The All-Star break couldn't have come at a better time for the Chicago Blackhawks who lost a home-and-home series with Nashville and fell to fourth place in their division and sixth in the Western Conference. Tuesday night, they began their longest stretch away from the United Center in over a decade at Vancouver. After three consecutive seasons with both teams eliminating each other from playoff contention, this is becoming one of the better rivalries in the NHL.
Even with the return of Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews to the lineup and a playoff-like atmosphere, the Hawks had no answer for the Sedin twins in the overtime period as they fell to their rivals 3-2. From behind the net, Henrik found his brother Daniel in front of an open net with just over one minute remaining in the extra frame. It's always good to earn at least one point on the road, but not enough when two of the three teams you are chasing both earned two.
Over the break, the Blackhawks added to their depth at center by acquiring veteran, and former Canuck, Brendan Morrison from Calgary in exchange for minor league defenseman Brian Connelly. 'Hawks general manager Stan Bowman recognized that his second line needed an anchor. "We're not a strong team in terms of NHL experience at center," he said.
Morrison's debut on the second line between Sharp and Marian Hossa was shaky, at best. Turnovers plagued him throughout and a golden scoring chance on a power play was flat out missed. "[Schneider] made a great save. I took my time with it. Shot it hard. I just didn’t get it high enough," he said. It might take a little time getting used to playing on the same line as two prolific goal scorers. Finding continuity will ultimately lead to better passing and limit the turnovers.
The Blackhawks won just 20 of 62 faceoffs (32%) but still managed to register 39 shots on goal. One has to wonder if Toews, the NHL's faceoff percentage leader, is back playing at full strength; it's rare to see him win less than 50% of his draws, as he did Tuesday night. Also, he normally logs the most ice time for Hawk forwards, but that distinction went to rookie Andrew Shaw, who continues to impress though he didn't scratch the score sheet.
Overall, the Blackhawks didn't play a great game on paper, but they were satisfied to leave Vancouver with one point. Viktor Stalberg, who registered his 15th goal of the season, likes their chances as the road trip continues. "Upsetting end but that was a great game for us coming out of the break,” he said. “We keep playing like that we’re going to win a lot of games.”
The nine-game road trip continues in Edmonton on Thursday.
Steve Peters is a staff writer for NHLfanchat.com. Follow on twitter: @stevepeters_