Marian Hossa was all over the ice, but one must wonder if he was kicking himself after possibly releasing a slap shot too soon when he found himself alone against Joey MacDonald earlier in tonight’s game. The talented two-way Chicago Blackhawks forward made no mistake about it during his team’s overtime 4-on-3 power play, though, as he roofed a puck over the Detroit Red Wings goalie to earn his team a crucial two points.
Just about every major element of this Chicago team came to play Monday. Hossa put seven shots on goal and also provided an assist to complete a great all-around night. Jonathan Toews was all over the place as he scored a goal and created plenty of opportunities. Patrick Kane provided two assists and also put seven shots on goal in this game while Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook (one goal) also made big plays for their team.
Corey Crawford was sturdy for the Blackhawks, earning his 30th win of the season by stopping 33 out of 35 shots. You cannot place the blame on stand-in goalie MacDonald, though, as he was outstanding in making 38 out of 41 saves in a losing effort. The fact that MacDonald is putting up outstanding individual numbers (92.8 save percentage coming into tonight’s game) makes his 5-4-3 record very misleading.
The Red Wings’ efforts might be overshadowed by the turmoil brewed by the first controversial hit by Todd Bertuzzi in ages, but they made the Blackhawks sweat in a game that was much bigger for Chicago. Nicklas Lidstrom became the first 40-year old defenseman to cross the 60-point barrier with a goal while Henrik Zetterberg earned Detroit a charity point with a power-play marker. Brian Rafalski also had two helpers.
What this win means for Chicago:
This win places Chicago in seventh place with 90 points in 75 games played, although the Anaheim Ducks could regain that spot if they beat the Colorado Avalanche tonight (the Avs have an early 2-0 lead in Monday’s only other game). Even if they don’t hold onto the seventh spot tonight, Chicago has a game in hand on Anaheim, as the Ducks enter Monday’s game with 89 points in 75 games played.
Before they get preoccupied with seeding, the Blackhawks must retain a spot in the top eight. They now have a three-point lead over the ninth-place Calgary Flames (87 points in 77 GP) and a four-point cushion against the more-dangerous 10th-ranked Dallas Stars (86 points in 74 GP). Chicago currently holds some tie-breaker advantages against the Flames and Stars, so they likely will only need to worry about standings points against both teams.
The silver lining for the Red Wings:
The Red Wings aren’t happy to lose to their division rivals, especially since they would play against Chicago if the playoffs began right now. That being said, the charity point they earned gives them a one-point edge over the San Jose Sharks for the West’s second seed. Both teams have six games left, so time will tell as far which team will be ranked second.
This was a heated and fast-paced game, but the Blackhawks cannot bask in the glow of the victory since they play the Northeast Division-leading Bruins in Boston tomorrow. They also must prepare for two more doses of Detroit, as they finish their season with a home-and-home series against the Red Wings.
For more analysis of a tough end of the season for the defending Stanley Cup champions from Chicago, click here.