I've been given the opportunity to observe the Chicago Blackhawks in person through both their Alberta NHL contests so I thought I would do something a little different than I usually do.
As regular readers of my blog (fictional?) know, I am a big Jonathan Toews fan. He's impressed me not just with his sublime skill (check out this clip for evidence) but also his commitment to sound positional play. For instance, not only was Toews employed multiple times in the same shootout to beat Team USA in the World Junior Championship, he was employed in the final game in more of a shutdown role. He seems to be adapting to the NHL quite well, so I wanted to see a game through the eyes of Jonathan Toews. To that end, as I watched the game I kept a running journal of significant plays made by on a shift per shift basis. I missed his first couple shifts in the game as well as his last shift in the second period, but here is my general record from a live vantage point.
13:26-12:36 - Toews beats a Flame to the puck in corner of the offensive zone (OZ), centering a pass out to the opposite side defenceman on the point who decides against pinching and therefore receiving the pass
11:14-10:30 - Toews wins defensive zone (DZ) draw and later on in the play clears the puck
7:03-6:17 - Toews wins draw (DZ) and later on in the shift gets a shot on in a broken play which produces a huge rebound
4:50-4:11 - Toews steals the puck from a Flame and has it stripped of him almost immediately, later on he sends a breakout pass to a streaking Hawk but it's a bit behind the play.
16:00 - 15:11 - Toews wins another DZ draw, later on he strips a Flame of the puck and clears it
13:41-12:54 - Toews loses a DZ faceoff
10:15-9:34 - Toews completes a couple of nice neutral zone passes and is effective on the forecheck
8:04 - 7:06 - As Toews is covering the point Jarome Iginla becomes wide open in the slot, scoring Calgary's only goal of the game. Later on Toews has a breakout pass intercepted.
4:05-3:30 - Toews digs the puck out of the DZ corner and clears it
20:00-19:30 Toews clears a near miss at the side of the Hawks net. Later on in the play the puck is passed back to Adrian Aucoin on the point who promptly misjudges the pinch decision, allowing Patrick Sharp to test his 1-1 skill with Miikka Kipprusoff. Sharpe wins.
17:00-16:15 - Toews attempts to create an offensive rush with the puck, but he is easily handled at the blueline by the Flame defender
14:20-13:52 - Toews makes a nice takeaway and dumps the puck in the Flames zone before changing
12:15-11:50 - nothing significant
9:50-9:14 - Toews rushes with the puck, makes a fake dump in, steps around a Flame defender and ends up with the puck in the corner. It is later taken away from him.
7:20 -? Loses DZ draw
5:56 - 4:50 - Toews loses the puck behind the Flames net leading to a clear by the Flames
4:00 - misses DZ check high leading to a Flames scoring chance
3:11 - DZ draw win leading to a clear and an ice by the Hawks
3:00 Toews loses the defensive zone draw leading to a couple more Flames chances
2:00-1:20 - Toews' last shift. He dumps the puck into the OZ corner and then misses a pass. Later on he loses the puck in the neutral zone.
END OF GAME
So nothing spectacular from the kid but some solid smart plays and some important faceoff wins. From the naked eye it looked like Toews (and his linemates Tuomo Ruutu and Patrick Kane) drew Regehr and Sarich, while Vic Ferrari's Time on Ice shift chart confirms it (at least on even strength). Up front it looks like Matthew Lombardi, Owen Nolan and Eric Nystrom were given the task of competing with Chicago's top line, and I have to say, they did a pretty good job. Toews and Kane were neutralized for the whole game, I would say one mediocre scoring chance.
The Flames once again got beaten by a team with lesser names playing smarter hockey. I think that's all I'm going to say about that for now.