By Brad Vandenberk
After squeaking a shootout victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night at the UC, it was time to hit the road again and venture into St Louis for a Sunday afternoon tilt against the Blues. The game on Friday marked the last time the Wings and Hawks will play each other as divisional rivals with Detroit heading east next year.
St Louis lost on Friday night, which meant that the Hawks clinched the central division and now the sights are set on the President’s Trophy. Friday’s shootout victory gave the Wings a much needed point to stay within a playoff spot in the western conference.
The bottom of the western conference looks like a game of leap frog as every game is crucial in competing in this tough shortened season. Wouldn’t it be great if Hawks played the Red wings in the first round of the playoffs? Especially after they will only see each other 2 times a year moving forward. Well as it stands now it could be one of, Dallas, Detroit, Phoenix, Columbus, Minnesota and St. Louis as a first round match up. That’s right, it’s that close.
Dave Bolland made the trip to St Louis and was in the starting line up for the visiting team. Patrick Sharp suffered an upper body injury and did not dress for this game. With goalie controversy talk in the air the Hawks went with their “number 1” in Corey Crawford. The Blues counter with Brian Elliott who had posted 3 straight shutouts. Dan Carcillo, Jamal Mayers and Michal Rozsival sat out for this contest.
It didn’t take long for these 2 teams to express the hate they share for one another. Marian Hossa has a great chance to end Elliott’s shutout streak as they head to the net right away. Vladimir Tarasenko hammers Marcus Kruger and the Blues set the physical presence. Patrick Kane and Brent Seabrook pepper shots on Elliott, forcing him to make some tricky saves.
The playoff pace is obvious in this game. Ryan Reaves lowers the boom on Brandon Bollig along the boards. Elliott again comes up big with Johnny Oduya walking down the middle riffling a shot. Finally the wheels come off the bus and Bolland couldn’t have returned to the line up at a better time. He delivers a cross check onto one of the Blues forwards which in turn starts a scrum. Sheldon Brookbank and Roman Polak also head to the penalty box with roughing penalties. Crawford saves Kevin Shattenkirk’s shot attempts and the Hawks kill off another penalty. Toews lifts a backhand off Elliott’s glove and it dribbles over the net.
The chippy play continues as David Perron slashes Hossa and Bollig tries to retaliate getting an interference call. Leddy makes a huge defensive play sliding on his belly and breaking up a 2 on 1 play. Johnny Toews was being shadowed all period by David Backes. He sends Toews awkwardly in the boards and the captain heads to the dressing room for the remainder of the period. Berglund cross checks Andrew Shaw and while he is getting up he gets an elbow from Shattenkirk. Viktor Stalberg comes in and tries to add to his collection of scars on his face. During the 4 on 4 Andy McDonald hooks Kane and the Hawks can’t muster up any goals on the power play. The period ends with the Blues leading in shots 11-10.
A sigh of relief opened the second period when Toews lines up and center ice to take the opening faceoff. Blues begin to gain some important offensive play and begin to test Crawford.
At the 15:29 mark of the period, Bryan Bickell and Stalberg work into the zone. Stalberg utilizes his speed and breaks in on Elliott who can’t quite control the puck. Bickell grabs the puck and is able to slide it past the net minder breaking the shutout streak at 214:00 1-0 Hawks.
Blues still continue their rough style of play as Crawford comes out to play a puck and gets rattled in the process. Michal Handzus kept the 4th line in the Blues zone with a few chances to add to their lead. Hossa walks in a sends a laser off the post. Hawks get another chance to score on the power play as Alex Steen heads to the box for slashing. Again the Hawks are unable to score on the power play as the struggles continue. Duncan Keith gets away with a penalty pushing Steen into Crawford. The refs see it differently as Steen makes the skate toward the box for goaltender interference. The Hawks power play continues to struggle with the Blues getting a few short handed chances the other way. Brookbank wires one off the post as well. Bollig has a great opportunity at the side of the net but can’t corral the puck. The Hawks get through the middle frame grabbing a 1-0 lead and also re gaining the shot lead 19-18.
The final period had Crawford shinning once again. He made a series of saves on Vladimir Sobotka with Andy McDonald following up on the rebound. Blues get an early power play when Kruger heads to the box for interference. Frolik and Bolland break in 2 on 1 short handed. The Blues fail to score. Maybe the Hawks should play shorthanded while on the power play? Keith then heads to the box for tripping in front of the net. The Blues again have a chance to tie it up. Not so fast says Hossa.
While on the penalty kill, Frolik sends a puck out of the zone and Jordan Leopold tries to keep it in with a questionable high stick. The faceoff heads down to the Blues end. Toews wins the faceoff back to Hossa who sends a shot on net getting tipped along the way and through Elliott. 2-0 Hawks on a shorthanded attempt.
Crawford is called upon to make another barrage of saves on Tarasenko who gets 2 chances in a row. Than the Hawks come down and Shaw gets back to back chances as well. The final half of the period saw end to end action as both goalies had to make their fair shares of saves. The physical play tended to disappear from the first period. Bolland and Sobotka mix it up in front of the benches and both head to the box for roughing. The Blues pull their goalie but Crawford stands tall getting the Hawks their 7th team shutout winning 2-0.
-Hawks were outshot 30-26
-Both teams could not capitalize on any of their power plays with the Hawks going 0/3 as well as the Blues going 0/3.
-Keith led all Hawks with 22:53 TOI and Seabrook 22:21 and Hjalmarsson 22:00
-Toews was the only center at 50% in the faceoff dot winning 10 of 20 draws.
-Next up the Hawks are right back at it Monday night playing the Dallas Stars at the UC.
On Twitter: @CMM_Brad