Last season, the Colorado Avalanche and the third period were unkind to the Chicago Blackhawks. Last night would be different. Eight minutes into the third period of a 1-1 tie in Denver, the devastatingly handsome Patrick Sharp sniped the biggest goal of the young season, propelling the Hawks to a 3-1 victory.
Various racing analogies
Don’t be misled by the score, last night’s game, as expected, was a horse race in the thin air of the Rocky Mountains. And regardless of where the Avs come out this season, they were on a roll coming into last night’s game, having won five straight, all on the road. Both teams had several glorious scoring opportunities, but Corey Crawford and Semyon Varlamov were up to the task all night.
On second thought, perhaps the game was more like the Tour de France, on accounta all the, wait for it,…cycling. Well, this was mostly the Hawks, who chewed up shift after shift running the low cycle in the offensive zone.
Not that the cycling generated too many shots (the Hawks were outshot 32-30 on the night), but late in the first period, Patrick Kane cycled the puck up the boards to Andrew Brunette before going for a change. Brunette tried to hit a pinching Nick Leddy across the ice. The pass was deflected into the corner, were Leddy retrieved it and sent it behind the net to the oncoming Daniel Carcillo. Carcillo hit a streaking Jonathan Toews, fresh on the ice, and the Cap’n gave Varlomov the ole forehand/backhand, roofing a ridiculous, effortless shot for the game’s first goal.
Put that coffee down
The game remained 1-0 through most of the second period. Again, both goalies were terrific. But just when you start thinking those improbable words, “goalie win”, along comes Ryan O’Byrne to swat a deflected puck with the shaft of his stick past a sprawling Crawford, for his first goal in 75 games. Guh.
Show of hands- who had a kind of sick feeling right around that point in the game? Would the 2010-11 tape be replayed?
Nope. Sharp’s laser was like loosening the belt buckle after Thanksgiving dinner. And, just like the other night in Phoenix, the Hawks did not hunker down afterwards. The four lines and three d-pairings rolled, and Crawford was stout against a pesky Colorado team that never gave up. A tripping penalty against PK anchor Brent Seabrook with two minutes to go, it turns out, was nothing more than a clichéd Hollywood “final scare”, dispelled by a Marian Hossa shortie empty-netter with a minute to go. 3-1 final. Same teams in Chicago Saturday night. Take nothing for granted.
Behind the stache
Golf claps to Quenneville for the obvious John Scott scratch tonight. What the hey, Q, let’s do it again Saturday.
The controversial Duncan Keith – Nick Leddy pairing turned in their best performance of the season. The pair was on the ice for the first three goals (Keith was also out there for the empty-netter), and are getting more comfortable with each other positionally. Leddy’s assist on the first goal was, if I may, Campbellesque. If he can establish himself as a legitimate top-4 defenseman in the NHL this season, Stan’s a genius.
And the Carcillo-Kane-Hossa line, while not drawing blood, was able to control the puck for long stretches again last night. I still don’t see Kane as an ideal answer here, but he may be a better choice than Sharp at center, which with this roster, is all that matters right now.