I worked myself up into a tizzy before this game even started. Certain aspects about the Blackhawks game plan had me worried, and I even made some predictions in the pre-game post. Some ended up being scary right, but I was glad to see the most important one wrong. After watching this really close match between these 2 scoring machines, I feel much more optimistic about the season. Games against the Wings always hold a certain amount of weight on the rest of things to come, and so far so good.
There are some nice things to take away from this one. Namely, that Toews and Hossa can just be too much for the best of lines to contain, I mean, is there any line out there to match it really. This overshadowed some of the not so great moments by other lines in the game and was most likely the number 1 reason for the win, but it is not the only thing worth mentioning.
The game started out just as I imagined it. The Hawks looked quick out of the gates, and the Wings seemed ready to match it. The newbie Jimmy Hayes almost scored on his first shift and I counted 3 hits within his first 2 shifts in the NHL. At the end, he was only credited with 4 total, but I think they missed a few. Then, O'Donnell was caught battling down low to the left of Crawford while Abdelkader of the Wings was sneaking into the slot all alone passed Montador. Kaner was way to high in the zone to do anything about it and Detroit took the lead halfway through the first. My fears were coming true. I don't even think we saw O'Donnell for the second half of the game.
Just as quick as I could say, "nice poke-check Leddy," Toews was off to will his team back into the game. Rushing hard up the ice and generating a breakaway that had little chance of being converted on, Toews drew a hook from Lidstrom and a penalty shot would be awarded. Payback for the Kings game I suppose. Toews took care of business like he always does and the crisis of falling 2 goals behind to the Wings was averted. Not very long before this, Carcillo laid a nice hit on Bertuzzi who didn't take it so kindly and the 2 duked it out. Though not much action being generated from it, Carcillo ended with the upper hand a morale boost for the team. This physical statement could have been a large part of the outcome.
Bertuzzi would give the Wings their second lead of the game in the second after the 3rd line was caught way out position and chasing. A shot from the point with net presence and every Hawk on one side of the ice, and there you go. The next few shifts were difficult for the Hawks, especially the Kane line who seemed out of sync, though still able to control the play somehow. Like I said though, the Toews line would just be too much to handle and a Hossa blast with Carcillo in front doing his job would even the score. Hossa carried this puck the circumference of the Wings zone before taking his slap-shot. Yes, he was on his game.
The Hawks gained their first lead of the game in the 3rd after Stalberg carried the puck from end to end. How did this happen you ask? It just so happens that Stalberg went deep into his own zone to help facilitate a cleaner breakout from the D. His movement finally got the puck deep where Kane was able to make a nice pass across to the "Wing killer" Seabrook and it would be all the Hawks needed in the back of the net to win in regulation.
Cheers from all around, The Hawks won the first of 6 with the Wings and end the year on a high note.
Time for some other notes:
- Hayes was great in his limited time. I was kind of asking for a shift on the 3rd line, though it never came. He was strong in every shift, playing bodies, going to the net, and winning battles. Unfortunately, his ice-time was held to a minimum.
- Leddy and Hjalmer had strong performances as did Keith and Seabrook. Somehow, Keith stayed under 30 minutes even with O'Donnell disappearing for half the game.
- The Kane line was having difficulties because the forwards would not get deep enough into their own zone. Not a terrible night by the new combination, but still not promising either.
- The 4th line looked really strong. Mayers is a great addition to the team, and I am not sure it is said enough. Though I still would have liked Pirri in the mix, Hayes was as good as he could have been tonight.
- Toews, Hossa, and Carcillo were the one-two punch that sent the Wings packing. All 3 of them had stellar games in their own ways, but I still have to say it was too lopsided for the rest of the team.
- 0 for 5 on the power-play. This stat alone should have buried the Hawks. They are extremely lucky that the calls were going in their direction, because if it was they other way around, it would have been disaster. Kudos to the Wings kill, and even bigger Kudos to the Hawks for staying out of the box. Not converting on that many odd-man advantages is usually a good way to lose a game. Not that the Hawks did not generate chances while 5-on-4. Sharp had a few good looks, and the back-door play was missed a few times. I would like to see Leddy start every PP in the future though. Entrance into the zone seems one of their biggest walls, and Leddy seems to have a knack for it.
- The Hawks played physical and won. Having Carcillo and Hayes in the mix helped a ton, but even Bickell threw his weight around. Seeing his replacement in Hayes might have inspired him. Carcillo, Hayes, Bickell, and Mayers were 3/4ths of the total hits on the night. The fact is that they added this without looking out of sorts while doing it.
- Crawford had good back to back starts. Not the stellar saves of the Kings game, but he still had a few great saves tonight.
I don't really have anything beyond that. It was a tight game all the way through and the Hawks prevailed. Although, I did not feel like this was a great performance by the guys in white. This might have been due to the solid D played by the 4 top D-men on the Hawks, but I think the Wings just didn't have it in them tonight. They took way too many penalties and just looked flat with the puck. I will still take the win though. The Hawks showed a bit of their skill in this one. All the pieces seem to be there, I just don't see them in the right place yet. They are however, a tough team to beat on any given night.
Happy New Years!