Like a man living off a diet of Vicodin and cheese the Blackhawks were overdue for a turd. The first period set the tone and had the Blackhawks searching the lead all evening. It feels like most nights, even during the winning streak, the Hawks get off to a less than spectacular start and manage to climb out of it. Even after tonight’s awful start, they kept finding ways to put themselves back in the game and certainly had numerous opportunities to tie the game.
In the end, they couldn’t convert and finally lost a game in regulation. I had the Avs game on Friday pegged as an inexplicable loss but this is probably more just. The Senators are a pretty good team and even though the first period ended 1-1, the Blackhawks were getting curbstomped at evens. After two Ottawa goals in 10 seconds put them down 3-1, they were never able to get back on level terms.
Hard to get too angry about a loss in late December after five wins in a row. These things happen, especially with the amount of hockey this team has been asked to play over the last month. No NHL team has played as many games as Chicago at the time of this writing. Let’s get to some observations before two well earned days off.
1) Once again the Blackhawks were without Artem Anisimov, who seems to be close to returning. You also had Scott Darling playing his 400th game in a row. Compounding matters, Marian Hossa missed the final quarter of the first period and didn’t return. We don’t know what’s wrong with him yet but I hope it was just one of those farts where you’re not sure if it’s gonna have a tail or not.
2) So you end up seeing Patrick Kane with over 26 minutes of ice time. With a couple days off, Kane basically filled in all over the place, as Quenneville is wont to do.
3) Jonathan Toews has been catching a lot of heat from the blogs, and us, and everyone else. I guess he’s not better than Sid Crosby anymore. That’s a joke he never was. Point being he’s clearly not the guy he was 2 years ago and his numbers bear out a very real decline in production. He looked to me like the guy wandering around the ice in mid stages of the Western Conference Semifinals against Detroit that eventually led to the famous Seabrook head pat. He had the game tying goal hit him in the foot instead of calmly directing it into an open cage. Nothing is going right for him right now and it’s hard not to wonder if a whole lot of hockey hasn’t taken its toll on him physically.
4) Artemi Panarin is a beautiful hockey player. His office is officially a thing. His power play goal in the first period is the stuff of nightmares because there’s nothing anyone can do to stop him. He’s literally one-timing passes from a sharp angle past goaltenders who are generally in position to make a stop. They’re just not able to. I’m not sure we can fully appreciate the way he’s able to rip the puck in one motion into a spot the way he does. It shouldn’t be possible to do it as consistently as he does.
5) Marcus Kruger earned a shot at tying the game late when he took Dion Phaneuf all the way into the Sens net while killing a Ryan Hartman penalty. It was an impressive individual effort but he was unable to put home the ensuing penalty shot.
6) The kids did it again. This time, pressed into service with Hossa out – Tyler Motte joined Vinnie Hinostroza and Ryan Hartman and all three teamed up for a beauty with Vinnie eventually finding Motte across the ice who put his pass into a wide open net. Of particular note, when Hinostroza gets a full head of steam it’s really neat to see him use his speed and array of weird jukes to effectiveness. He’s really shown a lot over the past few weeks and long may it continue.
7) I wish I could feel the sense of relief that it looks like Richard Panik feels every time he manages to score a goal. That must be incredible.
So the Avalanche come to town on Friday and the hope is with the Hawks putting up half a stinker tonight, that they’ll be rested and healthy enough to have a better showing against an abysmal hockey team.