All is well in Blackhawk land with 3-1 win over Predators

All is well in Blackhawk land with 3-1 win over Predators

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Tuesday night's contest began like the Chicago Blackhawks were going to make a statement and really avenge their recent 7-2 drubbing in Nashville. As it turned out it wasn't a very demonstrative win but the Hawks did what was needed. They captured two more road points with a 3-1 victory and played a solid game.

After a quick opening period goal by Duncan Keith at the 1:29 mark the Hawks took two careless penalties. That killed the momentum and led to a Shea Weber power play goal. Patrick Kane answered with his own beautiful power play strike to give the Hawks a 2-1 first period lead. Nick Leddy scored on the man advantage in the middle frame and that was it for the scoring.

There were some positives to take away from the victory.

In many ways Antti Raanta looks like a different goalie from his first couple of appearances and he set the tone in Nashville. Raanta is more calm in net and positionally better. He stopped 16 of 17 Nashville shots in the first period.

Raanta appears more confident now that he has a few victories under his belt. He also is handling the puck more effectively. That's great news for the Blackhawks as Corey Crawford likely won't be back until closer to the end of the month.

It has been reported Crawford is going to start skating soon. Then Crawford will have to get through some practices before he could return. After this week the Hawks play at home next Monday and then will be off for the Christmas break so Crawford won't be rushed.

The Chicago power play was two for five and looked good. There was movement and scoring chances. Nick Leddy in general had a nice game as he was aggressive and noticeable on the power play.

The Chicago penalty kill only allowed one goal as the Hawks were guilty of taking seven penalties. At times the penalty kill still looks like a work in progress, in the first period they struggled. Their structure was loose and the Preds had men open but as the game went on they got better.

The penalty killing unit was up to a big task late in the second period as Patrick Sharp was whistled for a double minor for high sticking. That resulted in having to kill off slightly over three minutes of power play time, which they did.

The Blackhawks played an effective road game, although too many penalties and they were poor on faceoffs (36%). They did have the puck often and held Nashville to only 11 shots over the final 40 minutes of play.

Two Americans, Brandon Saad and Leddy had strong outings. Both were playing in front of Team USA General Manager David Poile, who is also the Predators GM.

Saad was good in all areas and showed he can also kill penalties. Leddy played with confidence and was involved. Poile has many difficult decisions to make, possibly both Saad and Leddy could make the squad.

One decision for Poile that will be a no brainer involves Kane. He is a lock to make the team and is playing better than any U.S. born player. Kane notched his 20th tally which was his sixth game winning goal. The Hawks star winger has scored points in 22 of his last 23 games.

Bryan Bickell returned to action and wasn't noticeable. Bickell played 9:40 and did not record a shot or a hit. It will take some time for Bickell to get back on track as he missed 14 games.

For the first time since the Kris Versteeg trade the Blackhawks have a healthy squad of skaters. It will be interesting to see how Joel Quenneville sets his lines and penalty killers.

The hated Canucks have been playing great hockey and they will be in town on Friday. Vancouver suffered their first loss in December on Tuesday.

For now all is well in Blackhawk land as Kane and Keith are having MVP-like seasons, and the team's 55 points leads the league.

I will be back on Saturday morning and you can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia.

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