Crawford earns seventh shutout of season as Blackhawks top Blues


Crawford earns seventh shutout of season as Blackhawks top Blues

The Blackhawks came out of Florida looking like their energy was depleted.

They’ve had a busy schedule, during which they went on a 12-game winning streak. But after two losses Blackhawks needed to find enough to get through these final two games before the All-Star break. Thanks in part to their goaltender again, the found enough on Sunday.

Artemi Panarin scored his 17th goal of the season and Crawford stopped all 25 shots he saw for his league-leading seventh shutout of the season as the Blackhawks beat the St. Louis Blues 2-0. The Blackhawks remain atop the Central Division with 70 points, giving them a five-point lead over idle Dallas and a six-point edge over the Blues.

Andrew Shaw scored his ninth of the season.

The Blackhawks looked listless and drained when they faced the Florida Panthers on Friday, and they didn’t look too sharp through the first 20 minutes of this one, either. But they got enough through the final two periods to snap their two-game losing streak.

“Yeah, it was much better as the game progressed,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We didn’t have much going for us, we were chasing the puck around in the first period. They’re positionally, a strong team. They had a lot of possession, zone time and Crow had to make some saves as well. We settled down nicely in the second period. Not a high-chance game tonight but we did a good job of playing the right way, particularly the last 40 minutes.”

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Crawford was once again ready from the start. While the Blackhawks limited the Blues’ chances through the final two periods the opposition had 12 first-period shots, and Crawford got all of them. Still, he downplayed his latest shutout.

“I don’t know. It’s pretty good I think so far but I think this team is never satisfied,” Crawford said. “The D men are working so hard in front of me and limiting second chances and keeping a lot of stuff to the outside. I’m able to see pucks. It’s just a solid effort by our unit, I think, in our zone.”

The Blackhawks, shut out against Florida on Friday, found just enough offense on Sunday. Panarin was first, taking a pretty pass from Patrick Kane and scorching one from the left circle for the 1-0 lead the Blackhawks wouldn’t relinquish.

“Special play. The anticipation between the two is Sedin-like,” Quenneville said of Panarin and Kane. “And one timer, great shot; it may have gone off a stick. But the thought process of getting into that position, he anticipated that play.”

Shaw added to the lead about five minutes into the third period when he tipped Marian Hossa’s shot for a power-play goal. That was enough for the Blackhawks, who like the Blues played in their 52nd game tonight but had more energy late.

“You look at the schedule and how hectic it’s been but St. Louis has played the same amount of games. Tonight was a good test for us,” Shaw said. “They came out flying in the first there and we countered with a good second. We scored on some opportunities tonight.”

The Blackhawks still would’ve been in decent shape had they lost tonight. They would’ve remained in first place in the division, although their lead obviously would’ve been more tenuous. But they wanted a rebound effort. It didn’t look like they would get it after that first period but they summoned enough energy to get through that final 40 minutes.

“We’ve been playing a lot of hockey and not every game is going to be perfect. But still, that was a hard team,” Crawford said. “We stuck with it. We didn’t panic at all, showed good poise and just kept playing our game and started to make plays. It was a tight game so I think the most important thing was no panic out there.”

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?


Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: