Feb 212012

By Brad Gardner

The Chicago Blackhawks managed to keep their win streak alive against the rival Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday night at the United Center, despite playing without captain Jonathan Toews. With Detroit entering play riding a six-game winning streak of their own, it was the home team that held onto a 2-1 lead to pick up their fourth consecutive win.

Corey Crawford started his fourth game in a row and allowed just one goal for the third straight game. He faced Jimmy Howard in net for the Wings, making his first start since missing time to a broken index finger. Both goalies loomed large in this one, but Crawford was able to spoil Howard’s comeback and earn his fourth win in as many starts.

Marcus Kruger put the Blackhawks down a man in just 34 seconds into the game with a tripping penalty in the offensive zone. Crawford was able to handle Detroit’s first few opportunities, including a shot from Jiri Hudler through traffic. Dave Bolland picked up the rebound but whiffed on the clear. The puck eventually found Valtteri Filppula at the right circle and he was able to wrist one past Crawford far side to put the Wings up 1-0 just 2:22 into the game.

Tomas Holmstrom returned the favor a few minutes later with a tripping penalty of his own, but the Blackhawks could not convert on their first power play opportunity of the game. Hudler put Chicago back on the man advantage later in the period as well but the the ‘Hawks were again unsuccessful. Howard showed no ill effects from his time off by making some big saves against Patrick Sharp in close during that second power play.

Despite not converting, Chicago was able to even up the shot count with the power plays and get some momentum going in the offensive zone. Crawford was forced to make several big stops in the opening frame, but the second-year netminder answered the bell and kept his team within a goal heading into the first intermission.

The ‘Hawks continued to create chances against Howard in the second period and Jimmy Hayes was able to tie things up at the 7:45 mark for his fifth goal of the season. In his third game since his most recent recall from Rockford, Hayes made a strong move from below the goal line to get the puck in front of the net. A few seconds later, he found a loose puck in the crease and put it in the open net to tie the game.

Both Howard and Crawford came up big to keep the game knotted at 1-1 during the second period. Howard faced a slew of breakaways from the ‘Hawks but was able to deny even the best chances from Michael Frolik skating in all alone and a couple looks from Patrick Kane at the doorstep.

Crawford was strong in his own net as well, helping the club kill off a pair of penalties and doing a good job of controlling the puck. The second penalty kill for the ‘Hawks came after Brent Seabrook appeared to make a great play against a Darren Helm breakaway but was whistled for a hold. The United Center crowd was not pleased with the call, but the replay appears to show Seabrook getting his offhand on Helm’s back and using it to spin him around and down to the ice.

After both teams combined for 47 shots over the first 40 minutes, things tightened up defensively in the third. There were no penalties called during the final 20 minutes and each team managed just seven shots on goal.

Kruger was the one that made his show count in the final frame, pouncing on another loose puck in Howard’s crease to put the Blackhawks ahead 2-1 just about two minutes into the third. Hayes again made a play, carrying the puck behind the net and wrapping it around to the crease. Andrew Brunette and Kruger were both crashing the Detroit net and Howard was unable to cover before the ‘Hawks Swedish rookie notched his fourth goal in his last seven games.

Detroit was unable to launch a big offensive through the rest of the game, though Crawford did come up with one last big save against a Nicklas Lidstrom point shot in the game’s final minute. The defenseman had time and waited for the shooting lane to open up before firing the puck on net, but Crawford was in position and able to cover the resulting rebound to hold on to the 2-1 win.

Game Notes:

– With Toews day-to-day with what is being called an ‘upper-body injury,’ Brendan Morrison started the game on the ‘Hawks first line. He ended up with only 7:51 of ice time for the game as Joel Quenneville juggled his lines early and often. John Scott had the game-low with 3:51 of ice time in his return to defense.

– With Sean O’Donnell scratched and Scott skating on defense, Duncan Keith logged 32:13 of ice time to lead all players. That total was his highest of the season and sixth time he eclipsed the 30-minute mark.

– Detroit played without Pavel Datstyuk, who also missed the game due to injury. The news is much worse for the Wing’s top center, as he is expected to miss two to three weeks following knee surgery.

– Corey Crawford appears to have rediscovered his reliable and steady form in net, having backstopped the ‘Hawks to each of their victories during the four game winning streak. He has allowed just five goals over the course of those four games. Crawford’s positioning has been sharper of late and he hasn’t lost his net nearly as much as he was during the rough patch.

– There was not much variation between the two teams in terms of shots, faceoff wins, or hits in this close contest, but Chicago came out on top in a major way in one category: takeaways. Chicago registered 17 takeaways to just two by Detroit, which explains the number of breakaways Howard faced in the second period and the way that Crawford and the Blackhawks defense was able to limit second chances.

– Jimmy Hayes earned first star of the game honors for contributing to both of Chicago’s goals. Marcus Kruger was named second star with one goal and Jimmy Howard earned third star with 27 saves.

– Detroit re-acquired former draft pick Kyle Quincey earlier in the day Tuesday to bolster their defensive depth, but he did not join the team in time to play in Chicago.

– The Blackhawks will finish their three game home stand on Thursday when they host the Dallas Stars for a 7:30pm central puck drop.

Brad Gardner

In addition to covering the Blackhawks for TheThirdManIn.com, Brad is also the Blackhawks correspondent at HockeysFuture.com.

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