The Chicago Blackhawks had to win on Tuesday night to keep the St. Louis Blues within shouting distance in the Central Division, and that’s exactly what they did in a 4-2 triumph over the Dallas Stars are the United Center.
Several Blackhawks played key roles in the victory, and those players are featured in this edition of Three Stars.
Third Star: Duncan Keith
Keith has been on quite the scoring run as of late after a slow start to the season in terms of putting the puck in the net, and he added another goal and an assist in the Hawks’ win Monday.
On Chicago’s second goal of the game, Keith and Brent Seabrook provided a textbook example of the Hawks’ transition game as they forced a turnover in the neutral zone. Keith eventually pushed the puck up to Kris Versteeg on the rush, and the Hawks’ winger ended up scoring on an attempted pass that was deflected by Dallas’ Antoine Roussel.
Later in the period, Keith added a tally of his own to kill off any Dallas momentum. After Patrick Sharp chased a deflected pass into the corner of the defensive zone, he worked the puck back down the boards to Keith, who unleashed a nifty slapshot that beat Kari Lehtonen through traffic to put Chicago up by two goals and essentially seal the game.
Both of those plays were the culmination of some great work by the Hawks on defense and in terms of just pure hustle, and they set the stage for a key victory.
Second Star: Marian Hossa
Hossa is viewed by some fans as the straw that stirs the drink for the Blackhawks, and it’s games like Tuesday’s performance that really reinforces that notion.
On the Hawks’ second goal, Hossa didn’t end up getting credit for the tally (although he originally did because it appeared that he was the one who tipped in Versteeg’s pass), but he played a big role in the previous possession that saw a couple of big scoring chances for the Hawks. He skated around the offensive zone with the puck, shielding it from several attacking Stars defenders, and he eventually worked it to Keith, whose shot was stopped. Hossa also charged the net on the Versteeg goal to draw pressure away from the side of the net, and it ultimately resulted in a deflected goal by Roussel.
Later in the game, Hossa was rewarded for his intense play when he made a nifty steal at the offensive blue line in the waning moments. He then skated the puck back to the middle of the ice and backhanded a shot into the empty net to give the Hawks their final margin of victory.
It was a fitting goal for a guy who had skated hard on both ends of the ice throughout the game, and it put an exclamation mark on the big victory.
First Star: Andrew Shaw
Shaw has made it a habit of heading to the penalty box for a litany of silly reasons lately, but on Tuesday it was his discipline and his puck-handling abilities that shone brightest as the Hawks won.
Toward the end of the first period, the Blackhawks were given a power play on a Cody Eakin goaltender interference penalty, and Shaw helped them to take full advantage. After a shot in from the point by Sharp was stopped by traffic in front, Shaw managed to grab the loose puck, and in one fluid motion turned his hands over and shoved a backhanded shot into the net to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead. The play was an excellent display of both athleticism and ice awareness, as Shaw wasn’t even looking at the net as he released his shot.
Later in the game, Shaw showed some brainpower to go along with his offensive prowess. After Keith scored to put the Hawks up 3-1, Roussel began tangling with Shaw off the very next face-off. Instead of dropping the gloves and fighting, Shaw instead declined the invitation and thereby eliminated a potential momentum-boost for the Stars.
It was a veteran play from a young player, and if Shaw could show more discipline like that in key moments in the defensive zone, there’d be little question about his status as one of the more underrated players on the Hawks’ roster.