CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 17: Tomas Kopecky #82 of the Chicago Blackhawks playfully smacks teammate Corey Crawford #50 in the face after a win over the Detroit Red Wings at the United Center on December 17, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Red Wings 4-1. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
In so many ways, I'm glad it's over. For you new to the sport, and new to this blood-feud between the Hawks and Wings, you'll come to learn what we already know. These are never enjoyable. From the opening puck drop, and well before when you walk past any Wings fan, to the final whistle these games are exquisite torture. There is no worse pain (in sporting fandom) than a loss to those from the land of shattered dreams and shuttered homes.
And then there are nights like last night, when it looks for all the world that a beat-up Hawks squad would get a kick in the ribs from a rolling and classy Wings outfit to officially send our season into a spiral, where the Hawks come out and show you some mettle, some grit, determination, and (cue Mean Gene Orkerlund) "TESTICULAR FORTITUDE". It was a welcome, and needed site.
Make no mistake, this was the best performance, considering the circumstances, of the year by some distance. While the Hawks did face a barrage the last half of the 1st period, over the final 40 they suffocated the most loaded offense you'll find. The Hawks were first to most loose pucks, they won their share of battles along the boards, and considering the rate the Wings usually work at these are impressive feats. Passing lanes were clogged, shooting lanes to Corey Crawford were non-existent, and whenever he did have to make a save he didn't have to deal with any rebounds as they were quickly cleared.
I said after Wednesday's game that if you subtract the double-minor to Jordan Hendry, the Hawks could build off that defensive effort. That's exactly what they did last night.
-Neither got a star of the game, but Jack Skille and Brian Campbell were the best players on the ice. Skille had an unfathomable 9 shots on goal, but more importantly was using his speed in the right ways. What that means is he was furious on the forecheck, creating turnovers by the Wings in their zone (and creating the only penalty of the game), and getting back to help defensively. What he wasn't doing was flying all over his zone, causing coverage to break down as people cover for him. He pressured his point-man, and savagely chased down loose pucks to clear them as if the dinner bell was ringing.
Campbell led the Hawks in ice-time last night, as well he should have. He and Niklas Hjalmarsson were automatic for the most part in clearing the zone, and we saw more creativity and attack from the man we call 51 Phantom. When he pushes the play and joins in, the Hawks are a for more dynamic force for a longer period, as they generally also have Duncan Keith doing the same thing for another 20 minutes a night. We know a lot of people don't like Campbell due to his paycheck, but games like last night are why he's important.
-Eventually, teams will stop letting Bryan Bickell let loose from the circles. Until they do, he'll keep scoring.
That's enough for a Saturday.