Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to our second live blog of this shortened NHL season as the Blackhawks look to take their games-with-at-least-a-point streak to 29 this evening versus the Minnesota Wild.  Along the way we are celebrating Marian Hossa’s 1000th NHL game (it was Sunday).  There’s lots to catch up and comment on so I figured I’d return to the critically acclaimed format of the running commentary.  Join myself, The Wife, and my trusty dog as we sit down to take in tonight’s action.

Before the puck drops the Hawks are holding a special ceremony to honor Hossa’s fantastic achievement.  I will give the Hawks credit as ever since Rocky Wirtz took over control of the organization (and brought John McDonaugh along with him) they have handled these type of events as a first class organization should.  From tributes to Ed Olczyk making the US Hockey Hall of Fame to Pat Foley celebrating 30 years in the booth (a ceremony is coming in April) no detail goes unnoticed.  It’s these little things  that breed loyalty and make Chicago a desired destination for the best in the business.  Speaking of best in the business, hello Mrs. Hossa.  Well done Marian, well done indeed.  Also, for and Hawks players reading this our Wee One is a lovely little girl celebrating her 11 month birthday today.  She is available for play groups with Madeline Sharp of the little Hossa gal.  Just putting it out there.

On to the game…

Well actually before the game even begins The Wife points out the Jim Cornelison is not wearing his Stanley Cup ring this evening while singing the anthem.  He always wears his ring.  I swear, if he fucks this up for us…

And finally before we get too far along here I want to go on record and say that the Hawks are due for an easy win.  They’ve been playing an unhealthy number of close games this season and undefeated or not they are due for a 5 or 6 goal outburst (15 of the 22 games have been decided by a single goal).  In the Tribune this morning Patrick Kane said that they have yet to play their best hockey of yet and he’s excited for them to do so.  The Wild are a really good club who I’m not thrilled to welcome to our division next year but something tells me we’re in for a treat tonigjt.

1st Period

20:00 – Corey Crawford, it is an honor to be in your presence of late.  One goal against in the last eight periods is cause genuflection. 

18:14 – Welcome back Dave Bolland and thanks for taking an early dumb penalty and hurting the team.  There’s no Michael Frolik in the lineup tonight (a silent assassin on the penalty kill this year along with Krueger) so we’ll see how we look when a man short early.

16:00 – Bolland’s penalty ends and the biggest threat on the penalty kill was whether the Hawks equipment manager gave Toews the right stick right before his short-handed breakaway.

12:09 – So the Wild are two points out of leading the Northwest Division but you’ve got to wonder how Zack Parise and Ryan Suter are feeling about not choosing to take less money and join the Hawks last summer.  The offer was on the table to each and they instead decided to come as a package deal to Minnesota.  You don’t think they’d like to be making some history right now instead?

11:39 – Andrew Shaw gets a little too fancy and turns the puck over at the Hawks blueline which directly leads with a Devin Setoguchi goal for the Wild.  1-0 bad guys.

9:44 – The Wild has a defenceman by the last name of ‘Stoner’?  What nickname do the guys have for him?  In hockey vernacular you add either a ‘-y’ or an ‘-er’ to the end of everyone’s name.  How do you handle it if they beat you to it on their own?  These are the things that keep me up at night.

6:58 – And Brandon Saad brings the game back to a tie creating traffic in front, after a few hacks follows his own rebound for a goal.  Ones are wild on west Madison St.

6:14 – Bryan Bickell makes it 2-1 before I could finish the last note.  Stalberg’s speed (easily the fastest guy on the team with Leddy and Keith in some order as second and third) creates the opportunity and Bickell buries it behind Backstrom.  This is what I was talking about.  The 3rd line was the best group on the ice Sunday in Detroit and their hard work get rewarded yet again tonight.

4:58 – The Blackhawks are on the power play as Toews gets interfered with.  If this group really starts clicking like they’re capable of then I think we’re going to see a whole ‘nother gear to this team.

2:48 – The power play is powerless but Saad and Bickell replace them once back to full strength and Bickell buries another on a sick snipe to the top shelf over Backstrom’s left shoulder.  Rumor has it he knocked the peanut butter over that Mrs. Backstrom left there (only hockey insiders will appreciate that).  3-1 Hawks.

1:15 – I’ll have whatever Brandon Saad is drinking.  He just fed Hossa for yet another goal.  Saad now has three points in eighteen total minutes of game time.  Hossa may or may not be using the silver stick that Stan Bowman gave him in the pre-game ceremony.  4-1 Hawks.

End of the 1st Period

Wow.  That went better than expected.  The Hawks outshot the Wild 17-6 in the first twenty minutes and the action was so fast and furious that my fingers hurt.  Not a bad problem to have.  The Hawks pretty much dominated every facet of the game (aside from Shaw’s turnover).  Kane was digging deep in his defensive end and Nick Leddy actually knocked someone over.  It will now be a test of resolve on the part of the Wild.  Like every opponent the Hawks have seen in the past ten games (and for the foreseeable future) you know the Wild came into this game geared up wanting to be the ones to knock them off their pedestal.  Down 4-1 before they knew what was happening, it will be interesting to see whether the Wild pack it in from here on out and wait to fight another day or do they dig deep and try to make a game of this.

2nd Period    

20:00 – Darcy Kuemper (Minnesota’s backup goalie who is now in the game), welcome to the firing squad.

