By Jon Fromi
The Chicago Blackhawks got to work early in St. Louis Thursday night, parlaying a quick goal into an impressive 3-0 win over the Blues. The continuation of Chicago’s NHL record point streak to start a season was tempered by the departure of starting goalkeeper Corey Crawford after the first intermission.
The ‘Hawks wasted little time getting on the board following the opening faceoff. Jonathan Toews won the draw, starting a sequence that saw all five Chicago skaters handle the puck. Brent Seabrook gained control of the puck and sent it across the ice to Duncan Keith. Keith quickly found Marian Hossa entering the St. Louis zone.
Hossa found Brandon Saad. Saad returned the puck to the doorstep, where his captain scored on what was officially labeled a backhand. The puck looked like it came off of Tazer’s skate, but it wasn’t a kicking motion by any means. The puck slid into the vacated net for a 1-0 lead twelve seconds into the contest.
Chicago’s speed kept the Blues off balance for the bulk of the period, which also saw an aborted bout between old rivals Brandon Bollig and Ryan Reaves. Both were willing participants but the officials just said no. Instead of fisticuffs, Bollig and Reaves were assessed unsportsmanlike conduct infractions to go with Bollig’s initial roughing penalty.
Crawford seemed to be a little wobbly coming off of the ice following the end of the period. He did not return to the bench.
The second period opened with Ray Emery in net for Crawford, who stopped six shots in the first 20 minutes. 2:20 into the period, Andrew Shaw committed a bad interference penalty but Chicago killed the infraction.
Soon after the teams went back to even strength, David Backes didn’t look where he was going, ran into Saad, and had to be helped from the ice. Chicago got its first power play of the game when Reaves tripped Shaw at the 9:24 mark. Not much in the way of offense was generated in the resulting two minutes.
Marcus Kruger was called for holding at the 12:25 mark. Seconds into the power play, Kevin Shattenkirk appeared to get a shot past Emery from the point. However, the left post got in the way of the tying goal. The Blues threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Chicago goalie. Emery stopped a couple of point-blank shots, including denying Chris Stewart and Patrick Berglund, and the Blackhawks killed the penalty.
David Perron had a scoring chance off of a draw in the 18th minute that Emery covered. The Blackhawks put some heat on Halak in the final minute but came up empty as the teams skated to the dressing room with Chicago still up a goal.
The Blackhawks third line struck again to double the advantage in the third minute of the third period. Viktor Stalberg and Bryan Bickell forced a turnover behind the St. Louis net. Bickell hit a streaking Shaw in front of the crease. Shaw beat Halak stick side and the lead was now 2-0 Chicago.
The ‘Hawks killed Patrick Sharp’s interference penalty in the fourth and fifth minutes. Moments later, Toews got his second tally of the night. Hossa started the play with a nice pass to Nick Leddy, who fired the puck on goal. Toews was there at the front of the net and at the 6:56 mark Chicago had pressed their advantage to 3-0.
From there, it was all over but the shouting. Emery stopped all 16 shots that he faced to seal the deal and Chicago won their seventh straight game and second shutout in the last three games.
-Toews had a pretty good night at the faceoff circle, winning all five he took in the opening period, and scored a pair of goals. You could make the argument that he failed to get a stick on either one. Like Edzo said, good things happen when you get to the net.
-Big effort again from Emery in relief, especially on that second-period penalty kill. The insurance goals didn’t come until later in the game, but the game may have been won after Emery sent the Blues away with nothing.
-That said, what the hell is wrong with Crow? Is he sick, or has he suffered a relapse of his “upper body” injury? After the game, word was that he had an “upper body” injury not related to his last “upper body” injury suffered when he was run into by Ryan Getzlaf a few weeks ago.
-Didn’t it look as if T.J Oshie might have made contact as Crawford poke checked a puck from the crease late in the period? Maybe not, but something altered his balance and I have trouble thinking it was a bum shoulder that did it. As usual, Crawford is day-to-day.
-Now…who comes up to back up Emery? I guess Henrik Karlsson gets the assignment, but Carter Hutton has played really well of late. Could the ‘Hawks reward his recent stretch with a call-up?
-The third line of Stalberg, Bickell and Shaw has 25 points on the season. They are really creating problems for opposing teams.
-The Blues were a depleted team, but this was still a very satisfying win in that Chicago dominated for most of the night. They took a lead into the third period and put their foot on the gas-and did it on the road to boot.
-With Chicago coming back to town to take on Columbus, James Wisniewski won’t get the chance to cheap shot any groins Friday. A broken foot is going to keep him on the shelf for a while.