The Chicago Blackhawks got back on the right track Thursday night, beating the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1. Johnny Oduya scored the lone goal for the Hawks, and Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews scored in the shootout to secure the victory.
If someone had to pick the player of the game, though, it would have to be Corey Crawford. On a night when Columbus tested him early and often, he bounced back in a big way from his lackluster performance against Colorado, and he stood tall in the overtime frame as the Hawks struggled to keep the Jackets from getting quality opportunities.
Aside from Crawford, there were two big stories from this game. One was the continued dominance that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from Patrick Kane, and the other is a possible preview of things to come for this team.
Kane to Oduya for the Goal
Late in the second period, Niklas Hjalmarsson brought the puck into the zone and dished it off to Kane on the wing. Seeing a streaking Oduya, Kane fired a saucer pass past two Columbus defenders and over the stick of another, and Johnny did the rest, firing an excellent shot past Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to give the Hawks the lead.
Here’s a video of that play, courtesy of NHL.com:
The on-ice awareness of Kane has been on another level all year, but this goal takes the cake. Very few players in the NHL are capable of threading a pass in the manner that he did, and it further cemented the notion that after all these years of being a very good player, Kane is finally turning into an elite one.
The Hawks Have a Penchant for Beating Hot Goalies
If there has been one thing that has defined the Blackhawks’ season, it has been an ability to win close games. The team is now 13-1-3 in one goal games this season, but it was something else that stood out about the particular manner in which they won this close contest.
Bobrovsky has been red hot in the net as of late for Columbus, and Thursday was no exception. He made spectacular save after save, including somehow getting back across the crease to get a stick on Dave Bolland’s shot attempt in the third period. The Hawks found a way to get a couple of pucks past him in the shootout, however, and they continued a trend of beating hot goalies.
There have been a couple other games this year that this has held true. Early in the season against Dallas, the Hawks were stymied for a good chunk of the game by the acrobatic stylings of Kari Lehtonen, but eventually, they broke through and beat the Stars 3-2 in OT. In addition, there was the game two Sundays ago against the Red Wings, where Jimmy Howard stood on his head for nearly the entire contest, until Kane finally fired a puck past him on a late power play for Chicago.
The old wisdom suggests that a team can win a playoff series solely on the strength of hot goaltending, but as the Hawks have shown this season, that doesn’t usually stop them from finding ways to win hockey games.