Blackhawks burned by Flames in 3-1 loss

Going into tonight’s game I was hoping to see an improved defensive performance from the horrid game against Edmonton the night before. I think every Blackhawks fan was looking for answers after the Oilers game.  How would the Blackhawks respond? With the quick turnaround I wasn’t quite sure if we would see a tired drained Hawks team or an invigorated team looking for a little payback.

In the first week of the nine game three week road stretch to say this Canadian trip has not started the way the Blackhawks would have liked is an understatement.  Coming into this game out of a possible four points against Western Conference opponents the Hawks only garnered one point. If the Hawks could win in Calgary they would pull 3points out of 6 potential.

Needless to say they desperately needed to win in Calgary for not only the points but for their confidence too. I could not think of a better opponent well except for the Blue Jackets, for the Hawks to improve their defense and goals against numbers. Calgary has a terrible offense and are ranked 26th in the league going into the game in goals per game.

In their final meeting of the season against the Flames, the Hawks gave me some answers.Not all the answers I was looking for or wanted but I did get some. What become clear to me was the Hawks are capable of playing a team defensive game when they put their minds to it but it is not a natural thing for them. They struggle with their positioning and clearing out the crease and slot areas. It also seems if the Hawks play well on defense their offence suffers and vice versa. It seems they can’t play a complete game right now. It also doesn't seem to matter who is in net for the Hawks the results don't change. 

Ray Emery (GAA 2.71 & Sv% .903) was in net for the Hawks and Miikka Kiprusoff (GAA 2.33 & SV% .919) for the Flames.

The first period saw most of the play in the Flames end except when it counted. The Flames scored first by Olli Jokinen which beat Emery high stick side on a slapshot that went in and out of the net so fast the officials were not sure at first that it was a goal 1-0 Calgary. Assists went to Iginla and Tanguay.  

Finally though late in the period, Brent Seabrook scored on the backdoor with a sweet dish from Kane to tie it 1-1. Seabrook tried all night against the Oilers the same play and finally it paid off. Give the man credit for knowing where the soft spots in the offensive zone are and that no one looks for the defensemen to be where he was positioned. Give an assist also to Patrick Sharp.

The second period went by in what seemed like a Stalberg rush – fast. There was a lot of action but the majority of the action came in the last 3 minutes of the period when the Hawks had to kill a 4 minute double minor high sticking call on Frolik which proved to be the teams undoing. Emery was completely screened when Bouwmeester scored on the power play 2-1 Calgary.

 Again there were two Flames parked right in front of the goalie and no clear out which cost them this goal. Seabrook or Keith can’t let people sit right in front there comfortably and until they stop this players will continue to do it to the Hawks netminders. Not to just pin this on the D-men the forwards need to assist with clearing people out too.

As the third period wore on time became the enemy of the Hawks as much as the Flames did. Then on a semi breakaway Iginla backhanded one past Emery 3-1 Calgary. Turns out this goal wasn’t even needed.

The difference in this game was the Hawks took too many penalties at the wrong times in the game. The turning point was the Frolik double minor which turned the game. The Hawks played well 5 on 5 but were shorthanded too much of the game. They could not catch the Flames as they were too busy killing penalties. 

That coupled with again three goals, while better than eight is still too many to give up. The defense will be a project they will need to work on all year. In the meantime the Hawks need to limp out of Alberta 0-2-1 with only one point out of six. The first leg of this road trip can be categorized as a complete failure. The Hawks have lost their last 5 games and 1 point out of 10 is all they could secure which is not how you want to head towards the playoffs.

This team maybe has some confidence issues right now. They need to wipe Alberta from their memories and this past week and regroup back in Chicago. They played a much better game defensively as they did in Vancouver and can look to that going into their trip out west.

Three stars of the game – 3) Kiprusoff 2) Iginla 1) Jokinen

Hawks start the second leg of their road trip when they next play again Tuesday @ the Pepsi Center vs. the Colorado Avalanche which can be caught on CSN or WGN Radio 720. Start time is early at 8:00 pm CT

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