- Scott Powers, Reporter
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1. Ben Smith is becoming a key role player. His play has been especially noticeable during the team’s road trip, and Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has been rewarding him with more ice time. Smith has played 15-plus minutes in three of the last four games. He was solid in most areas of the ice on Saturday. He was paired with Marcus Kruger on the top penalty-killing unit and held the Canucks scoreless on their 5-on-4 power plays. Smith had a nice power move to the net which created a scoring chance in the first period. He’s had a couple of those the past few games. He also freed a puck off the side boards in the third period which created an odd-man rush and a goal for Kruger. Smith also won 5 of 7 faceoffs.
2. A close, low-scoring game like that was good for the Blackhawks. They hadn’t had such a game since losing 3-2 to the Calgary Flames in overtime on Nov. 3. Their last 2-1 victory came against the Buffalo Sabres on Oct. 12. Most of their wins this month had been lopsided one way or the other. It also had to be a confidence booster for goaltender Corey Crawford. That was probably his best game of the month. He stopped a season-high 37 saves, including 14 in the final period. He had allowed less than three goals only once in the previous six games.
3. Jeremy Morin may be in the lineup, but Quenneville has no trust in him. Morin played a team-low 4:58 on Saturday. He played three shifts and 1:11 of ice time during the third period. He’ll likely heading back down to the AHL when the Blackhawks get healthy.
4. Patrick Kane and Brandon Pirri appear to be on the same page more and more. They’re playing off each other more in the past few weeks and creating more offensive chances. Pirri and Kane worked a 2-on-1 perfectly in the first period, and Kane was thwarted by a quality save. Pirri’s rise has been helpful in Kane’s 10-game points streak.