Hawks Bounce Flat in Loss to Wings
The Chicago Blackhawks just got a little too cautious at the end of the game last night against the Detroit Red Wings leading 2-1 with less than five minutes to play in the third period.
In only their second season matchup against division rival, Detroit, the Blackhawks were looking to break out of a 3 game slump that started on January 2nd, 2012, only to extend it with a 3-2 overtime loss against their "neighbors" to the east. Detroit backup goalie, Ty Conklin stopped 29 of 31 Chicago shots for the win, while Corey Crawford finished the night stopping 24 of 27.
The Blackhawks got off to a great start scoring two goals within the first five minutes of the game on Dave Bolland's power play tally, his 9th of the season.
Patrick Sharp then made it 2-0 less than a minute later with his half-slap shot from the slot through several screens with no chance for Conklin to make the save.
But, alas, it would prove to be in vain.
In a game that saw both teams perform at an exciting level, Detroit cut the lead in half to make it 2-1 with less than seven minutes to play in the first with a power play goal of their own on Valtteri Filppula's 14th goal of the season.
The second period saw numerous scoring chances for both teams, but Crawford and Conklin were both flawless. However, as the third period progressed, it was clear the Blackhawks were getting a little too deep defensively in their own zone.
Recent call-up Jimmy Hayes was given the opportunity to put the Blackhawks up 3-1 midway through the third period when Tomas Holmstrom covered the puck with his hand in the goal crease, but Hayes was easily denied by Conklin on his penalty shot.
As the Blackhawks began to form a tight defensive shield around Corey Crawford, Detroit has much more room to cycle the puck and create open lanes for good scoring chances. This proved to be the game-changer, as Danny Cleary tied the game for Detroit at 2-2 with less than five minutes to play in the third on his stuff-attempt right in front of the Chicago net.
Chicago had at least one great chance to go back up 3-2 before the end of regulation, but Conklin was spot on.
It didn't take long, in overtime, for Red Wings' star forward Pavel Datsyuk to win it for his team when he picked up a loose puck on the left side of Crawford amidst scramble and confusion following an offensive barrage from Detroit. On a bad angle shot, Datsyuk had plenty of time to pointedly lift the puck over a sprawling Crawford and under the crossbar to win it for the Red Wings.
It wasn't that Chicago played poorly. After all, they had a great start and quickly put themselves into a great position to win the game. But give credit to the Red Wings for getting into the dirty areas down-low to score, a strategy that led to all three of their goals.
In order to counter such an offensive method, your defense has to have the appropriate physical presence in front of the net to make space and help your goaltender see what's going on. The Blackhawks don't really have much of that. Brent Seabrook....and.....yep. And hence, the on-going need for additional help on the back-end. Your move, Mr. Bowman.
The most unfortunate result from last night's game was not that the Blackhawks have now lost four in a row, but that they may be without the services of goal-scoring guru Patrick Sharp, who has been labeled as suffering an "upper body injury." The subtext in which this news was delivered last night to reporters made it fairly clear that Sharp will miss some time, but details won't be released until later today.
Fans are certainly not pleased with this four game slump and the additional injuries to key players, but in light of this, it's important to remember that not only is it better to be dealing with adversity earlier in the season than later, but that these injuries also provide younger players opportunity to step-up and contribute. Luckily, we've already started to see that happen.
The Chicago Blackhawks take on the last-place Blue Jackets tomorrow night when they host Columbus at the United Center. Chicago has won all three games against the Blue Jackets so far this season.