By Brad Vandenberk
The Blackhawks continued their back-to-back opening weekend road trip on Sunday night in Phoenix. A dually important matchup to Chicago, as these were the same Coyotes that put them out in the first round of the playoffs last season.
After a convincing 5-2 win in LA on Saturday, the Hawks were looking to keep the momentum and emotions high to start the season. With only two home games in the next four weeks, it was important to get the wins on the road when they could.
Saturday afternoon saw the Stanley Cup winning Kings receive their rings and raise their banner to the rafters. The Hawks also did that just three years ago and took advantage of the emotion by owning the Kings from the opening faceoff. Phoenix also raised their Pacific divisional championship banner on Sunday.
Although everything looked good on Saturday in LA, the Hawks did lose Dan Carcillo to a right knee injury. It’s not the same knee that was reconstructed this past year, but still a loss no doubt. He is expected to miss about a month’s worth of action. This gave the young Brandon Saad a chance to get in the line up and play alongside Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. Michal Rozsival was inserted into the line up facing his old teammates. Raffi Torres was not in the line up for the Coyotes, as he was serving game two of the remaining eight games he’s suspended for the hit that sent Hossa to the hospital on a stretcher. Shane Doan played in his 1,200 career game and Mike Smith started for his second night in a row. Ray Emery got the call from coach Q. The Hawks who watched from the press box were Jamal Mayers and Sheldon Brookbank.
The first period opened up with great pace. The Hawks started where they left off in LA, quick with a lot of puck movement. There is still some rust and misplays that a pre season would normally take care of. Marcus Kruger had a strong play to the net early in the game. He skated with Brandon Bollig and Michael Frolik. This line had its moments of domination within the opening period.
Just 3:39 in, Brent Seabrook tried to clear the puck off his backhand and it landed right in David Moss’s kitchen. He puts a softy past Emery and its 1-0 Yotes.
Bollig was making his presence felt with a big hit on Radim Vrbata. Saad had a nice tip of a Nick Leddy point shot, but Smith readjusted to make the save. Hawks get their first attempt on the power play when Patrick Kane breaks in on a Keith Yandle miss play and draws a slashing call. The first power play unit saw Toews, Hossa and Andrew Shaw with Duncan Keith and Seabrook manning the point. There was a lot of movement around the Coyotes zone but no goals were scored. Soon after, Doan gets his stick up in Dave Bolland’s face and it’s time for another Hawks power play.
Just minutes into the man advantage, Kane puts on his dancing shoes and walks through three Coyotes and spots Bolland at the side of the net. Bolland wastes no time and gets it past Smith to tie the score at one.
Later, Nik Hjalmarsson levels Steve Sullivan sending him to the Phoenix change room for some added attention. The period ends with the score knotted at 1 and the Hawks out shooting the home team 11-9.
Early in the second period Yandle had an opportunity on shaky Emery, but a save was made. Bollig and Paul Bissonnette head to center ice and drop the mitts. Lefts and rights were thrown and neither guy claimed victory in a lengthy battle. Hjalmarsson prevented a goal on a wide open net with a great stick in front.
At the 14:12 mark of the period, David Schlemko takes a shot on net. Doan tips in on Emery and Vermette is left wide open to put the Coyotes up 2-1.
Bolland silenced his critics as he finds Patrick Sharp who breaks in and snipes one past Smith evening the score. The penalty kill is put to test again as Bollig heads to the box for a trip on Vrbata. Just as they kill one off, they have to kill another one, as Hossa gets caught slashing the stick from Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s hand. Once again the Phoenix advantage is killed off. Hossa bolts from the box and heads in all alone. Smith makes a poke check and keeps the score tied at two.
On the same shift Hossa gets a pass from Rozsival and makes no mistake this time putting the puck past Smith’s blocker side and the Hawks up 3-2.
50 seconds later Bryan Bickell works hard along the boards and finds Viktor Stalberg who silences the crowd with his first goal of the year. The period ends with the Hawks leading 4-2 and the shots even at 19 apiece.
It did not take long for the Hawks to build on their lead. Hossa breaks in just 14 seconds into the final frame and tucks it just under Smith, by the right post and over the goal line. His arms fly in the air and after a review it was a goal 5-2 visitors.
Hossa found his way back to the penalty box as a scrum ensued and he gets a penalty for defending himself with a cross check. Coyotes could not get anything going on the man advantage. As the penalty ends, some sloppy play in front of Emery results in a goal as Martin Hanzal bats a rebound home and the Yotes are within 2.
No more than 20 seconds later, Doan flings a backhand over Emery and Jobing.com arena is alive as the score now has the Coyotes within one 5-4.
As this wild period continues, 22 seconds later Bolland is up to it again. Sharp fires a shot toward the net and Bolland is there to tip it over Smith who goes postal on the goal post with his stick.
Emery stood strong for the remainder of the period, and the Hawks skated to a 6-4 victory going 2-0 to start the season.
-Coach Q kept the lines the same with 20-19-88, 10-36-88, 29-65-25, 67-16-52. He mentioned in a behind-the-bench interview that it’s nice to roll four lines. All lines were definitely rolling has there was not one line that stood out among the rest.
-The experiment of Dave Bolland at the second-line center seems to be a home run. He had 3 points (2G, 1A). His line had a total of 7 points with Kane and Sharp both adding 2 points each.
-Marian Hossa looked like a man possessed. He had the puck on his stick all night and scored 2 goals in the process. Even though the humbled Hossa didn’t admit it, he was looking forward to putting a W up on the team that ended his playoffs last year.
-Michal Rozsival had 2 assists and a great game in his first game in a Hawks sweater.
-Johnny Oduya led all Hawks with 22:04 of ice time.
-Jonathan Toews was kept off the score sheet, but went 14 for 24 in the faceoff circle.
-Blackhawks go 1/5 on the power play and killed off 3 power play attempts from the Coyotes.
-Blackhawks outshot the Coyotes 31-29.
-The Blackhawks now head home to open up the first game at the United Center on Tuesday night when Central division foes, the St Louis Blues come to visit.