Thursday, April 7, 2011
Taking stock of all that drama
By Jesse Rogers
The drama over the past few days is supposed to be saved for the postseason, isn’t it? But these Chicago Blackhawks don’t do things without some nail-biting, teeth-clenching moments. Let’s review some storylines:
Jonathan Toews reacts after scoring the winning goal against the Blues on Wednesday.
Jonathan Toews “redeemed” himself after taking a controversial tripping penalty in overtime of the Hawks’ 2-1 loss to Montreal on Tuesday. His game winner on Wednesday was a thing of beauty from the pass by Duncan Keith to the finishing touch by Toews. If you think the captain won’t let his team miss the playoffs the year after winning the Cup, you’re probably right.
Speaking of controversies, the 10-minute video review of Marian Hossa’s goal felt like two days, but it helped build the drama of the moment. The United Center was abuzz about the play and then got silent as the referee made the announcement. I asked some players if it was like trying to figure out what it means when the “jury is out” that long. Is that good or bad for your case? Most thought the longer it went the better because the officials couldn’t find something obvious to overturn it. But as Toews said, “They sure tried hard.”
Pick your analogy: Kirk Gibson hobbling around the bases after a World Series home run? Willis Reed playing on one leg in the 1970 NBA Finals? “The Natural?” Maybe the drama wasn’t quite like that regarding Patrick Sharp, but it was close. When Joel Quenneville announced before the game Sharp was attempting to play, reporters had to do a double take. “What was that? Can you repeat that again?” Shocking is the best way to describe him taking the ice with a bum knee and no practice time. He looked rusty early but came on strong late finishing with seven shots and four hits. Both led the team. It means he was around the puck and creating looks to the net which usually lead to good things happening. What a remarkable return.
Is Duncan Keith ever going to find his game again? His set-up of Toews’ winner made up for getting beat by Chris Stewart on the tying goal in the third period. But he had two more shot attempts blocked, and just one shot on goal, making it more the norm than the exception that he’ll have more blocked than get through. His decision-making continues to baffle. The easy play isn’t his way out often enough while his dangerous passes lead to scrambles to recover if not a full-blown scoring chance against. Simple is the way to go for Keith. But it should be noted Keith still plays the big minutes against the opponent’s best players.
The performances by Nick Leddy and Chris Campoli were positive signs for the playoffs. Secondary players need to step up, and if they can come from the blue line, even better. Campoli was arguably the best defenseman on the ice Wednesday, and Leddy could teach Keith a thing or two about accurate shots. They both played exactly 10:40 but contributed with three combined points. Huge.
Why did they need a video review in a game they were already trailing 2-0 to get them going? Clearly the goal being upheld gave them the momentum to take control of the game. As Toews said, “You don’t want it to be that way” in reference to needing something to spark them. But the Hawks play best when the walls are closing in, and that includes the championship team of a year ago. How many more times can it happen? We’ll find out soon enough.
There is nothing new to report on Dave Bolland. “Slow progress” are the words Quenneville has used to describe his recovery from a concussion suffered on March 9 in Tampa Bay. It’s unknown if he will return this season.
Detroit forward Henrik Zetterbergwas injured in the Wings game Wednesday against Carolina. His status for the weekend games is unclear.