Hawks stand up to physical Blues for big win


Hawks stand up to physical Blues for big win

This victory over a feisty St. Louis Blues squad showed off the Blackhawks' skill, and a fair share of toughness and grit, too. It was something that hadn't been on display for a while.

"It's never easy in this building, but we played a solid road game, where everybody chips in, and special teams were big tonight," said Marian Hossa, who scored two special teams goals in the 5-2 win at Scottrade Center Saturday night.

Hossa's shorthanded goal in the second period turned what might have been a potential 3-1 deficit into a 2-2 tie, and once it got to that point, Patrick Sharp and Hossa scored the next pair - sandwiched around the second intermission - on the man-advantage.

It cooled off a hard-charging St. Louis team that had crept to within two points of the Hawks in the Central by going 8-1-3 under new bench boss Ken Hitchcock. And individually, it cooled off goalie Brian Elliott, who hadn't given up more than two goals in a game this season, while leading the NHL in goals-against average and save percentage.

Those two power-play goals, coupled with a 3-for-3 penalty kill (albeit against the NHL's worst power play), helped complete a hard-fought, much-needed four-point weekend.

"We knew we were gonna have to weather the storm," said captain Jonathan Toews, who was among five Hawks stars (Hossa, Sharp, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith) who drove this victory. "Killing some penalties, finding a way to protect the lead and play with urgency. It's a big win against any team, but especially against this team."

Especially, because, St. Louis plays it physical against the Hawks, and while the official hit totals seemed a little low for both teams -- 17-12 in favor of the Blues -- the Hawks gave back enough of what they took.

Referees Tom Kowal and Francois St. Laurent let each team push the envelope until things started getting carried away after Sharp's goal made it 3-2 with under five minutes left in the middle frame. On top of that, those that may not have highlighted the scoresheet pitched in with solid play in all three zones, with few exceptions.

"I thought across the board, we played excellent," head coach Joel Quenneville said. "We got contributions from everybody. Expectations were met. That short-handed goal really took us off."

The beneficiary of that solid, consistent defensive coverage was Ray Emery, who wasn't too bad himself in improving to 3-0-0 in his career against the Blues. What a difference two weeks makes after he had to dig the puck out of the net behind him on seven of Edmonton's nine goals in his last start on Nov. 19. That night north of the border, Emery was often hung out to try by a lackluster effort in front of him.

"That's a while ago, that last one," Emery said. "Those happen once or twice a year where it gets away early. You just gotta bounce back and not let it happen a second time in a row."

He didn't, and the team didn't after being the first victim of Hitchcock's Blues. It helped send about half the crowd home happy, as the Hawks enjoyed a big traveling contingent.

"It was nice to make it worth the trip for our fans here," Toews concluded.

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."

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?