By Jon Fromi
Saturday night afforded me a rare opportunity. With the Blackhawks hosting Tampa Bay and the IceHogs kicking off their season off in Texas, it was time for a little three-way action. Namely, the Hawks, the Hogs and me.
Could I handle two games at once? Here’s how the night shook out:
6:56 p.m.-The arena in Texas is playing Buddy Holly as I pick up the feed from AHL Live. I have Comcast Sportsnet on the big screen and the Hogs on the small screen via my laptop. I like to listen to the visitors broadcast to get the local flavor-isn’t that why the internet is so great? However, I have to get my (Mike) Peck on for at least a while tonight.
The Hogs drop the puck a few minutes before they get underway in Chicago. Brad Mills took the ceremonial face off-hard to think he won’t eventually get the C for the year. Mills, along with Jared Nightingale and Brad Winchester, are assistant captains tonight.
I’d have to think that if Ryan Stanton had cleared waivers, he’d have on one of those As. It is great to see Stanton getting a chance at NHL minutes, but he’ll be missed in Rockford.
I’m excited to get my first look at Antti Raanta as he makes his stateside regular season debut. Time to see what the optimism is all about.
7:10 p.m.-So much for optimism. Raanta takes a shot off of his leg and is down on the ice.
7:16 p.m.-I could point out that Alexander Salak came in with some considerable hype and got hurt, but Raanta doesn’t seem disgusted to be skating in the AHL, so I won’t read too much into this even as Kent Simpson prepares to enter the game.
7:18 p.m.-For those of you hoping the Hawks send Brandon Bollig down, forget it. They gave his number 18 to Phillip Danault. Get used to Bollig, Chicago.
My nine-year-old comes into the room to steal one of my congo bars and seems confused that both our teams are wearing red despite the fact that the Hawks are at home and the Hogs are on the road. Too bad the NHL doesn’t go back to white home sweaters.
Rockford is getting outshot 8-3, but at least the teams have a shot on goal. I have Mike Peck in my left ear and am following Pat and Eddie with my right ear. Actually, most of my audio attention is on the IceHogs broadcast.
7:30 p.m.-No scoring in either game so far. I’m going out on a limb and predicting that Brandon Pirri will draw first blood for the Hogs this season. If not Pirri, maybe Byron Froese.
(Note: Congo Bars are essentially chocolate chip cookies that you make in a pan and cut into squares. My wife does not like me to make them, but she isn’t home and doesn’t frequent hockey sites.)
Ben Bishop is in net for the Lightning tonight, formerly of Ottawa and St. Louis of the NHL and Peoria of the AHL, where Rockford fans cursed him and his denial of IceHogs shooters on many an evening. Looks like he has found a situation where he can be the main man in net for Tampa Bay.
7:37 p.m.-The first fight of the IceHogs season commences when Jared Nightingale responds to a late hit on a Eric Selleck late hit. Nightingale loses his helmet and takes a tumble into the boards, so give him an A for effort and an escort off the ice.
7:42 p.m.-The first periods end three seconds apart with not a goal in sight. The Hawks have outshot Tampa Bay 11-0, while Rockford gave up 21 shots on the Rannta/Simpson tandem while managing eight. Time to make sure the kids haven’t burned down the rest of the house.
8:02 p.m.-Back to action in San Antonio and Chicago, where Patrick Kane has beaten Bishop (I’m not going there) to put the Hawks up 1-0…
8:02:30 p.m.-…and with the ying, here comes the yang. Rockford gives up a power play goal after Jeremy Morin fails to clear the puck. Jon Matsumoto gets a back door feed and Simpson has no chance. 1-0 Rampage.
8:06 p.m.-The Hawks go on the power play when Ryan Malone hooks Marcus Kruger. Meanwhile, Viktor Svedberg is on the ice for Rockford.
If I were handing out a number to a 6’8” defenseman, I’d try not to give him the same number as Simon Danis-Pepin, a 6’8” denfenseman who couldn’t move and failed to cut the mustard in three stints with the IceHogs. Svedberg is distinguishing himself from SDP in two ways:
- He has the puck.
