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Chicago Blackhawks

Blackhawks Up The Ante In OT Thriller

Chicago BlackhawksCurrently playing: Pearl Jam - Vs. (I hope some of you can find the humor in there…DirecTV subscribers aside)
As I’m guessing there might be a few new readers after the barnburner on Chicago’s west side tonight, I’ll try and do it justice.

It’s difficult to put down on paper what exactly transpired, but I’m sure by now many of you have seen the highlights, heard and/or read the breakdowns, and have a pretty good idea of what happened, but I shall offer my take.

It’s interesting that on the day we celebrate a guy who got lost at sea only to find “the New World” (Christoper Columbus), a team such as the Blackhawks, whose goaltender has a French translation of the same name, started off looking so lost, only to hit similarly rewarding paydirt. (OK, it’s a reach, I know…) To paraphrase Brent Seabrook’s musings on the first period, it was crappy. Errant passes seemed to be the unofficial theme of the evening, followed closely by giveaways at either blue line. Calgary’s intensity was right where the Blackhawks left them on that Monday in late April, but the Blackhawks seemed to have left theirs in the locker room. After Huet was pulled, Antti Niemi gave up another 2 in the first, but became a rock for the rest of the game. The second was a bit shakier, but I saw much more fire in the eyes of the Blackhawks. To be honest, I credit myself. I put on my Sharp jersey at the first intermission, and “VOILA!”

But seriously, the comeback was amazing, and I also credit a good portion of the 20,000+ in the building for sticking around after a first period which was hot garbage. The boost those guys must get out of that place when it’s full and loud has got to be immeasurable. The Blackhawks made a franchise record-setting comeback, and it was a thing of glory. I hear a lot of people calling for someone to take Cristobal Huet out behind the woodshed, I would caution them to slow their roll a bit. Khabibulin and Huet basically split the netminding duties in ‘08-’09 (42 games played for Khabi, 41 for Huet in the regular season) and Huet actually had a save percentage .10% better. I agree that Huet made it look like he guarding a soccer net last night, but the season is young, and the sample size is small. Though I may be in the minority, I don’t think I’m throwing in the towel on the Frenchman (don’t think I ever thought I’d say that phrase in my lifetime…). That said, I thought Niemi settled in very well after a some early jitters and really did all the things to put his team in position to mount the comeback they did, and he’s shown to be a very good goaltender.

This win was important to show the Blackhawks that they can stay in any game, no matter the deficit. They can regroup, address their weaknesses within the context of a game, and make the adjustments to get the 2 points. The major flaws that I noticed tonight started with the power play. It did not look fluid at all, they only sustained marginal pressure at best, and couldn’t find the seams in the Calgary penalty kill. As you may know, I’m a fan of the man that wears the #10 sweater. But as much as I love him, I don’t think he’s the right fit for the power play unit at the point. The Hawks tried this a couple years ago with Havlat, and it worked really well (that is, until Marty got hurt…). Sharpie lost the puck over the blue line at least 3 times (stopped counting) on the power play, forcing the unit to circle back, burning 20-25 seconds and having to re-establish the zone. I like the idea of a forward playing point on the PP, but I don’t think Sharp is the right guy, at least not yet. The other thing comes back to the defense and/or goaltending. The Blackhawks gave up 4+ goals 27 times in the regular season and 6 times in the playoffs last year, and they won a grand total of 3 of those contests. That can’t happen with such regularity. They must clean out the front of the net, and be aggressive when someone takes the puck behind the net. I don’t care who you have in net, if you’ve got a 200+ lb guy camped out in your lap swinging a hockey stick at your legs, you’re going to be hard-pressed to stop a lot of pucks.

I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s parade by any means. This was an historic day in the history of the Blackhawks franchise (seems we’ve been having a lot of those lately), and it should be enjoyed. But there’s a ton of puck left to be played, and there’s a lot to be learned from this game. Hawks and Flames meet 3 more times this (regular) season, and I have a feeling those could be equally as entertaining. I just hope they’re not on Versus so more people get to see them.

My 3 Stars:
3: Troy Brouwer - brought the intensity the entire game, including the entire first period. He threw his body around like he was his own life insurance beneficiary
2: Dustin Byfuglien - looked really solid, made some great plays with the puck, and had at least 2 2-on-1’s with Kane
1: Patrick Kane - kid put on a show, to be honest. If you saw the game, you won’t need explanation.

Thanks for reading, let’s go get ‘em Wednesday!

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Discussion

2 comments for “Blackhawks Up The Ante In OT Thriller”

  1. I agree that we can’t just blame it all on Huet. We have to play better in front of him. Hell it is only the 2nd week of a long season. Remember one man does not make a team.

    Posted by tinao37No Gravatar | October 13, 2009, 11:11 am
  2. Amen to the above statement..it takes all on hands on deck (just trying to piggyback on the whole Columbus thing) Side note: should be in your fair city on my birthday to see the Yotes take your boys on. Excited to be in your building for the first time!

    Posted by PuckGalNo Gravatar | October 13, 2009, 11:24 am

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