The return of The Furious Five wasn't quite as eventful as we had anticipated, in fact, this might have been one of the more boring games this season. The most impressive and impactful return was that of dominant Patrick Kane, who we hadn't seen for quite some time.
With just a couple minutes left in the opening frame, the Hawks turned a big save from Ray Emery into a quality scoring chance. Stalberg slid a pass to Kane, who fired a lightning-quick tape to tape pass to a streaking Jonathan Toews; Toews blew by Garrison and lifted a backhander past Theodore to open the scoring. The 2nd powerplay unit, which has been easily the more effective of the two units lately, added an insurance tally with under twenty seconds left in the period. Keith fired a puck on net, which got by Theodore thanks to an Andrew Brunette screen.
The second period was the best of the three for both teams. There were some decent chances each way, but only Humpty Hump was able to dent the twine. Kane made a great individual play by stripping Weiss, chipping the puck past a pinching Kulikov, and showing patience as he waited for his opening to beat Theodore 5-hole.
The Panthers tried to make it interesting early in the third with a Garrison powerplay goal right off the draw. The Hawks two goal lead would prove to be enough though, as the Panthers couldn't muster the desperation rush that we were all expecting.
To the Bullets....
- Foley and Edzo mentioned this often in the broadcast, but there really were a ton of icing calls in this contest. The constant stoppages in play kept the game from having any real back and forth flow to it, which wasn't a problem for the team that led the whole game.
- While we're on the subject of Foley, his exuberant call of Kane's 2 on 1 goal seemed to be indicative of the frustration that Kane and his fans have felt during one of the tougher scoring slumps of his career. Kane's had a few goal scoring droughts this season, but this one was accompanied by a multiple-point-game drought that seemed to make the situation all that much worse. Foley was genuinely excited to see Kane's goal and 1st two point night since December 5th.
- I don't know much about Florida D-man Dmitry Kulikov, but he was the most noticeably physical player on the ice tonight. Unless I'm mistaken, I believe it was Kulikov who knocked Hossa down along the boards right before the end of one of the first two periods, which is always an impressive physical display. In taking a look at his CORSI rating, and rewatching his pinch on Kane's goal, it's obvious that a "physical" game doesn't always equate to a good game.
- The Bruno-Bolland-Hayes line didn't have its best game, but it's still fun to see what that line is capable of when they're able to gain puck possession behind the goal line. All three players generally move well around the net, and you're always on the lookout for a dirty goal when that line is on the ice.
- If you go back watch Kane's goal, it's tough to understand how Toews doesn't get an assist there. After Kane strips Weiss, Toews taps the puck ahead and Kane appears to beat Kulikov to it. I guess Toews has been getting his fair share of easy goals and points over the last couple weeks, maybe he was due to get jobbed on a point that he'd rightfully earned.
- The statistics may show that the correlation between PK faceoff wins and penalties killed might not be as air tight as one would think, but PK goals allowed like the one to Garrison certainly make a lost draw look ugly.
- Razor didn't have to make too many tough saves this evening, but sometimes the best thing that can be said of a backup netminder is that his team doesn't lose any confidence when he gets a start. That's where we're at with Ray Emery right now, and "solid though untested" on a given night is ok in my book.
- The blueliners continue to spark the powerplay now that the Hawks aren't dependent on forcing backdoor passes. Let's hope this continues even after Sharp returns to the lineup.
- While the Hawks have had their ups and downs this year, and occasionally miss the respective skill sets of their 09-10 teammates, I think they've placed their buddies in the rearview mirror as they attempt to carve out a new team legacy. Since we're on the subject, the Hawks could place the pesky Preds in the rearview mirror with 4 regulation points in the coming home-and-home set. An 8 point lead on the kids from Music City would look awfully good heading into the All-Star Break.
With 5 shots, 2 points, and a +6 CORSI rating, Patrick Kane was the best player on the ice tonight, which was a welcome sight for the UC faithful. And seriously, the pass that sprung Toews was just stupid.