Wouldn't seven games of THAT be seizure inducing? And if the Penguins were healthy...
In a matchup both sides were looking forward to as a measuring stick between the Blackhawks and Pens, things began tentatively enough, and escalated in a hurry. After the brief, obligatory, junior high dance-like feeling out process between the two teams, the chances began to accumulate for both squads, with goalies Ray Emery and Marc-Andre Fleury standing tall early on. Shortly after the Hawks killed off an iffy interference call on Nick Leddy, the game had its first momentum swing, with Derek Engelland hitting Marcus Kruger high after he had already been engaged. Seeing a chance to justify his existence on the ice, John Scott quickly sprang forth to scrap with Engelland, and earned himself an extra 2 and 10 in the process. Predictably, the Penguins scored on the ensuing power play, and took that 1-0 advantage into the dressing room at the first break.
The Hawk march to the box continued in the second, with the Hawks taking 8 more minutes in penalties, 4 of which were nullified by the exuberance of James Neal in the Hawk zone. It was Neal, though who extended the Pens lead to 2-0 on a 2-on-1 from the wing, after Duncan Keith blew a tire and coughed the puck up on a pinch attempt. Tyler Kennedy broke a personal drought during one of the Neal-caused 4-on-4 situations and extended the lead to 3 after Steve Montador did what Steve Montador does in the defensive zone.
And then the third period happened.
Quenneville's obligatory pulling of the line combination slot machine to spark his team once again landed Triple 7's, with Viktor Stalberg of all people leading the charge. Stalberg's driving to the net allowed Jonathan Toews to score on a backhand feed attempt that deflected in front on a rush wide, and Vik himself capped off one of the more gorgeous three-man-weave plays anyone will ever see in the offensive zone between he, Patrick Kane, and Marian Hossa to draw the Hawks within one with a little less than 14 to play. From there on in was a full frontal assault on Fleury from the Hawks, drawing only iron and Flower's equipment. Even with a late power play, MAF wouldn't wilt, and the Pens would hang on 3-2, giving the Hawks their first pointless game in December.
- Yes, I'm going to talk about the Kruger-Scott-Engelland incident, so deal with it. While yes, that specific scenario is what John Scott is ostensibly dressed or even on an NHL roster for, he has to be smarter than that, as the rulebook is going to give him a bonus 12 minutes every time, and the Hawks had only been 44 seconds out from killing Leddy's penalty. Even without Sid, Letang, et al, the Penguins are still not a team that can be given numerous changes on the advantage, and they made the Hawks pay like good teams do, further disproving the idiotic notion that fights always cause a swing in momentum in favor of the team "sticking up for one another". Furthermore, with Brent Seabrook's health still up for debate, it probably wasn't the best idea to once again hamstring the d-corps for an extra 10 minutes with another game coming tomorrow night. So while there should have been a call on Engelland (he will probably get his pager blown up by Brendan Shanahan tomorrow if he hasn't already), there's such a thing as situational awareness, which is yet another item on the list of skills that John Scott is lacking.
- Oh, and Scott did his best to give Jordan Staal an opportunity to seal the game with a breakaway after coughing the puck up at the blue line when the Hawks had about 150% of the game's momentum. Fortunately for Scott and for the rest of us, Staal was at the end of a shift and was completely gassed from chasing around other Hawk players that actually contribute that Scott was able to reach and get the puck away from him.
- Hey, maybe with Marcus Kruger presumably watching tomorrow night's game from a very quiet room, that'll give Ben Smith his long awaited opportunity to burst onto the scene if given top 6 minutes, much to the delight of the press corps.
- Despite three penalties that probably gave Dan Bylsma a stroke either individually or collectively, it's pretty easy to see why the rest of the Eastern/Gondor-in-2012 Conference should be terrified of James Neal if Sid ever sees straight again.
- Think Viktor Stalberg was a little indignant about getting dropped down in favor of Jeremy Morin (did he even play, by the way)?
- It was also nice to see that even after some time off, that Patrick Kane/Marian Hossa thing still works.
- Though he's probably overpaid by more than a little bit based on the stats he posts, there's no doubt that Marc-Andre Fleury has got quite a set on him when it counts.
- Steve Montador - Either follow the guy around the net or stay at the near post. Don't stop halfway. Monty has a lot of upside to his game, particularly on the third pair, but we're seeing that he falls far more onto the risk-taking side of the equation. Having a regular, conservative, competent partner would do wonders for his game, and make the Hawks that much more dangerous in transition when rolling everyone. And get his ass on the blue line on the power play with that shot. The experiment with him in front is over. Final grade, as is everything with me- C-.
- Ray Emery deserved better a better result than what he got, and Edzo's notion during the second break that he be yanked for Crawford was asinine.
- Let's hope the book doesn't get out on the stretch pass and its effectiveness against the Hawk defensive scheme. Due to their attacking nature, the Hawks are going to leave a soft area between their forecheckers and defensemen in transition, but fortunately not every team has Evegeni Malkin keying that attack. Just further proof that Dan Bylsma sees more and gets more from his players than just about any other bench boss in the league.
- Even with Crawford in net and likely reconfigured lines due to Kruger's presumed absence, an effort like that should yield 2 points at home against the Habs, who will be starting Peter Budaj and are still looking for that "new coach bump" after whacking Jacques Martin over the weekend. SHOULD.