If there has been one defining character trait of the Chicago Blackhawks during this lockout shortened season, it has been a flair for the dramatic.
From Marian Hossa’s last second goal, to the team effort in dismantling the Los Angeles Kings after an emotional banner raising at Staples Center, to Brent Seabrook’s overtime winner against Columbus on Friday, this team always seems to rise to the occasion when the stage is the biggest, and Sunday in Detroit was no exception.
Patrick Kane’s power play goal late in the third period knotted the game at 1-1, and when Kane stepped up in the shootout and fired a wicked wrister past Jimmy Howard, the Hawks had not only collected their 40th and 41st points of the season, but they had also shown that even when the chips are down against a motivated opponent, they still have the ability to fight back and win.
This game, even excepting the one against the Flames that the Hawks came within about three seconds of losing, was perhaps the most nerve-racking of any of the 22 contests they’ve played all year. The Red Wings clearly came out of the locker room after the second period fired up to take down Chicago, and when Joakim Andersson fed a brilliant pass to Tomas Tatar in front of the net just 2:43 into the third, it seemed like that would be all she wrote.
In fact, the entire play was an example of just how tired the Hawks were. Playing their third game in just about three and a half days, Chicago’s skaters all looked like they were frozen to the ice on the play. Defenseman Michal Rozsival literally stood motionless in the crease while the pass went to the front. Nick Leddy lost the footrace to the puck behind the net to set the whole thing up. Winger Daniel Carcillo (who had an awful game overall) let Tatar fly by him to have a wide open path to the net. Even Corey Crawford, who was otherwise brilliant in the game, left the near post open for Tatar to sneak the puck through.
It was a breathtaking defensive breakdown, and it is one of a select few that this team has allowed during this 22 game points streak.
While that play may indicate that the Hawks could be beginning to slow down thanks to a combination of teams aggressively gunning for them and the NHL schedulemakers wearing down their energy reserves, the goal that Kane scored late in the third shows a different side of the Hawks that could bode well for them in the playoffs.
The play started with a shot from the point that Detroit seemed poised to knock down and clear just as they had every other power play shot in the contest. On this one, however, Viktor Stalberg made a ridiculously smooth play, deftly skating around defenseman Brian Lashoff and flipping the puck to a wide open Kane, who fired it home top shelf.
This play not only speaks to the precision shooting that Kane possesses, but also to a couple of key ingredients to the Hawks’ success. First, there is an ability to take advantage of opportunities that will surely come in handy should this team make a deep playoff run. People can complain all they want about the over the glass minor penalty, but the fact that the Wings opened the door even a crack was enough for Chicago as they scored to knot the game up.
In addition to the team’s attitude, the goal also showed that they are capable of getting opportunities from anywhere in their lineup. Stalberg has been relegated to bottom six minutes for most of this season, but on this play, he showed an instinctual style that head coach Joel Quenneville has to love. Couple this with the play of guys like Carcillo, Andrew Shaw, and Bryan Bickell on a ludicrous minute-long possession in the second period, and you can see why this team’s depth has been compared so often to the top-to-bottom quality of this team’s lineup when they won the title in 2010.
Stay tuned to the blog throughout the day for more reaction to the Hawks’ victory, as well as a look around the blogosphere at what other folks have to say about the team.