It took eight games and many close opportunities, but Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews finally scored his first goal of the 2016-17 season as the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Los Angeles Kings, 3-0.
Corey Crawford recorded his first shutout of the season in the process, saving all 32 shots LA threw at him. Crawford has a 95.7 save percentage over the past three games, and seems to be extending his recent even strength dominance to all situations.
Chicago took an early 1-0 lead after the captain rifled home a power play goal early in the first period. Toews got a great screen from Richard Panik in a one-man advantage, giving the Hawks an early lead they would not surrender.
Marian Hossa, after celebrating his 500th NHL goal in a great pregame ceremony, also added a tally to the power play with an open netter to cap the win. This is now the second consecutive game where the Hawks have scored multiple goals with a man advantage.
In the second period, the Hawks found pay-dirt again after Artem Anisimov scored from a GREAT pass across the crease from Marian Hossa. It’s Anisimov’s sixth goal of the season, and came after a stand by Crawford in the Hawks’ end of the ice.
Anisimov, Panarin and Hossa now have a combined 10 goals this season, and that’s been a good line for Chicago since coach Joel Quenneville shifted lines before Friday’s game.
What has been a major concern for the Blackhawks so far this season was not a concern tonight, as Chicago killed off both penalties against LA. This means the Hawks are now five for their last six in killing penalties, which is a massive improvement given their slow start this season.
Coach Q was asked about the recent success in the postgame presser, and his comments (or lack there of) said it all:
Q didn't answer me when I asked about the five straight penalty kills. Simply smirked and knocked on the wood lectern. #Blackhawks— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) October 31, 2016
One of the contributing factors in this string of successful penalty kills is the increased aggressiveness of the penalty kill defense. More players have been clogging the middle of the ice, limiting quality looks from the point from opposing teams.
Here’s a perfect example of Tyler Motte in the slot pressuring the Kings’ puck handler, and maintaining pressure through the play which resulted in the puck being sent back into the neutral zone:
Tyler Motte on the penalty kill pressures the puck and forces the Kings to make a mistake. pic.twitter.com/niY86Ujeq6— Blackhawks Breakdown (@HawksBreakdown) October 31, 2016
Continued pressure from the Hawks will result in a more consistent penalty kill, which ultimately will result in more confidence in those lines.
And in goal, Crawford was nothing short of spectacular. He stopped all 32 shots he faced to earn his 32nd career shutout. His effort helped improve the Blackhawks home record to 4-1-1. Heading into the contest, Crawford owned the highest save percentage during 5-on-5 play in the NHL at 97 percent. In his last 3 starts including Sunday, he’s faced 30-plus shots on goal and allowed four goals. In order for the Blackhawks to continue their winning ways, his presence will be critical to their success.