Blackhawks Handle Sabres

Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews scored in the same game for the 51st time in their careers, and those two goals were enough as the Hawks edged the Sabres in Kane’s home town.

Niklas Hjalmarsson played a magnificent game, officially blocking three shots but interrupting a number of others. In one series, he was knocked to the ice by a shot and lost his stick. He staggered back to his feet and blocked another shot before hobbling to the bench for a chance.

The Hawks blocked eight shots as a team, led by three from Hjalmarsson and four from Brent Seabrook. Only 21 shots found the net, and Corey Crawford successfully stopped 20 of them to earn his 25th victory of the season.

Kane started the game with his 28th goal of the season, a dazzling move through traffic that made the fans in Buffalo applaud the “visiting” star. Drew Stafford, a college teammate of Toews’ at North Dakota, tied the game later in the first for his 11th on the season.

Neither team scored in the second period, and Toews scored his 25th of the season in the third for the game-winner. Toews also won 10 of 16 faceoffs in the game.

Bryan Bickell skated a team-low 7:22 in the game and accounted for nothing in the box score. New defenseman David Rundblad skated only 10 shifts and 7:38 in his first action since being acquired. Peter Regin (7:32) was also held under eight minutes of ice time in the game.

The Blackhawks have killed 18 of 19 penalties since the Olympic break, including all five on Sunday night.

After limping into the Olympic break, Crawford has been strong since returning to action. He has allowed only one goal in three of the five games the Hawks have played since the break, and allowed only two in another. The Hawks are 3-2-0 since the break, but one of their losses came against their next opponent.

The Hawks are off until Wednesday night, when they travel to Denver for a potential playoff preview against the Avs.

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35 Responses to Blackhawks Handle Sabres

  1. RyanDale says:

    50 limped into the break?

  2. ebonyraptor says:

    CC looked a little shaky early, especially when he wandered out of his crease a couple times (I really wish he could be tethered to the crossbar and everytime he attemts to handle the puck he would get an electric jolt), but he settled in and made a few good saves to keep them in check.

    Hjalmarsson – only 3 shots blocked? Sounds like the Buffalo official scorer didn’t put much effort into crediting the Hawk players. I’m pretty sure Hammer had more than three.

    Other then for the one bad play in the 3rd period, I rarely noticed Rundblad out there. Sometimes that can be good when referring to a d-man, but I think it’s more a case of Q not giving him a lot of ice time. As Tab already pointed out, Rundblad played only 7:38 – all of it at even strength. Leddy, Rundblad’s d-partner had only 9:45 at even strength, although Leddy also had 3:45 on the PP. I was hoping to see more from him. But it’s a first game, so …

    It was closer than it should have been, but they won and that’s all that matters.

  3. morrison says:

    Hammer had 3 blocks on that one play alone. Leg, then skate, and then maybe arm when he gave a baby hug.

  4. Sr. Brad says:

    Q shortened the bench…there were a lot of forwards that got very few even strength minutes (Bickell, Bollig, Handzus, Versteeg, Regin, and the remaining guys skated a LOT of minutes…on defence, Rundblad played very little and the big boys skated huge minutes…and we barely won, with a motivated Kane, against the worst team in the league…since Handzus and Bickell came back, we are pretty much a .500 hockey team, and if we continue to field this lineup, and shorten the bench like this, we are going to remain so, and burn out our “star” players…

    Yes, we got 2 points, but at what cost? Raanta hasn’t played in an age, and didn’t get any work during the Olympic break…CC, who has not looked confident for a while, has played every game…our core players played big minutes…there are issues on this team that aren’t going away until Q fields a lineup that can skate 4 lines, even minutes…

    I thought Saad and Shaw played well again along side Toews…and Smith/Kruger were very good again…great game by Hammer as Tab pointed out…as for Handzus, WOW…very anemic game, and spent very little time around Sharp and Kane…

  5. morrison says:

    12 looked a little more comfortable now. Rund Lad needs some games to…

  6. morrison says:

    In 2010 we were 52-22. Right now were looking at a very similar record going 11-6, like 49-19 (with more ties… but same point total).

    30 games over 500 is dang good whether were the 1 or 2 seed.

