By Brad Vandenberk
After winning a tough back to back against Winnipeg and LA, the Blackhawks looked to continue the momentum on Thursday with a visit from the Canucks. Vancouver was also in a playoff battle hoping to lock up a playoff spot with a victory last night.
But it was the Hawks that would be guaranteed a spot in the 2015 postseason with a 3-1 win behind the strong net minding of Corey Crawford. He stopped 36 shots making some great saves on most of the Canucks stars. Teuvo Teravainen, Jonathan Toews and Marcus Kruger all the put puck past Eddie Lack. Kruger picked up an assist and the second star of the game.
Joakim Nordstrom, Dan Carcillo are slowly coming back from injuries and did not dress. David Rundblad was the only healthy scratch besides the 2 college kids (Baun and Paliotta) who were signed a few weeks back. The Hawks reached the 100 point plateau this season with 5 games remaining.
The Hawks open the period all over the Canucks, speeding around with a lot of offensive zone time. Crawford starts to show his brilliance early on. Kris Versteeg springs free for a break away but Lack is there to make the save. Kruger looks to be in payoff form with control of the puck. He fires a shot on net from along the boards, Teuvo cleans up the rebound in the slot and beats Lack making 1-0 with 14:43 remaining. The Hawks keep coming at the Nucks with Versteeg and Toews getting the crowd into the game. The first penalty was called on Antione Vermette for high sticking Luca Sbisa. It was a 4 minute major as there was blood. With 2:29 in the power play, Alex Burrows gets called for hooking. Vancouver starts to throw their weight around when Alex Edler hammers Marian Hossa along the boards. With 1:04 left in the period, Michal Rozsival throws a puck up the middle on the stick of Derek Dorsett who beats Crawford over the blocker ending the period tied at 1. Hawks are outshooting the Canucks 13-11.
Andrew Desjardins gets Edler back with a thunderous hit on the fresh ice. Teravainen had the puck on his stick for most of the night. Crawford shows his flashes once again and even the forwards are coming back to help dig out the puck. Bo Horvat makes a dangerous play getting called for boarding. The Hawks have their first man advantage of the night but fail to break the tie. Just as the penalty ends the Hawks get caught with too many men on the ice. Crawford makes some key saves and Hawks get away with another potential penalty. Edler gets called for a trip and the power play does a lot of passing but no results. Brad Richards, Patrick Sharp and Vermette were a very noticeable line giving the Canucks fits. Saad gets a late breakaway but runs out of real estate. The Hawks continue to lead in shots 24-21.
It was Vancouver’s turn to get called for too many men just 2:31 into the period. Andrew Shaw pokes at a loose puck which Lack barely saves. Duncan Keith and Sharp both fire point shots and the power play begins to come alive. Kevin Bieksa lowers the boom. Crawford makes an incredible save on Radim Vrbata on a 3 on 1. The tie is finally broken when Johnny Oduya sends a point shot toward the net. Hossa re directs the shot and Toews is on the doorstep to tip home the rebound 2-1. Crawford is really looking like a playoff goalie moving back and forth seeing pucks through screens making saves. Lack on the other end is having trouble tracking pucks and almost lets one float past him. Two minutes later Kruger stripes Horvat of the puck and breaks in making a nifty move to beat Lack giving the Hawks a 3-1 lead. The Hawks continue to push and Crawford still shines. Lack leaves the net at the 2 minute mark and Bryan Bickell hit the side of the open cage from the Canucks blue line but the Hawks still cruised to a 3-1 win.
-Hawks outshot the Canucks 38-36.
-Both the Hawks and Canucks go 0/3 on the power play.
-Duncan Keith led all Hawks in TOI with 26:40. Brent Seabrook was next at 23:20.
-Toews was 68% in the faceoff dot. Richards 54%, Shaw 57% and Kruger 68%.
-Patrick Kane has been practising with the team but remains in a non-contact jersey and still has not changed his time table to return.
-Hawks jumped on a plane on route to Buffalo for a tilt with the Sabres on Good Friday. Kane will be in attendance to visit his home town.
Versteeg Toews Hossa Keith Rozsival
Sharp Richards Vermette Timonen Seabrook
Bickell Shaw Saad Oduya Hjalmarsson
Desjardins Kruger Teravainen