It’s amazing how different of a team the Blackhawks are when they roll four lines. While the majority of this season has seen the Hawks play with 10 or 11 forwards, only recently with John Scott in the press box and Ryan Johnson keeping all his limbs intact for more than a game have 12 dependable forwards been at Joel Quenneville’s disposal. Tonight was perhaps the Hawks most impressive team win and the spread of playing times was a big reason why.
Viktor Stalberg was the only skater who had less than 10 minutes of ice and he still played 8:15. It didn’t hurt that Corey Crawford was perfect on the night, either.
The Hawks scored the all important first goal against Nashville on a delayed penalty late in the first period. The top line of Kane, Toews, and Sharp all showed incredible patience with the puck. Kane at the blue line as he waited for his linemates to gain the zone; Toews when he waited for Patrick Sharp to open up for a potential one-timer; and finally Sharp when he, incredibly, didn’t bury his head and just shoot the puck. He instead found the late-breaking Tomas Kopecky who fired his shot past Pekka Rinne.
In the third, Marian Hossa scored his first non-empty net goal in a millenia when he intercepted a misguided David Legwand cross-ice pass. Hossa broke away from the pack and beat Rinne through the legs.
The Hawks kept the Predators at bay for the majority of the third. It wasn’t until the 9 minute mark that the Preds finally started to make a push. Fortunately, Corey Crawford was there whenever the Hawks needed him. For the second game in a row, an opposing goal was wiped out by goalie interference. This wasn’t nearly as questionable as Legwand bulldozed over Crawford before Colin Wilson banged it in.
And that was that. Two more points and that’s all that matters.
–One of the few mistakes, maybe the only one, was the Hawks burning their time-out so early. After an icing call at the 14:40 mark of the second period, Joel Quenneville burned his lone time-out. With a TV timeout just one more whistle away and it being so close to the beginning of the period, I thought it was a bit misguided. Games in Nashville are always nip and tuck. The Hawks certainly could have used the time-out late in the third when Dowell’s line couldn’t get off the ice.
Oh well, it’s not an international incident.
–That was probably Duncan Keith’s best defensive game of the season and boy did Foley and Edzo remind us at every turn. His active stick seems to be returning at the right time.
–I’m not really sure what’s wrong with Ryan Suter but he clearly wasn’t 100% tonight. That was the worst I’ve ever seen him play. I can’t even remember how many times Patrick Kane outmuscled him in the corners. He seemed a step slow physically and mentally all night.
Nevertheless, expect Nashville to figure everything pretty quickly. They’re struggling a bit right now, but it’s pretty much a scientific fact they’ll be there at the end.