The Blackhawks dominance of the Central Division continued in St. Louis on Sunday, as Corey Crawford led Chicago to a 2-0 shutout of the Blues.
There was a lot of talk about shutouts coming in, with St. Louis netminder Brian Elliott coming in with an impressive streak without having allowed a goal. But it was Crawford who earned a big victory on Sunday afternoon.
Crawford stopped all 30 shots put on net by the Blues to earn his third shutout of the campaign. Impressively, Crawford was run into a couple times and had to deal with traffic in front of the net all afternoon but played a strong game.
The skaters in front of Crawford were under attack throughout the game. St. Louis, predictably, brought a very physical approach to the game and hit any Hawks player that got close to the puck early on. David Backes made a point to target Jonathan Toews in the first period, and the Hawks captain left the bench for some extra attention late in the opening period after a couple of knee-to-knee hits from the Blues’ captain.
Toews returned to start the second period, however, and finished the game winning half of his faceoffs (10 of 20) while adding one takeaway and an assist on Marian Hossa’s goal.
Hossa added three takeaways to his 15th goal of the season, which was short-handed right off an offensive zone faceoff; a St. Louis high stick led to the draw being to Elliott’s left, and Hossa put a missile five-hole through Elliott.
Bryan Bickell ended Elliott’s shutout streak at 4:31 in the second. Viktor Stalberg, once again skating with a lot of confidence, got the puck into traffic and Bickell put a rebound into the net. Bickell now has five points (three goals, two assists) in his last six games. For Stalberg, the assist gave him points in three of the last four games (one goal, two assists).
Dave Bolland returned to the lineup and was as feisty as we’ve seen him all season. He won only three of ten faceoffs, and served two minor penalties, but was also credited with two hits and a takeaway.
Michael Frolik led the Hawks with four hits.
Once again, a national audience saw some of the best from Chicago’s defensemen. Niklas Hjalmarsson and Duncan Keith combined to block five shots, and Sheldon Brookbank added two blocks as well. Despite getting more shots on net than the Blackhawks, the Blues struggled to maintain puck possession throughout the game.
The Hawks were without Patrick Sharp, who did not travel with the team. He reportedly has an unspecified upper-body injury, and while coach Joel Quenneville wouldn’t admit that it is related to the shoulder issue that kept Sharp out for the last few weeks he would say Sharp is doubtful for Monday night’s game against Dallas at the United Center.