Ken Hitchcock came in and seemed to right the ship quicker than I had expected. Given it is only one game but this was a totally different team, one we haven’t seen at all this season. Hitchcock’s debut was the 3rd Blues coaching debut in a row vs. the Blackhawks (Murray, Payne- both lost). Hitchcock is the first Blues coach to win his debut since Mike Keenan… yikes. But enough about Hitch, for now, and on to the game recap.
Game Recap: I’m stealing this format from St. Louis Game Time because who doesn’t like bullets.
- The Blues and Blackhawks started the night on the sad sight with a tribute to Former Blue Pavol Demitra and Igor Korolev (who also played for the Hawks). As much as I hate them it was nice to see the Blackhawks team on the bench for this ceremony and it was even more special that coaches Joel Quinneville, Mike Kitchen, and Scott Mellenby agreed to be a part of it. Koralev’s family was in attendance and you could see the pain in their face and how could that not bring a tear to your eye. Both these men were great players and even better people and they will both truly be missed. RIP 38
- Ryan Reaves absolutely destroyed Daniel Carcillo in a first period scrap. David Backes dropped Jonathan Toews. Vladimir Sobotka (5’10”, 198) stood up John Scott (6’8”, 270) and put him straight on his ass. To summarize, the Blues were physical and weren’t going to take any crap tonight and they definitely proved that.
- Hitchcock was asked how long it would take him to fix the power play unit at his press conference Monday. The Blues scored on their first opportunity. Efficient. Hitch also tried something different on the PK as well with Patrik Berglund and Chris Stewart getting lots of PK time. This experiment also worked as the penalty kill was perfect due to their aggressive approach, including a tackle by Berglund to save an empty net chance.
- Jaroslav Halak definitely played with a little extra tonight. Not only was he trying to impress a new coach, but he was also playing for his fallen friend Pavol Demitra. Halak has paid tribute to his pal all season long in the form of a picture of Demitra on the back of his helmet. In the post game interview he was very somber and said he wanted to dedicate that one to Pavol.
- The Blues had energy all game long which was a nice change. They all seemed to jump on board with the system that Hitchcock preaches. Mostly everyone played a 200 foot game for a full 60 minutes and the result was a 3-0 win for the Note. Blues are 7-0 when scoring 3+ more goals this season (0-7 when they don’t hit that magic number). The Blues usually talk about the 5 man unit and that was very evident tonight especially in the defensive zone. At any given time you could find all 5 white jerseys in one screen and all moving their feet and doing their jobs.
- Someone has to stop feeding Walt. “”BIG” Walt” Keith Tkachu(n)k was in town for the pre game ceremonies and he is a blimp. Glad to see he’s staying in shape. Apparently it’s easier to chow down when you have no teeth.
Other Random Thoughts: After receiving the game puck from David Backes, Ken Hitchcock said he was a little rusty behind the bench in his first game back. Chris Stewart was interviewed yesterday about the coaching change and he said it was time to look in the mirror and (the players need) take responsibility for the change. He really seemed to take that to heart as he was flying around the ice at all times, including on both special teams units, where he killed off all the CHI PP’s and scored a PPG of his own. The unsung hero of this game for me was Barrett Jackman. He played a sound defensive game but also seemed to pinch in the offensive zone a little bit more often and had a handful of powerful shots on goal.
Corey Crawford channeled a little bit of the October version of Jaro Halak when he whiffed on a simple TJ Oshie shot that iced the game in the 3rd period. Karma paid a visit to the Blackhawks for the Marian Hossa goal that was kicked in at the end of last season that helped them to a win which put them into the playoffs. They had a goal disallowed in the second period thanks to a premature whistle. I know Hawks fans will be complaining about that until we play again but wait til you get screwed over the amount of times we have been on the “intent to blow” calls… then you’re allowed to be frustrated.
Preview Review: In my preview I predicted a 4-2 loss for the Note and how glad am I to be wrong. I didn’t think the Blues could hold up to this new style of play right off the bat but I am really glad they proved me wrong. The next test will be can they do this again Thursday night.
As for my picks for the who’s hot section, Vladimir Sobotka and Patrick Kane, Sobotka definitely made up for my crappy game prediction. Sobe played another great game at both ends of the ice and was, as always, an integral part of the PK unit. He also notched the GWG in the first period and toppled big John Scott in the second. On the other bench, Patrick Kane was held in check for most of the evening. I don’t remember hearing his name a whole lot and he only managed 3 shots in over 18 minutes of ice time.
My 3 Stars:
1. Jaroslav Halak- 29/29- Halak played his best game of the season. He was still fighting to find the puck at times but the defense picked him up when he needed it. Hope to see him recover a little faster instead of floundering around but tonight the puck just bounced his way and this should be a big boost to his confidence as he should be back in net on Thursday vs. Toronto.
2. Barrett Jackman/Kevin Shattenkirk pairing- 2 assists each, both +2- Shattenkirk seemed to get a lot of mentions tonight but I personally think Jackman was the better of the 2 tonight. Maybe I’m saying that because this was one of his better games in a while but nevertheless this was an outstanding game on both sides of the puck for this defensive pair
3. Vladimir Sobotka- G, +1- Sobotka, who I might acquire a man crush on if he keeps playing this well, is now riding a 4 game point streak and played another outstanding game tonight. He stepped big on the PK and was double shifted a few times because of the injury to Scott Nichol.
I know this is a pretty unorganized summary, but these are my thoughts as I rattle them out throughout the game. There is no real rhyme or reason to them. If I missed something or if you have something else to add, let me know down in the comments. Or as always feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org