The last 10 minutes of this hockey game were stressful enough that it’s easy to understand how many people could forget that Blackhawks utterly dominated Anaheim during the first 50 minutes of the contest. No matter, the Blackhawks will take a much needed regulation victory against what the standings say is the best team in the Western Conference.
Marian Hossa kicked off the scoring when he beat Jonas Hiller high glove side after stick-handing Cam Fowler to his knees. It was a shorthanded tally for Hossa, who had one had his strongest games in quite some time. Hell, this was among his most dominating performances as a Blackhawk. Hoss would also provide the empty netter with just seconds remaining in the game. The long march toward 500 continues for #81. Kris Versteeg put the Hawks up 2-0 on a goal that while admittedly flukey, was still a result of Versteeg crashing the net hard with his stick on the ice. It was exactly the kind of dirty goal that snaps prolonged slumps. Unfortunately for Versteeg and the Blackhawks, he went down late 2nd period after colliding awkwardly with Bryan Bickell. Despite the goal, he played less than seven minutes in two periods. For now, Versteeg is officially listed as day-to-day.
The Blackhawks continued to dominate Anahiem in the second period, but were unable to penetrate Jonas Hiller despite outshooting the Ducks 11-3. Following several huge Corey Crawford saves in the early stages of the final period, Bryan Bickell blew past a painfully slow in transition Ben Lovejoy and beat Hiller on another admittedly flukey goal. Hiller stopped the initial Bickell shot, but was unable to corral the rebound as he fell back in his net. That one appeared to put the game out of reach, but Anaheim stubbornly refused to go quietly. They grabbed two goals in under a minute when Ryan Getzlaf’s odd-man tally was followed by a true softie for Kyle Palmieri. Crow would certainly like latter of the two back, as Palmieri’s long, soft wrist shot found it’s way right through his five hole. Thankfully, the goal wouldn’t come back to haunt Crawford and the Blackhawks as Hossa put the game away (for real this time) with an empty-netter with eight seconds left.
2 points? 2 points.
Shots from the point:
* The advanced stats appear to confirm the eye test.
* There will be a great deal of debate about what the lineup is going to look like if the Blackhawks are short Kris Versteeg for even a short period of time. At the moment, it sure looks like we could see Mike Kostka or Sheldon Brookbank playing forward on national television against Boston on Sunday morning.
* I’m only going to say it this once: Nobody wants to hear your lame ass joke about Bryan Bickell hurting Kris Versteeg.
* Jonas Hiller looked jumpy at times this evening, but he still turned in a pretty impressive performance for Anaheim He withstood several prolonged barrages and stopped 31 Blackhawk shots. There are a few GM’s out there who probably regret not pulling the trigger on him when it appeared he was expendable just two months ago.
* At the other end, Corey Crawford had a solid game which is surely to be overshadowed by that damn Palmieri goal. He’ll almost certainly have the net again on Sunday afternoon.
* I have no idea where all this Niklas Hjalmarrson came from, but I like it! Sure he made a mistake on the first Anaheim goal, but that behind the back pass to Jonathan Toews on the Hossa shorthanded goal was a thing of beauty.
* We’ll see if Bryan Bickell’s goal gets him out of Joel Quenneville’s doghouse. Bickell played just 8:41 and saw no power-play time despite the Blackhawks having five opportunities.
* The Blues now trail the Blackhawks by four points in the Central Division, but still have four games in hand. They’ll face the Ducks tomorrow at home.
* The Blackhawks are back at it on Sunday afternoon when Boston comes to town for the first time since Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals. I hope the people who select the scoreboard videos at the United Center are as cruel and unforgiving as I would be.
Keep your heads up as Jeff, Adam and I are getting together over the weekend to record another podcast. We’ll discuss these Bickell/Teuvo-to Winnipeg rumors and a whole bunch more. See you Sunday.