightly from behind and slightly from the side. Pominville never set himself which made made him susceptible to being drive into the boards.

  2. hecez says:

    Pominville saw the hit coming and chose not to protect himself. I get it. Players safety is number one but when you elect to take a check for the sake of making a play and get a concussion, it’s not necessarily the checker’s fault. Hammer hit him shoulder to shoulder and it was harder than Pominville expected. Not Hammer’s fault. It’s a clean hit with the player knowing it was coming. Hammer might miss some time to be made an example out of but his hit was far from dirty.

  3. royze1 says:

    Part of me (the fan part) thinks that 5 and a game is all there is to this but the logic part (hard to use where Colin Campbell is concerned) thinks that Hammer is sitting 1-2 games. I think Pominville should share in the blame for standing like he’s waiting for a street light to change while play is along the boards, talk about asking to be rag dolled and Hammer doesn’t have a history which comes into play. The problem is it’s Colin Campbell and he hasn’t been consistent in the past with length/crime. The good part is he was a defensemen and knows what the thought process was from Hammer. He also knows Hammer was looking at a lot of number from Pominville and probably should have hit him differently. Knowing the teams are playing again Saturday I’d imagine Hammer is sitting for that game too. So if he makes a decision before Wednesday’s game I would think Hammer gets 2 games if it’s after then 1 game.

    Personally I don’t think suspension is the right play but a stiff fine like the NFL does on hits to the head is in order, it takes a lot of the judgement call out of it for Campbell. Which I would be willing to guess he would love. On plays that aren’t in tune with the new head targeting rule but result in the head being hit a fine but not suspension would be the punishment. Where a guy is in a spot like Pominville it’s ok to take that chance of hitting him but you risk the penalty obviously and a fine.

  4. John says:

    I figured this was coming….come on, you can’t seriously expect for Pominville to share in the blame. He’s the victim. It doesn’t really matter what happened. The NHL is not going to put up with guys getting taken off the ice on stretchers especially on the result of checks and not incidental contact.

    I’m not saying a suspension is definite but it wouldn’t suprise me in the least.

  5. Slak says:

    Good point on Hossa looking to dish. I thought the same thing last night before he finally went into Kill Mode and buried a couple chances. He is an absolute beast. I get the feeling he could score 40 this year if he just keeps firing at the net instead of trying to set up his Slovakian butt buddy.

  6. Otter says:

    I too am happy that Q! (sorry Carlos, but you’re just q) finally realized that his 4th line had been out playing his 3rd line. The Hawks might just have a better 4th line this year, but whatever is/was that thing they called the 3rd line wasn’t even close to last years line.

    That’s going to be the real key for the Hawks in the first two months (hell all year) is finding all those goals that the 3rd line chipped in, not to mention the minutes they played. I too am happy with Skille and Stalberg after three games, and while they haven’t had me forgetting Steerger and Ladd, maybe they will…

  7. modnar says:

    i would be disappointed if he were suspended more than a game. especially considering the fact that ovechkin got only 2 games for a far more dangerous play.

  8. blackhawkbob says:

    Couldn’t agree more, Otter. That third line is so important, because winning with two lines is not an option in this league anymore. Without Havlat or Versteeg, someone has to step up on that line, and I think we know enough about Dave Bolland at this point to know that he’s not the even-strength player the line needs him to be. Maybe Jack Skille skating around at 100 mph will be enough for that line to produce a bit.

  9. Dave Morris says:

    Genteelmen, as the Hawks begin their defense of the Cup with exactly the same record after three games as last year, one can take heart in many aspects of last night’s victory.

    Your positives are well observed. If I might add my musings:

    >Mr Boynton was very steady last night in his 23:06 of TOI , and finished a plus 2, AND had an assist on young Leddy’s tally. He deserves your respect.

    >Mr. Scott was also a plus 2 in his 16:51, and also merits your respect.

    >Mr. Brouwer isn’t playing very well, not hitting, not shooting, not doin’ nuttin. Thus, his demotion. But he will probably get his poop together.

    >Mr. Crawford appears to have matured in his approach to the game, which augurs well for the coming season.

    Bottom line, HAWKS WIN.

  10. John says:

    I think Mr. Brouwer would quote the late, great Mr. Marlon Brando in saying, “What’s my motivation?” For whatever reason, Brouwer’s demotion and drop in level of play occured during his father’s sickness last year. Up until that point, he was a top line player while playing in all situations. If Quenneville lost all confidence in him based on a small track record of play while going through a family emergency, why would Brouwer have any motivation to prove himself all over again.

  11. blackhawkbob says:

    Dave, you’re right; Brouwer hasn’t done much of anything during the season’s first three games. I think this might be more a function of demotion than the other way around as he’s always been a better player on a scoring line than otherwise.

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