Facing an Original Six is always something special

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Facing an Original Six is always something special

When you are forced to play 14 of 18 games on the road during the "Dog Days of Hockey," you know there are some quirks in the schedule.

One of the benefits of this strange sequence for the Blackhawks is that we are in the midst of watching our third Original Six team in the last five games. Enjoy it while it lasts because the next Original Six team we will see is on the last day of the regular season when the Blackhawks face off against the Detroit Red Wings, a game that should have plenty of playoff implications.

So why the love affair with Original Six teams? For me, it's all about the history. The NHL has been around for 95 years, and all of the Original Six have been around for the better part of that. Chicago, Detroit, Toronto, Montreal, Boston, and New York.

As a guy who played in the 1980s and 90s, it's hard to describe going into a building that you know Jean Beliveau, Maurice "The Rocket" Richard, Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Jean Ratelle, Eddie Giacomin, Dave Keon, Tim Horton, Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull and Tony Esposito played in. I know all of those buildings are different now -- except for Madison Square Garden -- but seeing those team jerseys brings back a lot of great memories. With the geographical realignment of 1998, Chicago now only has the Red Wings as consistent Original Six combatants.

Each of these cities are hockey hotbeds in their own way, with the title going to Montreal. Even after a disappointing season and a team in turmoil, they still pack the Bell Centre with loud and knowledgeable fans. I think that's what I liked best about playing in these cities: People know hockey, they grew up with it and although some never played, they had their dad's and grandfather's explaining in great detail the rules and regulations of this game.

Who knows how the battle between the NHL and the Players Association plays out this off season. I'm thinking cooler heads will prevail, and with that, an opportunity to see our five brethren on a more consistent basis. That should make for more great history and more great hockey.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' shutout win over Bruins

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' shutout win over Bruins

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 1-0 victory over the Boston Bruins on Friday night:

1. A sluggish start.

The Blackhawks have gotten off to some solid starts lately, scoring the game's first goal in the opening frame in five of their last six contests heading into Friday. But they were lucky to get out of the first in a 0-0 tie this time.

They had 15 shot attempts (six on goal) through the first 20 minutes while the Bruins had 30 attempts (17 on goal). Fortunately for the Blackhawks, Scott Darling stopped all of them that came his way.

Boston's third line of Ryan Spooner, Riley Nash and David Backes dominated possession, leading all skaters with a plus-12 Corsi in the period.  

2. Scott Darling steals two points.

Joel Quenneville decided to go with Darling in an effort to give a slumping Corey Crawford a chance to reset, and the Lemont native an opportunity to play in front of his father away from home, where he's used to watching him shine. It's safe to say he made his papa proud by putting on a great show.

Darling turned aside all 30 shots he faced, including 17 in the first period, for his second shutout of the season and fourth of his career. He has now allowed two or fewer goals in eight of his last 12 starts. 

Asked after the game whether he will earn a second straight start Sunday when the Blackhawks host the Vancouver Canucks, Quenneville responded, "We'll see."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

3. Special teams not a factor.

In a game that featured only one goal, you'd think the way to crack the scoresheet would be on the man advantage. That didn't happen.

The Blackhawks went 0-for-3 on the power play, while the Bruins failed to cash in on their only two opportunities. Boston entered the contest by going 7-for-17 on the power play in their previous five games, good for a 41.2 success rate.

It was a nice bounce-back game for the Blackhawks' penalty kill unit, which allowed a goal on the man advantage in their previous two games.

4. Third line steps up at crucial moment.

The Blackhawks' third line of Vinnie Hinostroza, Marian Hossa and Tanner Kero had the worst possession numbers among all skaters, each registering a 24 percent Corsi or below. But when their team needed them the most, they stepped up.

With 1:26 left in regulation, Hossa ended his 10-game goal drought by burying home a terrific feed from Kero to snap a 0-0 tie and give the Blackhawks their second consecutive win. It's Hossa's 17th goal of the campaign, which ties Artemi Panarin for second on the team, and his fifth game-winning goal of the year. His 83 career game-winning goals now ranks 24th in NHL history, surpassing Mike Bossy, and remains fifth among active players.

Hossa's goal also moved him within a tie of Pierre Turgeon for 37th on the all-time goals list with 516.

Kero has six points in his last six games, while Hinostroza has two goals and one assist in his past two.

5. Despite recent struggles, Bruins in good hands with Claude Julien.

It seems like this is a discussion every year, but firing Julien would be a huge mistake for a Bruins team that fell to 3-5-2 in their last 10 games. They're still the No. 1 possession team in the NHL, controlling 55.42 percent of the even-strength shot attempts, and give up the fifth-fewest high danger scoring chances with 326, according the naturalstattrick.com. They average the second-most shots on goal per game at 33.9, and allow the second-fewest at 26.5.

To back it up, their PDO is 97.5 percent, the sum of a team's even-strength save percentage and shooting percentage that usually works it way toward 100, which indicates they're due for a fairly large correction. They're not getting bounces right now, but they're playing the right way and a change behind the bench would be a step in the wrong direction, considering Julien is easily a top-five coach in the NHL.

Marian Hossa scores game winner as Blackhawks beat Bruins

Marian Hossa scores game winner as Blackhawks beat Bruins

BOSTON (AP) — Marian Hossa scored with 1:26 left to give the Chicago Blackhawks a 1-0 victory over the Boston Bruins on Friday night.

Scott Darling stopped 30 shots for his second shutout of the season.

Tuukka Rask made 21 saves for Boston, which has lost three straight games and four of its last five.

It was a rematch of the 2013 Stanley Cup finals, when Chicago scored twice in the final 76 seconds of the third period in Game 6 to overcome a one-goal deficit and claim the NHL title.

This time, the game was scoreless before the Blackhawks made their final charge. The puck made its way to Tanner Kero on Rask’s left; he slid it across the crease for Hossa, who put it in the net.