Hawks 2+, Panthers 2

That's that. Now, who's going to South Beach? (source: Alan Diaz- AP)

“You are what your record says you are.”  By Bill Parcells’ standard, the Chicago Blackhawks are the best team in the National Hockey League right now at 8-2-2 (along with the Edmonton Oilers!) ‘Twasn’t pretty, but the Hawks grabbed another two points in Miami Thursday night, with Patrick Kane netting the shootout winner on a nifty five-hole forehand/backhand past Jacob Markstrom to edge the Florida Panthers, 3-2.

Do Panthers have Tallons?

When the schedule came out, this was marked as a “should win” for the Hawks, but, in what is a developing theme among opponents, the Panthers have gotten out of the gate in respectable fashion this year. Throw in the absence of Duncan Keith, and the “reunion” aspect of the meeting (erstwhile Hawks Brian Campbell, Kris Versteeg, Tomas Kopecky, and Jack Skille skating for Florida against former Panthers Michael Frolik and, lurking in the shadows of the press box, Rusty Olesz representing the Indianhead), and this figured to be an interesting game.

The Hawks scored the only goal of the first period on a nice touch pass from Andrew Brunette to Jonathan Toews, who made an indistinct kicking motion at a puck that he may have tapped in with his stick anyway.

Another developing theme this year is Corey Crawford, who stopped all fifteen Florida shots during a fairly even period.

What else? After Matt Bradley left his feet to drill Jamal Mayers, Mayers jumped up and pounded a couple lumps on Bradley. What a difference a year makes.

Act II

The first half of the second period evoked the Stanley Cup team. Four lines rolling, dominating puck possession, more nice chemistry between Toews and Brunette,  and a pretty cross-ice pass from Kane that Marian Hossa converted to make it 2-0 (kudos to a hustling Brunette[!!] for creating the passing lane.)

During this stretch, I couldn’t help but delight in the dilemma teams face with Toews and Kane on separate lines. As great as the duo has been together, perhaps they can each stretch their limbs a bit more when apart.

Put that coffee down?

Then my interest drifted. But in my defense, so did the Hawks’.  Speaking of drifting, that’s an apt description of Kane’s backcheck in the last two minutes of the period, leaving Stephen Weiss open in front of the net to give the Panthers life.

And on to a third period best described as a trudge. The Hawks’ weren’t playing “not to lose” so much as “vewy vewy caweful,” slowing the puck down instead of trying to be the next team to score.

And it almost worked.  But it didn’t. Ed Jovanovski redirected a shot from the point past Crawford with two minutes left. Sad trombone.  But then Kaner made it all better in the shoot-out. And Bob’s your uncle.

Meanderings

Pekka Rinne just re-upped in Nashville for $7 mildo per year.  Yeah, he’s better than Crawdaddy, but the way he’s playing, Crawford is a much better deal at $2.67 million.

Crow faced a season-high 43 shots tonight and was much more active behind the net than usual. Did I mention Keith was out?

How was the Keith hole covered? Brent Seabrook, 31 minutes. Niklas Hjalmarsson, 26. Nick Leddy, 24. Sean O’Donnell, 21. Steve Montador 15. Sami Lepisto, 12. After seeing Lepisto and Montador out together for a few shifts, I understand Quenneville’s apprehension with this pairing.

But overall, the defense deserves credit. Seabrook, despite a -2, logged big minutes. Hjalmalsson continues to develop according to our hopes, not our fears. O’Donnell, though limited, has been pretty reliable.

But Leddy deserves his own paragraph. He was credited with an assist on a fine clearing play in traffic in front to spring Kane. But he also triggered the first goal, shedding a forechecker behind the Hawks’ net and hitting O’Donnell in the open. O’D hoisted the puck ahead, where Toews created a turnover, while Leddy skated off to allow Montador to pick up the +1. As it is, Leddy’s  +7 this year is one shy of the lead among NHL defenseman, and his eight points put him at #11 in scoring among d-men. The kid is bound to hit a rough patch here and there, but the unfolding story is remarkable.

Power play 0 for 1- penalty kill, 1 for 1. File this under dog bites man.

