Hawks back on track

163833911_slideAfter dropping two in a row to the Avs and Oilers following their 24-game point streak to start the season, the Blackhawks won their last two games against Columbus and Dallas. Both games came on the road, and both games were the exact opposite of each other.

Following their bad loss to Edmonton at home, the Blackhawks pulled out another 1-goal victory over the Blue Jackets four nights later. The Blackhawks had numerous chances throughout the game (especially in the third period and overtime), but Columbus goalie Semyon Varlamov played fantastic in net and kept the game tied. The Hawks would eventually win in a shootout, thanks to Toews and Kane.

Their next game in Dallas was nothing like the game in Columbus. The Hawks scored goals against the Stars and cruised to an 8-1 victory. It was literally like watching the Globetrotters against the Generals. The Blackhawks were scoring at will, and seemingly in which ever fashion they wanted to. This was by far their most dominating performance of the season.

Tonight, the Hawks are back in Denver where their 24-game streak ended about a week and a half ago. Since that game, Colorado has lost 3 of their last 4, while the Hawks have returned to their early-season ways.

Colorado has done a better job than anyone this season at matching the team speed of the Hawks. It will be interesting to see how the Avalanche approach this game tonight, compared to the last 2 that these teams played against each other. Obviously they will be trying to win, but I doubt that the Avs will come out with as much intensity as they did for the first two games between these teams. The Hawks are no longer unbeaten in regulation, which may lower Colorado’s intensity this time out, especially since the Avs already beat the Hawks. However, I could be wrong.

Tonight’s game between the Hawks and Avs is going to come down to goaltending. Ray Emery will get the nod for Chicago, and I would expect Varlamov to be in net again for Colorado. I doubt that the Hawks are going to give up another 6 goals to the Avalanche, and I also doubt that Colorado is going to hold the Hawks to just 2 goals again. Only time will tell…

As the trade deadline gets closer and closer (April 3rd), more and more rumors are beginning to surface around the league about possible trades. The common belief regarding the Hawks is that they will try to land either another center, and/or a big, physical player who can be effective on this team. Dave Bolland has done OK as the number 2 center this year, but I don’t think he is a true number 2. Brandon Bollig and Bryan Bickell are two big bodied forwards currently on the Hawks’ roster, but it would not be hard to upgrade from Bollig. Chris Neil from Ottawa is a name that continues to pop up in Blackhawks rumors. He is a big, physical forward who is not afraid to throw his weight around.

Game-time is in an hour. Let’s hope for a W.

Blackhawks simply amazing

163279535_slideWhat more can be said about the Blackhawks? Every single game it seems as though they do something else to get a win that just blows your mind. I’m honestly not sure if there are anymore appropriate adjectives that have not been used to describe this team. They are simply amazing.

Tonight’s game against the Avalanche was bound to be a tougher one for the Blackhawks, who played a good team in the Minnesota Wild just a night earlier. However, just before puck drop, tonight’s game got even tougher. Marian Hossa was announced as a last second scratch from the lineup with what the Blackhawks are calling an “upper body injury.” No word on how or what happened to him.

As for the game itself, the Avs gave the Hawks just about all they could possibly handle and threatened to end The Streak at 23 games.

The first period got off to a bit of a slow start, with each team registering 3 shots through about the first 7 minutes or so. Then with 8:43 gone in the period, Cody McLeod was given a two minute minor for roughing, sending the Blackhawks to the powerplay. On that powerplay, Brent Seabrook launched a rocket of a slap shot from just inside the blue line that was redirected past Semyon Varlamov by Andrew Shaw. Hawks were up 1-0.

With just under two minutes left in the first, Colorado tied the game on a nice play that resulted in John Mitchell backhanding a shot over the left pad of Ray Emery. This was a big goal at the time because it gave Colorado all the momentum heading into the first intermission.

In the second period, each team had a few decent scoring chances, but only the Avs were able to put one in the back of the net. At the 13:17 mark in the period, Matt Duchene wristed a shot off the side/back of Ray Emery that ended up crossing the goal line. This was a goal that Emery would no doubt like to have back.

