When Corey Crawford starts in net for the Chicago Blackhawks, it’s a good thing.
When he starts in net against the Montreal Canadiens -- his hometown team -- it’s a great thing.
Crawford continued his dominance of the Habs, making 41 saves in a 3-1 Blackhawks victory.
Entering Tuesday’s game, Crawford had not lost in regulation in his nine games against the Habs. His save percentage in those games was .951% with a 1.55 goals-against average. And those numbers only got better after Tuesday’s dazzling performance.
Montreal actually got on the board first in this one, and quickly. Tomas Plekanec corralled a Ryan Hartman turnover, turned, and fired a wrister past the glove hand of Crawford to put the Canadiens ahead 1-0 just 1:15 into the game. They didn’t score again.
And the Hawks got out of the first period with the lead thanks to a pair of goals in 19 seconds near the end of the first. Alex DeBrincat started it off, scoring his first NHL goal on a wicked one-timer after taking in a pass from Patrick Sharp.
A Brinksy blast! The kid will never forget this one. #Blackhawks pic.twitter.com/wVmyLJalj4— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) October 11, 2017
Before the celebration for that one had ended, Chicago took off on a three-on-two with its top line. Richard Panik carried the puck in, a pass intended for Jonathan Toews ended up ricocheting to Brandon Saad on the doorstep, who buried it past Carey Price for a 2-1 Hawks lead.
Artem Anisimov added a power play goal in the second period, tapping home a rebound from a DeBrincat shot after a neat pass from Cody Franson on the point.
Franson with his first assist for the #Blackhawks on that Anisimov goal. Who else got one? That darned cat Brinksy. pic.twitter.com/QbOSlZvvTQ— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) October 11, 2017
Crawford took over from there to seal the win for the Hawks.
CHI GOALS: DeBrincat (1), Saad (5), Anisimov (1)
MON GOALS: Plekanec (1)
Any points on the tail-end of a back-to-back are good points
The possession numbers aren’t great, again. Montreal owned a 61.2% share of the Corsi events in this one, including nearly 70% percent of the events in the final period. Some of that can be attributed to the score effects of Montreal chasing a two-goal deficit. It’s a formula that worked a lot for the Hawks last season. Get an early lead, and then rely on Crawford to hold the fort in the final period. It can be accepted when the team is playing its second game in as many nights. But if this becomes a habit, the same concerns that were present last year will re-emerge this year. Still, that’s seven points in four games to start the season, all against teams that made the playoffs last year. You’ll take that.
A word on Connor Murphy
It’s not encouraging that Murphy was scratched in what would have been his fourth game with the team. And Murphy did not look great in his first three games with the team. But I emphasize the three games in that prior sentence. And this is a wildly different situation for Murphy. It would take a lot for him to lose a roster spot in Arizona — that team has nowhere near the quality of depth that the Blackhawks do. There were no players to take his spot if he struggled. And given the exceedingly low expectations for the Coyotes over the last few years, there was not as much pressure on him to perform. It’s nowhere near that case in Chicago. Coach Joel Quenneville has never been afraid to scratch players he deems unworthy of ice time, and it appears that Murphy has learned that lesson quickly. We’ll see how he responds. His future in Chicago may depend on it.
For what it’s worth, Q said after the game that this move wasn’t necessarily a punishment of Murphy:
Q said Murphy scratch wasn't about Murphy as much as getting Franson in. Said Rutta was "outstanding" again.— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) October 11, 2017
Side note: I thought Cody Franson looked pretty good, especially running the point on the power play.
The good and the bad on the fourth line
Tanner Kero continues to impress. He had several quality backchecks against Montreal where his hustle and stick placement helped thwart quality scoring chances for the Habs. I also think Tommy Wingels could be a solid fourth-liner. He’s been noticeable on the forecheck and hasn’t been a liability in the defensive end. Lance Bouma, on the other hand? He played just 7:19 tonight and the logic feels simple here: if a player can’t earn more than 7:19 of ice time in a game, what’s the point of dressing him? What is Lance Bouma going to do that someone like, say, Vinnie Hinostroza cannot? Patience can be preached with a 24-year-old defenseman who has top-four potential. But for a player whose ceiling is on the fourth line? Not so much.
- Corey Crawford — 41 saves
- Alex DeBrincat (CHI) —- 1 goal, 1 assist
- Brandon Saad (CHI) — 1 goal, 4 SOG