Blackhawks shutout Kings 1-0
There is nothing better than perfection and that is exactly what Antti Raanta and the Blackhawks were when they faced a very tough physical LA Kings team. Much has been said about the Kings’ back up netminder Martin Jones who was excellent as well but on this night it was Raanta that was perfect.
The game had all the feel of a playoff game with hard hitting and very close gaps and tight checking which, are staples of playoff games. This type of game should benefit the Kings, but it was the defending Stanley Cup champs that out LAed LA. It proved once again the Blackhawks can play any way you want them to.
The lone Blackhawks’ goal came in the first period by Brandon Saad who seemed to be all over the ice. It was a two on one break into the Kings’ zone with Bryan Bickell on the near side and Saad on the far side. In a semi broken play that found the puck on Saad’s stick and then past Kings’ goalie Martin Jones.
The assists were given to Bickell and Duncan Keith. Duncan Keith with that assist is now tied for second in the entire league with Sidney Crosby for most assists. That is a testament to Keith’s playmaking abilities and also great vision and hockey IQ. Keith also had a huge back check that appeared to stop a breakaway which illustrates his skills on both side of the puck. Let’s hope he has space somewhere at home for another Norris Trophy.
In the second period there was a penalty shot awarded LA Kings captain Dustin Brown when he split the defense of Keith and Seabrook and Seabrook inhibited Brown from a clear shot in the referees’ judgment and awarded a penalty shot.
Brown went blocker side on the rookie Hawks goalie but Raanta stood tall and stoned a very good shooter. Raanta earned his first NHL shutout and his opportunity to stay with this club. He never seems overwhelmed and just plays within himself. He stopped 26 shots total in the game.
The third period saw Jonathan Toews clotheslined from Jeff Carter on a breakaway but was not awarded a penalty shot instead the Hawks got a two minute power play which looked like Andrew Shaw scored on a redirected puck but it was disallowed as it was deflected higher than the cross bar. As it turned out the Hawks did not need another goal any way.
What a great game to end 2013 with a perfect defensive performance against a quality playoff caliber team. Looking forward to 2014 the Hawks have nothing but promise and maybe like Antti Raanta another hidden young gem in the system that will step up when called upon.
Let’s hope that 2014 is as good to the Blackhawks and their fans as 2013 was. There is only one thing better than an unforgettable storybook ending to a season and that would be to have another.
Three Stars of the game:
1. A Raanta
2. D. Keith
Next game Thursday, January 2, at 6 p.m. CDT from New York vs the NY Islanders. Tune in to CSN in the Chicago; or listen via WGN 720.