Welcome… Home? Soft Second Period Costs Blackhawks Against Blues

Patrick Kane celebrates his first period goal.

After almost three weeks and eight games on the road, and with Dave Bolland returning to the lineup for the first time since Nov. 5, the Blackhawks figured to get an emotional lift on Wednesday night.

Everything started well. Patrick Kane scored 7:40 in to give the Hawks a 1-0 advantage, which they held through the end of the first period. In the frame, the Hawks held the Blues to only three shots on net, none of which came in the first nine minutes.

Then the second period happened.

On only nine shots, the Blues scored three times against Cristobal Huet, the last two of which came in a back-breaking flurry to end the period. “Bad Huet” showed up on a night when Antti Niemi was supposed to start but was a morning scratch because of the flu. The Hawks didn’t help Huet much in the second, as sloppy passing and lazy puck handling contributed to the demise, but allowing three goals on only 12 shots to a team that only averages 2.53 goals per game (24th in the NHL) is unacceptable. The 19 shots the Blues put on net was their lowest total since the day after Christmas, when they only got 18 shots to the net against Minnesota.

Dave Bolland played well Wednesday.

Bolland skated well in 13:46 of ice time in his return, beginning the night with the fourth line. That fourth line, usually centered by Colin Fraser (who was scratched for Bolland) saw their minutes almost disappear; Tomas Kopecky only skated 6:43 while Ben Eager only saw 5:06 of ice time. Eager took a bad penalty in the second period, hooking Barret Jackman. The Blues scored on the ensuing power play, the first of their two in the final two minutes of the second period. The penalty, and resulting goal, likely contributed to his minutes being cut, and Kopecky suffered by association. Most of the forwards saw their minutes lowered a little as Quenneville made an effort to skate Bolland with each of the bottom three lines. Andrew Ladd and Kris Versteeg, bothof whom have been mentioned recently in trade rumors, played under 15 minutes in the game. Duncan Keith played over 28, though, as the Hawks played with their defense. Niklas Hjalmarsson’s been banged up lately, and has been playing with a hurt hand and bad ankle. He skated only 15:16 in the game, 1:51 of which was on the power play. Brian Campbell and Brent Seabrook both played over 23 minutes in the game as Quennevilletried to find a combination that both sparked the offense and kept the puck away from Huet.

The second goal for the Hawks was scored short-handed, and was a work of art between Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. Toews brought the puck up the ice, worked his way between two defenders (one of whom ended up on his butt) and completely crossed the zone, drawing Chris Mason from one post to the other. Hossa settled in on the far side of the net all alone and received a gorgeous pass from Toews that he easily deposited into the net. Despite getting worked on this shot, Mason was clearly the better netminder on Wednesday; he saved 32 of 34 shots on the night to earn a crucial win for a struggled St. Louis team.

Unfortunately for fans of the Blackhawks that don’t want trade rumors to be a distraction, night like Wednesday will continue to put pressure on management to bolster the defense in front of whomever is playing between the pipes, and the goaltender position will remain a question mark. The rumors about the Hawks’ involvement in the Kovalchuk Sweepstakes continue to be hot, and losing a home game to the Blues won’t help management feel comfortable with the roster as-is moving forward.

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