After stumbling in the season opener in Dallas, the Blackhawks have gone 3-0-1, squandering a single point in the third period against the defending champion Bruins. All things considered, the Blackhawks have successfully launched the 2011-12 campaign. The win last night, a 5-2 mauling of the Phoenix Coyotes, was by far the best performance of the young season.
How it went down
The second period brought more Hawks domination, but they surrendered the lead twice, only to move back in front each time in short order. Taylor Pyatt put in a rebound in the opening minute of the period, but Jonathan Toews returned the favor three minutes later, after Jason LaBarbera coughed up a bad rebound off a shot from Andrew Brunette.
Five minutes on, Duncan Keith suffered a blow-out in his own end. Daymond Langkow collected the loose puck and fed Ray Whitney, who inserted a “hesitation” shot over Corey Crawford’s left shoulder. (It looked like Whitney was sticking a letter in a mailbox.) Keith atoned immediately, hitting Jamal Mayers on a 100-foot ricochet pass to set the Hawks up. Viktor Stalberg collected Mayers miss and worked the puck back to Keith, whose shot from the point was redirected in by Mayers. Hawks up, 3-2. Hooray for rolling four lines!
The first four minutes of the third period were reminiscent of the 2009-10 Cup champions at their most dominant. Really satisfying hockey. As the curtain went up, Hossa found himself in the box for a ticky-tack retaliation penalty at the end of the second period. But the Coyote power play didn’t get a sniff. The Hawks completed the kill only to have Sharp sent off directly after for tripping.
Keith Yandle left a drop pass inside his own blue line for Radim Vrbata, unaware that Dave Bolland lurked, Datsyuk-like, behind a shrubbery at center ice. Bolland jumped out, picked Vrbata’s pocket, and delivered a backbreaker shortie “hesitation” slapper from between the circles. Toews and Hossa killed most of the rest of the penalty in the offensive end of the ice, with Toews getting off a couple decent chances. Just a great four-minute span with the game in the balance.
Next stop is Thursday in Colorado, against a surprising 5-1 Avalanche squad. The Avs play an up-tempo game and the Hawks owe these guys a couple from last year. Should be fun.
- The power play continues to struggle (should Brent Seabrook take Keith’s spot on the 1st PP like last year?) but the penalty kill is a net zero, with Bolland’s shortie neutralizing the one power play goal the Hawks have surrendered this season. Pretty impressive, even if it’s only five games. This is the opposite of last year, but very much like the pattern of the 2009-10 Cup champs.
- What was the deal with all those successful hesitation shots from Hossa, Whitney, and Bolland? All at the same end and from similar spots on the ice (ok, Hossa was left circle.) Weird.
- Look Ma- no John Scott! (c/f “Hooray for rolling four lines!”)
- Obligatory Keith paragraph. He was on the ice for every Hawk goal, along with the Coyote goal when he fell down. Two assists, +3 in 25 minutes. Yeah, he sucks.
- Mayers and Sean O’Donnell are looking like nice pick-ups from the bargain bin. O’Donnell is averaging 16:45 a night, including important PK minutes. He’s +2 with two assists on the year and, from what I’ve seen, he can get his shot on net from the point. Yeah, he’s slow and will get pylon’d from time to time, and we’re looking at a small sample size, but if he keeps it up, I don’t see him spending too many nights in the press box.
- Paired with Steve Montador, the Hawks look to have a third pairing that, at long last, will be considered safe for viewing by fans with heart conditions.
- And whoulda thunk Daniel Carcillo, alongisde Patrick Kane and Hossa, might be a thing? Again, small sample size and prolly just a stopgap measure, but Carbomb did seem to open up more space for 81 and 88.