When you’re missing key guys from your lineup, sometimes you have to simplify.
You have to be smart. You have to take advantage of what opportunities you do get and you have to quell your opponent’s chances as much as possible. The Blackhawks did a pretty good job in all of those categories on Sunday night.
Marian Hossa scored his 15th goal of the season and Scott Darling stopped 23 of 24 as the Blackhawks beat the Dallas Stars 3-1. The Blackhawks now have 40 points, which keeps them atop the Western Conference standings.
Artem Anisimov scored his 12th goal of the season and Artemi Panarin added his 11th, a power-play goal in the third. Ryan Hartman had an assist – he probably should have had a second – and played a strong all-around game.
The Blackhawks played their ninth game without captain Jonathan Toews, who skated on Sunday and hopes to be on the team’s upcoming trip to New York. They’re now 5-2-2 in his absence. Brent Seabrook missed his second consecutive game and Corey Crawford has now missed five in a row.
With that many top guys out, the Blackhawks have needed everyone to do a little more. On Sunday, everyone did.
“Overall our whole team game, I really liked tonight,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We did some good things technically and defensively. We managed the puck a little better and scored some timely goals as well. We talk about everybody and everybody contributed in a lot of ways. Hoss continues to score some big and timely goals for us. But I don’t think we gave up much tonight and that’s why we’ve been having some success here.”
[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]
No, the Blackhawks didn’t give up much quality to the Stars, whose lone goal came from Devin Shore in the second period. Sure, the Stars have been decimated by injuries but they still have their threats, from Jamie Benn to Jason Spezza to Tyler Seguin. The Blackhawks held them in check, however, and Darling stopped whatever did get through.
“That's a good, high-powered hockey team over there and we did a really good job defensively tonight,” Darling said. “[They] helped me out big time.”
The Blackhawks got the necessary offense, too. Hossa came through once again, tying the game just 52 seconds after Shore had given the Stars the lead in the second period.
“Well, what can I say? I tried to shoot when I had a good opportunity,” said Hossa, who was denied his 15th due to an offside call on Friday. “Tonight, out of nothing, I tried to release it and I got one of those lucky ones.”
Panarin’s was a big one, a scorcher that gave the Blackhawks a two-goal cushion in the third period. After that the defense kept the Stars from making any serious threats.
The Blackhawks may be on the mend, as Toews and Seabrook could be heading to New York. But in their absence the Blackhawks have still kept gaining points. They’re also gaining confidence in their team game, which is a good sign no matter who’s in or out of the lineup.
“Well, this was definitely a good test of what the team can do without key players,” Hossa said “It’s hard to replace guys like that, all three of them, but I think with the little things, guys doing baby steps, those guys get opportunities to play more and they’re taking advantage of it. That’s good for the future, when everybody’s going to be back.”