The Chicago Blackhawks may have been written off by some people after learning they would be without Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews for the remainder of the regular season, but the team apparently didn’t get the memo as they won their third consecutive game on Sunday, knocking off the St. Louis Blues by a score of 4-2.
We’ll have plenty more reaction to this game in the days to come, but for now, here were the Three Stars of the contest.
Third Star: Joakim Nordstrom
There has been plenty made of how much progress Jeremy Morin has shown in his game since spending a big chunk of the season with the Rockford IceHogs, but Nordstrom is equally deserving of that praise as he has come strong out of the gate since his recall last week.
In just 12:11 of ice time (including 1:12 of short-handed time) on Sunday, Nordstrom picked up an assist and six shots on goal in the Blackhawks victory. His biggest contribution came on a play where he didn’t even get a shot registered, but it was still a puck off his stick that set things up.
On the play, Blues forward Steve Ott was playing the puck along the boards at the defensive blue line. When he saw Brandon Bollig coming, he tried to dish the puck off, but as Bollig finished the hit, the puck skipped away and onto Nordstrom’s stick. After making a nice move off the line, Nordstrom’s shot ended up hitting both goal posts, and when Marcus Kruger tapped in the rebound, the Hawks grabbed a critical insurance goal to go up 3-1 in the game.
Bollig’s hit got a lot of attention on the broadcast, and Kruger rightfully got some praise for crashing the net on the play, but it was Nordstrom’s high and hard shot that fooled St. Louis goaltender Brian Elliott and was the key ingredient of the whole sequence.
Second Star: Patrick Sharp
Speaking of guys who racked up six shots on goal in the game, Patrick Sharp picked up that many scoring chances on Sunday and also scored his team-leading 33rd goal of the season to give the Hawks the lead in the late stages of the second period.
Sharp also had several key chances on a couple of Hawks power plays, but neither he nor Marian Hossa could seem to figure out how to beat Elliott on the plays. Those struggles notwithstanding, Sharp still showed some tremendous hands on his second period tally.
On that play, Morin snatched a gorgeous stretch pass through the neutral zone from Andrew Shaw, and kicked into the offensive zone on a 2-on-1 rush with Sharp. Instead of passing over right away, Morin ended up making a nifty little deke, and when his saucer pass across found Sharp’s stick, the sniper didn’t miss, as he blasted a one-timer past Elliott.
It was a beautiful play by Morin, but it doesn’t get finished if Sharp’s timing is off in any way. His quick hands and nose for the goal in recent weeks have been a big part of the reason why the Hawks are starting to turn a corner on the ice, and if he can continue this play into the playoffs, then he could be a really dangerous weapon for the Blackhawks in the weeks to come.
First Star: Jeremy Morin
There really aren’t enough words to describe the impact that Morin has had on the Blackhawks in recent games, and his performance on Sunday shows just how lucky the Hawks are to have the kind of roster depth that they possess.
Playing once again on a line with Bryan Bickell and Peter Regin, Morin scored a goal and tallied an assist in just 13:15 of ice time (including 3:18 of power play time in place of the scratched Brandon Saad), and his play on both ends of the ice was really an eye-opener for pundits and fans alike.
We’ve already detailed Morin’s excellent hands and great pass on the Sharp goal in the second period, but his game-tying goal earlier in the frame showed another important part of his game. After a high and hard shot from Bickell was mishandled by Elliott (he thought he had absorbed the puck, but it bounced harmlessly to the ice after rolling off his chest), Morin was driving hard to the net, and he was able to pound home the rebound to make it a 1-1 game.
If Morin can continue to crash the net, play responsible defense, and hustle every time he’s on the ice, then head coach Joel Quenneville is going to be hard-pressed to take him out of the lineup even when Kane and Toews return.