If this were a Spinal Tap album, we could derisively call this one Shit Sandwich. This afternoon's middle frame is going to cause a great deal of hand wringing, gnashing of teeth, and for renewed sentiment to rename everyone's favorite side dish to "Freedom Fries", but we'll get to all that in a little while.
While the first period was fairly evenly played, the Hawks emerged with a 2-0 lead goals from Duncan Keith and then Andrew Ladd. Keith fired a shot from the left point that was redirected on its way in, and Ladd capitalized on a horrendous giveaway by Valteri Filppula in the circle to the left of Jimmy Howard which he snapped high over Howard's glove. While Scum did have a few stretches of prolonged possession in the Hawks zone, the vast majority of those chances came from the outside and were swallowed up by Cristobal Huet.
Then everything that could go wrong for the next 20 minutes of play did. Patrick Kane appeared to score on a Hawks power play which would have put them up 3-0 and we may have heard Alex Van Halen's jungle drum cadence softly in the distance. However, the goal was instantly waved off by referee Steve Kozari, explaining that Dustin Byfuglien interfered with Howard. Buff wasn't penalized, and the replay showed he did not touch Howard at all, but Toronto couldn't overturn it, and the game remained 2-0. Moments later, Tomas Holmstrom was actually penalized for interfering with Huet on an eerily similar play, but Dave Bolland was sent along with him for a tripping call. Understandably, both benches were pretty perplexed as to why the plays were called completely differently. Quickly into the 4-on-4, Keith's stick jumped up and whacked Johan Franzen in the mouth (though with his horse face, no one would really notice if there were any damage), and Scum when to work on the 4-on-3. Brian Rafalski fired one past Huet from the left point, and while Huet was slightly screened by Brent Seabrook, he was completely under-committed to the angle the shot came from. Nicklas Lidstrom followed suit from the right point on the subsequent 4-on-4 to tie the game, same story from Huet, except with the screen coming from Felon Bertuzzi. Jason Willams filled a gaping 6x4 after Huet whiffed on gloving a goal mouth pass from Jared Leto, and a bad pinch from Brian Campbell led to a 2-on-1 against Niklas Hjalmarsson who overcommitted to puck-carrier Bertuzzi, which gave Filppula a one-on-none with Huet after receiving the pass, and once again twine is tickled. At that point, with 22,000 strong seething with bloodlust, Quenneville gave Cris the hook. Antti Niemi didn't fare much better against Pavel Datsyuk, who converted a breakaway in the dying seconds of the frame after knifing the puck away from Patrick Kane just inside the Detroilet blue line. Forty minutes played, 5-2 Scum.
As per usual, the Hawks did indeed make a game out of it, with Ladd tallying his second early from Kim Johnsson on a shot from the right circle again, which gave the Hawks a definite spark. Reforming The Unholy Alliance of Toews, Kane, and Hossa on the top line to get something going, the Hawks dictated the majority of the play, with several prolonged periods of sustained pressure, forcing Howard to make a couple of key glove saves. Ladd would turn the trick with about eight minutes to go, redirecting a Keith shot that was the result of a clean faceoff won by John Madden. With the comeback flurry in full effect, the Hawks who saw the best chances were Marian Hossa and Tomas Kopecky on a sequence where Hossa picked up a rebound in the slot and skated to his right on his backhand trying to wait out Howard and ended up having no angle. He slid the puck back through the crease where Kopecky was out front waiting to whack it home, but his stick was tied up by the Scum defense to prevent the comeback from completing. A late-ish power play for the Hawks yielded nothing, and numerous attempts at pulling Niemi for the extra attacker were shot in the foot by offsides and icing calls. Hawks lose an ugly-ish one 5-4 to Scum. God. Dammit.
- To the torch-wielding mobs who have been calling for Huet's ouster, as well as those now questioning GM Stan Bowman's judgment on standing pat on this week's trade deadline, congratulations. This is clearly the excuse you needed to continue to sodomize this dead horse, and I hope it feels good feeling as though you're right- fuck knows I get off on being right on those rare occasions when I am. I have no defense for Huet's recent play, and today's showing is absolutely inexcusable. But it's these two goalies from here on out, whether we like it or not, so it's absolutely pointless to be complaining about it at this point, it's just verbal masturbation, almost to the point of actually enjoying seeing what happened today transpire. With everyone sounding the alarm that the goaltending is going to be this team's undoing, ask yourself this - would you rather see a parade in June, or be right about Huet? So have your catharsis in the comments here about today's game, but please, for the love of fuck, spare us from the relentless goalie "debate" over the next three days. It's one game.
- Dovetailing from the above statements, Cris was not alone during the meltdown. Tape of the play of all six d-men from the middle frame should replace waterboarding as the preferred form of torture for interrogation.
- It's SCH policy to not bus-toss officiating, but today's game was dogshit. From the inconsistency of the game-changing goaltender interference calls, to the non-calls on Bolland and Hossa getting roped down on seperate occasions to Howard's left in the third, to a couple iffy offsides calls, it was a sub-standard job by the zebras today.
- ....but that's not to say the Hawks could have done anything had those calls been made. The power play is still fucking clown shoes.
- Given the time left and the way the game had been going for the Hawks, Patrick Kane should have hauled down Pavel Datsyuk from behind as soon as he pick-pocketed him at the blue line and taken the penalty. Datsyuk was short of center when he first became all alone, which would have nullified a penalty shot being called. Take the two minutes going into the 3rd period and try to kill off the penalty.
- Speaking of Datsyuk, while it's excruciating to admit, as Lucky Pierre McGuire relentlessly pointed out, the guy is flat out fucking amazing with how he can separate the man from the puck with stick checking.
- Go get you some, Andrew Ladd. Not only were his three goals the primary source of offense today, but he nearly had a fourth later on in the same shift he tallied his third on another redirection, and he was an animal physically as well.
- Also in the physicality department, it appears that Hammer is feeling a little better, as he is once again initiating contact instead of just absorbing it, as evidenced by his massive check behind the Hawk net in the third period.
- With this performance coupled with their first stretch of consecutive off days with a full squad after the Olympic break, expect Coach Q to skate the boys' asses ragged, or at the very least verbally tear them up worse than a kleenex at a snot party.
While I normally prefer not to name a player of the game after a Hawk loss, Andrew Ladd's performance today definitely needs to be acknowledged.