Hot Start In Old Town: Blackhawks 3 – Blues 2

Toews-face… Already in mid-season form

 

After two games on the road, both home openers for other teams, it was was finally time for the Blackhawks to have the chance to make the other team sit around as they go through awkward introductions. Once the game got started though – it was pretty apparent which team had played the night before and which had at least one day rest. The Blues, coming off a victory in Music City that required a skills competition, came out of the gate looking flat and the Blackhawks were swarming. Throughout the first, the Blackhawks had multiple chances that were some of the best we’ve seen so far. Unfortunately, either they hesitated a bit too long and lost the opportunity or they ended up on the stick of Bickell. Whatever it was, the shots simply didn’t go in until the Hawks found themselves on a 3-on-0 and even that required a nifty bit of passing between Sharp and Kane before Kane was able to put a nice move on Elliott for the Hawks first score of the game. It was some nifty work… but part of me thinks a 3-on-0 ought to have been a hell of a lot easier.

From there – things took a bit of a different turn

The second period found the Blues gaining their heads a bit and starting to play the kind of hockey that could scare most teams (and especially the Hawks) for the rest of the year. They seemed to swarm around the Chicago blue liners and cause needless turnovers when the Hawks started to rush passes and ran into that old familiar problem of forgetting how to enter the opponent’s zone. The pressure was entirely from the Blues and they certainly got the better of the chances. Still, the only team to dent the twine was the Hawks on another power play goal (are they allowed to score this many of these so early?). This time it was a Keith shot from the line the nicked the skate of Seabrook and somehow found the five-hole of Elliott.

Things became a bit more even in the third as the teams traded chances but it was a laser of a shot from Stalberg between the legs of Chris Stewart for the game winner. Elliott never got a good look at the shot that was just over his shoulder. Stalberg really seems to be using his speed pretty well so far in the early games… and it helps when a forward that thinks it’s worthy of fighting Bollig is the only one between him and the goalie. The Blues made things interesting late in the game, scoring two goals about 10 minutes apart to make us sweat to close the game but were unable to tie it up. Three games, six points. I like it.

Observations

  • Elliott didn’t really have the greatest game but definitely kept the Blues in the game early. The Hawks had multiple odd-man rushes but his solid positioning frustrated the Hawks. Even his patience on the 3-on-0 made it hard for Kane, who had to go backhand.
  • Leddy had another solid game, though still playing third pairing minutes. He’s showing a more physical game in his own end and that he’s not afraid to jump into the rush either. Best example of that is his speed through the neutral zone on a first period power play. Even he seemed surprised by his speed and stick handling that found him with a failed breakaway.  I’ve never seen a player look so lost as Leddy did when he ended up behind the Blues net. It was almost like Leddy didn’t realize there was another net on the rink 200 feet from his own.
  • Bolland actually won over 50% of his faceoffs… holy fuck.
  • Speaking of faceoffs – the Hawks won that battle 34-26 according to the box score but I can’t help but think that’s a misprint. Unless Toews is at the dot, it seems like it’s a given the other team will control the puck. Somehow, Bolland ended up taking just as many draws as Captain Marvel though. I don’t hold out much hope for a repeat of this..
  • Brandon Bollig had 16 more seconds of TOI than he did in PIM. I guess this is an improvement?
  • Despite being the only player with a -1, Brandon Saad had himself another nice little game. He had a few good plays in the second but really seemed to find a comfort level in the third where he seemed to be leading the charge into the Blues zone… even if everyone else was on a change.
  • Although the Hawks did end up with another PP goal, they seemed to revert into the same problems they had last year where they couldn’t enter the opponents zone or maintain possession to save their lives. Luckily, they still found a way to get one in.
  • NHL Tonight just decided to highlight the fact that Kane had 2 hits tonight. So all those meatballs who claim he’s soft can just stick it in your ear… I guess

Player of the Game

mr crowley

The Mouseketeer! He wandered a little bit and had his game saved by a puck finding Keith’s chin rather than the net when he was far far out of position and a few other lucky bounces towards his teammates but still was able to bail out the Hawks with a huge third period when the Blues were really buzzing. He also had the great pokecheck of Backes behind the net that could have denied a prime scoring chance. 32 saves overall for Corey. Not exactly a stolen game from the goalie but it’s closer than we’ve seen in a while. A very good sign.

  • Hi, I’m Bob LeDonne

    Wooooo 82-0 mother fuckers!

    • DesertHawk

      We’ll be half way through next season before we lose a game. I like it.

  • red palace

    Good call on Crow. And agree on Saad, he’s had some solid rushes, his points will come. But I would like to see this Bolly FO meme go away. Last year he was 48.4%. In the Cup year, 49.4%.

