Wednesday, November 25, 2009

On the Capitals and Blackhawks

I missed the Washington game as I was watching the Montreal Bulldogs V Pittsburgh Penguins match, but I am glad to see that Ovie and Co. managed to finally get a win in the Northeast Division on their second trip through it this season.

Capitals - Sabres

Ovechkin marked the eventual game-winner with the initial tally pulling a classic Ovechkin move, using the defence as his own screen, he whipped one of his wicked wrist shots past Ryan Miller to make it 1-0. The Great 8 now has 17 goals this season in 19 games and is likely to start scoring more to keep his team going as they wait for the return of sniper Alex Semin and crease-crash specialist Mike Knuble. They need Ovechkin and after only posting 2 goals in his 3 games against the Eastern Canadian teams last week, he needs to increase his production while the team recovers from health issues among their players. Ovechkin would see himself thrown from the game later on with a match penalty after he boarded Patrick Kaleta, but as a Montreal fan and tracker of the league's dirty bastards, the SOB had it coming. Eric Fehr, a good depth player on the checking lines got the insurance marker and Semyon Varlamov posted his first shutout of the season making 25 saves. Varlamov's had some rookie troubles this season, but when he is focused, he is a dominant goaltender, you can ask the New York Rangers 2009 Playoff team about it and they'll acknowledge the fact, but in far coarser terms I'd imagine.

I do not expect Ovechkin to receive any form of discipline for his boarding hit, the league's premiere superstar's been dirtier than this in his career and the league has yet to show that superstars have to follow the same rules as the rest of the NHL's players. They should, but for the time being it sets a dangerous precedent, as players begin to experiment with who can get away with these hits and who can't.

Blackhawks - Sharks

The second match I watched all the way through was the Chicago Blackhawks - San Jose Sharks game, which seemed like a fine competition between the two top competitors in the Western Conference, San Jose looking to get a good win streak going with 2 wins in a row already, while the Blackhawks were looking to pad a 7-game winning streak.

The Chicago Blackhawks would not get an even-strength goal until 30:38 of regulation time had passed in the game tonight. Why did it take the Blackhawks so long? They were busy scoring shorthanded goals, Troy Brouwer got the first one 56 seconds into a penalty kill during the first period. Marian Hossa decided to get his debut with the Blackhawks off to a good start in the second period as well by getting a shorthanded goal. 48 seconds into Troy Brouwer's penalty, Marian Hossa snapped a quick shot off on a breakaway that beat Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. However the crisis didn't end there, Patrick Sharp scored a shorthanded marker 28 seconds later to pretty much sink the Shark's morale and eliminate any possible fear of the Shark's power play unit. That ended the Hawk's shorthanded scoring and they decided to focus on even-strength goals from this point on to make it less humilating for the Sharks it seems.

Dustin Byfuglien, the defencemen turned Power Forward got a rebound just over five minutes later to make it a 4-0 game. At that point, the Sharks had been outshot 24-6, or 4-1. The Blackhawks had a 29-11 shot advantage over two periods. Nabokov did not start in nets in the 3rd period, Thomas Greiss would step in to give the besieged netminder some relief. Patrick Sharp would make it 5-0 in the 3rd period on after the Hawks killed off a Sharks penalty, redirecting a Brent Seabrook slapshot with his stick just after 5 minutes into the third period. Marian Hossa then cashed in on a slick Brent Sopel pass exactly one minute later, giving him a 2-goal game in his first game of the season and increasing the lead to 6-0. The team's eldest player John Madden (36 years old) would convert an Andrew Ladd pass that came from Duncan Keith on a strong neutral zone rush to beat Greiss and would make the game 7-0 with 8:22 left in the 3rd period. Slopiness by Chicago would spoil Huet's shutout bid, a 5-on-3 power play by San Jose would start the scoring, after some good shot blocking by the defence and wild saves by Huet, Blake would get a goal in to prevent the shutout, but far too little, too late for the Sharks. Pavelski would make it a 7-2 game with 2:10 left in the game but at this point, it was a moral victory for a single player and nothing that could change anything.

The Blackhawks walked in and served notice, the Blackhawks were the finest team in the Western Conference and they play better than any other team in the NHL right now. No team considered a serious contender had been as thoroughly destroyed by another team until now, the Blackhawks disassembled them piece by piece tonight and skated away with an incredible victory, a mere two points behind San Jose in the standings and with three games in hand. Chicago has scored 77 goals this season and allowed only 50. Only the New Jersey Devils have allowed fewer goals and Chicago has managed 18 more goals than New Jersey having played just one more game than them. The newly formed Toews-Kane-Hossa line played together like they'd been doing it for five years, even though neither Toews or Kane had that much NHL experience combined. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook should be a defensive pair on Canada's Olympic Team, they are simply far too good to ignore.

My father and I have often joked that it is rather unsporting of the Chicago Blackhawks not to sport their opponents a 2 or 3 goal lead going into most games, this team seems almost unstoppable, better than last season's Bruins or Sharks, they are possibly the finest team I've seen in the last several years. Albeit they could use a more solid goaltending tandem than Huet and Niemi, but they have the defence and offence to make up for the lapses there to deliver a Cup this year I believe.

Tonight's shout-out to recent Ex Habs:
- Alex Tanguay assisted on a Vincent Lecavalier goal in Tampa Bay, in a 4-3 loss to the Maple Leafs.
- Tom The Bomb Kostopolous scored a goal for the Carolina Hurricanes tonight against the Anaheim Ducks, in a 3-2 loss for the Hurricanes.
- Saku Koivu assisted on a Teemu Selanne goal to give the Anaheim Ducks a 3-2 win, Selanne himself is on track to have more goals scored any other Finnish player in NHL history with 591, a mere 10 behind all-time Finish scorer Jarri Kurri. Although Selanne will likely retire this season following the Olympics and will not score the necessary 171 points total to outdo his fellow countrymen in total points.
- Christobal Huet didn't have to work that hard against a San Jose team that lost all life for the most part after suffering three shorthanded goals, but he still made some good saves to keep the game from getting to the 7-4, 7-5 range it could have ended up at if he hadn't been pretty quick here and there.

Question for EA Sports and their NHL series development team:
Why the hell is Dustin Byfuglien a white guy when you see him on the ice in the game?

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