Amazingly, after a first period that saw the Hawks give up a goal on a 5-on-3 and the Sharks scored in the waning moments of the period, the Hawks came back to win easily 6-3. This won’t be the game grizzled old hockey cliches use as evidence.
A big crooked number in the second period from the Hawks, though, turned a close game into a laugher. Marian Hossa kicked off the party with back-to-back power play goals. One came on a beautiful passing play started by Patrick Kane. Kane found Patrick Sharp at the point and Sharp made a slap-pass to Hossa who banged his shot past Antti Niemi.
Hossa’s next goal originated from a Patrick Sharp rush. Sharp left a drop pass to Hossa who cut across the slot and guided his shot through Niemi’s legs.
Jonathan Toews followed suit with his 30th goal of the season a minute later. This time, a misguided attempt by Ben Eager to keep the puck in the Hawks zone allowed Brent Seabrook to chip the puck past him and find Jonathan Toews spearheading a 2-on-1 with Patrick Kane. Toews fired his shot through Niemi’s legs. Exit stage left for Niemi.
Seven minutes later, Tomas Kopecky kept three Sharks at bay as he controlled the puck. He waited and found Niklas Hjalmarsson wide open at the blue line. Hjalmarsson walked down the slot and fired a seeing-eye slap shot that found its way through about five bodies.
After a Logan Couture goal cut the lead to two, Toews, Kane and Sharp went back to work. Twenty seconds later, Patrick Kane had the 100th goal of his career.
—When the big boys score, it makes things look a lot easier. But the Hawks fourth line has actually become their third line and their third line has become their fourth. Jake Dowell, Bryan Bickell and Fernando Pisani are not anything close to a checking line. Dowell, after a really good start to his season, has shown why it took him so long to make it to the NHL. He makes way too many soft plays in his defensive end to be counted on against the opposition’s top three lines. Once again, tonight, I counted at least three giveaways from him in their defensive end. In the first period alone.
Meanwhile, Ryan Johnson, Tomas Kopecky, and Viktor Stalberg are actually pretty effective when matched up against the opposition’s fourth line. But that’s where the rub lies.
Once they start getting more ice time, they’re going to be equally exploited against better competition. Joel Quenneville basically has to decide if he wants to have a really good fourth line play ten minutes or less a night or have two ‘third’ lines take turns getting slayed by the competition’s top three lines.
So as long as Dave Bolland remains out, the Hawks are going to go only so far as their top four forwards and four defensemen take them.
–It wasn’t a very good homecoming for Ben Eager. Then again, he’s been pretty awesome for the Sharks since they acquired him. I don’t think it’s a coincidence since the Sharks made all their mid-season moves, they’ve taken off in the standings and Eager is a big part of that.
–If Patrick Sharp is going to continue his dry spell, four assists will do more than make up for his lack of goal scoring.