Big third period propels Blackhawks to win over Blues
A tightly contested affair through two periods, the Blackhawks exploded in the third period for three scores en route to a 4-1 win over the rival St. Louis Blues.
Though the rivalry dates back decades, the rekindled fervor that greets each meeting between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues certainly has these games playing out to a very particular tune. It is difficult to find two teams squaring off that visibly hate each other as much as these club do, and from our perspective, it's nice to see the Blackhawks take two points upon their return home from the Circus Trip against the hated Blues.
It didn't always look like that was going to be the case. The Blues looked strong early, hit a couple of posts, and Antti Raanta came out of the gate looking extremely rusty between the pipes for the injured Corey Crawford. The Hawks found themselves outshot, 26-20, after two periods and headed into the third period even at a goal apiece. But then the third period came along, the Hawks exploded, the Blues imploded, and the rest is history.
Marcus Kruger got the scoring started in the first, after a brilliant play by Brandon Saad to steal the puck in the neutral zone. He took the puck away, got it to Kruger, and Kruger sniped it home to open the scoring. The Blues wouldn't even things back up until an Ian Cole tally just over halfway through the second frame, after Brent Seabrook left the back door completely open for the taking.
In the third period, though, the second line took over. The upstart trio of Patrick Kane, Kris Versteeg, and Brad Richards were responsible for all three goals in the third period, in one way or another. The game-winning score goes to Versteeg, who fired home a feed from Jonathan Toews to give the Hawks a 2-1 edge in the final frame. Less than two minutes later, Patrick Kane gave the Blackhawks some insurance on an absolutely gorgeous cross-ice saucer pass from Versteeg. This was before he scored again, leaving pieces of Barret Jackman in his wake, with Versteeg taking another primary assist on the goal.
Things got a little bit saucy later on in the period. Jackman went after Michal Rozsival and Daniel Carcillo, who you could tell had a bit of an inkling for some nonsense throughout the night, came to his defense. Within the last few minutes of the game, David Backes followed up a shot with a few nice hacks at Antti Raanta/also kind of the puck. The refs blew the whistle, Brent Seabrook and Johnny Oduya got in front of him, and Backes proceeded to lose his mind all over the place, swinging wildly (connecting with Seabrook's face a couple of times) with his visor pressed down on his face. He earned a game misconduct.
Let's talk about that for a second. David Backes. We all know what he's about. He falls under whatever brand of "captain" that the likes of Shane Doan and Dustin Brown also fall into. You're taking hacks at the opposing goaltender, and the opposition's defense did little more than sustain you from doing further damage. Yet (probably due to the fact that it was Seabrook in the mix), Backes loses his mind and goes full Super Saiyan in throwing punches with and without his gloves on. What part of that was necessary? Yeah, there's the frustration aspect, but shouldn't a captain be held to higher standards.
(I'll step down from my pedestal now, a clear result of having Jonathan Toews donning the 'C' for the Blackhawks. What a treat he is.)
I wanted to talk about Antti Raanta, but we'll hold off on that for now. He was very rusty, but also very lucky. We'll see what happens in his next outing, assuming he gets the start over Scott Darling.
Also, there's a reason the Blackhawks don't have a lineup full of facepunchers, despite the pleas for size. They don't need it. When they're up against it, they turn on the offense and just roll right on through their opponent like we saw tonight. It was gorgeous and just more dominance demonstrated by this Hawks team, which has been on absolute fire of late. They'll try and keep it going next against the Montreal Canadiens on Friday night.
Onto the stars!
3. Marcus Kruger
The Kruger love has been absent for much of the year, but here it is. Kruger opened the scoring off of an absurdly well placed rocket of a shot. He was tops among Blackhawks' forwards with a Corsi% over 73 percent on the night. The Blues were helpless on the power play tonight, and Kruger logged 5:38 shorthanded and was 75 percent at the dot for the game. Splendid performance for one of our favorite Swedes.
2. Kris Versteeg
Having Kris Versteeg at no. 1 would probably lead to some sort of accusation over favoritism and continue the "Randy is all over Versteeg's jock" narrative that has been carrying on throughout the year (as true as it may be). He was fantastic yet again, taking three points in the win, with the game-winning goal and a pair of helpers to Patrick Kane. The goal was gorgeous, just a hell of a wicked shot off the Toews feed, and that was only topped by his saucer pass across the ice for Kane to officially put this away (before Kane put it away again a couple minutes later).
1. Patrick Kane
The man is simply unstoppable. This is a guy we once looked at as a pure goal scorer, but he's so much more. He's a weapon all over the ice. His vision and movement is unlike really anyone else in the league. Whether he's scoring goals or settings his teammates up, there are very few players that provide the type of nightmare scenarios for the opposition that he does. He scored on a helluva shot on the Versteeg feed to give the Hawks the 3-1 lead, before undressing both Barret Jackman and Jake Allen on his way to scoring the fourth of the game. Another fantastic game for one of the hottest players in the league right now.
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.