Blackhawks Confidential

Brouwer muscles Blackhawks to shootout victory

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Say what you will about the level of hockey being executed on the ice, but there is no arguing with the results as the Chicago Blackhawks head to the two-week Olympic break as winners of four straight games after outlasting the Columbus Blue Jackets with a 5-4 shootout victory.  The Blackhawks are now an NHL-best 11-1-2 in the second of back-to-back games.

Troy Brouwer, banished to the dressing room after receiving an instigation penalty five minutes into the third period, scored the game winner as Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville's choice as the fourth shooter in the extra session.  It was a proper reward for Brouwer who kicked the crap out of Anton Stralman after the Blue Jacket defenseman sent Patrick Kane to the surface for a few minutes with a dangerous knee-on-knee hit at the blueline.  Kane returned to action quickly, but Brouwer's double minor proved costly as he was given an extra two minutes because he instigated a fight while wearing a visor.

After the Hawks killed nearly three minutes of Columbus powerplay time, a Fedor Tyutin slap shot broke Kim Johnsson's stick before deflecting past a sprawled Antii Niemi to knot the game 4-4 at 7:58 of the third period.  The tying score capped a Blue Jacket's two-goal comeback after Chicago had tallied four straight to overcome an early two-goal deficit of their own.

Starting for the fourth consecutive game, Niemi made 22 saves to stretch his season record to 17-4-1.  The victim of defensive breakdowns in the first period, the Finnish netminder recovered from a shaky start and was at his best in the third period.  With Columbus owning a 10-5 shot advantage in the final frame of regulation, Niemi stopped an Andrew Murray breakaway as well as a Kristian Huselius point blank chance after the Blue Jackets forward undressed Duncan Keith in the defensive zone.

In fact, the Blackhawks defense was consistently outmaneuvered throughout the contest.  Niemi was hardly at fault when Jordan Hendry failed to control a Columbus Blue Jackets dump-in attempt as the referee interfered with the defenseman along the boards.  The result was a perfect Andew Vermette cross-ice tape pass which set-up Huselius with a quick snap shot to open the scoring at 11:11 of the first period.

The Blue Jackets extended the lead to two a couple minutes later when Niklas Hjalmarsson lost his man in the defensive zone which allowed Jakub Voracek to find Raffi Torres alone in front of the net for a backhand goal on his second attempt after Niemi allowed an intial rebound.  After outshooting Columbus 19-5 in the first period, the Blackhawks were seconds from entering the intermission in a two-goal hole.

However, Kane instilled hope into a somber contest with a powerplay goal with 5.3 seconds left in the opening period.  The winger's shot from the left circle snuck between Blue Jackets goalie Mathieu Garon and the far post.  It was a big lift for the club as the Blackhawks powerplay looked awful on the two previous efforts in the period.

Unlike Saturday night's game with Atlanta, the Blackhawks enjoyed a successful second period in Columbus.  Even though they were outshot 10-8, the Blackhawks offense created the better chances.  The improved play around the Blue Jackets net resulted in goals for Bryan Bickell, Jake Dowell and Patrick Sharp.  Dowell set-up Bickell's second goal of the season with a nice backhand pass from below the goal line and a spectacular forecheck from Jonathan Toews led to the captain finding Sharp open at the opposite post.
Dowell, called-up from Rockford to replace Marian Hossa in the lineup, played his third game of the season for the Blackhawks as he matched Toews and Sharp with a two-point night.  The contributions were needed from the inexperienced NHL forwards as a consistent offensive threat is missing from the Hawks once you get past Toews' top line.  Not clear yet as to why, but Kris Versteeg only had 4:54 of ice time.

There are certainly holes in their overall game, but the Hawks enter the break two points behind the San Jose Sharks for the top spot in the Western Conference with a record of 41-15-5.  And, after a difficult stretch that culminated with the longest road trip of the season, the Blackhawks are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games.  Not too shabby as the team has also dealt with a rash of recent injuries, a mid-week trade of blueliners and a questionable goaltending situation.

Some questions and doubts may linger after the recent struggles of a Blackhawks club that was crowned an early-season Stanley Cup favorite after a dominating December.  But, two weeks will be long enough to heal a slightly wounded club.  Plus, the Hawks return from the hiatus to play five of their next seven games on home ice.  The United Center will serve as a welcome reunion site for both Olympians and vacationers alike.



