The Chicago Blackhawks ran into yet another hot goaltender on Sunday night when they battled against Ottawa Senators netminder Craig Anderson, but thanks to goals from Jonathan Toews and Brent Seabrook, they were able to secure a 2-1 victory to snap a two-game skid.
We’ll have more reaction to the Hawks’ victory in the next few days, but for now, we’ll focus on our Three Stars of the game.
Third Star: Brent Seabrook
Seabrook’s primary contribution to the team on Saturday night had been a diving play to break up a 3-on-1 rush by the St. Louis Blues, but on Sunday it was Seabrook’s offensive ability that took center stage as he scored the game-winning goal in the 2-1 triumph.
With the game tied in the second period, the Blackhawks went on a power play and got some great puck movement from their second unit. Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad moved the puck around well near the goal line to start drawing in the Ottawa defense, but despite that they ended up turning it over. The clearing attempt was stopped at the line by Brad Richards, and he fed Seabrook a pass in the middle of the ice. Seabrook’s slap shot evaded Anderson, thanks in large part to a screen by Bryan Bickell, and the Hawks took a 2-1 lead as a result.
The play was a sterling example of teamwork leading to good things for the Hawks, and while Seabrook got the attention thanks to the blistering slap shot he fired at the net, it’s worth giving credit to everyone involved.
Second Star: Jonathan Toews
The Blackhawks’ captain has been off to a solid start so far this season, scoring two goals and dishing out four assists, and Sunday night was no exception to that rule as he helped push an offensive attack that ended up generating 45 shots on net.
Like Seabrook’s goal, Toews’ early second period tally was the result of some great teamwork. Toews got things started in the defensive zone, getting the puck below the goal line and pushing it up the ice to Patrick Kane. Kane then skated it through the neutral zone, allowing Toews and Duncan Keith to join the play on a 3-on-2 rush. Kane passed to Keith as soon as the Hawks got zone entry, and Keith quickly pushed the puck up to Toews.
Instead of firing at the net right away, Toews went to go around the defender on his side of the ice. Anderson drifted a bit in his crease because of this move, and in the blink of an eye Toews wheeled around and popped a wraparound shot into the cage to give Chicago the lead.
Transition passing is a hallmark of the Blackhawks’ game, and so is the strategy of winning puck battles in the defensive zone. Toews did both on the play, and it gave them their first second period goal of the season.
First Star: Scott Darling
We’re suckers for a feel-good story on this blog, and Darling provided the Windy City with a welcome respite from the annoyances of another Bears loss with a 32-save effort in his maiden game in the NHL.
The first couple of periods were relatively easy for Darling, with a couple of exceptions. He did have to make a save on David Legwand when the aggressive forward fought off Marian Hossa for a loose puck, and he also made a nice save on Kyle Turris on a power play, shouldering a puck off the crossbar and over the net.
In the third period however, things got a lot more challenging for Darling. In the final 20 minutes of the game, he faced 16 shots, including four on an early power play, and he stopped all of them. He denied Erik Karlsson twice on low hard shots from the point, kicking out his leg pads and showing solid rebound control. Turris got another chance later in the frame, and Clarke MacArthur joined in on the fun, but they were both rebuffed as well as Darling secured the victory.
The Illinois native wasn’t expected to do much in his first career game, but with 32 saves and a great ovation from the United Center crowd, he will surely remember the victory for the rest of his life.