Are the Blackhawks ready to make a deep run into the 2017 National Hockey League playoffs? Well. if Friday’s night’s 3-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets is any indicator, the answer is an emphatic yes. This contest was as close as you can get to playoff hockey without being in playoff hockey.
Both goalies, Chicago’s Corey Crawford and the Blue Jackets Sergei Bobrovsky were hooked up in a goaltenders duel. Bob, as he’s affectionately called, made several two-stop saves on Hawks rushes. Crawford was a master of avoiding deflections most of the night. Crawford made 32 stops and Sergei 21.
Chicago got on the board 32 seconds into the game on a flutter puck off the stick of Artemi Panarin (27), past Bobrovsky. At the 17-minute mark of the first, Columbus got an equalizer from Nick Foligno but 22 seconds later Patrick Kane tossed a beautiful assist to Marian Hossa (26) to put the margin back to one, 2-1. It stayed that way until an open net push from Panarin (28) for the final 3-1 score. Kane had 3 assists on the night to put his season point total at 87.
The takeaways? Columbus is the real deal. They will be part of a wild scramble as to who comes out of the Eastern Conference. Washington, Pittsburgh, New York. That’s a pretty tough road. Chicago, on the other hand, now enjoys a nine point lead over the Minnesota Wild (107-98). The Wild have 5 games left and the Hawks 4. Chicago is closing in on a clinch of home ice throughout the Western playoffs. A Wild loss on Saturday or Chicago win on Sunday against Boston, does it. Chicago’s d-men are playing so well in front of Crawford. The one glaring miscue on their part was a penalty on Niklas Hjmarlssoon for delay of game. Consistently, Hjmarlssoon backhands the puck out of the zone. At some juncture it might make sense for the coaching staff to advocate a slapshot/wrister to move the puck.
Sunday afternoon will be a battle with a Original Six foe, the Boston Bruins. It will be interesting to see the intensity that transfers from this Blue Jacket game. Boston is in a fight to make the playoffs so they will bring the best they have to offer. Scott Darling in net? I’m guessing not. Crawford is beginning to get on a roll. Best stay with the hot dude.
Chicago’s win was their 50th on the season, only the second time in franchise history they achieved that milestone….Hossa’s goal put him in 34th place all by himself on the all-time goal list with 525. 750-Career points with 3 point night for Kane. And Jonathan Toews picked up his 350th assist on Panarin’s first goal.
Thanks for checking in,