There’s a saying in life, “rather be lucky than good.” Whoever first said that probably felt the same way most Blackhawks fans feel tonight. After a game where they were badly outplayed by the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Blackhawks got a late goal in the 3rd period to tie the game and were able to finish off the win in a shootout. A loss would have seen their lead shrink to a single point in the standings as the Flames beat the Blues. Instead, the win leaves the defending Stanley Cup champs with a three-point cushion in the Western Conference with only three games for the Flames to catch them. The win also helped increase their lead over the idle Dallas Stars to five points with only six games left on the Stars schedule.
The night certainly didn’t look like it would be problematic as Chicago got off to a great start. The Hawks scored a pair of goals by Patrick Kane and Brent Seabrook within the first 6 minutes of the first period and just had the look of a game that could get out of hand in a hurry. Instead of finishing off the struggling Blue Jackets, the Hawks let them hang around and only lead 2-1 after the first period.
The second period was worse. Six different Blackhawks took penalties in the middle frame. SIX. They looked out of sorts while Columbus looked like the desperate team that needed the points for a playoff spot. Derick Brassard ended up scoring on a 5-on-3 power play to finally tie the game up. When the Jackets eventually took the lead in the 3rd period, it looked like it was only a matter of time before the Hawks were in the locker room explaining how things went tragically wrong.
But just when things looked like they were going to end badly, the Hockey Gods threw the Blackhawks a bone. Bryan Bickell took an outlet pass from Duncan Keith, skated up the left wing and beat Mathieu Garon with a shot that can only be classified as a “bad” goal. If you listened closely in Nationwide Arena, you could almost hear the groans coming from Calgary and Dallas. The break was all Chicago needed to send the game to extra time (and earning a point). Once in OT, they found their game—if it wasn’t for Mathieu Garon trying to redeem himself, they would have ended the game before the shootout. Regardless, Corey Crawford stopped every shot he saw in the shootout, Viktor Stalberg snuck a backhander behind the Columbus netminder, and the Blackhawks escaped with the two points they came for.
At this point in the season, nothing matters except for the result. Did the Blackhawks deserve to win the game? Probably not. Did they completely shut it down after exploding for two goals to start the game? Absolutely. But none of that matters. Two points are two points.