Thursday, December 15, 2011

Shout-out for a shoot-out

Posted By on 12.15.11 at 12:33 PM

blackhawks_magnum.jpg
The Blackhawks scored to take the lead early in the third period of Wednesday's game in Minnesota against the Wild, the leading team in the National Hockey League. It was a pretty goal, too, with captain Jonathan Toews exploiting a weary defense, left out there after an icing call, by executing a cute "here it is, no, it's not" move to elude the defense and get goaltender Niklas Backstrom to commit. He then lifted the puck over the goalie and into the net. "All right," I thought, "now let's see them hold it for the win for a change."

They didn't, of course. Just as the Hawks had blown a 2-0 lead in the second period (with a little help from the refs blowing off a clear icing call, thus catching the Chicago defense flat-footed on the Wild's first goal), they gave it up in the third with about five minutes to play in regulation. That was on a delayed power play, when the Wild got a sixth attacker on the ice, but that's a paltry excuse for a team that has displayed a disconcerting tendency to surrender leads and then fight back with offensive firepower.

Yet that they did, in a shoot-out after a scoreless overtime—and who's to complain about the chance to see another addition to the Patrick Kane highlight reel? Chicago goalie Ray Emery—looking more spry by the game—stopped the first two Minnesota players in the shoot-out, while Toews was scoring for the Hawks, so Kane came to center ice with a chance to win the game. He skated down fast, then sent up a little spray of ice and shifted into slow motion. As his skates slowed, however, his hands sped up, and he went into a wizardly stickhandling display that seemed to hypnotize and tantalize Bakstrom. As Kane inched forward (by rule, the shooter has to maintain some sort of forward momentum), Backstrom finally went down to play the puck, but Kane pulled it back and calmly, confidently lifted it into the back of the open net. Hawks win.

That lifted the Hawks into second in the league in total points, two behind the Wild, and planted doubts in the Minnesota players, as the Hawks pretty much dominated throughout. The hockey purist in me wishes the Hawks had held that third-period lead with a sterner defense, but the fan in me replayed that Kane goal time and again. Go ahead, you do the same.

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