There were a lot of close call offsides that went against the Hawks last night, at least three involving Toews, and a similar “no offsides” call on what became the tying goal. Clearly, a major conspiracy is afoot.

Interesting interview with Patrick Sharp after the first period. Regarding the slow start to the game:

“Kind of a sluggish start, lotta line changes, lotta changin’ on the fly, matchin’ lines, sometimes  it’s difficult to get in the pace of the game, but no excuses…”

Translation: easy uppy on the matchy uppy, Q.

Regarding left wing versus right wing:

 “I’m playing the off-wing [left] this time, which means I’m kinda opened up comin’ into the offensive zone…When you play the right side, your strong side, you’re a little stronger on the boards, you see the ice on your forehand…”

I find this interesting for several reasons. First, Sharp has been most productive during his career as left wing with Toews and Kane, but he expresses a clear preference for the right wing here. Second, Kane and Hossa prefer the “off wing,” but I’m not sure what accounts for an individual’s preference.

Does it sound like Sharp is bucking for the right wing spot with Toews and Brunette? Move Daniel Carcillo back up with Kane and Hossa and drop Viktor Stalberg back to the fourth line? If so, I think Sharp is onto something.

Topics: Andrew Brunette, Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell, Corey Crawford, Daniel Carcillo, Duncan Keith, Ed Jovanovski, Jack Skille, Jacob Markstrom, Jamal Mayers, Jonathan Toews, Kris Versteeg, Marian Hossa, Matt B, Michael Frolik, Nick Leddy, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Pekka Rinne, Radley, Rostislav Olesz, Sami Lepisto, Sean O’Donnell, Stephen Weiss, Steve Montador, Tomas Kopecky, Viktor Stalberg

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  • http://BlackhawkUp.com/ ChicagoNativeSon

    Ha! I was gonna post a photoshop today, with the last line being “And Bob’s your uncle.” Erase, erase, erase. Nice caption. Whatever it takes to get Kaner motivated…

    Carcillo at 2LW? Bickell, Bickell, Bickell. If Hawks are gonna strengthen their chances to be playing in June, neither Stalberg or Carcillo are the eventual answer. Although I admit Carcillo makes everything fit better now, the Hawks will need him more on the 4th line (and his ability to fill in higher) come spring. A couple of good games does not make Stalberg an energy player, forechecker, or decent defender. And Toews skating with Brunette and Stalberg is never gonna work long term (I think you agree?), especially on the road against a good opponent. We’ll see if they can hold their own tonight.

    A couple of games ago, Leddy also skated off for a change, got the assist, but Monty got the Plus. Someone’s owed a steak dinner, or two. Although a year and a half ago, Leddy probably expected Salisbury steak TV dinners and quarter beers at this point of his life.

    OD left Seabs to cover 2 guys in the slot on that last goal. Don’t know what the old guy was thinking there?

    That was a very un-Sedin-like dive on Frolik. What’s with Toews constantly begging for calls this year? Frustrated by his linemates downgrade?

    Canucks. Sunday. Wives?

    • cliffkoroll

      @ChicagoNativeSon Lots of good thoughts as always, once you put down the big red nose and squirting fower.

      I missed the O’D flub, but it’s becoming a worrisome trend. Considering the price tag, I’m not surprised he’s come back to earth.

      I’m also not surprised that the hopes of some (no need to mention names) have been disappointed wrt Montador so far. Remember how he was gonna compete for a top-4 spot and be a special teams stalwart?

      I really enjoyed Frolik and Versteeg going at it last night. Couple good hockey players there. The dive though /facepalm.

      Ditto on Toews’ arm-flapping. Unbecoming Cap’n.

    • cliffkoroll

      @ChicagoNativeSon also, i’m thinking the “Brunette as fourth liner / PP specialist” meme should get a rest for a week or so.

      I think I’m bringing the sullen teenage daughter tomorrow night. Son’s at college- time to make me a new hockey fan.

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  • wardrums

    “…who’s going to South beach?” – too funny

    Vewy, vewy careful – where the hel is that wabbit?

    Wow 31 minutes for Seabs – not good.

    Gweat wap

    • cliffkoroll

      @wardrums thanks drums. i think the Hawks needed their “spear and magic helmet” in the third period last night.