I have to be honest with you up front here. Saturday night’s Blackhawks-Thrashers game is exactly the kind of game I hate seeing settled by way of a shootout. The way these two went at each other for 65 minutes, launching a total of 77 shots on goal between them…I simply would have loved to have seen at least five more minutes on overtime to see if the eventual winner could be settled during actual team-vs-team play.
I bet it would have at least been as entertaining as the rest of the game.
The Thrashers played very well for the most part, coming out with a heckuva lot more jump and passion than they did last Thursday against the Blue Jackets. But in this reunion of Blackhawks playing at Philips Arena, it was the defending Stanley Cup champions that skated away with the second point in the 5-4 shootout victory…leaving the Thrashers having to settle for the one consolation point for their efforts.
As for the former-Blackhawks that now reside in Thrasherville…Ben Eager had one assists and was a +1… Dustin Byfuglien had an assists, was a –2, took 6 shots on goal and led Atlanta with 24:41 TOI… Brent Sopel had no points and was a +1…Andrew Ladd earned an assist, was a –1 and tallied the Thrashers lone shootout goal.
Jeremey Morin…the prospect traded to Chicago along with Marty Reasoner for Byfuglien and Eager, Sopel…played just under ten minutes in his NHL debute. He was helped off the ice early in the third after blockin a Johnny Oduya shot.
Ondrej Pavelec was given the start for the second consecutive game and turned aside 36 of 40 shots the Hawks got off on him.
It was the 12th time in 14 games that an Atlanta goalkeeper has had to face at least 30 SOG and it was the 6th time that total has gotten to or above. 40. The last three games has seen the opposition get off 137 shots during 185 minutes of play.
The first two Blackhawks goals came while Chicago was on the power play, then there was a breakaway in the second period as Pavs was beaten by a Jonathan Toews wrister. Later in the second period, with the Thrashers up 4-3, Toews was able to win the puck from Pavelec behind the net and feed it to Patrick Kane who snapped it into an empty net.
But Opie held fast the rest of the way, stopping all 13 shots he faced in the third and three the Blackhawks got off on him in OT.
Oddly enough, as the horn sounded to end the extra period of play, I found myself looking over at the Thrashers’ bench…specifically at coach Graig Ramsay and goalie Chris Mason. I was wondering if Rammer had any thoughts of possibly pulling a “Bob Hartley” and swap the netminders before the skills contest known as a shootout.
As you’ll remember, the former coach did just that four years back in Philadelphia with Johan Hedberg and Kari Lehtonen. It was the first time anything like that had been tried since the tie-breaking measure was implemented following the locket, but it failed to produced the desired effect as the Thrashers fell to the Flyers.
Pavelec has had zero success in shootouts. Coming into this game he was 0-5, including the loss in St. Louis a week ago in which he failed to save either attempt taken on him.
Toews successful shot on the Blackhawks first try in exhibit A of what Opie’s main issue is here. There was a move to the right, a move to the left…then the puck was lifted over Pavelec as he was leaning forward and falling on his chest to the ice.
Staying vertical is key to his success in this aspect of the game.
“The guys deserved better help from me”, Pavelec said after the game. “We deserved to win this game”.
Of his troubles in the shootout, the young netminder remarked, “It is what it is…I know I’ve got to be better there and help the team get the extra point”.
Returning to the main portion of the night’s festivities… trailing 2-1 at the first break, Atlanta bounced back to tie the game, then take the lead. And by “ounce back”, I mean exactly that…bounce back.
Evander Kane’s shot shortly after the 3-minute mark struck iron…then struck the backside of Marty Turco. The puck then bounced back over the goal line. Kane’s tally came just seconds before Patrick Sharp’s tripping minor expired.
Less than a minute later, Alex Burmistrov pinged a shot off the crossbar and bounced back in front where rookie slammed it over and past a sprawling Turco. Burmistrov’s goal was the only one for Atlanta in which the two sides were skating 5 on 5.
In the first, Nik Antropov snapped over Turco’s glove while Jack Skille sat in the sin bin pondering his tripping penalty. Then in the second, Rich Peverley capitalized on a very well executed three-way passing play between he, Antropov and Andrew Ladd. At the time, Patrick Kane was being given a time out for high-sticking.
In closing… it’s hard for me to decide whether or not this was a “point lost” via the shootout defeat, or a “point gained” in the standings by taking last spring’s Cup champs past 60 minutes. The Thrashers held leads of 1-0, 3-2 and 4-3 in this game…but also trailed 2-1. The two sides held the other scoreless in the third period as the Hawks took 13 of the 21 shots taken in the final 20 minutes of regulation.
In the end, I guess a point is a point and we move on.
As Opie said, ”It is what it is”.