If the Detroit Red Wings are the true measuring stick for teams in the NHL, then it seems as though the Chicago Blackhawks have measured up. The 'Hawks were the better team for 40 minutes—but it was the third period that showed why the Detroit Red Wings are the defending Stanley Cup champions.
The Red Wings would get the scoring started early, as forward Johan Franzen netted himself a goal right in front of Nikolai Khabibulin. The 'Hawks would answer when Kris Versteeg, the rookie points leader, scored his second goal of the season on a Troy Brouwer deflection.
The Original Six rivals would find themselves tied going into the first intermission, but the Blackhawks came out firing in the second period.
Aaron Johnson started the 'Hawks three-goal period with a goal just two minutes into the period on a semi-breakaway. But the one-goal lead would not last, as Marian Hossa buried a slap shot past Khabibulin to knot the game back up at 2-2.
But just three minutes later, Martin Havlat put a beautiful back-hander past Ty Conklin to get the 'Hawks the lead once again. Just three minutes after that, Ben Eager tipped in the 'Hawks fourth goal of the game on a Brent Sopel slap shot. The 'Hawks would take the lead and a ton of confidence into the locker room—but both were soon to be relinquished.
The Red Wing are a great team because they do not panic when their backs are against the wall, and that was apparent in the third period against the Blackhawks. They came out quick, with two goals in just under four minutes—and just like that, the Blackhawks were the ones reeling.
Then, nine minutes into the period, Jiri Hudler netted a strange goal that you need to see to believe. The Red Wings took the lead, the momentum, and the game—or so you would think.
The Blachawks did not panic or press. Ratherm they just continued to play their game and it paid off, as Patrick Kane would put a Patrick Sharp/Jonathan Toews rebound in behind Conklin to tie the game.
After the Kane scored the tying goal, the 'Hawks took a less aggressive approach and seemed content to just take the tie, considering the roller-coaster other game that they had taken part in.
The overtime period was a rather uneventful, and Chicago would eventually fall in the shootout. But the shootout might have helped a struggling 'Hawk—Jonathan Toews.
The young captain had been struggling to find the back of the net all season, and was the second shooter for the 'Hawks in the shootout. With the 'Hawks down one in the shootout the team was leaning on Toews to get them back in it—and he fired a wrist shot under the glove of Conklin. Hopefully this shootout goal will give Toews confidence in himself, and get him his first goal of the season.
Although the 'Hawks did not defeat the Red Wings, they now have the confidence that they can stay with the best teams in the NHL.
Three Stars of the Game:
1. Marian Hossa
2. Martin Havlat
3. Troy Brouwer
Michael Wagner's player of the game
My non-three-star player of the game tonight is defensemen Aaron Johnson. Since he was called up at the begin of the season he has been extremely solid for the 'Hawks. Currently Johnson is tied for second in defensive scoring on the 'Hawks, and it seems as though he will have to play himself out of the lineup.
The Chicago Blackhawks will travel to Minnesota on Monday to face the Wild. The 'Hawks split the 2007-08 season series with the Wild 2-2. I would imagine that Cristobal Huet will get the start in net versus the Wild, because Nikolai Khabibulin has not had good career statistics against Minnesota. Khabibulin is 3-6-2 versus the Wild in his career, posting a 2.53 goals-allowed average.
Chicago Blackhawks News and Notes
The Chicago Blackhawks have assigned defensemen Niklas Hjalmarrson and Jordan Hendry to their AHL affiliate Rockford Ice Hogs. Currently, the 'Hawks only have six defensemen on their roster and there has been speculation that 'Hawks might waive reserve forward Craig Adams in order to make cap space for defensemen Cam Barker.
Image Courtesy of Detroit Free Press