So much for the “Flying V.”
The Anaheim Ducks came into the United Center hoping to catch the Blackhawks beat up and tired after a physical game in St. Louis on Saturday night. With even captain Jonathan Toews getting into a scrum, the veteran Ducks had to feel like they had some advantage.
The Ducks didn’t even get a chance to see if the Hawks were tired, as Dustin Byfuglien dropped the gloves with Troy Bodie only 22 seconds into the game and landed a number of solid shots before taking a pretty good hit to the nose that cost him a few minutes in the training room. The first period was certainly physical, with Byfuglien racking up seven penalty minutes and both goaltenders being tested often.
Scoring didn’t wait long to begin, and once the flood gates opened it seemed impossible for Jean Sebastian Giguere to keep the Hawks off the board.
Kris Versteeg started the parade for the Hawks just over six minutes into the second period with a pretty move in traffic. Giguere had been playing well, but Versteeg found that holding the puck longer and shooting on his second move was effective. This approach worked later in the period when Troy Brouwer beat Giguere off a great feed from Patrick Kane. The goal was Brouwer’s 11th of the season, already a career high.
In the third period, it was time for the man of the night to step forward. Sunday was “Marian Hossa Bobblehead Night,” and Hossa did his part by scoring two goals less than three minutes apart early in the third to blow a tight game wide open. The second goal, already Hossa’s eighth of the year, was on the power play; the Blackhawks scored on one of their three power play opportunities. Jonathan Toews closed the scoring for the Hawks with his 13th of the year.
The numbers don’t give nearly enough credit to young Hawks netminder Antti Niemi. He allowed two cheap goals late in the third period, both to Petteri Nokelainen, but had stopped 21 tough shots in the first two periods while the Hawks built their lead. Many of the Ducks shots in the first 40 minutes were quality looks, but Niemi was again up to the challenge. He ended the game stopping 22 of 24 shots, and only faced three in the entire third period.
One noteworthy injury from the game was Cam Barker who left the ice early in the third period with what appeared to be a shoulder injury. He skated one shift after getting hurt, just seconds before Hossa’s first goal, but did not return after that. The Hawks were already playing without Niklas Hjalmarsson, who missed his second game after taking a puck to the side of the head on New Year’s Eve. Jordan Hendry has played well in relief all year, but missing two key defensemen could be a strain on the rotation.
Kane’s assist in the second period extended his point streak to eight games, during which he’s scored 14 points (7 G, 7 A). Overall, Kane now has 46 points in 41 games to lead the Blackhawks. Also streaking is Toews, who has 11 points (3 G, 8 A) in his last seven games. Brouwer has now scored a goal in two of the last three games and Brian Campbell has a point in nine of the Hawks last 11 games.
Right now all four of the Hawks lines are skating exceptionally well, and it shows in the box scores. The Blackhawks have started 2010 with 11 goals in two games scored by seven different players.