Patrick Sharp had a really good second period as he registered four shots on goal. A couple of them were high quality scoring chances, including a two on one with Viktor Stalberg that Varlamov denied. The period would end with the score 2-1 in favor of the Avalanche.

Early in the third, Michal Rozsival was called for hooking, sending the Blackhawks to the penalty kill. On the ensuing kill, Jonathan Toews scored a beautiful shorthanded goal after taking a pass from Dave Bolland just inside the Colorado zone. Leave it up to the Captain to will his team back into the game.

As the period progressed, each team had their fair share of chances, but both goalies stood tall and made all of the stops. That is until there were just 49 seconds left in the game…

163279294_slideWith just under a minute left to play, Marcus Kruger carried the puck in towards Varlamov and let go of a good wrist shot from the left circle. The puck hit Varlamov and eventually found its way in behind the net. Kruger then won the puck battle and fed a perfect pass in front of the net to a wide open Viktor Stalberg for a one-timer. Varlamov made the save, but gave up a rebound. After multiple hacks at the puck from players of both teams, Daniel Carcillo finally was able to backhand a shot past Varlamov to give the Hawks the lead. A classic on-ice celebration ensued.

The Blackhawks were able to hold off Colorado for the remaining 49 seconds, and The Streak still remains in tact now at 24 games (or 30 going back to last season). This was also the Blackhawks’ 11th straight victory. While we’re on the topic of streaks, with tonight’s win Ray Emery became the first goalie in NHL history to start a season 10-0 (there are too many streaks surrounding this team that it’s getting hard to keep track of them all).

While this was a memorable game for the Hawks and us fans, not all is well concerning this team.

Near the end of the second period, Andrew Shaw took an elbow to the head from Paul Stastny and was clearly shaken up. He struggled to get back to the bench, and never ended up returning to the game.

About a quarter of the way into the third period, Patrick Sharp was checked into the glass by Ryan O’Byrne and was visibly in a lot of pain right away. Holding his left shoulder, he could hardly skate off the ice and immediately went into the Hawks’ dressing room. He would not return to the game either. In the postgame interview with Joel Quenneville, he said that Shaw will be reevaluated tomorrow and that Sharp will likely “miss some time.” Q was asked if Sharp could miss the rest of the season and responded by saying, “I don’t think so.” That’s not exactly the answer us fans wanted to hear.

As for Hossa, he is expected back in the lineup Friday night in Colorado. Brandon Bollig was sent back to Rockford today and Steve Montador (did you forget about him?) was activated and placed on the active NHL roster.

Now, back to the game itself tonight.

The Avalanche did as good of a job as any team the Hawks have played this year at not allowing them any “open ice.” A huge part of the Blackhawks’ strategy is to use their speed up and down the ice and to play an uptempo game. The Avs did a very good job of not allowing the Hawks to do this. They forced the Blackhawks to play a “chip and chase” type game instead. While the Hawks ended up getting the win, a lot of teams are going to look at the tape of this game and try to replicate what the Avs were able to do defensively.

163279531_slide (1)Having said all of that, this team never gives up and once again found another way to win despite being majorly shorthanded in terms of forwards. Of all players on this roster, who would have expected to see Dan Carcillo out on the ice in the last minute of a tie game, and who would have predicted that he’d score the game winning goal with just 49 seconds left? The Blackhawks have 21 wins this year, and after tonight’s game, 13 different players on the team have recorded a game-winning goal. That is incredible. You won’t find another team in the NHL who can say that.

Ray Emery. Just like the team he plays for, what more can you say about this guy? He set the all-time NHL record tonight for most consecutive wins by a goalie to start a season (10). Now to be completely honest with you, I was surprised to learn that no goalie had ever gone 10-0 before. But nonetheless, that is pretty impressive for him to have set that record while being the team’s number two goalie.

The Blackhawks head to Colorado for a rematch with the Avs on Friday night. Could the thin air in the Mile High City be the factor that ends the Hawks’ streak? We shall wait and see. While I would love to see this team go 48 games without a regulation loss (they won’t), a few losses will actually help the Hawks come playoff time. They need to know what it’s like to battle back and win games after losing one or two. I bet if you ask Joel Quenneville, he would agree.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading.