By Brad Vandenberk
After a lengthy film session in Denver University on Wednesday morning and a “back to basics” practice on Thursday in California, the Chicago Blackhawks were back on the ice Friday night in San Jose trying to snap a six game losing streak.
The film session took place in a theatre that had the perfect set up to run through game tape of their 5-2 loss to the Avalanche on Tuesday night. The session took longer than normal, but at this stage the Hawks were attempting anything to break this streak. After travelling to San Jose and took to the ice to practice “hockey 101”. If the current six game losing streak wasn’t enough, the flu bug was also flying around the locker room as four Hawk players took the day off practice. Steve Montador was also missing from practice, but it was not due to the flu. Monty suffered an upper body injury during the game on Tuesday and was placed on Injured Reserve Friday morning. Dylan Olsen was recalled from the IceHogs to replace the injured Montador. To rub more salt in the wound, Niklas Hjalmarsson, who originally had the flu, was then diagnosed with an upper body injury. Both Nik and Monty flew back to Chicago and will not be playing Saturday night in Phoenix either.
The goaltending carousel continued as Corey Crawford got the call for the Hawks and ex-Hawk Antti Niemi faced his former team for the fourth and final time this year. The previous three games between these teams all ended in 1 goal affairs. Corey Crawford’s last win was back on January 18th when Chicago beat Buffalo. The Sharks welcomed back Dan Boyle who had been out of the line up.
Coach Q tried to balance his line up bringing up Michael Frolik to play with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. Marcus Kruger continued to center the second line with the Patrick’s on either side of him. Dave Bolland returned to center the third line with Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell. Finally tough guy Jamal Mayers played with newly demoted Viktor Stalberg and Andrew Brunette. With Both Hammer and Monty out of the line up, Sami Lepisto saw action for the first time in almost two months. Dylan Olsen arrived in San Jose just in time to lace up the skates. John Scott and Brendan Morrison were the other scratches.
The opening period wasn’t even a minute old when Frolik got his stick up high on Joe Pavelski sending the Sharks on a four minute power play. Just a minute into the power play, Logan Couture put a shot on net and Justin Braun popped in the rebound making the score 1-0 as the Sharks remained on the power play for another two minutes.
Just as the Sharks penalty was coming to an end, Patrick Marleau was whistled for Goaltender Interference, sending the Hawks on a power play for 1:47. They were unable to even the score.
With 8:51 remaining in the first, Joe Thornton decided to pick on former Olympic teammate Jonathan Toews. This started a massive scrum. Toews retaliated, forcing Sean O’Donnell and Duncan Keith to get involved. Ryan Clowe also got involved.
When all the dust settled, the Sharks came out with a power play. Couture again let a shot go from the top of the circled and Crawford let a rebound go right to Boyle who buried it past Crawford and giving the Sharks a 2-0 lead.
Before the period was over the Hawks had another two opportunities on the power play, but were unable to capitalize. Mayers wasn’t going to let the period go by without sending a message to Clowe and the Sharks. He went right after Clowe and dropped the mitts. The period ended with the Sharks holding the advantage in shots 12-7.
The second period opened with Stalberg finding his way back to the Toews line. Toews continued to get punished as Marc Edward-Vlasic cross checked him into the net. Kruger takes a hard hit along the boards from Jamie McGinn. Toews again gets hit hard and falls awkwardly. He remained in the game but was starting to show his frustration. This forced Q to move Mayers up to play with Toews.
At the 13:05 mark of the period Patrick Sharp patiently moved into the Sharks zone. He waited for Nick Leddy to enter the zone and gave him a pass. Leddy shot hit the post, but Kruger was on the door step to put home the rebound.
Exactly a minute later Sharp again found Brent Seabrook who lets one rip from the blue line. It hit Kruger who was standing in front of the net and he again puts home the rebound tying the score at 2 with 10:05 to play.
Stalberg was up to his old tricks has he tried to get to fancy with the puck skating laterally across the blue line. As he ran out of room he threw the puck over to Keith unexpectedly. Keith coughed up the puck and the Sharks broke in on a 2 on 1 the other way. The original pass was too far for the Sharks forward to reach, but Thornton was there to bank the puck off rookie defensemen Olsen. The period ended with the Sharks up 3-2 but the Hawks owned this period out shooting the Sharks 17-3.
Just two and half minutes into the third period, Bolland chipped a puck into the Sharks zone. He grabbed the puck behind the net and found Bickell who tied the game 3-3. Lepisto got an assist on the play giving him his first point as a Hawk all year.
Finally the Hawks began to get physical with Seabrook hammering Brad Winchester. Bickell finishes his check on Vlasic and McGinn took exception to that. The two meet at center ice and begin to chuck the knuckles.
Just over 5 minutes in, Crawford butterflies out of his crease leaving the net wide open. Benn Ferriero is left wide open in front of the net and he gives the Sharks the lead once again 4-3. It was at this point that Pat Foley put all Hawks fans on notice that Stalberg had not seen any action since his miss play resulting in a Sharks goal.
With the Hawks only trailing by one, rookie Andrew Shaw hit Sharks defensemen Douglas Murray from behind and targeted the head. This put the Sharks back on the power play once again. With :33 left in the power play Leddy watched McGinn take a pass right in front of him. He corrals the puck with a forehand-backhand move and puts it high over Crawford’s shoulder. The game ended 5-3 increasing the Blackhawks losing streak to seven games.
-Hawks outshot the Sharks 33-27.
-Sharks go 3/6 on the power play while the Hawks were 0/3.
-Keith led all Hawks again with 30:35. The next closest Hawk was Seabrook at 23:05.
-Dylan Olsen played 18:58 while Sami Lepisto played 11:19 and added 1 assist.
-Patrick Sharp had 2 assists and Marcus Kruger had 2 goals.
-Stalberg only saw 7:58 of ice. Bryan Bickell with only 8:11 and a goal.
-The Hawks travel to Phoenix after this game and will face the Coyotes on Saturday night. This will also be the night that they will honour Jeremy Roenick. Hopefully this will ignite the Hawks to break out of their nasty 7 game losing streak.