Sunday, October 16, 2011

Hawks can't hold 3rd period lead, lose to Boston in Shootout.

The defending Stanley Cup Champions looked ripe for the taking, having dropped 3 of their first 4 games of the season and trailing their 5th game heading into the 3rd period to the previous Stanley Cup champions, and giving up an early powerplay opportunity to start the final frame. But the hawks failed to capitalize, going -1 for 3 with the man advantage on the evening and as so often was the case last season, Chicago blew a 3rd period lead at home in eventually losing to the Bruins 3-2 in a SO.

The hawks came out skating, unlike their start on Thursday at home against Winnipeg and carried much of the early play, outshooting Boston 9-2 at one point. Kane had lots of jump again and looked dangerous every time he was on the ice, picking up some loose change that Stalberg left for him inside the Bruins line about five minutes in and he cut right in on Thomas who was forced to make a good save on a backhand.

The Bruins Gregory Campbell tried to change the hawks early momentum by challenging Jamal Mayers to a fight about halfway through the first, with Mayers getting Campbell's helmet off early in the bout & landing a couple of shots and later taking a couple as well, before they twirled around with Mayers losing his balance & falling to the ice. No decision for either.

Stalberg then took a bad penalty deep in the offensive zone for tripping midway through the first, and the Bruins seemed to gain more momentum, getting several chances and shots during the powerplay & afterwards.

The teams continued to trade chances in a fast paced game, with Kane again threatening when he was sprung by a stretch pass from Montador deep in the hawks zone and moved down the left side, evading the over-pursuing Corvo by stopping, then spinning around while Corvo skated past, to get a clear backhand shot on Thomas but the Vezina trophy winner was again equal to the task.

After a physical shift by the fourth line of Scott, Mayers & Kruger, it was Bryan Bickell who struck first, intercepting a pass at center while the Bruins were changing, and he moved in on a breakaway against Thomas, beating him five-hole with a quick wrist shot along the ice and it was 1-0 Chicago late in the first. The goal was recorded as unassisted, but it was Dave Bolland harassing Andrew Ferrence with strong back-pressure with Patrick Sharp closing off his forward options and forcing him into a cross-ice pass attempt, that caused the turnover that gave Bickell the breakaway.

The second period started out promising for the hawks, gaining an early powerplay as goaltender interference was called on Nathan Horton as he made contact with Crawford just as Ferrence was shooting from the left point. About a minute into the man-advantage, Brent Seabrook moved in deep in the Bruins zone along the right side and ripped a shot from a bad angle high & wide of the net. The puck bounced high off the glass, catching three hawks deep in the zone and when Frolik failed to corral the puck along the left boards, it bounced right to Rich Peverley who started up ice along with Chris Kelly, who beat Frolik up ice in a 2 on 1 for Boston, with Keith the lone hawk back. Keith tried to take away the pass by putting his stick along the ice, however, Peverley was able to nevertheless connect with Kelly, streaking down the center and he fired the puck high stick side past Crawford who vainly moved across the goal and suddenly the game was tied, 1-1 on a shorthanded goal.

The hawks rebounded quickly after the powerplay expired, and once again Kane was the catalyst, barely missing a chance at the end of the costly powerplay when he moved across from just inside the right blueline to the left circle, firing a shot just wide. Moments later, he recovered a loose puck behind the Bruins net, then, passed it to himself as he spun around to avoid the check of Ferrence, moving towards the right half boards, before firing a pass to the left edge of the crease that Sharp just failed to connect with for a tap in. Montador then moved in deep to the left corner to recover the loose puck, and found Kane alone at the left faceoff dot and he fired a shot low to Thomas's glove side to restore the Hawks lead, 2-1.

The game settled in after that, with both teams creating chances, the hawks with their skating and transition, the Bruins with their aggressive forecheck and physical play, keeping possession and pressuring the hawks in their own zone.

With about five minutes left in the second, Frolik checked Kelly into the boards from behind and was assessed a minor boarding penalty, sending the Bruins to their second powerplay. They created a couple of good chances, but perhaps the best chance was when Sharp blocked a point shot by Corvo and blew past the Bruins defensemen down the left wing with Seidenberg scrambling back to cut off the slot area. Toews was moving up through center trying to catch up on the play to make it a two on one, but was being pursued by Peverley, yet Sharp, who had a good angle on net decided to give up the shot in favor of a pass to the left-shooting Toews, who had to slow down and turn to his left to be able to one-time the pass, which gave Peverley enough time to break up the play. At the end of the powerplay, the Bruins had a great chance when Chara's shot from the right point was blocked by Hjalmarsson, but the puck bounced right to Peverley, who found Bergeron in front of the net, but his shot was deflected wide by Seabrook, with Crawford scrambling to get across to cover.

The third period started out like the second, with Boston taking an early penalty after Bergeron checked Frolik from behind into the boards at the hawk bench, taking a minor. The hawks couldn't get the powerplay untracked and yet again gave up an odd man rush against late in the powerplay, with a bad pinch by Leddy. The Bruins actually had a three on one this time, with Marchand moving in on the left side and making a cross-ice feed to Paille, who fired a shot that Crawford moved over to save, with Marchand & Bolland getting into a scrum off to the left of Crawford at the end of the play, however, no damage was done.

A few minutes later, the hawks had a chance on a three on two, with Stalberg moving down the left side with Carcillo driving to the net & Kane trailing, however Stalberg moved in deep giving himself a bad shooting angle, yet nevertheless tried to shoot, with Thomas making an easy save as Stalberg had nothing left to shoot at.