    14 goals against Quick, Smith and Elliott. I’m sure rust has something to do with it, but hot damn.

    • BodomSlayer

      The rust would likely be on both sides though, no?

    • justforkicks

      i feel like with his current linemates, bolly needs to be toews level fo%. sharp and kane need to actually have the puck, not be chasing after it.

    • flavius

      About that Bolland faceoff meme, it’s going to take effort from the Rat to make it go away. Consider this:

      In the 2011 season,52 players took as many or more faceoffs as Bolly. He ranked 49th out of that 52 in FO %.

      In the 2012 season, Bolland took 1008 faceoffs, 32nd most in the league. Of those 32, Fabulous Weapon ranked 25th in FO %

      As of 745 PM at nhl.com, during our current short season, Bolland ranks 13th in faceoffs taken. Of that 13, only one has a lower FO%

      Among NHL players who take a lot faceoffs, Bolland is consistently one of the worst at winning them..

      Worthy of note here – David Backes of St. Louis was one slot below Bolly in 2011 and one slot ahead in 2012 and 2013.

  • Staypuft

    Nothing like waking up with no voice and booze leaking from my pores! Go hawks! Now for miserable work day….

  • mightymikeD

    Two thing I’ll add..

    1) Didn’t hear David “All That Is Man” Backes’ name all that often last night and I’m inclined to credit Bolland with contributing to that..

    2) Ditto for Tarasenko after the 1st..

    • detroit must die

      Their best line by far was the Steen line. Which may say a lot about the quality of the Blues’ performance last night.

      • http://twitter.com/AndrewCieslak Andrew Cieslak

        Matchups, too.

  • Z-man19

    I thought this was the worst game the Hawks have played thus far. Not that they were complete horse shit, they just weren’t as good. Too many turnovers in their own end and at center ice and at least 2 awful line changes. As mentioned, the PP looked a lot like last year especially early. Crow stopped 32 of 34 shots and stopped 3 great chances by Oshie, Tarasenko and Stewart. All things considered, I’m giving Crow most of the credit for this win.
    I don’t want to go overboard on Kruger, but he’s come up with some big plays when it appeared the other team was about to get a great scoring chance.

    • Mohel

      Agree on all counts Z. It looks to me like they have some success entering the zone on the PP, but not in a sustained way. Maybe that has to do with a new coach and five days (?) of practice before three games in four days. I’m hoping this will improve over time.

    • justforkicks

      Kruger looked great last night – would love to see him get more toi especially in the big moments. I thought Leddy looked good, except for that moment where he got completely pushed around by Oshie.

    • Accipiter

      Duncan Keith disagrees. He thought it was the best game they played as a team thus far.

      • http://twitter.com/AndrewCieslak Andrew Cieslak

        Certainly the best.

      • Z-man19

        Maybe it was. I thought LA was sleepwalking through most of the first game. Always hard to tell how much credit to give either team for playing well or affecting the other team’s play. Just seemed to me that the hawks had more trouble getting out of their own end. Maybe the Blues had a lot more to do with that than what I’m willing to give them credit for.

    • FakeASeizure

      I saw three awful line changes.

  • cliffkoroll

    Karma-wise, it’s nice to see the other team’s furious rally fall a goal short. A year ago, the Hawks were on the other side of these games.

    So, 3-0 and zero sweats broken, and one game from Crow that is cause for some optimism. Agree with Crow on POG, but this was pretty far from a goalie steal.

    • mightymikeD

      I agree.. it also feels like the Hawks would have given up the late tying goal last season to gift Division rivals at least a point. I’m feeling good about it: the Reigning Champs, Divisional favourites and one of last years’ Betes-Noire have all been beaten..

  • fat pat

    I thought Hjammer had another really solid game. Both him and Leddy look MILES above how they played last year. Some veteran stability on both pairings is really helping out their game i think.

  • B Squared

    Only issue I have with the past two games is that the Hawks have seemed to let up in the third and let the other team back in. Fortunately Crow stepped up in this one in the third and bailed them out of it.

    • Sparky_The_Barbarian

      This.

      This team is never more dangerous to their opponent than when they feel they have something to prove. They are never more dangerous to themselves than when they start to be happy with their own play.

  • Mohel

    Happy about the six points, for sure. Also happy that all three were in regulation, so some of our main rivals did not get a point in any of these games. Those zero point games might matter a bit at the end.

    • frictionjane

      True. Also heard the new rule change requiring a team to score more goals than the other might effect some outcomes this year.

      • MySpoonIsTooBig

        Lies. Lies and slander.

      • Mohel

        are you trying to be a douche? couldn’t tell….

