Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford makes a save during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the San Jose Sharks in Chicago, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
It isn’t often that the Chicago Blackhawks are thoroughly outplayed by anyone, but on Saturday night against the Montreal Canadiens, that was the case as they fell in a 2-1 overtime defeat.
Despite that outcome, there were a couple of individual performances worth noting, and we’ll recap them here in our Three Stars of the game.
Third Star: Patrick Sharp
Second Star: Jonathan Toews
We rarely combine two of the stars of the game like this, but their intelligence and skill they displayed on Marian Hossa’s third period goal is worthy of recognition.
On the play, Toews grabbed the puck in the defensive zone, and gave it to Duncan Keith for the zone exit. Keith then found Sharp just across the Montreal blue line, and when Sharp received the pass, he turned his back to defenseman Josh Gorges to protect the puck. Then, with a quick flick of the wrists, he passed to Toews as he crossed the blue line, and Sharp’s third star status was secured.
Toews then went to work finishing off his second star performance. After getting the pass from Sharp, Toews deked around Norris Trophy winning defenseman PK Subban, who sprawled out on the ice to try to stop a Toews shot attempt. Not deterred, Toews eventually found Hossa streaking in towards the goal, and his pass found the mark as Hossa one-timed a quick shot past Price to tie the game at 1-1.
Hossa ultimately gets the glory for the goal, but the plays by Sharp and Toews on that sequence cannot be overlooked. Shielding the puck from an aggressive defensive push was a smart move by Sharp, and his pass to Toews was right on the mark. As for the Hawks’ captain, his initial steal of the puck in the defensive zone, coupled with his one-on-one victory over Subban, are just more examples of why he is the leader of arguably the best offensive line in the game today, and the Hawks really have a good thing going with that group.
First Star: Corey Crawford
Playing in your hometown is a unique experience, but it’s an even bigger deal when your hometown is the most storied hockey city in the world. Crawford came into the Bell Centre on Saturday night not only playing in front of his friends and family, but he also had to face-off with one of the guys who beat him out for a job on Team Canada, as Carey Price manned the other cage for the Habs.
Not only did Crawford go toe to toe with Price, but he came within one overtime shot of besting his fellow Canadian. Crawford made 36 saves in the game, and single handedly kept the Blackhawks in the game as they sleep-walked through the first two periods of the contest, being outshot 22-15 in the process.
There really isn’t any question what Crawford’s best play of the game was. On a late second period power play for the Hawks, Crawford ended up losing his stick, and Canadiens forward Brandon Prust came in on a breakaway. What happened next was amazing:
Not only did Crawford stop the initial shot by Prust, but to have the wherewithal to stop the follow-up attempt by Lars Eller was even more spectacular. It was a moment that seemed to infuse the Hawks with life after they came out of the dressing room to start the third period, and even though Crawford didn’t end up with the win, it was those kinds of saves that got the Blackhawks a point in the game.