I'm sure you've heard people say, "Never in doubt." Of course, typically when people use that phrase, whatever they're referring to was certainly in doubt, and there was a large level of stress before the positive result manifested itself. When I said it to my wife after today's Blackhawks win, for the first time, I actually meant it literally.
The Blackhawks extended their historic streak to 22 games with a thrilling 2-1 shootout victory over the Detroit Red Wings. The Hawks dominated play for most of the game, but Detroit's goalie, Jimmy Howard, was able to keep the Hawks off the board until nearly 18 minutes had expired in the 3rd period. It was then that Patrick Kane put the puck in the Wings' net, and the Blackhawks into overtime.
After that, the Hawks won the shootout skills competition (Kane scored that goal, too) and left Detroit with two more points to throw on the pile.
At no point during the game did I ever feel the Blackhawks would lose. Honestly. Even against the Red Wings...who I've seen break the Blackhawks' hearts over and over and over again. This time, it felt different. This year, it feels different.
The loss is going to come eventually, and when it does, it will probably look a lot like this game. The Hawks will dominate most of the game, but a hot goalie will keep it close, and the clock will just run out. When it happens, it will shock me that they weren't able to pull out another miracle finish.
RANDOM OBSERVATIONS :
Kane, despite his heroics, was pretty ordinary in this one. He's still playing the best, and most consistent hockey of his career, but there have been lapses here and there lately. Nothing overly concerning or reflective of his past struggles.
Michal Roszival had a great game, especially in the third period. There is little to no flash to his game whatsoever, but try to isolate on him for a while. He almost always makes the right, safe decision with and without the puck. On a team loaded with slick skating, risk taking, offensive minded defensemen, Roszival is adding a great level of calm and conservatism. A couple of weeks ago, I hosted a bar event with David Bolland. When I asked him about Roszival, Bolland said that whenever he'd see Rozsival on the ice, he'd make a point to try to take the play elsewhere, because chances were he was going to shut it down.
Corey Crawford has taken the next step in his career. I'm ready to officially say it and get it notarized. In season's past, Crawford would have come unglued after Tomas Tartar's goal. Instead, he elevated his play. He made an insane save on Henrik Zetterberg right after Tartar's goal, and a multitude of saves late to preserve the tie. It appears Crawford has slayed the demons that held him back.
The Daniel Carcillo on the first line experiment needs to end. I like what Carcillo brings to the team. He's a nut bar. He plays with an edge and plays physically while not being completely useless hockey wise, but he can't handle top minutes. He was a big part of the reason Detroit even got on the score sheet today. His blown coverage in the defensive zone led to Tartar's goal. He also made a couple of costly mishandles in the offensive zone. Brandon Saad has been better on the top line and has earned the right to stick there permanently. Quenneville probably feels that Carcillo is protecting Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. Obviously, that's hard to quantify, but he's clearly a step behind Hossa and Toews both athletically, and hockey intelligence wise.
Marian Hossa played in his 1,000th NHL game today. He's been a class act his entire career. Wing fans booing him is perhaps the 2nd most ridiculous thing in the NHL. The first being San Jose fans booing Brian Campbell. The Red Wings chose to re-sign Johan Franzen over Hossa, so he signed with the Hawks an won a Cup. I'm not sure why the anger is directed at Hossa, and not the Red Wings organization. It's not like he was a long time Red Wing who "owed it to his city" to stay and take a discount.
The Brian Campbell thing is even more baffling. Even now, Sharks fans boo him when he touches the puck. Campbell played exactly 20 games with the Sharks after being TRADED from Buffalo in the 2007-08 season. Then, in the summer of his unrestricted free agency, he signed with the Hawks. Two great players booed for being part of the business. Crazy.
Viktor Stalberg's development could be an issue down the road. The Dream Weaver is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this summer. With the salary cap set to drop next season, it will be interesting to see if the Hawks are willing to spend big money ($2 million or more) on Stalberg, or let him walk. They might be wise to start negotiating now. Maybe they can get him at a lower price. If not, I don't know if the Hawks can justify paying that kind of money to a third line guy who's hardly a complete player at this point in his career.
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