        • cliffkoroll

          not sure. I suspect frictionjane didn’t grok your point.

  • MySpoonIsTooBig

    2 observations:
    1) The Blues are a good team. Yeah they’ve got mush between their ears, are not phenomenal offensively, and are supported by some of the biggest douche nozzles this side of the Milky Way, but there’s no denying that they’re a very good team.

    2) The ‘Hawks did not bring their A game last night. Though they had flashes of dominance and brilliance, the main themes of the night centered around poor decisions and sloppy play.

    The combination of those 2 observations has me feeling really good about this shortened season even though the sample size is still so small. Good teams are capable of beating just about anybody when they play their best game, but it’s another breed entirely that can still come out on top against a good team when they DON’T play their best game.

    • detroit must die

      My thoughts exactly. The Hawks came out with their B or C game, and still parlayed a slow start by the Blues into two points taken from A) a very good team B) and what appears to be their top rival for the division title.

    • Sparky_The_Barbarian

      Partially disagree. Hawks brought their A game for 45 minutes and relaxed just a bit (just a bit, mind you), after the 3-0 lead. Fortunately, that’s when Crow stepped up.

      • MySpoonIsTooBig

        Completely disagree – the ‘Hawks were the model of inconsistent in that game. There were parts of the game where they dominated, like the first 10 minutes of the 1st period where they sprung 5 or 6 odd-man breaks, but there were also large swaths of time both in the 1st and 2nd periods (i.e. not just the last 15 minutes of the game) where the ‘Hawks shot themselves in the foot via sloppy and/or lazy play in their own zone and the neutral zone leading to turnover after turnover. Fortunately they recovered well and defended solidly, and fortunately Crawford was up to the task when called upon to make some big saves.
        Inconsistent =/= A game

  • justforkicks

    I feel like a lot of hits by the blues last night were getting in the gross and iffy range – i’m always afraid our guys are going to get hurt as they get chippier and chippier. Also glad to see Bolly win all those draws in the 3rd but wish he’d do it more regularly, since having control of the puck would seriously help when on a line with kane and sharp so you’re not chasing it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Faker/558555424 John Faker

    This team is playing better defensively than we have seen in the past two years. smart short passes out of the zone are also something they have done better. they keep this up and its a deep run into the playoffs.

  • frictionjane

    Heard in the parking lot after the game last night: “What’s wrong w/that Horsa guy? He didn’t score any goals tonight.”

    I’m sure it was a long drive back to Coal City

  • http://twitter.com/LBlissettUSA Luther Blissett

    I thought Saad had the type of game that pushes someone upstairs for a long time. Kid looks like he belongs.

    A few people are saying the Hawks didn’t look great last night, and I’m not sure. They fell off in the third, that’s for sure, but the Blues also didn’t show up until the third. I think we might need to give the Blues more credit.

    Also, not sure if others have run the numbers, but if not, it appears 55/56 points is the magic number for the playoffs in the shorten season. Sorry if someone has already said this, but I hadn’t seen it.

  • zacked

    I thought Leddy deserves a lot of credit for the first goal, he turned a 5 on 2 into a 3 on 0 by intercepting a pass and making a nice one of his own. His defense has been very good so far as well, other than letting Oshie around him to the net.

    Kruger also had a nice game, making 3 really important little plays I noticed. The only one I recall now is tying up a stick to deny a shot from point blank.

    • The Doctor

      Wow, that is a great Toews face.

  • Waylon

    Is it just me, or does the vaunted “pressure” that the Blues bring begin to look a hell of a lot like D – Men just pinching in from the sides? That kind of play wouldn’t scare me if I was a Blackhawk – or at least, not if that’s the way Hitch is going to play the rest of the season. If they feel the need to do that in the middle of close games, they’re going to get burned – a lot.

    • http://whatisthebestadverb.wordpress.com/ I am not Chico Maki

      Lots of pinching, yep … and lots of odd-man rushes the other way for us. Although they did tighten up a bit halfway through and pinched more wisely.

  • thepuckstopshere

    927 save % way to go crow

  • justforkicks

    can’t believe i forgot, a favorite moment last night – shaw wiping out and taking two blues with him.

    • Skags

      That was awesome

  • Sparky_The_Barbarian

    Great game plan by Q. Play solid D in our zone (well, for 45 minutes anyway) and spring the speedy forwards.

  • http://www.thecommittedindian.com/ PowrFwd37

    Just going to throw this out there:

    If the season ended today, The Blackhawks win the President’s Trophy and both Detroit and Vancouver miss the playoffs.

    I know there is still a bunch of hockey to play, but it is fun to say that, so I am seizing the opportunity to do so.

  • wardrums

    “Toews in mid season form” was hysterical.