After looking terrible the last time that these two teams met, the Blackhawks turned in one of their best performances of the year tonight against the Blues. They managed to battle back from an early 3-1 deficit to get the 4-3 victory in the shootout.
The Hawks started off the game with a bang. Just under 3 minutes in, Andrew Brunette scored on a 2 on 1 after a great pass from Marian Hossa found him open in the slot. It looked like it was going to be a good night for the Hawks after scoring this rare, early goal on Jaroslav Halak. However, that was far from the case.
About a minute after Brunette found the back of the net, Jamie Langenbrunner beat Ray Emery on a slapshot from just above the left circle. Talk about a momentum killer… Then, a few minutes later, Andy McDonald scored with a wicked wristshot from about 15 feet in front of Emery. This goal was all set up by beautiful passes from Patrik Berglund and David Perron. With about 4 minutes left in the first period, Patrik Berglund added the Blues third goal after redirecting a shot from Barret Jackman. The two teams headed into the intermission with the Blues leading 3-1.
After watching the Hawks completely fall apart after scoring their first goal, it looked like St. Louis was going to get another blowout victory over the Blackhawks. Fortunately, that did not happen.
Ray Emery was pulled at intermission, and Corey Crawford came into the game for his first action since February 29. In the second period, the Hawks really seemed to step up their game. They began getting more physical, which was a major factor in the outcome of the game, and they were getting some good shots on goal. With just over 6 minutes left in the period, Johnny Oduya made a great play to keep the puck in the Hawks’ offensive zone after an attempted clear by St. Louis. Kruger grabbed the puck along the right boards after the keep-in, wristed a soft shot at Halak, and the rebound hit off of Viktor Stalberg’s skate and went in the net. This was a HUGE goal for the Hawks. Heading into the third period being down by just 1 goal rather than 2 is a big difference.
After going 0-4 on the powerplay through the first 2 periods, the Hawks were given another powerplay opportunity a little over 6 minutes into the third period. On this powerplay, Brent Seabrook let go an absolute bomb of a slapshot off a one-timer from Hossa that beat Halak to tie the game at 3. This was the first powerplay goal scored against in the Blues in their last 51 powerplays against. They were just 2 more penalty kills away from tying the all-time record at 53 in a row. As the third period progressed, the Hawks had a few more chances to take the lead, but Halak answered the bell on all of them.
Then, the game moved into overtime where Duncan Keith had the best scoring chance from either team with only about 3 seconds left on the clock. Patrick Kane found a wide-open Keith in the slot for a one-timer, but the shot seemed to hit Halak in the mask and deflect over the net.
In the shootout, Patrick Kane scored the only goal for either team, and the Hawks prevailed with the 4-3 victory.
There were a lot of positive signs in tonight’s win by the Hawks. First, they out-shot St. Louis 46-24. That is pure domination. Second, they tied the Blues with 29 hits in the game. If you have watched the Hawks on a frequent basis this year, then you know that they have not been a physical team up to this point in the season. Also, Jamal Mayers and Brandon Bollig got into a couple big fights that helped give the Blackhawks energy boosts. I specifically liked Brandon Bollig going right after Ryan Reaves after Reaves put a major hit on Jamal Mayers. Bollig was given a 2 minute instigator penalty (I don’t like this rule), but the Hawks were able to kill that off.
Maybe the biggest positive that came out of tonight’s win (aside from the 2 points) was Corey Crawford. He came in to start the second period and played a great game from then on. He needed to be perfect in net to give the Hawks a chance at winning, and he was. He didn’t allow a goal on 18 shots against, including overtime, and he was perfect in the shootout. Hopefully he will get a big boost in confidence after getting the win tonight.
All in all, this was an absolutely huge win for the Blackhawks, who again were without their captain.
Thanks for reading.