The Blackhawks preach it constantly. Every team does, really: in this league, you need to get those gritty, up-close-and-personal goals. Drive to the net, get pucks and get opportunities.
And instead of talking about that mantra on Sunday night, the Blackhawks practiced it.
Patrick Kane scored his 21st goal of the season and Jonathan Toews recorded the overtime winner as the Blackhawks beat the San Jose Sharks 4-3 at the United Center. The Blackhawks have now won seven of their last nine and remain in third place in the Central Division entering Tuesday night’s game against the first-place Dallas Stars.
One player who won’t be headed to Dallas is Marian Hossa. The right wing missed Sunday’s game with an upper-body injury and coach Joel Quenneville said Hossa will hopefully be back for the Blackhawks’ Dec. 27 game against the Carolina Hurricanes. Quenneville said that Hossa’s injury “isn’t serious at all.” Given the upcoming break, it’s just more a good chance to let Hossa rest.
Corey Crawford, who Quenneville picked to start both games this weekend, stopped 33 of 36 for the victory.
Artem Anisimov scored his 12th of the season, which snapped an eight-game point-less streak for the center. Andrew Shaw added his sixth of the season. What do those two goals, as well as Kane’s and Toews’ have in common? They all came from about five feet within the Sharks’ net.
“There are some chances at both ends,” Quenneville said. “They go to the net hard and traffic at our net, but we need to be more assertive when we go to the net, knowing that’s where the rewards are.”
And for Toews, overtime continues to be aboon. Sunday marked Toews’ third overtime winner of the season.
“You have to be smart, pick your spots and take advantage of the opportunities you get,” Toews said. “Tonight was one of those scenarios where we were able to catch them tired and maybe changing and I think we did a pretty good job of managing that and making sure we have fresh guys on the ice maintaining puck possession even though we might not be attacking with it.”
Crawford did the rest, making some of his biggest stops in the third period when the Sharks outshot the Blackhawks 11-5. Crawford said starting back-to-backs was fine with him – “It’s almost like you don’t lose it at all, playing again that quick,” he said.
“Obviously it was a tough way to start on the first shot, I got deked out of my jock,” Crawford said of Joonas Donskoi’s early goal. “But I stuck with it. I was seeing pucks pretty well. That team has been pretty streaky this year but when they’re playing hard, they’re a tough team to beat. That was a really good hockey game tonight.”
The Blackhawks have been playing pretty good hockey lately. They’re getting great goaltending from Crawford. They’re getting more scoring from everyone. And on Sunday they got the kinds of goals they’ll need the rest of the way.
“I mean, it shows when you get in those dirty areas you find those goals,” Shaw said. “They’re tough to come by. You have to work hard and get dirty once in a while.”