  7. ereignis says:

    As much as it’s good to be critical and realistic about the team one supports, there’s a lot of insight into a team to be gained by looking at how they improve their play over the course of the season. A team’s self-awareness of its own problems, along with its willingness and ability to do something about them, is a big part of its identity. At the beginning of the season, I was dismayed at the Hawks’ dismal PK. While it isn’t quite at the level it was last year, their PK is now 53 for 57 in their last 16 games. That’s a 92.9%. It was at 73% back in December. I’m sure that this is something they will continue to work on, since the PK was a big factor in last year’s run to the cup. Also, the talk about Toews’ performance and whether he was playing injured has been silent. Dude’s in effing beast mode right now and what he’s doing with Shaw and Saad is commendable, if not exemplary of the unique player that he is.

  8. ereignis says:

    Also, Kane’s goal was just sick. First time finding the twine in over a month. He may have been frustrated when he snuck in all alone behind the D and came up with nothing, but it’s gotta feel good getting that monkey off.

  9. Travis says:

    i don’t get bickell’s low ice time. the few times i saw him, i thought he looked fine. if he’s getting few minutes because he’s not 100%, then that’s fine. if he’s getting few minutes because he isn’t playing well… then i’m not seeing it.

    he’s skating much better. still needs to be more physical and crash the net, but that won’t improve by sitting him 53 minutes per game.

  10. Travis says:

    P.S. St. Louis’s next four games are against Dallas, Winnipeg, Nashville, and Edmonton. And they get a night off before the match against the Hawks, while the Hawks will be in the second of a back-to-back.

    F*%&^@)$*^@ing schedulers.

  11. Nick says:

    Buffalo was a lot tougher for the Hawks then I thought they would be. They were physical and took some cheap shots on our stars. Another thought, I know the Hawks need a decent backup goalie, but why not have Labarbera play and let Raanta go to Rockford? Is it actually more beneficial for to practice with some of the best players in the world or to actually play games?

  12. Mike says:

    Hawks actually had 4 players with under 9 minutes….Wow.

    I want to address the critics of Leddy on this blog. IMO The Hawks would be foolish to trade Leddy. Yes, at $2.7mm he is an expensive 5th Dman. BUT…Leddy has played all 65 games, he has 25 points and is a +15. He has done this while playing with 5 different partners. Leddy is 22 and his game will improve over the next few years. Oduya, on the other hand, has 14 points and is a +6 playing with a consistent and superior partner.

    If calling Leddy one of the best 3d pairing D men in the league is overrating him, then so be it. For my money, you move Oduya’s, $3.4mm contract and give a shot to a couple of Hogs. I could easily see next years D as
    Kieth/Seabrook
    Hammer/Clendening
    Leddy/Johns
    Rosival

  13. Sr. Brad says:

    Nick, LaBarbera has been great in Rockford, he’s the single largest reason the Hogs have turned around their season, and he would be more than fine as CC’s backup IMO…Raanta has to play…he’s young, nervous, and needs to work out his positioning issues in game situations…and the further we go into the schedule, the fewer times Raanta will be able to start…

    Mike, Leddy is a 4th DMan playing in the 3rd pairing…if he stays in the 3rd pairing next year, it will only be because the Hawks want him to steady a rookie…our defence is becoming like our forwards, not so much “top 6/bottom 6″ but 4 solid lines…I think we are evolving the same way on defence…

  14. Sr. Brad says:

    Travis, other than Zus being slow as molasses, I thought all the forwards were fine…its just Q not trusting, and shortening the bench to ensure he got those 2 points…it is what it is…

  15. michael petan says:

    Q had better find a way to “communicate” with Bickell. This less minutes and benching in no Phil Jackson approach! Q needs to solve this. Hawks need Bickell desperately and for Bickell to play well he needs to be physical, just feels like he is tentative still. Don’t know why, Also needs to get on a LINE and stay there, Q gets a lot of credit for swapping lines but for some guys it can throw their game off a little.

  16. Dickie Dunn says:

    Mike/Brad, I agree completely about Leddy (Skill and upside). We may see Rundblad in the mix instead of Clendening/Johns(…Bowman traded for him).

