Blackhawks Confidential

Kane's two goals and Versteeg's shootout winner allow Blackhawks to escape a close call against Dallas

If Patrick Kane scores twice, you really shouldn't lose.

In fact, if Kane scores a goal at all, the Blackhawks seldom come up short. They are now 17-4 this season when Kane has managed a goal, so the kid is steadily developing into much more than a nifty passer.

Kane scores and he usually pulls his team along with him to bigger and better.

But no matter how you break it down, Tuesday night's 4-3 shootout win over Dallas was a struggle. The Hawks avoided a setback at United Center by a fraction when the Stars actually beat Andy Niemi with a shot redirected into the net just after time expired in overtime.

That kind of close shave should remind them how much they didn't deserve to win here and how they really got lucky in squeezing through all the various lapses in the end.

Defenseman Duncan Keith put the Hawks on their heels in overtime with a hooking penalty. But Niemi played especially well during this vulnerable spot, just as he played well again during what would be a perfect shootout for him.

Niemi stopped all five Stars that came at him in the shooutout, although James Neal kissed the post with a shot for another close call that could have gone the other way.

After Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa all missed in facing Marty Turco, Kris Versteeg shook off what has been a long offensive drought with no goals in 13 games and scored between Turco's legs to win the shootout.

The Hawks hadn't won at home since Jan. 14 against Columbus. It wasn't all pretty. It wasn't without a lot of defensive letdowns and offensive frustrations.

But a shootout win is better than what easily could have been a loss either in regulation or overtime. The Hawks shouldn't be too happy, though, because it's apparent they are going into the Olympic break stumbling at times and staggering on occasion and looking for that special form that had them so dominant earlier this season.

The Hawks are losing their edge in the second period. Although they still have scored more goals in the middle period than any other, as most superior teams do, the Hawks have been outscored 6-1 in the midway segment during their last six games.

They haven't scored a second-period goal since ending the 8-game trip with that setback in Carolina. They still can outshoot their opponent by a large margin, as they did in outgunning the Stars 16-7 in the second period, but until they begin to seize the momentum at the most important junction in many games, they will be live and death to win in the third period.

If not for a combination of Patrick Kane's brilliance and Dallas goalie Marty Turco's turdy play the Stars could have had this game in their hands after 40 minutes. But Kane showed that he is no longer thinking pass as a first, second, and third option when he wristed a shot from the left circle because he didn't have a man open.

That puck went through an unprepared Turco's legs. Last year, Kane might have held onto the puck and skated behind the net looking for an open man. This year, he has developed into a sharpshooter who takes pride in scoring from odd angles. That's why he has 24 goals, one short of his 25 goals last season in 80 games.

Kane's other goal is becoming one of his most patented plays. He skates out from back of the net, looking to get the goalie down on his knees. Turco cooperated and Kane lifted his second goal over him in the first period to allow the Hawks to escape with a 2-2 tie.

There were a rash of first-period penalties. It only benefitted Dallas when Mike Ribeiro celebrated his return from an injury absence by scoring into a wide-open side of the net against Andy Niemi. Ribeiro narrowly missed a second goal in the third period, crashing a chance off the right post after a Versteeg turnover gave the Stars that opportunity.

Troy Brouwer scored the go-ahead goal for the Hawks in the third by being in the right place when Marian Hossa banged a shot wide left and it bounded off the end boards and back out swiftly for Brouwer to bury. It didn't hurt that Turco turned himself around chasing the Hossa shot and was completely out of position for any carom coming to the opposite side.

The Stars could have won in regulation if Turco had had just a decent effort. Niemi gave up the tying goal in the third when his defense lost the battle behind the net and Loui Eriksson drove his scoring chance past the Hawks goalie. Niemi played allright, but did nothing exceptional, meaning it's an easy call for coach Joel Quenneville to come back this weekend with starter Cristobal Huet.

We would be remiss not to mention Dustin Byfuglien's second-period breakaway. Turco was down on the ice when Byfuglien went to his backhand and you thought a certain score was coming even from the sometimes ham-handed winger.

Alas, Turco was saved by Buff being unable to lift the puck. Turco stopped it with his blocker. Byfuglien could have waited a couple seconds longer to get a little more space and just fire into a wide-open net. But you're asking a lot for Buff to suddenly be a skilled offensive challenger.

He is what he is, which is mostly inconsistent. If you need Byfuglien to score to win, you're hurting. His offense is a bonus, not a necessity.

