By Brad Vandenberk
Annual rookie tournaments have begun all over North America, getting fans and players excited with less than a week until training camp starts. The Chicago Blackhawks are in Oshawa, Ontario playing the likes of Ottawa, Pittsburgh and Toronto. Game 1 saw the Hawks square off against the Maple Leafs at the General Motors Centre.
Donned in their red jerseys, the Hawks began the tournament with a determined effort against the Leafs. Mac Carruth was the starting goalie joined by starters Shawn Lalonde and Dylan Olsen on defense. Mark McNeil was flanked by Ludvig Rensfeldt and Jimmy Hayes up front. [Hawks game roster]
The Hawks got their first chance at a power play as the ref made a hooking call at 1:52 of the first period. They were unable to capitalize however.
It didn’t take long for the fists to start flying as 5’10” Andrew Shaw took on 6’5” Jamie Devane with a David versus Goliath type match. [Highlights at bottom of this report]
After Devane served his 5 minute major for fighting, he opened the scoring for the Leafs as a puck was shot wide from the blue line and bounced to the side of the net. Devane, standing on the door step, quickly shot the puck over Carruth making the score 1-0 with just under 2 minutes remaining in the first.
Philippe Paradis left the 1st period after being hit hard in the offensive zone and grimacing his way back to the bench. Paradis did not return. [ed. note: Paradis did not dress in Sunday’s game vs Ottawa]
The second period started with Head Coach Ted Dent juggling his lines. His strategy worked out as Chris DiDomenico got a breakaway but was unable to get a shot off due to a great defensive effort by the Leafs. The Leafs received another penalty for a hooking call sending the Hawks back on a power play, but again to no avail as they were unable to get the puck in the net. The Leafs decided to share the goal tending duties and made a switch at the half way point of the 2nd. Not long after the Leafs goal change, the Hawks’ line of Brandon Saad, DiDomenico and Phillip Danault made a nice little passing play ending with Saad sending a pass from the side of the net through the crease. DiDomenico was there to slap the puck passed Garret Sparks, drawing the game even 1-1 at 11:16 into the 2nd.
Rob Flick also decided to show how he can hold his own by throwing an open ice hit on Leafs’ Garrett Clarke at center ice. Clarke was not a fan of the hit as he proceeded to cross check Flick. That’s all that Flick needed to get the gloves off and win the match sending Clarke to the ground.
The 3rd period opened with talks of OT looming as both teams exchanged power plays as well as scoring chances. As the lines were changing, Danault found himself on a breakaway off a great pass from Saad, resulting in a nice save by Sparks. Simon Danis-Pepin then joined the fight club as he and Leafs David Broll dropped the gloves in a split decision. The line of Saad and DiDomenico struck again with Chris sending Brandon into the offensive zone leaving Saad to do the rest. Streaking down the left wing boards, Saad made a strong move toward the net tucking the puck passed Sparks to break the tie and give the Hawks a 2-1 lead with 12:36 left in the game.
At 8:32 left in the third period, Danault tried to carry the puck out of the zone. He quickly had his pocket picked by Kenny Ryan who grabbed the puck, skated down the boards and roofed one over Carruth making it 2-2. Four minutes later, Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner grabs the puck in his own zone, turns on the jets and heads into the Hawks end. With a high wrister over Carruth, the draw was broken and the Leafs took a 3-2 lead with 4:26 left to play. As the Hawks tried to push out of the zone and get the equalizer, Gardiner put another one passed Carruth making the final score 4-2 Leafs.
The 3 stars of the game were:
3. Chris DiDomenico
2. Brandon Saad
1. Jake Gardiner
There were a few standout performances during the 4-2 loss on Saturday Night.
Starting with the defenseman:
Shawn Lalonde seems to have gained the confidence that an NHL defenseman needs on the back end. There was a few times where he took it upon himself to make a play happen, whether it was to carry the puck in the offensive zone or by understanding when to shoot or pass the puck during the power plays.
Dylan Olsen was very strong; he made a great play to disrupt a 2 on 1. He also got some power play time as well. His powerful shot was very apparent from the point. He also utilizes his size to get in a few nice hits.
Joe Lavin had glimpses of Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith. He skates with his head up coming out of the zone and makes the first pass up to the forwards with great ease. He’s very careful in the defensive zone and also has a great shot which found its way to the net a few times. To add to his stellar performance, he also had an assist.
Ryan Stanton was smart in his own zone; which is not surprising for the Rockford vet.
Ben Youds showed some promise, exhibiting some control on a few of his power play attempts.
In person, Danis-Pepin is a big guy. Despite this, he had some trouble getting it out of the defensive zone with one attempt turning into a Leafs 2 on 1.
Now on to the forwards:
The DiDomenico, Saad and Danault line was strong with 2 goals. Danault had great speed through out the neutral zone. He also makes great heads-up plays.
DiDomenico has been getting a lot of flack since coming over from the Leafs in the Versteeg deal. With his speed and grit moving towards the net for the first goal of the game, it seemed like Chris had geared his off season to be a better player and a difference maker with the IceHogs this year.
Saad is great along the boards and uses his size to his ability. He has great vision and could even be a great winger for the IceHogs this year should he make the jump from Canadian junior.
Hayes, McNeill and Rensfeldt were very strong. Unfortunately, they were unable to find the back of the net. Hayes needs to use his 6’5”, 230 lbs frame to get pucks off the opponent.
On the other side of the coin, McNeill is very quick and crafty with the puck. He sees the ice and his teammates very well.
Rensfeldt is quick and tries to keep himself open. He definitely had some nice looking shots on net.
Flick, Shaw and David Gilbert/Byron Froese also made some great plays. Flick had an amazing game. He made a great open ice hit on the Leafs’ Clarke and faired very well in their fight. He also took a massive hit, which turned out to be a charging call, trying to get the puck out on a penalty kill. He used his size well when he had the puck and always found the open areas.
Shaw’s fight wasn’t as promising as Flick’s but he still made a name for himself taking on Goliath.
Gilbert and Froese switched roles in this line and were both effective.
Finally, the newly acquired David Toews, Jonathan’s brother, did show some promise. The talk in the crowd was that he was Jon’s brother and everyone knew of the trade which happened the day before. He did show some Jonathon type plays by taking the puck off the boards and making a strong move toward the net, almost tucking in a backhand. With his brother’s leadership and a season with the IceHogs, this Toews could soon be playing wing with his bother.
Jeremy Morin, Peter Leblanc, Paul Zanette and Neil Manning did not dress for this Game.
The Chicago Blackhawks will play the Ottawa Senators on Sunday Afternoon at 2pm.
I will have a postgame write up after that game as well.
Leafs-Blackhawks Game Highlights via LeafsTV