I’m going to try (“try” being the operative word) to provide a weekly review of the Chicago Blackhawks beginning with this past week ending today. In that span of time, the Blackhawks have played three games going 2-0-1 and earning 5 out of 6 possible points — not bad at all.
On Saturday October 15, 2011, the Blackhawks played the Boston Bruins and lost in a shootout 3-2. Things looked like they were going well for the Hawks as F Bryan Bickell netted his first goal (unassisted) of the season late in the first period of that game. Boston tied the game on a short-handed goal by Chris Kelly early in the second period, but Patrick Kane helped the Hawks to regain the lead less than two minutes later scoring his second of the season. The score remained 2-1 Chicago until 8:00 into the third when Boston’s Nathan Horton tied the game again. Both teams remained scoreless during the 5:00 OT period and the game went to a shootout to see who would win the coveted second point. Boston’s Tyler Seguin beat Corey Crawford to score the only goal in the shootout giving Boston the victory. For the game, Crawford stopped 35 of 37 shots for a 94.6% save percentage. Also Sean O’Donnel and Patrick Sharp got on the scoresheet with assists on Kane’s goal. A disappointing loss in over time, but at least the Hawks got a point out of the game.
The Hawks then embarked on a mini two-game road trip out west against Phoenix and Colorado. First was Phoenix on Tuesday, October 18. The Hawks were strong from start to finish as they pretty much outplayed Phoenix from the first drop of the puck. Chicago outshot Phoenix 35-16 and that translated to more scoring opportunities and ultimately the 5-2 advantage in the score. Marian Hossa opened up the scoring with his second goal of the season, and the Hawks first power play goal of the season on a 5-3 advantage late in the first period. The second period was a back-and-forth affair with Phoenix’ Tyler Pyatt tying the score 0:42 into the second period with his first of the season. Captain Jonathan Toews helped the Hawks regain the lead on a backhanded shot (his second goal of the year) at 3:26 in the second. Phoenix tied the game again four minutes later when Ray Whitney fired a wrister past Crawford to knot the score at 2. Chicago regained the lead for good when 4th line forward, Jamal Mayers, tipped in a shot from the blue line to score his first of the season. The Hawks added two insurance goals in the third period when Dave Bolland slapped a shot past Phoenix G Jason LaBarbera after a strip and steal. The goal was Bolland’s 4th of the season and it was short-handed. That goal seemed to take any remaining wind out of Phoenix’ sails. The final goal was a wicked wrist shot by Bickell for his 2nd on the season. This was a very strong outing by the Hawks. Crawford earned his second win of the season even though he was barely tested in the game (stopping 14 of 16 shots). Bolland, Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith all gained two points in the game.
The final game of the week was last night at Colorado. The Hawks won that game 3-1 against a fast and tough Colorado Avalanche team. Toews got the scoring going late in the first with his 3rd goal of the season (assists from Daniel Carcillo and Nick Leddy). It remained 1-0 Hawks until late in the second as Ryan O’Byrne notched his first marker of the season to tie the score at 1 a piece. Patrick Sharp broke the tie 7:20 into the 3rd period with assists from Andrew Burnette and Duncan Keith. The scored stayed at 2-1 until D Brent Seabrook got called for tripping at 17:47 in the 3rd. This meant that the Avs would have a power play to close out the game. As expected, Colorado pulled their goalie to give them the two-man advantage, but with just over a minute left in the game, Hossa scored on the empty net to seal the game 3-1.
As mentioned earlier, an impressive week for the Hawks. The new players are definitely making an impact and the current lines are all plating well. Knowing Coach “Q”, famous for his line juggling, it won’t be a surprise if the lines look different next month, but so far the line match-ups look pretty solid. While the top two lines of Toews-Sharp-Burnette and Kane-Hossa-Carcillo have all played well, the 3rd line of Bolland (4G, 1A), Bickell (2G, 2A) and Frolik (0G, 2A) impresses me the most. This is the main checking line and they have accounted for 6 of the Hawks 20 goals so far; only the Toews line has scored more goals (7). Bolland is turning into one of the most effective shut-down centers in the NHL. A shut down center that can score is a huge asset to a team. If he can remain healthy, I feel Bolland is poised for a break out season; perhaps 60 points? He hasn’t played a full season since 08-09 when he scored 47 points (19G, 28A).
That’s it for this week’s Blackhawks week in review. Check in next week as we’ll review three games (Colorado, Anaheim and Carolina).