I really hope we get another post season round of the Blackhawks and the Canucks because these games are great. You get to experience the full spectrum of emotions when these two rivals clash; frustration, joy, love, hatred, relief and excitement. Last night was no exception that's for sure.
The 1st period was one of the wackiest periods of hockey I have seen in quite some time. The Blackhawks got 3 breakaways, two on the same penalty kill, within a three minute span midway through the first. Marian Hossa, Dave Bolland and Patrick Sharp all failed to convert their one on one chances. At the time I thought these failures would come back to haunt the Hawks and they sure did. About 90 seconds after Sharp missed the Hawks third breakaway Daniel Sendin got one of his own but Ray Emery made the save. It would be Thing 1 who would open up the scoring at 13:34 of the 1st period with a seemingly harmless backhand shot. Sedin just flicked the puck towards the net and Emery let it go right between his legs, a goal he had no business letting in. Dan Hamhuis assisted Sedin's 5th goal of the campaign.
Patrick Sharp looks to be starting one of his trademark hot streaks as he lit the lamp for the second straight game at 6:36 of the 2nd period. The play started with Michal Rozsival's interception of an errant Canucks pass at his own blue line. Rozsival quickly got the puck up ice to Patrick Kane who found the wide open Sharp for the slap shot goal. The Blackhawks could have been called for too many men on the ice but got away with one. This was just one play in a night full of questionable officiating.
Marian Hossa scored his first goal since bailing the Hawks out in Calgary on February 2, at 13:48, to give the Hawks a 2-1 lead. The Blackhawks were enjoying an extended power play due to bad penalties by Keith Ballard and Maxim LaPierre, go figure! Johnny Oduya and Duncan Kieth played a short game of catch at the blue line before Oduya found Hossa at the top of the right circle. Hossa blasted a slap shot while Andrew Shaw provided a screen in front of the net, preventing Cory Schneider from any chance of making a save.
Hossa forced his will on the Canucks again at 17:15 for his 8th goal of the season and a 3-1 Blackhawks lead. Hoss was able to check Alexandre Burrows off the puck on the left dasher boards. Then he was allowed to take the puck out from the corner and go all the way across the crease unmolested. He beat Schneider's skate to the right post for the tally.
The 3rd period would be centered around Marian Hossa again but for all the wrong reasons. At 1:10, Hossa received a forearm/elbow to the back of the head from Jannik Hansen, the same Hansen who ended Dave Bolland's game back on February 1 with a careless slash to the ankle. Hossa was eventually able to skate off the ice on his own power but he did not return to the game. You would think that a play like that would spark the Hawks to a runaway victory but instead the exact opposite happened.
With Michal Rozsival in the penalty box for hooking, Alexander Elder was left with plenty of space at the point and ripped a slap shot past Emery at 17:31. Henrik Sedin and David Booth assisted on Elder's 4th of the year and 2nd on the power play. The Canucks were able to tie the game, with their goalie pulled, on a Kevin Bieska goal with just 1:01 left in regulation. Thing 1 and Thing 2 assisted on Bieska's 4th goal of the season. The common element of both goals, besides coming from over 50ft away, was a screen in front from Alex Burrows. Anytime someone wants to clear your goaltender's field of vision would be nice, thank you very much.
The game ultimately game down to a thumb wrestle war, or as the NHL likes to call it, the shootout. Jonathan Toews and Jordan Schroeder were both stopped in the first round. Patrick Kane got the puck across the goal line on his shot but the goal needed to be reviewed in Toronto. It was determined that there was no secondary touching by Kane, but in fact it was Schneider himself who put the puck in the net. Christopher Higgins was able to beat Emery glove side with his 2nd round attempt. Coach Q went with Andrew Shaw as his 3rd shooter, a spot that was supposed to be held for Hossa. Shaw used his speed and a great top shelf backhand shot to beat Schneider. Emery stopped Ryan Kesler's wrist shot to secure the second point and send the Canucks home. The Blackhawks have tied the 06-07 Ducks for the best start to a NHL season but the record doesn't seem to matter much with the health of Marian Hossa in question. Hopefully we will find out more on his condition later today.
* I don't think Jannik Hansen's hit to the back of Marian Hossa's head was necessarily intentional but it doesn't mean it wasn't dirty. Yes there was a play to made on the puck but Hansen clearly had no shot at the puck with his body screened out by Hossa's big frame. It was a reckless and careless play. If the NHL wants to be serious about eliminating hits to the head there needs to be more punishment than just a 2 minute minor. Hansen has a hearing with the league at 2:30 central time today. I don't think there will be a suspension, the NHL seems to be dishing out fines instead of missed games during the shortened season.
* The post game reaction to the hit also shows the difference between a class organization, like the Blackhawks, and one that needs to learn a few things about class, like the clowns in Vancouver. When Duncan Keith elbowed Thing 1 last year, both Keith and coach Joel Quenneville, and most Hawks fans for that matter, expressed remorse and condemned the play. But let's not forget that Keith's elbow was not a random attack, it was a response to Sedin's high hit on Keith just a few moments before. Last night Hansen and Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault took the chicken shit path instead of manning up. Hansen was quoted saying "Apparently I hit him in the back of the head, (that's) what the ref is telling me once I [came] down. It's a hockey play and we bumped together a little hard and he goes down. I can't really do anything about that. We both go for the puck and we ran into each other." Really? AV's comments were even worse but expected from a life long pudwhack; "It wasn't even a penalty. Both referees looked at the play and until Toews went out to talk to them it wasn't even a penalty." What is wrong with saying "it was an unfortunate play that we regret happening and we hope Hossa is ok?" Oh but that would take some class, something Vancouver has always lacked. That is a big reason why there are Stanley Cup banners hanging in the rafters of the United Center and unless there is a complete organizational change in attitude there will never been one in Rogers Arena.
* I am getting sick of players starting fights after a clean hit. There was no need for Brandon Bollig to go after Dale Weise after his hard hit on Marcus Kruger. The hit was clean and just made Bollig look like a clown. To Brandon's credit he did challenge Jannik Hansen in the 3rd period but of course Hansen wanted nothing to do with it. It is much more manly to hit someone in the back of the head than to take them on face to face.
* After the first Hawks power play I Tweeted that I would rather have Bryan Bickell on the top line than Andrew Shaw. Hossa's first goal would have never happened without Shaw's screen. I do love his willingness to get to the net but sometimes wish he had Bickell's size.
* Brandon Saad used his speed and size to draw three more penalties last night. He keeps on doing all the little things that make a great NHL player.
*I've been impressed with the play of Viktor Stalberg of late. Granted he has only scored one goal in the last 13 games but he is playing at a high level. I am enjoying the fact that he is heading directly towards to the net more than in the past.
* The game did not go into overtime because of Johnny Oduya's bad decision to not flip the puck towards the empty net moments before the game tying goal. It got to that point because of missing on 3 breakaways and failing to clear Burrows out of your crease twice late in the game. With that being said, don't do that again Johnny!
* I am not sure how far the Canucks think they can go with their current defensive core. The top pairing of Kevin Bieska and Alex Elder is quite good but it gets pretty crappy after that. When Keith Ballard and Dan Hamhuis are getting a lot of meaningful minutes you are going to be in trouble.
The Blackhawks get two days off before the Sharks come to town on Friday for the final meeting of the season between the two teams. Today will be a busy news day with the Hansen hearing and hopefully and update on Marian Hossa. We will bring you any and all of the breaking news and reports as they happen.