By Brad Vandenberk
With Big Ten college basketball invading the United Center this weekend, it was time for the Blackhawks to embark on a 4 game road trip spanning over 7 days. Game one was a tricky task beating the Blue Jackets in a shootout. This was the last meeting between the two clubs for this year and in the years to come the Hawks and ‘Jackets will become less familiar.
Now that the NHL realignment has been approved from the players and the business end, Columbus will be heading east. With the new division, currently under a naming process, the Hawks will only see those pesky Jackets twice a year. A team they will begin to be acquainted with are the Stars from Dallas. Dallas will move into the Hawks division which sees them playing each other 6 times a season. The last time these two teams met was back in the first week of this shortened season. Marian Hossa fired the overtime winner past Kari Lehtonen.
Before leaving for this road trip, the Hawks were given 2 days away from the rink. After playing 7 games in 11 days, your body can tend to “burn out”. The boys looked like they had a jump in their step in Columbus and with some fun in the sun in Dallas the body should be ready for the next test. Although the target may be off their back, the game intensity has just begun. Remember, there are only 19 games left and each team needs every point they can achieve. Good thing the Hawks got off to their tremendous start.
Patrick Sharp has begun skating back in Chicago. But there is still no date set for his return. Jimmy Hayes played his first game of the year on Thursday after being called up from Rockford. He was back in for his second game and needs to utilize his size and find the puck for Dave Bolland and Patrick Kane. Dan Carcillo was a healthy scratch on Thursday and remained in the press box alongside Jamal Mayers and Sheldon Brookbank. Michel Rozsival was back next to Nick Leddy. Steve Montador played his first game with the Rockford IceHogs on Friday and enjoyed his first action in almost a year. Corey Crawford saw the crease again after a strong outing in Columbus. Kari Lehtonen got the call for the Stars and Jamie Benn who was listed as questionable was in the lineup for the Stars.
The game opened with the Hawks keeping the puck for most of the opening shift. The Hawks were short-handed early with Brent Seabrook getting caught for interference. Crawford makes a great save on a point blank shot from Jaromir Jagr who slightly fanned on the shot. Michael Frolik broke in on a 2 on 1 with Marcus Kruger and the Hawks domination continues even shorthanded. The Hawks continue their prominent penalty kill and keep the Stars off the score sheet. Rozsival threw a hard hit on ex-teammate Ray Whitney. After taking the first penalty of the game, Seabrook makes a magnificent shot block, sliding in front of Crawford.
At the half mark of the period, Brandon Saad sends a pass between his legs and out in front of the net. Leddy fires the puck and O’Captain is there to tip it past Lehtonen 1-0.
Just a 1:35 later it’s Toews again. Duncan Keith shoots the puck off of Saad’s behind and right to the captain who tips home his second of the period.
The bitterness begins to show as Stars captain, Brendan Morrow hits Kruger from behind and is assessed a boarding call. The Hawks get their first power play attempt. Brandon Bollig did come to Kruger’s defense, just letting Morrow know he’s around. Kane gets a great chance on the power play and hits the post.
Dallas finally begins to play their best of the period. Viktor Stalberg changed that in a hurry. He flew up the ice and heads toward the net. Lehtonen can’t control the puck and Leddy knocks home the rebound and its 3-0 Hawks. The period ends with Dallas only getting 3 shots on net and the Hawks getting 11 and 3 goals.
Dallas opened the second period with an aggressive fore check. Again Jagr has a chance to get one past Crawford but is denied. Toews, Hossa and Saad continue to dominate the Stars defense. They just can’t find an answer for theses 3. It shows as Alex Goligoski heads to the box for tripping. Hawks can’t manage to add to their lead.
Speedy Stalberg races to another puck in the Stars zone and sends a pass all the way out to the blue line. Johnny Oduya hammers in his 2nd in as many nights making it 4-0 for the visitors. That was it for Lehtonen as he heads to the bench for a Stars goalie change. Richard Bachman is the next victim to try and stop the mighty Hawks.
Kruger interferes with Derek Roy and they both head to the box. Roy heads off for diving and we have some 4 on 4 hockey. Bachman was introduced to the Hawks early. While 4 on 4 Hossa and Kane break up the ice. Hossa sends a pass between his legs to Kane at the blue line and Kane heads into the zone. He sends a backhand to the front of the net and Hossa is there to tip it past Bachman making it 5-0. Stalberg is all over the ice as he almost gets Bolland a goal.
Antoine Roussel was looking for a dance partner all night long. He tries to mix it up with Bryan Bickell who wants no part of his high jinks. Eric Cole also has trouble containing the Hawks speed and heads to the box for tripping. While shorthanded Seabrook takes Roussel out, and Roussel takes exception and drops the gloves. Seabrook doesn’t see the first punch coming or the second or the third for that matter as he goes tumbling to the ground. Roussel gets the extra for unsportsmanlike and the Hawks get a two man advantage. It doesn’t take long as Toews finds Hossa who sneaks off the blue line and with a half slap shot it finds the back of the net making it 6-0 and ending the period out shooting the Stars 20-8.
You would think with a 6-0 lead opening the final period, you would sit back and play some defensive hockey. Not the Hawks! Bickell has two great chances to score and can’t, but Keith jumps on the puck and shots it past Bachman making it 7-0.
Leddy gives the Stars a chance to break the donut as he heads to the box for interference. The Stars capitalize with a one timer shot by Trevor Daley getting the Stars on the board 7-1.
Frolik and Toews both share a chance to run the score up to 8. Dallas seems to get on the board again, but the goal is waved off immediately as Vernon Fiddler is called for goaltender interference as the puck crosses the goal line, No Goal.
Coach Q played Mr. Nice guy putting his fourth line out on the power play. As soon as Kane hits the ice during the power play, Leddy finds Bolland in the Hawks zone who sends Kane in on a 2 on 1. He performs his patented spin-o-rama and throws a back hand off the post and in, 8-1.
The Stars frustration shows again with Brendan Dillion heading to the box for unsportsmanlike behind the play. The fourth line is sent out again trying to get rewarded for their strong play. The chants of “Go Hawks Go” echo through the American Airlines Center. Stalberg almost finds the back of the net on the power play. The Hawks don’t quit and the final period belongs to the fourth line who still continues their domination with their quick fore-check. Frolik has more than one opportunity to score but the game ends with the Hawks winning convincingly 8-1.
-Hawks outshot the Stars 34-19
-Hawks go 2 for 5 on the power play and the Stars go 1 for 3.
-Keith led the team with 21:23 TOI, Niklas Hjalmarsson 20:33, Rozsival 20:17. Brandon Bollig was the lone Hawk that did not see double digits (9:51) in TOI.
-11 Hawk players recorded points with Toews (2G,1A), Kane (1G, 2A), Leddy (1G,2A), Stalberg (3A), Bickell (3A) leading the way.
-Toews dominated again at the face off dot winning 13 out of 16 draws.
-The road trip continues to be perfect with a 2-0 record.
-Next up it’s a trip back to Colorado on Monday, where the Hawks will look to get avenge a 6 -2 loss that broke their streak and sent them on a 2 game losing streak.