Pretty much your run-of-the mill game that featured a goalie taking two minor penalties and an own goal. NBD. The Hawks completed the season sweep of a dreadful Oilers team which is certainly an improvement over the last couple years that saw the Hawks struggle with a dreadful Oilers team. So that is good. If it weren’t for the Hawks own goal, this game would have been a far bigger runaway than it actually was. Nevertheless, two points is two points and they haven’t been as abundant in January. So that is good anyway you slice it.
–On the Hawks first goal, Pat Foley nearly soiled himself over a Brandon Bollig hit on Taylor Hall which is great and all. Bollig should be finishing his checks. But the play had very little to do with the outcome of the goal. Hall was already coughing up the puck to the middle of the ice. Bollig’s check did not separate Hall from the puck. It was already in the process of being deposited into Edmonton’s net by the time Bollig laid a check on Hall.
–Ales Hemsky’s opened the scoring and on the play, Duncan Keith (and Brent Seabrook, I suppose) did not play the situation well. Hemsky took the puck wide and essentially had a red carpet (TOPICAL!) rolled out for him. Keith’s angle was off and Seabrook could have, at the very least, put his shoulder down and put a hit on Hemsky, not exactly a player who goes out of his way to initiate contact.
Raanta also could have played the situation a little better with his stick but rookie European goalie, etc, etc.
–I thought Bryan Bickell was noticeable again and certainly didn’t seem to do anything that warranted him playing only 8 minutes. If he’s still playing his way through the injury, that’s one thing. If it was based on his play, I’m not sure what’s expected of him that he hasn’t already proved. There’s not any secrets to his play. He’s going to score 10-20 goals, he’s going to play long stretches where you barely notice him and he’s not going to be a physical force on every shift. The majority of his goals and scoring plays are going to be made from the perimeter.
Expecting him to turn into a slobbering monster that throat-rips the opponent on every shift simply because of his previous post-season and new contract is only going to end in massive disappointments.
–If there wasn’t such a push from the Blackhawks front office and broadcast team for Duncan Keith’s pre-ordained Norris Trophy season, there could be an argument made for Niklas Hjalmarsson. Compared to all the noise for Keith, Hjalmarsson is putting together his most impressive season as a pro. Defensively, he’s been playing against the opposition’s top lines. Offensively, he’s making a lot of things happen that he never would have earlier in his career.
Case in point:
There was a play tonight that was particularly impressive when Hjalmarsson was behind the Edmonton play cycling the puck. When the puck was turned over and the Oilers were heading the other way on a potential odd-man rush, Hjalmarsson caught the play from behind and snuffed any threat.
I don’t think that was a play we would’ve seen him make as recently as two seasons ago. His confidence on the offensive side is one of the more refreshing story lines of this season and if he were a higher profile name and wasn’t teammates with Keith, there would probably be more Norris Trophy noise associated with him.
–Speaking of Keith, there was a lot of praise for his play on the first goal to keep the puck in the zone. He was gliding backwards and was able to intercept the puck off his backhand. If it were to happen in baseball, it would probably be referred to as a “big league play.” And it was, but I don’t think it warranted the heaping praise from Ed Olcyzk it received seeing as though Nick Leddy made an almost identical play in the third period with nary a mention.
Of course, the play didn’t lead to a goal and that could’ve played into it.
–If someone can recall an Andrew Shaw goal scored from that distance without being deflected and beating the goalie that clean, congrats on having a better memory than me.
–The Oilers defensively. There are no words.