After a lackluster effort on Friday night in the Lone Star State, the Chicago Blackhawks came out with guns blazing on United Center ice Saturday and rolled over the Dallas Stars 5-2 for their first victory of the season.
Dave Bolland scored twice, and Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, and Andrew Brunette also added goals for the victorious Hawks, and Corey Crawford made 19 saves in his second start in two nights.
The Hawks got the scoring started early in the first period, as Brunette cashed in on some beautiful puck movement on the power play and tapped home a rebound. In the second period, Bolland sniped a shot past Andrew Raycroft to make it 2-0, and then Toews scored a breakaway goal after coming out of the penalty box to make it 3-0. Vernon Fiddler responded a minute later, however, to make it 3-1 Hawks, and that’s how it stayed until intermission. Patrick Sharp struck on a 2-on-1 break early in the third period to make it 4-1. Sheldon Souray scored a power play tally to make it 4-2, and although the Stars got several good chances late, Bolland iced the victory with an empty netter to give the Hawks the 5-2 win.
Overall, the real takeaway from this one was the intensity that the Hawks displayed after showing precious little of it on Friday night. Granted, they did have nearly 40 shots in Dallas in the losing effort, but they looked a lot more active on both ends of the ice in this one. The defense was especially solid, allowing only two shots in the first and seven more in the second. The Stars did have 12 in the third period, but it was more a product of desperation than getting actual quality scoring chances. Even more surprising was the fact that the Hawks had John Scott on the roster and still put forth a good defensive effort, but that can be explained with his only three minutes of ice time.
On the offensive side of the puck, the Hawks got a lot more quality scoring chances Saturday than they did last night. They were settling for fewer shots from the blue line with little to no traffic in front of the Stars’ netminder on Friday, but they got some great net presence in front of Raycroft in this one, with Bryan Bickell and Brunette doing most of the work on that front.
There were only minor negative notes from this one, most notably the actions of Sharp in the third period. After scoring his goal, which came after he was tripped up and had a delayed penalty coming, Sharp committed a quick cross-checking penalty, and the Stars scored a power play goal on that one. Then, shortly after he got out of the box, Sharp committed a bone-headed interference penalty (which was mis-called as tripping by the official scoresheet), and then was given a 10 minute misconduct penalty as well.
In Sharp’s defense, he was the subject of a lot of hits and cheap shots throughout the game, including a high stick that he took to the back of the head in the second period, but the way he started acting in the third wasn’t acceptable behavior from a team leader. It was likely just a momentary lapse in common sense by Sharp, but he certainly is going to have to look back on this game and learn from what could have been a game-changing lapse in judgment.
With the soap box portion of the program over, here are tonight’s Three Stars:
Honorable Mention: Jamal Mayers
After winning a good number of face-offs on Friday, Mayers had an interesting night on Friday. He had two hits and played about a minute and thirty seconds of short-handed time, but that isn’t why he is getting the nod tonight. He had a nice scrap with Jake Dowell early in the game, and that is the perfect way for him to show exactly what he is able to bring this team on the fourth line. He was so excited to join the Blackhawks all preseason long, and he has really shown it in his first two games, both with his face-off ability on Friday and his punching ability on Saturday. If he can play with that type of mix between physical hockey and solid offensive hockey, he is going to be worth every penny of his salary.
Third Star: Sean O’Donnell
O’Donnell, added to the team over the off-season to bolster their depth on the blue line and take some of the pressure off of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, and he did exactly that on Saturday. He played nearly 16 minutes, blocked three shots and tallied an assist in the Hawks’ winning effort. It was exactly the kind of effort that the Hawks could use out of their third line defenseman, and they have to hope that O’Donnell continues that type of play so that they can keep Scott off the ice as much as possible.
Second Star: Patrick Sharp
Before his third period meltdown, Sharp looked fantastic in his second game back from his appendectomy. He skated very well, played some really solid offense, and in general looked like the guy that the Hawks signed to a five year contract extension over the off-season. He also played a great physical game as well, dishing out three hits and forcing guys off the puck with feverish intensity.
First Star: Dave Bolland
Of course, the first star of the game had to be Bolland. He not only scored twice in his first game of the season, but he also took five shots, won 12 of his 18 face-offs, and looked like the best player on the ice both offensively and defensively. He is a tremendous agitator, which he shows in nearly every post-season, but he is also a talented offensive player who can get 60-70 points and can dish out hits with the best of them.
The Blackhawks will now have a nice five-day layoff before taking on the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night at the United Center. The game will be on CSN-Chicago.Follow paulmbanks