Now that is what I call Hockey: Chicago Blackhawks 5, Blues 2.

Now that is what I call Hockey: Chicago Blackhawks 5, Blues 2.

This game was intense, this game was brutal, this game had meaning, and the Blackhawks proved they still have a will to win some hockey games. This is the first game in a while that I am giddy about recapping. The Hawks came out and established the pace, didn't overwhelm the Blues, but decided the flow. The Blues, coming in thinking that this would be the frosting on an explosive cake of wins and a statement heard throughout the league responded to the Hawks start by trying to get physical.

With the altercations beginning to rack up, the punches between whistles and mobster type practices underway, the Hawks responded brilliantly, and showed that they actually do stand up for one another. The first goal had me worried. An O'Donnell mishap allowed the first go-ahead for the Blues which represented too many of the Hawks issues as of late. Later, Brunette was taken down without a call and the second go-ahead for the eventual losers, surrounded in a sea of rough and tough St. Louis Blues gave me reason for doubt with the recent performances by the Hawks in mind. But, the 2nd period was owned by the Hawks and in every way possible.

Before we get to the individual play by many of the sweaters in white, and there were some great performances, we should establish the large forces in this game's outcome. First off, as Vegas likes to point out from time to time, the "core" was great  last night. The Hawks top guys were better than the Blues top guys, and as the Hawks showed last night, we have a lot of top guys.

Second, this was a game won by special teams. The Hawks had 1 even strength goal. Powered by a little Hossa-power, they scored 2 power-play goals and a shorty. The penalty-kill was perfect, and a 4-on-3 which showcased a Kaner, Sharpie, Hossa, and Tazer shift was absolutely too much to handle. Point and case to Vegas' point about the Hawks top players.

Another important aspect, and I especially have to point this out given my recent weeks of posting, is that Q was the better coach, and it was against a coach tearing through the league up to this point. Q made the right decisions at the right times, and none were better than the one at the end of the 2nd period. Putting Bolland out for the last face-off against Backes, after Backes and Toews had been going at it for the better part of the game was pure brilliance, and exactly the kind of coaching I have been looking for. It resulted in the 4-on-3 to start the 3rd and was instrumental in the Hawks win.

Honestly, this game was full of a lot of positive things to talk about, but I try to keep these posts within reason. Worthy of comment, beyond just a bullet point is the actions of Carbomb to take that 4-minute penalty against Backes by entering into the scruff between him and Toews. This is why Carcillo is here, and the unquestioning manner with which he blew in-between the 2 captains deserves a standing ovation. Without question, a penalty worth taking, and it sent a message about how much this team believes in their captain. Not to mention, it had a direct impact in the last paragraph's points.

And on that play, the only reason Toews avoided the box is because he is Jonathan Toews. The officials know the type of player he is, and most likely saw Backes as the instigator.

Without further blabbering, some points to take away:

  • Emery was a huge goaltender in this game. He made some giant saves and deserves a large nod.
  • The Hawks are credited with 2 give-aways. With the exception of the O'Donnell mistake on the first goal, the defense was darn solid.
  • The Hawks controlled the shot totals with great authority.
  • Hjalmer was great. It might have been his best game all around, and he blocked a ton of shots. Maybe a big reason for the defensive strength in this game.
  • Bolland is getting better with every game. No question that he has been playing hurt and is feeling better with every game.
  • Smith on his wing is a good thing and I hope it is fairly permanent. He is the gritty, hard-nosed type of player that works there, and he is good at finishing on plays.
  • Toews and Sharp continue to have the magic touch. Toews is now only a goal away from leading the league. Also, Kaner is at top of the league with assists.
  • The shift after the 4th Hawks goal, Kruger and Frolik came together for a very powerfully defensive shift that I thought was huge at that point. They had a couple of out-right take-aways.
  • There were a few points when I could hear Toews yelling at his team to motivate and empower them in small battles. I was watching the St. Louis feed, so not sure if others heard it.
  • The end got a little scary. The Hawks are not spectacular sitting back and playing D.
  • However, I can't recall one time when I saw an odd-man rush against.

Seeing that this was the type of play we have all been asking, and waiting for, the question now becomes why? What changed, how was the preparation for this game different? Why did Q wake up all of a sudden and make strong coaching moves during the game? What helped the defense figure it out? These are questions we will all seek to answer as the next few days roll by.

Could just have been a reaction to playing against the Blues, but I hope there was more at work here. Hey, it was a win I can get behind and it feels good.



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    Hello from Montreal (I like the Habs, but the Hawks are my team forever). Just bookmarked and subscribed, great blog. Yesterday's game was perhaps the season's best, though I must admit the 5-2 crushing of Vancouver was pretty cool as well.

    There's only thing I'm really worried about. With Crow's recent slump and Emery's good job in St. Louis, the question is worth asking: do the Hawks now have a goalie controversy ? With the sort of Huet-Turcot failures of recent years still in mind, we were all convinced that this silly situation where the backup goalie becomes the starter had ended for good with Crow, but now we have to perhaps face this situation once again.

  • Welcome Burt, always glad to see a new face post. Nice wrap HH and sorry I could not find the time to pay a visit while I was in town. The food at Karyn's, as always, was outstanding but I wish I would have had a little more time to kick around the city and see some more people.

    Though I was happy with the win on Friday, I have to say that was a painful game to sit through in person. But, looking at that game and then the one played just 24 hours later, I think it says a lot about this team both good and bad. Up until Saturday's game, I believe a majority of the fan base was fed up enough that they wanted to see a jarring change. And then they come and slap their collective junk in the Blues faces and basically negate most ideas floated around the net.

