-Greetings on a snowy day in Chicago. Make no mistake, snow will be a factor tonight. It's 6:03 p.m. (EST) as we begin typing this blog and the snow is whipping around in the upper levels at a pretty fast rate. Crews are already shoveling the snow off the ice some two hours before the start of the game.
-Soldier Field is a strange building. The exterior is intact. The iconic marble columns are very evident. But it looks like a large spaceship from Star Trek landed in the middle of it. Walking through it, it feels like two different building. The press box and other facilities are fairly new and have an almost concave feel to it. But when you walk around the bowels, much of the older infrastructure is still in place.
-Chicago is the Windy City, but the part of town Soldier Field is located on is probably the windiest place in Chicago. It's right next to Lake Michigan:
-It'll be interesting to see how the weather impacts the considerable amount of skill in this game. The "keep it simple" cliche was used quite a bit by players yesterday.
-As worn out as the NHL has made the idea of outdoor games, the players, particularly those playing in an outdoor game for the first time, seem to have a genuine appreciation of playing in these events.
-The Penguins' power play was torched by the Canadiens Thursday. While the snow might help limit the Blackhawks' skill today, the Penguins' penalty kill. will have their hands full with tonight's opponent .
-Rob Scuderi was asked what the penalty kill needs to do better after Thursday night. He tersely replied, "Take fewer penalties."
-Brooks Orpik expanded, "More than the [penalty] kill, it was more our discipline. But Putting ourselves in those situations was the biggest thing. Taking some penalties in the offensive zone. That puts a lot of pressure on the [penalty] kill when you continuously keep going back on it, especially with teams with talented power plays."
-When the Penguins lost to the Canadiens Thursday, Jussi Jokinen, one of the best shootout specialists in NHL history, was not used as the Penguins' first three shooters. He's in the midst of an 0-for-5 slump this season, the longest of his career.
When asked about his lack of success this season, Jokinen said, "I've been using the same move for nine years. It's about the time the goalies figure out. But when I go out there, I feel so well so that's still my go-to move. I've had a little bit of tough luck this year. Hit a couple of post and goalies have made a couple of tough saves. That's the move that has brought me success. I still have a lot of confidence in that move but at the same time... maybe I've got to get some more moves."
-Some pregame photos. The "barn:"
-A snowy night at said barn:
-Patrick Kane is kind of popular:
-The pavilion set up outside for fans:
-A curious promotion to offer during a snow storm:
-As always, the longest line is:
-Stanley Cup Ring heads:
-Fans entering the barn:
-The main concourse is choked with fans:
-A few space heaters are set up to heat up some fans:
-A World War I monument:
-Yeesh, Petr Bondra Blackhawks:
-Duncan Keith Michigan State:
-Gibsonia's Brandon Saad:
-Mats Sundin Maple Leafs?
-Wayne Gretzky Oilers?
-Craig Ludwig Stars?!?
-Jersey Foul of the Night...:
-Mario Lemieux 2002 All-Star Game:
-Another Finnish double-voweled Penguin Olli Maatta:
-The always rare Mean Gin(o) Malkin/Mean Joe Greene combo:
-Jersey of the Night: Blackhawks goaltending great and former Penguins general manager Tony Esposito:
-The Penguins' starters are Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Evgeni Malkin, Brooks Orpik, Rob Scuderi and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Chuck Kobasew, Kris Letang and Paul Martin.
-In warmups, the Penguins' lines and defensive pairings were:
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Brian Gibbons
Jussi Jokinen - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Tanner Glass - Brandon Sutter - Joe Vitale
Taylor Pyatt - Craig Adams - Deryk Engelland
Matt Niskanen - Olli Maatta
Brooks Orpik - Rob Scuderi
Robert Bortuzzo - Simon Despres
-The Blackhawks starters are Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford.
-Their scratches are Sheldon Brookbank and Peter Regin.
-The national anthem:
18:56: James Neal chucks a wrister which Crawford denies.
18:01: A wrister by Andrew Shaw from the right wing is deflected out of play.
16:18: The temperature at game time was 17.4 degrees.
15:48: During a delayed penalty, Patrick Sharp takes a feed from Marcus Kruger and rips a wrister. Fleury smothers it. Despres is called for tripping Kruger. That won't help Despres endear himself to the coaching staff. Brandon Sutter, Craig Adams, Scuderi and Brooks Orpik take the ice.
