Chicago Blackhawks: Pittsburgh Penguins
How it happened: The Blackhawks rallied from a 3-1 deficit to force overtime. The Penguins scored once and stopped all three of the Blackhawks’ chances in the shootout.
Ben Smith scored a short-handed goal to pull the Blackhawks within a goal in the second period, and Brandon Bollig tied the game with a goal at 13:07 of the third period.
Sidney Crosby, Joe Vitale and Derrick Pouliot scored for the Penguins in regulation. Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin made his first start for the Blackhawks and stopped 27 of 30 shots. Patrick Sharp also scored for the Blackhawks. The Blackhawks failed to convert on six power-play opportunities and haven’t scored on 12 power plays through two preseason games. The Blackhawks did kill 4 of 5 power plays.
What it means: Smith built off a strong first preseason game and scored his second goal in as many games. It probably helped his stock to score a short-handed goal, too. He is one of the players being considered on the penalty kill. Sharp also tallied his second goal of the preseason. He’s had a quality training camp. Bollig’s offense game has also been noticeable throughout camp. The Blackhawks haven’t had Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa in the first two games, but the power play still has to be a concern, especially after the team’s struggles there the past two seasons.
Blackhawks' player of the game: Smith had a goal, an assist, a plus-2 rating, three takeaways and two blocked shots.
Up next: The Blackhawks will play their first road preseason game on Friday against the Washington Capitals. They travel to Detroit to play the Red Wings on Sunday.
ESPNChicago.com's Blackhawks reporter Scott Powers will count down this season's top 50 storylines over the next week leading into training camp.
Here's the first installment:
50. Bollig, the enforcer
The Blackhawks will likely be auditioning for five roster spots during training camp. One of those positions will likely go to Brandon Bollig. Some may argue enforcers aren't really needed on a team, but Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has often liked to have someone who isn't afraid to drop his gloves and step up for his teammates. With Jamal Mayers and Daniel Carcillo gone, there aren't many of those type of players remaining on the roster. Bollig led the Blackhawks with five fights last season. He will be looking for his first career point this season. He has zero points in 43 career NHL games.
49. Sellout and attendance streak
The Blackhawks are aiming to lead the NHL in attendance for the sixth consecutive season. They have sold out the United Center for 187 consecutive regular-season games dating back to the 2008-09 season. They averaged a paid attendance of 21,775 during their 24 home games last season.
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Although they are dominant during the regular season, the Blackhawks (29-5-4, 62 points) and Penguins (29-10-0, 58 points) are unlikely to meet in the Stanley Cup if history is any indication.
Since the NHL went to a No. 1-8 conference seeding system in 1994, only once has the top seed of each conference played in the Stanley Cup when the West's Colorado Avalanche defeated the East's New Jersey Devils in 2001.
Here's a look at the every Stanley Cup since 1994 and the seeding of the teams involved:
2012: No. 8 Los Angeles Kings over No. 6 Devils
2011: No. 3 Boston Bruins over No. 1 Vancouver Canucks
2010: No. 2 Blackhawks over No. 7 Philadelphia Flyers
2009: No. 4 Penguins over No. 2 Red Wings
2008: No. 1 Red Wings over No. 2 Penguins
2007: No. 2 Anaheim Ducks over No. 4 Ottawa Senators
2006: No. 2 Carolina Hurricanes over No. 8 Edmonton Oilers
2004: No. 1 Tampa Bay Lightning over No. 6 Calgary Flames
2003: No. 2 New Jersey Devils over No. 7 Anaheim Ducks
2002: No. 1 Detroit Red Wings over No. 3 Carolina Hurricanes
2001: No. 1 Avalanche over No. 1 New Jersey Devils
2000: No. 4 Devils over No. 2 Dallas Stars
1999: No. 1 Dallas Stars over No. 7 Buffalo Sabres
1998: No. 3 Red Wings over No. 4 Washington Capitals
1997: No. 3 Red Wings over No. 3 Flyers
1996: No. 2 Avalanche over No. 4 Florida Panthers
1995: No. 5 Devils over No. 1 Red Wings
1994: No. 1 New York Rangers over No. 7 Canucks
Brendan Shanahan, from the league's department of player safety, was spot on in explaining the suspension. He said Engelland "launched himself making Kruger's head the principal point of contact with his left forearm."
"Although Engelland has Kruger lined up for what potentially could be a clean full body check, his elevation and launch upon impact as well as the way in which Engelland forcefully drives his hands and arms up and into the face of Kruger makes this, in our eyes, a recklessly targeted shot to Kruger's head," Shanahan said.
Bylsma should be embarrassed for his comments considering the condition of his star player, Sidney Crosby, along with the organization's strong stance last season in condemning their own Matt Cooke for his recklessness.
The league got it right in giving Engelland a stronger punishment, by one game, than the Flames' Rene Bourque received on an illegal hit on Brent Seabrook just two days earlier. Bourque hit Seabrook from behind, leading to a head injury when Seabrook fell into the boards. Engelland targeted the head as the point of first contact. There's a difference.
