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Friday, December 12, 2014

Chara Returns but Nothing Stops the Chicago Steamroller from Winning Its 8th Straight Game

I still can't get over how enjoyable it has to be these days for Blackhawks fans. Their team has it all: skill, brawn, speed, depth, good goaltending, solid coaching, etc. Further proof that Chicago (20-8-1) is a machine was proven tonight at TD Garden as they held off Boston (15-13-1) 3-2. The Blackhawks opened up a 3-0 lead in the second period and were able to withstand a ton of pressure by the desperate B's who saw the return of captain Zdeno Chara after nearly two months away (knee injury).

Chicago won its eighth straight game (longest streak in the NHL this season) and the fact that the immortal Scott Darling (32 saves) was the No. 1 star (and deservedly so) shows that they can put virtually anybody in the net and he'll succeed. Starter Corey Crawford is out with a leg injury but it clearly hasn't slowed his team down one bit. Oh and the Blackhawks first two goals were scored by something called Klas Dahlbeck and former BC Eagle Ben Smith.

Dahlbeck's one-timer from Smith and Marcus Kruger at 9:10 of the first period was the Swede's first career NHL goal. I can't wait to tell my grandkids about that, haha "I saw Klas' first NHL goal, I was there!" Like any good fourth-liner, Smith hunted down a rebound at 18:43 and snapped it by Tuukka Rask (18 saves) before he had time to react. Goon Dan Carcillo and Kruger assisted on Smith's third goal of the season.

The Bruins started to wake up in the second period (outshooting the Blackhawks 10-7) as Patrice Bergeron hit the post but when Patrick Kane roofed it for a 3-0 lead at 13:19, you knew it was over given Boston's typical struggles to score against quality opponents or anyone really. Kane's 13th goal of the season was assisted by Kris Versteeg.

For the B's to have any sliver of hope, they needed a goal before the second period was over and Reilly Smith delivered at 18:37. Brad Marchand's pass from behind Chicago's net hit the outside of the goal before Smith banged it home. That deflection was probably enough to throw Darling off the scent. Patrice Bergeron assisted on Smith's seventh goal of the season.

The third period was one of Boston's best of the season (outshooting Chicago 10-2) but like so many other times already, they fell short despite a ton of effort and glorious chances. Torey Krug cut it to 3-2 Blackhawks at 12:17 after an awesome individual play by Milan Lucic (who earlier in the frame had hit the post). Looch split two defensemen then passed it back to Krug for the one-timer, his fifth goal of the season. Andrew Shaw wasn't amused as he cross checked Lucic well after the play which resulted in a fight with Chris Kelly. Wait what? Haha yes mild-mannered Chris Kelly dropped the gloves for the first time since the 2010-11 regular season.

Jonathan Toews was hit awkwardly into the boards by Dennis Seidenberg midway through the second period but even though he clearly had a concussion (apparently nobody remembered his history) the Blackhawks let him stay out there. It was stunning then but quite predictable when he didn't return to start the third period. Hopefully he's ok. I don't think Seidenberg deserves to get suspended but we already know that player safety will take a look at it. He's so strong and Toews was caught in an awkward position that the hit ended up being worse than I'm sure it was intended. On Seideberg's side is the fact that he's never been fined or suspended.

After nearly two weeks between home games, Boston is at the Garden once more-on Saturday afternoon (1, NESN) they face Ottawa (11-12-5) who is a complete mess after firing head coach Paul MacLean earlier this week. Then it's off on another week-long three game (Nashville, Minnesota and Winnipeg) road trip for the Black and Gold. They need points before they start falling too far behind all the Eastern Conference teams that are playing well.

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