By Brad Vandenberk
With all the story lines in this game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Winnipeg Jets at the MTS centre, you just needed to be a hockey fan to get excited for this one.
The Hawks haven’t played in the Peg since 1996. Next to the Florida Panthers, the Jet also has an abundance of ex-Hawks. The Hawks penalty kill this year is being questioned since the departure of Michael Frolik. Captain Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien also sport the Jets crest. Hawks captain Jonathan Toews made his hometown debut this afternoon. The hype in all the local newspapers, TV’s and radio broadcasts was that Toews was in town with the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks. Let’s not forget that Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith were also born in Winnipeg. And last but certainly not least, there was a good old Kane versus Kane matchup.
Corey Crawford got the nod from Coach Q while at the other end it was Ondrej Pavelec. The Hawks who didn’t dress for this affair were Sheldon Brookbank, Michal Handzus and Brad Mills who was just diagnosed with a lower body injury.
The game lived up to all the hype right off the bat. Both teams came out flying high. Evander Kane or as Hawks fan refer to him as “the other Kane”, steals a puck at center ice and speeds in on Crawford who makes the save. The pace resembles a bit of a playoff pace. Tobias Enstrom gets the home team on the board early. He fires the puck on net and it finds its way past Crawford. During the shot, Frolik moved across Crawford and tied up his stick causing a bit of interference, but the goal stood 1-0. Bollig gets the first penalty of the game when he heads to the box for tripping. Andrew Ladd gets a nice wrap around chance but Crawford is there. Seconds into the Jets power play, Brandon Saad makes a strong move to the front of the net and Dustin Byfuglien hooks his hands ruining the Jets man advantage. 20 seconds later Ladd breaks the stick of Keith and is called for slashing. The Hawks get a 4 on 3 and a 5 on 4 power play. Just as the penalties expire, Marcus Kruger wins a face off right to Niklas Hjalmarsson who riffles it past Pavelec tying the game at 1. The Hawks start to push against the Jets with plenty more chances on Pavelec. Blake Wheeler drives hard toward the net and catches Crawford with his knees in the ribs. Crawford takes a while to get to his feet, but is good to go. The MTS faithful start to “boo” the stars on the Hawks named Kane and their own hometown hero Toews. The period ends with the Jets out shooting the Hawks 11-10.
Just 54 seconds on the fresh sheet of ice, Bollig and Kruger march in on a 2 on 1. Bollig keeps the puck and hits twine beating Pavelec over the blocker 2-1. 2 minutes later, Leddy disrupts a Jets break in and Marian Hossa sends Sharp on a breakaway. Sharp eludes Pavelec’s poke check attempt and slides the puck past the goal line giving the Hawks a 3-1 lead. The wheels on the bus start to come off for the Jets. Another 2 minutes after Sharps highlight reel goal, Leddy comes off the point and scores on a screened Pavelec giving the Hawks 3 goals in 4:55 and leading 4-1. Al Montoya rips off his ball cap and exchanges it for a hockey mask as Pavelec’s afternoon is done. The Hawks domination proves trouble for the Jets with all the Hawks 4 lines in the offensive zone. Big Buff starts to throw his weight around on his old buddies. He sends Toews to the ice with a thunderous body check. Frolik sends a great pass out front, of his own net, giving Shaw a chance alone in front. This was the first test for Montoya since coming into the game. Shaw again is out front and gets robbed by Montoya twice in a row. Toews gets a last minute attempt on a breakaway to get his parents, in the crowd, one, but can’t beat Montoya’s five hole. Crawford stops a late Jets barrage and the period ends with the Hawks up 4-1 but the Jets still outshooting the Hawks 21-17.
Jets come out trying to solve Crawford early in the final frame. They storm the net but Crawford stands tall making a strong bid for the Canadian Olympic team. Kane breaks in and splits the Jets D, with Grant Clitsome all over Kane trying to stop his attempt. The ref points to center ice indicating a penalty shot. The boo’s rain down as Kane heads to the dot to take the shot. He skates in on Montoya and rings a backhander off the crossbar, but smiling as he heads to the bench. This was Kane’s second post of the game. At the 10:47 mark, Bollig grabs a puck along the boards and sends a shot toward the net, Ben Smith tips the puck up over Montoya giving the Hawks a dominate 5-1 lead. This was Bollig’s first multiple game of his career getting a goal and an assist. Kane tries a spin-o-rama near the end of the period to try and get on the score sheet, but to no avail. The game ends with the crowd at the MTS center letting their team know how bad their performance was.
Sharp Toews Hossa Keith Seabrook
Bickell Shaw Morin Leddy Rozsival
Saad Pirri Kane Oduya Hjalmarsson
Smith Kruger Bollig
-Winnipeg outshot the Hawks 27-25
-Hawks go 0/2 on power play with the Jets going 0/1.
-Toews was 10/19 in the face off dot. Kruger 11/15, Shaw 4/11, Pirri 5/13.
-Keith led all Hawks with 21:40 of TOI. Next closes Hawk was Rozsival at 20:06
-Toews and Kane each went without a point during the victory.
-Hawks now travel back to Chicago to take on the Calgary Flames at the UC on Sunday evening, before heading to the White House on Monday for their Stanley Cup visit.