Blackhawks sweep season series vs Blue Jackets
The Blackhawks rolled into Columbus holding a 5-0-0 series lead over the Blue Jackets, and left by making it a perfect sweep for the season.
Brandon Bollig and Jared Boll dropped the gloves early to warm things up for the teams; Bollig got the better of Boll and both went to the box with five-for-fighting majors.
Andrew Shaw opened up the scoring not long after that, at the 4:12 mark in the first. Duncan Keith would get his first of four assists for the night. The Blackhawks put a goal past Steve Mason exactly 2:05 later, twice in a row - first Patrick Sharp and then Brent Seabrook, to close out the first 3-0.
After stopping the bleeding for most of the middle period, Derek Dorsett took a roughing penalty late in the second for CBJ; Chicago took advantage of it 0:37 into the third period on Sharp's second goal for the night. Marian Hossa scored his 900th career point on an easy tap-in goal at 4:09 in the third to put Chicago up 5-0.
It looked like the Blackhawks would finally get their first shutout of the season, but a Rick Nash blast with 7:29 left in the third finally put Columbus on the board. Too little, too late - the Blackhawks would take the series in a sweep.
The Blue Jackets have been bad all season, but against the Blackhawks they've coughed up 31 in 6 games; that's 13% of their goal total in just 8% of their games. Viktor Stalberg in particular has been very successful against the Blue Jackets, and while he did not have a goal of his own, he contributed an assist.
Duncan Keith led the team with 4 points (all assists) and played just 21:37 TOI. The arrival of Johnny Oduya coincided with the Blackhawks finally getting their act together at the end of their 9-game losing streak; Oduya has been able to help relieve Keith and Seabrook of some TOI and stabilize the second and third defensive pairings.
"I think the losing streak that we were on after the All Star break helped us out more than hurt us," Patrick Sharp said after tonight's game. "You never want to lose that many in a row, but it taught us a few lessons about how to play the right way."
That "right way" has been evident as the team has just won 4 in a row and is now 8-1-1 in the past 10, and this has been without Jonathan Toews in the lineup. While the Blackhawks remain hopeful that their team captain will be back soon, they are wisely not rushing him to play. And what better time for Chicago to get hot than the home stretch before the playoffs, as they will still face five conference rivals over the next eight games - including Nashville twice, and Detroit to close out the season.
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The Blackhawks will face the Vancouver Canucks at home in Chicago at 7pm CDT on Wednesday night. The Blackhawks are currently 1-1-1 vs. the Canucks; Vancouver comes into the game 3-5-2 over their past 10 games.