One Way Ticket to Midnight – Blackhawks 3, Stars 1

Box Score

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Folks, I think it’s safe to say it appears the Dallas Stars one-year window has slammed shut. Even factoring in that they played a game the night before, the Stars really didn’t show much, at least in terms of great hockey lingo like ‘compete level.’ Whatever chances they had, it was mostly one and done and the next sustained offensive pressure would have been their first of the night. With all this said, the Stars are still lingering in the playoff picture. This is the league we all deserve.

Or maybe tonight’s result also had to do with who they were playing. Only one way to find out. Keep clicking.

–The Hawks did play a very efficient game tonight and that was probably part of the reason Dallas had trouble establishing any kind of offensive zone time. Their passes in the defensive zone all found their intended targets. When they didn’t make the greatest of passes, it was at a time when the Stars forecheckers weren’t in position to capitalize. So no harm done.

The connected passes led to easy breakouts; easy breakouts led to speed through the neutral zone and…well you know the rest. While the Hawks are hardly an offensive juggernaut these days, they’ll still make their opponents pay when the neutral zone is as open as it was tonight.

Both 5-on-5 goals came as a result of the Hawks stretching the play. They were both a bit fortuitous as Hossa’s goal probably doesn’t go in on anyone not named Kari Lehtonen and Ryan Hartman found the puck right as he was exiting the penalty box.

But these are the sort of things that happen when one team is looking to go ten games over .500 and the other is just trying to get to the break even mark.

–The Hawks third goal…I just don’t know how many people there on the planet that can A) hit that angle on a one-timer and B) even one-time that sort of pass. Keith’s shot pass was almost as hard as Panarin’s one-timer. For Panarin to even make solid enough of contact and then place the puck in the only spot it would go in is quite impressive.

It’s the sort of goal Patrick Sharp probably still has fever dreams about scoring when he was the one lining up just outside the goal line.

–Prior to that, the Hawks power play was…let’s say uninspiring. Here’s one thing I’ve noticed league-wide: Pretty much everyone has adopted the ‘Push ’em back’ power play breakout. The Stars do it. So do the Hawks.

The way teams are defending that now are they just let the initial puck-carrier through the first line of defense while the defensemen hold up the blue line. At the very least, this causes a bit of confusion for the attacking team as the puck-carrier will be looking to make that drop pass but he’s already through the first wave of defenders.

It’s sort of strange to see NHL players unable to improvise when pressed to make a fairly simple decision.

Tonight, Brian Campbell was the only guy to realize, “Hey, what if I just keep skating with the puck and force these defenders to actually defend me?” Campbell skated through the four Star defenders, got a shot on goal and there was a juicy rebound sitting in front of Lehtonen. Of course, the next time this forced the Stars to pay closer attention to Campbell as he skated with the puck. Funny how that works.

–Just for the sake of fairness, yes, this is two passable games in a row for TVR. And hey, what do ya know, he passed the fancy stat test too. That still doesn’t excuse the fact that he’s taking away playing time from someone who is a more talented player with a higher ceiling and who needs to start playing to get ready for when it matters (well two if you count that Forsling is losing minutes to him as well).

–Ryan Hartman is getting better every game. Vinnie Hinostroza show flashes when matched up against lesser opposition. It sure would be nice if we could say the same for Tyler Motte the Hoople. Then again, he never had the opportunity to play a year in the AHL and is learning on the fly.

–On to New York where hopefully Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toews will make their glorious returns and the lineup won’t look as top-heavy.

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