The Chicago Blackhawks came out with an enormous win last night against an extremely tough St.Lous Blues team hanging on for a 2-1 victory. St.Louis, regarded as one of the Hawk's biggest rivals, always plays Chicago tough and the Hawks were lucky to pull this one out after playing a rare undisciplined game.
St.Louis came out strong putting some big time pressure on rookie goaltender Niemi but Niemi shut the door making some outstanding saves very early in the contest. After holding off the early attack the Hawks quieted the Blues fans with an early goal followed later by another goal by Jonathan Toews before the end of the first period. It was a very physical first period with the Blues pounding the Hawks with the body as we have seen them do before along with two tilts between Barker/Jackman and Ladd/Brewer. Nevertheless, the Hawk finished on top 2-0 after 1 period.
The second period was somewhat back and forth still being a physical affair with some great saves on both ends by Niemi and his counterpart Chris Mason. Moving to the final frame it was fairly similar to the prior two periods with the Blues having several powerplay opportunities including the second 5 on 3 PP of the game in the final few minutes of the game where they managed to sneak one by Niemi on a goal scored by Alex Steen. Final score Hawk 2 Blues 1.
Overall the Blackhawks played very well defensively and perhaps the best defensive effort in weeks as the Blues had multiple chances. Offensively the Hawks are still struggling to score, Joel Quennville mixed the lines up replacing Troy Brouwer with Patrick Sharp on the first line which ultimately proved to be a very effective line. I feel Sharp should be playing with Toews and Kane all the time as they gel very well together. Arguements can be made about losing the physicality of having Brouwer off that line but when the team is not scoring one needs to change things up as Quennville does almost on a game by game basis.
Niemi was outstanding once again in his bid to be the #1 goaltender for the Hawks, Niemi's style and postioning allows him to make those “big saves” as compared to Huet who is more of a “reaction” goaltender. Huet has been pretty good of late and the goals that got by Christo can not be deemed his fault but like I said with Niemi's style he is positioned to make those big deflected shot saves. In my opinion it is time to let Niemi take the reigns, at least give him a couple back to back starts.
- St.Louis outshot Chicago 35-30 which is uncommon yet is happening more and more it seems
- The Blues had 9 powerplay opportunities with 2 of them being a 5 on 3 and only scoring one late in the third period, Chicago's penalty killing and goaltending has been excellent in these situations.
- Face-offs were in the Hawk's favour 31-27 but not the dominating fashion the Hawks are used to doing, this is another stat that seems to be evening out throughout the year game by game.
- Kris Versteeg was his normal self having multiple giveaways and by my count 3-5 per game, this completely throws out the Hawk's definition of puck possession.
With the Olympics approaching the Hawks need to go into the break strong with some solid gameplay which we have not seen in weeks. With 3 games left before the break against Dallas, Atlanta and Columbus the Hawks have an excellent chance to pull away from the rest of the pack a bit and keep in the race for first place with San Jose.
Thanks for reading,
About the Author
Written by Trent Kondo
An all around sports fan and has been a Chicago BlackHawks supporter longer then he can remember. Currently writes for Prosportsblogging.com on the Blackhawks and NHLHotstove.com on the Edmonton Oilers. (If you would like to email feel free to contact Trent at TKONHOCKEY@gmail.com )