The Christmas break nears, but the Blackhawks still have some work to do before they kick back for a few days. They took care of some of that work on Sunday night.
Balanced offense and great goaltending was there again as the Blackhawks beat the San Jose Sharks 4-3 in overtime. The Blackhawks have won seven of their last nine games but their biggest pre-Christmas comes in Dallas on Tuesday. The Stars were the first team in the NHL to reach 50 points this season. The Blackhawks will be seeing former teammates Patrick Sharp and Johnny Oduya, who have been big parts of the Stars’ great start.
But before we talk about reunions in the city that once had Reunion Arena – I’ll show myself out – let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory over the Sharks.
1. Andrew Shaw gets the big goal. Coach Joel Quenneville was happy with all the Blackhawks’ goals on Sunday – all were within close proximity of Sharks goaltender Martin Jones. But he was especially thrilled with Shaw’s, which tied the game 3-3 and came after the Blackhawks killed off two consecutive Sharks power plays in the third period. “Great timing,” Quenneville said. Indeed.
2. Playing the hot hand works. Quenneville’s decision to pull Corey Crawford to give the Blackhawks a 6-on-3 late in Saturday’s game in Buffalo proved a good decision. So did his choice of going with Crawford again on the back-to-back. This isn’t about any concerns regarding Scott Darling; Quenneville doesn’t have any. Crawford’s on a roll and Quenneville didn’t want to disrupt it. Crawford responded with a 33-stop outing. Said Crawford, “I’ll play as much as I can but that’s Q’s choice. We have a really good goalie, Darling, that’s played well since he’s come up here. Really, it’s just a matter of us both working hard and just waiting to see whoever he wants to put in the net.”
3. Overtime suits Jonathan Toews well. The 3-on-3 version has been good to him, anyway. Toews’ game-winning goal was his 11th goal of the season and as well as his third overtime one. Toews had another shot earlier in overtime but it hit the post. The captain said he just decided “to get pissed off and use the energy the right way.” That, he did.
4. Gutting out games. The Blackhawks came back for the second time in as many games on Sunday — they were down 2-1 late in the first period and 3-2 in the third. There are going to be games like that every season, and the Blackhawks like how they’ve responded to these lately. “These are the ones you build on through the year,” Shaw said. “Team comes together and you find a way to win those tight, close games.”
5. Marian Hossa healing. It was somewhat surprising to find out Hossa was out of Sunday’s game with an upper-body injury, given he played all of Saturday’s game in Buffalo. But it doesn’t sound serious and the nearing Christmas break will give the Blackhawks’ right wing ample time to rest and probably be ready for the post-break game against Carolina. The Blackhawks need a healthy Hossa come the spring, so they’ll do what’s necessary to ensure he gets there.