Blackhawks best Senators 2-1 with yes, solid defense and goaltending

 

As the Hawks try and make a run to stay in the playoff hunt in the Western Conference, potentially a new team has emerged. With injuries to key players and a necessity to change the course this team was headed on a new Blackhawks team has arisen like a Phoenix from the ashes.

This new team has a different look and a mixture of experience sprinkled in with raw youthful vigor, finesse seasoned with bit of grit. The one thing that remains constant is the teams speed. I’m not sure if this new team should be called the Ice Hawks or the Black Hogs with the new found energy and grit that Andrew Shaw, Jimmy Hayes and Brandon Bollig have given them. Oh yeah and that Oduya guy is pretty good too.

Who leads this potpourri of players is maybe surprising to some but should not be. Patrick Kane is emerging as this team’s leader, in a time when it could not be more important for one to step forward. We have seen many times Jonathan Toews take this team on his back and lift them to another level. Now with him out it is the other young gun, Patrick Kane who has emerged and at just the right time.

The Blackhawks kicked off another one of those road trips not as long but just as important as they face the Senators, Red Wings and Blues. It was important for the Hawks to prove maybe to themselves that they can play good teams and beat them on the road which makes this win over a very good Ottawa team very important. The Ottawa Senators are looking for a playoff spot themselves they are only 3 points behind division leading Boston Bruins and are currently ranked 7th in the Eastern Conference.

The game started out very fast paced as both teams put on a skating clinic. The all too familiar road scenario for the Hawks played out as Ottawa scored first late in the period. Milan Michalek beat Ray Emery from the slot low on the stick side to put the Senators ahead 1-0 which, is how the period ended even though the majority of the period was dominated by the Blackhawks. The Hawks came out flying in this game and could have easily been up 2or 3 goals but could not convert on their chances. The Kane/Hossa/ Brunette line were buzzing around like vultures but just didn’t get their opportunities past Robin Lehner. The SOG were 17-9 Hawks.

The second period was a thrilling one for the Blackhawks. Johnny Oduya has a lot of finesse to his game both in his smooth skating strides and in his hands. He placed a perfect stretch pass on the stick to a streaking Patrick Sharp who was then on a breakaway. The Senators had no choice but to hook Sharp and so he was awarded a penalty shot. Sharp was stymied by Ottawa goalie Lehner who was brilliant himself for this game.  

Then on a delayed penalty with Emery pulled and six attackers on the ice for the Hawks, Bryan Bickell scored with a ton of bodies in front of the Senators net to get one past Lehner and tie the game at 1-1. This goal is more of what I think the Hawks will need to do as they face elite goalies. Get bodies to the net.

The Bickell goal was just the beginning. After much confusion the Hawks got another goal and would you believe it was on a power play. Marian Hossa again did his thing with the puck when he took it around behind the Senators net and then did a wrap around past Lehner which only went over the goal line for a few seconds thus the confusion. It was a good goal and the Hawks lead 2-1 and never looked back.

Most people will say that this game was won in the second period with the Bickell and Hossa goals. I think it was won in the third when the Blackhawks proved they can play team defense and that they can have solid netminding and hold off a very talented Ottawa team. A little luck doesn’t hurt either from the goals posts and that guy named Keith that’s always scurrying around with his stick in front of the Hawks goal. The Hawks finished the game 2-1 with a solid road win that coach Quenneville said in post game was “their biggest win and it’s exactly what we wanted”.

Observations

·       If The Hawks can continue to play like they did tonight for a full sixty minutes and with solid five man defensive play as a unit coupled with solid goaltending, I have no questions that they not only can make the playoffs but will go far in them as well.  

·       The Hawks power play is starting to come around, if and when it does on a consistent basis a lot of the Hawks problems will be solved.

·       I said before the Hawks get their energy and juice when they are in the offensive zone and attacking. It sparks their defensive positioning as a team and if nothing else keeps the puck out of infront of the Hawks goal.  

·       Patrick Kane’s leadership is becoming apparent. He now refers to it as his line and his defensive unit which is good he has to take ownership and accountability for the team. Even though the Kane centered line with Hossa and Brunette did not score they still dictated the play and the pace of the game. Most importantly they kept the puck down on the other end of the ice away from Emery. They must stay patient and not get frustrated the goals will come if they keep playing like this.

·       Patrick Sharp may not have scored on the penalty shot but he contributed to both goals with two assists and is still a force on the ice.  

·       This team minus maybe the best captain in the entire NHL, has shown resolve and purpose. If they can keep this focus on a night in and night out basis they will be tough to beat heading into the playoffs.

 

Again I like how when the Hawks got down they never gave up and came from behind to win this game. Just like in the Maple Leafs game they were able to overcome being down which, was even more impressive since they were on the road. They managed to pick up two much needed points. Whether I want to call them the Ice Hawks or the Black Hogs the one thing I can call them, is a team not only loaded with talent but true grit.

 

Three stars of the game – 3) Emery 2) Lehner 1) Hossa

 

Hawks play again Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings which can be caught on NHLN or WGN Radio 720. Start time is at 3:00 pm CT

 

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