The Blackhawks dominated 59 minutes of play in Winnipeg on Thursday night, and came away with a strong victory.
Jonathan Toews continued to enjoy playing in front of his home town fans, posting four points and assisting on Marian Hossa’s game-winning goal as the Hawks ran away with a 6-3 victory.
Toews stepped up and played a superstar’s game. He won 18 of 26 faceoffs, including all nine of his draws in the first period, and was credited with one hit with his four points.
Hossa returned to the lineup after missing three games and immediately returned to the excellent form Blackhawks fans had enjoyed before the injury. He led the team with three takeaways and added an assist to his game-winning goal.
Patrick Kane also had a multi-point night up front for the Blackhawks, scoring his team-leading 12th goal of the season on the power play in the opening period.
The Blackhawks’ top trio of superstars continues to be the primary reason for the team leading the Western Conference. There are only 22 players in the NHL with at least 10 goals right now, and three of them – Kane, Toews and Hossa – are wearing the Indian head sweater.
Kane’s 24 points are now tied with Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom and Anaheim’s Corey Perry for sixth in the NHL, four points behind Sidney Crosby. Toews is right on their heels with 23 points, and Patrick Sharp has 21 (eight goals, 13 assists) through Thursday night’s action.
Chicago continued to show improvement at the dot from players other than Toews. Marcus Kruger won eight of 13 and Brandon Pirri won six of seven to lead a solid effort. Andrew Shaw won four of seven faceoffs and led the Hawks with four hits on the evening.
The other multi-point night for the Hawks came from Brent Seabrook, who was credited with two assists in the third period. Seabrook and Duncan Keith enjoyed a plus-four night by each of the Hawks’ top defensive pair.
Keith is now tied with Keith Yandle of the Coyotes for fourth among defensemen with 17 points. Keith, Yandle and Montreal’s PK Subban lead all defensemen with 16 assists to date.
Every stat that matters favored the Blackhawks on Thursday night, but a second period lapse made the game more interesting than it should have been.
After Brandon Saad scored to give the Blackhawks a 2-0 advantage, the Jets were able to tie the game within only 48 seconds. Andrew Ladd scored 19 second after Saad, and Keaton Ellerby followed with a power play goal 29 seconds later.
A strong move by Toews around Ellerby gave the Blackhawks the lead back later in the second, but another power play goal – this time from Dustin Byfuglien – tied the game at three.
The Blackhawks allowed only two shots on net in the first period and nine in the third. Unfortunately, the 14-shot barrage in the second period included three goals on Corey Crawford. Two of the three goals came while the Blackhawks were short-handed; the Hawks were only able to kill two of four penalties in the game.
Crawford faced only 25 shots in the game and earned another victory, but clearly needs a night off. With the Blackhawks visiting Vancouver next, Crawford’s next day off might not come until the team is in Edmonton or Calgary next week.
Kris Versteeg played only 10:20 in the game but was credited with an assist on Ben Smith’s goal in the third period. Versteeg has four points in four games with the Hawks, registering at least one point in three of the four contests.
With Bryan Bickell likely to miss significant time moving forward, the Blackhawks recalled Jeremy Morin on Wednesday afternoon. Morin started the game on the third line with Shaw and Versteeg, but was the only player on the Hawks’ roster to skate less than ten minutes in the game. Morin skated only 12 shifts and was on the ice for only 7:12, and was credited with only one hit on the night.