As the period wore on, the Bruins came on, using their size & physicality to seemingly wear down the hawks, driving hard to the net, and their determination paid off roughly midway through the period when Boychuk took a backpass at his own blueline, moved to the red line and dumped it in deep into the right corner, then blew past Duncan Keith as he went after his own dump in, retrieving it in the corner while three Bruin forwards closed in around the hawk net with only Leddy between them and Crawford. Boychuck then moved behind the Hawk net unchecked and found Horton moving in from the left side, and he beat Crawford on a one timer and the game was tied, 2-2, with Boston clearly coming on. Leddy had picked up Lucic in front, but Sharp & Toews came back late, leaving Horton (and Seguin) unchecked and it cost the hawks.

The Bruins continued to carry most of the play, but with under five minutes to play in regulation, Benoit Pouliot accidentally high sticked Seabrook and took a minor, giving the hawks an opening. However, for the first minute with the man advantage, the hawks had trouble gaining the zone, and when they finally did, Patrick Sharp was caught holding the stick of Boychuck, killing the powerplay. The hawks had managed only 1 shot on goal in all of their three powerplays on the night, and had given up a shorthanded goal to boot. In fact, they created better chances on the ensuing 4 on 4 than on the preceding powerplay, but still couldn't get a clean shot on Thomas. The Bruins then went on an abbreviated powerplay at the end of Poulliot's penalty and with less than a minute left, Seidenberg moved in from the left point and drilled a shot that rang off the iron.

Then after Sharp's penalty expired, the Bruins moved in again in the dying seconds with Chara firing at the net from the right point that deflected off Hjalmarsson and high over the net, with Crawford raising his arms seemingly in frustration at Hjalmarrson that he couldn't see/find the puck off Chara's stick.

The 4 on 4 overtime with more ice seemed to favor the hawks skating game over the Bruins hard driving, physical forechecking style, however it was Boston that threatened first with Seidenberg moving in unchecked deep down the right side & getting a backhand off that Crawford had some trouble with, leaving a rebound that was picked up by Horton in front, causing some anxious moments before the hawks were able to finally check the puck off him & clear the zone.

The Bruins came close again moments later when Lucic moved in unchecked on the left side but fanned on the shot, with the puck going harmlessly into the corner, however, O'Donnell's clear behind the net to the other corner was picked up by Peverley who turned and skated to the right circle dot & fired a high shot that hit Crawford in the shoulder and bounced in front, where Montador finally recovered.

He smartly passed off to Kane who carried the puck into the Bruins zone, stopping high along the left boards, with O'Donnell, Frolik and Montador all moving in deep past Kane, leaving him as the last man back. Kane was then checked off the puck, trapping the other three hawks deep in the Bruin zone and giving Peverley a clear breakaway from his own blueline, however his deke failed when he flipped a backhand wide of the net on Crawford's stick side.

The hawks had one final chance in OT, when Kane found Seabrook moving in from the right point with a cross-ice pass, however Seabrook was again at a bad angle and his high shot bounced off Thomas across the front of the net where a driving Toews failed to connect. Kane picked up the loose puck and moved back in front for another backhand attempt, however Chara blocked it.

In the shootout, Toews led off, trying to beat Thomas stick side with a deke, but failed to lift the puck high enough on his forehand, catching Thomas' right leg pad. Tyler Seguin followed for Boston and moved in with speed that seemed to handcuff Crawford and he beat him five hole. Kane then moved in and shot for the five hole from 20 feet out, but Thomas was equal to the task. Bergeron followed with a deke attempt but the puck slid off his stick and he never got a shot off. That left it up to Sharp who moved in and fired a shot from a similar spot where Kane had just attempted, which Thomas easily stopped with his left leg pad and that was it.

Overall, Patrick Kane was again the standout for the hawks, however, he didn't get enough support from his teammates. Stalberg returned from injury to replace Hossa, who missed the game due to an "upper body" injury not believed to be serious, however, Stalberg was unable to create much and Carcillo was a non-factor. The line of Toews, Sharp and Brunette was also a non-factor, while Bolland and Bickell combined for the first hawk goal but were also on the ice for the shorthanded goal against.

The hawks powerplay continues to flounder, managing just one shot on net over 3 opportunities on the night and giving up a costly shorthanded goal. Sharp while making a good play on Bickell's goal, did not have a good game - he made a poor choice in passing to Toews instead of shooting when he was in on a 2 on 1, and took a bad penalty that negated a hawk powerplay. Toews, while going over 60% on draws, did little offensively and both he & Sharp were late coming back on Horton's goal, essentially leaving him & Seguin unchecked.

Keith again led the hawks in ice time by a fair margin with over 28 minutes, however, he was badly beaten by Boychuk on the Bruins' 2nd goal and contributed little offensively. He also was beaten on the two-on-one shorthanded goal, allowing the pass to Kelly to get through, though it was a perfectly executed play by Boston (that should have been prevented in the first place by Seabrook making a better decision than shooting from an almost impossible angle and Frolik making a better play to corral the puck).

This was an early season test for the hawks to see how they measure up to the defending Cup champs, and the big difference between these two teams appeared to be that the Bruins not only have lots of speed, skill and size, but they are also more physically aggressive than the Hawks, finishing their checks, driving hard to the net, and in the end, taking a greater toll on their opponents than their opponents did on them. It seemed the hawks were worn down by the end of the game and had no answer back, aside from Kane. While the hawks were missing Hossa, the Bruins were without Krecji, a key contributor to their Cup victory, and McQuaid, a depth defenseman.

The hawks fourth line of Scott, Kruger & Mayers did engage physically for the 10 minutes they were on the ice, and were not overmatched, however, hitting from the rest of forwards, aside from Bickell and Frolik was not noticeable.

The hawks hit the road for their next two games, in Phoenix on Tuesday and Colorado on Thursday in the first of a home & home set with the high-flying Avanlanche.

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