By Jon Fromi
The Chicago Blackhawks opened their home schedule in fine fashion Tuesday night, treating the United Center crowd to a 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues. Corey Crawford was able to out duel Brian Elliot to give the Blackhawks their third win of the season in as many games.
The Blackhawks dominated most of the first period, testing Elliot several times in the opening minutes. Patrick Kane, Bryan Bickell and Brandon Bollig all had open looks on odd man rushes but were turned away by the St. Louis goalie.
Elliot held fast until the 7:20 mark, when Chicago managed a three-man rush to the net with no opposition by the Blues. Nick Leddy started the play by gaining possession of the puck and finding Kane in the neutral zone. Kane brought the puck up the left side, played catch with Patrick Sharp and came across the crease. One backhand later, Kane had his second goal of the season and the ‘Hawks led 1-0.
The Blues opened the second period on the power play stemming from a Marian Hossa tripping infraction near the end of the opening frame. In the waning seconds of the man advantage, Duncan Keith and Marcus Kruger saved a goal after Andy McDonald had gotten Corey Crawford way out of net. Alexander Steen‘s shot came off Kruger’s skate and toward the empty net, but the ‘Hawks defenseman blocked the puck high on his chest.
Keith got a prime scoring chance himself when Vladamir Taresenko was called for a trip in the fifth minute. Keith was open in front of the net but couldn’t convert. However, Ian Cole was called for interference on Micheal Frolik and Keith got another chance.
After Crawford poke-checked a shorthanded attempt by the Blues, Keith took a pass from Jonathan Toews and sent in a slapper from the point. The shot got enough of Brent Seabrook’s skate to fool Elliot and give Chicago a 2-0 advantage at the 8:21 mark.
The Blackhawks’s third line got in on the scoring when Bickell got the puck and found Viktor Stalberg on the right side as he entered the St. Louis zone. Stalberg got to the right faceoff circle and managed to wrist one between Stewart’s legs and by Elliot’s stick side to make it 3-0 2:09 into the third period.
A sloppy line chance led to the Blues getting on the board in the fifth minute. Steen fed McDonald, who beat Crawford to cut the Chicago lead to 3-1 4:40 into the third.
Niklas Hjalmarsson was called for holding in the fifteenth minute to give St. Louis a chance to get back in the game. The Blues’ power play came up with a goal when T.J. Oshie knocked in a rebound of a David Perron shot to make it 3-2 ‘Hawks.
Crawford stopped a point-blank shot by Stewart inside of four minutes to go and kept his team in front even as the ‘Hawks were out-shot 16-9 in the final 20 minutes. Elliot came off with just over a minute to go and the Blues took their timeout hoping for a final push to tie the score. Chicago couldn’t clear their zone, but Crawford made some big stops to close out the Blues and move to 3-0 for the first time in 40 years.
-It seemed odd that no one really pointed out Leddy’s contribution to the first goal on the broadcast. After the game, Leddy did get his props for preventing a 3-on-1 the other way.
-Corey Crawford may be more flexible, but he seems pretty darn slow getting back into position. Some of his more active moments was created by pucks he went out to play and failed to reach. He also gave away a couple of attempted outlet passes. Still, he came up huge when St. Louis leaned on him in the final minutes. For the night, he faced 34 shots and made 32 saves.
-After a fight with Chris Stewart, Brandon Bollig stayed on the ‘Hawks bench for the most part, getting under a minute of time in the second period. All in all Bollig played his customary five minutes.
-Was there a cooler customer than the kid who sank the $100 and $500 Shoot The Puck attempts?
-The Bickell-Stalberg-Andrew Shaw line seems to be an odd combination, but it’s worked so far. Shaw nearly knocked in Chicago’s fourth goal but Elliot gloved the attempt.
-Jamal Mayers was a scratch for the third straight game. Injured, perhaps?
-Next up for the ‘Hawks is a trip to Dallas Thursday night.