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Blackhawks clinch playoff spot with win over Vancouver Canucks

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Don't look now, but the dead-in-the-water-a-week-ago Blackhawks have won three in a row, including Thursday night's tilt in which they clinched their seventh consecutive playoff spot.

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The Chicago Blackhawks had one job on Thursday night: take home two points and grab a playoff spot. They were able to accomplish that mission with their 3-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks to clinch their seventh consecutive playoff berth on Thursday night at the United Center. The win gives them their third in a row, all coming against contending clubs.

This was a close one throughout, as they completed the first two periods with the score even. The Hawks opened up the scoring on a goal from Teuvo Teravainen, who was finally rewarded for some terrific play of late. The goal came at the end of a fantastic shift for him. Teuvo made an absurd pass to Marcus Kruger in front of the net, and the rebound ended up on his stick for the go-ahead goal in the opening frame.

The Canucks were able to even things up on a Derek Dorsett goal, which went unassisted. If you were going to give an assist to anyone on the goal, however, it would've been Michal Rozsival. Rozsival made a pass from his own zone directly onto the stick of Dorsett, who skated it in and wristed it over the right shoulder of Corey Crawford.

The first period saw a 23-20 edge in Corsi for the Hawks, while the second was even at 16. Overall shots were knotted at 24 through the first two.

The third period, subsequently, featured quite a bit of action, as the two sides went into the frame even at 1-1. Corey Crawford came up with a few tremendous saves, which set the Hawks up to take the eventual lead. They did so on a Johnny Oduya shot that went off the stick of Marian Hossa and then off of some part of Jonathan Toews, who took the credit for the tally. Shortly thereafter, Marcus Kruger made a sweet defensive play and then flashed the hands in going forehand-backhand past Eddie Lack for the 3-1 edge.

It's important to note how crucial Crawford was in that stretch. The Canucks didn't play poorly in the period by any means, and had a few outstanding chances. Without Crawford coming up with those saves, it very easily could have been 3-1 in favor of the visitors.

The Hawks had a chance to put this one on ice with an empty net goal, but Bryan Bickell failed to hit the back of the net from the blue line. Nonetheless, the Hawks were able to take the win 3-1, and clinch their seventh consecutive playoff berth, which was obviously the most important thing to emerge from this.

Observations:

  • Michal Rozsival. Maybe Joel Quenneville is just playing him with the knowledge that he's going to turn into dust really soon and feels bad for him. This was a terrible joke, but I have no explanation for it.
  • Johnny Oduya continues to play extremely well. Really nice play that prevented Alex Burrows from setting up one of the Sedins in front of Corey Crawford in the third period.
  • Teuvo was excellent again. It paid off this time.
  • The fourth line as a whole performed quite well. Teuvo is dragging Marcus Kruger and Andrew Desjardins around with him, but they fared well in this one. Kruger scored and Desjardins didn't look quite as slow as he typically does.
  • Bickell on that empty netter...come on.
The Hawks will turn right around and play in Buffalo tomorrow night. Truth be told, I was actually slightly more concerned for that matchup, given their recent tendency to play to the competition level of their opponents. We'll see if they can wallop this team as they should on Friday night. Onto the stars!

Three Stars of the Night

3. Marcus Kruger

It's always nice when Kruger can contribute on the offensive side of things. The fourth line was strong, and Kruger as an individual finished with a CF% of 62 for the night. He added a goal that was the result of him making a fantastic defensive play in the neutral zone, and then showing off the hands in order to get it past Eddie Lack. He added an assist in Teuvo's goal as well.

2. Corey Crawford

Another solid night for Crawford, and that's probably an understatement. He's been so incredibly strong for this team down this last stretch, and it very easily could have been 3-1 going the other way if not for some tremendous third period stops. Once the Hawks went up in the final frame, he was able to keep Vancouver off the board. He won't receive any accolades at the end of the season, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a more important player to this team, especially in the second half of the season.

1. Teuvo Teravainen

Anytime ol' Teuvo gets on the stat sheet, he's going to find his way in here. He finished with a CF% of 70 for the evening and doesn't look out of place on the fourth line, despite comments from Coach Q and others that he's "not a fourth liner". While it's not ideal, he's making it work. He scored on Thursday and the line overall looked very effective. He even added a hit to the stat sheet!

Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.