Don’t call it a comeback for the defending Stanley Cup champions, but they’re getting their act together finally in the Western Conference. With coach Joel Quenneville back behind the bench after missing a few games with a bleeding ulcer and Corey Crawford once again in goal, the Blackhawks came out motivated and away with a 3-0 win. For Crawford, the shutout is his third of the year and he had to make 31 saves tonight to earn it. Mission accomplished for the rookie netminder as it gives him his 21st win on the season and merits him some discussion in the race for the Calder Trophy.
Patrick Sharp had an empty net goal, his 32nd goal of the year, and an assist on Tomas Kopecky’s goal that kicked off scoring in the first period. Marian Hossa also added a goal, his 14th of the year. It was Hossa’s first non-empty net goal since January 23rd, a span of nine games.
The loss temporarily knocks the Predators out of the Western Conference’s top eight and vaults Chicago into it. Doing this brand of playoff watch in the West will make fans of any of the eight teams within range of the final four spots in the conference reach for the antacids daily. The key here is to just make sure your team keeps winning. Just last week we were talking about how dire things were looking for Chicago and now they’re back into the mix. Perhaps by mid-March we’ll get a better handle on things.
For now, we can say that the death of the Stanley Cup champions’ playoff hopes were greatly exaggerated. By next week we could be back to burying them. Enjoy it for the time being.