The St. Louis Blues have tried over the past couple of years to establish a physical presence on the ice whenever they matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks. On Wednesday night, Dustin Byfuglien made sure they knew the game was in Chicago.
Byfuglien, finally, was a physical presence for 60 minutes and the Blackhawks’ new lines continued to move the puck and find the back of the net in a 3-0 victory in front of the biggest United Center crowd of the year. This was the first time since 2002 that the Hawks recorded consecutive shutouts, and the franchise hadn’t seen different goalies post back-to-back doughnuts since 1983; one of those goalies 26 years ago was Tony Esposito.
The Hawks offense was moving from the opening puck drop, appropriately on Stan Mikita Heritage Night, as they put 20 shots on net in the first period. Ty Conklin, who was a thorn in the side of the Hawks’ last year in Detroit and had a 7-2 career record against Chicago coming in, let two pucks get past him in the final six minutes of the first as the Hawks sprinted to a big, early lead.
The goals in the first were slump busters for both Troy Brouwer and Brian Campbell. Brouwer ended an eight-game scoreless streak, while Campbell hadn’t scored a goal in North America this year; Campbell’s only other goal was scored in the second game of the season, played in Finland.
Both Brouwer and Campbell were aided by Patrick Kane, with his new black eye and stitches requiring a new tinted visor. In the second, Kane also assisted on Marian Hossa’s goal, giving him a career high three assists on the night and the well-deserved honor of Number One star. Hossa, meanwhile, now has five goals and nine points in only nine games this season.
Huet was stellar in goal, stopping all 27 shots he faced. The Hawks allowed nine in the first period, a total that would ordinarily be considered high but one that was dwarfed by the Hawks’ 21 shots in the frame. Byfuglien, meanwhile, was credited with seven hits on the night, and on more than one occasion was approached by more than two St. Louis players looking to drop the gloves. To Byfuglien’s credit, he didn’t throw down.
The gloves did drop, though, with 30 seconds left in the game when the cheap shots St. Louis had been taking throughout the third period finally boiled over. Cam Janssen whacked Huet with his stick, and Huet answered with a shot to the back of his legs. When Janssen took exception to Huet, Brent Sopel dropped him to the ice to protect his goaltender. As the two teams came together on the ice, one of the Blues’ primary pains in the tail, Barret Jackman, took a couple shots at Ben Eager.
Yeah, that was a great idea.
A few words, and shots, were exchanged before it took two Blues to get Eager to the ice. Eager was assessed with 14 penalty minutes for the incident, but has not yet been hit with a game for instigating.
One injury of note from Wednesday’s game could be an issue over the weekend. Cam Barker left the game in the second period after being hit into the boards with what coach Joel Quenneville described after the game as a “lower body injury.” It appeared his knees were hit into the boards, and Barker was favoring one of this legs coming off the ice. Quenneville dressed Jordan Hendry, a fairly late decision, over Tomas Kopecky on Wednesday and the decision paid dividends as he was able to assume Barker’ spot on the third defensive pairing for the third period.
Friday night, another Original Six matchup comes to Chicago as the Boston Bruins will be in town. Sunday bring the banged up Detroit Red Wings to town in a great rivalry game to begin Christmas week.