    Not only were the Hawks core players the best players last night, but this team played for and stood up for each other which is something that has been sorely missing since the playoffs of the cup run. Without Carcillo here this year, there is no one, and I mean no one, who would have stood up for Toews like that. Not only that, but the whole scrum started with Kaner standing up for himself which is something I believe is also a result of Carcillo being around. But it's not just him. Kruger and Smith have also played with fearlessness and have been noticeable.

    Saturday, to me, was no fluke, but neither was Friday. It's the same team. Carcillo will not stay on the top line and sadly, no other player on the team will play in his spot there with a similar energy. I like Sharp and Stals, but neither will do what he did and I think that's part of the problem and why we get results like Friday night and the previous game with the Yotes. When a team can isolate Toews or Kaner and harass them constantly to a point just under fighting them, they can (and have) suck a lot of life out of the rest of the team. It's not about ass kicking to intimidate as much as it's about saying you won't be intimidated by bullshit. Q makes a lot of good and bad coaching decisions, but I don't think he has the ability to make his team want to stand up for each other like that. If standing up for each other is the only thing they take away from that game and continue, things are going to get better.

  • Sorry Burt, you will see I'm a long winded poster, but to your point about the goaltending, I'm a little more optimistic. Crawford has not been good lately, but leading up to that, he has been left swinging in the wind way way too often by the team in front of him. I think his confidence is a little shook right now and though I'm not giving him a pass per se, I think he will improve if the guys in front of him show some consistency and support. He's not a lights out goalie, but he doesn't need to be if the rest of the team is on it's game. He will keep them in it and be a workhorse while doing so, but he can't carry them.

    Looking at Nemo in the few Sharks games I watched this year, he still gives up a LOT of fat rebounds. However, his D has gotten good at clearing them away and not letting other teams bum rush him. Ironically, I think Crow is better on the longer shots, though those are the ones he has been getting burned on lately. If the rest of the team keeps bouncing up and down, his struggles might last awhile longer.

  • Hi Burt, glad to have a new voice around.
    I am on the side with Vegas here. And yes, the same thing ran through my head while watching the game, especially given the past few years. Goalies are notorious for having good years and bad years. Look at Thomas 3 years ago, then the year after, and the year after that.
    It was my personal feeling that the Huet always sucked, and I was blown away when I first heard of his contract. I also feel that Niemi deserved the contract that Crow know has, but I am happy with Crow in net. I see a strong goaltender in him. Not an outstanding one who is going to flat out steal games, but dependable and poised in net. A smart goaltender if you will.

    The Hawks defense this year has gotten him questioning, which caused him to over commit and is now off of his game. Once he gets it back, and he will, things will smooth out.

    Doesn't deny the fact that Emery just played a darn solid game. I say give him a few more looks, but nothing that allows Crow to fall from the starting spot.

  • Hi Burt,

    Grew up in Montreal and detest the Habs, probably because of the gutting of the Hawks in the early sixties.

    Don't think we will have a goalie controversy as Emery is clearly a re-tread backup and Crawford is the man. If Emery can do 20 starts so Crawford gets to the playoffs intact, it is a beautiful world. Emery is streaky and if he plays a few in a row , that's smart coaching. Crawford has been pounded and unsupported a lot in the early season and deserves a break.

    Carcillo should stay on that line. Vegas , what makes you think he won't, aside from Q's inevitable line shuffling ? As Vancouver found out last season, no standup, you lose. Think Marchand's facewash of Sedin.

    Bruins were impressive beating the Leafs,again, on Saturday. Their fourth line gets 10 minutes a game and they are physical. Hawks are going to need to finish checks consistently sooner or later. Scott scares me as a D but he works hard and may be that ugly screen the oppositon has to move from the net. Chara might have his hands full. Have you noticed how much better behaved the other team is when Scott is on the ice ?

  • In reply to Pilotefan:

    I think the issue is that Carcillo is just not taken seriously as a player capable of top line minutes. What I see from him is balance. He's probably not a better player than Stals and I believe many people have a black and white calculus that goes something like this, if player A has better skills then player B, then player A should have the top line minutes. Stals will eventually play his way back up. But for right now, I really like what Carcillo brings to our top lines. Without him, our lines are mostly skill with little to no grit. Hossa and Toews are puck beasts, but Carcillo will hit you whether it's to get the puck or not. Like you said about Marchand, I think good lines need that.

  • In reply to Pilotefan:

    I wrote the other comment before I watched the game last night, but I was not surprised Carcillo did not start the top line. The conundrum is this, Carcillo does not have the offensive skill that Stalberg does, but Stalberg does not have the snarl and net presence that Carcillo brings. Toews scored that first goal because of a Carcillo screen. Nuthin fancy or particularly skilled.

    I'll probably repeat this when the wrap is up, but I still think the Hawks lack a consistent edge. In my comment up top, this is what I was talking about. The Yotes bring just enough attitude to not start fights but still get under your skin. Toews can handle himself in a puck battles, but against teams like the Yotes, I kinda think he needs someone on his line to drop a douchebag hit once in awhile to keep other teams from isolating Toews. Pierre McTool even said toward the end of the first, the Yotes were absolutely dominating the Hawks on the boards.

    Again, I can't make a case that Carcillo can displace Stals due to skill. But when you have two elite players like Toews and Kane on the same line, I would argue that you don't need another skill guy on that line as much as you need a guy to create space for the talent.

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