Saturday, October 22, 2011

Hawks prevail over Avalanche in fast paced game, 3-1

The Blackhawks cooled off the hot Colorado Avalanche in Denver 3-1, in the first half of a home & home, in a fast-paced, high-tempo game where both goaltenders excelled.

The Avalanche, in their first game back after having won five straight on the road, were flying high, boasting the highest scoring offense in the league and the top powerplay. The Hawks had not lost in regulation since opening night, and coming off perhaps their best performance, their first road win of the year in Phoenix.

Despite the 3-1 scoreline, the scoring chances were plenty, with Colorado getting the first good one just over a minute in, when Hossa was checked off the puck by Duchene at center, who led Joakim Lindstrom along the left boards. As he crossed the blue line Milan Hejduk streaked down the left side in front of him, effectively outnumbering Seabrook. Lindstrom fired a shot high on Crawford from the top of the left circle which he was able to fend off raising his blocker, but he left a rebound which Hejduk pounced on, trying to go five hole, but Crawford had the bottom of the net covered. Hossa & Kane responded by taking the puck back down the ice and controlling the play in the Colorado zone, however, they never tested Varlamov.

Moments later, as the hawks were changing with Bolland moving through center, he was poke-checked by David Jones and the puck went to Duncan Keith at the hawk blue line, who had just come off the bench - however, the man he was replacing, Hjalmarsson, had not yet gotten off the ice, and the hawks were whistled for too many men.

The Avs tested Crawford early & often on the powerplay with several good chances, after Hejduk won the draw against Bolland. He set up Stastny in the dot of the circle to the right of Crawford and fired a quick low shot at Crawford with Jones parked in front, but Crawford made the save. Jones picked up the puck behind the net, then moved it back to the point, while moving in front and tipped the point shot on net which Crawford managed to stop.

Seconds later after a hawk clear, the Avs moved back over the blueline with Winnick drawing Keith towards him, then slid it back to the left side where a streaking Stastny moved in with a clear shot on Crawford from the faceoff dot. Crawford moved out to challenge the winger, and stoned him with another excellent save.

Toews then picked up the rebound and slowly skated it to center, while both teams changed, giving Toews an opening - noticing that forward Lindstrom was back along with Johnson, Toews turned on the jets and blew past Lindstrom giving him the angle on Johnson as he cut in on Varlamov getting off a good backhand which the Av goalie stopped.

The Avs picked up the loose puck and moved right back up ice, with Kobasew taking Johnson's lead pass into the hawk zone and again feeding Stastny streaking down the left side, who passed it cross-ice to the trailer Hejduk, who got off a good backhand which Crawford stopped. The hawks managed to kill off the rest of the penalty without giving up any more good chances.

The teams then traded 5 on 5 chances, with quick transitions and counterattacks on change/loss of possessions with perhaps the best chance coming when TJ Galiardi intercepted Stalberg's cross-ice pass attempt just inside the Avs line, and immediately turned up ice with it, trapping four hawks in deep, while MacLeod joined him on a 2 on 1, with O'Donnell the lone hawk back, but Crawford made another good save, this time on MacLeod, covering up before Galiardi had a chance to pounce on the loose puck.

Bolland and Bickell then led the hawks up ice, and with Bickell retrieving the puck along the right boards after his shot attempt was blocked, Bolland drew a penalty driving to the goal as he was cross-checked from behind, causing him to collide with Varlamov & dislodging the net, giving the hawks their first powerplay.

The hawks never really tested Varlamov as the Avs did a good job of aggressively getting in shooting lanes & blocking the few shots attempted, and forcing the hawks to move the puck quickly. Seabrook's shot at the end of the powerplay was the only time the hawks really threatened, however, the shot didn't get through and Hossa was unable to control the rebound for a chance.

Kane then led a rush out of his own zone and carried deep into the Av zone before stopping at the top of the right circle and firing a high wrist shot that Varlamov grabbed without giving up a rebound as Kruger drove to the net looking for loose change.

Moments later, the Avs came close when O'Byrne from his own blueline hit rookie Gabriel Landeskog just over the hawk line with a hard pass. Landeskog, then made a deft pass to spring oncoming Ryan O'Reilly past O'Donnell and into an opening on the right side - O'Reilly managed to get a good backhand off that hit the crossbar. That line kept possession and the pressure on in the hawk zone for the rest of their shift with O'Reilly getting another good chance after being set up by Winnick right in the slot but his low screened shot was stopped by Crawford without giving a rebound.

The Bolland line came on for the next shift, with Bickell getting a good chance after skating into the zone and then from deep in the right corner he skated behind the net to the other side & then moving out in front, turned and fired a hard shot that Varlamov kicked out.

Kane's line followed that up with a strong shift of their own, keeping possession in the offensive zone for the duration, even to the point where Kane and Hossa were able to change with the hawks still with possession in the Avs zone. Brunette then tried to hit Leddy, who had moved into the slot area for a chance, however the pass was broken up by Hejda, with the puck deflecting deep into the left corner. Leddy then beat his #8 counterpart to the corner and managed to get the puck to Carcillo who was coming around from behind the net. He then hit Toews, who had just come off the bench for Kane and was driving toward the net unchecked and Toews lifted a backhand high over Varlamov's stick side and into the top corner and the hawks had a 1-0 lead, against the run of play, shots & scoring chances on a beautiful goal.

