Let’s start by saying that I really enjoy watching the Red Wings and Blackhawks square up. It seems that there’s a different kind of energy between the two that is brought out only when these Original Six foes square off, even from Playoff hockey. I’m not saying it’s better, it’s different. It’s one of a kind. Couple that with Nick Lidstrom’s signature Blue Line Bullet in the first period, dramatic physical play in all periods, and the extensive history between the two teams, facing each other more often than any other two teams in the league history. Not a bad way to spend an evening!
It was a hard fought battle last night and both the Wings and the Hawks looked pretty sharp. Each team was able to put up some serious pressure on the goaltenders, but the Hawks came away with it. The Wings had every opportunity to put this one away, but just couldn’t stay out of the penalty box. A total of 23 penalty minutes were assessed to Detroit, 15 of which were dealt to Todd Bertuzzi’s hit to the head of Ryan Johnson (I’ll get to that in a minute). Henrik Zetterberg’s hooking minor with 3 seconds left in regulation was ultimately their undoing, and Detroit has to settle for one point. Detroit is consistently one of the least penalized team in the league year after year, but last night, it looks like the excitement got to them. And now, this overtime loss has given the San Jose Sharks a chance to move up to second place in the Western Conference for the first time this season, should they win over Dallas on Thursday at home.
Another thing I noticed was the amount of breakaways the Red Wings allowed. Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane were left alone about 4 times in the game. Joey MacDonald came up with saves on each of them to hold the Wings in it (and was rewarded with his very own Joe Louis Chant from the fans). Not that the Wings didn’t have their own opportunities in the game. A 3-on-1 rush in the second period could have (and should have) resulted in a goal, however, Jiri Hudler botched a cross-ice pass and a clutch scoring chance faded. I wasn’t impressed with Hudler’s play at all. He came up big against Toronto on Saturday night, but I guess he decided to take the night off.
And what about that hit by Bertuzzi? I agree with the elbowing penalty and probably the 5-minute major, however I’m not so sure that a Game Misconduct was in order, or would have been prior to this season’s general manager convention on headshots. It’s common knowledge that the NHL is trying to crack down on hits to the head, given the increased number of concussions and facial injuries this season, so I think the GM penalty to Bertuzzi was the league’s way of showing off its muscle. They’re trying to stay ahead of the curve which I applaud. I’d rather have Bertuzzi sit for a game, than have Brad Stuart sit out for 20+ with a broken jaw. I believe we’ll see a number of these handed out from this point forward.
Still, it was anyone’s game last night at any time. Goaltending was crucial all night, with 76 shots total, and only 5 goals. This was a great game to watch. My pick for performer of the night? Doc Emrick. He certainly had his hands full with all the action and never missed a step. Way to go, Doc!
In other news…
Vancounver Canucks defenseman Dan Hamhuis went down on Sunday with a concussion sustained in a collision with Columbus’ Rick Nash. It’s Hamhuis’ second concussion of the year and his fourth overall. This will keep Hamhuis out of the lineup for the rest of the season, including the playoffs. It’s another blow to the Canuck’s already-depleted defense corps. While Hamhuis is one of their better defenseman, I don’t think this will hurt their stride very much at all. Vancouver’s blue-line has been crippled pretty steadily since the All-Star break, and they still managed to clinch the Northwest Division two weeks ago. Their offense is still plenty potent, and they still manage to score more often than their opponent du jour. At the end of the day, that’s all you need.