Marcus Kruger – photo credit: Yahoo! Sports
By Brad Vandenberk
The Chicago Blackhawks returned home on Sunday night to face their Western Conference rivals, the Vancouver Canucks.
Duncan Keith missed his third straight game with a left hand injury. This game was one circled on the calendar after the Hawks almost eliminated the Canucks from the playoffs last spring coming from behind in a 3-0 series deficit to force Game 7. This was also the first meeting between these two teams since last year’s playoff opening round.
The Canucks were a dominate force against the Keith-less Hawks. Their power play went 5 for 6 tying the Hawks 5 power play goals, total, over the month-old season. On the flip side, the Hawks were a dismal 0 for 5 on the power play. Vancouver won the game 6-2 with the Sedin’s combining for 7 points.
Vancouver drew first blood with newest Canuck David Booth scoring his goal of the year, at 6:00 of the period, on the first power play of the game.
Michael Frolik tied the score at 12:57 of the first with a simple wrist shot to the net, which fooled Roberto Luongo and sent both teams to the locker room tied at 1-1.
Vancouver outshot the Hawks 17-9 In the opening frame. The Sedin’s were up to their old tricks as they made a few attempts to give Corey Crawford snow showers. Patrick Kane was the only one who took exception to this and took Henrik Sedin down. He was called for the rough with 18 seconds remaining in the period.
Canucks opened the second period on the power play and Aaron Rome, playing his first game of the year, blasted a shot from the point over Crawford putting the Canucks up 2-1 just 1:16 into the middle frame.
The Hawks surrendered another power play a few minutes later when Bryan Bickell, trying to get physical, was called for boarding Daniel Sedin. Seizing another opportunity with the man advantage, Daniel Sedin found a nearly wide open net, with Crawford having no chance to get over for the save and the Canucks had 3 power play goals and a 3-1 lead with less than five minutes played in the second period.
Dan Carcillo tried to get the United Center crowd back into the game by dropping the gloves against Aaron Volpatti. Carcillo won the fight and took Volpatti down. This seemed to wake the Hawks up as Marcus Kruger scored his second goal of the year going hard to the net two minutes later as Jamal Mayers let a shot go from the top of the circle and Kruger put home the rebound cutting the Canucks lead to one.
Just 43 seconds after the Kruger tally, Jannik Hansen silenced the crowd with an easy tap-in from the side of the net, putting the Canucks up by a pair with 4:10 remaining in the period.
Viktor Stalberg was then called for a high stick on Dan Hamhuis, putting out the Canucks hot power play once again.
Hamhuis made the Hawks pay, sending a point shot past Crawford making it 5-2. As the period came to an end Jamal Mayers dropped the gloves with Kevin Bieksa. Mayers did get a few shots in, but in the end Bieksa took him down.
The third period began with Kane drawing a holding penalty and sending the Hawks on their 5th power play of the game. Showing no urgency during the man advantage, they were unable to beat Luongo. Carcillo took a puck hard to the net trying to complete a wrap around. He wound up being tackled by Rome and received two minutes for a rough, two minutes for unsportsmanlike and a ten minute misconduct. Then again, the Canucks made the Hawks penalty kill look invisible as Henrik Sedin tucked one past Crawford making the final score 6-2 and helping the Canucks go 5 for 6 for the night on the power play.
-Hawks out shot Vancouver 40-38
-The Hawks again were unable to score on the power play going 0 for 5. Only one team in the NHL has scored fewer power play goals – St. Louis, who have scored 3 times on 40 chances (7.5%). Blackhawks are 5 for 53 (9.4%). Percentage wise, Chicago has the third-worst power play in the league, with Columbus slotted between the Hawks and Blues.
-Surrendering the five power play tallies, the Blackhawks penalty kill took a beating in this one. Chicago PK units had given up just four, total, over the first 13 games of the season. Their PK unit now ranks 22nd in the league (79.6%), on slot behind the Detroit Red Wings (80.0%)
-Vancouver needed just less than seven and a half minutes (7:25) to post their 5 power play goals on Sunday
-Blackhawks were unable to record a point at home for the first time this season. They are now 5-1-2 at United Center.
–Niklas Hjalmarsson picked up his first point of the year with an assist on Frolik’s goal.
-The Hawks are back on the road Tuesday in St. Louis when they face the Blues for the first time this season. It’s another important divisional battle, and will be the Blues first in front of new head coach Ken Hitchcock. Hawks will then travel to Columbus for a battle Thursday night before returning home to face Calgary on Friday. Busy week ahead.