The Chicago Blackhawks put an end to their ongoing struggles against the Winnipeg Jets with a 2-1 overtime victory on Friday night. The performance wasn't always pretty, particularly in the early going, but the 'Hawks are now 1-3 against Winnipeg this season after salvaging a win at MTS Centre.
Patrick Kane was yet again the big star for the 'Hawks, and it's getting harder to come up with new superlatives for his rise to greatness. The winger snapped the team's ongoing scoring slump in the second period with an awesome backhanded goal on Michael Hutchinson, then followed it up in the overtime by setting up Brandon Saad for the game-winning score.
Kane and Jakub Voracek are now tied for the league lead in points with 58, and it's getting increasingly easy to picture the 26-year-old making a run at his first Art Ross Trophy. On nights like this, when the shots aren't flowing and a spark is needed, it's incredible how Kane steps up to force the issue and make things difficult for opposing teams. Seriously, check out his goal:
'Twas a thing of beauty, I say.
Skipping back to the beginning, things started slow for the 'Hawks yet again, and the early lethargy gave way to a Mark Scheifele goal when a lucky bounce glanced right to the Jets center. There was definitely a passing moment of "not again..." after that first shot beat Corey Crawford gloveside, and you wondered whether this was just going to be one of those road trips to forget.
Luckily, the defense and Crawford both settled in to be much better from there, though it mostly came with David Rundblad on the bench. The young defenseman was the primary culprit on the Jets' goal, and as a result we saw Joel Quenneville rolling with five defensemen for the remainder of the night. Rundblad's totaled less than four minutes of playing time.
The 'Hawks need Rundblad to be effective given the way their roster is constructed, but on this night we'll just be happy the defense held up without him. Crawford was stellar with 20 saves on 21 opportunities, and has saved 82 of 87 shots (94 percent) over his past three games. But man, with that shot and the team's need for offense on the blue line, even adequate defense from Rundblad would be a nice thing to see.
So the Blackhawks improve to 31-18-2 with the win, maintaining fourth place in the West standings, while the Jets fall to 26-18-9. Winnipeg is only three points behind Chicago overall, 64 to 61, although that's with two more games already in the books.
Threeof the Night
3. Corey Crawford
He didn't have to fight off an outrageous number of shots, but the Blackhawks' goaltender made several tough saves and rebounded from the early Scheifele goal to put up a strong effort. Finishing with 20 saves on 21 attempts isn't bad at all, and the 'Hawks likely don't win this one without a couple of those stops. This was a strong night goaltending-wise, for sure.
2. Brandon Saad
He wasn't always at his best against a physical Jets top line, but Saad stepped up at just the right time to finish a chance off a Kane pass for the win. You could see the whole set up happening on the ice, and when Saad gotspot pad-side against Hutchinson, he didn't wait before ripping one into the goal. Saad and Kane continue to carry the offense right now, and it's easy to picture those two doing so for the next few years.
1. Patrick Kane
Another game, another reason to believe Kane has taken the next step as one of the game's premier offensive forwards. His backhanded goal in the second period was a thing of beauty, easily beating an otherwise smothering Hutchinson, and it came when the 'Hawks badly needed a spark from one their star players. Ask, and you shall receive.