After all the important games the Blackhawks have played over the seven seasons, it’s increasingly harder to put much significance on regular season games. Tonight’s game in Dallas was a little different. Not only were the Hawks getting their first look at the Central Division leading Stars but also their first look at Patrick Sharp and Johnny Oduya in the green and white.
In fact, the only regular season game that had a slightly similar feel since the first Cup was hoisted was when the Hawks went down to Atlanta in 2010-2011 when they played Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel and Ben Eager for the first time.
So you had a feeling both teams would be slightly more engaged than usual. And they were.
Dallas came out in the opening twenty minutes looking to hit anything with a white sweater whether it had the puck or not. This is nothing new if you’ve followed the Blackhawks at all for five seconds. It also shouldn’t be a surprise that the Hawks were more focused on the possessing the puck. Even with the Hawks not getting many pucks on net, they were still fairly even in shot attempts.
Two early power plays also netted nothing as Patrick Sharp’s presence likely triggered some Vietnam-esque flashbacks where the Hawks could just stand around and hope that magically someone would be open.
The second period saw the ice tilted even further in favor of the Hawks as they got pucks through to Antti Niemi but still couldn’t break through.
Meanwhile, Corey Crawford gave one away to Jason Spezza that shouldn’t have gone in. Even still, it was only 1-0 heading into the third.
And hoo boy, that third.
To be fair, Patrick Sharp’s goal 11 seconds into the third was pretty soul crushing for the beloved. With the home crowd behind them, it’s not hard to see how Dallas would ride that wave all the way to a dominant third period that made the outcome look far worse than it actually was.
–One thing that is worrisome if you’re into that sort of thing is how defensively disciplined Dallas was tonight. Granted, it was just one game and in the few instances I’ve seen Dallas before, they were never this strong. But, if a team can run and gun AND also lock it up when they need to…well that’s pretty much what has made the Hawks so successful.
Just to contrast that with another team – St. Louis has never scared anyone before because they can really only win one way and if they’re not able to dictate those terms, then they’re basically salmon swimming into a pool of bears.
Again, this was only one game so I don’t want to blow it out of proportion but it does give me pause when I think of Dallas’ ability to sustain success.
–Dallas’ strategy may have caught the Hawks off guard going into the game as well. One play in the first period stuck out in my memory as slightly telling. Michal Rozsival was skating the puck through the neutral zone and made a move past Jason Spezza and then…there was no one within 15 feet of him.
Dallas had completely collapsed into its defensive zone. Rozsival looked around like he was expecting to have a Dallas defender closing in on him and wanted to dish the puck. Nevermind that he had all the open room to take the puck into the offensive zone. He ended up circling back to regroup because whatever he was going to do on his initial read, that play wasn’t there.
There were other opportunities where the Hawks looked hesitant with the puck as they tried to determine where the pressure was and where the passing lanes were closed.
The good news is that this is one game in December and the Stars have shown they have this type of game in their arsenal. It shouldn’t be a surprise next time these two face each other.
–No one on the Stars played under 10 minutes. Brandon Mashinter barely skated 5 minutes. Don’t worry, though, Viktor Tikhonov is now centering Arizona’s top line and Mashinter once played with Antti Niemi in San Jose so you could see why the Hawks would need someone with that kind of intel.
–I’m perfectly fine with the Hawks not pressing Marian Hossa into action in the regular season and give him a rest when need be. However, that doesn’t mean Andrew Shaw should be taking his spot on the top line. In the second period, he had a perfect passing lane to find Teuvo in the slot on a 3-on-2 and instead chose to try some drag move that worked in his fifth year of juniors.
It was so badly obvious in real time that even hockey maven Edzo was able to spot it and have the CSN production team ready to cue the tape at the next whistle.
–The Rob Scuderi puck to the face hurt me and then hurt every other defensmen’s +/- as they had to take turns with Rozsival as a partner for the remainder of the game.
–That should be all for now. The Hawks currently have a 9 point cushion on the wild card spot. Have a happy holidays.