Shots for Blackhawks - 37, shots for Pens - 19.
Q was enlightening as always when questioned after the game, taking no side and failing to support the outstanding performance by youngster Brandon Pirri who was the only Hawk able to figure out the wall Brent Johnson had built last night. What Q did say is that, 9 times out of 10, the Hawks will win that game. Posting twice as many shots as the visitors, including a very entertaining 3rd when they outshot their opponent 19-6, the Hawks missed a few that have no excuse for not crossing the threshold, and it surely was the difference.
What does that say about goaltending, well my guess would be that Salak is your CC backup for the 2011-12 season. Emery most likely could have easily taken the spot if showing anything decent through this camp, but it just wasn't there for the veteran. The youngster with potential and more room to grow is now the best candidate for the job. Emery had a hard night, allowing 3 goals that could have been stopped, including 2 that never should have happened. The still slacking Chicago defense has a part in this let down, but Emery has no excuses to make. He just didn't have it.
Oh my, Brandon Pirri. Well, if this guy is not in the starting line-up come Friday then I have no idea what a prospect can do to make a team. Make no doubts about it, Pirri has played great in every appearance during this preseason. He has scored 2 goals in a game twice, one even included a shootout tally to boot, and he has a couple helpers too. His overall play is what stands out even greater to me. All of his goals have been the result of playing the puck correctly, forechecking hard, patience, an active stick, and an overall hard work ethic. He was an inch away from a hatrick last night and just always seems to have the puck on his stick. During interviews, he plays the humble hockey player, stating that there is much to learn, but I think this guy is ready.
So what does this mean for the Blackhawks and more specifically, other prospects? With Stalberg and Smith out, the first day decisions are a tad easier, and who knows what the deal with Bolland is. The scenario thus far has been one centered around the conundrum of who the 2nd line center would be for the Hawks. It has even caused a shifting of Kaner to that spot after 3 years as a Hawks winger. Sharp has stated on numerous occasions that he prefers the wing, but then who's wing is he? Kane had a nice performance as a centerman, but that was for Hossa, and the Sharp-Kane duo is something I enjoy watching. Mayers is a great candidate for the 4th line center playing well through the camp, taking Kruger totally out of the argument as far as I am concerned.
Here is my 2 cents and it goes on the assumption that Bolland starts the season on Friday. Bolland centers the 2nd line with Hossa and Brunette on his wing (Frolik might be the better choice though). The first line is the amazing Toews, Kane, Sharp trio for old times sake. Pirri centers the 3rd line with Bickell and Frolik, and Mayers takes the 4th line with Olesz and Saad to start the season off.
Things will obviously have to change once certain players are healthy again, but I hope the administration makes a decision soon, avoiding as much confusion as possible. We do not want players flipping lines again and especially not positions through the year.
Pirri and Bickell had a couple of nice moments together and that chemistry might be something worth entertaining. I had been questioning Bickell over the past few games, but last night he seemed to come out of his shell a tad and it wasn't on Bolland's line.
The special teams were not too productive last night. The 2nd goal given up was a shorty and the PP, while generating many chances, was not producing results. They had a ridiculously intense PP late in the 3rd, but it was filled with missed opportunities. It came after Saad drew what I think might be the 5th penalty against him this short preseason. Saad had another strong night, picking up a nice assist and using his time on the ice effectively.
Again, Brunette has had chances, but not living up to his reputation just yet. Montador still has a long way to go in winning me over, but Hjalmer keeps impressing. The most effective defenseman on the ice, the improvement in his offensive skills are very visible.
Sunday against the Caps again. Both teams should be boasting nearly complete rosters, so it should be interesting and telling.