(Before It's News)
“The Four Horseman”
By Patrick Norton
Tonight’s tilt with the Pittsburgh Penguins followed two main storylines: One, what would Johnny Oduya’s return to the Chicago Blackhawks mean for a team lacking on the blue line, and two, could we see these two teams facing off against each other in June? They’re both valid questions to ask, but neither would be answered on the first night of the month. Oduya sat in a suite and soaked in the atmosphere he’d be returning to. Coach Joel Quenneville vowed to allow as much time to allow Oduya to get ready before he’d be thrown into game action. And for this game being a possible preview of the Stanley Cup Final? Well, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.
The first period started exactly how we all imagined it would: Sloppy. Wait, what’s that? It didn’t? We actually created sustained offensive pressure, held our own in front of Darling. Yet, the Hawks left the period. What killed the momentum, you ask? A powerplay. Not for the Penguins. For the Blackhawks. After getting just one shot on goal throughout the two minute tripping minor drawn by Nick Schmaltz, you could feel the energy shift from the home bench to the visitor pine. After a few last second unsuccessful whacks on Darling, the buzzer rang and twenty minutes had expired.
Period two brought a very similar synopsis to it’s predecessor. The Blackhawks held a stranglehold on puck possession for the first six minutes of the period, but one turnover in the defensive zone produced a swing in action. Then, a commercial break. It allowed the Hawks to regroup and settle their game. With 11:11 on the clock, Kane lead a two-on-one with Panarin, but the seasoned veteran wearing #88 kept it to himself and ripped a snapper past Marc-Andre Fleury for the game’s first goal. Meanwhile on the other end of the ice, Scott Darling resembled a brick wall in net. Until the seventeen minute mark of the period, the Penguins could only admire in awe as Darling made it look easy. Then Scott Wilson tucked a shot just below the cross to knot the match at one goal apiece. Luckily for Chicago, the tie didn’t last long as a great shift from the Toews line resulted in a forced turnover in Pittsburgh’s defensive zone. Panik took the puck, made a nifty toe drag and sniped a corner past Fleury to regain the lead. A few ticks later and forty minutes was in the books.
- The sustained pressure from the Blackhawks offense created scoring chance after scoring chance. Great night from the forecheck.
- #MinorLeagueDealDickPanik’s toe drag finished off with a snipe might go down as the sexiest goal of the season. It was “Go search it on YouTube” worthy.
- Patrick Kane made a two-on-one look easy. Panarin drew the lone defender and Kane had a one-on-one with Fleury. Guess who won that battle? The reigning MVP, that’s who.
- Mike Milbury actually provided some great analysis during the first intermission. He criticized those that truthfully believed Toews wouldn’t be able to break the slump he suffered through for the first half of the season.
- Here’s a wild thought that I don’t know if many of you will agree with: Jonathan Toews scoring in the All-Star Game provided the spark he needed. He had recovered from his back injury by then, but lacked that defining moment to jump start his season while past the halfway point. Not an easy thing to do, especially with the pressure placed upon his shoulders by the fanbase, but Toews made it look effortless. And now he’s the First Star of February.
- Scott Darling is going to make BANK this offseason. Probably not with the Blackhawks, but good for him. He’s got a pretty interesting story, so it’s nice to see the man so close to a big payday.
- Marc-Andre Fleury was exceptional in net. No, this is not 2009.
- Tomas Jurco has a smooth move, but couldn’t finish. Nice move nonetheless.
- Patrick Kane completed a muscled out play from Nick Schmaltz. Beautifully developed play starting with a Panarin pass to Schmaltz. He’s really coming into his own.
- Sure, it was an empty-netter, but Kane’s hat trick goal was not from an easy angle. His second hattie in three games.
- It always feels great to beat a great team like the Penguins. Blackhawks are rolling. Ten victories in eleven games. Keep’er goin’ through March. You don’t want to be playing the Hawks right now.
- This was a fantastic game. Nothing was “bad.” If something stood out, you’ll find it down below in tonight’s “Ugly” section.
- Michal Rozsival had two noticeable turnovers. Only one resulted in a goal, but boy, it’s going to be another rough year with that man defending our goaltender.
- Seriously, this was a great game. Michal Kempny got beat by Scott Wilson, but it happened due to the Rozsival turnover. Can’t expect Kempny to come to the rescue.
Good night, folks! Thanks for reading and don't forget to download the Shoutcast coming out later tonight. Jaeckel, Froster, #Fatrick, The Gatekeeper, myself, and no Harms. Couldn't get any better.