Hawks gut the Blue Jackets 4-3
When one man goes down another needs to step up when several go down several need to step up and they certainly did. Stacey King, the Bulls broadcaster has a saying bring your “hard hat, lunch pal” game. Bring the blue collar work hard mentality and never quit. The Hawks had several candidates most notably the make shift line of Bickell, Regin and Morin who really stood out.
Ben Smith scored the game winning goal with 3+ seconds left in regulation to deliver the gut wrenching blow to the Columbus Blue Jackets who are a team still looking to maintain or better their positioning in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. This had to delight Detroit, Philadelphia and Toronto who are all in a battle with Columbus for wild card positioning.
If there is a picture of hard work in the dictionary it has to look exactly like Ben Smith. He always rolls up his sleeves and battles in the corners and is willing to do whatever the coaches ask him to do.
Also Duncan Keith came away again from the game with three assists on the night which now puts Keith fourth in the entire NHL for assists including forwards.
The Blue Jackets opened the scoring in both the first two periods which both periods have to be categorized as wild and wooly. Derek MacKenzie opened the scoring on several defensive breakdowns and was able to beat Antti Raanta who was manning the Hawks net on the second night of back to back games.
The Hawks were able to counter when Jeremy Morin was able to get a beauty of a wrister along the far faceoff circle through a Andrew Shaw screen past Vezina winning net minder Sergei Bobrovsky on the stick side to tie the game at one which is how the period ended.
The second period started like the first period with Columbus scoring first on a Ryan Johansen wrister that saw the Hawks defensive zone coverage and gap control maybe lacking. The period saw four goals in total two for Columbus and two for the Hawks.
The period saw a big hit from Jared Boll on Peter Regin which Bryan Bickell answered but saw Boll ending up with an extra penalty and the Hawks went to the power play which was cashed in by the sharpshooter. Patrick Sharp was able to get a blast from the point again through an Andrew Shaw screen through Bobrovsky to tie things up at two.
The Hawks got the lead for the first time of the evening on a pretty play from Keith to Versteeg to Marian Hossa but the Blue Jackets answered with a power play goal of their own when Artem Anisimov got one in the Hawks net. The period ended with the teams tied at three.
The third period was very different from the first two and more like playoff hockey with tight checking closed passing lanes and tighter gaps and improved defensive play on both sides. In what looked certainly like a game that was going into overtime with only 3+ seconds left in the game the Hawks were able to establish some major net front presence.
Bryan Bickell, Peter Regin and Ben Smith all crashed the net when Duncan Keith got a shot from the point through and there was a mad scramble in the Columbus blue paint which saw the puck being found through the mass of humanity by Ben Smith to poke it past the Columbus goalie and secure the Hawks another two points putting them only one point behind Colorado who plays St. Louis in a Saturday morning conflict.
The best thing about this game besides gaining more points is that with the Hawks being down players other players like Ben Smith, Jeremy Morin, Peter Regin and Joakim Nordstrom are all seeing more ice times and given opportunities to step up and they are. Come playoff time this invaluable experience for the youngsters will only serve the Hawks with better bench depth.
Both Ben Smith and Jeremy Morin had over 60% at the faceoff circles. Smith went 5 for 8 and Morin 2 for 3 on this night. If they can maintain this percentage it will be very hard for the coaches not to feel comfortable having them in the lineup.
As for these young Hawks who are all battling to stay with the club and mark a spot for themselves with this team, hard work does pay off. They were able to best a very good goalie in Bobrovsky. Keep playing your game boys. Next up for the Hawks, a huge challenge the St. Louis Blues on Sunday more hard work will be needed to come away with points.
Three Stars of the game
1. Ben Smith
2. Patrick Sharp
3. Ryan Johansen
Next game Sunday, April 6, at 11:30 p.m. CDT vs the St. Louis Blues. Tune in to NBC in the Chicago; or listen via WGN 720.