Wednesday, December 30, 2009
What else can you say sometimes when leaving the arena after a game like that?
Wow, because the Chicago Blackhawks look like the absolute real deal. I am always skeptical about a team that's two most marquee-worthy players are both 21, wondering if they will have the fortitude to push through in the spring time when the 7 game wars begin, but that team is deep, talented, and has a nice edge, too.
Surely, goaltending will be questioned along the way, but over half the season Christobal Huet and Antti Niemi have been solid. Last night, Huet certainly allowed a few softies, but we saw Chicago on full display last night.
They were on a roll, they are strong and talented, and they were playing very well, with home-and-home sweeps of their division rivals Detroit and Nashville without even going to overtime once. 8 points up for grabs? They grabbed all 8. And their opponents got 0.
Then, last night, in front of a holiday crowd, the Blackhawks started the game with a show of force that will be talked about for quite a while. In the first period they had 21 shots (16 in the first 10 minutes) and a power play that bordered on unfair. They swarm the net with such reckless abandon that you felt for Marty Turco trying to find the puck in the mess. And 3 times, he didn't. Chicago scored 3 in the 1st Period, and you actually felt ok about only giving up 3. They were that good.
But, also, "Wow", is a deserved word for the way the Stars bounced out of that. There are so many games in a season where there are times where a team emotionally cuts bait with 1 out of 82 games and lives to fight another day. It is not something anyone is proud of, but it exists in pro athletics for sure. So, when the Stars went to the room after the first 20 minutes, you had to wonder if they were emotionally beaten already.
Not a chance.
2 goals to start the 2nd period, one from Brad Richards and Loui Eriksson teaming up, and then a very fortunate centering pass from Steve Ott that went off a Chicago forward and into the net. Somehow, despite enduring a hockey clinic, the Stars had a 4-3 lead less than 22 minutes into a 60 minute game that will have to go down as one of the craziest of the season.
For the next 38 minutes, it turned into an intense playoff-like game with hitting, bad attitudes, and tense moments. Patrick Kane, who may be the biggest hope for USA hockey since Modano/Roenick/Hull, scored again with 3 seconds left in the 2nd period, and we again questioned if that was going to turn the game to the more talented Blackhawks.
But, Wow. The 3rd Period was awesome. Daley hits Ott up the middle, who finishes a break with a sweet shot to the top corner past Niemi. 5-4, Stars with 16 minutes to play.
So, would 5 be enough? Would the Stars try to milk home a lead for 15 minutes against this gang? To their immense credit, they did not. They stayed after it with attacks and pushed for goal #6. It never happened, but in doing so, relieved much of the pressure around Marty Turco. Not all of it, mind you, as Turco still had to do plenty of work, and actually had a pretty good game, even though the stats will show he allowed 4 goals. If you saw the game, you know it could have been 8.
The Stars got the win, with some very intense final seconds, but 5-4 gave the Stars another win over a top opponent. Why can't they play the bottom feeders with the same results as they do against the Blackhawks and Sharks? I am sure Crawford would love to figure that one out.
My only regret was that it was another game where so many Stars fans were frustrated that they could not see the game on their television (this time it was Versus against Directv again, but really, isn't it always something this season with the TV broadcast rights?). Hopefully, that will be worked out very soon.
Otherwise, what a night. Which can best be summed up with 3 letters.