By Brad Vandenberk
Domination and determination is what wins Stanley cups. This, we witnessed in 2010 when the Blackhawks became champions. Playing with confidence, and having their superstars turn in multi point nights, sometimes with questionable goaltending helps too.
This year is much of the same. Even the players understand that this could be one heck of a year if they are determined to dominate the opposition. The Blackhawks come from behind win in Dallas on Thursday shows that they are determined once again.
The Hawks were on the road again on Saturday night playing another Central division opponent, the Columbus Blue Jackets.
This season is all about winning your divisional games and these Jackets are not the same team Viktor Stalberg dominated a year ago. Sheldon Brookbank worked his way back into the lineup Saturday replacing Michal Rozsival. Jamal Mayers played his second game in a row over Brandon Bollig. Corey Crawford started the game and did not disappoint. South paw Steve Mason was in on the other end.
The Blue Jackets opened the game with a fast forecheck and Crawford was tested early. He fought off multiple 3 on 2’s and kept the Hawks in the game. Brookbank begins to feel the pressure of the intense forecheck and gets called for a hold and sends the Jackets on their first power play of the night. Crawford played well during the man advantage.
Minutes after the Brookbank penalty expires, Mark Letestu puts the home team up by one, sliding it under a sprawling Crawford. Queue the Cannons!
The Hawks needed to pick up the pace as they were being outshot 9-2 early . Andrew Shaw and Stalberg broke in on a 2 on 1. Jonathan Toews also had a chance on Mason. Jack Johnson and Dave Bolland both share a penalty as the game begins to get chippy. Johnson boards Bolland, and he retaliates with a slash.
At the 17:54 mark, Kane breaks in and goes hard to the net. With Mason down and the puck sitting on the edge of the crease, Bolland comes in and buries the rebound ending the period tied at 1. Hawks were outshot 9-8.
Crawford was busy again early in the second. The Hawks finally had a chance on the power play with Letestu heading to the box for interference. Jackets break in 3 on 2 shorthanded and almost take the lead but Crawford is there again.
Hawks take the lead with defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson firing the puck on net and battling in front is Bryan Bickell. The puck is believed to have gone off the inside of his leg and in the top corner of the net. 2-1 Hawks with 11:10 to play.
Crawford again stops a 3 on 2. There is a theme here with odd man rushes. The Hawks looked like they were a step behind. Jared Boll hits Marcus Kruger and Jamal Mayers is not a fan. Gloves fly off and Boll sends Mayers to the ground and the Jackets find themselves on a power play as number 22 gets an additional two minutes for unsportsmanlike. Crawford again keeps the Hawks ahead by one. The Jackets finally find the back of the net, but the goal is immediately waived off as Crawford was bumped before the puck crossed the line. Jackets are robbed a chance to tie the game. Hawks get another opportunity on the power play as Artem Anisimov puts the puck over the glass. Mason makes a few nice saves and the period ends with the Hawks still leading 2-1 and still being outshot 18-16.
In the third, Crawford stayed sharp as these Jackets wouldn’t go away. Brandon Saad was noticeable, heading hard to the net. Four minutes in, Kane gets called for hooking but the Jackets can tie it. Crawford was needed to make some more key saves.
Toews was Johnny on the spot when Kane kept the puck in the zone and found Toews all alone in front of the net. With a quick move Mason, he hits the ice and the captain tucks it home to put the Hawks up 3-1.
The penalties then began to stack up. First Bolland heads off for holding the stick and getting an extra unsportsmanlike. Then Derick Brassard gets called for a trip. And then Derek Dorsett gets his stick up on Patrick Sharp and the Hawks have a 4 on 3. Mason made a few great saves giving the Jackets a chance to compete. The Hawks started finding their legs with Shaw and Sharp both trying to get another one past Mason and put this game in the W column.
Things get interesting when Anisimov grabs a rebound off a Brandon Dubinsky shot and it beats Crawford to put the Jackets within one. Mason heads to the bench and the Jackets try all they can but Crawford closes the door and the Hawks win their fifth straight 3-2. The Hawks best start since 1971.
–Toews dominated the faceoff circle winning 13 of 19.
—Duncan Keith led all Hawks in TOI with 25:35. His D partner Brent Seabrook wasn’t far behind racking up 23:10 himself.
–Kane led the team with 2 assists.
—Bryan Bickell finally got his first goal on the year. Using his size to battle in front of the net and it paid off.
–Hawks were 0 for 3 on the power play. First time in five games the Hawks have not been able to score a power play goal. They were perfect on the penalty kill.
–Hawks continue with another important divisional game on Sunday, as the Redwings from Detroit invade the United Center. The question is who will be in net for the home team. Crawford is showing he deserves the game and why not test him on a back to back?