After almost three weeks and eight games on the road, and with Dave Bolland returning to the lineup for the first time since Nov. 5, the Blackhawks figured to get an emotional lift on Wednesday night.
Everything started well. Patrick Kane scored 7:40 in to give the Hawks a 1-0 advantage, which they held through the end of the first period. In the frame, the Hawks held the Blues to only three shots on net, none of which came in the first nine minutes.
Then the second period happened.
On only nine shots, the Blues scored three times against Cristobal Huet, the last two of which came in a back-breaking flurry to end the period. “Bad Huet” showed up on a night when Antti Niemi was supposed to start but was a morning scratch because of the flu. The Hawks didn’t help Huet much in the second, as sloppy passing and lazy puck handling contributed to the demise, but allowing three goals on only 12 shots to a team that only averages 2.53 goals per game (24th in the NHL) is unacceptable. The 19 shots the Blues put on net was their lowest total since the day after Christmas, when they only got 18 shots to the net against Minnesota.
The second goal for the Hawks was scored short-handed, and was a work of art between Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. Toews brought the puck up the ice, worked his way between two defenders (one of whom ended up on his butt) and completely crossed the zone, drawing Chris Mason from one post to the other. Hossa settled in on the far side of the net all alone and received a gorgeous pass from Toews that he easily deposited into the net. Despite getting worked on this shot, Mason was clearly the better netminder on Wednesday; he saved 32 of 34 shots on the night to earn a crucial win for a struggled St. Louis team.
Unfortunately for fans of the Blackhawks that don’t want trade rumors to be a distraction, night like Wednesday will continue to put pressure on management to bolster the defense in front of whomever is playing between the pipes, and the goaltender position will remain a question mark. The rumors about the Hawks’ involvement in the Kovalchuk Sweepstakes continue to be hot, and losing a home game to the Blues won’t help management feel comfortable with the roster as-is moving forward.