The Avs tried to respond immediately, keeping the puck in the hawk zone on the next shift with the hawks fourth line on the ice, however, Cody MacLeod was a bit overly aggressive, hitting a prone Stalberg from behind into the boards head first, and drawing a boarding penalty. O'Donnell, who had made a solid hit on Jay McLement seconds earlier in the same vicinity, skated over to MacLeod right after the hit and gave him a shove, and let him know that his dangerous hit wasn't appreciated (or something to that effect). Mayers and O'Byrne appeared to also be exchanging words as they tied each other up, but nothing further developed - Stalberg got up fairly quickly and appeared no worse for wear as the hawks went on their second powerplay.

The hawks were able to enjoy some zone time in the Avs end, however, never tested Varlamov as Seabrook's point shot was blocked near the end of the powerplay. The hawks were outshot 13-6 in the 1st, despite having two powerplays to the Avs one, but scored the only goal.

The Hawks started the second with some sloppy play, failing to clear their zone despite several chances to do so, which gave the Avs some momentum. Just over two minutes in, the Avs gained the hawk line with another stretch pass by Quincey from his own blueline that found Lindstrom, who delayed once he gained the hawk zone, then found Hejduk who had beaten Bickell back down the right side, however he shot it high and wide.

On the next shift, the hawks again turned it over in their own zone, allowing the Avs to recover a dump in behind the hawk net, with Winnick setting up O'Reilly who had moved in close but Crawford was alert and stopped it. Moments later, Ryan Wilson from his own zone found David Jones in behind the hawks defense and led him perfectly with a breakaway pass, however, Seabrook somehow managed to recover and steal the puck cleanly before he got a chance to get a shot off, without fouling the Av forward.

Kane & Hossa then combined to create a couple of good chances for the hawks, however, Varlamov was solid. On the following shift, Sharp was stripped of the puck as he carried in over the Avs line and Winnick quickly headed back deep into the hawk zone with O'Donnell & Sharp in pursuit. Winnick turned and found a wide open trailer, Hejda at the left point who skated into the circle before letting a shot go, allowing Crawford time to come well out to cut down the angle, and his shot was blocked & slid wide of the open cage.

The hawks responded, with Frolik getting a couple of good chances, first firing a shot from the left half boards that seemed to surprise Varlamov, whose positioning rather than reaction allowed him to stop it. Frolike got another chance later in the shift, taking a pass in the slot from Bolland and cutting between two defenders to get a backhand on net that Varlamov had to be alert to stop.

The Avs followed that up with yet another odd man rush that eventually led to a chance for O'Reilly who picked up a loose puck after Toews was checked along the left half-boards and he cut into the slot and just missed the net with a shot to the side where Crawford had moved from.

The next shift, the Avs continued to pressure the hawks in their own zone, who were not able to complete a line change and Lindstrom made another deft backhand pass from the left corner to Hejduk, who for some reason Bickell had left alone in front, and he was able to get a good forehand off from in close that tested Crawford. After the hawks were able to clear, Johnson from behind his own goal line just failed to connect with Kobasew for a breakaway at the hawk line, however, Crawford's backhand pass off the boards to Seabrook missed and Jones picked up the loose puck, and skating behind the hawk net found Johnson in from the right point who fired a shot that seemed to catch Crawford awkwardly in the midsection, tho he managed to hang on while staying down briefly.

The hawks penchant for giving up odd man rushes finally cost them as Leddy was caught pinching at the Colorado line trying to keep an Avs clear attempt in the zone, while the rest of the Avs headed up the ice and Bolland trying to cover for Leddy. O'Byrne, recognizing that the young hawk defenseman was caught, smartly moved up on the rush on the right side as a trailer, making it a 4 on 3 cutting to the net unchecked as the hawk defenders backed in, giving Lindstrom, the puck carrier, lots of space and he turned & fed Duchene who wristed a shot that deflected and bounced right in front where an unchecked O'Byrne was and the puck hit off his glove & in behind Crawford to tie the game, 1-1. Leddy may have decided to pinch as part of heading off to the bench, but the decision ended up costing the hawks.

Chicago tried to respond with the fourth line getting some offensive zone time which was followed up by the Toews line getting a a good chance when Toews picked up a loose puck in the slot & firing on a turnaround that Varmalov had to be sharp to save. Kane and Hossa then almost connected with Kane firing a shot on net from the left circle, but Hossa was unable to connect on the rebound then later Kane set Hossa up for a one-timer from inside the line that was blocked before it got through. Toews' line followed that up with Toews setting up Sharp in the last minute for a chance that was saved by the Avs goalie, then in the dying seconds, Seabrook realizing there was not time for the Avs to counter, smartly headed into the slot as Brunette recovered the puck in the Avs corner, fed Toews behind the net and the captain found Seabrook moving in all alone in front, but his point blank shot was kicked aside by the right pad of Varlamov who didn't have much time to react and the game remained tied 1-1 after 2 periods.

