Blackhawks Beat the Avalanche

Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) congratulates Dan Carcillo after his game-winning goal. NHL Blackhawks.

Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) congratulates Dan Carcillo after his game-winning goal. NHL Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks (21-0-3) reached the halfway point of the NHL-shortened season last night, and are still riding high with this impossible streak of gaining at least one point every game since February 1. Oh yeah, they've also won a franchise-best 11 games in a row, which seems even more impressive. Take that, Stephen A. Smith!

The Colorado Avalanche (8-10-4) came in to town last night, as the first part of a home, at-home series. Before the puck dropped, Marian Hossa was scratched and listed as having an upper-body injury with no further explanation. Maybe Big Hoss tweaked it while carrying his Silver Stick home after Tuesday night's win.

With another sellout crowd at the UC and thousands more watching the nationally-televised broadcast at home, scratching their heads over Hossa's condition, Andrew Shaw quickly put Hawks fans' worries to rest with a rebound goal off a Brent Seabrook shot to put his team up 1-0. Shaw eventually would be taken off the ice after receiving an elbow to the head from Colorado's second-line center Paul Stastny in the second period.

Colorado tied the score with John Mitchell's backhander past Ray Emery, who got the start in goal tonight. The Hawks led in shots after the first, 12-8, but looked every bit tired as expected, after starting their fourth game in six nights.

In the second period, Matt Duchene gave the Avs the lead with a shot that deflected off of Emery's back and into the net. The air was suddenly let out of the United Center air, and Hawks fans, as well as NBC Sports Network's Doc Emrick, wondered if tonight would be the night that the streak came to an end. Energy was low, and the Avs seemed to be the aggressor heading to the third period, which surely was going to continue for Colorado.

Except no one asked Jonathan Toews his thoughts on the matter.

The Captain himself charged towards goalie Semyon Varlamov, while the Blackhawks were short-handed, and made a move for the ages, dekeing one that banked off the post and into the net to tie the score at three with 17:41 left in regulation.

Game tied. Streak alive. Patrick Sharp just got creamed into the boards by Ryan O'Byrne.

The game may have been tied, but the Hawks were now down three players due to injury. After the hit, Sharp was helped off the ice and headed straight to the locker room. There's no official word on his injury, but you can bet he'll be off the ice for quite some time.

So, with Hossa, Shaw and now Sharp out, who's going to step up to help send this into overtime? Toews? Patrick Kane? Brandon Saad?

Yep, you guessed it: Dan "Car Bomb" Carcillo. With 49.3 seconds left until overtime, and the point streak intact, "Car Bomb" had other plans, as he cleaned up the scrum in front of the net to chip it home. Forty-nine point three seconds later, the Hawks get the improbable win, just like coach Joel Quenneville drew it up, and escaped with a 3-2 win.

I was wondering when it would come to this, but if Dan Carcillo is cleaning up goals with under a minute to play in regulation, then this has to be the most magical of seasons in which any Hawks fan could dream. It was also a matter of time until this team was tested with the injury bug.

I expect Shaw will be back, as well Hossa. But Sharp's injury looked pretty severe, so expect him to be out for at least two weeks. Look for Brandon Bollig, who was sent down to Rockford before the game, to come right back up for the trip to Colorado for Friday night's game (8:00 p.m., Comcast Sportsnet Plus). I would think that other Ice Hogs' player will make the trip, including Ben Smith and perhaps Jimmy Hayes. Both have been playing well this season and would make a nice replacement if Shaw and Hossa need any extra time off.

After Friday night's trip to Colorado, the Hawks come back home for a Sunday evening tilt against the Oilers (6:00 p.m., Comcast Sportsnet) and will then have a much-needed three days of rest before traveling to Columbus on Thursday, March 14.

The season may be half over, but the adversity is just starting. It'll be interesting to see how coach Q mixes up the lines when needed, and how the players react to a second two-week road trip, which starts next week.

Look for the likes of Toews, Kane and Saad to keep the scoring up, and Hjalmarsson, Johnny Oduya and Nick Leddy to keep up the defense. (Yes, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith are there, too, but are sort having down years. At least to their standards.) Oh yeah, don't forget about old Danny "Car Bomb," the guy who likes to win games for the Hawks. Just keep skating fast and crashing the net, while limiting turnovers (+/- of 1 while on the ice) all while keeping a cool head.

The Hawks lead the league in goal differential (32), while Patrick Kane is fifth in the league in scoring (27), and they are riding this wonderful streak that has everyone talking. If the season is to be compared to a game, the first period just ended, and the Hawks are up big. It's the second and third periods of the season that will determine whether or not this team hoists its second Cup in four years.

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    Jim Crago

    DePaul graduate and proud father. I love all things Chicago sports, even the White Sox. Born in "The Region," and current resident of Lincoln Square.

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