The Chicago Blackhawks kept the pedal down with a 5-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night. The Hawks scored five unanswered goals to turn a brief deficit into a blowout win, extending their winning streak to five games.
It was an impressive effort by the Blackhawks, who improve to 35-17-5 with the victory. They’re still three points behind the Wild, who also have three games in hand, but 16 points clear of a playoff spot. That’s where you want to be in mid-February, so we’ll take it even if a division title remains in the distance.
These aren’t your old Oilers, but that didn’t stop the Blackhawks from a relatively easy win.
Here’s how it happened.
Connor McDavid made his impact felt quickly in this game by pickpocketing Niklas Hjalmarsson before setting up the Oilers’ first goal of the game. It’s not often you see someone strip the puck from Hjalmarsson in his own zone, but McDavid did just that, then made a perfect backhand pass through the crease to Patrick Maroon.
It was a masterclass in forechecking on an elite defensive defenseman, and a reminder of the incredible talent Edmonton has in McDavid. Luckily, the Blackhawks responded quickly from there with back-to-back goals by Richard Panik and Patrick Kane to take back the lead. The one-timer by Panik was particularly impressive as he caught a cross-ice pass from Nick Schmaltz and rifled it through Cam Talbot’s five hole.
The Blackhawks didn’t let up in the second 20 minutes, especially on the defensive end, where the Oilers recorded just three shots on goal. Keeping Edmonton’s speedy attack in check is key to winning at Rogers Place nowadays, and the Hawks did just that following Maroon’s initial goal.
Chicago also got a pair of insurance scores in the period by Trevor van Riemsdyk and Panik, respectively. TVR got the first one by absolutely sniping a beauty past Cam Talbot to make it 3-1. The defenseman stepped up to a loose puck in the high slot, and made sure not to miss with a perfect glove side shot. Panik added another on the power play minutes later to make it 4-1, putting the team in prime position for the final 20.
The Oilers came out in the third period with 23-year-old backup goaltender Laurent Brossoit between the pipes in place of Talbot, who made 16 saves on 20 shots before getting pulled. Brossoit just needed to make sure things didn’t get out of hand, which he pretty much did.
The Blackhawks’ defense and goaltending were on point, though, which is what stands out when you’re talking about protecting a three-goal lead. The score effects were firmly in the Oilers’ direction, as they held a 13-5 shot advantage, but the Blackhawks did a good job avoiding egregious mistakes and penalties.
Scott Darling finished with 30 saves on 31 shots to lead the victory. A very impressive road trip capped with a great win.
SCH’s 3 Stars
- Richard Panik, Blackhawks (2 goals, 1 assist, 4 SOG)
- Scott Darling, Blackhawks (30 saves on 31 attempts)
- Patrick Kane, Blackhawks (1 goal, 2 assists, 2 SOG)
Bye week! The Blackhawks are off until the Oilers come to visit the United Center next Saturday. Each of the 30 NHL teams gets a week off in the middle of the 2016-17 season, and now Chicago gets its time off.