You can be forgiven for forgetting what a complete game looks like from the Blackhawks. Up until Sunday night, we hadn’t actually seen one from the team yet. They’d come out for forty minutes, at best; sometimes twenty minutes was all we’d get. A little effort, and then they’d go right back to forgetting how to play hockey.
The Blackhawks usually bring out a better compete level against the Kings (okay we’ll forget about this game). After trading Stanley Cups for a few years in a row, the two sometimes-powerhouses of the West usually make for a pretty good head-on collision.
Of course, neither team is quite what it was a few years ago. That knock-out, drag-down seven-game series in 2014 might be a rivalry high point that’s firmly in the rear-view mirror now. The Blackhawks are lacking in depth, and so are the Kings. But the Kings have also been bitten by the injury bug. Forward Marian Gaborik is recovering from a foot injury sustained during the World Cup. Defenseman Brayden McNabb was injured in the previous night’s game. Jonathan Quick is out for around four months with a groin injury, and back-up goalie Jeff Zatkoff is sidelined with a similar, but less serious, lower-body injury.
So the Blackhawks weren’t getting the Kings at their best, decimated and on the last game of a back-to-back. But you play the team that shows up, and two points are two points.
- All things considered, both teams essentially played to a draw at evens. Shots and possession for both teams were similar. Corey Crawford was the difference maker, turning away all 32 shots he faced, including a 13-shot third period. Special teams helped, as well. The Blackhawks penalty kill found success in its two appearances, and the power play accounted for two of the Blackhawks’ three goals.
- After a long drought, it was good to see Jonathan Toews get his first goal of the season on a power play. Marian Hossa added another on a power play at the end of the game, with the Kings’ goalie already pulled. A few small tweaks have had the power play edging a little bit more towards respectability. While the penalty kill is still recovering from its woes, it’s good to see the other half of special teams stepping up to the plate.
- Artem Anisimov‘s goal was the product of a play made specifically for me and my hockey sensibilities. Marian Hossa got caught up along the boards with Jeff Carter. Hossa managed to get out and tossed a short pass to Artemi Panarin. Panarin passed it back to Hossa, who then outmuscled Carter to get to the net. Hossa’s pass to Anisimov was great, but the whole reason this puck went in was because of Anisimov’s mishandle at the net. By the time he got a good hold on the puck, Peter Budaj was already down, having anticipated an earlier shot. It wasn’t necessarily pretty, but just some good, standard puck protection from Hossa.
- The Kings had trouble sustaining any sort of pressure on the Blackhawks. Most of their shots came from depth forwards, with the exception of Tyler Toffoli’s five shots. The guys who the Kings wanted to have the puck almost never had it. At one point, Jordin Tootoo managed to strip the puck from Anze Kopitar. That’s not the path to success.
- Actually, let’s talk about Jordin Tootoo. I still think it’s a waste to have a line that you don’t trust enough to deploy for more than just a handful of minutes a night. But he’s been serviceable in his limited ice time, and has been getting the puck to the net, even if it hasn’t gone in.
- The team honored Marian Hossa’s 500th goal with a brief presentation before the game. The real show-stealer here was Hossa’s daughter, who very memorably honked his nose as John McDonough spoke. It was an honor for me to be at the game where Hossa scored the landmark goal, and a pleasant surprise to be there for this. During the presentation, someone shouted out “Hossa for President!” I can’t say I have any argument with that.
(Photo: Sarah Avampato)