Blackhawks 3, Red Wings 2
With a lot of excitement and buzz around tonight's televised home game against the Detroit Red Wings, the Blackhawks didn't disappoint, coming up with an inspired effort against a very tough team and grabbing a well-deserved 3-2 victory in front of a crowd of 19,045 fans on Sunday night.
In doing so, the Blackhawks ended Detroit's nine game winning streak, keeping them from setting a franchise record of 10 straight wins, and also defeated the Wings for the third time in three tries this year, quite a feat to accomplish against the best team in the Western Conference.
You could feel the excitement from the opening face-off, there was a definite buzz at the United Center and the Blackhawks sure had some intensity to begin the contest. They would take a couple of penalties within the first 10 minutes but killed them both off, giving them some momentum.
Just over 12 minutes in, the Blackhawks would get on the scoreboard to take the lead. Behind the Wings' net, ex-Red Wing Robert Lang took the puck behind the net and shoveled it out in front, and with a bouncing puck, Yanic Perreault made a really nice play to chop it right into the net past Chris Osgood from point blank range, giving the 'Hawks a 1-0 lead.
Not even 3 minutes later, the Blackhawks would get a 5-on-3 power play and took advantage to give themselves a two goal lead. After Jason Williams slid the puck down to Lang at the goal line extended, he made a patient play to slide it over to an open Patrick Kane, who took the pass and knocked it into an open net, giving the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead, which they held into the 1st intermission.
In the 2nd, the 'Hawks spent much of the first half of the period on the penalty kill, mainly due to a 4 minute high sticking penalty to Jonathan Toews, but the Hawks did a terrific job all night on the PK, killing off all seven Detroit power plays. I have to give a lot of credit to Patrick Sharp and Rene Bourque, they do a great job on the PK using their speed and playing aggressive, forcing teams to make quick plays and even creating shorthanded chances.
With about 4 minutes left in the 2nd, the Wings would get their first goal of the game, on a bit of an odd play. With the puck around the Hawks' net, Nikolai Khabibulin's stick actually got caught in Adam Burish's jersey, leading him to be off balance for a second, and then Tomas Kopecky was able to slide the puck over to Jiri Hudler, who knocked it past Khabby, cutting the Hawks' lead down to 2-1.
Just two minutes later, the Blackhawks would get another power play opportunity and made no mistake in taking advantage. With the puck sent down to Toews around the face-off circle, he let go his very deadly wrist shot, which Chris Osgood was clearly no match for, giving the 'Hawks a 3-1 lead late in the 2nd. Toews' wrister is seriously amazing, I'd hate to be a goalie that has to face that thing on any night.
The 3rd period was kind of frustrating and boring to watch, because the Blackhawks went into the 3rd period shell, which I believe was patented during the Trent Yawney era if I'm not mistaken, meaning the 'Hawks just sat back in the neutral zone and really didn't try to create any scoring opportunities.
This allowed Detroit to out-shoot them 11-5 in the final period, and with about 6 minutes to go, right after a Red Wings power play ended, Nicklas Lindstrom made the Hawks pay after scoring on a long shot from the point that Khabibulin might have been screened on, making it 3-2 late in the game.
Thankfully, the Hawks were able to hang on to the slim lead, despite the shell, but it's time to stop being so conservative in the 3rd period. It seemed like all the Hawks did was skate to the red line and dump it in for the final 20 minutes, and sooner or later that will come back to bite them.
Overall, it was an exciting and eventually successful night. The Hawks were able to showcase their product on TV (hat tip to Rocky Wirtz) and the team didn't disappoint, as I think they were clearly playing with something extra knowing they were being seen by more people than usual tonight. It was a team-wide effort, and they deserved to come out with the win.
SCH Hawks Player Of The Game: Quite a few guys I could give it to, but I gotta go with Patrick Kane tonight. A goal and an assist for him, and as always, just looked strong on the puck all night long.