After a disappointing return from the Olympic break in New York on Tuesday, the Blackhawks certainly didn’t want to leave points on the table against the dreadful Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday. They didn’t.
The Oilers were playing with a handful of AHL players after the organization made a few deals at the trade deadline earlier in the day, and the Blackhawks took advantage. It wasn’t an easy start, and there were a few moments of doubt, but the Hawks handled their business and got a big win for Cristobal Huet. San Jose did not play on Wednesday, so the Blackhawks and Sharks are now tied atop the Western Conference with 89 points through 63 games.
Because the Blackhawks did not make a move to improve between the pipes at the deadline, it’s going to be Huet or Antti Niemi the rest of the way. Niemi struggled and was pulled on Tuesday, but Huet didn’t do much better. The second period didn’t treat Huet very well, either, as he allowed two fairly weak goals. The first should have been blown dead by the officials, but was allowed to count after Huet failed to control a puck under his legs, and the second was a shot from between the circles that should have been handled as well.
But the Blackhawks are considered an elite defensive group for a reason, and they showed it in the third period. Huet would only face three shots in the third, and the defensive moved the puck up the ice well to create chances for the scorers. In that third period, Niklas Hjalmarsson was rewarded for supporting the rush with just his second goal of the season, what proved to be the game-winner only 20 seconds into the period, and opened the flood gates. From there, the game was over.
Dustin Byfuglien played one of his best all-around games of the season, and scored his 16th goal of the season on a power play near the mid-point of the third to extend the Hawks’ lead to 4-2. Jonathan Toews, on his bobblehead night, put the nail in the coffin with his 20th goal of the season with under four minutes left as the Hawks finished with a solid 5-2 victory. In the game, the Blackhawks outshot the Oilers 47-14.
In total on his bobblehead night, Toews had a goal, an assist, won 16 of 23 faceoffs, blocked a shot and was credited with three hits. Not bad.
Patrick Kane had two assists to give him five points in the two games since the Olympics. Also scoring multiple points on Wednesday were Duncan Keith (two assists), Toews (goal, assist), Marian Hossa (goal, assist) and Dave Bolland (goal, assist). Bolland and Hossa’s goals in the second period featured wonderful passing between the two, as Bolland appears ready to assume his spot as the second-line center now that he’s fully healthy.