The Blackhawks have been looking for elusive road victories this season. Their starts, they’ve said, have usually been their culprit.
On Saturday they got the start and the finish.
Patrick Kane scored his 12th goal of the season and Duncan Keith was his usual self in his first game after knee surgery as the Blackhawks beat the St. Louis Blues 4-2 at Scottrade Center. It was the Blackhawks’ first road victory since Oct. 10, when they beat the New York Islanders in their first road game of the season.
Both Keith and Michal Rozsival, coming off a fractured left ankle, returned for the Blackhawks. Keith was a bundle of energy following Saturday morning’s skate, when coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks would keep an eye on how their defenseman handled minutes.
Keith played 27 minutes, 34 seconds. So apparently, he was fine.
“I think so,” coach Joel Quenneville said with a grin. “I don’t know if we budgeted him for 27 [minutes] but I didn’t see a complaint.”
Corey Crawford stopped 29 of 31 shots in the victory and Artem Anisimov scored an empty-net goal with 47 seconds remaining in regulation. Rozsival, in his first game since fracturing his left ankle last May, played just over 13 minutes. Kane now has a 12-game point streak; his career long is 14 games, from Nov. 30-Dec. 28, 2013.
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Keith said he felt just fine out there and doesn’t see any reason why he can’t play again on Sunday night, when the Blackhawks host the Calgary Flames.
“I felt good. It’s nice to get back in the swing of things,” Keith said. “Tough game, with a good crowd and good atmosphere. I thought we did a lot of good things and battled through some things and I think we can all do a better job of trying to stay out of the box and not getting caught up in the plays after the whistle.”
The Blackhawks did get caught up in the Blues’ style of play late in the first and early in the second period. They took a few penalties. Quenneville was fine with some, including Jonathan Toews fighting David Backes after Backes’ boarding on Niklas Hjalmarsson. The Blackhawks defenseman went to the locker room after that hit but soon returned.
“It was a dangerous hit,” Quenneville said of Backes’ hit on Hjalmarsson. “[Toews] is a captain, a great leader and it was great sticking up for your teammates.”
The Blackhawks certainly did more right than wrong in this game, which hasn’t been the case in most of their road games so far this season. Once they got out of their frustrating rut early in the second period – Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice in those early minutes for the Blues – they played their brand of hockey again. They got more players on the score sheet – Andrew Shaw had his second goal of the season, as did Trevor van Riemsdyk.
The Blackhawks looked more complete on Saturday night. Certainly it helped to get Keith and Rozsival back, especially Keith’s massive minutes. The Blackhawks needed to start finding consistency, be it home or on the road. Saturday could be a start of that.
“It was a really big win,” Crawford said. “It’s a tough team to play against. Even when you’re playing at home they’re tough to play against. This building is even harder to play against them. I think we needed this sort of game to get back in the swing of things. This was a good test for us.”