Today's alternative blog post title: "When I see their happy faces smilin' back at me..." Yes, you can blame it on the Hawks' site. But it would have been ironic with the image I picked for the recap. Hm...
In any case, the team is streaking and we're now riding 7 games of winning, literally starting the game after that loss against Columbus that had nearly everybody leaving the Hawks for dead. But like I said, there's a reason we play all 82 games, and as far as cries of "no chance of making the playoffs" go, being a few points out of a spot in a conference that had roughly 8 teams within points of each other was a little bit of an overreaction. If you want a truly defying-the-odds kind of playoff push, the answer lies in Jersey Shore.
The Hawks flipped the script a little bit on us last night. Instead of blowing it up in the 2nd, the game remained close-- in score if not in play-- until the end of the 2nd before getting another 3-goal showing in the third. Until then, the game was stalled at 2-1, with Toews opening up the scoring 55 seconds into the game, Staal tying it up again when no Hawk decided to follow him as he trailed a 3-on-2, and Bickell giving the Hawks the lead by poking the puck past a prone Peters and a stick-less McBain. Front of the net = good things.
The second period was scoreless though it didn't really reflect the way the game was being played. The Hawks had many chances, none of which could find the back of the net. One particular instance had Brouwer forcing Peters to commit to a shot before he deked; the puck bounced off the post and onto the stick of a streaking Frolik, who ripped one at a wide open net... and had the shot go wide. There was a shorthanded chance by Toews during which he was just outright robbed, as well, and for a while I was worried that the last period, the way the Hawks have been playing the last two games at least, would lead to bad things.
But it didn't. Ryan Johnson, of all people, opened up the scoring almost 3 minutes into the final frame, extending a slim 1-goal lead to 2, and David Bolland followed 67 seconds after with a goal of his own when he trailed behind Marian Hossa and poked in a rebound. Patrick Kane scored yet another one 3 minutes later, and when Jeff Skinner managed a goal on Crawford at the 12-minute mark I only felt a little bit indulgent that at least the frontrunner for the Calder got something to pad his stats with. The Hurricanes didn't challenge much, not when the Blackhawks decided to remain aggressive for the third instead of playing tight, and thus the night ended with win number 7.
- Everyone's going to comment on it, if they haven't already, so I might as well: the Blackhawks were really good at the faceoff circles tonight. Hawks led faceoffs 71-29, with everyone on the team (including Bolland!) winning at least 50%. Dowell, in particular, was a beast, and went 11-1 on the dot. (Skinner got murdered 0-12.) Cool story, bro.
- I didn't see the beginning of the play, but I can't put Staal's goal on Hjalmarsson. Hammer was focused on tying up Stillman's shot, which he did perfectly well, thanks very much. Unfortunately no other Blackhawk came to his aid, so Eric Staal was allowed to trail the play willy-nilly and bang in the rebound as soon as it bounced his way.
- Speaking of Hjalmarsson, the man played all of 12:18 last night, and didn't see a shift after the 6-minute mark of the third, or at least, that's what my roommate informed me when she went to look it up. Clearly he's playing hurt. I'm just going to keep sounding this "Poor Hammer" horn until, I don't know, he gets better or someone else gets called up. I realize we're stuck between a rock and a hard place, but jeez. This can't be good.
- New guys Johnson and Campoli got points tonight, after Frolik had a 3-point night. Yay new guys? Yay new guys!
- Daydream Nation is lighting it up again, but there were moments last night when I thought they were going for the fancy passes instead of just shooting at the net.
- The Hurricanes called for a timeout, and within seconds of getting back on the ice, got called for a penalty. That's no good for them.
- Seriously. Why does Bolland never seem to celebrate a goal?
Time: 6:00 PM CST
TV / Radio: WGN / WGN 720
Leaf Blowers: Puckin' Eh
- Earlier I said check out Jersey Shore for an incredible playoff push, but you can't ignore the Leafs' own run down this stretch. They are 4 points out of the last playoff spot in the East, and have gone a decent 6-1-3 in their last ten games, with wins against teams like Boston, Montreal, and even the Flyers.
- I'll be honest, I'm not really sure what happened to get them to this point. Optimus Reim is probably a large reason for the resurgence, but he's been fairly good since he started for the Leafs midway through the season, and they didn't pick up the pace until recently. It wasn't just the trade deadline that did them wonders, because they've been playing probably above .500 since before February 28. They've gotten a point in their last 9 games, though they've been unable to string together more than 2 wins in a row since January 11.
- Either way, this team is clicking, and the Blackhawks will be sorely mistaken if they think of this as just another game against an Eastern team. We've got four of those coming up, and the trick in streaks like these is to not get complacent. When we're playing Western teams it feels like 4 points are on the line, and on many nights, they are. Had we lost yesterday, we'd have bumped down a spot because Calgary won their game. Meanwhile the Penguins have won one game in their last 7 (and earned a pity point in 4, in full disclosure), and yet they're still 4th in standings, with more points than the Southeast division leaders.
- Which is, I guess, why Q thinks starting Crawford again tonight is a good idea. It isn't. He's struggled lately, and Turco should totally see some time before Crawford falls apart or something. Whatever.
- It might be tempting to say "Oh, it's fine if they win; at least we didn't give points away to a team we're fighting for a playoff spot" but defending fourt place in the West is going to be a much harder proposition. We'll need to take every point we can get.
- Like Dan Bylsma would say: Eight is better than seven.
LET'S GO HAWKS!