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Thursday, January 30, 2014
Rewind: Observations from Hawks-Canucks

By Scott Powers

Corey Crawford
Corey Crawford and the Blackhawks battled their way to a win in Vancouver.
Here are four observations from the Chicago Blackhawks' 5-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday.

1. The Blackhawks seemed to have all four lines rolling for the first time in awhile. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville gave everyone except Michal Handzus 10-plus minutes of even-strength ice time. All four lines created offensive chances, and they were mostly defensively responsible. The second line and third lines weren’t always great, but contributed to the win. Kris Versteeg had a few bad turnovers, and the Canucks outshot the second and third lines. You could see Brandon Pirri having a positive effect on the offensive side, and the chances are growing for Patrick Kane and Versteeg on the second line. Remember, Pirri is still just coming back from a lower-body injury that kept him out nearly a month. He played in his first three games last weekend for the Rockford IceHogs and now two more for the Blackhawks. He should be more comfortable later this trip.
2. How about that fourth line again? It's primary job is a defensive one and more often than not it begins its shift in the defensive zone. Brandon Bollig, Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith not only accomplished their defensive roles Wednesday, but they also got offensive. Bollig led the team with six shots on goal. Smith was strong to the net again and created a few quality chances. Kruger was his usual consistent self. The trio led the Blackhawks in Corsi percentage (overall shot differential) and didn’t allow a goal. That’s been a trend lately, and Quenneville has been rewarding them with ice time. The last nine games that line has received 10-plus minutes.

3. The Blackhawks needed a win Wednesday and got it by overcoming some adversity. The Blackhawks were in real jeopardy of dropping their fifth straight when they fell behind by two goals to the Canucks. The game couldn’t have started any worse for the Blackhawks as the Canucks scored 16 seconds in and then the Canucks built a 2-0 lead in the second period. To the Blackhawks’ and Corey Crawford's credit, they bounced back. Crawford was outstanding most of the night. He had to make some quality saves. He was moving well laterally, made a handful of back-to-back saves and had a strong glove save in the third period. He also got some help from Jonathan Toews, who slid into the net and blocked a shot during a sequence in the third period to keep the game 4-2. There’s such an awareness needed to make a play like that. The Blackhawks’ offense produced goals in a variety of ways, including a much-needed power-play goal. It's a good sign for the Blackhawks when Toews, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad all get in the scoring column.

4. Saad had his best game in more than a month. He scored his first goal in 12 games. He also set up Hossa’s power-play goal by finding Versteeg open across the ice, and Versteeg fed Hossa in front of the net. He later scored the empty-netter to clinch the victory. He’s done a good job this season of adapting to whatever line he’s been put on. It’ll be interesting to see what Quenneville does going forward with the third line. Will he continue to rotate health, scratching Handzus and Bryan Bickell? You would think eventually Quenneville would want to get Bickell playing consistently again. Something to keep an eye on with four games until the Olympic break.