Saturday night was a big night for Patrick Kane, as he made his homecoming in Buffalo, which was probably an emotional night for him, and he came through with a goal which must have been special for him, but unfortunately the Blackhawks were unable to capitalize on scoring chances and power play opportunities all night, and would fall to the Sabres 3-1.
The Hawks really didn't start out too bad in this one, however Buffalo has a lot of speed and I think some of the Hawks' d-men were having trouble keeping up with their forwards. Despite all of that, the Hawks were the first team to dent the net in this one, quite early in fact.
Just two and a half minutes in to the game, the puck was dumped deep into Buffalo's zone. Jonathan Toews made a nice play along the boards to body a defenseman off the puck and slide it over to Patrick Sharp behind the net. Sharp then made a great no-look pass to Patrick Kane, who was open in front and snapped a quick shot from point blank range that would beat Sabres goalie Ryan Miller. A big goal for Kane to get, breaking a 13 game goal-less streak and able to get on the scoresheet back in his hometown. So, early on, the Hawks had the 1-0 lead.
The 1st period would end with the Hawks still up 1-0 and playing a strong physical game, so things were looking up at that point, but the 2nd period would be the downfall for Chicago in this one.
Not even 3 minutes into the middle frame, the Sabres would get a power play and were able to cash in. After getting the play set up in the Blackhawks' zone, Buffalo got the puck down low and that's where the Hawks had some defensive coverage issues. Derek Roy would slide the puck over to Thomas Vanek in front of the net, who had too much room to work with, and he put a wrister past Nikolai Khabibulin and into the net, making it a 1-1 game early on in the 2nd.
Later on, just over midway through the 2nd period, the Sabres would take the lead in this one. On another play where the defense could have been a little tighter, there was a loose puck in the low slot around the net, and Drew Stafford would pick it up, turn around and let a wrist shot go that would go through some traffic and past Khabibulin, who probably never really saw it. This would give the Sabres a 2-1 lead, which they would hold into the 3rd and final period.
In the 3rd, the Hawks controlled the play for the most part, out-shooting the Sabres by a count of 8-3, and most of them were in fact good scoring chances, but as was the theme of the game, Chicago just either couldn't bury it's chances or were stopped by strong goaltending from Ryan Miller. Jason Pominville would put the icing on the cake with 47 seconds when he put one into the empty net, cementing the 3-1 win for the Sabres.
As I said, the Blackhawks had chances to win in this game, but the scoring chances were not finished off and the power play was awful, going 0-for-7 and hardly being able to get it set up in the Sabres' zone. I don't understand why the PP was so bad, because there are skilled players on it, but hopefully it is never as bad in the future as it was on Saturday. The Hawks are 1-5-0 in December so far, which is disappointing because this was supposed to be a strong month for this team. Hopefully they can get their act together and start getting in the win column with frequency again.
SCH Hawks Player Of The Game: Patrick Kane, who picked up a goal in his big homecoming.