Observations From Section 321 : As If There Was Any Doubt

Jonathan Daniel

The Blackhawks keep on rolling with a 3-2 overtime victory over Edmonton.

The Blackhawks point streak is at 19 and this team is showing that they can be something really special this year. They are finding ways to win night in and night out. They are getting the right mix of the their stars being stars and their secondary players filling their roles to perfection. Last night was the right mix of star power and depth for another two points in the standings.

Last season these two teams combined for 39 goals in their four meetings, and for a moment early on, it looked like last night was going to be another goal fest. The Oilers opened up the scoring with a fluky short handed goal at 4:28 of the 1st period. Duncan Keith had a blow out at center ice and Lennart Pentrell jumped on the loose puck. Ray Emery made a great save on Pentrell's backhand shot but unfortunately the rebound rolled out in front where Jeff Petry slammed it home above the sprawled out goalie. The goal was Petry's first in the 44 games.

It didn't take the long for the Hawks to respond, in fact they tied the game before the Magnus Paajarvi's delay of game penalty expired. Marcus Kruger was checked off the puck on the left boards but Patrick Kane was right there to gather in the lose puck. Kane came off the boards and headed straight for the net where he lifted a nice little backhand shot over Nikolai Khabibulin's pad to tie the game. Nick Leddy picked up the secondary assist on Kaner's 10th goal of the year. With Kane in beast mode, if you are going to give him that much room in your own zone he will stab you in the heart and twist the knife every time!

The Hawks spent most of the first half of the 2nd period in the Oilers zone. In fact, Edmonton did not register their first shot of the period until 11:13. It was their 4th shot of the period at 14:17 that broke the 1-1 deadlock. With Brandon Saad in the penalty box for high sticking the Oilers where able to set up a nice game of tic-tac-toe. It was the rookie Neil Yakupov one timing a nice cross ice pass from Sam Gagne for his 6th career NHL goal. Justin Schultz also picked up an assist on the play.

The Blackhawks found themselves trailing going into the last period for only the third time this season. It did not take long for the Hawks to fix that by tying the game at 2:24. Michal Rozsival found himself in unfamiliar territory with the puck at the goal line. He made the right play and just got the puck to the net. Viktor Stalberg was in the right place and was able to stuff the rebound between Khabibulin's legs. Everyone in the United Center saw the puck cross the goal line except the officials on the ice. Thankfully the guys in Toronto put their Tim Horton's down long enough to make the correct call.

As the final seconds ran off the clock in regulation the United Center crowd rose to its feet to cheer another game with at least one point. Despite it being overtime of their third game in four nights, the Blackhawks had a spring to their step to start the extra frame. Marian Hossa sent the capacity crowd home very happy at 1:44 of OT. Patrick Sharp was allowed to come of the boards and head to the net, much like Kane's 1st period goal. Khabibulin made the initial save and stoned Sharp's rebound attempt as well but Hossa was able to put home the second rebound for the game winner. Both defensemen, Petry and Ladislav Smid followed Sharp and Sam Gagne fell asleep and did nothing to impede Hossa's 9th goal of the year.

* Joel Quenneville did a nice job managing his lines. During the 2nd period he was using his 3rd and 4th lines a bit more than usual, trying to keep in stars as fresh as possible. He did a good job with the defense as well, both Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith played less than 20 minutes. Keith played less than 17 minutes but he missed a couple of shifts in the 1st period after taking a hard hit.

* I did not like the Daniel Carcillo and Brandon Saad swapped spots during the 3rd period. Not sure if Q didn't appreciate Saad's two minor penalties or if he thought Carcillo's hits were a "spark" but I don't see what putting Saad on the 4th does for you. The 4th line had a few really good shifts when Carcillo was playing with Marcus Kruger and Jamal Mayers. If the Blackhawks feel Saad is going to be top tier player in the NHL, then he should be playing with other top tier players?

* There was concern that Patrick Kane might not be 100% with some people saying he didn't look right on Sunday night. I think he put all those concerns to bed. He has been so much fun to watch. I noticed last night that he is becoming a sneaky little defensive player. By no means is he going to win a Selke, but he improved himself in his own zone. I think the biggest contributor to this great start has been the overall improved play on defense by the entire team. The forwards, as a whole, have been very responsible in their own zone all season long. This allows the defensemen to play within themselves which in turn makes life easier on our goalies.

*For some reason Edzo took exception to Neil Yakupov ducking away from a Carcillo check. On one hand, I understand his point that it could lead to an injury to the player delivering the check. But if that player is charging you and aiming high, like Carcillo was, are you just supposed to just take it?


* Stan Bowman does not get enough credit in this town. Guys like Johnny Oduya and Michael Rozsival have solidified the team's blue line. Being patient with young talent like Marcus Kruger and Corey Crawford has paid off even though it wasn't popular with fans the last couple of seasons. He had to dismantle a championship team but kept the core together and the team competitive while sticking to his plan. Two years later he has his team right back in the Stanley Cup picture.


*Marcus Kruger won 9 of his 13 draws last night including going 8 for 10 in the defensive zone.

The Blackhawks will now get a couple of well needed days off before a busy weekend of divisional foes that includes a home game against the Blue Jackets on Friday sandwiched between road games at the Blues on Thursday and the Red Wings on Sunday.

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