The Chicago Blackhawks were hit with some pretty devastating news heading into their Sunday evening tilt with the Toronto Maple Leafs, as word came down that assistant equipment manager Clint Reif had passed away. We saw Joel Quenneville shaken up before the game, and saw Troy Parchman break down on the bench following the game. The Hawks donned a 'CR' on the backs of their helmets in his honor. Those are just just two examples of overwhelming emotions in a Hawks' locker room that is sure to be full of them tonight.
The Hawks came out and put on a performance that Clint would have been proud of. They dictated the better part of 60 minutes against a Maple Leafs club that has been wildly inconsistent throughout the year, except in the regard that they consistently allow opposing teams to pepper their goaltender with shots. James Reimer allowed four goals, but did the best he could with what he had to work with, as the Blackhawks fired 34 shots on goal.
On the other end, the Hawks received another strong showing from Antti Raanta, who I talked about yesterday and noted his improvement. He held the Leafs scoreless for the night, stopping all 31 shots he faced. This one didn't require a ton of physical effort on the part of the Hawks, but they were able to overcome the tremendous emotional hurdle that came with the passing of such an integral member of the staff.
The Hawks opened the scoring in the first period on a laser from the point off the stick of David Rundblad. That's not a typo, I promise. Rundblad received an opportunity with Tim Erixon a healthy scratch coming off of a rough showing in Columbus, and actually fared quite well. He had the goal, four shots, and logged some time on the power play. Not a bad showing for him. We'll see if it leads to any semblance of consistent playing time.
Once Rundblad got the Hawks on the board, the stars took over the game. At the tail end of the opening frame, Patrick Kane left a beautiful feed to Kris Versteeg in front of the net, with Versteeg laying a sweet deke on Cody Franson and wristing it to the left of Reimer. Everything about the sequence was fantastic.
The Blackhawks went through the second in ceding a bit of momentum to Toronto, but they were unable to cash in. Instead, Kane helped the Hawks to pull away on the power play in the third period, finding a loose puck and putting it past Reimer. Jonathan Toews completely sealed the deal, with an outstanding show of strength in muscling Jake Gardiner off the puck and putting one past Reimer. Patrick Sharp added a trio of helpers in the win.
Overall, a solid showing for the Blackhawks and an incredible show of mental toughness. The Hawks went out and did exactly what they needed to, with emotions so heavy throughout the building. They closed things out with a salute to Clint after the final horn sounded.
Three Stars of the Game
3. Patrick Sharp
With Brad Richards a late scratch from the lineup due to injury, Sharp stepped in a second line center role that he hasn't assumed consistently in about four years. He fared quite well in winning 57 percent of his draws, though it's important to note that he only took seven, and added three assists to the effort. He's jumped right back into the mix since his return from injury and hasn't really missed a beat. It was nice to see some of that versatility come into play on Sunday night, even if it was the result of Joel Quenneville's hand being forced more than anything.
2. Antti Raanta
Raanta was back in action on Sunday, after taking Saturday off thanks to the return of Corey Crawford. He continues to show that he's much more capable of spelling Crawford than he was last season. He lucked out on a couple of different sequences in which Phil Kessel had open looks, but missed the net. He continues to look calm and composed between the pipes, and is a far cry from the flailing Raanta we saw throughout much of last year. He stopped all 31 shots to earn his second shutout of the year.
1. Patrick Kane
Showtime is on an absolute roll for the Blackhawks right now, and may be as hot as any individual player in the league. He notched his 19th and 20th assist of the year, before adding his 16th goal of the season in the third period. He's on pace to eclipse his career high of 88 points if he can continue at anything resembling this pace. He's been magical with Kris Versteeg opposite him on that second line, and that continued with Patrick Sharp in there on the second line.
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.