Late-game magic in Calgary for the Blackhawks

184164326_slideOne of the best, most improbable victories for the Blackhawks during last season’s epic 24-game point streak to start the season took place in Calgary. Ray Emery single handedly won that game for the Hawks, a game in which they had no business winning. The Flames badly outplayed the Blackhawks from start to almost the finish, but ended up allowing Marian Hossa to tie the game with under 5 seconds remaining in the third. The Blackhawks would end up winning in a shootout. Last night, the Hawks pulled off another improbable victory at the expense of the Flames in Calgary.

Unlike last season’s miracle win in northern Alberta, last night’s game was much more evenly contested. The Hawks did not play bad by any means, but they weren’t at their best either. The Flames on the other hand, they did play a very good game by their standards. They held a 1-0 lead entering the third period, and would score again just a few minutes into the third to take a 2-0 advantage. It looked as though this would be a disappointing loss for the Hawks once they went down by 2.

Then with almost 10 minutes gone in the period, Patrick Kane took a bad angled shot from Flames goalie Reto Berra’s right that deflected off a Calgary stick and went into the net. This brought the Hawks to within one and gave them some momentum, something they hadn’t really had all night.

Not even a minute later, Patrick Sharp tied the game on a redirect after a beautiful backhand pass from Hossa through the slot. Just like that, the game was tied and the Flames and their fans were almost in shock.

From that point on, the ice really seemed to open up and the pace of the game took off.

1306350614Following a Calgary icing with about 25 seconds left, Andrew Shaw won the offensive zone draw to Berra’s left. The puck found its way back to Niklas Hjalmarsson who fired a shot toward the net that got blocked. The puck then bounced right to Patrick Kane who spun to his left and fired home a nice backhander that beat Berra with 18 seconds left in the game. Once again, the Hawks had pulled off a semi-miracle on the Flames home ice. The final 18 seconds ran off the clock after the ensuing faceoff, and the Hawks won the game 3-2.

I guess there’s just something about Calgary that makes the Blackhawks do incredible things late in games.

So, here’s what I saw last night:

  • Antti Raanta made his first career start and earned his first career victory while making 20 saves. He played a solid game and came up with some big stops at key moments to keep the game close. This was a great sign for the Hawks that he played well. Hopefully that continues moving forward. 
  • Kris Versteeg was all over the ice last night. He had a number of quality scoring chances, but couldn’t find the back of the net. His versatility has really shown since coming back to the Hawks a couple weeks ago. Quenneville hasn’t hesitated to move Versteeg from the third line, to the second line, and vise versa. His goals will come with time.
  • Duncan Keith is playing out of his mind right now. He is definitely deserving of all the Norris Trophy talk he is receiving.
  • Patrick Kane now has a point in 12 straight games, making this the longest such streak of his career. He appears to have the “I’ll do whatever I want, when I want” attitude right now, which is a bad thing for the rest of the league.

The Hawks have now won 4 straight games on this road trip after losing the first game in Colorado. They also now lead the NHL in points with 40, although they’ve played a couple more games than teams like St. Louis who are right behind them in the standings. The Hawks will finish this 7-game trip with games in Dallas and Phoenix on Friday and Saturday night, respectively.

I really like how the Blackhawks are playing right now, even without Bryan Bickell in the mike-madduxlineup. When he comes back, I’d personally like to see him bump either Handzus or Bollig out of the lineup. Handzus will not play every game because of his health and age, but theoretically Bollig could. My problem with Bollig is that he doesn’t really do a whole lot that warrants him being in the lineup every game like he currently is. You can’t tell me that there are no better hockey players in Rockford than Bollig who could be playing on the Hawks’ fourth line. When Bickell comes back, I’d be fine if Bollig and Handzus platooned that last spot on the fourth line, but I don’t want to see Bollig continue to play every night. He’s just not that good.

That’s all for now.

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