Two third period goals from Viktor Stalberg broke a 2-2 tie, and possibly the least meaningful goal of the season, an empty-netter from Michael Frolik with two seconds left, provided the final margin for the Blackhawks, 5-2 over the Columbus Blue Jackets at the United Center Saturday night.
So, what did we learn Friday?
After the “stack of rotting pizza boxes on the coffee table” that was the loss in Carolina on Friday, the Blackhawks were hoping to show some bouncebackability against the Defenders of Union, and they did, if a bit raggedly and unevenly.
Brent Seabrook started things with his Tom Brady impression, sidestepping the rush a forechecker and finding a streaking Wes Welker across the middle Marcus Kruger at center ice. Kruger slid the puck to Jamal Mayers and headed to the net. Mayers let a low hard shot go at Allen York (I know: who? NHL resume: 3 minutes, 0 shots). Off the pad to the waiting Kruger, 1-0.
To Columbus’ credit, they did not play like a 1-8-1 team. They played like a 2-6-2 team. Seriously, they brought some energy and physicality, and they managed to tie the game when Fedor Tyutin threaded a cross-ice pass to Vinny Prospal, whose one-timer beat Ray Emery.
OK, it was the Rick Nash line against the Hawks fourth line of Kruger, Mayers, and John Scott (a match-up that Quenneville, heady from the early goal, apparently welcomed.) On this night, Scott would get one more shift, for a total of three, and 1:44 time on ice. Coach, we have to talk…
Bolland had an interesting period, taking an unfortunate tripping penalty, then taking a dumb tripping penalty to (mercifully) end yet another hapless Hawk power play, then collecting a pass from Frolik, who had blocked a shot and chased it down, on a short-handed breakaway that, somehow, ended up in the back of the net. (Did I mention Allen York? Free associate: Dick Allen, Dick York, Dick Sargent, Sergeant York.)
So, not pretty, but 2-1 Hawks after one period.
The second period was…soporific. The Blackhawks enjoyed a decided edge in play and spent a couple power plays trying to figure out how to enter the zone. Yawn. And then Niklas Hjalmarsson fell down, and Derek MacKenzie capitalized on a scrum in front of the net to put home the equalizer.
Later, during a power play, Kaner knocked a puck out of the air for a 3-2 lead. Psych! Stick was too high.
Apparently, nothing is easy. The Hawks survived a scare in the final minute, as Emery covered a puck nanometers from crossing the line, and the Hawks looked toward the third period with furrowed brow and grim visage, tied at 2.
Always Be Closing
Maybe this year’s team will be worthy of the coveted Glengarry leads, slurping coffee and slapping backs, after all.
Early on, during a power play, Sharp knocked a puck into an open net for a 3-2 lead. Psych! Interference on Bryan Bickell.
On the ensuing 4-on-4, Stalberg was flying around. He sprang on a puck chipped in by Nick Leddy, cut to the middle, and went five hole on both human excrescence James Wisniewski and York for a 3-2 lead.
Two minutes later, Andrew Brunette circled in front of the net and fed a delicious, blind backhanded pass across the crease to Stalberg for a tap-in.
And there was singing, and mirth, and offsetting phantom power play kicking goals, and the referees established permissive rules for frustrated purported weiner tuckers, and then an empty netter. 5-2 final.
The power play is hilariously bad. Another 0-5 tonight, but the three disallowed goals do say something. Right? Right??? The Hawks have scored 4 power play goals this year (and allowed 1 shortie), more than St. Louis and New Jersey and less than everybody else.
The penalty kill is unsustainably good, like a .500 hitter in April. Two goals allowed this year, best in the league. And oh yeah. Three shorties, also best in the league. Put it together and 4-on-5 has been almost as good as 5-on-4 this year.
I’ll take 6-2-2 over each ten-game stretch this season.