Well, this one felt like a "09-10 ho hum, yawn, another two points" win, and there's nothing wrong with that.
After a fairly uneventful first in which each team managed just 7 shots and the goalies handled everything that was thrown at them, penalties opened up the game a bit. Andre Kostitsyn opened the scoring in the second frame, on a nice short side tip in from a Plenkanec (easy for Steve Konroyd to say) pass from the right side. Hammer did get a bit too aggressive on the play and left a passing lane for Plekanec, but that's just a sweet play by the Habs on the man advantage.
The hawks were finally able to equalize later in the period, when Kane made a nice play to tip the puck to Bruno behind the net. Brunette walked the puck alongside the net and tried to slip a backhand pass to Toews, which ended up going off of Subban's skate and in. Seconds later, Hossa made a nice pass from his own zone out to a streaking Patrick Sharp, who went in on a 2 on 2. Sharp cut to the middle past a sliding Chris Campoli, and the Hawks got a nice break as Sharpie's shot deflected off of Campoli's stick and knuckled over the glove of Peter Budaj.
With a little help from Corey Crawford, and a solid PK on Patrick Kane's third penalty in the last two games, the Hawks kept the momentum they built from those two quick 2nd period goals, and carried it to two points.
To the bullets....
- It was good to see Corey Crawford perform well after not seeing action for over 2 weeks. Crow was much better on his angles tonight, and while his rebound control wasn't perfect, he had a solid game overall, stopping 20 of 21. A couple of saves stood out in Crow's performance tonight. He made a nice arm save on a high hard shot from Cole, who was coming up the left side, and then there was the beauty on Pacioretty's bid in the 2nd. The unbelievable stick save on Pacioretty was one of Crawford's best of the year, and it kept the Hawks ahead by one. Quenneville has four days over Christmas break to decide who gets the start next Monday. I'm guessing he goes with Emery on Monday, Crow on Wednesday, and then gives Friday's start against the Wings to whoever performs better in the first two games.
- Any chance that Sam gave a copy of this evening's CI to Bryan Bickell? In tonight's program, I wrote about the scoring woes of the third line, and emphasized Bickell's 17 game scoreless streak. I'll temporarily turn a blind eye to the 6 or 7 forty footers that he fired in this game, and focus more on his two point night. Bicks got a little help on his first point, when Subban biffed a D to D pass on his backhand, but the pass from Bickell to Stalberg was right on the money. Bickell usually spends less time in the trapezoid than a linesman, but if he can get down low a bit more often, he'll see points come his way with more regularity.
- It was a vintage performance for Marlboro 72 tonight. A plus three for both blueliners, and stupid CORSI numbers to boot. On top of that, the TOI was a bit more balanced than we've seen recently: Dunc - 24:30, Seabs - 23, Leddy - 22:30, Hammer - 20:30, Monty - 14, and OD - 13.
- Nick Leddy had one of his more noteworthy games carrying the puck at even strength. There were 2 or 3 rushes that Nick led, and he looked smooth doing it. Leddy's ability to carry the mail at even strength has been a point of emphasis with Campbell's departure. The kid's certainly not Brian Campbell yet, but just remember, we got him for Cam Barker.
- The powerplay wasn't very sharp tonight. Konroyd pointed out that the Hawks were having a bit of trouble with their zone entry, and when the forwards carried the puck into the zone, there was no one down low fast enough to work a cycle while setting things up. A big issue right now on the man advantage is the insistence on the backdoor play, which hasn't worked in some time. Toews, Bruno, and Hoss need to start bringing the puck into the slot from the side of the net. A couple failed stuff attempts will open up the backdoor play, but it's not going to happen if the guys receiving the puck alongside the net don't make it happen.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
There were a few options here: Dunc played a solid game, Bickell tallied a couple points, and Crow returned to form in net, but between last night's effort and the 2 point game tonight, I'm going with Stalberg. The way he's going right now, Q needs to slot Vik in the top nine and leave him there. Sam hinted in the CI that Vik might be a good fit on the third line, and tonight was a step in that direction; Vik brought energy to a line that had been pretty stagnant over the last month. Stalberg lost out on a star, and on the high flyin' hawk award, but he can rest easy knowing that he got his SCH props.