Friday night’s game in Carolina had “loss” written all over it from the very beginning. Besides the Hawks playing rather flat hockey – Carolina is fast becoming the Bermuda Triangle of Blackhawks hockey – the game came down to two breakaways following penalty kills. Jonathan Toews missed a chance to tie the game at one following his penalty in the second, and Brandon Sutter stepped out of the box early in the third and made it a two-goal game. The Hawks hadn’t done anything up to that point to suggest they could make up a two-goal deficit, and they didn’t. Case closed.
One noteworthy thing that came from Friday’s game was the suspension of Daniel Carcillo. Funny how fan bases see essentially identical plays in different ways depending on which side of the play their player was on. While Carcillo’s hit seemed very similar to Alexander Ovenchkin’s hit on Brian Campbell a couple seasons ago to me – the fact that Joni Pitkanen didn’t miss a shift and that Campbell missed a month notwithstanding – Carcillo and many Hawk fans are outraged that he was suspended for the hit. Ovechkin got two games for the hit on Campbell, and many were ready to set their children on fire to send a message to the NHL afterwards.
Given that flat loss Friday night, Saturday night’s game was an important one – playing host to one of the NHL’s worst teams after a loss seemed like something of a trap. Alas, the Hawks were able to take advantage of the match-up and beat up a struggling Columbus team. Even with three goals called back – and a Patrick Sharp shot that hit the cross bar but that many thought went in at the time – the Hawks beat the Jackets 5-2.
I understand that goals and assists are very important to NHL forwards, but I thought the third line embarrassed itself a bit during Saturday’s last shift. Dave Bolland – who in all fairness scored his fifth of the season during the game’s first period – shot a backhand from his own blue line at an empty net in an attempt to stretch the lead to three with about 20 seconds left. The ill-advised shot resulted in a defensive zone face-off that didn’t cause any damage to the Hawks. Then, on a puck that bounced into the Jackets’ zone, Michael Frolik chased after it like American freedom was on the line. He scored on the play. I can’t imagine that no one looked at them a bit sideways when they returned to the bench.
The power play is bad; there’s no doubt. What’s worst about it, though, is that fact that the entry is the big issue. While not scoring on the man advantage is one thing, not being able to keep the puck in the offensive zone is another. The good news is that the top unit looked better Saturday – and that’s with the strong, aggressive play of the Jackets’ kill.
Oh, man, are the Jackets in trouble. What’s most interesting is that they’re arguably the league’s worst team – and that they’ve ostensibly identified the team’s core and are currently paying those players as such. While having Rick Nash and Jeff Carter each signed for at least the next seven years is nice, Nash is making just under $8M per. (Each of Toews and Patrick Kane are making less than $6.5 for the foreseeable future.) While I actually think the James Wisniewski signing is one that can be defended – power play quarterbacks aren’t a dime a dozen; whether he’s that guy may be another question – having RJ Umberger around for the next six years at $4.5M per is difficult to defend. And, with unemployment at 10% in this country, it’s difficult to fathom that Fedor Tyutin’s $4.5M salary is guaranteed until 2018. Asking Craig Button to fix this, though, is like asking a dental hygienist to perform open heart surgery.
Bold prediction: Viktor Stalberg will be fourth liner again by the end of the week.
Ray Emery’s play Saturday was surpassed only by his new mask. Not bad at all. We’ve seen the feather treatment plenty times before, but having chiefs on the sides is a first, I think.
There’s been a Sami Lepisto sighting. Count me among the people happy to see that Sean O’Donnell was the scratched Hawk rather than Steve Montador. Montador has played well during the last couple weeks and seems to be able to push the play a bit as well.