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Blackhawks 4 @ Oilers 2: Game Recap

January 27, 2010

The province of Alberta doesn’t have much to cheer about these days, and last night was no exception. Rexall Place was a veritable graveyard as the Hawks came in, scoring four goals before they let up and allowed the Oilers to score two.

It started early, less than a minute in. Forty-four seconds into the first period, before I could even get settled in my seat, and hell, even before Ladd could come off the ice and let Brouwer join his line, Patrick Kane sent the puck to Jonathan Toews, who fired a shot that zipped right between Deslauriers’ legs. Despite quite a dominant first period from the Hawks, the first 20 minutes ended 1-0, with 11 shots on goal for the Hawks to the Oilers’ 6, a generous number considering half of those shots came in the last 3 minutes of the period.

The second period was a better frame for the Hawks offensively. Kane skated around all five Oilers on the ice while they literally stood there and watched before he found an open Brouwer, who cashed in with a quick shot and put the Hawks up 2-0.

The third line finally got on the scoresheet for the first time this road trip when Duncan Keith, receiving a pass from Kris Versteeg, one-timed a shot that Dustin Byfuglien tipped in. Marian Hossa put the Hawks ahead 4-0 when the Oilers took the first penalty of the game at 13:10 of the 2nd period. The puck, rebounding off his shot, found its way back to his stick, and with Deslauriers down he took a shot he couldn’t miss.

Just when you thought a blowout was brewing, the Oilers found the back of the net with 40 seconds left in the second. With Huet down and trying to cover the puck and the Hawks unable to clear the zone, Fernando Pisani scored his 2nd goal of the year.

The Hawks, Minnesota on their mind for sure, seemed to let off the gas a little in the third frame. Niklas Hjalmarsson turned over the puck, allowing Patrick O’Sullivan to send it to an unmanned Ryan Potulny, who faked a little shot to get Huet down before he flipped the puck high and into the net. The Hawks were put on notice since, and though they never dented twine again, neither did the Oilers. Huet made a great post-to-post save in the last seconds of the game against Dustin Penner, but at that point the game was over. Hawks win 4-2.

Notes:

– For all my ranting yesterday, the Oilers let me have all of 2 seconds to examine just how well the Hawks’ PK holds up. And this seems to be the problem with the Oilers. Their first penalty resulted in a Blackhawks goal, and their second negated a power play that they might have, could have capitalized on.

– After being touted as an underrated, underpaid player for most of last season, Keith seems to be in catch-up mode this year: first signing to the largest contract in Blackhawks history, then passing career highs in points with about 30 more games to play. Last night he put in a +3, 2-point effort, and he could have gotten 1 more assist had Ladd not bogarted the last one on the Hossa goal. In any other year Keith could only be one of many defensemen in the running for the Norris, but with Boston and Detroit both having surprisingly awful seasons and “Snub You” being the theme song of Mike Green’s NHL career, #2 has a legitimate shot at being the first Hawk to win the Norris trophy since Chelios did in ’96.

– Hjalmarsson ended the night a -2, and Campbell a -1, though Hammer was mostly responsible for the minus in Soupy’s play. I’m not sure whether he’s still feeling ginger from the flu and getting hit by the puck everywhere–nuts and head not excluded–but I sure hope whatever’s ailing Chicago’s favorite Swedish import goes away soon.

– I’m not sure why the Hawks are releasing new One Goal ads. Kane’s “My goal is to own the back of the net” is not quite as fitting as his goal being “to control the puck”–#88 figured prominently in both of his assists last night, first by carrying the puck all the way over to the Edmonton zone before finding an open Toews, and then drawing the Oilers’ attention to him so that Brouwer could get one past Deslauriers. And just think: we’ll have five more years of that.

– So maybe the Hawks didn’t put in a full 60 minutes of play last night. Let me play devil’s advocate here and ask: do they need to? When you’re up against the league’s basement dwellers in the middle of a grueling road trip, playing your 53rd of an 82-game season, sometimes the best strategy long-term is to make sure you’re doing just enough to get the 2 points, just enough to keep the lead, just enough to make sure by the time the season is over and the playoffs are starting, you’ve got enough left in the tank to keep going. (Of course, there’s Minnesota to consider, but the assumption here is that you know when to step on the pedal and when to ease up.) It may be counterintuitive for most of us who are raised to believe we need to give 110% effort 100% of the time, but again: do we really have to?

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