Apr 5, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) looks to pass the puck against the St. Louis Blues during the first period of an NHL game at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Ah, the joys of April! The Chicago Blackhawks have played three games so far to begin this month. Last Thursday night, they beat the Vancouver Canucks 3-1, and officially clinched their playoff berth. Friday night brought a last minute win against the Buffalo Sabres by a score of 4-3. Sunday night was the main event, with the Hawks matching up against the St. Louis Blues, the team that they are fighting neck and neck with in the Central Division. Even at the United Center, the Hawks couldn’t get it done, losing by a score of 2-1. Let’s take a look at 5 takeaways from this early April push.
5. Desjardins, Kruger, and Teravainen? Who would’ve thunk it? This unlikely fourth line combination is building some chemistry and making it work. During the Vancouver Canucks tilt is when things really seemed to click for these three.
Teuvo Teravainen and Marcus Kruger partnered up to generate 2 goals on Thursday night. Teravainen started out the scoring in the first period. He shot the puck to Kruger at the net, but goalie Eddie Lack blocked it. TT then cleaned up the rebound for the score. This was his 4th goal of the year. It was a combined effort, with sustained pressure and cooperation from the whole unit.
Later in the game, TT forced a turnover and was able to feed Marcus Kruger for a breakaway goal. Kruger looked great throughout the entire match up. In 14:02 minutes of ice time, he had 1 goal, 1 assist, 5 shots on goal, and won 13 of 20 face offs.
Meanwhile, Andrew Desjardins has registered 28 hits in the last ten games. When Buffalo defenseman Tyson Strachan hit Marcus Kruger into the boards on Friday night, Desjardins took exception and dropped the gloves in defense of his team mate. He is responsible defensively, and was credited with an assist on Teravainen’s goal. It will be interesting to see if Coach Q goes with Desjardins or Joakim Nordstrom when Nordy is ready to return from injury.
4. The Comeback Captain. Friday night’s contest against the Buffalo Sabres was…interesting, to say the least. The Hawks got off to an early start with goals from Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp in the first period. Figuring this was good enough to beat the lowly Buffalo Sabres, they decided to coast for the rest of the night. Not such a good idea. Word has it that the Sabres are diving to get a first round draft pick, but somebody forgot to tell the players. You don’t get to the NHL without some drive and a competitive spirit.
So the Sabres rallied back with goals from Marcus Foligno, Johan Larsson, and Foligno again. Well, Jonathan Toews had had enough. He decided that losing to a bad team AGAIN just wasn’t an option. He proceeded to score 2 goals in 47 seconds to bring the Hawks to a victory! When most other players would be thinking about getting the game to overtime, the Captain scored the game winning goal with only 31 seconds left in regulation time. Then he washed his hands of the whole stinking affair, and said bring on St. Louis. Oh and the rest of you, you’d better be with me!
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3. Why is Versteeg on the first line? Most of the players were with the Captain for a hard fought game against St. Louis on Sunday night; some more than others. One player that has been very frustrating to watch lately is Kris Versteeg. I know, I know, Versteeg got a goal last night. But really, does he belong on the first line? Last night’s goal was his first since February 24th. He’s only had 1 assist in the last 6 games. Isn’t playing with better players supposed to bring up your level of play as well?
Steeger just happened to be at the right place at the right time ONCE to get that goal. Most of the time he’s getting beaten left and right along the boards. And when he’s not where he’s supposed to be, opportunities are getting missed. Hossa and Toews have just got to be screaming, give me Brandon Saad! Hossa and Toews are generating a lot of chances, and they could do wonders with a more reliable linemate.