But the way the Hawks' offense has been struggling to find its power play or its rhythm at even strength, every goal counts bigger and bigger. We could have used Byfuglien to be a little more skilled.

John Madden apparently was injured in this game, but hopefully he can use the Olympic hiatus to heal. The Hawks have overcome injuries all year and should again, although the injury losses of Madden and Ben Eager could cause a downgrade in grittiness.

But all the Hawks have to bear down and figure out how to play better than they have of late. Remembering how to score in the second period would be a nice start to seiziing back some control.

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10 Comments

Dave Morris said:

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Great recap, Mike.

Many of the Hawks look like they need a vacation.

Except for Mister Kane, of course, who gets better every game.

Drinks for all.

Colin said:

Must have been watching a different game. Hawks really dominated the puck for long stretches and certainly had a huge edge in shots and chances. And I thought Niemi was solid enough. He had no chance on two of the three goals and made his share of saves especially in the OT and SO. If anyone on the Hawks need a break its big Buf whose turnover at the blueline when he fell over his own feet when unchallenged that led to the tying goal!

Mike Kiley said:

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The Hawks played good at times. I'm not saying they didn't. And Niemi was solid most of the time. It was all enough to eke out a victory against a team that might not make the playoffs. All I'm saying the Hawks aren't at their best right now. They were fortunate to win this one. But during the course of a long season the great teams have periods where they have to muck out a victory. That's what happened here. Nothing wrong with it, but you won't win big playing this way all the time.

borg said:

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It's amazing how people view things differently. Both the Dallas Morning News' Stars blog and the Fanhouse Stars blog credit Turco for earning Dallas' point. He did stop 31 of 32 shots after the 1st period.

Incidentally, officiating still reeks.

Mike Kiley said:

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Anyone who thought Turco was great, I got some property in a Florida swamp to sell them. The number of saves doesn't always equal the quality of the work. Read the stats and Turco looks great. Watch the game and Turco looks just bad enough to lose. Just allowing the first Kane goal is enough not to compliment Turco for this performance.

borg said:

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Turco made some big saves over the last two periods, and the Kane goal wasn't that soft. Kane made a move as if to shoot but held on before firing a low laser from a tough angle after Turco had reacted to the initial movement. That shot was not simply "thrown" on goal regardless of Ed Olczyk's opinion.

Not to mention, as Huet as shown repeatedly this year, any shot is a scoring opportunity.

iplagitr said:

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Hawks got a lot of shots and played OK, but they're getting lazy. The jump just isn't there like it was in the past. Can't really blame it on being tired -- all teams have the compressed schedule this year so they're on equal ground.

All three Dallas goals were the result of defensive lapses. The first and third were obvious and Neimi had no chance. The original shot on the 2nd goal was tipped in close so Niemi couldn't control, then both Keith and Seabrook let their men inside for the rebound. Neimi was outstanding in the OT and SO.

Overall a decent game for the Hawks... but when is Sharpie going to aim at something other than the center logo on the opposing goalie's jersey? When is Hossa going to lift a shot on a rush up off the ice? When is Kane going to do something new (and successful) in the shootout? When are they going to really click on the PP? Granted, these are all top-notch players and I have no right to question their methods, but the Hawk offensive execution is really lacking. They have phenomenal players, but right now are making things look hard for a team with such skill. Good outside puck possession, but they're really struggling to finish. It's good they have time to work things out before the playoffs.

Jerry Kayne said:

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"We could have used Byfuglien to be a little more skilled." Easily fixed. Bickell. And Sharp is doing just fine with points now he's a winger again.

They Hawks are doing what they should be doing, winning. Who cares how? Now is too soon to peak. As long as they get 2 points. They need to peak in the stretch run and gel with momentum into the playoffs. The playoff Caps, Sharks, and Canucks are the teams to be worried about. And you never can count out the pesky Wings.

iplagitr said:

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"They Hawks are doing what they should be doing, winning. Who cares how?"

Seriously? We care! Because they've only won 2 of their last 5 games and haven't looked convincing in doing so. One tight win against a bottom-10 team, and one S.O. win where they needed 5 shooters to score one goal.

Jerry Kayne said:

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Sorry I hurt your feelings. iplagitr. You're right, they should be playing better. I hope, as you do, that they get it together and start dominating again. I'm not minimizing what's happening, just justifying it to myself.

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