The next issue the league needs to address, in order to curb these incidents further, is to decide if 2-3 games for these types of hits is enough of a deterrent.
"The way they were looking at these incidents at the start of the season, the severity of the suspensions, whether it's gotten to a different level ... I think players are aware ... there has to be a deterrent in place," Joel Quenneville said before Wednesday's game against Montreal. "I think that has to be pretty severe in its own right ... The number of games [given for suspension] has been cut down."
In other words, it sounds like Quenneville thinks the league talked tough to start the season but the penalties haven't been as severe lately.
"To be a victim of that, you think about it much more and it gets on your nerves more when things like that happen," Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "That's why there is fighting in hockey for a long time. Guys aren't going to do stupid things like that if they're going to have to answer the bell."
The only problem with that notion is though John Scott made Engelland pay for his illegal hit, the Hawks ended up paying the ultimate price in the form of giving up a power play goal -- due to Scott's instigator penalty -- in a game they eventually lost by just one. It's yet another issue the league needs to address.
But ultimately, as the players have been saying, this comes down to them. They need to be more careful. Bourque had some mitigating circumstances as the puck got caught on the boards, and as Seabrook slowed up Bourque could not. Engelland has no excuse whatsoever. And neither does Bylsma. The moment the Penguins came down publicly on Cooke he changed his style and he's stayed out of trouble. Teams and players have to come down on their own or nothing will change in a culture in which 99 percent of the time a teammate can do no wrong. In these cases, he can.
Many Hawks fans must be wondering how the referees fit into the equation in regards to Engelland's hit on Kruger. They never blew the whistle on him yet he was suspended for three games. Obviously, refs Chris Lee and Rob Martell missed the call. In fact, as a coach, Joel Quenneville is more concerned with that aspect than any future penalties.
"When you're playing that game you're not too concerned about what happens afterwards," he said. "We want the right call made on the ice."
Referees are reviewed and assessed on a nightly basis. While its rare one would be suspended or even fined, their performances generate playoff assignments or lack thereof. Of course, over time, they must meet certain performance standards to remain in the NHL. Undoubtedly, Lee and Martell were shown their mistake and instructed to do better next time.
PITTSBURGH -- Despite several things going against the Chicago Blackhawks early in their 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins the Hawks nearly pulled off a dramatic comeback Tuesday night.
Down 3-0 after two periods they came out hard in the third, outscoring the Penguins 2-0 and outshooting them 19-4. Coach Joel Quenneville chose not to take the easy road in assessing the night.
“You could say for 60 minutes, playing like that, we’d be in a much better spot,” he said.
For whatever reason -- probably a bad call by the refs that led to the Penguins' first goal -- the Hawks didn’t compete in the first two periods the way they know they can. In the final 20 minutes they reminded everyone what playoff hockey looks like.
“I don’t know what we were playing like in the first 40 minutes,” Viktor Stalberg said. “We basically handed them two points tonight. We have to play like we did in the third for the full game. It’s simple as that.”
Stalberg was voted the third star of the game for his play in the final period alone. He had a goal and assist after being moved back to the top line, but the Hawks couldn’t manage the tying tally.
“We played a lot better in the third, but I’m sure it’s been said before already, it’s not good enough,” Duncan Keith said. “It’s not going to win you a game.”
But it nearly did.
PITTSBURGH -- In basically one extended moment in Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Blackhawks lost a player to injury, were on the wrong end of a referee’s call, gave up a goal on the ensuing power play and eventually lost the game despite a furious third-period comeback.
The key sequence occurred at the 8:55 mark of the first period when Marcus Kruger was drilled into the boards in the offensive zone by Deryk Engelland. The hit came high, eventually ending Kruger’s night.
“It was a tough turn of events at the end of the night,” Joel Quenneville said. “Scored the first goal on the play. They got a lot of momentum there. I thought we had a decent start until we took penalties. You could look at that as the critical point of the game. We’re shorthanded, they score. It was a big turn.”
It doesn’t excuse the Hawks' play for the first 40 minutes, but it did set a tone. Engelland could have been called for a penalty -- charging or targeting the head -- or Scott could have gotten away with protecting a teammate and not have been called for instigating. But that’s not how the referees saw it.
“He knew there was going to be a fight,” Scott said. “We dropped the gloves at the same time so he knew something was happening … I’m always going to stand up for my teammates. I’m going to do that every time, no matter who it is.”
The Penguins scored but no one in the Hawks dressing room was blaming Scott for taking a bad penalty. This was one that had to be addressed. The officials didn’t address it so the Hawks best fighter did.
“It was good to see that happen,” Duncan Keith said. “John stepped in there right away and fought him and obviously beat him up.”
Engelland was bloodied but the Penguins got the last laugh gaining momentum off the hit and subsequent power-play goal. The Hawks, meanwhile, had to play catch-up and deal with the loss of Kruger.
“Kruger is doing OK now,” Quenneville said. “We’ll see [Wednesday]. We’ll have a better idea on how he’s doing. Tough hit, high hit, in tough area. He was in a tough spot.”
