By Brad Vandenberk
After playing with heart hearts on Sunday after the tragic loss of Clint Reif, the Blackhawks hosted the Winnipeg Jets. Most of the Jets players were once part of the Hawks organization so this made for an emotional match up. The Jets played a picture perfect road game and made the Hawks look like the defeated team they have been the past few days. Corey Crawford was pulled at the 4:30 mark of the 1st period leaving Antti Raanta in the crease to finish this 5-1 loss. This is the last game before a 3 day NHL Christmas break and it couldn’t have come a better time for the Hawks. Spending time with family and friends is exactly what is required to refocus before they visit Colorado on Saturday.
Brad Richards missed his second consecutive game with an upper body injury. Although he did take part in the morning skate which means he’s not far from returning. David Rundblad was in and Tim Erixon was scratched for this game. Michael Hutchinson made 38 of 39 saves to win again at the United Center. The last time Hutchinson played the Hawks was on November 2nd stealing a shutout in a 1-0 win.
Jonathan Toews and his unit started the buzz early for the Hawks. They came at the Jets and almost scored off a Brent Seabrook shot. After that the momentum swung and really didn’t come back the Hawks way for the rest of the game. The Jets even established an aggressive play taking Bryan Bickell off the puck. Mathieu Perreault is left wide open in front of the net and makes no mistake putting the Jets up 1-0. Just after the goal Dan Carcillo and Jay Harrison drop the mitts. Carcillo takes the brunt of the dance as they both head to the box. More bad coverage in front of Crawford leads to another goal when Bryan Little beats him high 2-0. Just over two minutes later, Anthony Peluso gathers a puck at the side of the net and sends Crawford to the showers allowing 3 goals on 13 shots. Raanta is busy, as he mans the crease. Niklas Hjalmarsson makes a viscous shot block and is slow to get up. The Jets are out shooting the Hawks 15-7 to end the period.
Marian Hossa comes out flying to open the second period but Hutchinson is cool as a cucumber making the save. Kris Versteeg fans on a one timer attempt. Patrick Kane drops a puck for Michal Rozsival who shots and hits Kane in the leg. Just a comedic play to add to the embarrassment. Jets draw the first penalty when Seabrook heads to the box for holding. Perreault rips a shot from the top of the circle and the Jets get a power play goal on the best penalty kill in the league 4-0. The Hawks final get the 22,000 fans on their feet. Brandon Saad makes an incredible back check and sends Marian Hossa on a breakaway. Big Hoss makes no mistake and beats Hutchinson glove side to give the Hawks a sniff of a comeback. Dustin Byfuglien was recently moved back to defense, starting the year on forward, and the timing was perfect. He owned every Hawks in the defensive zone. Hutchinson makes two great saves to finish the period and the Hawks regain the shot lead 26-22.
The physical punishment continues as Harrison lowers the boom on Versteeg after blocking his shot. Frustration starts to show when Saad slashes the stick out of Harrison’s hand, but no call was made. Mark Scheifele is sent on a breakaways which is blown offside. He doesn’t hear the whistle and fires the shot anyway. Carcillo and crew take exception and head right after the Jets forward. Versteeg heads to the box getting called for unsportsmanlike giving the Jets their second power play of the game. The hawks execute a strong shorthanded fore check and even Kane is involved. Anything to score at this stage. Blake Wheeler trips up Andrew Shaw and the Hawks get their first man advantage of the game. Duncan Keith gets a quick shot but that would be the best of it. Raanta heads to the bench for the extra skater with 5 minutes left, that’s a 5, and Wheeler sends home the empty net and seals the 5-1 victory.
-Hawks outshot the Jets 39-26.
-Hawks 0/2 on the power play and the Jets 1/2.
-Keith led all Hawks 25:29 TOI, Seabrook was next with 23:23. Carcillo was the lowest at 7:41
-Toews was 56% in the faceoff dot, Versteeg 25%, Shaw 92% and Kruger 43%
-The road to the winter classic TV series had both Bickell and Saad with a mick on for this game. We will have to wait till episode 3 to see how this loss was taken.
Saad Toews Hossa Keith Seabrook
Sharp Versteeg Kane Oduya Hjalmarsson
Bickell Shaw Carcillo Rundblad Rozsival
Nordstrom Kruger Smith