The race to 95 points began tonight and for the Blackhawks, it was two points in the right direction. Now they just have 31 to go.
After a shaky start, the Hawks potted a power play goal thanks to some terrific passing from Marian Hossa and Dave Bolland. Brian Campbell finished what they started and the Hawks were off and running.
The game probably could have been finished by the end of the second if it wasn’t for Jose Theodore partying like it was 2002. The Hawks had four power plays in the second period and were unable to sneak anything past Theodore. So the lead stayed at 1-0.
In the third, Minnesota capitalized on a Bryan Bickell penalty. The Hawks seemed to have the Wild power play under control until Jared Spurgeon came racing through the neutral zone. A give-and-go between him and Matt Cullen tied the game at 1.
Just seconds later, Chuck Kobasew took a ridiculous penalty when he threw his stick at Viktor Stalberg’s feet in the neutral zone. On the ensuing power play, Duncan Keith kept the scoring play alive when he held the blue line and kept the puck in Minnesota’s end. Dave Bolland found Troy Brouwer on a mini 2-0n-1 with Marian Hossa. Brouwer’s cross-crease pass deflected off Greg Zanon’s stick and trickled through the legs of Theodore.
The Hawks regained a lead they would never relinquish.
–If this is the Marian Hossa the Hawks can expect for the remainder of the season, then the playoffs shouldn’t even be a worry. That’s a big if, however. Hossa was a machine sent from the future to destroy tonight. Two assists and he took the puck strong to the crease every time he had the opportunity. Other than being healthy, it seemed like, for the first time in ages, Hossa stopped waiting for his linemates to do the heavy lifting. Lo and behold, he, Bolland, and Frolik actually looked like they knew what they were doing together.
–Speaking of Bolland, he was dynamite on the power play. It’s nice to have as good of a first unit as the Hawks have, but to have a really great power play, they need both lines to contribute. Bolland was the driving force behind the second unit tonight. He was great distributing the puck from the half-wall and the side of the net. Again, more of this and the playoffs shouldn’t even be a concern.
–The Bickell-Kopecky-Brouwer line…not as big of a trainwreck as one would imagine.
–I find the Hawks defensive pairings to be absolutely mystifying as I’m sure mostly everyone else does. The curious thing to me is at the beginning of the year when points weren’t a premium, Nick Leddy wouldn’t touch the ice past the half way point of the game. Now with their season on the line, the Hawks have no problem with him taking huge shifts in tight games. Even this past weekend in the two overtime games, there was Leddy skating with the game on his stick.
Yet at the beginning of the year, he couldn’t get a sniff even with a two goal lead. Something seems backwards here.
–The Hawks took to the ice today without Joel Quenneville tonight for an undisclosed reason. Quenneville was rushed to the emergency room last night because of ‘severe discomfort’.
I thought the Hawks handled the situation very poorly this morning when news broke of Quenneville’s visit to the emergency room. Instead of simply saying, “It’s a private matter,” or “We don’t have all the information so we don’t want to say anything until we do”, they simply said he was in the hospital for an undisclosed illness and it wasn’t cardiac related. Stan Bowman released a statement saying the organization was thinking of Joel and his family during this time. And that was it. It sure seemed like the Hawks were trying to keep something secret.
Imagine the outcry from the media if the Bears tried pulling a stunt like that. The city would probably burn down in a matter of hours.
With the Hawks, it was greeted with a shrug, a witty upper body injury quip, and that was it. I guess that’s just the way it is and someday I’ll get used to it.
I didn’t think Joel Quenneville’s medical condition was a huge international incident or even public information for that matter, but it just seemed like the Hawks were awfully close to starting a firestorm of controversy for no reason.
(Of course, my tweets seemed to get misunderstood this afternoon when I was told countless times I was making a big deal of nothing or that Joel Quenneville’s medical condition is none of my business. Clearly, I understand that but it’s hard to get your real point across in 140 characters especially when everything you write people automatically assume you’re screaming it. I hate Twitter.)
–Troy Brouwer scored his 17th goal tonight. Don’t worry, though, he still can’t finish.
–In his third game with the Hawks, Michael Frolik still seems to be adjusting. The Hawks stress a lot of movement with and without the puck in the offensive zone and it’s clearly not something that’s taught in Florida. More than a few times so far, Frolik has gained the puck in the offensive zone and stopped moving his legs while waiting for someone to get open. It’s probably going to take a little bit before he’s finally up to speed.
The encouraging thing is Frolik seems to have a clue in the defensive end and doesn’t mind taking a hit to make a play. So he should avoid the 4th line doghouse where many have been sent to die this year.