It was a first period that was vintage 2009-2010 Chicago Blackhawks and it was all they really needed to put the Dallas Stars away on Tuesday night. If it weren’t for the Hawks top two defensemen taking consecutive delay of game penalties in the second period, this could have been very ugly.
Marian Hossa put the Hawks on the board 38 seconds into the game when he received a flip pass from Jonathan Toews and batted the bouncing puck over the shoulder Matt Climie. After that, the Hawks swarmed the Stars end only letting them touch the puck when they felt like it. Climie stood tall until the final minute of the period when the puck came back around to Brent Seabrook. He fired a low hard shot towards the net and Fraser was cutting across the slot at that exact moment. It was an easy deflection on a difficult angle but the result was the Hawks going into the break with a 2-0 lead.
In total, the Hawks ended up outshooting Dallas 15-5 in the opening frame.
When Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa combined for the Hawks 12th short-handed goal of the season early in the period, the Stars looked like a team that wanted to be anywhere but the American Airlines Arena. Then Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook took turns flipping the puck into the stands. The 5-on-3 power play breathed life into a stale Stars squad and they were rewarded when Steve Ott deflected a Stephane Robidas point shot through Antti Niemi’s wickets.
The Stars kept pushing through the rest of the period but Niemi made the saves he needed to and Climie did the same for Dallas.
In the third, Colin Fraser added his second goal of the game when he beat Climie through the legs after collecting a bouncing puck from about 20 feet out. Seven minutes later, Patrick Kane buried the puck into a wide-open net after he was the recepient of a beautiful drop pass from Adam Burish. Burish took the puck behind the net and instead of going around the net with it, he slid the puck back to Kane. Meanwhile, all three Stars standing around the crease followed Burish and Kane was the only one aware of the puck coming back his way.
The goal was Kane’s 30th of the season. It’s a team-high for the Blackhawks and a career-high for the 21 year-old Kane.
Late in the period, James Neal scored on another redirection through Niemi’s legs and the Stars apparently thought they still had a chance to come back. They racheted up the pressure but Niemi stopped everything they threw at him and that was that.
—Two assists for the newest top-6 forward Adam Burish. With Troy Brouwer out of the lineup for personal reasons, Burish was impressive in his first stint as a 2nd line winger since his Green Bay Gambler days. Not only did he not get in the way when Kane had the puck but he actually got open and nearly popped in a couple goals. He’s still on the outside looking in while the fourth line continues to dominate but it was good to see him play nice with a skill guy.
–They’ve only been playing together for the better part of a week but the line of Sharp-Toews-Hossa just might be the best line in the league. They combined tonight for 5 points and 9 shots on goal. This is officially a thing.
— With the two points, the Hawks have now clinched, at the worst, the 2nd seed of the Western Conference. The Sharks beat the Flames 2-1 to stay two points ahead but the Hawks still have a game at hand. The Kings battled back from deficits of 3-0 and 4-1 to beat the Anaheim Ducks in a shootout. The two points puts Los Angeles in the 6th spot and pushes the Wings back to the 7th seed. Detroit takes on the Blue Jackets tomorrow night.
–Wednesday night’s tilt against the Blues represents the game at hand over the Sharks. So if the number one seed is important to you, it makes the divisional game the most important of the season. Two points tomorrow and the Hawks will be in the driver’s seat for the top spot in the West.