Hawks Drop Opener in Dallas, 2-1

Pre-season over then? (credit Sharon Ellman, AP)

After a disappointing 2010-11 campaign, Duncan Keith and the Blackhawks came into last night hoping for a return to the Stanley Cup form of two years ago. On his first shift of the season, Keith executed a rare and dangerous “misplay puck, fall down, fall down” combination, setting a sour tone for the evening, as the Hawks fell to the Stars 2-1.

The Hawks were surprisingly flat and outplayed in a scoreless first period, which saw sharp goaltending from both Corey Crawford and Kari Lehtonen.

The pace picked up in the second period, which saw the Hawks pour 22 shots at Lehtonen, to no avail, while the Stars tallied twice. The first goal, a 50-foot slapper from Alex Goligoski that beat Crawford’s glove, was set up by a turnover from Keith. The play looked like a “QB/receiver” mix-up, as Marian Hossa went deep while Keith thought he’d be in the right flat. D’oh!

The Hawks had plenty of chances, including Michael Frolik, who failed to corral a pass cleanly then missed most of a 4 x 6, and Brandon Pirri, on the receiving end of a fine passing play from Sami Lepisto(!?) and Bryan Bickell(!?!), who shot over the net with Lehtonen down.

Late in the period during a 4 on 4, Jamie Benn outworked Niklas Hjalmarsson in front of the net to put back a rebound, making it 2-0.

The third period pace was decent by both teams- the Hawks had the best chance, which came shorthanded from Jamal Mayers, but the score remained 2-0 until the waning seconds, when Nick Leddy capped a furious couple minutes of empty net hockey with a rifle shot that beat Lehtonen. Final 2-1.

Ruminations

-  I was disappointed with the Hawks start in the game. I saw more energy in some pre-season games. Puzzling.

-  Let’s get the Keith thing out of the way right now. Bad game. Among other things, he took a (frustration?) penalty in the third period. Having said that, on the first goal, Leddy had the puck to start the play and turned it over. Keith blocked a pass with his stick, recovering the puck, then he beat a second forechecker behind the net. Around this time, Hossa took off, but Keith didn’t see him. He turned behind the net and sent the puck up the boards, where he expected Hossa to be. The Stars winger and defenseman were able to walk right in.

How to apportion blame here? Leddy, for one of his several “hair on fire” reactions during the game (he’s just a boy, but it’s aggravating nonetheless), gets a chunk in my book. The Hawks should never have been pinned down on the play. As for the Keith/Hossa miscommunication, not sure how that breaks down.

-  Jonathan Toews had an amazing shift starting at the 13:00 mark of the second period, and the Hawks really dominated for the whole stretch between the two Star goals in the second period. Methinks a full game of this type of effort will produce a more satisfying outcome.

-  Andrew Brunette with Kane and Hossa isn’t working. Brunette is too slow. I approve of the third period decision to put Frolik on that line, even for a game, regardless of Dave Bolland’s status. Frolik is reasonably quick and defensively responsible (his well-placed stick created a couple opportunities last night). Kane and Hossa have shown offensive promise, but Kane doesn’t have a centerman’s defensive mindset. Sometimes wings can get away with watching the play, but not the guy in the middle.

Move Brunette up with Toews and Patrick Sharp and see how that works.

-  Perhaps the Hawks two prettiest plays of the net were Kane to Toews and vice-versa. Just sayin’.

-  Sean O’Donnell personified the word “stolid” early on, getting pylon’d by Vernon Fiddler, but he showed some PK promise along with a couple blasts from the point(!?) Lepisto, on the other hand, looked like an up-and-down adventure, while Steve Montador was clearly better than both in limited action on defense, and out of place on occasional, bizarre shifts at wing. Please, no more seven defensemen line-ups. I give O’Donnell the nod over Lepisto on accounta PK role.

-  Bickell and Mayers looked big and interested, and Rusty Olesz looked ok at times, while the Brandons (Saad and Pirri)  mostly underscored the difference between the pre-season and the regular season. Sharp was sluggish, but it was his first game, so…

-  I think I could see my way to Hjalmarsson and Brent Seabrook as an effective shutdown pairing.

-  Give the Stars credit- Lehtonen played great, but, for a team scraping the salary floor, they played with some heart and intensity.

-  Rematch in five hours. Let’s get those two points back boys.

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  • http://BlackhawkUp.com/ ChicagoNativeSon

    Wow. Dead on. You summarized most of my thoughts pretty well, especially regarding the Keith to Hossa gaffe. Hossa went long. Keith threw the curl. I didn’t expect your Leddy angle on that though, and will have to re-watch the video.

    I was calling for Brunette off that 2nd line too. With the choppy ice there wasn’t much chance to set up in the zone; a lot of back and forth, one and done’s. Brunette couldn’t get to the net fast enough to take advantage of some rebounds. On better ice, with better puck possession, he’ll be fine. (but I did say Frolik would get a look on the 2nd line to begin the season didn’t I?!)

    I didn’t think Hjammer got outworked by Benn as much as Fiddler fell over them and knocked Benn towards the goal. Without that contact Hjammer had great positioning. Hjammer must have thought Benn fell over behind him and didn’t realize it was Fiddler. When he looked towards the goal, he seemed shocked to see Benn in front of Crawford. /shrugs

    Toews was a beast in the 2nd half of the game.

    Hard to beat a goalie with a .975 Sv%. If a couple of those go in (FROLIK!!!) the Blackhawks blogosphere is whistling a different tune. Way to not go negtive, Brian.

    Great first write-up. Really well done.

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