As in the first period, the team that had the fewer shots in the period ironically scored the only goal, as the hawks outshot the Avs 12-8.

The hawks came out strongly in the third as they had finished the second, getting a good chance less than a minute in when Leddy's point shot was deflected in front, but stayed out. A few minutes later Toews on the rush had an opening down the right side & fired a shot that Varmalov handled without giving a rebound. Kane and Hossa followed that shift with Kane taking Hossa's pass and fired a wrister that tested Varmalov. On the next shift, Bolland from behind the Avs net set up Frolik with a similar point blank chance that Seabrook had at the end of the second and Varmalov made yet another great save.

Patrick Sharp then picked up a loose puck at center after Keith had stopped an Avs rush and he moved into the Av zone on right wing and fired a high shot from a sharp angle that Varlamov stopped, however, he couldn't control the rebound which went to Brunette driving the net from the slot, who fired a shot which Varmalov made an excellent blocker save. Sharp then picked up the loose puck in the corner and skated to the left circle, turned and fired a shot stick side, finally managing to beat Varlamov to the hawks were up again, 2-1.

The Avs tried to respond quickly, getting a point blank chance off of a poor Kane pass in his own zone to an open wing, which Colorado recovered, with Stastny setting up Jones in front, however Seabrook managed to get his stick on the shot & deflect it out of play. Hossa & Kane eventually recovered and got some good offensive zone time on the shift. The hawks to their credit didn't lay back, but kept moving forward at every opportunity, though they were also fortunate to avoid a penalty call on Hjalmarsson who appeared to close his hand on the puck after falling in his own zone, and sending/throwing the puck for icing, which prompted a time out by Quenneville to give the guys at the end of a long shift a breather.

With about five minutes to go, it appeared the hawks had the clincher when Kane, in the Avs zone, made some nifty moves in traffic, moving to his left and into the slot before finding Kruger off to the right side of the net however Varlamov made a dazzling glove save on Kruger's one timer to keep it a one goal game. On the ensuing faceoff, Toews gained control behind the Avs net and threatening a wrap-around from behind the net, which pulled Varlamov to the near post, instead set up Sharp to the left of the Av net, however, his shot at the gaping cage was deflected wide by Quincey. The Avs then moved up ice as Jones cut in from the left side but Crawford managed to make the save without giving a rebound. On the next shift, Wilson fired a point shot through traffic that Crawford managed to squeeze. Quincey fired a shot off the face-off win which hit Crawford, who didn't appear to see it. The Avs continued to press on, getting a couple of more good chances with O'Reilly getting tripped up by Seabrook after tesing Crawford with just over 2 minutes left, giving the Avs their second powerplay.

The hawks managed to get a couple of crucial clears in the first 30 seconds of the penalty kill, before the Avs pulled Varlamov for a 6 on 4 skater advantage, and were able to gain possession in the hawk zone after Keith failed to clear a dump-in. Hejduk got a chance, but his shot was turned aside by Crawford with his leg pad along the ice, then he was able to block a point shot floated in by Johnson but left a rebound which created a scramble in front - the Avs managed to get to it twice, but both times shot wide with the puck managing to get out of the zone after the second shot as no Av was covering the right point. Toews managed to challenge Johnson at center for the loose puck, giving Hossa enough time to jump up and recover the loose puck and move in over the Av line to score on the empty net shorthanded to salt the game away, 3-1 Chicago. Landeskog moved in after the penalty expired and tested Crawford one last time, with Crawford fittingly makinge the save on the original shot and on the rebound before time expired.

Shots on goal were even at 11 for the third, and favored Colorado 32-29 for the game, many of them high quality chances (and some that never made it on net), though the hawks had plenty of good chances as well, particularly in the 3rd period.

Overall, the hawks had a solid team effort to come away with the win, led by Crawford, who made difficult saves look routine as the Avalanche tested him early and often. A fast-paced, well-played game, the hawks were able to withstand Colorado's early onslaught, thanks mainly to Crawford and then eventually created their own chances.

While Kane was held off the scoresheet, he and Hossa combined for some good offensive zone time with Kane setting up Hossa and Kruger for two very good scoring chances, while Toews and Sharp led the way offensively. Of the players who failed to connect, Michael Frolik was perhaps the most impressive, managing a team leading five shots on goal for the game, several of them good opportunities in just over 14 minutes of ice time, tho he ended up with a -1.

The defense was solid again with all three pairings contributing, limiting the mistakes and getting plenty of support from the forwards and of course being backed up by Crawford.

Toews with a goal & an assist and a +3 and 5 shots on goal in just under 18 minutes was the most productive hawk forward, though he was only 6 for 16 on face-offs, as Colorado dominated the dots, 31-23, with Bolland the only hawk center finishing at .500

If the rematch in Chicago on Saturday is anything like this game, the fans are in for a treat. The hawks will also be unveiling statues of Bobby Hull & Stan Mikita before the game, long overdue honors to two hawk legends who helped build the franchise.

No comments:

Post a Comment