A big hit, a bad call and a goal. It helped seal the Hawks fate for the night and end their winning streak at five.
PITTSBURGH -- Here's a quick look at the Chicago Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins:
How it happened: The Penguins scored first after an advantageous call in the first period giving them a power play and they never looked back, though the Hawks made a game of it in the third. Chris Kunitz tallied on a mini-breakaway and James Neal and Tyler Kennedy added second period scores to put the game out of reach. The Hawks had a decent amount of shots, but never spent a serious amount of time in the offensive zone until the final 20 minutes when they were already down by three. They were killing penalties for much of the first 40 minutes. The visitors finally broke through when Jonathan Toews scored off the rush early in the third period then Viktor Stalberg finished on a pretty passing play from Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane.
What it means: It’s the first time in a while the Hawks didn’t score first and get an early lead, and it affected them the rest of the game, though they do get credit for a great third period. They seemed out of sync on offense playing from behind until an energetic final 20 minutes. Joel Quenneville mixed up the lines after Marcus Kruger was knocked out after taking a high hit in the first period. Jeremy Morin was dropped to the fourth line after struggling early and Stalberg replaced him giving a boost to the offense. If the Hawks had showed the energy in the first two periods they displayed in the third their five-game winning streak may have continued but they go down in a close game.
Kruger hit: Kruger left the game after 20 minutes after sustaining a check to the head by Deryk Engelland. John Scott jumped Engelland, bloodying him while getting an instigator penalty along with a 10-minute misconduct. Engelland’s hit went unpunished though he looked to have left his feet to deliver the high hit. It can still be reviewed by the league and punished after the fact, even though no penalty was called on the play. Kruger actually finished the period but did not come out for the second as the Hawks ruled him out for the night.
What’s next: The Hawks head back to Chicago for a Wednesday game against the Montreal Canadians. It’s the final game before the NHL shutdown for the Christmas holiday. The Hawks will be off until Monday.
Pittsburgh added to a 1-0 first intermission lead with a goal by James Neal after Duncan Keith and Jeremy Morin got tangled up in the offensive zone creating a 2-on-1 for the Penguins. Morin was promptly dropped from the first line where Viktor Stalberg has taken over.
Later during 4-on-4 play, Tyler Kennedy scored off the rush when Matt Lovejoy went around the Hawks net, finding Kennedy wide open in front. Evgeni Malkin had an assist on the play and has three helpers in the game.
The night has been marred by multiple infractions by both sides with several questionable high hits, including one on Marcus Kruger that changed the momentum of the game back in the first period. The teams have combined for over 13 minutes of power play time with Pittsburgh having the major edge with nearly 10 minutes of man advantage time to the Hawks' three.
CHICAGO -- Here's a look at the Hawks' preseason loss to the Pens on Friday night.
How it Happened: The Hawks played a mostly sloppy game until the third period when they seemingly woke up. Brandon Pirri scored twice making a case for a roster spot. Ray Emery had his issues though. He misplayed a puck, during a power play, onto the stick of Matt Cooke at center ice and Cooke buried it from there as Emery was way out of position. It wasn’t all Emery, though. The Hawks defensive zone coverage had some issues while their penalty killing gave up a goal to Steve Sullivan after a Jonathan Toews face-off loss in the first period. The Hakws came hard in the third but it was too little too late.
What it Means: If rounding into regular season shape was one of the goals in the game for the home team, the Hawks only saved themselves with a dominant third period. That came only after falling behind 3-0. Sometimes they looked flat sometimes just sloppy but Pirri played well and that carried over. Neither of his goals were highlight reel moves but he’s showing the ability to be around the puck and finish. He has four goals in the preseason and another in a shootout. The Hawks fell to 2-4 in exhibition play, losing at home for the first time.
Goalie Battle: Ray Emery looked shaky and never came up with the big save when he needed to. His turnover, when coming way out of the ice in the second period is meaningless if the rest of his game was sharp. With little time left on the clock to impress the Hawks, a roster spot may not be there for the taking. In the short sample size this preseason it also appears the team plays better in front of Alexander Salak than Emery.
What’s Next: The Hawks have one final tune-up before the regular season begins. Sunday they travel to Washington before opening up in Dallas next Friday.
The Hawks have steadily played worse in the contest and so has goalie Ray Emery. Emery, trying to earn a contract by a Saturday deadline, hasn’t made the big save when he’s had the chance and a fluke turnover when he left the net on a power play led to a goal as well.
Midway through the period Emery came way out to play the puck as Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith were gassed and couldn’t get back. He put it off the boards at center ice and right onto the stick of Matt Cooke who buried it not far from the center face-off circle. Later, Emery and defenseman Sean O’Donnell fell asleep letting Joe Vitale knocked one in right next to the Hawks’ goal.
The Hawks have played sloppy at both ends of the ice. Only the power play has looked somewhat crisp, eventually scoring late in the period as Brandon Pirri tapped in a puck left after a Rostislav Olesz wrap-around attempt. Overall, Emery has been shaky and the skaters in front of him have as well.