Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hawks rebound vs. Phoenix for first road win, 5-2

The Hawks bounced back from their SO loss to the defending Stanley Cup champions with a solid team effort on Tuesday and picked up their first road win of the year against the Coyotes. Marion Hossa returned to the lineup after missing Saturday's game with an undisclosed upper body injury apparently suffered against Winnipeg.

The hawks got an early powerplay less than two minutes in, where Pyatt hit Hjalmarsson into the boards behind the hawk net. Their first good scoring chance came when Patrick Kane at center found Patrick Sharp skating along the blueline & perfectly led him with a pass behind the Phoenix defensemen lined up at the blueline, giving Sharp a clear break from the left side, tho Labarbara cut off the angle giving Sharp little to shoot at.

The hawks continued to buzz the offensive zone on the powerplay in particular the line of Bolland, Bickell & Hossa, however, couldn't get one past Labarbara.

The hawks then got a penalty of their own, as Phoenix threatened in the hawk zone, Mikael Boedker was hooked by Daniel Carcillo as he cut into the slot for a shot.
The Coyotes had a couple of close calls, one where an attempted pass by Vrbata deflected high off of Yandle and appeared headed over Crawford and toward the net but an alert Crawford knocked it away.

The teams traded some good chances after the expiration of the hawk penalty. Carcillo failed to clear the hawk zone and that led eventually to a chance for Pyatt alone in front, however, he shot it wide. Carcillo later blocked a point shot that helped finally clear the hawk zone. The hawks fourth line then had a good shift, getting some good zone time in the Phoenix end, however, couldn't score.

That was followed up by a good shift from Kane, Hossa & Carcillo, with LaBarbara making a good save on Carcillo, who picked up a deflected Kane shot and fired it right away from 15 feet. Hossa then interecepted a clear attempt and set up Montador at the blueline, who stepped into it, but Labarabara made a good stick save. Hawks were outshooting Phoenix 11-3 at that point. That was followed up by a good shift from the Toews line, continuing the strong forechecking, hemming the Yotes in their own zone.

Bolland later led a 3 on 2 rush, and fed Frolik on the right side after entering the zone, while driving toward the net, taking Aucoin with him. Frolik then delayed, drawing a defender towards him, while passing to Bickell moving in alone from the left side. Bickell got a point blank shot away, however, Labarbara made the save, while Bolland crashed into the post, falling and hitting the side/back of his head on the ice. He stayed down momentarily, clutching his head, but got up and skated off, while Aucoin was assessed a minor for interference.

On the ensuing powerplay, Andrew Brunette won a puck battle in the right corner and found Kane in the right circle, driving all alone toward the front of the net where Korpikoski managed to tug Kane's left glove with his stick, causing Kane to lose control of the puck and Korpikoski to get a minor for hooking, thus giving the hawks a 5 on 3.

The hawks finally connected after a couple of back & forth passes, first between Keith, who had gained the line, and Kane, then Keith from the right point, fed Hossa at the top of the left circle. Hossa fed it to Sharp down low, causing Klesla to drop down to cover Sharp, giving Hossa a clear shot which he one-timed on the return feed from Sharp, 1-0 Hawks.

The hawks almost gave up another shorthanded goal on the second minor when Leddy failed to get the puck in deep, allowing Hanzal to clear the zone by passing it to former hawk Vrbata who was then 1 on 1 vs. Seabrook. After gaining the line, Vrbata delayed, and with the hawks changing, Morris smartly moved down the right side unchecked and Vrbata led him with a perfect pass that allowed him to move in alone from the right circle on Crawford who came out to cut down the angle. Instead of shooting, Morris quickly skated behind and around the hawk net, as Crawford, Leddy and Seabrook tried to scramble back into position. Both Seabrook and Leddy, however, overpursued Morris, leaving Daymond Langkow all alone in front of a still vacated net and forunately for the hawks, Morris's pass handcuffed Langkow, hitting him in the skates and the puck bounced harmlessly wide.

