The Blackhawks weren’t too thrilled with how they played through the middle minutes against the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday.
But they’ll take the start and finish.
Corey Crawford stopped 33 of 34 shots and Patrick Kane established a new season high in points as the Blackhawks beat the Red Wings 4-1 at the United Center. The Blackhawks remain in first place in the Central Division. The Dallas Stars beat the Ottawa Senators to equal the Blackhawks in points (87) but the Blackhawks have the regulation/overtime victory edge, 40-38.
Kane’s goal, which came 21 seconds into the game, gives him 89 points this season; that tops the previous career best of 88 he set during the 2009-10 season. His 38 goals are also a career high. Crawford’s 35th victory of the season is his new career best.
Artem Anisimov had a goal and an assist while Artemi Panarin had two assists for the Blackhawks. Duncan Keith and Jonathan Toews each had goals. For the Blackhawks, it’s always about playing as close to a 60-minute game as possible. That didn’t happen on Sunday, but they got great goaltending and two power-play goals to pace them.
“Kind of comparable in Detroit: I thought we had a good start, they get back in the game with a good second period,” coach Joel Quenneville said of the Blackhawks’ 5-2 victory there last week. “Crow was good again and our special teams were like we saw in Detroit: very good.”
Yes, the Blackhawks got good work out of their penalty kill and power play on Sunday, and they needed both of them. Keith and Anisimov had the power-play goals – Keith’s shot came from a distance while Anisimov redirected a Panarin shot. The power play was ranked third entering the game, a big difference from the last few seasons.
“It comes with confidence,” Toews said. “I think when you have a stretch where pucks are going in, it just adds to the rest of your power play, what you do with the puck, your breakouts, your entries, retrieving pucks especially off of initial shots that maybe don’t go in in their zone. I think it just trickles down when you’re scoring goals and you’re getting bounces.”
The Blackhawks’ kill nixed all three of the Red Wings’ power-play opportunities. A big part of that kill, as well as the entire second period, was Crawford. When the Blackhawks went quiet through the middle 20 minutes Crawford was stalwart, stopping all 13 shots he saw in the second. The Blackhawks had just three shots in that period.
“We didn’t get any shots any possession in their end at all,” Quenneville said of that second period. “We didn’t give up quality but Crow, I thought he moved the puck well on rebounds and dumps. He was very effective in a lot of ways.”
The Blackhawks have been looking for consistency in their game as they come down the stretch here. They didn’t get the desired amount of that on Sunday but they had exactly what they wanted at the start, and more of it at the finish.
“We want to get better every day and improve our team game and getting a four-line rotation where we’re keeping everyone in the game here. Tonight one group didn’t play as much as we’d like but going forward we’d like to see more balance in the ice time,” Quenneville said. “We want to finish as high as we can. That’s the motivation.”