Jan 26, 2013; Columbus, OH, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) skates witht the puck against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the first period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports
The Chicago Blackhawks continued their “perfect so-far” season by outlasting the Columbus Blue Jackets in a tight game with a 3-2 victory in Columbus. The Blackhawks improved to 5-0-0, good for 10 points on the season. This is the Hawks best start to a season since the 1971-1972 season. The Blue Jackets fell to 1-3-1, with 3 points on the season.
The Hawks got off to a slow, awfully flat start to the game. It was almost the reverse of what happened in Dallas, where the Hawks got off to a fast start and were piling up the shots. The Blue Jackets were the team piling up the shots and chances in the first half of the first period. After a Sheldon Brookbank holding penalty, Columbus kept up the offensive pressure, against the Hawks. This eventually lead to a goal from Blue Jackets’ center, Mark Letestu, just seconds after the Chicago penalty expired.
Throughout the entire first period, the Blue Jackets were physically out-muscling the Blackhawks, and controlling the game. A late period boarding call for Columbus defenseman, Jack Johnson would have given the Hawks an opportunity through a power-play if it wasn’t for an ill-timed slash from Dave Bolland coincided with the boarding call on Johnson. Regardless the mini-scrap seemed to lead to some inspired hockey from the Blackhawks , as Patrick Kane burned by Columbus defenseman, Adrian Aucoin to make his way to a shot that was stopped by Blue Jackets’ goaltender, Steve Mason. However, Dave Bolland was there to turn a rebound into a goal and a tie-game at the end of the first period. A tie-game that the Hawks were lucky to have.
In the second period, the Blackhawks got off to another slow, flat start as they couldn’t get anything going offensively against the physical style of play, put on by the Blue Jackets. Mid-way through the period, the Hawks took the lead as Bryan Bickell deflected a shot from Niklas Hjalmarsson past Steve Mason, giving the Hawks a 2-1 lead.
The Blue Jackets appeared to have tied the game up on a shot on a power-play beat Blackhawks goaltender, Corey Crawford. However, as it the officials ruled that Crawford was interfered with by a Columbus forward, on what in hind-sight looks to be a blown call. Although, Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville disagrees. So, the Hawks were lucky at the end of the second period, as they were at the end of the first period. The only difference was that this time they were lucky to have a lead over, rather than lucky share a tie with the Blue Jackets.
Another flat start for the Hawks in the third period made it seem like it was only a matter of time before Columbus tied the game and eventually re-took the lead. A solid penalty-kill in the third, especially from more solid play from Michael Frolik, appeared to spark a more higher-quality game of hockey from the Blackhawks. Jonathan Toews added a nifty insurance goal that would end up being the game-winner, in the third period. An Artem Anisimov goal, late in the third, proved to be too little, too late for the Blue Jackets as the Blackhawks survived to claim a 3-2 victory, as their undefeated season lives on.
More strong play from the Hawks usual suspects in the 3-2 victory.
Niklas Hjalmarsson continues to play like the he’s the man the Hawks ultimately chose to keep over Antti Niemi, back in 2010. “Hammer” provided 4 blocked shots along with an assist(which initially looked like his goal) en route to a +3 night.
Patrick Kane continues his mission to show everyone that he is back to being an elite scorer at the NHL level, as he added 2 assists to his stat sheet.
Corey Crawford made several clutch saves for the Blackhawks, and had another very good night in net. His Save Percentage on the season thus far is a hefty .923%.
Former Calder Trophy winning goaltender for the Blue Jackets, Steve Mason, who lost his starting job this season after repeated seasons of seemingly constant struggles combined with Columbus’ acquisition of Sergei Bobrovsky, had an overall solid night in net for the Jackets as he stopped 21 shots.
Although Brandon Saad never seems to have the statistics to show for it, he is making a positive impact on the Hawks top-line. If he keeps up this play, he will start putting up points. It might be interesting to see what happens when Dan Carcillo returns from his injury.
In a very not newsworthy news, Jonathan Toews is off to a hot start this season as expected. Toews put up a goal and a 68% face-off winning percentage against Columbus. Just because he always plays great, doesn’t mean it isn’t worth mentioning.
The Blackhawks (5-0-0, 10pts) come home to face the hated Detroit Red Wings (2-2-0, 4pts) tomorrow at 6:00 PM at the United Center.