"Empire of the Clouds"
by Patrick Norton
Tweet at Norton
After two straight losses in Florida earlier in the week, the Blackhawks had one chance remaining to make the best of their three game road trip. The Blackhawks occupied NBC’s Wednesday Night Rivalry timeslot with a possible Stanley Cup Final preview between the two previous Cup winners, Chicago and Pittsburgh. With Corey Crawford letting in four goals against the Florida Panthers and Scott Darling giving up another eight goals over a two game stretch, Coach Quenneville opted for soon-to-be-ex-Blackhawk Corey Crawford to guard the twine against the injury-laden Penguins.
The first period began with back-and-forth action highlighted by Jonathan Toews and Sidney Crosby. It took a few minutes to get settled, but the Blackhawks struck first on a nifty dish from Kane to Panarin. Minutes later, #DickF***ingPanik netted his twenty-second goal of the season off of a pass from Nick Schmaltz skating behind the blue line. Then, Panarin hit Kane with a pass who tapped it along to #ExpansionDrafteeMarcusKruger. Kruger shot the puck at Marc-Andre Fleury with hopes of Kane picking up his loose change, but instead got a nice surprise when Fleury lapsed and let through an easy wrister with just under one minute remaining in the first. While it was expected that Fleury could get the hook in the intermission, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan opted to let Fleury finish the first. Big mistake. Just thirty-nine seconds later, Marian Hossa rifled home a one-timer from Ryan Hartman. After a three minute offsides review, the goal was confirmed and an eventful first period finally came to an end with the Blackhawks leading the Penguins, 4-0.
The second period brought a whole lotta nothin’. The only eventful thing that happened was me setting up a brand new wireless keyboard after all the keys on my laptop became sticky. I swear to God, no Kleenex aided the stickiness of the keyboard.
The third period started with Tanner Kero scoring his sixth of the year, this one unassisted. While all hope seemed lost for the defending Cup champions, Bryan Rust tallied an unassisted goal to bring the deficit back down to four goals with fifteen minutes left on the clock. In the blink of an eye, the final buzzer sounded and that’s all she wrote for this one as the Blackhawks dismantle the Penguins, 5-1.
- After getting blanked by James Reimer and the Florida Panthers on Saturday night, the Blackhawks offense has been on fire. Four goals in a losing effort on Monday and five in tonight’s win.
- Goodness gracious, Patrick Kane is so freaking smooth. His behind-the-back assist to Panarin and his tap pass to Kruger were so sweet.
- Marcus Kruger scored.
- MARCUS KRUGER SCORED!
- I don’t think you understand… #ScorelessExpansionDrafteeMarcusKruger scored.
- Richard Panik continues to prove his worth to the top line. Netting his 22nd goal of the season, Panik has already superseded expectations from Blackhawks faithful.
- Tanner Kero has fit with Kane and Panarin well in the absence of Artem Anisimov. The centerman picked up a goal and an assist tonight to bring his point total to fifteen in forty-two games this season.
- The Schmaltz-Toews-Panik line is scary good right now. Schmaltz and Toews picked up helpers on Panik’s goal and they just seem to click on the ice. It’s wonderful to feel comfortable with more than one steady line heading into the playoffs.
- I love Eddie Olczyk. All of his haters are Blues and Wild fans that are so committed to their team, they can’t see past the Indian head. Edzo truly is the color commentary standard in hockey; fun, knowledgeable, insightful, not Steve Konroyd.
- Kane picked up assists 49 & 50 tonight. He won’t reach 100 points this year, but another strong showing from the reigning MVP.
- Corey Crawford had an outstanding night. Not only did he thwart any attempt at a Penguins comeback, but he bounced back in the crease after a rough outing in Florida.
- I love the yellow and black 100% more than the beige and black uniforms the Penguins sport. Much more crisp and sleek. If there was somebody I liked on the Pens, I’d consider purchasing one. Maybe I’ll get a customized “Ho-Sang #66” black and yellow jersey. I don’t think anybody would mind.
- Maybe rest is an option, but for crying out loud, our defense is losing a step. Overall, it was a decent night from the blue-liners, but it’s difficult to turn blind eye when Brent Seabrook makes inexcusable turnovers and Duncan Keith just looks like he doesn’t care. There’s a good chance that this will all blow over in time for the playoffs, but there’s decent reasoning for concern.
- I kind of felt bad for him after his defense imploded and he ate all sixty minutes and took the bullet tonight, but Marc-Andre Fleury still sucked. The Kruger goal was awfully weak. I’ve never been a big fan, but the guy was dominant in the regular season just a few years ago. You take that away from him and he’s living in Tomas Vokoun’s shadow his whole life. Realistically, he’s got what? One? Two years left as a serviceable split-time starter?
- Really nothing comes to mind. This was a fun hockey game to watch. It’s always nice to show Pittsburgh where the real “City of Champions” is.
- I almost forgot to mention #SaviorJohnHayden picked up his first penalty of his NHL career tonight. #TemperExpectations *full disclosure, I think this kid might turn into something, but then again, what do I know?
If anybody is heading to the United Center for the Frozen Four on April 6th and 8th, let me know. I’d love to meet up with some listeners and readers.
Also, Episode 79 of the Blackhawks Shoutcast dropped on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. Unless you’d like to miss out on some inside jokes for the next week, I highly suggest downloading it through iTunes or Soundcloud. We record a new episode next week, so hop on that before Ep. 79 gets buried alive.