By Brad Vandenberk
After an abysmal week that saw the Hawks go 0-2-1, it’s now time to embark on a 6 game road trip spanning over 12 days and playing some difficult opponents out on the West coast. These are the last six games that the Hawks will play before the Olympic break starting February 9-26. The Hawks are suffering through a mid season slump and what better team to bust this slump then the streaking Calgary Flames. These same Flames gave the Hawks trouble during their last meeting back on November 27th until Patrick Kane threw a backhand over Reto Berra with just 18 seconds left in the 3rd period winning 3-2. The start of this current road trip is also game one of a back to back with a quick visit to Van-city on Wednesday before heading south to enjoy some fun in the sun, with San Jose, LA, Anaheim and Phoenix waiting patiently.
Antti Raanta got the start for the visitors, assuming Corey Crawford will get the start Wednesday in Vancouver. Bryan Bickell returned to the line up after coach Q decided to sit him up in the press box and watch Sunday’s loss to the Jets. Bickell commented at the morning skate that the message was received and it was time to step up his game. The Hawks also recalled Brandon Pirri from the IceHogs after his return from the IR. When you have a 6 game road trip, you need all the bodies you can get. Pirri started this game centering Kris Versteeg and Kane. Michal Handzus, Michael Kostka and Sheldon Brookbank were the healthy scratches for this one.
It didn’t take long for the Hawks to get sloppy. Less than a minute into the game, Mark Giordano rings one off the post. A minute later Mikael Backlund follows a puck toward the net and slips one through Raanta’s five hole 1-0. Bickell needed to get the wheels going on his first shift, he sends the puck down the ice for an icing. He does make up for it sending a bad angle shot on Berra trying to bank it in. Versteeg chases a puck behind the Flames net and sends a backhanded pass to Kane who beats Berra over the glove side 1-1. The fourth line continues to succeed when Marcus Kruger and Brandon Bollig break in on a 2 on 1 and Berra makes the save on the Bollig shot. Jonathan Toews tries to take the puck around the net and blows a tire. He heads to the bench and the equipment specialists take the blade out of the skate right on the bench and investigates. There must have been something wrong with the blade because, Toews next shift had him doing snow angles once again. In frustration he heads to the room to fix the issue. Pirri also disappears from the bench after blocking a shot. They both returned. Flames big guy Lance Bouma rips a shot toward Raanta’s ears and it falls behind the Fin and trickles past the goal line 2-1. Raanta does make up for miscue robbing Ben Street point blank. Finally the Hawks big line gets going. Toews breaks into the zone and goes hard toward the net, Hossa is there to gather the rebound and the Hawks tie it up at 2. The period ends with the Hawks owning a slight shot advantage 10-8.
As the Hawks take the ice for the second, Marian Hossa is nowhere to be found. Bickell has a nice shot on net earning his coach’s confidence back. At the 16:39 mark, David Jones and Matt Stajan break in on 2 on 1. Stajan makes a quick move to the forehand and beats Raanta 3-2. Hossa finally returns to the game. The fourth line again continues to out play Calgary’s boys. Kruger wraps around the net and jams a puck pass the goal line. The goal was waived off as the whistle had gone before the puck crossed the line. Just as the first half of the game was expiring, The Hawks get the first power play of the game when Ben Street heads to the box for holding Nick Leddy’s stick. During the power play, the Hawks give up a shorthanded 3-on-1 and the Flames make the Hawks pay. Backlund scores his second of the game after a rebound from Lee Stempniak shot 4-2. That was the end of Raanta’s night as Corey Crawford hops the boards and suits up. The Hawks come right back at the Flames and Berra makes save after save. The fourth line strikes again. Ben Smith gobbles a puck up in the neutral zone and walks over the blue line and sends a shot on Berra. The puck slips right through his glove 4-3. Flames get their first power play when Johnny Oduya heads off for hooking. Would you believe another shorthanded goal? Hossa and Brandon Saad break in on a 2 on 1. Hossa tries to pass the puck over to Saad but the puck gets cleared but not out. Niklas Hjalmarsson lets a shot go from the point and Berra gives the rebound right to Hossa who ties it up at 4. Kane comes right back and misses a wide open net to take the lead. With 13.8 seconds left Versteeg gets busted for hooking and the Flames will open up the third on the power play. Hawks continue to lead in shots 24-18.
Kari Ramo entered the ice for the Flames to start the third period. It official both goalies have been pulled in this game. TJ Brodie gets the loan shot on goal on the Flames opening power play. Kane has a quick shift with Toews and Sharp and Hossa slips down to Pirri and Versteeg’s line. This was very temporary. Kane looses another puck in the Flames offensive zone and the Flames head the other way. Crawford makes the save and fans start to wonder, what would have happened if he started this game? The fourth line continues to have a game, they work the puck around in the Flames zone causing them to take an icing call. As soon as head coach Bob Hartley sees Toews line jump over the boards, he calls his only timeout. Toews and Sharp walk in on a 2 on 1 and Sharp fires it wide. Ramo makes some key saves to keep the Flames in this game. The period ends and Overtime is required.
The Flames put on a shooting clinic to start the OT period. Crawford has to make 3 consecutive saves before the Hawks can even clear the zone. Their effort pays off when Sean Monahan breaks in and puts a shot on Crawford, Brodie grabs the rebound and wraps around the net putting the game winning goal in off Leddy’s stick and the Hawks lose their 4th consecutive game 5-4.
Sharp Toews Sharp Keith Seabrook
Versteeg Pirri Kane Oduya Hjalmarsson
Saad Shaw Bickell Leddy Rozsival
Bollig Kruger Smith
-Hawks outshot the Flames 33-29.
-Hawks go 0/1 on the power play and the Flames go 0/2.
-Duncan Keith led all Hawks with 24:09 of TOI with Hjalmarsson closest to him with 23:06
-Toews went 11/19 in the faceoff dot, Pirri 4/11, Shaw 3/7, Kruger 4/6.
-The Hawks are now tied for 1st in the Central Division with St Louis winning 3-0 tonight over New Jersey and have 3 games in hand.
-Hawks now take the quick flight to Vancouver and face the Canucks on Wednesday.