It wasn’t easy, but the Chicago Blackhawks were able to knock off the Phoenix Coyotes at the United Center on Thursday night by a score of 5-4. Brandon Pirri picked up the game-tying goal in the third period and the winning tally in the shootout to give the Hawks their fourth consecutive victory.
We’ll have plenty of coverage throughout the day on the blog, but for now, here are Thursday’s Three Stars:
Third Star: Nick Leddy
Leddy has taken some big steps forward this season, playing with more confidence on the offensive side of the ice and exercising much better discipline on the defensive side of it. He showed off both of those facets in his performance during Thursday’s victory, and he was instrumental in the Hawks winning the contest.
He picked up a secondary assist on Brandon Saad’s first period goal, and it was the patience and fluid movement he displayed on Pirri’s third period goal that nailed down this spot for him. On that play, Leddy drew defenders to his side of the ice and away from Brent Seabrook, and by the time Seabrook wound up to shoot the puck from the blue line, David Moss could barely get back, and he was stung by blocking the shot.
As the puck skipped towards the blue line, Leddy made a really smart read and used his quickness to get to it, and kept it in and pushed it back to Seabrook. Seabrook then drove into the seam that had opened up in the zone thanks to Moss’ block, and he fired a shot that Pirri deflected into the net.
It was a great sequence of plays by Leddy, and showed off several of the tricks in his arsenal.
Second Star: Brent Seabrook
The Blackhawks ended up with 52 shots on goal against the Coyotes on Thursday night, and a big part of the reason for that was the play of their blue liners. Combined, the Hawks’ defensemen had 14 of those shots, and Seabrook had four of them, as well as four blocked shots, in the winning effort.
Seabrook’s biggest shot was the one that hit Moss in the offensive zone as the Hawks maintained a fantastic possession against the Coyotes. That shot opened up the middle of the ice, and when Leddy retrieved the puck and got it back to Seabrook, he bolted for that seam, and fired a perfect low shot that Pirri was able to get a stick on and get past Mike Smith to tie the game for the Hawks.
That versatility that Seabrook is able to show in games like this make him a perfect complement to Duncan Keith on the team’s blue line. He is able to pinch in and create offensively with his huge slap shot, and he can also hang back and play physically tough if Keith decides to utilize his passing and shooting abilities. It’s a great pairing because of those complementary abilities, and Seabrook demonstrated his usefulness in this game.
First Star: Brandon Pirri
Before Thursday night’s game, we mentioned Pirri as our player to watch for the Hawks because of his recent struggles to generate offense. While he didn’t exactly blow the doors off the United Center in his 11-plus minutes of ice time, he did have one shot on goal, and it was a crucial one that tied the game early in the third period.
Pirri also won seven of the 11 face-offs that he took in the game, helping the Hawks to a dominant night in that category.
What was so smart about Pirri’s play was that he didn’t abandon his spot in front of the net when it looked like the puck was heading out of the zone. Instead, he stayed in the area, and so when Seabrook got the puck back and was able to bring it into the open seam between the faceoff circles, Pirri was in perfect position to deflect the shot. Credit also has to be given to Pirri for standing in against that shot, because Seabrook’s slapshot isn’t something to be trifled with, and Pirri stood his ground.
Andrew Shaw got some time at second line center on Thursday night, so Pirri’s spot on that line is far from secure, but one thing is for certain: he is proving that he is definitely capable of playing at the NHL level, regardless of what kind of situations he is put in by the Hawks’ coaching staff.