The Chicago Blackhawks limped into Pittsburgh on Wednesday night and found a perfect tonic for their sick play of late. It was a fast start that got the Hawks the 5-1 win. But let’s temper that somewhat. The Penguins are a beat-up team. They’re missing several key defensive components and one Evgeni Malkin. Still it counts as two points in the standings so for that fact alone we should consider it a good night. If you’re looking for a true indicator of a Hawk rebirth stay tuned for the battle on Friday night at the United Center against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Back to Wednesday evening. Patrick Kane continues to amaze. His early first period behind the back pass to Artemi Panarin (26) put Chicago up 1-0. Eleven minutes later Richard Panik (22) stretched the margin to 2-0 and in the last minute of the stanza, Marcus Kruger (4) and Marian Hossa (25) put a capper on the outcome. Tanner Kero (6) added a third period goal to complete the Hawk onslaught.
The takeaways? Corey Crawford looked solid in net. Crawford had 31 saves which included several key stops on Penguin Captain Sidney Crosby. Chicago’s four lines were solid. With an expected return of Artem Anisimov in the next week or so, the Hawks will have an ability to mix and match with any playoff opponent. Chicago’s rookies continue to shine. Ryan Hartman was reinserted into the lineup after his penalty issues. Hartman had a beautiful assist to Marian Hossa in the first. Nick Schmaltz was a stellar in his return to the first line…..and Kero centered the second line and stuck a breakaway goal past Marc Andre Fleury late in the contest. Although he didn’t get on the score sheet, another first year guy, John Hayden continues to look solid in any setting Coach Joel Quenneville decides to play him in. One glaring negative was the poor power play. 0-4 on the night. Way too many passes and not enough shots in those four opportunities. Shoot the puck!!
Nine point lead with 5 regular season games left. Minnesota tangles with the Ottawa Senators on Thursday evening. The door is quickly closing on the Wild who have 6 games to play. It’s about time now to begin thinking of playoff matchups. St. Louis, Nashville or maybe Calgary. Hmmm. I really like familiarity so I’ll take St. Louis or Nashville. Actually leaning more to liking the Hawks chances with Nashville a little bit better. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. 5 left. Two at home against the Blues Jackets and Boston on Sunday. Then on the road for the final three against Colorado, Anaheim and Los Angeles. Simply put, stay healthy and get the playoff matchup in order. Then onto the real season. The Playoffs.
Notes: Joel Quenneville notched his 850th career win last night. He ranks 2nd all-time in the NHL in wins. The Hawks victory was their 24th on the road, tying the franchise record for road victories. Chicago has now beaten Pittsburgh six straight times….the Hawks trail Washington by three points in the President’s Trophy race. Lastly, Kane is five points behind Connor McDavid in the points race (89-84).
Thanks for checking in,