By Brad Vandenberk
The Chicago Blackhawks captain was still sidelined with an upper body injury as the league leading St Louis Blues rolled into town. Although whispers were heard throughout the United Center for a Jonathan Toews return this week, he had not practiced the past two days and did not lace the skates up for this one. The Hawks played the Blues in St Louis just seven days ago and got beat up physically and on the scoreboard, losing 5-1. The Hawks are still sitting in the 6th spot in the western conference but are beginning to feel the heat from the 7th and 8th position. After suffering a shootout loss on Sunday night to the LA Kings, a big win was needed from a central divisional rival. Ray Emery, still crowned the number one goalie, started for the Hawks and Jaroslav Halak continued the Blues dominance between the pipes. The same Hawks line-up that squared up against the Blues last week stood intact for this match.
Less than a minute into the game, Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane break in on a 2 on 1, but Halak was there to shut the door. After overcoming an early barrage of shots from the Blues, Hossa, again, breaks in on a 2 on 1 with Andrew Brunette. Bruno walks in, uncontested, and puts the puck high over Halak’s glove giving the Hawks the lead with 17:09 left in the opening period. No more then 59 seconds later Jamie Langenbrunner walks over the blue line and watches Niklas Hjalmarsson skate by him. He stops and hammers a shot that deflects off the lost Hjalmarsson tying the score at 1. Jamal Mayers dropped the gloves with BJ Crombeen to get the crowd back on the Hawks side. This bout was long lived and no winner declared. Moments after the fight, Andy McDonald completes a nifty passing play by the Blues, giving them their first lead of the game. Halak began his stellar play in net as he stoned each Patrick Sharp and Viktor Stalberg, both on the door step. Hawks get their first power play when Ian Cole goes to the box for getting his stick up on Stalberg. The power play was uneventful as the Blues kill off their 48th straight penalty. With 4:01 left in the first Patrick Berglund re directs Barret Jackman’s point shot making it 3-1 Blues. Just as the period is about to expire, Ryan Reaves hits Mayers, clean and hard. Brandon Bollig couldn’t get his gloves off fast enough. He goes after Reaves and the two fight in a rematch of the bout that opened last week’s game in St. Louis. Mayers skates directly to the Blues bench after peeling himself off the ice and challenges the entire team.
The second period begins with a new face in net for the Hawks, Corey Crawford. Emery allowed the Blues 3 goals on just 6 shots. Blues started the period on the power play as Bollig got the extra penalty for instigating the scrum. The Hawks kill off the penalty and begin to rise to the Blues level. Sharp and Vladimir Sobotka decided to throw their weight around. Hawks go on another power play with Crombeen going to the box for tripping up Johnny Oduya. During the power play Halak makes a multiple of saves to keep the Blues ahead. Stalberg then pulls the Hawks to within one. Marcus Kruger lets a rocket go as he enters the zone. Halak can’t grab a hold of it and it pops right out of his glove and off Stalberg’s skate and into the net as frustration starts to set in with the Blues. Hawks again have a power play chance before the period ends, but again, can’t solve Halak. The Blues kill the penalty once again and crack their 50th straight penalty kill. The Hawks end the middle frame out shooting the blues 24-14 and trailing 3-2.
Niklas Hjalmarsson did not come out with the team to start the third. He did not return for the rest of the game and has been declared out with an upper body injury once again. Kevin Shattenkirk decided to put the puck over the glass just 1:55 into the third. Cue Hawks power play. After you cue the power play, you can cue another kill for the Blues and they remain 2 penalty kills away from the NHL record of 53 straight. Halak is up to his playoff-esque play as he absolutely robs Stalberg on the side of the net. Just under the halfway point of the third, the Blues, Jackman, heads to the box for a slash. The Blues would have to wait another time to continue their streak as the Hawks record a power play goal. Brent Seabrook blasts a shot past Halak with Andrew Shaw provided a perfect screen and the score is tied at 3 with 13:31 left. Scary moment as Sharp gets hit from behind into the boards from Sobotka. The Hawks again get a chance to send the Blues home with a rare loss. The Blues begin another streak as they kill off that penalty. The last five minutes of this period showed that the Hawks can play any game that any opponent asks of them. With bodies flying and many more shots heading toward Halak, the Hawks had a few nice opportunities to finish the game. Halak stood on his head and was able to keep the game tied allotting both team with a single point.
The Hawks needed to get this extra point in order to keep pace with the tough western conference. With the 4 on 4 game benefiting the Hawks, they again began to put on a clinic to try and end it once again. No one could solve either tender and a shootout was required.
Kane takes the first attempt for the Hawks and slides a quick backhand through Halak’s legs.
T.J Oshie saunters in on Crawford and puts a shot right off Crawford’s pad.
Dave Bolland up next and goes a little too wide and cannot raise the back hand over Halak.
McDonald tries to go high blocker, but Crawford is there with his shoulder.
Sharp comes in and makes a nice move but Halak saves the day again.
Finally David Perron with the last attempt, tried to go Backhand and Crawford was there to win the shootout for the Hawks and the game 4-3.
-Hawks outshot the Blues 40-22
-Hawks go 1 for 6 on the power play and the Blues go 0 for 1
–Duncan Keith led all Hawks 29:37 in TOI with Oduya playing 29:20 and 1 assist.
-The line of Brunette, Kane and Hossa combined for 4 points. Hossa led the way with 2 assists.
-Jamal Mayers went 4 for 7 in the faceoff circle.
-Dave Bolland Led all Hawks with 9 shots on net.
-The Hawks will travel to Dallas on Friday night to take on the Stars. This could be a first round playoff matchup and hopefully Toews will be back in the lineup.