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Now that’s more like it: Coyotes 0 @ Blackhawks 2, Game Recap

March 24, 2010

Having seen the Blackhawks in their last few games, I don’t think I ever really allowed myself to relax until the very last second of the third period, when the buzzer sounded and the Men of the Four Feathers skated out of a packed United Center with a shutout win and first place in the Western Conference. That the Hawks had a 2-goal lead made no difference–too much can happen in such a small period of time, as we’ve seen too recently. That the Coyotes seemed to throw everything they had at Niemi as time wound down–let’s just say I may have aged a few more years in the last minute of that game.

But the Blackhawks emerged victorious, and more than avoiding getting swept by the Coyotes this season, more than reclaiming the top seed in the Western Conference, they were able to display some solid defensive play that helped Niemi earn his sixth shutout of the season. There were more than a few goalmouth scrambles but either Niemi was able to get his hand (or behind) on it or the Hawks were able to clear the pucks. At some points, though, it also looked like the Coyotes’ luck had simply run out–at times during the game Coyotes players were staring at empty nets, but none of them were able to finish. The lone goal they scored–what would have been the first of the night after a strong Hawks outing in the first–was called off because Lombardi was in the goalie’s crease.

Patrick Kane opened the real scoring though, less than 2 minutes in the 2nd period when he picked up a pass by Brouwer and rifled it top-shelf past Bryzgalov. Hossa would later put the Hawks up by 2 with a quick shot himself. Neither team would score after, but that didn’t mean the game stopped being any less tense.

The third period saw a more even match-up between the teams, helped in some parts by the number of penalties that the Blackhawks took. The penalty kill came up huge, however, with Niemi being half the answer whenever the Coyotes were able to get shots on goal. Things got rather chaotic in front of the Hawks’ net towards the end of the third when the Coyotes pulled Bryzgalov for the sixth man, but defense prevailed and Niemi had his shutout. Hawks win in regulation.

Observations:

  • Sometimes there’s just a lot of overthinking going on whenever the Hawks are on a power play–don’t get me wrong, I thought I saw a non-clown-shoesy performance on the PP tonight, but sometimes the best chances are created when the goalie doesn’t see the shot coming, and that usually happens when you don’t take fifty million years deciding whether to shoot or to pass.
  • I’m not sure whether Quenneville feels he’s ever achieved anything from calling a timeout before a 5-on-3.
  • Based on various post-game comments, it seems to me that Quenneville’s going to go with Niemi for the stretch run. Whether Huet is still a little sick from the flu or not is maybe beside the point–tonight Niemi played himself into consideration for starter. That’s what I gathered from Quenneville, at least.

Playoff Watch:

We’re reaching the end of the season, so I thought I’d just add a couple of things from around the NHL tonight, mostly to give an idea as to how the rest of the league is doing.

  • In the same night that the Blackhawks held onto first seed in the Western Conference, the Boston Bruins shut out the Atlanta Thrashers 4-0 to hold onto 8th seed themselves.
  • Calgary won their game against the Ducks tonight, so the Blackhawks aren’t able to clinch a playoff spot just yet. The win does, however, put the Flames just 2pts away from the Red Wings in 8th place.
  • The Sharks beat the Wild 4-1–their first win in 7 games–and clawed their way back to the top of the Pacific Division and 2nd in the West.
  • After scrambling last-minute to find a suitable backup goalie, the Oilers beat the Canucks 3-2 tonight. They also defeated the Sharks 5-1 last Sunday and got the best of the Red Wings in a 3-2 shootout win last Friday. The Oilers, all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, will face a few more playoff contenders in their next 9 games, including a game against the Red Wings. All I’m saying is: MAKE IT HAPPEN, OILERS.
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