Flames 3, Blackhawks 2
A combination of another inconsistent effort, poor goaltending from Nikolai Khabibulin and a lack of ability to finish off scoring chances all added up in giving the Blackhawks their fourth straight loss, dropping a home match-up 3-2 to the Calgary Flames tonight.
The Hawks appear to be back in their "What? There's a game tonight?" mode again, because they came out in the 1st period and were back on their heels, watching the Flames cycle in their own zone for a majority of the time. They were able to weather the storm for the first few minutes, but you still have to wonder why they couldn't bury an inferior Flames team early on.
Just about 11 minutes into this one, the Hawks would be the first team to get on the scoreboard. After the puck was cleared to the point in Calgary's zone, Dustin Byfuglien held it in and made a nice move around a Flames forward, giving him space to throw the puck on the net. Robert Lang was in front and made a nice tip into the net, making it 1-0 Blackhawks. They entered the first intermission with the one goal lead.
The 2nd period had more of the same that we saw in the 1st, with Calgary taking over again and cycling the puck in the Hawks zone with ease. The Hawks are too talented to have a team like the Flames do this, but yet it happened all night.
About 8 minutes into the 2nd, the Flames tied the game up on what was a pretty soft goal. Owen Nolan carried the puck into the Hawks zone, just around the side boards, and simply let a long slap shot go that looked like it glanced off Khabibulin's glove and into the net. This goal tied the game up at 1-1. The Flames controlled the play even more after that goal up until the 2nd ended, with the score still deadlocked.
The Hawks maybe woke up a little bit in the 3rd, but they still weren't really playing at the level they should be. With just under 9 minutes left in regulation, still with a 1-1 score, Cory Sarich apparently deflected a long shot off the boards while standing around the hash marks, giving the Flames a 2-1 lead. The Hawks needed a big save from Khabibulin on this one, and he couldn't come up with it.
Just under 3 minutes later, on the power play, the Flames were able to get the puck past Khabibulin again. On this goal, Daymond Langkow apparently got a stick on a shot from Dion Phaneuf on the point, making it 3-1 Flames. This was another case where Khabibulin needs to make the stop, and he couldn't. I've been a defender of Khabibulin, but a GAA of 2.80 and giving up soft goals is not what we're paying him $6 million a year for.
47 seconds after the Langkow goal, the Hawks would respond with a goal after a big scramble in front of the Flames' net. Dustin Byfuglien, who was probably the best forward for the Hawks tonight, was able to get to the loose puck and backhand it over Miika Kiprusoff and into the net, making it 3-2 Flames with about 5 and a half minutes to go.
The Hawks tried to make a desperate comeback in the last 5 minutes. In fact, at the last second, they had a very good chance on Kiprusoff. With about 5 seconds left, James Wisniewski threw the puck towards the net from the point, and Patrick Sharp had it in front, but instead of shooting it immediately, which I believe would have given him a goal definitely, he actually stick-handled and pretty much gave it right to Kiprusoff. If he just swats at it right away, he's probably got a game-tying goal.
I have a few frustrating things to gripe about tonight:
- Is there a reason David Koci even gets dressed any more? Tonight he had one shift for 50 seconds. 50 seconds of ice time. What is the point? I feel having an enforcer like Koci is important for any team. But, if Savard doesn't agree and doesn't want to play him, call someone else up with actual talent and sit Koci.
- I seriously hope I never have to watch Magnus Johansson in a Hawks uniform ever again. I really don't understand why he was signed and why he is still on the roster. He doesn't play physical, doesn't do anything in his own zone or the offensive zone, and I just don't see what he brings to the table.
- For that matter, I could probably live without watching Martin Lapointe, Adam Burish and Colin Fraser either. Lapointe was once a decent player but it's clear he needs to retire, or at least be traded at this point. Burish? I'm having a hard time figuring out how he has ever scored at any level in his life. He has hands of stone. I can pretty much say the same for Fraser.
- Is there a reason Duncan Keith was given 23:36 of ice time tonight? Am I the only one who thinks he's brutal in his own zone? It always seems like has never played defense before. He's got great speed and endurance; maybe they should make him a forward?
- Why was Norm Van Lier shooting in the contest during the 2nd intermission? I realize he scored, but would it hurt to get someone who actually, you know, has watched a hockey game before or is actually related to the Blackhawks somehow?
- Could the 'Hawks finally get rid of Dan Kelly and Eddie Olcyzk? It was really, really hard to listen to them tonight, as usual. Kelly is like a video game announcer and Olcyzk is just a big tool.
As you can tell, the disappointment is starting to mount here. This team is too good, in my opinion, to be only one game over .500 at this point. The losing streak and poor play needs to end, starting on Wednesday against the Kings.
SCH Hawks Player Of The Game: Dustin Byfuglien. Had a goal, an assist, was a +2 and was the best forward for the Hawks tonight.