Blackhawks find their mojo in shootout win over the Blues
The Blackhawks are still without their Captain, but they're still grabbing points - and, more importantly, getting wins - out of their opponents in the home stretch for the playoffs.
Coming into the game, the Blues were holding three streaks: they hadn't allowed a PPG in nearly 50 PK attempts (it would end at 51); they were on a 5-game winning streak; and the Blues were also 36-0-0 when scoring 3 or more goals.
Against the Blues tonight, Chicago broke open the scoring early with an Andrew Brunette goal just 2:51 into the game. It hasn't felt like the Blackhawks have been getting on the scoresheet first lately, so to not start out the game in a hole was a good change of pace. St. Louis had other ideas, however, and Jamie Langenbrunner evened up the score just 59 seconds later. A goals by Andy McDonald would put the Blues up 2-1 shortly after Jamal Mayers and BJ Crombeen scrapped - not the first time lately that the opposing team took more life out of a fight than the Blackhawks did. Patrik Berglund would round out the scoring for the Blues to make it 3-1 with 4:01 remaining in the first; it would be the last that the Blues would score for the night.
Rookie enforcer Brandon Bollig also fought with Ryan Reaves after Reaves hit Mayers. While it was nice to see somebody sticking up for Mayers for a change, Bollig did have to skate over to engage with Reaves, and he ended up taking an instigator penalty. It was a clean hit, and it could be argued either way about whether it was a worthwhile penalty, especially as the Hawks were already down 2, and it meant that Chicago would have to kill off nearly a full penalty to start the second. It was the only time the Blackhawks would be shorthanded.
Ray Emery was allowed to finish out the period for the Blackhawks, but 3 goals in 6 SOG was his ticket to the bench, and Corey Crawford came in as relief to start the second.
Viktor Stalberg would break his scoring drought early in the second, and Brent Seabrook would tie things up for Chicago with a power play goal several minutes into the third. From there on out, it would be a battle between Corey Crawford and Jaroslav Halak through the end of regulation and overtime. Patrick Kane scored the only goal in the shootout to give Chicago the win.
Two months ago, it didn't seem that the Blackhawks would be in this position; they sat close to the top of the Western Conference. Then the team hit a losing streak which consumed most of the month, and can probably be attributed to being the main reason the Blackhawks won't have home ice during the first round of playoffs. However, unlike the end of last season, the Hawks are not in nearly as dire a position, although they will certainly need to have a solid winning percentage to round out the season.
The Blues are one of the best teams in the league right now; they may even win the President's Trophy. Tonight's game was a vital win for the Blackhawks - not only was it an important win against a division/conference rival, but the team as a whole stepped up to show they can be just as tough and physical as any team in the league.
During the 2009-10 championship season, the Blackhawks showed they could play any style hockey necessary against any opponent. We are beginning to see that from the current team. With Patrick Kane getting hot after a relatively cool season, and Jonathan Toews expected to return from a concussion next week or so, the Blackhawks will be a dangerous threat heading into the playoffs.