Hawks burn Leafs 5-4
Another Original Six matchup is always fun. This matchup again saw two teams that do not face each other much and two teams that are looking to get back on the winning track. The Leafs are coming off of their own losing streak where they have lost 8 of their last 10. The Hawks coming off of 3 straight losses desperately need to keep gaining points to keep pace in the Western Conference.
The Maple Leafs themselves were in need of points as well. They are currently out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture in 10th place but are only four points behind. So they too would be skating with an air of desperation.
Also making this game of interest was the NHL debut of Brandon Bollig and the recall of Andrew Shaw I was hyped to see what the impact of the youngster would be. I expected the energy would be high.
Also making his UC debut is the recently traded D-man Johnny Oduya who would be solidifying a much needed beleaguered D core. Oduya would be paired to with Brent Seabrook. His presence on the ice would bring some experience and puck moving abilities and ease the minutes of the Dmen.
In Goal the goalies have very similar numbers, Jonas Gustavsson (2.89GAA & .905 SV%) for the Leafs and Corey Crawford (2.89 GAA & .901 SV%) for the Hawks.
Not even a minute into the game and the Leafs took the lead 1-0 when they stuffed one passed Crawford when Brent Seabrook could not clear the zone and Dave Bolland gave up the puck deep behind the Hawks net and Bozak was able to take it away and stuff a wrap around which Oduya and Seabrook really had no chance of stopping.
Bolland made amends when he won a face-off draw on the left circle back to give the Hawks control in the Leafs zone. The Maple Leafs got schooled in Shaw Facts when Andrew Shaw took the puck on the cycle from the right circle to the net and scored to tie it 1-1. You've got to love Shaw's game he is hard nosed with deceptive speed to the net. The tie unfortunately did not last long when Patrick Sharp went off for a hooking penalty and then on the power play Joffrey Lupul redirected the puck past Crawford 2-1 Leafs.
Then with only three minutes left in the first period McArthur scored on a wrister 3-1 Leafs. Then thankfully with 30 seconds to go in the period Marcus Kruger was able to get a redirect from a Leddy slapshot past Gustavsson for a much needed goal 3-2 Leafs at the end of the first period. The first period saw very loose play from both teams but the Hawks in particular had too many turnovers and giveaways with a 5-1 ratio.
The second period started off with a goalie change for the Hawks with Ray Emery taking over for Crawford which was probably coach Q’s wake up call to the entire team more than an indictment on Crawford. Also to start the second the Seabrook/Oduya pairing saw Seabrook paired with old buddy Keith.
Then the magic of Patrick Kane showed up not only did he have the great vision to get a puck out of traffic back to a wide open Lepisto at the point but then he got dirty around the goal on a Lepisto blast which rebounded in front of the net and Kane jammed one past Gustavsson to tie the game at three apiece. Then for his second act Patrick Kane served another picture perfect pass to set up Marian Hossa who was in text book perfect position in the slot area 4-3 Hawks with the first lead of the night.
Bollig made some noise with his fists when he and Schenn went a couple of rounds. Chicago is going to love this guy. The Hawks seemed to get juice from several things: Ray Emery, Patrick Kane putting on a clinic in finesse and the Bollig bout.
The Third period Emery was tested more and played the best I think I’ve seen a goaltender play in the Hawks net maybe all year. There was an empty netter from Hossa and a garbage goal from Mike Brown to end the game at 5-4 and also ended the Hawks three game losing streak.
· The Hawks are continuing to be loose and sloppy with the puck especially in their own zone and neutral ice and not by the young Hawks but by the experienced Hawks. The areas where they need to play tight they are way too loose and have problems clearing their own zone.
· When your special teams are struggling you can’t afford to take careless penalties. The Hawks are usually pretty good about this but lately they have taken some costly penalties that resulted in goals.
· The Hawks get their jump and juice when they are in the offensive zone and when they are attacking. Their defensive positioning actually improved after they had sustained offensive pressure in the Leafs zone.
· Patrick Kane has “IT”. You know what “IT” is. When he decides he is going to take over a game he has the skill and the vision to do it. Kane had a goal and assist on the night. The Hawks will need him more than ever to play like he did in the second period and just play with a jump that energizes the entire team.
· Sami Lepisto played a hell of a game. Where have you been my son? He probably saved this game for the Hawks when without a stick he blocked a wide open net with his leg kick goalie style which kept the puck from a wide open net. Great job.
The biggest thing that I came away with from this game was the way that the Blackhawks when they were down never gave up. They kept battling back which should give them confidence. They came together as a team, the core players and the young Hawks coupled with stellar goaltending from Emery in the third.
The game changer though was Kane in the second period when he just took the game over and changed the pace of the game and took this team on his young shoulders or maybe he took the team in his magic hands. It remains to be seen if the Hawks can sustain this for the next month. The Hawks closed out the horrid month of February on a good note. Let’s hope the month of March will be better for the Hawks as they try to get as many points as they can heading into the homerun stretch.
Three stars of the game – 3) Emery 2) Leddy 1) Kane
Hawks play again Friday against the Ottawa Senators which can be caught on CSN or WGN Radio 720. Start time is at 6:00 pm CT
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