  17. goldenbladz says:

    Some very good points today. There is no way that 4 players should be on the ice less than Handzus. I too would like to see Leddy stay and be done with Oduya. I thought the same thing Nick, send Raanta to Rockford and bring Labarbera up to play a few games. Great to see Kane get a goal and especially in front of a lot of friends and family.

  18. AJ says:

    Saad is a pretty special player. The way he is dictating play is pretty impressive for a second year player.

    The Kane goal was sexy but…

    http://www.extraskater.com/game/2014-03-09-blackhawks-sabres

    Possession metrics for Kane and Sharp compared to the rest of the team is troublesome. Though this isn’t really a new thing (especially with Kane), those to players should not be outliers like they are. The 5v5 stats are just bad bad bad.

    Other than that.. Two pipes, some solid play by their goalie and Buffalo has been hot as of late so yay 2 points and moving on then.

  19. JS says:

    There was a great quote from a Avalanche blogger last night, “there are nights Brandon Saad is the scariest player on a team that has Jon Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, and Marian Hossa on it.”

    Patrick Kane scored a goal with Handzus on the ice. Someone write this down because it probably won’t happen again.

    My guess would be Q rode the horses because they had two days off before and two days off after.

    I still think Bickell needs more minutes. He’s looked a lot better. Don’t really understand why Ben Smith is getting time on PP2 instead of Bickell… but whatever. I don’t have two rings.

    Not sure why Raanta didn’t start. Seems like it would have been the ideal game for him to play… I can’t wait until Hossa comes back so I don’t have to see Handzus every game.

  20. Sr. Brad says:

    Yes JS, Zus was on the ice, just 100 feet east of Kane when the goal went in…

    As for no Rannta last night, Q wanted those 2 points desperately…he coached desperately last night…that was a must win game for him…

  21. ebonyraptor says:

    Mike – comparing Leddy and Oduya based solely on their points and +/- does not take into account the quality of competition they face. Oduya/Hjalmarsson face the opponents best players game in game out, even moreso than Keith/Seabrook. The third pairing with Leddy and whoever his d-partner is for any particular game consistently face the opponents weakest players. I’m not well versed in all the “new” hockey analytics, but this article does a nice job of comparing the Hawks, Blues and Avs and part of the analysis are the d-pairings and I found it enlightening.

    http://www.secondcityhockey.com/2014/3/7/5482898/statistical-comparison-of-the-avalanche-blackhawks-blues

  22. MS says:

    Thought the forwards played a bit loose trying to protect the lead late in the 3rd. Too many good chances although I thought Crow looked very solid other than the puck handling debacle early. It appears to me that we will be riding Crow very hard the rest of the way. Can’t see Ranta playing much unless he looks much stronger in his next start. Still do not understand why he didn’t go to Rockford during the Olympics. Runblad looked pretty rusty and expect we will go back to BB and Rozy the rest of the way. I think BB has been pretty solid this year even though he seems to be playing less than last year, probably due to the fact that he is gone after this year.

  23. Mike says:

    ER, that is a good article. However, the article notes that the difference in competion from the other team against our 3d pairing is very small. So I am not sure this article makes your point.

    However, my point is not that Leddy is a better player than Oduya (although if I had to pick one or the other, I would take Leddy). My point is that the Hawks need cap space, have a lot of Dmen in Rockford, have traded for a Dman……someone is gonna be on the outs…….I say keep Leddy over Oduya.

    What the article

  24. ebonyraptor says:

    Mike, I’ll be the first to admit I’m pretty ignorant on Corsi, Fenwik and the other analytics being used today, less so now after reading that article, but still no expert by any means. With the fluidity of the game, it’s never black and white – there is more grey, but I think it’s still valid to say Oduya consistently faces tougher competition than Leddy.

    But to your point – I agree that if I had to chose between them, I would prefer to keep Leddy over Oduya. Moreso because Leddy is much younger and has more potential than from a salary cap perspective because although Oduya makes more now, that will probably not be the case when they both get new contracts after next season.

  25. Mike says:

    ER, me too…..far to many variables to make every small stat accurate. And how about home vs away? At home Q has better control of the matchups, away he does not. I just know that one, or maybe both are gonna go. I feel Leddy simply brings more value to the Hawks at this point in his career and in the Hawks system. I also feel his trade value is much higher than Johnny O.

