It was one of the uglier games of hockey I've seen this season, but the result is all that matters. The Blackhawks edged the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 Saturday night in what can only be described as a sloppy and frustrating game.
The Hawks came out lethargic in the first period. The Blue Jackets shut down the middle of the neutral zone and played physically, while the Blackhawks continued to stubbornly force play to the middle of the ice. The Jackets took a 1-0 lead in the first period on a goal by Mark Letestu. Late in the period, Dave Bolland tied the game at one after a strong rush by Patrick Kane, who was one of the few Blackhawks to play a complete 60 minute game.
In the 2nd, Bryan Bickell redirected a Niklas Hjalmarsson point shot and the Hawks had their first lead of the game. Then things got a little weird. The Jackets appeared to have tied the game when Nick Foligno redirected a Derick Brassard wrist shot, but the goal was waved off. While referee Dan O'Rourke never explained the ruling over the PA, the call was goaltender interference. Replays showed little to no contact with Corey Crawford, but the goal was disallowed and the Hawks kept the 2-1 lead into the 3rd period.
Jonathan Toews scored on a Patrick Kane steal to give the Hawks a 3-1 lead, but Columbus answered back late in the 3rd. Crawford was strong in the closing moments, and the Hawks were able to hold on. The game shouldn't have been as close as it was, but it was the classic "trap game". The Hawks may have been looking ahead to the Red Wings...or they may have assumed the Jackets would just bend over and take it. Last season, the Hawks probably would have lost that game, but they won and tied a franchise record with a 5-0 start.
- Kane has been the best Blackhawk this season. While Marian Hossa's goals have been spectacular and memorable, Kane has really been the catalyst for the Hawks' offense. Maybe it's his recommittment to hockey. Maybe it's the head start he had playing in Switzerland. Whatever it is, he's been consistently outstanding. He's always had elite skill, and flashes of brilliance. Through five games this year, the lights are no longer flashing...they're on.
- I'm not sure what Joel Quenneville sees in Sheldon Brookbank. Michal Rozsival has been much better in the games he's played, but Q went with Brookbank last night, who struggled in his own zone. It seemed every time he was on the ice, the Jackets had sustained puck control and pressure in the Blackhawks' zone. The only logical response would be that he wants to rest Rozsival in back to back games. An opponent like Columbus can give you that luxury, but I'd hate to see him in the press box against a better team. Rozsival is better than Brookbank in every aspect of the game.
- Crawford kept the Hawks in the game early. While I wouldn't quite call this game a goalie win, it was pretty close. He's been strong, if unspectacular so far, but the Hawks don't need him to be spectacular. If he can be above average, which he's been so far, the Hawks won't have to worry about their goalie situation.
While the Red Wings (2-2-0) have been a punch line for their slow start this season, they're still a team to be reckoned with. Of course, without Nick Lidstrom they've taken a big step back, but to think the Hawks will just walk over them tonight is just foolish. As long as Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are skating, they're a threat. Keep an eye on young winger Damien Brunner. The scored one of the sickest shootout goals you'll ever see, and has been spending time on the Wings' top line. Last season, the Hawks went 4-0-2 against the Wings, and collected a point in every game they played. Hopefully that trend continues tonight.