It came with a steep price with the first period injury to goaltender Corey Crawford, but the Chicago Blackhawks were able to knock off the Florida Panthers by a score of 6-2 on Sunday night at the United Center.
We will have plenty of coverage of this game to come, but for now, here were Sunday’s Three Stars:
Third Star: Andrew Shaw
Re-entering the lineup for the first time since Tuesday’s loss to the Dallas Stars, Shaw made an immediate impact upon his return, picking up a goal and a hit in 10:07 of ice time in the Hawks’ victory.
A couple of plays in particular illustrated Shaw’s value to the Hawks. On Patrick Sharp’s first period power play goal, it was Shaw that was camped out in front of Florida goaltender Scott Clemmensen and created a screen that allowed the puck to go into the net to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead.
Shaw did the exact same thing later in the game on another Hawks’ power play, but this time, he ended up getting the goal as the puck ricocheted off of his left shinpad and got past Clemmensen to put Chicago up 5-2 in the third period.
If it hadn’t been for Shaw’s ill-advised third period penalty where he committed an interference infraction against Florida’s Brian Campbell, he would have been higher on this list for his role in the Hawks’ power play success.
Second Star: Brent Seabrook
Speaking of Blackhawks that made a big impact on the power play, Seabrook was part of another excellent effort by the Hawks’ second power play unit on Sunday. He had a goal and an assist with three shots on goal in the contest, and his 2:33 of power play time were filled with quality chances and aggressive play.
On Seabrook’s power play goal in the first period, he made an excellent read as the play developed. The Florida defense began to collapse on the left wing side of the ice, where Brandon Saad had the puck in the corner. Seeing this, Seabrook moved into an open spot along the blue line, and Saad hit him with the pass.
Quickly moving into the slot, Seabrook pinched in towards the net, and he uncorked a wicked shot that ended up going right under Clemmensen’s glove, and just like that the Hawks had an early 2-0 lead, and they were off and running.
Even though Seabrook is often a forgotten man when it comes to discussing the Hawks’ offensively potent blue line corps, his play in this one really showed that he is capable of asserting himself when necessary, and he has the hockey smarts to know when to make a move and when to hold back.
First Star: Patrick Sharp
Whenever the Blackhawks need a player to step up and be a catalyst for their offense, it is often Sharp that does the heavy lifting. Whether it’s his precise passing, aggressive back-checking to set up the transition offense, or his penchant for taking shots early and often, Sharp is arguably the most aggressive player on the team, and he continued to display that tendency on Sunday.
In the game, Sharp had one goal, two assists, and six shots on goal in the Hawks’ win. Two of his three points came on the power play as the Hawks decimated the Panthers’ feeble attempts at penalty kills, and it was those two points that landed him this number one slot.
As mentioned previously, it was a Sharp shot from the point on the power play that gave the Hawks the lead early in the game, and it was also Sharp’s shot that Shaw deflected into the net. What was notable about the success of that tactic was that Sharp has gotten some criticism for his performance at the point on the power play, but in this game he was able to get some positive results.
Obviously, just shooting from the point on the power play isn’t the best strategy, but it was the way that Sharp allowed the screen from Shaw to take effect that really stood out, and that intelligence really paved the way for a big Hawks triumph.