Precise Chicago Blackhawks roll past St. Louis 3-0

Precise Blackhawks roll past St. Louis 3-0

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The Chicago Blackhawks left little doubt as they extended their point streak to 20 games with a 3-0 win over the Blues in St. Louis. The best way to describe the effort could be to say the Hawks were precise, and controlled the majority of the contest.

The game began on a scripted like play whereby all five Hawks touched the puck. In a 12 second span the puck traveled from Brent Seabrook to Duncan Keith across to Marian Hossa, back to Brandon Saad and then to Jonathan Toews for a tap in goal. The Blues appeared to be stunned and looked as if they were almost standing still.

Corey Crawford began the night between the pipes but needed to be replaced by Ray Emery to start the second period. Following the horn to end the first frame Crawford had trouble skating off the ice. He almost appeared to be wobbly on his skates. In post game comments Joel Quenneville said Crawford had an upper body injury but it was not the same as his last injury. Most believe Crawford suffered a concussion during a collision with Anaheim's Bobby Ryan on February 12.

So Quenneville remarks seem to indicate Crawford wasn't suffering from concussion like symptoms. To guess what might have prevented Crawford from finishing the game could be a strained abdominal muscle, a sudden bout with the flu or dehydration all could hamper his skating ability and balance.

Emery came in and was challenged a few times as the Blues tried to mount an attack but he came through. Emery was especially impressive while the Blues were on the power play.

St. Louis played hard and should be commended as they were facing the Blackhawks with their entire second line out due to injury. The Hawks have been difficult to play against all season and have dominated most of the action at even strength. Blend in the fact the penalty killers have been outstanding and a unbelievable 20 game regulation unbeaten streak becomes a reality.

As the points pile up fans and others around North America want to know what the difference is between this season and last.

Besides giving high marks to GM Stan Bowman for supplying a deeper roster for Quenneville, the Hawks have tweaked their style of play. It still can be fast and exciting but everything is more detailed oriented as the total effort has been outstanding. Quenneville has changed his methods and has sold his new approach to the entire team.

In a February 27 article from NHL.com this how Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock explained the Hawks style: "They don't give up easy ice anymore. You don't get odd-man rushes. You don't get lots of time in the offensive zone. There is no easy ice when you play them now. Every piece of the ice is contested.

"Last year, they played kind of a hybrid game where there was a lot more attacking going on and a lot more numbers on the attack, but it opened up odd-man rushes against. This year, they've lowered the risk and increased the wins. I think there is a great answer there. They play a very smart, manage-the-ice game.

"When you watch them play, every time you look there are five in the picture. And when there are five in the picture that leads to winning hockey."

Hitchcock, who better resembles Bob Keeshan, TV's Captain Kangaroo than a hockey coach is an astute student of the game. The last line of his comments about there always being five Hawks in the picture is the reason the defense has improved so much. With that type of team effort the low scoring games have been consistently won.

Tonight there is another "trap game" challenge as the Columbus Blue Jackets make a return appearance to the United Center. The Jackets don't ever quit but if they would halt the Hawks streak it would be considered a big upset.

Columbus will be aided by the return of center Artem Anismov but many key players are expected to be out of the lineup. The injuries include top defensemen James Wisniewski and Jack Johnson plus first line center Derick Brassard and winger Brandon Dubinsky. The Jackets have lost three straight but have been off since Tuesday.

Playing in back to back games could cause an issue for the Hawks but it was short trip home from St. Louis. By having a three goal cushion early in the final frame Quenneville was able to spread out the playing time. Toews led the forwards with 18:27 of playing time so fatigue shouldn't be a big concern.

Upsets happen on a frequent basis in the NHL and no opponent should be taken lightly. That said the table is set for the Blackhawks to push their regulation unbeaten streak to 21 games tonight.

All should be well as long as the Hawks aren't caught looking ahead to Sunday's contest in Detroit.

Al's Shots

Crawford nor Emery gets credited for a shutout because neither played the entire game. So it is recorded as a team shutout.

The Hawks never relinquished the lead after the first period so Crawford picks up win number nine.

The Blackhawks have recalled goalie Henrik Karlsson from Rockford. He should begin the game on the bench as a back-up unless Emery has an issue and can't start.

According to post game comments Quenneville remarked last night was one of the Hawks best efforts.

Toews got out his four game funk with two goals. He also led the team with five shots on goal.

Patrick Kane had a rare off night. Kane was hounded by the Blues and was held off the scoresheet and without a shot on goal.

Kane being cold for a game doesn't matter as much when the third line chips in with a goal. Andrew Shaw scored his fifth of the season on a nice pass from Bryan Bickell. This line showed once again how hard work and simple play can be so effective.

The Blues were credited with 34 hits, Seabrook led the Hawks with five.

I will be back on Saturday morning.

Follow me on Twitter@ AlCimaglia

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