(Photo: NHL Youtube)
The Chicago Blackhawks had a 4-1 victory against the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center Saturday night in the final act of their annual “Circus” road trip, where they finished with a 5-1-0 record.
They outscored opponents 23-12 on the trip, which included six road games in nine days–starting with the Calgary Flames Nov. 20 and closing in Los Angeles the 29th.
“They were all really tough opponents and we ended up finding the way we wanted to play for all 60 minutes a lot of the trip,” Versteeg told the Chicago Tribune. “You have to try to prove it every day. It’s not about just going and showing in a two- or three-game span, it’s about trying to do it every day. That’s what the best teams do, they do it all season long.”
Versteeg had two goals and five assists and Richards tallied three goals and one assist, including the game-winner against L.A.–showing strength in this line and a couple of players getting their groove back. Kane had three goals and four assists in the five games.
A Crowning Victory
The grand finale of the road adventure seemed a bit like a circus. There was quite a bit of action and pageantry.
The Web was abuzz with trash talk about Daniel Carcillo, former Blackhawk turned King turned New York Ranger (he was a Ranger last year when they fell to the Kings for the Stanley Cup) turned Blackhawk again this year–though he’s now healthy and suspension-free. So, Carcillo (a new dad) opened and closed the game with a bang.
- Less than two minutes into the game, Carcillo knocked a crossbar shot from Bryan Bickell down from mid-air and into the net to give Chicago a 1-0 lead.
- The Blackhawks went up by two about 16 minutes later, when Kings goalie Jonathan Quick inadvertently sent a puck to an open Versteeg, who passed it on to Richards for an impressive goal at an extremely difficult angle.
- The Kings answered 5:53 into the second, when Jordan Nolan tipped in a shot from Jake Muzzin.
- Richards strengthened Chicago’s lead, though, when he shot into an open net on a setup by Michal Rozsival and Versteeg less than halfway through the second.
- Brandon Saad solidified the victory with an empty-netter on a pass from Marian Hossa with less than two minutes to go in the game.
“I don’t want to say a lot,” Richards told Comcast Sportsnet after the L.A. win. “I don’t like talking about those things. When you do, weird things happen.”
Chicago outshot L.A. 25-20 and blocked 13 shots to the Kings’ seven.
The Kings outhit the Blackhawks 34-14. Carcillo took exception to one of those hits, a high elbow from Brayden McNabb. He responded with some hits of his own.
So, with a wave, the Blackhawks closed their trip.
“It’s great for the confidence. I think we’d been, maybe not questioning ourselves, but we were struggling at the start and it made us think,” Niklas Hjalmarsson told the Tribune. “Now, a lot of players are starting to play really good hockey. We just have to keep bringing the confidence.”
Hawks Fly Past Ducks
Chicago had five power play opportunities to Anaheim’s two, but neither team was able to capitalize on the advantage. Instead, it was domination with the puck that allowed the Hawks to soar. They outshot the Ducks 38-24 in the game.
- At 7:58 into the first, Richards struck first when he fired from the hashmark off a deep pass from Brent Seabrook.
- Andrew Shaw doubled the lead tipping in a shot from Duncan Keith set up by Carcillo with 6:30 remaining in the first.
- Hampus Lindholm scored next, with 3:11 left in the first on a rebound set up by Patrick Maroon and Ryan Kesler.
- About halfway through the second period, Kane took back the two-goal lead with a point-blank shot dished by Versteeg from Richards.
- With one minute remaining, Kane shot in the final goal, an empty-netter from the blue line, set up by Shaw and Versteeg.
Blackhawks Escape Avalanche
On Nov. 26, Chicago edged the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 despite leading in shots 45-29. Penalties proved costly for the Avs, though, as the Blackhawks were 2/6 on the power play while Colorado was 0/2.
The first period was scoreless. Colorado tallied the first goal in the second.
- Maxime Talbot scored 7:35 into the second, when he pushed the puck right past Corey Crawford after a behind the crease pass from Marc-Andre Cliche set up by Cody McLeod.
- Blackhawks Captain Jonathan Toews tied the game on the power play around four minutes later. He redirected the puck into the net from the crease after a shot from Seabrook to Versteeg couldn’t cross the line.
