By Jon Fromi
The Chicago Blackhawks were held out of the net for over 20 minutes Wednesday night. At that point, the Hawks offense shook off a sloppy first period, scorched the Philadelphia Flyers for five second-period goals and cruised to a 7-2 victory.
Seven different Blackhawks found the back of the Flyers net as Chicago won their third straight behind rookie goalie Antti Raanta. Last year’s back-up goalie, Ray Emery, had his homecoming ruined as the Hawks burned him for a six-pack of goals.
First Period-The tone was set early as Wayne Simmonds laid a hit on Duncan Keith in the left corner of the Blackhawks zone. In came Wade Brookbank to engage Simmonds barely ninety seconds into the contest.
The first shot on goal came off of the stick of Jeremy Morin in the sixth minute as the action was back and forth. Kris Versteeg found Patrick Kane in front of the net with a nice backhand pass from the corner, but Kane couldn’t get the one-timer past Emery.
The Flyers were able to put some rubber on Raanta in the tenth minute off of a faceoff win. Chicago had problems maintaining possession between the blue lines as both teams took to chasing the puck.
Marcus Kruger got a hold of Claude Giroux’s stick at the 12:08 mark of the period to send Philadelphia to the power play. Jakub Voracek made the infraction hurt, slipping in a shot from the top of the right circle past Raanta’s stick side to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead 12:31 into the game.
Giroux did a nice bit of acting a minute later, drawing a high-stick penalty from Brandon Bollig. Despite the fact that no contact seemed to occur between Bollig’s stick and Giroux’s face, the Flyers got another two minutes to build on their lead. Fortunately, Chicago killed the phantom penalty.
Late in the 17th minute, Kane turned the puck over at the red line as the Hawks were changing lines. Raanta stopped Steve Downie’s attempt to double the visitor’s advantage, however. Kimmo Timonen held Marian Hossa with 26 seconds left and what was a less than impressive first 20 minutes on the part of the Hawks ended with them on the power play and down 1-0.
Second Period-The Hawks wasted little time evening the time on the remaining power play time. Kane gained entry into the Philadelphia zone, skated into the corner and sent the puck to Patrick Sharp. Sharp sent the puck along the blue line to Keith, who slapped home the goal 43 seconds into the middle frame.
Just 39 seconds later, the Hawks took the lead thanks to some heads up play by the fourth line. Ben Smith created a turnover in the Flyers zone and was able to keep the loose puck in the offensive zone. He was able to get the puck to Johnny Oduya, who hit Bollig in the left corner. Bollig’s pass was taken behind the net by Andrew Shaw, who came around the left post and went far side on Emery. At the 1:22 mark, Chicago now held a 2-1 advantage.
The Hawks committed another penalty in the fifth minute, a hooking infraction by Brandon Saad. Michal Handzus hustled his way into a two-on-one with Marcus Kruger after he retrieved a loose puck near his own blue line. Handzus wound up with the puck on the left side, directing a tip-in past Emery and giving Chicago a 3-1 lead 5:27 into the period.
Philadelphia closed to within a goal by the end of the man advantage, with Downie knocking in a loose puck off a Mark Streit shot from the blue line. The puck got past a diving Raanta and Downie made it 3-2 at the 6:11 mark.
The Hawks got another power play when Zak Rinaldo hooked Handzus in the eighth minute. Chicago couldn’t gain a solid entry until the final 15 seconds and failed to convert. However, soon after the power play expired, Saad got behind the net with the puck and found Versteeg for a one-timer past Emery’s glove. At the 9:44 point of the second period, the lead was now 4-2 Chicago.
Toews nearly took a pass from Sharp and scored in the 12th minute but was denied by the right pad of Emery. Razor also got a piece of Toews’ shot on a Hawks two-on-one seconds later.
Chicago continued the assault, with Hossa finding Sharp at the top of the left circle. Sharp slapped a shot on goal. The shot caromed off of Toews and past Emery 14:15 into the period as Scott Hartnell knocked Toews into the Flyers net.
The Hawks had a 5-2 lead and a power play to boot after Hartnell was called for roughing. Nothing came of the resulting man advantage, but Chicago was still able to skate to the locker room with a three-goal lead after 40 minutes.
Third Period-Emery came out to start the period but was chased after Seabrook sent a broken stick one-timer off of a pass from Handzus. The puck looked to be redirected by Downie before striking twine. Steve Mason came into the game for Philadelphia at the 1:05 mark with his team down 6-2.
Jeremy Morin was called for boarding Niklas Grossman at the 2:12 mark. Schenn hit the crossbar late in the resulting power play but the Hawks killed the penalty.
Hartnell drew a whistle for interference after running into Raanta in the seventh minute. Schenn swiped a pass from Kane and streaked to the net. He went forehand-backhand on Raanta but the rookie gloved the attempt. Seconds later, Schenn got the puck for another breakaway. This time, Raanta sent the shorthanded attempt away with his right pad.
Philadelphia went right back to the box following the expiration of the power play. Luke Schenn and Jay Rosehill both drew penalties to give Chicago a two-man advantage. Sharp took a back door feed from Kane at 9:33 of the period to make it 7-2 Hawks.
The Flyers response was an Andrej Meszaros cross check of Smith to send Chicago back on the 5-on-3. Philadelphia kept the Hawks out of the net but the outcome was well in hand by this point.
Three Stars-Hossa (third), Handzus (second), Sharp (first)
-I guess Brookbank did his job by coming to the defense of Keith, though Simmonds hit was pretty clean if a little on the late side.
-Brayden Schenn cross-checked Versteeg in the face in the second period but no one saw fit to call a penalty. I guess Steeger needs to attend the Claude Giroux Actors Studio. Expect Schenn to get a call from the league office nonetheless.
-It can’t make a person feel easy about the Hawks situation in net when Raanta keeps getting hit in the head. Of course, with Chicago scoring six or seven goals a night lately, a lot of guys could play in net for the Hawks. Didn’t Andrew Shaw volunteer for a go between the pipes?
-Raanta made 28 saves on 30 shots on the night to continue his run of solid play while both of Chicago’s opening night goalies nurse injuries.
-Sharp and Hossa each had three point nights, while Versteeg, Handzus and Kane each had two.
-Going into the first intermission, I kind of felt like the Hawks were lucky to just be down a goal. In a span of about five minutes in the middle frame, Chicago made the first period struggles moot.
-Good for Rockford IceHogs coach Ted Dent for some face time on the NBC Sports Network broadcast as well as several accolades from the broadcast team on the prospect he has help develop.
-Next up for the Blackhawks is a few well-deserved days before squaring off with the Maple Leafs in Toronto Saturday night.