14:13: A wrister by Kris Versteeg in the right circle is over the cage.
13:48: Despres' minor is killed. Chicago didn't do much with that.
13:23: A wrister by Sharp from the right wing is snagged by Fleury. With the first television timeout, crews skate onto the ice to remove snow.
13:04: A wrister by Pyatt is snagged by Crawford.
12:30: Kruger jumps on a loose puck int he blue paint and jabs a backhander on net. Fleury kicks it out. Tough save.
12:23: Neal tried to chip and chase a puck up the left wing and the puck sort of died in the snow. A Blackhawks defender was able to easily skate away with the puck.
11:24: Bortuzzo topples Versteeg with a tough hit in the neutral zone.
9:33: A wrister by Kunitz is kicked out by Crawford.
8:35: Pyatt is out with Crosby and Gibbons.
8:12: Glass smacks Brandon Bollig from behind into Chicago right wing boards. He left his feet too. A scrum breaks out. Officials break it up. Glass is sent off for boarding. Not a good penalty. Scuderi, Orpik, Adams and Sutter take the ice.
11:14: Fleury smothers a puck and a scrum breaks out with Bortuzzo and Bryan Bickell in the middle of it.
8:04: Toews cranks a slapper from teh right point. Fleury kicks it out.
6:47: Adams rattle Hossa behind the Penguins' net with a solid hit into the boards.
6:12: The Glass minor is killed with relatively little threat.
4:35: Saad rips a wrister from the right circle. Fleury kicks it out.
4:25: Chicago gets the lead. Controlling a puck behind the net, Toews deals a pass to Sharp in the right circle. Sharp leans to his right an swipes a wrister by Fleury's shoulder on the far side. Toews and Saad get assists. Blackhawks 1-0.
2:14: The Penguins get a power play as Johnny Oduya is nabbed for holding Neal. Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Kunitz and Niskanen take the ice.
1:07: Off a cross-ice feed by Niskanen, Malkin flings a wrister wide to the far side.
0:10: As the Oduya minor expires, the snow has slowed down considerably.
0:00: End of period. Blackhawks 1, Penguins 0.
-It seemed like both teams were unsure of this environment and were hesitant to really push anything offensively. The Penguins seemed more hesitant than the Blackhawks.
-The snow has given both teams trouble with the puck. Some players have had it come to near stops as they push it up ice.
-No word yet if O'Hare International Airport has direct flights to Wilkes-Barre. Simon Despres' penalty can't help his case with the coaching staff.
-It's hard to say anyone in a white jersey had much to offer.
-Bortuzzo seems to be more than willing to mix it up with the Blackhawks.
-Neither team has anything going on the power play.
-The Blackhawks a 14-5 lead in shots on net.
-The Blackhawks have an 18-7 lead in attempted shots.
-Toews leads the game with four shots.
-Kunitz and Neal each lead the Penguins with two shots.
-Orpik leads the game with 8:04 of ice time.
-Hjalmarsson leads the Blackhawks with 7:37.
-The Blackhawks have a 15-4 lead in faceoffs (79 percent).
-Sharp is 6 for 6 (100 percent).
-Crosby is 2 for 7 (29 percent).
-No one has more than one blocked shot.
20:00: Hossa will not return to the game due to an "upper-body" injury. He seemed a little unsteady after Adams slammed him behind the Pittsburgh net on a backcheck with 6:46 remaining in the first period.
17:57: Another penalty for Despres. He is nabbed for high sticking Saad. Another strike against him. xxx take the ice. The great Joe Vitale, Adams, Orpik and Scuderi take the ice.
17:46: With Fleury out of position, Toews has wide open net off a feed from Shaw but can't get a clean stick on the puck. He ends up puting off the post and Fleury smothers. Bortuzzo washes out Toews.
17:30: A wrister by Shaw from the right circle is blocked out of play by Orpik.
16:36: Kane flies up the right win and release a wrister which clangs off the far post
16:06: Keith booms a slapper from the left circle. Fleury fights it off.
16:02: More iron for Kane. Keith settles a puck in the left circle and deals to Kane in the right circle. Kane grips and rips a wrister off the near post. The Penguins are living dangerously.
14:02: The Penguins get a power play to work with. Keith is called for delay of game after throwing the puck out of play. Kunitz, Crosby, Niskanen, Neal and Malkin take the ice.
