In a shocking upset, the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, winners of seven straight entering last night's game, defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs. The team in blue and white, fresh from a 29th place finish in 2010, had gone nine straight games (all one-goal decisions) without a loss in regulation. It well and truly was a result that turned the form book upside down. At least, that's what some observers would have you believe.
It’d be awful idiotic to say that we were gonna win every game the rest of the way.
When we looked at Death March, this game was marked as a extremely likely loss. It doesn't diminish the fact that the Leafs' margin of error has shrunk but mentally, I can't see how anyone would show any surprise and in fact, most Leaf fans haven't. James Mirtle notes that the path to the playoffs might not require the team to be undefeated the rest of the way but it'll have to come pretty close.
The game could hardly be considered a surprise. The talent-laden Blackhawks pounced on two early errors by the Leafs to take a 2-0 lead before five minutes had elapsed. Whenever the Leafs looked to have found a way back into the game they were met with Corey Crawford. The biggest save he made was probably on Mikhail Grabovski's penalty shot that could have cut the lead to 5-3 with plenty of time left. @Jay_Uller noted that just prior to the penalty shot Crawford had his right outside edge tended to presumably in order to ensure he could make a strong push in case Grabbo did his spinorama. Throw in that Viktor Stalberg scored the winner and it was all that was expected from the matchup.
The most interesting aspect of the game came during the Satellite Hot Stove when Mike Milbury seemingly came out in favour of eliminating the roster spots for pure fighters and of the NHL taking serious strides against headshots. Greg Brady thinks that this approach could be the league's avenue to break into the mainstream US marketplace. Tom Benjamin noted that the news of Bob Probert's brain damage might have spurred the change of heart. I think that Milbury's right. The league is going to have to do something about fighters as a part of addressing headshots. It was interesting to see how the rest of the Hot Stove, rather than address Milbury's points, tried to mock Mad Mike. Normally, that'd be the best path but this is a serious issue for the NHL. I would have rather heard if the others really believe Ron MacLean's tripe about fighters defending skill players.