Welcome to the Central, Winnipeg

184164326_slideIn their first ever meeting as new Central Division foes, the Blackhawks took down the Jets today by a score of 5-1. The game was over with just under three minutes left in the second period. This was one of the more dominating performances of the season by the Blackhawks, and the Jets stood no chance.

After falling behind 1-0 early in the first, the Hawks tied the game when Niklas Hjalmarsson notched his first goal of the season with a brutal slap shot right off a faceoff to Pavelec’s right. Kruger won the draw cleanly and the puck went right to Hjalmarsson who wasted no time in firing the shot on goal. The period ended 1-1.

Then the second period started, and that’s when the game pretty much ended for Winnipeg. Just 54 seconds in, Brandon Bollig fired in a wicked wrister past Ondrej Pavelec while on a two-on-one with Marcus Kruger. This was Bollig’s second goal of the season (he would later add an assist). Then about two minutes later, Patrick Sharp gave the Hawks a 3-1 lead on a breakaway goal. Hossa made a beautiful pass to Sharp to spring the breakaway. Later in the second, Nick Leddy nailed his third goal of the year with a slap shot from Pavelec’s right. That goal ended the game for Pavelec, who was replaced by Chicago native Al Montoya.

The third period saw more domination of puck possession by the Blackhawks, and Ben Smith added the fifth and last goal of the game for the Hawks on a nice deflection. With this being the first time that these two teams have met as divisional rivals, as well as the first time that they’ve played each other in Winnipeg since that city got their team back, the Blackhawks sent a stern message to the Jets that playing in the Central Division isn’t going to be easy.

So with that, here are some things that stood out to me today:

  • With five more goals today, the Blackhawks have now scored 24 goals in their last five games. That puts them behind only the Sharks for the most goals scored in the NHL this season (50). It’s safe to say the offense is “clicking” again.
  • Corey Crawford scared us for a minute when he went down after being run into by Blake Wheeler. It made me realize how valuable he is to this team when thinking about his alternative(s). He stayed in the game, however, and put together another fantastic performance.
  • Jeremy Morin messed up early in the game when he blew his coverage, which allowed Winnipeg’s only goal. He was benched the rest of the period. From the second period on, however, he was very good. He’s making a big impression on the coaching staff in my opinion as he is responsible at both ends of the ice.
  • Since Michal Handzus was taken out of the lineup four games ago, the Blackhawks have scored 19 goals. Make what you want of that statistic…
  • Two goals from the fourth line today (Bollig and Smith) is a very encouraging sign. The depth of the Blackhawks is what separated them from the pack last year, and they’ll need it again this year.

All in all, today was a very good game for the Blackhawks. They dominated in puck possession, and did not allow the Jets any easy scoring chances. The defense of the Blackhawks was just about as good as it’s been all season. Even when they did allow scoring chances, Corey Crawford was there to make the big saves.

Banner-Raising-2013-1600It will be interesting to see what route Quenneville goes tomorrow night in terms of the goalie situation. Normally, he’d start the backup goalie tomorrow night with no questions asked seeing as how it’s the second game of back-to-back games. Unfortunately, that decision isn’t so easy anymore with the way Nikolai Khabibulin has played in his last two starts. No one has much confidence in Khabi right now, so his playing time is not guaranteed. If he continues to struggle, look for Antti Raanta to get called up from Rockford. The management would rather not do that and get Raanta a full year in the AHL before calling him up, but they need wins, and Khabibulin hasn’t been producing them.

Thanks for reading.

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