Hawks 4, Grand Rapids 3


 

Get Shanahan on the blower! (photo: Tom Cruze/Sun-Times)

 

Earlier this week, the IceHogs travelled to Detroit to play the Red Wings to a 3-3 tie, and last night the Wings returned the favor, sending their Grand Rapids affiliate against the Hawks NHL roster.

These games always present an interesting contrast of styles: on one side, veterans honing their game in preparation for opening night; on the other, eager kids angling to make an impression and maybe land a spot with the Big Club.

Trying to find their center

The pre-game buzz “centered” on Patrick Kane, who took draws between Andrew Brunette and Marian Hossa. The line skated 16 mostly uneventful minutes together, although Kane and Hossa each passed up a scoring chance in the third period trying to feed the other. And Crazy 88 didn’t hurt himself at the dot, winning 8 outta 12 draws.

Toews was flanked by young ‘uns Brandon Saad and Viktor Stalberg, until Stalberg left late in the first period with a leg injury, after which Quenneville’s line-generator was in mid-season form.

The story of the night was the Hawks power play, which clicked midway through the first period on a beautiful blind pass from Jonathan Toews that Kane buried.

Having thoroughly outplayed Detroit early, the Hawks lost interest, while the Wings responded with three tallies in a twelve-minute span, grabbing a 3-1 lead.

The Hawks struck back with a second power play goal, a one-timer from Brent Seabrook that found the top corner on a nice feed from Duncan Keith.

Ben Smith tied the game early in the third period on a terrific hustle play, capitalizing on a freak carom off the end boards to beat the defenseman and catch Ty Conklin out of position.

The third-period game winner came on yet another power play, a one-timer from Hossa, capping a nifty passing play from Toews to Kane.

The win was overshadowed by a clumsy headshot delivered by Brendan Smith to Ben Smith early in the third period. At this point, it’s probably realistic to expect both Smith and Stalberg (along with Patrick Sharp) will be unavailable for the opener in Dallas on October 7.

Observations

  • The rash of injuries means Saad, Marcus Kruger, and John Scott will all likely be on the opening day roster. The Hawks new-found depth will get a test right outta the gate this year.
  • The defensive depth looks very encouraging. Sean O’Donnell and Sami Lepisto, the #6 and #7 defensemen on the roster, look like a credible third pairing.
  • The second pairing looks a little wobblier than last year. Nick Leddy fell in love with the lazy, unsuccessful stretch pass early last night, before he decided maybe carrying the puck a bit was the better strategy.
  • The offensive depth is also encouraging. Rusty Olesz is definitely NHL material, and Jamal Mayers showed a bit of jump in his step last night. Brunette is slow, but he has nice hands and net presence and uses his body like a veteran.

  • http://BlackhawkUp.com/ ChicagoNativeSon

    So Olesz looked OK live? That would be encouraging. On TV, he was mostly invisible and comments elsewhere suggested this was his worst outing so far, where he slipped back to FLA form.

    We’re gonna see more of Kaner at center than people think – even with Sharp healthy. Just another line that Q can throw into his generator. “Pick your poison, opposing coach. Are you gonna stop Toews-Sharp or Kane-Hossa?”

    My biggest concern from last night is the “upper body injury, not concussion related” to Bolland. His back again, maybe? Hope not.

    • cliffkoroll

      @ChicagoNativeSon The flow of the game was kinda meh so I was grading pretty easy. I’m not gaga about Rusty, but he doesn’t look overmatched or a “strictly 4th line caliber” player. Maybe the same ballpark as Kopecky or even Brouwer.

      It’s only one game, and against minor leaguers, but yeah, Kane at center might be so crazy it works. As we saw last night, it solves the “but Kane and Hossa play the same spot” problem.

      If Bolland can’t put together a 70-game season, I’ll start to be discouraged. That line, BTW, was pretty lackluster again last night, but hey, it’s pre-season.

      • http://BlackhawkUp.com/ ChicagoNativeSon

        @cliffkoroll I saw Bickell looking like a homeless drifter in the defensive zone on more than one occasion. The book on Bicks has always been lack of focus and that was one of the reasons it took him so long to get a full-time NHL gig (that, and the talent in 2010). Let’s hope it’s just “preseason” and not a sophomoric lack of focus.

        • cliffkoroll

          @ChicagoNativeSon Heh! I’ve made my peace with Bickel and pre-season thusly: the ability to half-ass it in September is a meager perk that comes with the $550K salary.