Welcome Back, Defense
It appears that the Chicago Blackhawks defensive issues are no longer much of an issue at all.
The Chicago Blackhawks used a 4-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets at the United Center to maintain first place in the NHL with 50 points.
Red-hot Viktor Stalberg scored two goals, Dave Bolland and Marian Hossa posted two points apiece and the Blackhawks won their second straight to maintain an 8-1-1 record in their last 10 games.
Corey Crawford regained his starting goaltender form en route to the Chicago win as he stopped 37 of 38 shots by the Blue Jackets, who have lost 5 games in a row and are 2-7-1 in their last ten.
Patrick Sharp kicked off the scoring about five minutes into the second period when he tipped in a give and go pass he initiated with Marian Hossa for his 19th of the season to put the Hawks up 1-0.
Viktor Stalberg then scored two consecutive goals for Chicago after he followed up his own rebound on the Columbus doorstep to make it 2-0 and then received a beautiful feed from Dave Bolland in the slot to make it 3-0 towards the end of the second stanza.
Former Blackhawk James Wisniewski cut the Chicago lead to 3-1 with a backhand shot that got by Crawford about 3 minutes into the third period, but it was to no avail.
Marian Hossa then sealed the deal for Chicago with his power play tally to make it a 4-1 game with less than five minutes to play in the 3rd period.
It seems as though the Blackhawks' defensive woes have dissipated for now. Corey Crawford did have to be sharp (and he was) in order to come away with a lopsided win against Columbus, but their defensive effort allowed Crawford to make the stops he needed to without worrying about additional coverage, especially down low where Chicago had struggled mightily with early on this season.
Both teams took few penalties over the course of the game, but Chicago was able to capitalize on at least one opportunity with their power play which is now ranked 6th in the NHL with an impressive 19.8% efficiency.
Marian Hossa now leads the Chicago Blackhawks in scoring with 16 goals and 40 points in 35 games. Patrick Sharp is one goal away from scoring at least 20 goals in 5 consecutive seasons. Jonathan Toews still leads the Blackhawks in goals with 20, which is also tied for 2nd in the NHL.
Chicago prepares to battle the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday, December 28th at 7:30 pm CT and it will be televised on CSN-Chicago.