18:03 – It’s always a good sign when you’re playing Minnesota and it takes until several minutes into the 2nd period of a game until you realize that you haven’t heard the names Parise, Suter, Heatley, Koivu, or Granlund uttered by the announcers of yet.

15:01 – I’m not a big “I told you so” kind of person but how are we all feeling about the Michal Rozival signing right about now?  He’s a +10 as a 6th defenceman and the stat nerds absolutely love him this season as well.   

10:16 – Bickell is having one of his best games in the Indianhead sweater.  He kept his legs moving along the boards and was interfered with by a Wild defenceman.  The Hawks are back on the PP.  Not looking to get greedy but now would be a great time for another goal.  They say the three goal lead is the most dangerous in hockey because it can get cut to two goals and then one pretty quickly with only the momentum moving faster.

8:16 – And another opportunity passes without so much as a threat on net.

2:30 – The Hawks are back on the power play once more as Stalberg gets tackled.  I’m not going to say anything…

0:30 – The score is the same it was two minutes ago.

End of 2nd Period

The Blackhawks are outshooting the Wild 28-10 after two but I must say that I’m never thrilled when a team makes a goalie switch to some unknown kid (like Minnesota did with Kuemper here) and he makes it through his first period unscathed.  It can only build his confidence.

In more important news however NBC’s own Cheryl Scott is shooting the puck tonight and shooting into our hearts.  She passes the sniff test as she knows how to actually hold a hockey stick while also wearing the pre-requist hooker heals (apparently her Achilles is fully healed).  She’s sharing the fame with the kid, made her shot, and per The Wife went with a solid sporty-sexy outfit.  That’s win-win-win in this writer’s opinion.  I’d get my weather report from her any day.

3rd Period

18:02 – The Wild will go on the power play now as Hjalmarsson gets a little fresh with his stick.  Immediately the Wild generate a quality chance in front.  

16:50 – Ryan Suter brings the Wild within two as he rips a slapshot from the point.  Having someone with that shot in his arsenal on your roster is a nice thing to have.  Is it worth $98 million dollars however?  I’ll get back to you on that (that was apparently his first goal of the season).

16:15 – The Wild have come out of the gate angry in the third.  The penalty is over but they’ve kept the pressure coming.  They must have not liked the way Cheryl Scott was not given a fourth try at the final Shoot The Puck net.

13:31 – Marian Hossa is awesome.  He is this generation’s Steve Larmer/Joe Murphy/Michel Goulet in that he’s the amazing winger that will be forgotten about when people talk about this Toews/Kane generation of the Hawks.  The best teams have this kind of depth where future Hall of Famers or near Hall of Famers (Sharp?) get the “oh yeah, they had him too” treatment in bar stool conversations 20 years later.

9:28 – The Wild close the gap even further as Kyle Brodziak (not exactly a name little children in opposing cities grow up to fear but easily the best player on the Wild tonight) follows his own rebound and sneaks it past Crawford.  4-3 Hawks.  Remember what I said about those three goal leads?

8:27 – Just like that the Hawks answer.  Kane created a turnover as the Wild attempt to clear their zone and gets rewarded with a rebound off of a shot from Sharp.  That’s more like it.  5-3 Hawks.

5:15 – A gentle “HOSSA” chant builds amongst the spectators.  All is well with the world.  The Hawks seem to be content with their five goals at the moment and will be playing the next few minutes more intent in not giving up two more than trying to add to the lead any further.

4:31 – Brandon Saad just made a “huge little play” in touching up to prevent icing per Edzo.

3:10 – The Wild have 11 shots in the first 17 minutes of the 3rd period after having all of 10 in the first sixty minutes combined.

0:50 – I’ve never understood the timeout at the end of the game before a team pulls their goalie.  I’ve been in those huddles and they essentially boil down to the coach telling everyone to go score and don’t let the opposition get a shot off because we don’t have a goalie back there.  No shit.

0:00 – The familiar chorus of “Hawks Win!” comes from the television booth once again.  We’re living in team (if not league) history ladies and gentlemen.

End of the 3rd Period

Tonight was another good game in what has already become a great season.  It had a little bit of everything from a tribute to one of the greats to a goal scoring barrage in the first and a solid effort throughout.  The Hawks won by two (which is a nice change of pace), improved their games-with-a-point streak to 29 (claiming sole possession of 2nd place in the history book and counting), moved to 32-2-7 since acquiring Johnny Oduya last spring, and Patrick Kane broke the back of a surging Wild team to preserve a victory on home ice (his was the real game winning goal despite what the stat sheet may say).    

As I mentioned earlier, this Minnesota team is on the come and with the proposed realignment coming next year we’re about to start seeing a lot more of them.  What’s interesting is that they are really missing a Nick Leddy and/or Brent Burns on their blue line – two young defencemen they traded in order to build up their current offensive firepower.  Ryan Suter is good but he’s going to need some help back there but all of their cap space is locked up in their forwards.  Do you think Minnesota’s GM might hit the re-set button on that Cam Barker for Kim Johnsson & Nick Leddy trade three years ago if he could? 

That’s what makes this Hawks team so great this year.  There are stars up and down the organization from the front office to the fourth line.   Stan Bowman’s decision to stick with the core after a second straight first round playoff exit last spring appears to have been the right one and things continue to turn up roses for the Indianheads.  The puck drops again in less than 24 hours at the United Center and you know where I’ll be as at this point the Blackhawks are appointment television in their pursuit of history.