Well, in all the ways the Blackhawks may have been outplayed Saturday against Detroit, tonight's game against the Sharks saw a complete effort from the Hawks in limiting the league's highest shooting team to 24 shots, and more importantly, earning a big win. Though the game came down to the final moments of a 6-on-4 power play for San Jose, the final tally wasn't fully representative of what transpired. San Jose entered the game having gone 6-0-1 since January 1st, but it was the Hawks who came out looking unbeatable. They took the play in the 1st, and entered intermission with a 2-0 lead on goals by Dave Bolland and Viktor Stalberg. After the Sharks grabbed two goals in :26 seconds early in the 2nd to tie the game, Joel Quenneville wisely used his timeout, righted the troops and Jonathon Toews took advantage of an Antti Niemi miscue to make it 3-2. In the third, the hard work of Andrew Shaw pushed the lead to 4-2, and after the Sharks made it a one-goal game with 5 minutes left, Chicago shut the door.
It may not have been the prettiest game or the flashiest of goals on either side, but it was the effort and matchup Chicago needed to produce to start turning the corner on what's been a tough 2012 to this point. Though the Hawks picked up wins over Columbus and Minnesota earlier in the week, and had an impressive 3rd despite the outcome in Detroit, tonight was a revelation in what this team can do in both zones when it puts all the pieces together. More of this please.
- Quenneville had the Toews, Stalberg, Patrick Kane line out against Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau line, and the Hawks top line rolled on Jumbo Joe. Tows and Stalberg both had a goal and an assist, and though Thornton picked up an assist on Pavelski's goal, he was mostly in the shadows the entire game. Thornton also went a measly 1 for 7 in face-offs. The Hawks stars stepped up to the challenge and were in the driver's seat any time they hit the ice. Toews and Stalberg ran a great give and go off the cycle for Vik to pick up his goal as well.
- Defensively, it was one of the better overall efforts I've seen from the Hawks blueliners lately. Prime scoring chances seemed few and far in between, and their positioning and breakouts seemed much crisper. There were still a few miscues, some that lead to the Sharks lighting the lamp (Andrew Brunette and Jimmy Hayes both got caught chasing the puck on the 3rd, leaving the point shot to deflect around and in), but overall, pretty tight.
- Surprising to see Corey Crawford get the start on the tail end of the back to back as well, but he was pretty strong throughout. The goal by San Jose's Jamie McGinn is one that has absolutely no business getting through Crow, but he recovered well and never seemed to need a tough save after that. While he still needs to work on his rebound control a bit more, the defense was always ready to clear any second attempts.
- Speaking of goalies, Antti Niemi was pretty impressive for San Jose as well despite the loss. Pretty sure that Patrick Kane is still kicking himself after firing a 2-on-1 chance right into Niemi's glove. Kane's still stuck on 3 goals in his past 27 games, but he showed up to play tonight, even if he only notched an assist.
- Andrew Shaw. While I'm still hesitant to hype after only 7 games, the kid finds a way to get himself into scoring position. His goal tonight was a great example of crashing the net and never giving up on the play. Shaw's all heart, shown some decent skill and a bit of ADD, but he played almost 17 minutes tonight, including a bit of special teams work, had 5 shots, 3 hits and didn't lose one of the 6 face-offs he took. To follow up on HH's comment from yesterday, I don't know myself if Shaw's top 6 material, but with games like tonight, he can definitely eat up minutes as a 3rd/4th line center.
- Though there's oftentimes reasons to be critical of Joel Quenneville, matching up the top lines worked brilliantly tonight, and with the whole team appearing strong, there was little need to juggle the lines constantly. And calling the timeout after the Sharks two quick goals redrew the focus on the game plan very well. Credit where credit is due (plus I enjoyed seeing someone in the 300 level rock a signed Q Whalers jersey. Hope that got a smirk from Joel.)
- Honestly not sure what else to say. More defensive efforts like tonight, and there's a whole lot less need to talk about trades or what needs to wake up the offense. Even after the Sharks tied the game at 2, you could almost feel that all the Hawks needed was one more goal and the game was in the bag, and in a slightly drawn out way, that's about what happened. Great win, and hopefully one that puts the doldrums from the past few weeks fully in the rear view mirror.
Filed under: Game Recap