By Brad Gardner
The Blackhawks squeaked out win number 15 on the season with a 1-0 victory at home against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
One night after losing a 2-1 decision in St. Louis, the Jackets brought their physical, grinding game into the Madhouse on Madison intent on being the first team to knock the Hawks out in regulation time this season.
Corey Crawford, returning after missing four games due to injury and suiting up for one game as a back-up, matched up against Steve Mason in net. Both goalies played strong in what turned out to a tight-checking affair for the most part.
Although each team had their share of power play opportunities, they ended up a combined 0-for-8 on the man advantage. Crawford, for his part, made 10 saves against the Columbus power play on five opportunities.
Crawford had to be sharp from the start as the Blue Jackets came up a few good chances in the opening frame. Columbus had a couple flourishes in the first, one culminating in an open net chance for Derick Brassard that the forward sent over the cross bar. Brassard earned a couple more looks, but one was blocked by Niklas Hjalmarsson and Crawford was able to control Brassard’s five hole attempt during a 3-on-2 rush.
The Blackhawks power play came up empty on two chances in the first, struggling to gain the offensive zone, let alone establish any pressure on Columbus goalie Steve Mason. With no score through the first twenty, the teams were also tied on the shot clock with seven apiece.
The teams continued to trade chances without much luck through most of the second period. The Blackhawks mustered at least a pair of good looks on their third power play opportunity of the game, with Andrew Shaw getting a redirect chance in front and Patrick Sharp ringing a shot off the post late in the advantage.
Columbus had one power play of their own in the period and with it perhaps the best chance of the second frame. Vinny Prospal walked in on Crawford but his wrist shot went off the inside of the post in the top corner to Crawford’s glove side and bounced out of trouble. Crawford saw some traffic and a puck in the crease later on the same advantage, but was able to keep the Jackets attackers at bay.
With about 90 seconds left in the second period, Andrew Shaw finally broke the tie with a one-time conversion on a pass from Bryan Bickell. The puck was below the goal line but Bickell was first there to make the quick centering pass to an open Shaw driving the net. Jackets defenseman Nikita Nikitin got caught in between on the play and none of the Columbus forwards picked up the Hawks third forward, Shaw, as he drive in on Mason.
The Blackhawks went to the second intermission with the confidence of a one goal lead, but the penalty kill was tested three times in the third period. Overall the home team did a good job of preventing the Jackets from establishing possession too often during all of their man advantage time, but Columbus still got their looks.
Ryan Johansen, recently called back up to the big club from the AHL, had a couple chances in the third, one of which was a redirection that sailed over the net. The Columbus blueliners, especially James Wisniewski, were also sending the puck on net at the traffic in front of Crawford, but to no avail.
– Corey Crawford did not look unbeatable all the way through his first start since February 12th, but he didn’t get beaten. The Hawks defensemen seemed to come up with a lot of big shot blocks against good looks from the visitors, and although Crawford gave up a few rebound opportunities, he survived a few scrums around his net. The shutout was Crawford’s second of the season.
– The Blackhawks have taken 19 of a possible 22 points this season in games Corey Crawford has started.
– The Columbus power play entered the game converting on just one of their previous 17 chances on the man advantage. The Hawks PK killed off all five of the Jackets’ power plays on Sunday.
– The Chicago power play went their second straight game without a conversion, although to be fair, there were not many chances to convert. They had some looks on their third chance, but finished with only five shots on net in six minutes of power play time.
– Dave Bolland did not play Sunday and is considered day-to-day with a lower body injury. Marcus Kruger centered the second line to start the game in Bolland’s absence, while Jamal Mayers dressed to center the fourth line.
– Although the starting lineup was used throughout the game, Joel Quenneville did a little mixing and matching during the game as well. Daniel Carcillo was not part of the equation on Sunday, however, as he finished with only 5:24 of ice time. Only Mayers had fewer minutes with only 4:33. The other fourth line forward, Michael Frolik, saw his ice time (12:02) reinforced by almost five and a half minutes of penalty kill ice time.
– 3 Stars of the Game: 3. Andrew Shaw… 2. Steve Mason… 1. Corey Crawford
– The Blackhawks host the Edmonton Oilers Monday night, 7:30pm central.