The Chicago Blackhawks picked up another important win tonight, their third straight, this time against the Canucks. This win was particularly important for a few individuals, specifically Jonathan Toews and Corey Crawford. Struggling statistically as much as any other captain in the league, Toews had been long overdue for a breakout performance. Tonight’s 4-point (1 goal, 3 assists) performance will hopefully fuel Toews even more in the coming days. As for Corey Crawford, he needed not only a win, but a strong one that sent a message to his teammates. Crawford hadn’t exactly been his sharpest since returning from his emergency appendectomy on December 23rd, posting 5-4-1 record before tonight, which included a 4-1 loss to St. Louis and the forgettable 6-0 loss against Washington. Crawford was solid tonight, only allowing two goals on 28 shots, neither of which could have been saved. Let’s break this thing down.
The Blackhawks came out with plenty of fire in the first 20 minutes. They couldn’t get any shots past goaltender Ryan Miller early on. Shot after shot, Miller had the answer. That was until the 14:27 marker, however, when Richard Panik fired a shot through traffic and into Vancouver’s net. Set up from a beautiful pass from Brian Campbell, Panik put it home from the slot with authority. The secondary assist was given to Toews, of course. Chicago wasn’t done just yet. Moments later, Patrick Kane picked the puck up just to the right of Miller’s net and fired a shot justs under the crossbar. Miller was already down and Kane made no mistake with his placement. Jonathan Toews picked up his second assist on the play. The Hawks led 2-0 after one frame and did not look ready to slow down. Shot totals were 18-9.
The Blackhawks took their foot off the gas substantially in this period, and only managed to put 4 shots on goal. Vancouver didn’t do much in this frame either, putting 8 shots on Corey Crawford as he continued to look poised in net tonight. All in all, it was a boring period, though the Hawks did kill two minor penalties which is always a positive. Despite being outshot 8-4, the Blackhawks maintained a shot lead of 26-13 after two.
It wouldn’t be a Blackhawks hockey game without some late drama just to keep things interesting. In the last period, neither team looked very strong. This time, Vancouver came out of the locker room hungry, and results quickly followed. The Canucks put two past Crawford in rapid fashion, at 5:03 and 5:49 on a power-play goal from Troy Stecher and a nice finish from the dangerous Bo Horvat, respectively. This contest was firmly knotted up at two apiece, and the momentum that Chicago once held had disappeared. The game remained tied for nearly thirteen minutes, until Richard Panik entered the zone and fired a wrist shot “perfectly” wide-right that bounced off the boards and directly onto the stick of Jonathan Toews, who ripped the game-winner past Miller from the left side. Toews now had three points on the night, but more importantly the Hawks had their lead back late in the 3rd period. With less than a minute remaining, Toews found Marian Hossa and hit him with a pass that Hossa then finished into the Vancouver empty net. The Hawks would win the game 4-2, thanks to the exceptional performance from The Captain.
Overall, a solid performance at home from the Blackhawks, who end the night with two more points and a pretty 30-14-5. Vancouver falls to 22-20-6 and still only has five wins on the road this season. Notable Chicago players in tonight’s game besides those mentioned above included, but were not limited to, Ryan Hartman (plus-3), Duncan Keith (plus-2, 5 SOG), and Niklas Hjalmarsson (1 assist, plus-2, 3 BS). The Hawks host Tampa Bay on Tuesday (7:30 CST), while Vancouver travels to Colorado Wednesday night.
Heeee’s Baaack! 19 is back ladies and gentlemen.
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh