raanta

That wasn’t so bad now, was it? After the fretting about this trio of games against upper-echelon Western Conference teams, the Hawks have come away with five out of six points available, both wins coming in regulation.  After the goal-fests against Colorado and St Louis, this was a horse of a different colour: Playoff Hockey in December against the ever-punishing Kings.

The hits came hard and fast, mostly from LA and the margins for error were thin indeed. The tone was set when Colin Fraser dumped Michael Roszival over the boards between the benches. LA are one of those select few teams where leading in hits does not equate losing the possession battle: the Kings had the edge in Corsi 55%-45%. Duncan Keith was called upon to have another standout game, ending up 2nd star of the night.

 

Brandon Saad scored half way through the first, on a nice feed from Bickell and thereafter the scorekeeper could take the evening off. Antti Raanta had to deal with a lot of Kings forwards in his face all night and stood up strong against them to secure his first NHL shutout, including stopping a Dustin Brown Penalty Shot in the 2nd after Brent Seabrook hooked him. LA continued to chase hard but a combination of solid team Defense and Raanta’s saves got the Hawks out with a win by the narrowest of margins.

Talking points..

  • That shutout first.  I’ve never really attached that much importance to shutouts, a win being a win in my book, but plenty do and obviously it’s a nice milestone for Raanta to reach. Can’t wait for the Goalie Controversy to start, with the meatballs bellowing “DAT CROWSTINK CANT GETS NO SHUTOUTS LIKE DAT RANANATA GUY”.  Raanta had a solid game under a fair amount of pressure, but even he acknowledged that the Hawks defense made his life a lot easier.
  • There’s been some talk lately that Brandon Saad may miss out on Sochi. For those of us who watch him do the things he does, night in and night out, that seems harsh. Goals like last night’s may draw a bit more attention to him from the powers-that-be. His strength, balance and presence of mind to finish that pass from Bickell was sensational.
  • On the subject of Bickell, other ways in which this game resembled last year’s post-season was that Third Line torching the opposition. Bickell and Shaw (as well as Saad) were in the thick of it whenever they were on the ice, bringing a very LA-like game to the Kings. No suprise that Bickell & Shaw led the team in CF% with 61.1% and 64.3% respectively. So that brings us to..
  • More TOI complaints.  I know I’ll sound like I’m contradicting myself here, but Brandon Bollig, after being benched last night, played more minutes than Bickell and Smith, including a couple of very late shifts where he did his best to take a dunderheaded penalty along the boards. Q clearly feels that he’s geting his matchups at home: Toews & co took care of the Kopitar line most of the time but when it wasn’t them it was the Hawks 4th and, as usual, they got buried in possession. Answers on a postcard? At least the top 6 all stayed under 20 minutes tonight.
  • Patrick Sharp is on fire. Along with Toews and Hossa he came screaming out of the blocks and gave the Kings fits for the first few shifts. Thereafter they cooled a little, mostly to do with dealing with Kopitar and King.  He hit a post and saw a blast from the circles tipped in with a high stick.
  • The other Patrick, Kane, saw his point streak come to an end at 14 straight games. Intolerable. Hopefully he rides the pine for awhile to teach him a lesson, right?
  • The PK still showing some improvement so it was the turn of the PP to stink the place up. After a sprightly first 1.45 of 5-4 after Doughty went off for tripping at the start of the 2nd, the Hawks played 15 seconds of 5-3 due to Slaya Voynov taking a DOG and then proceeded to dick said dog for the remaining 1.45. The zone entries were so bad as to be laughable. Now if we have to trade, I’ll take a functioning PK any day of the week, but wouldn’t it be nice to have both going?

Anyway, this wonderful year for Blackhawks hockey comes to a close with Chicago sitting on top of the pile once more. If you’re venturing out into the hordes of amateurs tonight, take care and we’ll see you in 2014 for more fun.