- With 5:39 left in the second, Shaw fired in a power play goal perfectly set up by Kane and Hossa.
- Ryan O’Reilly scored an equalizer a few minutes into the third period, when he was able to score after combined pressure with Nick Holden and Alex Tanguay.
- Bryan Bickell earned the go-ahead game-winner when he fired in a dish from Kane, with Keith also helping.
A Downer in Vancouver
- With a little under seven minutes left in the first, Hansen fired in a pass not intended for him, but sent perfectly anyway. Bo Horvat and Derek Dorsett set up the play.
- Just 7:55 into the second, the Hawks tied the game on a power play when Seabrook passed to Keith, who fired a shot to the net and Versteeg deflected it in.
- Hansen gave the Canucks the lead again at 13:36 in the third with a point-blank shot set up by Dorsett and Horvat.
- Henrik Sedin passed up to Christopher Tanev, who shot the puck to the net where Radim Vrbata pounded in a rebound, giving Vancouver a 3-1 advantage.
- It was hat’s off for the Hansen with less than a minute left, when Horvat and Chris Higgins set him up with an empty netter.
The Blackhawks managed a disappointing 25 shots to Vancouver’s 30.
A Slick Win Against the Oilers
Two goals in seven power plays helped the Blackhawks with their 7-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers Nov. 23. The Hawks outshot their opponents 30-25 for the win.
- Toews scored first, delivering to the net a dish from Saad that had been perfectly cleared from Oilers territory by Hossa just under four minutes into the game.
- Marcus Kruger tallied next with a shot from the faceoff circle set up by Ben Smith and Joakim Nordstrom about a minute later.
- The Hawks took a three-goal lead after Hossa sent the puck back to Seabrook who fired a shot to Toews for the tip-in with just under five minutes to go in the first.
- Chicago dominated the second period as well. Versteeg widened the lead with a power play goal, shooting the puck on net at an angle only to be knocked in by the Oilers. Kane and Hossa earned assists on the play.
- Just 2:45 into the period, Hossa made it 5-0 Chicago on the power play with a close-up rebound set up by Bryan Bickell and Adam Clendening.
- About a minute later, Keith scored with a slapshot from the faceoff circle after passes from Carcillo and Saad.
- Edmonton broke the shutout chance in the third, though, when David Perron tipped in a shot from Jordan Eberle after a consistent charge in the zone. Justin Schultz was also credited with an assist.
- Richards cleared a puck up to Versteeg, who passed across the ice for Kane’s ultimate top-shelf goal that gave Chicago its 7-1 final score with 9:02 left in the game.
A Hot Start Against the Flames
Kane scored the game-winner, giving the Blackhawks an optimistic start with their first road game when they took on the Calgary Flames Nov. 20. Despite being outshot 27-22 and giving up six power plays, Chicago pulled out a win.
- Clendening scored the first goal of the game four minutes in on the power play with a slap-shot from the blue line fed by Hossa and Versteeg.
- Less than three minutes later, Carcillo snatched the puck back from Calgary and slapped it in for a two-goal lead. Kruger earned the helper.
- Paul Byron rebounded a wristshot by Josh Jooris, fed from Mark Giordano on the power play with 6:16 left in the first.
- About a minute later, Dennis Wideman went five-hole to tie the game. Assists went to Johnny Gaudreau and Markus Granlund.
- Seabrook scored from straight up the middle after pressure cycling from Kane and Richards halfway through the second, giving Chicago the lead again.
- Sean Monahan beat Crawford to knot the score again after a perfect pass from Curtis Glencross and a helper from Byron with 7:27 left in the second.
- Kane stole a bad pass from goalie Jonas Hiller, needled through, and shot five-hole for the game-winning goal with 10:47 left in the third.
“We enjoy this trip and enjoy being together,” Kane said. “I think it’s nice coming to Western Canada. We enjoy playing hockey in this environment, where hockey’s like god’s country here. It’s important to start that way. I think we enjoy it. I think for these ‘Circus Trips’ especially you want to take it a game at a time and not worry about what the overall record is going to be at the start. Just take it game by game.”
Game-by-game, the Hawks finished their tour on top and are back home now.
Status of ‘Sweet Home Chicago’
While Patrick Sharp has started skating again, he is still out with an injury suffered Nov. 4.