If Saturday’s win against Nashville was a reminder that the Central Division still runs through Chicago, then today’s game was a reminder of how long an 82 game season can be. The New Jersey Devils are not a very talented team and because of injuries, also inexperienced. This was not an aesthetically pleasing game to watch for many reasons. In the end, all anyone was really concerned with was the two points and the Hawks got that. No matter how long it took. So let’s move along.
–The Hawks were pretty lazy in the defensive zone with their zone exits. Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Klas Dahlbeck. Pretty much every Hawks defensemen except Niklas Hjalmarsson was guilty of a bad pass getting intercepted just inside the blue line that either led to golden opportunities for New Jersey or behind Scott Darling. If the Hawks played crisp coming out of their end, it’s hard to imagine the Devils ever getting anything past Darling.
Alas, these things happen against inferior opponents sometimes.
–There were a couple instances where Dahlbeck was caught a little out of position and/or late reading the play in the offensive zone during the second period. It’s amazing how a matter of two feet makes the difference between extended zone time and a neutral zone regroup.
In fact, I was a bit surprised that Dahlbeck even saw the ice after those “blunders.” Joel Quenneville has been known to staple guys to the bench for less than that and certainly if I’m noticing it from my couch, the guys standing 35 feet away noticed it too.
Dahlbeck saw more time after that and his bouncing breakout pass to Bryan Bickell led to New Jersey’s second goal. Granted, it took a phenomenal effort from Stephen Gionta but these things happen at the highest level.
–Seemed like the Prudential Center ice may combat the United Center for worst playing surface in the NHL. I counted 5 plays where the Hawks had prime scoring opportunities or one-timers that were interrupted by a gravity-defying puck.
–Ice times were a bit lopsided again with Duncan Keith playing more than 30 minutes. Johnny Oduya’s uneven play and Keith’s world domination has a lot to do with that. The Oduya thing is definitely something to watch as the season progresses. Recall that the Hawks were reluctant to launch Oduya during the off-season because Quenneville loved his consistency and ability to match him against top lines.
If Oduya can’t take the top assignment or lessen Keith’s minutes, then remind us what exactly you do here?
–I will say this about the Blackhawks power play…it is more visually pleasing than it has been in recent years even if it has been in a slump. I like the movement and different looks that we must presume Kevin Dineen has brought in. Even if they’re not finding the back of the net, I thought there were a few plays that could’ve ended up as scoring plays. The Seabrook one-timer in overtime comes to mind because it was the most recent. But there were several opportunities during the Hawks’ 4 minute power play in the second that very well could’ve found their way past Kevin Kincaid.
Toews had a bouncing puck on a semi-breakaway. A point shot trickled around the crease only to be kicked away. Patrick Kane had a wide-open net blocked by Andy Greene.
In the clown shoes power play of vintage years, the Hawks couldn’t even establish zone time if they didn’t win the initial face-off. Remember that.
–Patrick Sharp out for a month and still leads the team in shots while playing with the artist formerly known as Bryan Bickell and whatever pod-person is inhibiting Andrew Shaw this year.
Bickell’s 3-on-1 goal almost turned into a 3-on-3 and barely snuck past Kincaid. Who wants to take wagers that he would’ve seen more than 2 shifts if he biffed that?
–The win streak continues. It will really be tested in the next two games. If they get through Boston and the Isle, they have a real chance to get points in every remaining game this month.
And with that, I’ll put down the whip-its.