Calgary surprises Blackhawks, skates to 3-2 OT victory

Calgary surprises Hawks, skates to 3-2 OT victory

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The NHL season is a long grind.

On Sunday night the Chicago Blackhawks ran into a hot goaltender making his NHL debut and didn't play as well as they have been. The result was the Calgary Flames captured two points by defeating Chicago 3-2 in overtime.

Calgary played the right type of game to be successful, they were patient, blocked a lot of shots and capitalized on limited chances. Their rookie netminder Reto Berra was very good especially in the opening frame and late in third period. The Flames stayed close, got two goals on deflections and were engaged throughout the night. The officiating didn't do Chicago any favors but shouldn't be used as an excuse.

The Blackhawks put a lot of rubber on goal, 44 shots, but didn't get many rebound chances. That was partially due to Berra and some of it was because the Hawks were not playing at their best level. Many times they could take over a game against a similar opponent but Sunday night they did not do so.

As Joel Quenneville mentioned after the game his club was okay but not as good as they have been. Against a team as determined as Calgary and who received a top flight goaltending performance, just being okay doesn't cut it.

As mentioned, it is a long season so it isn't easy to get emotionally ready for every opponent.

There were reasons for the Blackhawks to take the Flames a bit lightly. In recent years they have dominated Calgary overall and haven't lost to them at the United Center in a long time.

The Blackhawks also played on Saturday and had a long flight home from Winnipeg. It looked like they were going to step on the gas early in the second period but couldn't sustain the urgency. So some fatigue could have set in.

Lastly the team will be at the White House Monday to meet President Obama as he congratulates the club on their Stanley Cup win. So maybe some players mentally checked out before the game was decided. Distractions do come into play and the Flames worked hard to stay in the game and took advantage of some breaks.

When the better team loses to a club like Calgary, who are in a rebuilding mode, sometimes it is best to congratulate the winner and move on. That's probably how the coaching staff will deal with this OT loss on home ice and use it for motivation. The players will look to enjoy their trip to the White House and then will regroup.

On Wednesday night the Winnipeg Jets skate into town and will be looking for revenge after an embarrassing home ice loss. It will be another case of a club that shouldn't be able to defeat the Hawks if they are dialed on high.

Al's Shots

Center Marcus Kruger had another very good game in the faceoff circle. Kruger was a winner on 73% of his faceoffs in Winnipeg and Sunday night he was successful on nine of 13 draws for 69%.

Former NHL center Yanic Perreault who was a very good faceoff man is working as a developmental coach for the Blackhawks. One of his main responsibilities is to help the young centers get better at the dot.

This involves being mentally prepared for the opponent as knowing their tendencies is a great benefit. Quenneville made comments about winning faceoffs and it is a combination of factors which is needed. Besides the mental aspects, work is done on technique as well as a player must have the proper strength to succeed.

It could take a while for the young centers to show improvement but for now lessons appear to have clicked for Kruger.

Calgary goaltender Berra was a standout overseas and played with Patrick Kane during the lockout. He was also a key piece to the trade last winter that sent defender Jay Bouwmeester to St. Louis from Calgary. It looks like the Flames could have found their goaltender for the future.

Winger Jeremy Morin saw his playing time shrink Sunday night. He was on the ice for a Calgary goal and only played a total of 7:21.

It is a very competitive situation for the final lineup spot. When the injured Brad Mills returns, Morin or Ben Smith could be the odd man out.

The Blackhawks will be looking to make the most of their schedule over the next two weeks as then it will get tougher. They will conclude the month with seven consecutive road games as the circus comes to town.

I will be back on Thursday and you can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia

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