So far, the Blackhawks have played six games this season. After last night’s 3-2 shootout win over the Hurricanes, five of those six games have have been decided by just one goal. Against the Lightning and Blues, the Hawks lost by one goal. When they played the Islanders, Sabres, and now Hurricanes, the Hawks won by one goal. It is a theme that I would like to see come to an end, and I am sure the Blackhawks feel the same way. When games are won by just one goal, that means the other team had a good shot at winning the game as well.
The Blackhawks got off to a great start in the first period against the Hurricanes. Goals by Sharp and Hossa put the Hawks up 2-0 with just under half the period left to play. The period would end 2-0 in favor of the Blackhawks, but the Hawks were able to get 15 shots on goal in the first compared to just 5 for the Canes. It looked as though this would be a runaway victory for the Blackhawks because of how dominant they were during the first 20 minutes of play. Then the second period came.
In the second, you could easily argue that Carolina was the better team. They totaled 13 shots on goal, while the Hawks had 8. Corey Crawford came up with a number of good saves, and the period ended still 2-0.
Then in the third period, there is no question that the Hurricanes were the much better team. They registered 2 goals on 10 shots in the period to tie the game and send it to overtime.
In OT, Bryan Bickell took a hooking penalty to send the Hurricanes on a two-minute powerplay. The Blackhawks penalty kill, which has been looking better and better, came up huge and killed off the penalty. Some key shot-blocks by the Blackhawks and big saves by Crawford kept the Hurricanes from scoring and sent the game to a shootout.
In the shootout, Patrick Sharp was the only player on either team to score, and the Blackhawks walked away with the extra point.
Here’s what I saw in last night’s game:
- The Blackhawks got off to another really good start in the game, as they have almost every game this season, but were never able to score that big third goal to go up 3-0. This has been the issue in four of the Hawks’ six games now, and they need to find a way to get that important put-away goal before letting the opposition back into the game like they did last night. A two-goal lead is a very dangerous lead to have in a game because teams start to let off the gas peddle a bit, when really they should be doing everything they can to get the three-goal lead. All of a sudden when you’re up by two, the other team scores to get within one and then they’ve got all the momentum and end up tying the game.
- Corey Crawford was really good again for the Blackhawks. You could call last night’s win a “goalie win.”
- The pairing of Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya is becoming one of the best number two pairings in the game. Right now, Quenneville is using them as his number one pairing until Keith and Seabrook can figure out how to defend again. Hammer and Oduya look to be locks on the Swedish Olympic team.
- Bryan Bickell is back to being the Bickell we all knew until last year’s playoffs. I think it’s time to accept the fact that he is a playoff performer, and until then, expect him to be a third liner on this team.
- Michal Handzus continues to be one of the slowest guys on the ice. That isn’t going to change. Brandon Pirri was scratched last night, and I want to see him in the lineup more and more moving forward until he takes over Handzus’ spot. He can be really valuable on this team if he gets enough playing time.
I am not going to get too worked up over the Blackhawks’ inability to put teams away so far this season. Odds are, they’ll start scoring the big third and fourth goals with the talent and skill that they have in their lineup. It seems inevitable to me.
Tomorrow night is another big showdown with the Blues, this time at the United Center. All I can say is thank God Maxim Lapierre won’t be in St. Louis’ lineup. After the hit he put on Dan Boyle last night, he should be suspended for at least the next 20 games. The problem with the Blues is they have a number of guys who aren’t afraid to risk being suspended in order to make an illegal hit. They’re full of losers like that.