13:10: The snow has picked back up and it is swirling quite a bit. During a stoppage, Rozsival falls to the ice after Kunitz socked him in the chest. He takes several moments to recover to his skates and eventually does. Kunitz gets a roughing minor, a stupid one at that. We'll have four on-four play for 1:04.
12:51: Another penalty. Oduya is called for interference against Crosby. after he held up Crosby in the Chicago slot. Toews gives Crosby some grief, presumably for a perceived dive. The Penguins will have a four-on-three power play for 48 seconds.
12:19: Malkin has a one-timer from the center point blocked.
12:02: The Keith minor expires. Play is back to four-on-four.
12:55: Keith nearly had a breakaway but Malkin intercepts the would-be breakout pass for him. That was huge.
11:49: A slapper by Crosby clears the net.
11:33: On a two-on-one, Keith rips a wrister from the right wing which Fleury kicks out of play.
11:08: Toews cuts inside Orpik in the slot and release a wrister from the right circle to the far side. Fleury stretches out and snags with a nice glove save.
10:51: Oduya returns to play. Back to five-on-five.
9:47: Sutter heads off the ice after being struck in the mouth. He's in quite a bit of pain. No penalties.
9:12: Jonathan Toews decids to simply score a goal. He drives the puck up ice down the slot and dekes by a flat-footed Orpik. He then attacks the net and tucks a puck through Fleury's five hole. The puck squirts through into the cage and the Blackhawks celebrate. Officials don't signal anything and consult a video. After lenghty review, officials rule it a goal. There seemed to be some dispute over if the while blew. A bad goal, especially for Orpik and Fleury. The goal is unassisted. Blackhawks 2-0.
8:22: Yet another penalty. Keith is called for high sticking Gibbons. Crosby, Malkin, Kunitz, Neal and Niskanen take the ice.
7:26: Niskanen has a big shot blocked by Oduya.
6:11: With play back to five-on-five, play is halted for a lengthy stretch as snow is removed.
4:15: With Crawford out of position, Malkin settles a loose puck and snaps off a quick shot from the right circle. Somehow, Crawford gets a piece of it.
3:17: The rout is on. An offensive zone turnover leads to a three-on-one for Chicago, Kane controls the puck up the left wing against an overwhelmed Scuderi. Kane slows down, waits for an opening and snaps off a pass to a Versteeg planted to the right of the cage. Versteeg plunks the puck into the cage for an easy goal. Kunitz and Bortuzzo were lagging to get back into the play. Put that one on Kunitz for his turnover but give Kane credit for making a nice pass in cruddy conditions. Kane and Michal Handzus get assists. Blackhawks 3-0.
1:52: Niskanen cranks a one-timer from the right point. It hits a body.
1:18: Yet another penalty. Rozsival is called for tripping Neal. Kunitz, Crosby, Malkin, Niskane take the ice.
0:53: Malkin booms a slapper from the right point. It hits a cluster of bodies in front. Kunitz mines for a rebound but can't get a clean stick on one.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 3, Blackhawks 0.
-Talk about a one-sided game. The Blackhawks have taken this contest over. They've adapted to the environment while the Penguins are almost tip-toeing though this.
-Orpik and Scuderi have been working as a pairing most of the night while Bortuzzo and Despres, a duo in Wilkes_Barre/Scranton last season, has been used tonight.
-The Blackhawks stars have outshown the Penguin's stars. Kane and Toews have been the focal point of Chicago's offense. Crosby and Malkin have been invisible outside of a few chances with the man advantage.
-There have been a ton of power plays this game.
-Fleury could have done a better job on Toews' goal but he has been under assault most of the night.
-How bad would this game be if the Blackhawks had not hit a few posts?
-The Blackhawks have a 31-18 lead in shots on net.
-The Blackhawks have a 42-34 lead in attempted shots.
-Toews leads the game with six shots.
-Kunitz leads the Penguins with four shots.
-Niklas Hjalmarsson leads the game with 16:29 of ice time.
-Niskanen leads the penguins with 15:59.
-The Blackhawks have a 30-18 lead in faceoffs (63 percent).
-Kruger is 10 for 12 (83 percent).
-Crosby is 8 for 20 (40 percent).
-Oduya leads the game with three blocked shots.
-Sutter leads the Penguins with two blocked shots.
20:00: The Penguins will start the period with 46 seconds of power-play time on "fresh" ice.