There were so may sloppy plays on this shift that led to the Phoenix chance - first, Leddy at the end of a shift failed to get the puck in deep to allow for a line change and instead gave up possession. Then, compounding the error, both he and Seabrook were caught checking Vrbata by the hawk bench (looking to change), leaving the entire right side of the ice wide open for Morris. Leddy, quickly tried to recover and chase down Morris, only to overpursue, leaving both him & Seabrook behind the net and no one in front to cover. Crawford was also slow to get back in position and the hawks were very fortunate that none of these bad decisions cost them a momentum turning goal against right after they had just worked so hard to get the lead.

The hawks escaped further damage and left the first with a 1-0 lead, outshooting Phoenix 15-4.

The second didn't start well for the hawks as Kane lost the draw, and Hjalmarsson lost a puck battle in the corner with the puck ultimately sent back to the point where Schlemko's shot from the left point got through with Crawford stretching to make a low glove save, but he couldn't control the puck as it sat in front with both Pyatt and Hjalmarsson trying to get to it, it appeared that Hjalmarsson may have actually scored as he was trying to steer the puck back to Crawford to cover, tho Pyatt's stick was also there at the same time, attempting to direct it on net and he ended up with credit for the goal that tied the game 1-1.

The hawks tried to respond, with a good shift by Toews following the goal against. That was followed up with a strong shift by the fourth line, again with good zone time in the Phoenix end, with Stalberg getting a good chance intercepting a bad clear attempt by Labarbara from behind his own net - Stalberg tried to one-time it from the left circle, but Labarbara managed to get back in his net to make the save.

They were eventually rewarded for their efforts when Patrick Sharp took a pass from Seabrook at center and found Brunette moving in over the line. Brunette delayed while Toews drove the net, then timed his shot to perfection, as Toews arrived first to pick up the rebound and stuff it behind Labarbara and the hawks had restored their lead, 2-1.

That was followed up by a strong shift from Kane's line with Hossa missing a great chance at the side of the crease with an open net, failing to get a stick on the rebound from Kane's wrist shot from the left faceoff dot. 13-88-81 continued to control possession in the Phoenix zone for a good minute, until the puck was finally cleared out behind Montador who had moved in for a shot, givng Whitney a partial break down the left side. O'Donnell did a good job recovering and cutting down his angle and options, especially given that Whitney was a right handed shot, however, Whitney's centering pass attempt went off O'Donnell's skate to an open area where Doan was able to easily beat the overpursuing Montador to the puck and he turned to find the trailer, Ekman-Larsson alone in the slot, having beaten Kane back, but he fired his shot wide. Kane picked up the puck as it was heading back in front after bouncing off the boards, and as he skated behind the hawk net, Whitney tried to lift his stick, but caught Kane in the face and was assessed a high sticking minor.

Hawks had a good chance with Keith firing a hard shot from the line but Labarbara was able to hang on without giving a rebound. Shortly after the powerplay ended, Duncan Keith had all kinds of trouble with a seemingly routine cross-ice pass from Montador in his own zone, losing an edge on his skate and eventually falling down and into the boards, allowing Langkow to easily recover the puck and he fed Whitney who was smartly moving into the slot, in behind all the hawks who were skating up ice, assuming that Keith would move the puck up. Whitney faked, then fired the puck up high glove side, beating Montador who had gone down to try to take away the low shot, and Crawford who seemed handcuffed by the slight delay, going down enough to leave room up top and the game was tied again, 2-2.

Keith redeemed himself less than a minute later, recovering the puck in the hawks left corner and clearing up to Kruger on the side boards, who led a streaking Mayers at center into a wide open right side as the Yotes were changing. Mayers moved in to the right circle and fired a shot from about 20 feet that went high & wide and rebounded to Stalberg on the left side boards, who fed Keith back at the left point, and his hard point shot was tipped by Mayers who had moved into the slot and the hawks were back in front, 3-2.

