Blackhawks clip the Wings at the United Center, 2-1
Once again, the Blackhawks found themselves in a 0-1 hole early in the first. But also once again, Chicago stayed calm and stuck to keeping plays simple. They were eventually rewarded for their effort with a win, breaking the Red Wings' 6-game winning streak.
Valtteri Filppula opened the scoring for Detroit just 2:22 into the game in the dying seconds of Chicago's early penalty (tripping) by Marcus Kruger. The goal snapped the Blackhawks' impressive PK streak, which had been flawless the last few games; and then Corey Crawford slammed the door shut for the rest of the game.
It took another 25 minutes of play before another goal was scored, with Jimmy Hayes tapping in the tying goal. Hayes then had an assist on the GWG, scored by Kruger at 1:53 in the third.
Both teams were down one of their best players: Chicago captain Jonathan Toews was out with an "upper body injury"; and Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk has at least two weeks' of recovery time ahead of him after knee surgery over the weekend. The Red Wings looked like they missed their top scorer (16 G/43 A/59 pts) more than the Blackhawks missed theirs - although the game remained close until the final buzzer, it's impossible to dismiss the impact Datsyuk's absence makes in the lineup.
It was also Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard's first game back in the net after breaking his right index finger a few weeks ago. Howard played well, allowing just 2 goals on 29 SOG.
However, Chicago's Corey Crawford allowed just 1, giving him - and the team - a four-game winning streak and a .958 sv% / 1.25 GAA in those four games. It's still going to take a few games before his overall sv%/GAA dramatically improve (currently .904%/2.82) but at least, finally, they are trending in the right direction. Crawford has noticeably shifted towards positioning and style that reflects his play from last year, and his play has improved dramatically. He's aggressive when properly needed, has quit sliding out of his crease, and is making the huge saves his team needs.
Chicago rookie Jimmy Hayes was called up a few games ago, and has continued to make an impact on the team, as he did earlier in the season.
The win brings Chicago's record to 2-0-2 vs the Red Wings this season; the teams will meet twice more. The Blackhawks now have 73 points and hold on to the 6th position in the Western Conference.
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The Blackhawks will face off against the Dallas Stars on Thursday at the United Center at 7:30pm Central before heading to Los Angeles for a weekend road trip against the Kings and Ducks.