By Brad Vandenberk
The Blackhawks finally completed their annual Circus road trip on Saturday night. To this point, the road warriors had gone 5-1 on this trip. The final stop was in Phoenix where the pesky Coyotes are known to give the Hawks some issues. It wasn’t long ago that these same Yotes beat the Hawks out of the first round of the playoffs. This time entering Jobing.com Arena, it was time to head back home packing another road victory. The Hawks skated into this one in first place with a 3 point lead in the western conference separating them and second place. The more points the merrier when you are on the road.
Hawks rookie goaltender Antti Raanta got the start, while Canadian Olympic hopeful Mike Smith was in the blue paint for the Coyotes. Michael Rozsival worked his way back on the point with Sheldon Brookbank taking a seat. Michael Kostka and Bryan Bickell were the other scratches.
It didn’t take long for the Hawks to get going. Less than a minute into the opening period, the Coyotes get called for too many men on the ice. Then, minutes later, Derek Morris gets called for holding sending the Hawks on a 5 on 3. During the power play, Marian Hossa fires a shot from the point and Patrick Kane slowly cruises by the net and tips the puck past Smith 1-0.
The Hawks don’t resemble a team that is finishing a 7 game road trip. They stay in the Yotes zone and keep sending pucks toward Smith. Raanta isn’t that busy at the other end, but he answers the call when Phoenix gets a few shots on net.
Brent Seabrook puts a shot on and Andrew Shaw tucks a backhanded rebound past Smith to ignite the few thousand Hawks fans in the crowd making it 2-0.
Just over 2 minutes later, Kane finds Niklas Hjalmarsson coming off the point. The Swede rips one past Smith giving the Hawks a commanding 3-0 lead with 8:56 remaining.
aanta gets tested again when Martin Hanzal walks in and Radim Vrbata gets robbed in close. As the period comes to an end, Jeff Halpern trips up Shaw and gives the Hawks their 3 power play of the game. The Hawks can’t add to their lead and the period ends with the Hawks up 3-0 and leading in shots 15-7.
The Coyotes came out flying to open the second period. Raanta was tested early and often. The Hawks seem to be on their heels for this period making one wonder, was all the gas used up in the first period? Sharp does get a great open shot on Smith, but the big guy makes the save.
Then, the Coyotes finally get on the board. Michael Stone intentionally fires a shot wide and Raanta is caught over playing the puck and ex-Hawk Rob Klinkhammer slides home the puck giving the Coyotes life 3-1.
The Hawks come back hard after the goal with Hossa, Toews and Sharp getting chances on the same shift. Brandon Bollig rings one off the post. Raanta begins to show his rookie rust leaving not only his net, but his crease wide open behind him. Finally the Hawks gain some offensive zone time pinning the Yotes in deep. Smith seems to have regained his net making some great saves. The Coyotes get their first power play attempt when Johnny Oduya heads to the box for cross checking. Right after the penalty is killed, Hjalmarsson heads to the box for slashing. He gets an additional 2 minutes for using his words, and the Hawks are forced to kill off a 4 minute penalty. Just as the first 2 minutes is about to expire, Radim Vrbata finds the stick of Hanzal who tips it past a Raanta overplaying a puck once again.
The Coyotes continue to put the pressure on trying to tie the game. Just before Hjalmarsson enters the ice, Oduya gets called for hooking sending the Yotes on a 5 on 3 for 1:06. Seabrook makes a great save on the goal line with a puck ready to trickle in. The break that they were waiting for finally happened. Hanzal retaliates on Seabrook and he got called for the cross check. We get to see a bit of 4 on 4 hockey. The period ends with the Coyotes owning the period 17-7 in shots on net.
The message was loud and clear that the Hawks had to stop playing on their heels to enter the final period. Hossa gets 2 chances 1 on his own rebound. Connor Murphy sends Kane crashing into Smith and gets called for roughing. The Hawks get their 5th power play of the game. Toews gets a chance out front and Seabrook treated this man advantage like his own little shooting gallery. Raanta seemed to settle down in his net making some timely saves. The Hawks keep coming and coming with all 4 lines getting chances on Smith.
At the half way mark of the period, Ben Smith breaks in and tries to pass across to Marcus Kruger. The puck deflects off Oliver Ekman- Larsson’s skate and right over to Bollig. With a fresh shiner Bollig rifles a shot over Smith’s blocker making it 4-2 Hawks.
All that can be heard throughout the arena is “Let’s go Blackhawks”! Keep in mind; they are not at the UC. Hjalmarsson hits the post as well as Sharp, that’s 2 posts in 3 shifts. Shane Doan tries to keep the home team in this match but Raanta makes the save. Shaw lowers the boom on Klinkhammer. Brandon Saad gets a breakaway attempt but Smith stops the shot. The Coyotes pull Smith and Hossa makes them pay sending home the empty netter. Even though Shaw took a 4 minute major for high sticking with 1 second left in the game, the Hawks are claimed victors winning 5-2.
Sharp Toews Hossa Keith Seabrook
Saad Handzus Kane Oduya Hjalmarsson
Versteeg Pirri Shaw Leddy Rozsival
Bollig Kruger Smith
-Hawks outshot Coyotes 36-33
-Both Hawks and Coyotes go 1/5 on the power play.
-Raanta gets his 2nd NHL win and is now 2-0 for the Hawks.
-Although Kane’s point streak was broken in Dallas the night previous, he got 2 points tonight (1G,1A). All four of the Hawks lines were involved in a goal.
-Duncan Keith recorded 24:37 of TOI, next up was partner Seabrook with 23:09.
-Toews was 7/18 on the faceoff dot. Handzus 3/11, Pirri 2/3 and Kruger 3/5.
-Hawks finally return home to face the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night at the United Center after going 6-1 on their 7 game circus road trip.