Today’s game between the Blackhawks and Red Wings was as close to a playoff game as you will find during the regular season. Quick-paced and physical play, incredible goaltending, and low scoring. That is the best way to describe the playoffs, and that is exactly how today’s game was played.
If the Detroit-Chicago rivalry wasn’t a good enough reason for the Red Wings to want to win this game, then the fact that the Hawks hadn’t lost in regulation yet this season should have done the trick. Based on the way the Wings played, you could tell they wanted this one badly.
The fist period was pretty much dominated by the Blackhawks. Much of the period was spent in the Detroit end as the Hawks peppered Jimmy Howard with 9 shots on goal. Howard stopped all 9 and seemed to set the tone for the rest of the game. Detroit was able to get off just 3 shots through the first 20 minutes of action, and like Howard, Corey Crawford had an answer for all 3.
The second period was a much more intense period than its predecessor. Both teams were putting a ton of pressure on each other at both ends of the ice and generated multiple Grade-A scoring chances. Jimmy Howard and Corey Crawford, however, played like brick walls and came up with huge save after huge save. It almost seemed as though they had a personal battle going between one another to see who could come up with the biggest, best saves. After two periods, the game remained scoreless, but the shot totals grew to 21-18 in favor of the Hawks.
The third period was filled with just as much intensity as the second. Just 2:43 into the third, Tomas Tatar beat Crawford with a one-timer that was setup beautifully by Joakim Andersson from behind the net. It was at this time that it appeared as though the Hawks’ streak may be coming to an end.
As the third period moved along, both sides continued to get decent scoring chances, but both goalies kept on making the big saves. There must have been more highlight-reel saves in this game than every game from Saturday night (9 games) combined.
Then with 2:25 remaining in the third, Jonathan Ericsson was given a 2-minute delay of game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass from inside the Wings’ defensive zone. On the ensuing Blackhawks’ powerplay, after Patrick Sharp’s slap shot from the point was blocked in front of the net, the puck dropped to the ice and Viktor Stalberg was able to backhand a pass to Patrick Kane. Kane, all in one motion, caught the pass and let go of a wicked wrister that beat Jimmy Howard over his left shoulder to tie the game. Stalberg’s pass was a thing of beauty and couldn’t have been more perfectly placed. After Kane’s goal, there was just 2:02 remaining on the clock.
In the dying moments of the game, Johan Franzen backhanded a shot that beat Corey Crawford and hit off the post. That would have been an incredible turnaround in the game had that puck gone in. Then with 1:23 left in the game, Niklas Kronwall was hit with a delay of game penalty for also shooting the puck out of play from his own defensive zone.
The Wings would keep the Hawks from scoring in regulation and the game headed to overtime.
In overtime, Detroit killed off the rest of Kronwall’s penalty to put both teams at even strength. As was the case throughout all of regulation, each goalie (Crawford especially) came up with some big time saves to keep their teams alive. No goals would be scored and a shootout was on the way.
After Datsyuk, Toews, and Brunner were all denied on their shootout attempts (three of the best players in the NHL at shootouts), Patrick Kane pulled out another incredible move from his bag of tricks to beat Howard and put the Hawks in front.
Henrik Zetterberg was Detroit’s last hope to extend the shootout, and Corey Crawford denied his attempt to win the game for the Blackhawks.
This was by far one of the best regular season games I have seen in recent years. A couple of the Hawks’ other top regular season games that I can remember off hand both involved the Red Wings and Joe Louis Arena (all three were ironically on NBC and day games).
If there was ever a game that the Hawks were going to lose to end their incredible points streak, this was it. Detroit gave them all they could handle. Corey Crawford played possibly his best game ever today and personally won them the game. Yes, Kane came up with the big 2 goals, but Crawford made a countless number of major saves on great scoring chances from Detroit.
The Blackhawks are playing with a never-die attitude this year. Regardless of any adversity that they have faced, the Hawks have overcome it and found a way to get at least one point. Today was a perfect example of this. They found themselves trailing late in the game in a hostile environment and could have easily crawled up into a ball and let the Wings walk all over them. But they didn’t. They shook off Tatar’s goal and never gave up.
I said in my last blog that if the Hawks were to lose any of their upcoming games, this one would have been it. Now that they have avoided doing just that, I give up on trying to predict when they’ll lose. If they take a night off and don’t give everything they’ve got, that is when they will lose. Every team they play is going to bring their best effort to try and end this streak, so the Hawks need to be on their toes night in and night out.
My three stars of today’s game for the Blackhawks would have to be 1) Corey Crawford 2) Patrick Kane 3) Brandon Saad. Saad had 5 shots on goal.
Side notes: This was Marian Hossa’s 1,000th career game……….The Blackhawks’ streak of not losing in regulation is now up to 28 games dating back to last season.
Hossa! Hossa! Hossa!