The hawks continued to carry much of the play the rest of the second, with Kane drawing yet another penalty, this time a trip on Shane Doan who got tried to stick check the puck from Kane but instead caught his skate & took them out from underneath him and the hawks had a late powerplay, though were unable to convert, outshooting Phoenix 12-5 in the second. With the seconds winding down at the end of the 2nd, Martin Hanzel gave Hossa a slight cross-check to the back behind the Phoenix net - Hossa immediately turned and went after Hanzal, swinging his stick at Hanzal's feet, while Hanzal swung back in return, tho neither appeared to connect. Hossa was given a minor for slashing, giving Phoenix a powerplay to start the 3rd on a fresh sheet of ice.

Despite outshooting the Yotes 27-9 through two, the hawks led by only 1 and were shorthanded for a full two minutes to start the third. They were able to kill off the minor without yielding a dangerous chance, with Toews doing a good job winning a draw and killing off some clock with some good hustle. However, seconds after Hossa's penalty expired, Sharp took a bad tripping penalty, putting the Yotes right back on the powerplay, as the hawks were flirting with disaster.

They were rescued by none other than Dave Bolland, who took advantage of a poor decision by Keith Yandle to make a drop pass to the last man back, Vrbata, with Bolland pressuring. Bolland easily knocked the puck away from Vrbata, then recovered it and moved in alone and blasted a high slapshot high stickside that beat a startled LaBarbara and the hawks had some breathing room, 4-2.

That seemed to demoralize Phoenix as the hawks easily killed off the rest of their powerplay and created another good chance for themselves, when Toews was sent in alone after Yandle made a poor decision, not getting the puck in deep at the hawk line and being stripped of it by Hossa, who led Toews streaking at center in behind Yandle, tho Labarbara made the save. Hossa then checked the puck off a Yote, keeping it in the offensive zone, with the puck eventually finding Toews who moved into the high slot for another clear shot that Labarbara stopped with the glove.

The hawks continued their strong forechecking, keeping Phoenix bottled up in their own zone for long stretches. About halfway through the period, they broke out of their own zone, with Bolland & Frolik catching the Yotes pressing, with Frolik taking a feed from Bolland along the right side boards and he flipped it ahead to Bickell at center with one man back, while Bolland moved past the 2nd defensemen who had tried to pinch on Frolik to keep the puck in the zone. Bickell moved in on the right wing, using Bolland as a decoy & fired a laser that beat Labarbara high off his shoulder and it was 5-2. From that point, the hawks were content to kill the clock, continuing to pressure the Yotes all over the ice without letting up, getting a couple more good scoring chances from Hossa and Sharp, who scored on a net that had been dislodged off its moorings, with about two minutes left, however, after review, the goal was disallowed, though no delay of game penalty was given to Labarbara for knocking the net off. The hawks eventually skated off with a solid team win.

Overall, while the hawks were full value for the victory, outshooting Phoenix 35-16 on the night, there were a couple of key points where the complexion of the game could have changed but didn't thanks to some fortuitous bounces, tho to their credit the hawks did respond well each time Phoenix managed to tie the game.

Hossa's return was noticeable, as he opened the scoring and had several more good chances working together with Kane, and did good work with Toews on the pk. Bolland made his presence felt yet again, scoring a key shorthanded goal that proved to be the clincher and assisting on Bickell's goal.

The hawks got scoring from all four lines, their special teams were good, their forecheck and puck possession was strong, limiting shots against in a game that reminded of their dominance in the Cup year. Keith finished with two points and a +3, despite the turnover that led to Phoenix's 2nd goal and a more reasonable 24 minutes of ice, while Montador & O'Donnell each played over 19, giving the hawks better balance at the back. Even shots on goal was nicely spread among forwards with Leddy & Kruger the only hawks not to register one.

While an encouraging win for Chicago, a bigger & better test awaits in Denver as the hawks next face the high-flying Avalanche, who won all 5 games on their recent road trip and play a high, up-tempo game.

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