The Chicago Blackhawks, losers of three straight games, got goals from five different players (six, if you count Patrick Kane’s own goal in the second period) and knocked off the lowly Edmonton Oilers by a score of 5-3 on Sunday night.
There were a lot of great individual performances worth mentioning, but we’ve whittled down the list to our Three Stars of the game.
Third Star: Duncan Keith
On the Blackhawks’ broadcast on CSN Chicago, the duo of Pat Foley and Eddie Olczyk were effusive in their praise of Keith’s play last night, as he made a couple of key plays that enabled the Hawks to score goals.
There were two of those plays that really stood out. The first came as the Oilers were coming in on a two-on-one rush toward Antti Raanta, when Keith made an excellent stick check to get the puck back to the defensive blue line. The other came later in the game when the Oilers attempted to clear the zone on a Hawks’ power play. The puck got up to the blue line, but Keith hurriedly skated over and managed to keep it in the zone. He then played catch with Marian Hossa at the point, and Hossa eventually scalded a slap shot past Devan Dubnyk to give the Hawks back the lead.
Keith’s poor coverage on a first period goal by Ales Hemsky knocked him down this list (and was seemingly ignored by the commentators), but overall in the game his performance was really good, and will do nothing to silence the drumbeat for Keith’s Norris Trophy candidacy.
Second Star: Marian Hossa
We’ll have more on how the Blackhawks’ players have performed on their birthdays later, but Hossa didn’t waste an opportunity to help his team out with a goal and an assist on his 35th birthday.
It was a blend of timing and execution on Hossa’s goal that cemented his spot on this list. During a delayed penalty in the second period, Kane attempted to pass the puck back out to the point. The problem was, there was no point man there, as they were executing a line change, and in the blink of an eye the puck had caromed off the boards and rolled into the empty cage at the other end to tie up the contest.
Despite that stomach punch, the Blackhawks came out on the ensuing 5-on-3 and made the most of it. When Keith passed the puck back to Hossa on a pitch-and-catch near the point, Hossa ripped a one-timer that got over Dubnyk’s shoulder and went in right underneath the crossbar to give the Blackhawks back the lead.
It is rare for a player to be able to pick his spot like that from such a long distance, but to do so on a one-timer is even more of a high-skill play, and Hossa’s blast was yet another reminder of the Hall of Fame credentials that he is adding to with each passing game.
First Star: Andrew Shaw
Shaw has been struggling in a big way lately, so head coach Joel Quenneville made an interesting personnel decision on Sunday, sending Shaw out with the second line featuring Kane and Brandon Saad on the wings.
The decision paid immediate dividends, as Shaw was engaged throughout the contest both with his scoring touch and his physicality as he picked up a goal and a hit in 14:36 of ice time in the Hawks’ victory.
More so than the goal itself, it was Shaw’s hustle that really stood out in this game. There were times that he didn’t score where he was still making a huge impact on the game, including his drive to the net that ended up drawing a third period penalty and seriously hampered the Oilers’ chances at a comeback. Shaw also drew another penalty by getting to the front of the net in the second period and causing Dubnyk to violently slash at his leg (on Kane’s own goal), and Shaw also nearly picked up a second goal when he got to the front of the net on a second period chance, and his shot just missed the far post.
Ultimately, the enduring memory of this game for Shaw was his emphatic celebration after scoring in the second period, but it was his hustle that really stood out, and it’s the reason why Quenneville will likely keep Shaw on as the second line center for the foreseeable future.