Awful games in Hawks history: Dec. 31st, 1998

On this final day of 1998, Blackhawks Head Coach Dirk Graham would earn one of the final wins of his (awful) coaching career.

After dropping a heartbreaker 3-2 at home against Philadelphia on Dec. 26th (future-former Blackhawk Valeri Zelepukin would score the game winner), the Blackhawks (10-20-4) found themselves back at the United Center on New Years Eve to face the Mike Milbury coached New York Islanders (13-21-2 ).

Holy shit was this game a barn burner. Also, by barn burner I meant this game must have absolutely sucked. The Blackhawks’ top defensive pairing was Chris Chelios and Dave Manson – arguably the slowest top pairing in Chicago outside of Steve Poapst + Nathan Dempsey a few years later. One total goal was scored. There were 0 episodes of facepunching. Two complete idiots were coaching.

Fortunately for all that were in attendance (ESPN reports that 17,218 were paid – no chance in hell that was accurate) Blackhawks goalie Jocelyn Thibault weathered the storm as Chicago was outshot 7-3 in the first period.

During the intermission Dirk Graham pointed his mustache at the team and told them to get their shit together. And they did! The Hawks tied the Islanders in shots on goal in the second period 12-12. Included in that offensive onslaught was the eventual game winner scored by…

BOB PROBERT!

Probie took a feed from Nelson Emerson (!) and buried it past Islanders goaltender Marco Cousineau. The Hawks stout defensive core (which also included such dynamos as Doug Zmolek, Christian Laflamme, and Bryan Muir) shut the offensive juggernaut of the Islanders (Ziggy Palffy, Sergei Nemchinov, Robert Reichel, and Bryan “Smoke” Smolinski) down.

The Islanders outshot the Blackhawks 28-21 on the game, and according to my imagination, absolutely mopped the floor with them in the offensive zone. Palffy had 8 (!!!) shots on goal and was second on his team in TOI. As a center. Good job, Milbury.

It was a HUGE emotional win for Chicago as they’d go on to win just 2 of their next 10 games leading to Graham’s eventual dismissal.

FINAL: Blackhawks 1 – Islanders 0

BOX SCORE

NOTES:

  • Eric Daze inexplicably played only 7 minutes.
  • EDZOLCZYK played 10 minutes and contributed absolutely nothing. Much like his broadcasts.
  • Dave Manson somehow played almost half of the game and nobody died.
  • Ugh. Chad Kilger.
  • On paper, that Islanders team shouldn’t have been THAT bad.
  • That Blackhawks roster is one of the worst of all-time.
  • Both teams failed on the PP (combined 0-5).
  • Jocelyn Thibault got a shut out. Wow.
  • That was one of Craig Mills’ last career hockey games. He was awful.

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