The Chicago Blackhawks went into Tuesday’s game looking to give Antti Raanta some goal support, and that’s exactly what they did as Patrick Kane picked up two power play goals in a 4-0 victory.
We’ll have more breakdown on how the Hawks managed to best the Flyers later today, but for now here are our Three Stars of the game.
Third Star: Bryan Bickell/Brandon Saad
One of the biggest complaints about the Blackhawks early in the season has been about their lack of quality third line play, but that concern was largely addressed on Tuesday as both even-strength goals the Hawks scored came from that group.
The reason we couldn’t choose between the two players for Third Star honors was because they both brought essentially the same thing to the party. Both players crashed the net on the first goal of the game (Saad eventually got to the puck first, but Bickell’s stick blade was right behind it), and both players had good passes that helped set up great scoring chances (Saad’s pass off the boards to Bickell got the rush started, and Bickell’s pass back across to Saad forced Steve Mason to make a save before the rebound was eventually pounded in).
At any rate, both players seemed to enjoy playing together, and the hope the Blackhawks have is that they can get Brad Richards’ scoring abilities going as well. He did pick up an assist in the game after firing two straight shots at Mason before Saad cleaned up the mess.
Second Star: Antti Raanta
With Corey Crawford out of the lineup after a great start to the season, Raanta had a lot to live up to and he delivered. He ended up making 32 saves in the game to get the shutout victory, and in the process he helped the Hawks end their four-game homestand with a bang.
The great thing about Raanta’s performance was that he was making sure to cover all areas of the net on all manner of shots. In the second period, Claude Giroux and Michael Raffl got in on a rush toward the net, and Raffl feathered a pass across the ice to the Flyers’ captain. Giroux stuck his stick out and tipped a shot toward the net, but a sliding Raanta made a save with his leg pad.
Later in the period, RJ Umberger made a great move to get around Duncan Keith near the blue line, and he found Matt Read wide open on the other side of the ice. Read fired a shot high at Raanta, but even while sliding across to center him up he was able to throw up his blocker and make a save on the play.
Crawford’s job as the starter is certainly secure, but having his back-up put on that kind of a performance has to be a big confidence boost for the Blackhawks’ defense.
First Star: Patrick Kane
Kane is one of the most flamboyant players in the NHL, with an arsenal of tricks that would make anyone envious (even Sidney Crosby). On Tuesday night however, Kane’s showmanship took a back seat to his practicality, as both of his goals came courtesy of crashing the net.
In the first period, the Blackhawks got a power play thanks to a silly penalty by Raffl, and Kane made the Flyers pay. As he has shown a propensity for doing this season, Patrick Sharp got the puck at the point and immediately fired a shot toward the net. The puck ended up going wide, but Kane was right near the blue paint to collect it and push it past Mason to make it a 2-0 game.
In the third period, Kane once again showed his skills. On another power play, Keith collected a puck near the face-off circle after Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn blocked a shot from the point with his skate. Keith’s shot was stopped in front, but Kane once again was lingering near the crease and popped home the rebound to give the hawks’ their 4-0 advantage.
Guys like Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell are generally known as the “crash the net” types, but in this case, it was Kane doing the dirty work.