Blackhawks romp to a 6-1 win over Blue Jackets to end road trip
After a solid win in New York, the most important thing the Blackhawks had to do in this afternoon's contest against the Columbus Blue Jackets was play a solid game and win. Thankfully, they did both, romping to a 6-1 blowout in a mostly-solid game.
It wasn't a perfect start, although the Blackhawks didn't look like a team that was playing its final game of a 9-game road stretch. After some initial give-and-go, Sami Lepistö blasted a shot intended to spring the waiting Patrick Sharp on a breakaway that probably could have been the first goal of the game. Instead, Derek Brassard anticipated the play - after all, the Blackhawks are getting well-known for this particular move - and he snagged the puck, and scored on the Blackhawks instead, 5:13 into the game.
Not surprisingly, Coach Quenneville benched Lepistö shortly thereafter, and the defenseman wouldn't see TOI again until the third, when the game was safely in hand. This is typically Quenneville's mode of punishment, but when Dylan Olsen also had a bad turnover in the game that nearly led to a goal, he wasn't benched. One can only imagine the frustration that Lepistö - or other players on the Blackhawks - feel when they have limited ice time. They need to play perfect or they'll be benched the rest of that game, or spend a stretch in the press box. It puts extra pressure on those players already limited game play; and they aren't given enough time or games to prove themselves.
While it would have been nice for Crawford to have stopped that one goal - a slapshot that he could see coming - and the Blackhawks to finally have gotten a shutout, the single goal ultimately did not matter. Jonathan Toews scored a beauty of a goal to get the Blackhawks on the board at 12:27 in the first, and then Chicago added five more unanswered goals. Viktor Stalberg added to his "Blue Jacket killer" tally by putting in goal #2 late in the first; the two Patricks (Sharp and Kane) added two more less than two minutes apart in the second, which chased Steve Mason from the goal for Allen York. Marcus Kruger made it 5-1 early in the third. Then Lepistö, on his first shift back on the ice since being benched in the first, put in goal #6 less than a minute later.
The Blackhawks are now 5-0-0 against the Blue Jackets this season and have outscored them 26-9. They will play them once more this season on March 20th.
From here, the Blackhawks head home for an early game against the white-hot Blues on Sunday morning. St. Louis is coming off a 4-0 win vs. the Minnesota Wild on Saturday afternoon.
- Corey Crawford has returned in the past two games to the style that had him playing well all year: that is to say, deeper in his net and less aggressive play of the puck. Like many things that haven't been working for the Blackhawks this year, one can only wonder why it took 3/4 of the season for him to return what worked so well for him last year. A win over the best team in the East and a blowout over Columbus - yeah, even if it's just the Blue Jackets - should not only help his confidence considerably, but should keep him playing that style the rest of the year.
- The penalty kill has been flawless in the past three games. Finally, they figured out the PK wasn't working and made the necessary changes to combat that.
- Unfortunately, the PP remains unfruitful. It's time to shake up the power play. Put some players on there with something to prove and who never usually play on the PP; they might surprise you.
- Keith and Seabrook played reasonable minutes in a game that should have seen them play even less in order to keep them rested for tomorrow's game vs. the Blues. John Scott dressed as a seventh defenseman/occasional forward for this game, and since tomorrow is the Blues, it would honestly not be a surprise to see the lineup remain the same.
- Speaking of John Scott, what was Derek Dorsett thinking? The fight was almost comic relief in a game that was already out of the Blue Jackets' control. Scott has a good 8" over Dorsett, so Scott basically held him at arm's length and just got a few punches in before the refs pulled them apart, and Dorsett took an instigator penalty/various PIM.