19:14: The Rozsival minor expires.
16:59: Jokinen has a wrister blocked by Oduya.
15:57: Toews has a slapper blocked by Despres.
15:02: Attendance has been announced as 62,921.
14:44: A backhander by Saad is wide of the cage.
13:39: The Penguins get a goal with a little luck. After Shaw turns the puck over in his own zone, Malkin whips it on net from the right circle. Crawford fights off the rebound. Neal tries to settle it and plays it to the crease. Seabrook inexplicably shoots it right into his own cage. Oof. Seabrook holds his head up in disgust and the Penguins celebrate. Neal gets credit. The goal is unassisted. Blackhawks, 3-1.
12:05: A wrister by Engelland from the right circle is high over the cage.
10:03: Bortuzzo limps off to the bench. Play is halted to change sides of the ice to account for the wind.
9:31: Fumbling a hand off with Crawford, Kruger flips a puck out of play. That's two minutes for delay of game. The Penguins must score here.
9:12: Niskanen cranks a one-timer form above the right circle wide of the cage.
8:58: A slapper by Neal from the left circle is snagged by Crawford.
7:31: Kruger's minor is killed. The Penguins did little with that chance.
6:11: Nail. Coffin. Saad pushes the puck up the right wing, draws in Bortuzzo and backhands a pass to Bickell in the slot. Bryan Bickell drives to net, goes forehand, backhand and jams a bachander on net. Fleury makes the initial stop but allows a rebound which Bickell jams in. Saad and Rozsival get assists. Fire Craig Patrick. Blackhawks 4-1.
4:16: Engelland whips a wrister from the right wing corner. Crawford holds it out.
3:31: Bortuzzo heads to the dressing room.
3:15: Crosby cranks a one-timer from the right circle. Crawford eats it up.
3:05: A wrister by Orpik from the right half wall is denied by Crawford.
2:59: Neal has a chance in tight on the right wing but can't beat Crawford.
2:08: The Hawks keep piling it on. After an offensive zone turnover by Orpik, Sharp pushes the puck up the left wing and deals a centering pass to Toews. Toews rips a wrister which Fleury stops initially. The Rebound hops up and is knocked in by Despres accidentally. Oof. The goal is unassisted. Blackhawks 5-1.
1:33: Maatta chops a slapper from the right point. Crawford says no.
0:00: End of game. Blackhawks 5, Penguins 1.
-We'll get to the Penguins and how poorly they played in a moment. Let's look at the big picture first. On the elevator to the press box, we overhead a conversation about the value of an event like this. One person questioned holding a game in conditions like this and how it might impact the quality of a game. Another person pointed out that friends of his in Atlanta weren't huge hockey fans but they planned on watching this game because of the spectacle of it.
-Yes, with all the advertising and along with the blatant money grab this games have become with inflated ticket sales and different jerseys, the commercial feel to this game can get overwhelming. But seeing 60,000-plus fans tonight dance, sing and celebrate in the snow under the lights eliminated any jaded feelings we have about outdoor games for one night at least. This in many ways, was a celebration of hockey.
-We've attended all three games the Penguins have participated in, tonight, the 2008 and the 2011 Winter Classic. We'll still give the edge to the 2008 game as far as being the most special to us personally, mainly because it was such a new event back then, but this game rivaled it. The snow, the venue, the fans. They made this a great night. The only thing missing was the lack of a competitive game.
-Dan Bylsma summed this game up perfectly in the postgame press conference. He said, "It wouldn’t have mattered if we played this game inside or outside, snow or no snow. They were better, more prepared."
-For all their skill and precision, the Blackhawks adjusted as this game wore on. They kept things simple, they played meat and potatoes and when the rare chance presented itself, they were able to pull off a pretty play. In contrast, the Penguins still tried to make the cute little plays in tight spaces and stretch passes through the neutral zone. They didn't simplify things. They tried to play this game like it was a Tuesday night against the Hurricanes in Consol Energy Center. They failed to adapt well to the conditions and were blasted by the Blackhawks as a result.
-The Blackhawks took a few shifts to really get used to the conditions. In contrast, the Penguins looked like the oiler drillers on that asteroid in "Armageddon."
-Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell explained his team's approach well:
"We simplified. We chipped it and scored. Got the puck to the net. I think we had almost 40 shots. We were able to get second opportunities. We had some highlight goals. Some will be on ESPN, TSN back home. But to just keep it simple. We did and we executed."
-Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville pointed out how his team started the game with an advantage in shots and puck possession:
"I thought advancing the puck and just putting it on net … we had a lot of shots early, the quality might not have been there but we generated a lot of pace and zone time."
-Blackhawks forward Michal Handzus offered:
"We tried to be aggressive [defensively] because it was tough to handle the puck. If you jump on it right away, it was a good chance they would lose it and we could get it back. And when we had it, we tried to it very, very simple. We had 14 shots in the first period which was great. That was our approach, a very simple game."
-So basically, the Blackhawks had a better plan of attack entering this game and executed it almost perfectly.
-The Blackhawks best players were much better than the Penguins' best players. This game didn't have the gravity of a playoff contest but Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane stepped up on a national stage. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were almost invisible in contrast.
-The simplest way of explaining this game is to point out that the Penguins' only goal was scored by a Blackhawks player.
-Brooks Orpik has had better games in his career. On a night when skill was expected to be limited due to the snow, Toews looked like Gail Sayers dodging some nameless Detroit Lions linebacker a handful of times he went at Orpik.
-There were plenty of calls to put Simon Despres into the lineup after Thursday's game against the Canadiens. He "responded" by taking a few penalties and playing a pretty ineffective game.
-The defensive pairings shifted fairly early in the game. Orpik was teamed with Rob Scuderi while Despres was paired with Robert Bortuzzo. Whatever Bylsma hoped to accomplish with that move, we doubt he got what he wanted.
-Chris Kunitz did not have a good game by any stretch of the imagination. He took a selfish penalty which eliminated a power play and had a turnover which led to a goal.
Marc-Andre Fleury needed to prevent Toews' first goal, even if Orpik failed to slow the Blackhawks captain down. That was a preventable goal. Beyond that, Fleury was under assault all night.
-The Penguins' second line was a complete non-factor in five-on-five play. James Neal "scored" but Brent Seabrook put it into his own net. Neal, Malkin and Jussi Jokinen play a fancy game and these were not ideal conditions for that type of game.
-The bottom six forwards had another ineffective night. We're not sure how Ray Shero will operate as the trade deadline approaches, but we would consider a bottom six forward or forwards a bigger priority than a top-line winger.
-Faceoffs were another key for Chicago. Early on the Blackhawks centers own the dot.
-After getting torched by the Canadiens, the Penguins' penalty kill by blanking the Blackhawks on all three power plays. That said, we're willing to bet the snow might have hindered each team's power play more than the opposing penalty kills.
-Speaking of which, there were a ton of penalties for both teams. This was the second consecutive Penguins game officials were liberal with the calls. Again, we wonder if the NHL has issued an edict to on-ice officials to increase penalties? The league has been known to do that after all-star breaks or at the start of a month.
-The difference in depth between the two teams was very evident. That said, the Blackhawks entered the game with only one player - backup goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin - on injured reserve. The Penguins have their top defenseman out of the lineup because of a stroke in addition to other contributors.
-Marian Hossa was diagnose with an "upper-body" injury. Quenneville said he would miss some time but it wasn't long-term.
-In the middle of the game, Johnny Oduya was called for interfernece against Crosby in the Chicago zone. During the ensuing television time out, Toews appeared to jaw at Crosby. After the game, Toews was asked if he would share the contents of their conversation. Toews grinned and said, "No, not at all. I'll leave it at that. Staying away from that one."
-The fact that this game took less than three hours to complete was surprising. Normally, there are more stoppages to clear snow or repair ice. We're not sure if the league decided to simply not shovel the snow that much or what, but this game moved along pretty quickly.
-The Blackhawks had a 40-32 lead in shots on net.
-The Blackhawks had a 58-56 edge in attempted shots.
-Toews and Neal each led the game with seven shots on net.
-Matt Niskanen led the game with 25:35 of ice time.
-Keith led the Blackhawks with 23:04.
-The Blackhawks had a 39-30 lead in faceoffs (57 percent).
-Marcus Kruger was 10 for 13 (77 percent).
-Crosby was 16 for 34 (47 percent).
-Oduya and Seabrook each led the game with three blocked shots.
-Despres and Brandon Sutter each led the Penguins with two blocked shots.
-Pittsburgh teams are now 1-6 all-time at Soldier Field. (The Steelers are 1-5.)
-Highlights (so to speak):