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TonyO said:

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Good recap, Mark. We're all critical of certain aspects of our game. But to your point, a solid finish before the break. Let's heal up, rest up and come back with that nice home ice edge in the schedule. Would like to hear everyone's take on the Kane hit. I had the Columbus broadcsters claiming it was a clean, open ice hit. And then as Brouwer was pummeling Stralman, had the nerve to say "they need to stop this! He's not even a fighter!". But he could go knee to knee or close enough on our top scorer as the puck was already heading to the boards? But we finished on a high note and taking 3 of the last 4 shootouts was nice to see. Go Hawks!

Mark Kiley said:


My initial reaction to the hit was in agreement with the Columbus broadcast team. Only after watching a replay did my opinion become muddled. It wasn't blatant, but Stralman did appear to stick his leg out ahead of his hit attempt.

Either way, Brouwer's response was pleasing.

Dean Youngblood said:


Stralman had his elbow out, which Kane barely avoided. So, while the hit might have been good, i doubt it was intended to be. Either way, Stralman will be sore tomorrow.

borg said:


"but Brouwer's double minor proved costly as he was given an extra two minutes because he instigated a fight while wearing a visor."

It's only supposed to be an additional two minutes if you wear the visor during the fight and Brouwer's was clearly off. I know the officiating's lousy, but even they should be able to see that.

Mark Kiley said:


I get more irritated at non-calls such as Torres attempting to start a bout with Sharp late in the third. He was clearly instigating a fight and , if my memory serves, even threw a couple of punches.

By the letter of the law, Torres should have received seven minutes in penalties plus a misconduct instead of two for roughing. But, Bettman's referees continue to make calls by situations instead of just making calls.

borg said:


"Not clear yet as to why, but Kris Versteeg only had 4:54 of ice time."

According to the Blackhawks' Twitter account, Q was pissed at Versteeg's play.

Mark Kiley said:


I figured that was the case, but I could not point to a specific instance from tonight's game that led to the benching. I must have missed it.

Hell, Versteeg's been good for 2+ turnovers a game lately.

beaverwarrior said:


Thanks for the info. I too was wondering about Versteeg's ice-time..

TonyO said:

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Yeah, good point on the their visor comment. Did I hear 19 minutes in penalty time for Brower?? I'm guessing more than Q not thrilled with Steeger lately. Might be trade material yet.

VegasHawksFan said:


I wonder the same thing Tony has about Steeg. Maybe they were "this close" to trading him and have only a few details left to work out as soon as the trade lock has lifted.

I've gotten tired of purists and opposing announcers and fans whine about their player getting a retaliation ass whipping for making our players look like Bambi on ice. Hits like that are 10% about play making and 90% about truculent intimidation. He was a tough dude when he hit Kane, and then a turtle when Brouwer whipped his ass.

When Ladd slammed a guy (whose name I forget right now) with what I thought was an unnecessarily violent hit, he willingly dropped his gloves for the first taker just seconds later. If you are going to hit with the intent to really fuck someone up, don't be a pussy and skate away whining, "It was a clean hit!" Though the Hawks got tagged for Brouwer's response, I was glad he dished out a decisive ass whippin right before the final leg of the season is about to start. We don't need a goon. Even better was Brouwer coming back to win the SO, that's a sweet middle finger to the Jackets.

Jerry Kayne said:


I like Versteeg but he's not much of a team player unless he's playing center. Maybe they should pay him for every dump and chase he initiates.

Package him and Buff please. Maybe for anyone who can carry the puck over the blue line on the PP. We obviously have some talented, hungry guys in Rockford and more ready to take their place.

Speaking of the PP, it looks to me like every team walks into our zone on the PK as our defensemen drop back too far, too quickly. We were better on the kill when our D stood pat at the blue line like other teams do to us. We have some smart coaches, they should be seeing what I see.

Maybe they all can use this 2 weeks off to practice some zen or Bikram Yoga. Too bad Duns won't get a rest. Maybe he needs it the most.

Good game last night with a good pace. The refs have been oddly missing some stuff both ways. Maybe they need a rest too.

I have one more diss for Buff. He's a turnover machine like Steeger. He was responsible for blowing at least 3 odd man rushes over the blue line yesterday. Does he feel a wall coming at him at the blue line and feels the need to make an extra move? I have more but Im spreading it out over the next 2 weeks.


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