- He’s skating with it.
8:18 p.m.-In Chicago, Brandon Saad notches a power play goal 9:14 into the second period. Assists are credited to Niklas Hjalmarsson and Corey Crawford, though the primary assist should have been given to the sideboards, which kicked Hjalmarsson’s ring-around attempt into the crease. All Saad had to do was give the puck a little tappie while Bishop was caught behind the net.
8:33 p.m.-The Hogs gain a power play that lasts all of 11 seconds before Brad Winchester is called for a pretty tame cross check. Simpson is making some nice saves with a lot of traffic around him. He’s keeping his team in the game, as is Bishop for the Lightning. Both visiting goalies have faced considerably more shots than their counterparts.
8:39 p.m.-San Antonio has outshot the IceHogs 39-14 after 40 minutes. Rockford trails 1-0 while the Hawks are in control and up 2-0 going into the second intermission.
8:46 p.m.-If you are a young lady and would like to participate in the Shoot The Puck promotion, make sure you attend the game shod in high-heeled knee-high boots. Someone should keep track of this stat.
8:56 p.m.-Chicago begins the third period on a power play thanks to an Eric Brewer cross check of Andrew Shaw. The boards don’t perform up to snuff and the chance to build on the lead passes .
9:00 p.m.-The IceHogs even the score thanks to…Alex Broadhurst, who completes a sweet wrap-around attempt past Scott Clemmensen a minute into the final frame. Alex is off to a faster start than his brother Terry did when he came aboard in the middle of last season. Nice play and now we’ve got a hockey game on our hands.
9:13 p.m.-Ben Smith is much more noticeable on the ice tonight than Jimmy Hayes was in the opener. For good reasons. That’s it.
9:15 p.m.-After being held in check for most of the last 50 minutes, Martin St. Louis makes a heck of a play off a rebound and shovels a backhand into the upper right corner of the net. The lead is cut in half.
9:17 p.m.-Jonathan Toews high-sticks Tyler Johnson and the Lightning has their first power play with 8:40 remaining. Time to see if the PK unit can redeem themselves after a rough start.
9:19 p.m.-After denying several point-blank shots, Simpson is beaten by Matsumoto and San Antonio is up 2-1 with 8:13 left. Seconds later, St. Louis set up Teddy Purcell, who sweeps the puck past Crawford’s stick side. Chicago has dominated this game and yet is looking at overtime.
9:23 p.m.-Chicago has its fifth power play and has a loose puck in front of Bishop. However, the only items that find their way into the net are a wayward glove and Bishop’s stick.
9:26 p.m.-Simpson is approaching the 50-save mark with five minutes to play in San Antonio. He has played really well in relief of Raanta, who is not on the Rockford bench.
9:31 p.m.-The IceHogs net is empty with a minute to go. Big faceoff coming up in the Rampage zone, though neither coach is electing to take their available timeout.
9:32 p.m.-Brandon Pirri loses an offensive zone draw. Alex Petrovic banks the clearing attempt off the glass and into the empty net. 3-1 Rampage and a strong night from Simpson goes to waste. Plus Raanta could possibly be out. Not the opener I wanted to see, but there’s still a game in Chicago to be decided.
9:35 p.m.-Patrick Sharp centered to Brent Seabrook with a few ticks left. Seabrook’s stick was checked before he could attempt some late heroics and we’re in for some 4-on-4.
9:51 p.m.-After no one claims the third point in overtime, Bishop stops Toews, Kane and Marian Hossa to pull out the win. Bishop stopped 37 shots. Though I thought Crawford played well, he was outplayed by the new Lightning goalie.
Edzo pointed out that this is the type of game where the goalies earn the big bucks. On this night, Bishop certainly was well worth his two-year, $4.6 million contract he signed this summer.
I’m glad I took on the challenge, however minimal it might have been. Sure, I ignored everyone in the house for a couple of hours, but the kids and I can bond over Spongebob in the morning. Then some Bears before casting my total attention on Rockford’s matinee in Texas.
Two games, two losses. Well, at least I still have half the congo bars left.