Three Stars: Crawford, Hjalmarsson Help Hawks to Big Victory

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The Chicago Blackhawks made quick work of the New York Islanders on Tuesday night, using two Jonathan Toews goals to set the tone and using two more Marian Hossa tallies to seal the 4-1 victory.

While a lot of the focus will be on those two players, and rightfully so, we thought it would be fun to take a look at a couple of the more unheralded players from Tuesday’s game in this edition of Three Stars.

Third Star: Brent Seabrook

Seabrook has had to play with a bunch of different defensive partners this season, but in spite of all of the turnover at the position next to him on the ice, he has been largely effective for the Blackhawks.

Tuesday night was not only a good showcase of Seabrook’s defensive skills as he delivered four hits in the game, but it was also featured a display of his offensive prowess.

In the second period of the game with the Hawks up by two goals, Seabrook made a bad play in the defensive zone as his failed clearing attempt didn’t have enough juice on it to get through the zone. Undaunted by his slip-up, Seabrook quickly redeemed himself, getting the puck back and eventually firing a stretch pass across the red line and blue line, finding a wide-open Toews waiting.

Hossa ended up scoring on the ensuing play, and even though Seabrook didn’t get an assist on the scoresheet, he certainly deserved one, as his tenacity and passing ability helped to set the goal up.

Second Star: Niklas Hjalmarsson

Players like Duncan Keith generally get all of the glory when it comes to creating offense from the backend of the ice, but Hjalmarsson showed some serious skill on Tuesday night as he helped set up Chicago’s second goal.

The play all started in the defensive zone, where Johnny Oduya made a nifty move to steal the puck below the goal line to stop a potential scoring chance from developing. He worked the puck up the boards to Hjalmarsson, whom the Islanders expected to simply pass it off and allow the forwards to generate the play.

Instead, Hjalmarsson gathered a head of steam, blew past the defenders along the wall, and forced the Islanders’ defense into scramble mode. Eventually, the defenseman found Toews flying up the right side of the ice, and eventually the captain lifted in a backhanded shot that Michal Neuvirth was unable to stop, and the Blackhawks captured a 2-0 lead.

The play was an excellent transition play by Hjalmarsson, and his aggressiveness really caught New York off-guard.

First Star: Corey Crawford

He got plenty of credit from the United Center crowd on Tuesday night as fans chanted his name, but Crawford’s performance had just as much to do with the Hawks’ victory as Toews and Hossa’s goal scoring exploits.

Crawford ended up making 38 saves in the game as the Hawks were outshot for the second game in a row, but his calm demeanor and ability to thrive under the pressure were once again evident, especially in the second and third periods of the game. Late in that second stanza, Cal Clutterbuck had a great shot from the slot that went low and through traffic, but Crawford was able to locate it and steer it aside with a quick pad kick.

The Islanders eventually got the puck back and crashed the net, with Anders Lee and Clutterbuck getting mixed up in the fray, but Crawford was still able to hold his ground and smother the puck to get a whistle.

Late in the period, Crawford was challenged again as Kyle Okposo fired a high, hard shot toward the net, but the goaltender was able to absorb the shot with his shoulder and prevent a rebound to keep the Hawks’ shutout hopes alive.

The Hawks also made Crawford work in the third period as he was trying to rebuff an Islanders’ surge, and the goaltender made quick work of things. He made a huge stop on Clutterbuck again on a 2-on-1 rush, and with his exploits the Hawks were able to nail down the victory.

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