Here are six observations from the Chicago Blackhawks’ 3-2 win over the Calgary Flames on Wednesday.
1. Marian Hossa’s move around three defenders during the first period is as pretty as it gets: I watched it more than a dozen times in slow motion and in game speed to actually comprehend what he did. Hossa first got past Lance Bouma by picking his own stick off the ice and then letting the puck drift in front of him so Bouma couldn’t tangle him up. Hossa gathered the puck again and crossed it from right to left by going forehand to backhand to bypass a second player, Chris Butler. Finally, Hossa pushed the puck ahead of him and somehow got it under and around Ladislav Smid as Smid was sprawling out. The puck must have missed Smid’s left glove by an inch. Flames goaltender Reto Berra prevented the play, making the season-ending highlights by blocking Hossa’s shot attempt, but what a play.
2. The Blackhawks don’t give up many goals like the first one they allowed on Wednesday: The Blackhawks were caught out of position and seemed lackadaisical on the Flames’ first goal. Jonathan Toews first failed to clear a puck, and then all three Blackhawks forwards were out of the play when Jiri Hudler got the puck along the boards. Hudler was able to patiently find a wide-open Matt Stajan in the middle of the ice. Stajan scored off a one-timer. The Blackhawks normally don’t allow opponents that much time and space.
3. Goaltender Antti Raanta’s confidence and composure were noticeable throughout the game: Two goaltending coaches recently mentioned to me about how one of Raanta’s gifts is his mental toughness. He didn’t look or play nervous even though he was making his first NHL start. He wasn’t tested a whole lot, especially late in the game, but he had a few quality saves and displayed quick reflexes. He also looked like someone who had played a little soccer the way he headed away the puck at the end of the first period. It’s just one game, but the Blackhawks have to be hopeful Raanta can fill the much-needed backup job for them.
4. Brandon Pirri appeared to be in Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville’s doghouse late in the game: Pirri played just three shifts in the third period and wasn’t given ice time in the final nine minutes of the game. Pirri likely was paying a price for a play earlier in the period in which he swung his stick at the puck, missed, lost his stick and then tried to grab Hudler as he skated away with the puck. A delayed penalty was called on Pirri, but the Flames didn’t need it, as they capitalized with a goal seconds later.
5. Kris Versteeg played a key role in Patrick Kane's game-winning goal with 18 seconds left: The Flames’ Sven Baertschi quickly gained possession of the puck off the faceoff and was looking to get it out of his defensive zone. Versteeg raced out in front of Baertschi and disrupted his stick. The puck slipped to Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and started the chain of events that led to Kane beating Berra with a nifty backhanded shot.
6. Kane is playing at a different level right now: He extended his points streak to a career-high 12 games with two goals on Wednesday. He has eight goals and nine assists during the steak. He’s tied for sixth in the NHL with 28 points and third with 15 goals.