The Chicago Blackhawks tied history on Tuesday night, defeating the Vancouver Canucks in a shootout.
But the game ended with an ugly cloud hovering over the United Center after a pathetic cheap shot ended Marian Hossa’s night prematurely.
After the game, everyone in the Canucks’ dressing room claimed Jannik Hansen’s elbow to the back of Hossa’s head was “a hockey play,” and Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said the hit “wasn’t a penalty” until Jonathan Toews talked to the officials.
WGN Radio reported immediately after the game that the NHL was indeed looking at the hit, and that Hansen would likely receive a call from Brendan Shanahan’s office. The hit was a perfect example of everything the league is trying to eliminate from the game; Hansen took a cheap shot, and, when challenged later in the period, refused to step up.
But this should surprise nobody. These are, after all, the Canucks.
In the game, Patrick Sharp scored for a second consecutive game and Hossa scored two pretty goals to give the Hawks a 3-1 lead. But after Hossa went down, the Canucks were able to capitalize and draw even in the final moments of regulation.
Perhaps most frustrating for the Blackhawks was the lack of response from the team’s supposedly-physical forwards. With Brent Seabrook out, the team needed players like Bryan Bickell to step up when the game started to get physical late in the first period.
Unfortunately, Bickell took an enormeous step back from a really good start to his season. He was a ghost on the ice, looking lost and completely ineffective throughout the game. And his ice time reflected the coaches noticing Bickell’s poor performance; he was the only Hawks’ forward (other than Brandon Bollig) to skate less than ten minutes in the game.
On the blue line, with Seabrook out, Chicago was forced to roll a different look. Sheldon Brookbank started next to Duncan Keith, but it was Michal Rozsival that filled the void left by Seabook. Rozsival played a strong game and was credited with two blocked shots, one hit and one takeaway in 24:14 on the ice.
Keith led all Hawks defensemen in ice time with 29:28 but Chicago didn’t rely completely on two or three defensemen; Johnny Oduya skated 28:37 and Niklas Hjalmarsson was over 20 minutes as well.
Ray Emery earned the game’s third star, making 29 saves against 32 shots in regulation and overtime before stopping two of three shootout attempts by the Canucks.
At the end of the night, the Blackhawks joined the NHL’s record books by staying without a regulation loss once again. But the only - ONLY – thing that matters is the health of Hossa moving forward.