Remember when the Chicago Blackhawks could win a game without too much drama? We got treated to one of those Saturday with a 4-1 beatdown of the Florida Panthers that was firmly in the Hawks’ grasp the entire game.
Chicago came out dominating Saturday with its best period of the season. The team held a 30-9 advantage in shot attempts and scored goals from Brandon Saad and John Hayden to take a 2-0 lead.
Saad came out like a runaway train in the game. He put seven shots on goal in the first period, which is the most by any Blackhawk in a single period in nearly a decade.
The winger would only finish the game with the seven shots on goal, so he slowed down a bit after that, but still added an assist and finished the contest with a 5-on-5 Corsi of 83.9 percent. That’s about as good as you can do, so we’ll forgive the winger for his lack of shots in the final 40 minutes.
Jared McCann scored for the Panthers early in the second period to make it 2-1, and the team kept pushing from there to make things interesting. It seemed like the Blackhawks might be in the process of another one of their mercurial games at that point, but then Patrick Kane gave them new energy with a big goal to make it 3-1.
The final goal of the night came on a fortunate bounce for a goal awarded to Jonathan Toews, who finished the game with a goal and two assists. That’s his first three-point game since putting up five on Feb. 21 against the Wild.
Corey Crawford might want back that McCann goal, which came despite the goalie having a good sight line to be able to pick up the puck, but he still finished with 32 saves on 33 shots for a very good performance. After that brief stumble during the home stand against the Devils and Rangers, he’s back on track with an .955 save percentage over the past three games.
The Blackhawks need every point they can get in the Central Division, so this was a good win. Next up is a home matchup against the Ducks on Monday night.
CHI GOALS: Hayden (3), Saad (8), Kane (9), Toews (6)
FLA GOALS: McCann (3)
Best period of the season
It was apparent watching on TV, and the numbers back it up. The first period Saturday was the Blackhawks’ best of the season, an absolute shellacking where the Panthers were on their heels for almost the entirety of the 20 minutes.
The numbers from that first period are beautiful: 30-9 in shot attempts, 21-7 in shots on goal, 9-1 in high-danger scoring chances, and 2-0 in goals. You really couldn’t have asked for a more dominant start to the night, and it was really the first time since the season opener that we’ve seen the Hawks flat out kick an opponent’s ass for an extended stretch.
A great night for every matchup but one
For the most part, this was a very good team performance by the Blackhawks. The only blip came whenever the Schmaltz-Anisimov-Kane line was trying to take on one of the Panthers’ top lines.
Florida held a 13-4 advantage in 5-on-5 shots on goal whenever that line was on the ice. Otherwise, the Blackhawks led in SOG, 35-25. So the game tended to swing based on whether Florida could get the Barkov or Trocheck lines onto the ice against the second line.
Kane still came up with that huge goal, so it’s not like all was lost, but on a night where almost everything went right, that’s the one matchup that didn’t.
A stable defense??
I’m just saying ... the Blackhawks might have a top six that sticks for a while. They’ve found a partner who works for Brent Seabrook in Connor Murphy playing his offside. Duncan Keith and Cody Franson work well together pushing offense, and Jan Rutta and Gustav Forsling are holding their own as the coaching staff asks more of them.
This isn’t a good defense yet, but it’s clearly better than it was during its most disastrous moments earlier this season. That’s good. Winning helps, too.
- Jonathan Toews (CHI) — 1 goal, 2 assists
- Brandon Saad (CHI) — 1 goal, 1 assist, 8 SOG
- Corey Crawford (CHI) — 37 saves on 38 shots