Lets get this out of the way early - there are two big complaints about this game. The first is the general douchebaggery of the Tampa Bay Lightning, notably Todd Fedoruk and Matt Smaby. Fedoruk had a late hit on Niemi with under 2 minutes left in the game - it's a damn shame that Niittymaki had a killer save to keep the Hawks from putting up a nickle for the night. Smaby was guilty of a trip on Kane that caused him to bang his head off the ice when he couldn't get his arms down to support himself - not too terrible as those things happen. Later in the game though Smaby delivered a late and high hit on Toews that could have taken the captain out again if he wasn't able to brace himself. This also caused Toews to get up and take his wrath out on Matias Ohlund... lucky for him though Toews' wrath consisted mostly of some pushing and probably a few more weird faces..
Don't confuse this with a general complaint of another team targetting our stars - that's to be expected. Smaby just played like a punk with a -17 career rating and a desperate need for his face to be rearranged.
The second major complaint is the fact that for some reason Jim Belushi was allowed anywhere near the Blackhawks. Does anyone in the world like this guy? We all know John Belushi was the shit but he's dead and the last thing we need is some no talent schmuck doing a second rate impersonation of the guy... Jim Belushi is quickly becoming Second City Hockey's public enemy #1. Please never allow him in the building again. Seriously, fuck that guy.
Ok.. now that that's out of the way, lets focus on the good for tonight - and there's plenty of it.
I don't think this was exactly what Sam had in mind when he begged the team to just score in the preview but it was pretty close. Kane's goal almost 8 minutes in was something we've been dying to see for a while. Kane grabbed a pass from Keith and brought it towards the faceoff circles. I saw all lightning players being drawn toward the puck (a common occurrence as we'll see) and screamed for him to hit Keith with the puck as the flash was drifting towards the center of the zone. Instead Kaner ripped a quick as... well.. lightning wrist shot that beat Niittymaki clean. I'll take that too..
The Hawks continued the theme of dominating a game with little to show for it until about halfway through the second when Hossa chased a puck into the corner behind the Bolts net. Our dear old friend Big Country Matt Walker and another defenseman were again both confused as where to go and both weakly chased Panda, leaving Ben Eager streaking towards the net without a defender in the same time zone... Hossa grabbed the puck and wasted no time hitting Eager clean on his tape to take a 2-0 lead.
Not to limit himself to simply pretty passing - Hossa decided to show off hands a bit later, scoring one of those goals where you have to turn to the guy next to you and ask if what you saw just actually happened. In this case, yes, Hossa did actually grab a puck out of mid-air and smack it into the net before it actually hit the ice. He's good.
The third period was again all Hawks as Toews finished off the scoring with another goal that resulted from skating hard towards the net and being ready for a rebound. It was also nice to see Toews lay a big hit on Smaby followed up by drawing a hooking penalty. Toews finished the night with 4 recorded hits..
- Just about every Hawk had a great game. I wrote notes mentioning seeing both Brian Campbell and Brent Sopel winning battles along the boards.
- If you can, re-watch the game and notice the great stick-play of the defenders, especially Seabrook. The Hawks' d-men are just playing textbook defense, taking away any passing or shooting lanes from the other teams.
- Eager had a good showing with a nice physical game when he was needed. Zenon Konopka leads the league in fighting majors but if a player like Eager can drop him that easily he might want to re-think his career plans. Hockey Fights voters only have Konopka winning 3 of his 13 fights this year... soon to be 3 out of 14.
- It's obviously poor form to throw punches at a player while he's on the ice - but what is the ruling for a player throwing punches while he's the one on his back? Eager seemed to get a shot or two in after he lost his balance and fell on his back. From the comments section, it seemed like the Bolts announcers had a few problems with that move..
- Antti Niemi has played in 8 games this year and has a SV% of 100% in three of them - with another one that was close. I don't really have much to add - that's just pretty damn impressive
Player of the Game:
Another game where it's hard to choose - Niemi got the shutout, Hossa had two beautiful plays and was a force all over the ice, Eager was an assist away from the Gordie Howe Hat Trick, Toews solid all over the ice..
I think I'm going to go with the Happy Panda though - feel free to disagree and tell us who you think is worthy of the prestigious title in the comments..
1 Goal, 1 Assist, +2, 3 SOG, 20:27 TOI - and check out those shoes..