Rewind: Observations from Hawks-Sabres

March, 10, 2014
Mar 10
11:31
AM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
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Here are six observations from the Chicago Blackhawks' 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday:

1. The line of Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews and Andrew Shaw was dominant for the second consecutive game. In the past two games, Saad has had a 81.8 Corsi (30 shots for, seven against), Toews a 70.5 (31 for, 13 against) and Shaw a 78.4 (29 for, eight against). They have combined for five goals and two assists in the two games. The trio connected for an aesthetically-pleasing goal on Sunday. From the right side, Shaw hit Saad going to the net. Saad came in from the left and got Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth to commit to him. Saad then delivered a pass to Toews, who was waiting for the puck on the right doorstep and Toews knocked it home. Toews has done a nice job of putting himself in goal-scoring spots in the past few weeks and then capitalizing when the puck comes his way. He's scored in the past four games. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville may have something to think about when Marian Hossa returns healthy. Does Quenneville keep Saad on the top line or does Quenneville go back with Patrick Sharp there? The Sharp-Toews-Hossa line had produced much of the season.

2. There aren't many players capable of scoring like Patrick Kane did in the first period. It can only really be appreciated watching it in slow motion over a number of times. With the puck loose and Kane and the Sabres' Christian Ehroff approaching it, Kane reached out with his stick in his right hand, knocked the puck to his left and put it between Ehroff's legs. When it came out the other end, the puck was too far ahead of Kane, so he reached and fully extended himself and his stick with his right arm and backhanded the puck to himself while Sabres defenseman Chad Ruhwedel converged. Kane gathered himself and the puck as he got to the middle of the ice, created some space between him and Ruhwedel by skating to his left and fired the puck into the top right corner over the shoulder of Enroth. It ended up No. 5 on SportsCenter Top 10 on Sunday night.

3. Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford again didn't face a whole lot of shots, but he continued to be consistent. Since allowing four goals on Jan. 22, Crawford has held opponents to two or fewer goals in 10 of his past 12 games. He has a 1.58 goals-against average and .939 save percentage in that span. He only saw 21 shots against the Sabres, but they had some quality looks and Crawford was there to stop them. One of his biggest saves came with 5:32 remaining in the third period when Brian Flynn got past Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson. With Flynn coming at him, Crawford attempted to reach to his right for the puck with his stick. Flynn got the shot off before that happened, and Crawford had to react to his left and caught the puck with his glove.

4. Defenseman David Rundblad had a quiet first game for the Blackhawks. He had one missed shot and played 10 shifts for 7:38 of ice time. He gave the Sabres a quality scoring chance when Ville Leino beat him for the puck and skated past him at the Blackhawks' blue line midway through the third period. Nick Leddy bailed Rundblad out by diving to block Leino's shot attempt. Leddy may not be the optimal partner for Rundblad because both are more offensive-skilled players. It'll be interesting to see how much Rundblad actually sees the ice in the coming weeks.

5. Quenneville still doesn't consistently trust Bryan Bickell, especially in close games. Bickell was held to 11 shifts and a team-low 7:22 of ice time against the Sabres. He played three shifts in the third period. He had been averaging around 10 minutes the previous four games. Bickell's line, which also included Kris Versteeg and Peter Regin, had positive possession numbers when it did play on Sunday.

6. The Blackhawks' penalty kill came up big. The Blackhawks killed off all five of the Sabres' power plays. It was especially key because their power play wasn't any help, going 0-for-5 and having four shots on goal. The Blackhawks have killed off 17-of-18 power plays in the past four games. Their penalty kill has come a long way since the beginning of the season. The Blackhawks are now 19th in the NHL with a 81.1 penalty kill percentage.
Scott Powers is a general reporter for ESPNChicago.com. He is an award-winning journalist and has been reporting on preps, colleges and pros for publications throughout the Midwest since 1997.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Patrick Sharp
PTS GOALS AST +/-
78 34 44 13
OTHER LEADERS
GoalsP. Sharp 34
AssistsD. Keith 55
+/-M. Hossa 28
GAAC. Crawford 2.26