Despite all the question marks facing them entering the season, the Chicago Blackhawks have found a way to win for the second straight game — in overtime.
Jonathan Toews scored 2:20 into overtime to complete his hat trick against the Blues on Saturday night at Enterprise Center. It’s Toews’ fifth career NHL hat trick.
Toews scored on a breakaway after a busted play in the Chicago zone sprung him loose, and he beat Blues goaltender Jake Allen with a wrist shot.
The night started out bleak for the Blackhawks, with the Blues jumping out to a two-goal lead in the first period with goals by Colton Parayko and Vladimir Tarasenko. Toews sparked the Blackhawks 68 seconds laters with a tap-in goal to cut the lead to 2-1.
Chicago’s offense woke up in the second period, largely due to Toews’ late goal. Patrick Kane scored his second of the season on a wrister from the top of the circles to tie the game at 2-2.. But Kane wasn’t done, feeding Marcus Kruger on a two-on-one, Kruger fired a slap shot top shelf to give the Hawks a 3-2 lead.
It wouldn’t last, however.
Tarasenko scored again, this time on a power play. St. Louis scored again 20 seconds later on Chris Butler‘s wrist shot to regain the advantage.
The Blackhawks, similar to Thursday night in Ottawa, got the tying goal from one of their clutch players. Toews scored his second of the game when he buried a Henri Jokiharju rebound to send the game to overtime. The assist marked Jokiharju’s first NHL point.
The Blackhawks play the second half of a back-to-back in their home opener Sunday against the Maple Leafs at the United Center.
Toews is sick of hearing about the last two years
After a couple summers of hearing that he’d started to slow down, including accusations of him not caring as much as he used to, Toews is sending a statement to his critics. The captain has four goals through two games, including a hat trick. I believe Toews has a fire lit underneath him similar to the 2010 and 2013 seasons. If he does and this continues, the Blackhawks may surpass many people’s expecatations.
Cam Ward is a capable short-term goalie
Ward went a long way in soothing my fears about the Blackhawks without starting goalie Corey Crawford (concussion) to begin the season. Sure, there were some goals he could have stopped against the Blues. His job is to keep the Blackhawks in games and give them a chance to win, and he did that in St. Louis.
When the Blues had the Hawks hemmed in their zone for an entire power play, Ward came up big more than once. He also came about 3 inches shy of making one of the best saves I’ve seen in recent memory, the goal only being allowed after booth-initiated review.
Jokiharju impresses, defense improves
We’ve talked enough about the Blackhawks defense situation. In the first period, the defense beyond Duncan Keith and Jokiharju looked abysmal. But, as the game went on, they buttoned down and came up with more than a few key stops.
As for Jokiharju, I think he should unquestionably stay. The 19-year-old Finnish rookie had a few questionable decisions, but those were overshadowed by his smart choices and key back checks. He stopped a couple rushes by St. Louis and earned his first NHL point in the process.