By Brad Gardner
There was no love lost in the third meeting of the season between Calgary and Chicago but it was the Blackhawks that put together another solid effort and came away with two points. The Western Conference foes combined for 61 PIMs and the Flames out-hit the ‘Hawks by a count of 31 to 12, but Chicago was able to get out to a lead and hold on against a late Calgary charge for the 4-2 victory.
Steve Montador gave the Blackhawks a first period lead when his slap shot beat Miikka Kiprusoff to the glove side 9:23 into the game. The ‘Hawks fourth line of Viktor Stalberg, Jamal Mayers, and Andrew Brunette applied the pressure in the offensive zone and had the Flames chasing the play along the wall. Mayers’ centering pass found Montador wide open in the slot, where he unleashed a heavy shot that found the net just inside the post.
Later in the opening frame, Brent Seabrook was on the receiving end of another bad hit from a former teammate when Rene Bourque checked him squarely in the back. The incident occurred directly in front of the official, who saw Seabrook’s head get driven into the boards by the Calgary winger. Seabrook was able to leave under his own power, but went directly to the locker room and did not return. Bourque received a five minute major and game misconduct for the hit.
The Blackhawks could not convert on the five minute long power play, part of which was nullified by an interference call against Marcus Kruger in the offensive zone. A slashing call against Lee Stempniak put the Blackhawks right back on the power play early in the second period, but they were again stopped by Kiprusoff and the Calgary penalty kill.
Niklas Hjalmarsson was still able to extend the ‘Hawks lead to two at the 5:15 mark of the second period. The play was started by Marian Hossa, who was able to win the puck along the boards against a hesitant Mikael Backlund and maintain possession against defenseman Derek Smith. Hossa dished back to the blue line, where Hjalmarsson sent a slap shot towards the traffic in front of the Calgary net. The puck deflected off the skate of Smith, dribbling through the crease and taking a couple Chicago bounces into the net.
Patrick Kane extended the lead to 3-0 on the ‘Hawks fourth power play opportunity in the second. Jonathan Toews won the draw back to Duncan Keith, who drew the Calgary forward out towards the blue line. Keith passed right to Kane, who had room in the middle of the ice to get in between the four penalty killers. Kiprusoff was unable to see the shot through a Toews screen in front and it found the back of the net for Kane’s ninth tally of the year.
Both power plays played a major role in the third period, with Calgary getting on the board just over two and a half minutes into the final frame. Ray Emery was screened by Curtis Glencross and did not get a look at Olli Jokinen’s slap shot from the top of the faceoff circle. Jokinen’s goal was the first power play goal given up by Chicago in their last 22 shorthanded chances.
Marian Hossa answered almost nine minutes later, when he one-timed a crossing pass from Patrick Sharp during a 5-on-3 advantage for the Blackhawks. The shot zipped over the glove and into the top corner to put Chicago up by a score of 4-1.
Calgary kept pushing, but one more goal was all they could muster against Emery and the Chicago defense. Jokinen controlled the puck behind the net and got Emery leaning left before he passed back to the goalie’s right side. Iginla made a quick center pass to Glencross, who had two wide open opportunities in front of the Chicago net. Emery stretched to make a pad save on the first attempt but Glencross was able to lift the second chance above the pad for Calgary’s second goal of the game.
The Flames would have another opportunity on the power play as well as some time with the goalie pulled for an extra attacker, but they were unable to complete the comeback. The loss made it four straight for Calgary, but marked just the third time this month they had dropped a game in regulation.
– Jeremy Morin, recalled Saturday night, made his season debut with the Blackhawks, opening the night on the top line with Toews and Kane. He skated in 10:23 of ice time but was only given credit for one hit. He didn’t look out of place in his first NHL game of the year and was more than willing to throw the body around and add some physical play to the forwards.
– John Scott returned to defense after playing on the fourth line Friday night. He was on the ice for each of the Blackhawks’ first two goals and led the team with a plus-2 rating. O’Donnell and Lepisto were the healthy scratches on the blue line, while Daniel Carcillo missed his second straight game to an upper-body injury.
– Duncan Keith led all Blackhawks in ice time with 28:32, trailing only Jay Bouwmeester (30:23) for the game. In addition to making a few key plays in the defensive end, Keith also led Chicago with five shots on goal and had another five attempts that were either blocked or wide of the net.
– The Flames top line was the only one that would create consistent pressure against Ray Emery. Olli Jokinen made it three consecutive games with one goal and one assist, but Calgary has not been able to get two points out of any of those three games.
– Ray Emery won his fifth consecutive start and should get a chance to extend that on one of the ‘Hawks back-to-back games during the week. Emery saw only three shots in the opening period, but made several strong saves moving side-to-side while the game was still close.
– The Blackhawks’ penalty kill unit gave up two goals on five opportunities. They had shut out the opposition on 18 straight power plays over the course of the six games heading into the game against Calgary. The ‘Hawks power play finished 2-for-7, making it nine power play goals over the course of Chicago’s last eight games.
– Bryan Bickell earned 17 PIMs for his fight against Corey Sarich in the third. Bickell had been leveled by a check, which he did not see coming from the Calgary defenseman, and immediately sought Sarich for a fight. Both men landed several punches in the rather spirited fight, but it was Bickell that earned the extra minor for instigating and put his team down a man.
– Despite the good effort, the questions coming out of the game, unfortunately, will be about Brent Seabrook and his health. It is a suspected head injury given the way he hit the boards, which would be his third in as many years after taking the high hit from James Wisniewski and then the gigantic collision with Raffi Torres behind the net in the 2011 playoffs.
– For Calgary, Matt Stajan took an awkward fall into the boards as he raced for a puck with Steve Montador. The center slid feet first and appeared to injure his right leg, which he favored heavily as he made his way off the ice. Considering the doghouse that Mikael Backlund has been in of late – not to mention his soft play that allowed Hossa to free the puck for Hjalmarsson’s goal – the injury could further weaken the Flames down the middle.
– The Blackhawks play just two games this week, beginning Tuesday at Pittsburgh before turning around for a Wednesday home date against Montreal.
In addition to covering the Blackhawks for TheThirdManIn.com, Brad is also the Blackhawks’ correspondent at HockeysFuture.com.