Friday, March 1, 2013
Team game carries Blackhawks to No. 20
Jonathan Toews scored two goals, including one 12 seconds into the game, against the Blues.
If Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was pressed to find something he'd like his team to improve on through their first 19 games, he likely could have done so.
The Blackhawks were close to perfection as they built a 16-0-3 record, but not exactly perfect.
For game No. 20, a 3-0 road win over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday, the Blackhawks thoroughly impressed Quenneville more than they have all season.
"Ray [Emery] was solid, so was Corey [Crawford]," Quenneville said of the goaltenders. "Our team game, led by the goalies, was really strong in all zones. Penalty killing did a great job against the top power play in the league. Everyone contributed in a comparable way as we have all year. We've had some good games to date, but that might have been the best."
The Blackhawks were able to skate comfortably in the final minutes of Thursday's win knowing they were improving to 17-0-3 and extending their NHL-record point streak to start a season, but the final score isn't a true reflection of how hard they had work for the victory.
From the start, the Blackhawks realized they had to pounce on the Blues. The Blackhawks were heading into their first road game after a seven-game homestand, and the Blues had won four of their past six games. There was plenty of talk of this being the game in which the Blackhawks' streak finally came to an end.
Twelve seconds into Thursday's game, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews scored and proved they weren't going down so easily.
Crawford looked on his game throughout the opening period, stopping all six shots he faced. But at some point in the first period, he suffered an upper-body injury and was unable to return to the game in the second period.
In stepped backup Emery, and the Blackhawks didn't lose a beat. Emery made 15 saves over the final two periods, and the Blackhawks had their third shutout of the season. A season ago, they had zero.
"We got thick skin," said Toews, who scored a second goal in the third period. "Whether it's momentum going against us or a call we didn't like or any sort of adversity that might get in our way a little bit, we've always been positive. We stuck with it. We know even if we're down in a game, we can find a way to come back and make it really tough for them to close out the game. We've been hungry and determined to win every single game. I think you saw it again tonight."
Toews and the team's top line produced two goals, but it was again a team effort for the Blackhawks. Andrew Shaw and the third line produced the other goal. Brandon Saad and Daniel Carcillo switched spots on the first and fourth lines and continued to contribute. The third defensive pairing of Nick Leddy and Michal Rozsival had a plus-2 rating on the night. The penalty kill contained the Blues on four power-play chances.
As much as the Blackhawks say they're not thinking about the points streak, Quenneville said he believes they are sticking to the same mentally every game because they are driven by it and want it to continue.
"I just think we're taking pride in it and playing the game that's in front of us, being consistent and everyone challenging one another and pushing one another," Quenneville said. "Taking some responsibility that they're delivering what they can to enhance our team game. The contributions to what we got to the team game tonight is what we're looking for."