Tuesday’s Three Stars: Kane, Hossa Shine as Hawks Pluck Ducks

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It wasn’t the prettiest game in the history of the NHL, but that scarcely mattered as Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp scored goals and Patrick Kane picked up two assists in the Chicago Blackhawks’ 3-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks at the United Center. Kane also picked up the winning shootout tally, and Corey Crawford made 29 saves in the win.

The overall story for the Hawks in this game was their seeming inability to develop a lot of sustained rushes. They have been largely able to do so in the early part of this campaign, and their puck movement and ability to get traffic in front of the net has been a sight to see. In this one, they spent most of the game trying to catch up with the speed of the Ducks’ attack, and the result was tons of shots from the point with little traffic in front of Jonas Hiller. Those chances didn’t really amount to much, and the Hawks will have to find a way to stick to their game plan if they are going to continue to have the offensive success that they’ve had this season.

Where the Hawks did find success was in the times that they took advantage of Anaheim’s aggressiveness. Although those times were few and far between, there were several notable ones. Both Michael Frolik and Hossa had excellent chances on breakaways against Hiller, and although neither of them were successful, it still shows that an aggressive team like Anaheim can be beaten by precise passing.

The team’s biggest area of success on Tuesday night was their penalty killing unit. They were quite active, having to go out on six different occasions, and they were successful on five of the six kills. It was only the second power play goal that they’ve given up in their first eight games, and they are currently the fourth ranked PK unit in the league, killing off 91.3% of the penalties they’ve committed. Coming into this contest, they had only allowed three SHOTS in their previous 10 minutes of short-handed action, and that simply shows the amazing turnaround that this team has had from just last season, when their penalty killing team was essentially a sieve allowing other teams to get shots on Crawford and Marty Turco. That transition from electric power play to excellent penalty killing may not be as flashy on the scoreboard, but the Hawks would certainly much rather prevent goals than score them.

On one final note, head coach Joel Quenneville made a very savvy move in the third period that is worthy of noting. With the Hawks down a goal with a little over 14 minutes remaining in the contest, the Ducks committed an icing, and with Randy Carlyle opting not to call a timeout, Quenneville loaded up the offense and sent Jonathan Toews, Kane, and Sharp onto the ice. Kane stole the puck as Anaheim tried to clear the zone and dished it to Sharp on a nice pass, and Sharp fired it over Hiller’s shoulder to knot the game. It was a great give and go, but the goal ultimately was the result of Quenneville recognizing a strategic advantage and acting on it.

Chicago will take their show on the road on Friday night as they head down to Raleigh to take on the Carolina Hurricanes. The game will start at 6pm Central, and can be seen on Comcast SportsNet.

With that, here are Tuesday’s Three Stars:

Third Star: Michael Frolik

Frolik may be one of those guys who always seems to be just on the cusp of scoring but unable to do so, but being snake-bitten hasn’t diminished his drive one bit. He ended up with five shots in the game and had several quality scoring opportunities, including one short-handed that showed some great flash. Moving up the ice out of the defensive zone, Frolik opted to dish the puck off the boards to himself instead of trying to stick-handle around defenseman Cam Fowler, and it took a great effort by Lubomir Visnovsky to prevent him from having a breakaway opportunity.

Even though it was snuffed out, Frolik’s smart play was evident on that one, and it should result in more goals in the near future for him if he can keep it up.

Second Star: Marian Hossa 

Speaking of snake-bitten, Hossa just couldn’t catch a break tonight. He did manage to get a tap-in goal off of a pass from Kane in the second period, but he ended up having two other shots ring off the post, sending the United Center into a groan-frenzy. The second one was especially bad, but it demonstrated just how on-point the team’s offense has been lately. On a face-off with only two seconds left, Toews won a clean face-off and put the puck right to Hossa, who ripped a heck of a shot past Hiller and off the iron. The whole sequence only took a second of clock time, and it would’ve been a vindication of sorts for the man who had been robbed by iron earlier in the contest.

First Star: Patrick Kane 

Kane pretty much did it all for the Hawks on Tuesday. He won 7-of 12 faceoffs, and he had two assists to go along with his game-winning shootout goal. His first assist came on a sweet pass inspired by the great Denis Savard, as he pulled a spin-o-rama and then fired the puck across the ice to a streaking Hossa for a tap-in goal. The second was off an offensive zone steal that he put on Sharp’s stick. His shoot-out move was equally sweet, as he provided one of the first two tallies in the skills competition that the team has scored his year. He even alluded to it in his post-game conversation with Sarah Kustok.

Kane seems to really be coming into his own this year, and if he can keep up his excellent early-season play, it could be another banner year for a Chicago team that is relying on him for success.

 

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