This game started and ended in just the way someone might expect from these two teams. Not wanting to repeat their last meeting, the Hawks established a quick tempo and put the pressure on Vokoun early. Though it might have taken half the game to get the first goal, the Hawks soon had 4 by the final minutes of play, and Crawford picked up his 4th shutout of the season.
Things ended in the UC exactly like they should have, Hawks 4 - Panthers 0.
Filling in for Sharp, Stalberg showed that pretty much anyone can score on that line. I don't mean to put Stalberg down, but rather to compliment the other two guys who are making things happen. Actually, Stalberg's presence was felt from the get go. By going very hard to the net in the opening minutes, he forced the Panthers to take a bad penalty that resulted in the rattling of their goaltender. No goals would be scored on this PP, or the next 2 for that matter, but Stalberg's speed continued to be a pleasure to watch on the top line.
Early chances were mostly in the Hawk's favor, and Crawford was there for when Florida tried to cash in on a Hawk's mistake. Trying to build from these mistakes was about all the Panthers could do to stay busy. And though their might have been a bit more mistakes than I am happy about, the Hawks did have the puck all night, so things were bound to take a bad bounce against them from time to time.
What impressed me most about the play was how hard the forecheck was. On top of that, maybe catching a bit of the Stalberg bug, Kane was flying around the ice too. He was a speed demon, rarely stated about his play, but damn was he moving tonight. He also scored a goal after a really nifty passing play that was so quick and crisp that even his whiffing on the puck couldn't keep it out of the net.
Wanting their own quality passing play, the Hossa line cashed in on goal number 4 with an even better progression of puck movement ending with a Kopecky finishing shot.
And who could forget the blast by Seabrook that started it off, and ended a drought on the power-play. It took 4 PP's for the guys in red to finally convert. It ended when Seabrook murdered a one-timer past Vokoun. Speaking of the devil, I was even taking note about Seab's overall play. Not many mistakes and a little pep in his step. Nice to see with the current roster situation, i.e injuries. Keith and company looked strong tonight. Though that PK still needs a fire lit under their asses. All except maybe Hjammer.
On that injury note: I have little to say about the new guy. Kruger was there, but he wasn't really involved from what I saw. I was neither impressed nor upset about his play. Brouwer and Bickell stole the spot light and I was surprised nothing went in for them.
As noted, in the end things looked exactly how they should. With the exception of the Dallas-Anaheim game going into OT (AAARRRRGGHHH!) the night was a good one. Makes beating those pesky Ducks even more important on Saturday. I could mention a few other less than great things about the Hawks play tonight, but why bother. With the Calgary loss, things became a little less crowded in the West.