  26. morrison says:

    Yea, 8 is better for future but if he can get a good center in a trade, then 27 might stay instead. 27 can handle (right now) the playoff min., 8 did not (right now/in ’13). I do not think both need to clear for cap space, etc. If Rund Lad can play (need more games to tell) then 8 or 27 could be traded at draft. With T we might not need another center, then 8 stays for sure, unless he cant handle the playoff min. that 27 can. So, I could see 8 & 27 staying there contracts. We do not have to get picks for 27, if we need him for those playoffs min. & then he could walk.

    The good thing is there is plenty of time to see what better then. When their contracts are up (’15) is when 19, 88, 20 start… Theres a reason why Bowman has a lot of these contracts happening at that same moment.

  27. morrison says:

    Travis, yea the sch. makers are way worse then the refs/leagues suspension lengths.

    WHO are they.

  28. morrison says:

    Travis, your going to love this. The sch. makers have given STL last 8/18 games are against opp who played the night before. So, they get to play against a tired teams that often.

  29. morrison says:

    The sch. makers have us playing 6 games in 10 days tight before playoffs start

    Sounds kind a fishy guys.

  30. Travis says:

    That is brutal. Hopefully we have a short and victorious first playoff series and get all the rest we needed anyway.

  31. AJ says:

    col mustard, in the kitchen, with a candlestick

  32. JS says:

    I believe Chicago is now the biggest American market for the NHL. Why in the hell would the NHL try to screw them over?

    On the Leddy/Oduya front. Leddy is 10 years younger and still restricted. While he would return a lot more, I don’t see him moving unless it’s for another player… but I don’t see that happening.

  33. Phil says:

    I believe Leddy stays put. He has upside. The guy is likely to get better at his position and can skate like the wind. Oduya will be the one they move in the offseason for reasons stated above.

    The scheduling by the NHL has always seemed so random apart from the road trips teams must make that go through certain geographical sectors. Hawks have now assumed the position the Wings bitched about for years when it comes to travel. Hawks have played pretty well in back to backs this year. St Louis hasn’t had as many, but will have more coming up. We can bitch and moan about the schedule all we want, but the points we want/need by year end can be found in the brutal OT/SO results. Get half of those points and we are in 1st place. Can’t change the past, but I like that when the Hawks play 5 on 5 they are tough to beat. I just hope we get to playoffs healthy. That will be the key, especially a rested and healthy 81. As mentioned above, Bickell is needing some more minutes. Looks like he is getting his stride back. Hopefully, Q rolls 4 lines against Avs tomorrow and spreads out the minutes better.

    Avs game another big one tomorrow. Should be a good one to watch. I did see the Blues-Avs game over the weekend. Avs really didnt crank up their game until towards the end of the 3rd. Blues played a pretty solid defensive road game and didn’t give Av’s much room. Blues have hung on and won lots of games this year. Playoffs are going to be a you pick em with lots of match ups and its just around the corner.

    Lets Go Hawks!

  34. morrison says:

    No bitching or whining about sch., just stating that CHI sch. is harder then STL and still its only a 2 games diff. Win the 2 against them and were basically tied for 1 seed.

  35. Bob says:

    I have been playing, watching, and coaching hockey for over 50 years. Sunday night against Buffalo I was quite surprised to see the following:

    with about 3 minutes left in the third period, Crawford broke his stick. It took about 45 seconds for Handzuis to hand Corey his stick and close to another minute and a half for a whistle to stop play. During those moments the Hawks had at least two breakouts and entrances into the offensive zone. In a 2-1 game, the most important player on the ice is without his goalie stick and none of the players has the intelligence to create an offsides, an icing, or even to lift the puck out of the rink once the puck has cleared the defensive zone. There are six players on the ice, 14 more on the bench including three coaches. There was at least one line change during this stretch.

    Unless there is a reasonable explanation, shame on the entire team and staff. A goalie stick is crucial to his ability to play the puck and make saves. How could the Hawks let play continue?? I do not think I have seen anything like this before.

    No one in any of the media outlets have commented.

    I am hoping that someone else besides me was disturbed by the Hawks inability to react.

    Bob

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