The streak lives, but their locker room was quiet anyway. Despite a gold glove performance by Corey Crawford and copious amounts of power play space in overtime, the Blackhawks absorbed a 3-2 shootout homecoming defeat Tuesday night by the Anaheim Ducks, a strong team that might be visiting the United Center again come May or June.
“We weren’t at our best,” intoned Head Coach Joel Quenneville, whose rampaging roster nevertheless salvaged a point, boosted its record to 10-0-3 and played just well enough before a pumped gathering of 21,188 to avoid bombing in the dreaded trap game that haunts NHL types. The first date in your building after a two-week tour of six other buildings is fraught with danger, but the Blackhawks still haven’t lost in regulation since April.
Also, they still haven’t scored while skating with a man advantage for 3:50 of the five minute sudden death, a precursor to the climactic one-on-one drill during which Nick Bonino and Corey Perry tallied for the Ducks, but only Jonathan Toews for the Hawks. Crawford bemoaned his effort in the tie-breaker, but he deserved not to even participate in it. The Ducks tied the match, 2-2, deep in the third period on a goal by Andrew Cogliano, who had shaken his check and his helmet. Anaheim’s only other marker came on a powerplay, Ryan Getzlaf collecting off Brent Seabrook’s inadvertent deflection.
Getzlaf, a large man, was drilled moments later by Bryan Bickell—hard but clean. Brad Staubitz apparently had a second opinion, so he immediately initiated a joust that he did not win against Bickell. Within 45 seconds, the Blackhawks had flipped a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead on tallies by Nick Leddy off a power play and Brandon Saad via Toronto. Saad fired from a horizontal position, the puck popped over goalie Viktor Fasth and past the goal line after a scrum. The cage, however, was dislodged during the sequence. But when? Officials here did not signal a score, but video review from league experts rendered a different verdict.
Crawford, meanwhile, was picking pucks out of the air like an octopus. He stoned Perry from point-blank range, flashed the leather again during an Anaheim power play and overall earned Coach Q’s praise for a “special” evening. His players, however, seemed disappointed but the Blackhawks really haven’t lost too much lately besides Duncan Keith’s chances of snagging the Lady Byng Trophy. When he went after Andrew Desjardins in San Jose, penalty minutes added up, as did his stature for a random act of team building.
Tuesday night, the Blackhawks added to their best start ever, although one could nominate a civilian for honorable mention: Chairman Rocky Wirtz, 2007. He came out of the blocks that October, and hired John McDonough to introduce the front office to the 21st century. Since then, the Blackhawks have won a Stanley Cup, registered 193 consecutive sellouts, and played 102 games over .500.
How’s that for a brisk takeoff?