I had a good feeling about this game all day. Not being able to see it in real time do to prior commitments, I sat down well after the game had began with some friends and hit play on the DVR. It all happened so fast after that. Detroit has the puck in their own zone getting ready to break it out. Putting pressure on the D, Sharp and Toews force a turnover, then Sharp makes a brilliant pass across the slot to a driving Seabrook who takes an equally brilliant one-timer on net and just like that the Hawks won this game. Really, it was over as soon as it had begun. 27 seconds was all they needed to take the lead and establish the pattern for the next 40 minutes of play.
27 seconds was all the Blackhawks needed to get the win in Detroit Turnover City
Forcing turnovers from a strong forecheck and continued pressure had this Hawks team looking like giants. You never know which team you are going to get these days, but they seem to be consistent when playing the Wings. To be fair though, Detroit did not give anywhere near their best and an absence of players played a role in that. I look back at the screen and see the Stalberg, Johnson, Kopecky line create intense pressure and cause another Detroit giveaway. "This is looking good," I say to my buddy.
How about this Ben Smith guy? I like him. The guy knows how to finish a shot. I think he should run a clinic for a few Blackhawks today so that everyone can finish their chances tomorrow. The chemistry that he Kane, and Frolik had was a bit surprising to say the least. A bunch of little guys, their ability to swarm Detroit made up for their lack of size, and somebody slipped a jumping bean in Kane's food. If Kane played like this every game it would be, well, really great. After executing a pokecheck about as good as they come, Smith quickly picked it up in the high slot and delivered the kind of shots that leaves a goalie powerless to stop.
And no, this did not have anything to do with Rafalski heading behind the net like Eddie commented on later. Just the result of intense pressure on Detroit's breakout.
Smith would continue to shine throughout the game in different ways and it had me wondering how it has taken this long to see him. Not long after his goal, his line caused another extreme turnover. You have to be kidding me, because Kane's defensive play resulted in 2 goals within the first 10 minutes of play. Causing to the 3rd goal, Frolik ended up with the puck in the corner and makes a great centering pass to another driving defensemen, this time Campbell, and he finishes it of with a nice move around Howard. 3-0 and you had to feel bad for Howard who had no chance on any of these early goals.
Everything was going perfectly. The Hawk's talented D was playing like their talent should dictate, the offense was playing great defense and passes were connecting for finished shots. Then a call on Stalberg for hooking allowed the Hawks to show off that their PK was even on high gear. Having asked for more aggression time and time again, the determination and speed impressed me during both Hawk PK's. I think the Hawks had more scoring chances on Detroit's power-plays than Detroit did.
He might have been forgotten in all of this, but when Crawford needed to be good, he was, and he got the deserved break in terms of trying to carry the team.
When the Hawks started to take it a little easier Crawford had to wake the Hawks up with a huge kick save. Shortly after they picked up the tempo again. Smith would make a great defensive play, Stalberg would skate with eagerness, Johnson would give his body for the play, Bickell would wheel and deal. All of a sudden, the so-called lack of depth was looking pretty deep.
Another Detroit turnover led the Hawks to their first power-play of the evening, and Hossa would end up on the breakaway after yet another long outlook pass from Seabrook. Seabrook is really earning that new paycheck these days. Hossa, almost causing me an ulcer looked like he was going to take a slap shot on his breakaway again, but quickly changed his mind and picked his corner. FOUR to NOTHING Hawks!
5-0 was an inch away if Hossa could learn to elevate the puck. He might have scored, but this game was kind of weak on Hossa's part anyway. I seriously think he should hang out with Smith for a bit before tomorrow's game. Not only shooting, Hossa was just rough in every department last night. But thats okay because, he didn't need to be great, his team was for him.
The Hawks were swarming the crap out of Detroit, getting in the way of traffic and blocking shots, winning battles and making smart passes. I wanted them to keep the pressure up, but like most teams with a 4-0 lead, they started to settle down and play a tighter D. This would eventually lead to 2 goals by Detroit, and a lack luster 3 shot 3rd period.
Smith would continue to impress me though. Playing on the pK of all places, his ability to read the play well and smart uses of his speed led to a short handed drive to the net which almost landed him with his 2nd NHL goal.
As I just mentioned, the Hawks had only 3 shots in the 3rd, but one of them was off a Kane backhand that hit the crossbar and was quite the excellent shot.
Not wanting to end on a bad note, I am going to get it out here and finish on a high. First off, Eddie O was not on his A game. He made a couple unlikely dumb comments, one such comment being "Datsyuk is the best player to come out of Russia." I will not argue his talent and he is in the top 5, but Russia has produced a few other extremely talented names. I just had to get that out as it caused an intense conversation in my house.
Another bad thing, really bad, was a blast to Kopecky's head in the third. Stalberg ripped a shot that smashed into the head of Kopecky hard and sent him down just as hard. He got up holding the side of his head and skated off the ice and into the locker room as quickly as he could. I am sure this is bad news for him and the team. I can't imagine there not being any serious damage. Keep those shots within reason Stalberg.
Also, the Hawks won, which is great, but so did everyone else that mattered last night, and with that the Hawks did not gain any ground. The Ducks won, Dallas won, Phoenix won, and Nashville had an impressive win. The puck is still in their court, but at least a tie is necessary tomorrow to clinch no matter what. If Dallas loses their next game then it does not matter what the Hawks do, but how about making it a for sure thing guys. And, correct me if I am wrong, but the Hawks also have a shot at 5th place still. This shootout thing is confusing the hell out of me.
Given the way the Hawks played last night, my hope is that a win won't be a problem. Maybe the most impressive performance by the Hawks came in the lack luster 3rd. With about 10 minutes left the Toews line along with Keith and Seabs put together a great minute of hockey. The kind of hockey that puts the sound of poetry in your ears. The reason we play, the reason this game is the best game on the Earth. They put a movement of passes and cycling together which is rarely seen and it illustrated the depth of talent within each of those players. If that can continue tomorrow and into the playoffs then I pity the fool who messes with it.