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.