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They Gave the Devils their Due: Blackhawks 2 @ Devils 1 (SO) Recap

April 2, 2010

Before I go ahead with the recap, let’s go through the facts a bit here:

  • First Blackhawks’ win in New Jersey since December 30, 1997
  • First time a game has been played without any penalties being called since March 28, 2001
  • First time this season that the Blackhawks scored with 6 men and an empty net
  • It was NOT Marty Brodeur’s 109th shutout or 599th win. Thank you, everyone, who jinxed it.

There are a lot of things to like about tonight’s game, even though some of it is borne of the Hawks getting outplayed for the first half–for the first time in a long time, the Blackhawks were  able to hold their own, and Niemi was indeed a big factor. He was bailed out at times by his defensemen, but he was there when the Devils got past the blueliners, and was a big part of keeping the game to within one goal. Niemi did have a couple of large, juicy rebounds that I’m almost certain made Kyle Wellwood’s mouth water from 3 timezones away, but where Niemi failed to control them the skaters in front of him managed to clear the puck away.

On the other side, Brodeur was as much a star as Niemi, hanging on to a shutout for the first 59 minutes of the game. Kovalchuk scored early after he  was left  alone with space to move, and the Devils, who’d recently been having problems starting strong, dictated the pace of the game for much of the first period. The Hawks saw a few more chances in the second but Brodeur had the answer every time. It wasn’t until the last minute, when the Hawks pulled Niemi for the sixth man advantage, that the puck broke through the seemingly impenetrable Martin Brodeur to force overtime. The Devils had more chances then, but Niemi stood strong, and Toews was the only one to dent twine when the shootout rolled around. Hawks get 2 wins in a row, and not like we’re getting greedy or anything, but a 3rd would be plenty fucking nice to get an official streak going.

Observations:

  • All that being said, I don’t think I would have felt as defeated if the Hawks had lost this one. The Devils are the team they are for a reason, and to an extent this game reminds me of the Penguins game back in December. The Penguins trailed 1-0 until the final minute when they pulled Fleury and Staal got the tying goal. The Hawks won that game in overtime but that game and this one demonstrates how winning teams should play. Of course, maybe it was easier to play that way when you’re only down 1 goal instead of 2 or 3, but to keep the game as tight as it was is fairly promising.
  • Q pulled a little bit more of his line-a-palooza antics in the third period, and if I could keep track of them long enough to note them down I would tell you who he had out there, but I think he changed them back not long after. I say keep the lines as they were at the beginning, though.
  • This one was brought up by gmh over at SecondCityHockey: Remember the ref who didn’t call Wisniewski for more than a 2-minute minor? Same ref who then worked the Kings game the day after, and only ended up giving Eager a 5min major for fighting, which is a blatant rule violation anyway? Yeah, Paul Devorski was working tonight’s game again, and while I can’t tell you for sure whether there really weren’t any penalties in tonight’s game, it does make one wonder whether he’d ever call a penalty against the Blackhawks again.

Playoff Watch:

  • With 103 points, the Blackhawks have kicked the Predators out of the race for the Central Division title. The Preds have only 3 games left and can end the season with a maximum 102 points.
  • The Blackhawks need just 2 more points, either 1 win or 2 OT losses, to clinch the division. With 5 games left the Wings can get a total 105 points to end the season. The first tie-breaker, though, is the number of wins, and where the Wings would have 46 points then, the Blackhawks have 48 already.
  • The Sharks won tonight’s match-up against the Wild, which leaves them still 3 points ahead.
  • Calgary and Colorado are sort of jockeying for 8th seed right now, though a Flames win wouldn’t necessarily put Calgary in the playoff picture since the Avs have a game in hand and more wins anyway.
  • Vancouver is trying so very hard to clinch a playoff seed–despite basically securing the Northwest title already. I wondered the other day what would happen in case the leading team in a certain division had fewer points than, say, 9 other teams in the conference. I’m guessing that team still gets 3rd seed. Now I kind of want to see it happen.
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