The Blackhawks stayed determined, played a solid sixty minutes of hockey and came away with another home ice victory.
The 4-3 score was flattering to the San Jose Sharks. If not for some spectacular saves by Antti Niemi and a soft goal allowed by Corey Crawford the outcome would not have been close. In the end the Blackhawks displayed strong character. They didn’t falter although San Jose was able to tie the score with two quick goals early in the second period.
Give the Hawks high marks for playing well in all three zones. The Sharks are a fine hockey club but they don’t match up well with the Blackhawks. The Hawks can usually dictate the pace of play when facing San Jose. Last night the Sharks couldn’t play as quickly, lost individual battles and tuned the puck over.
The Blackhawks controlled play for most of the game and had the better scoring chances. The Hawks were successful because they kept things simple. They advanced the puck into the Sharks’ zone and were able to work their defense down low. The Hawks cycled the puck but didn’t look for pretty plays. It was more of a north and south game which enabled the Blackhawks to cause problems for Niemi.
A player who once again excelled at keeping it simple was Andrew Shaw. In the salary cap era the best teams can use a pleasant surprise from players with modest contracts. There doesn’t appear to be a reason to wait any longer, Shaw can be proclaimed an unexpected difference maker.
Shaw can skate well and isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty. So far he has been defensively responsible and has avoided taking dumb penalties.
Shaw had his best outing as a Blackhawk and was credited with his first game winning goal. It came about because of his hard charging style. He plays a smart physical game and recorded three hits versus San Jose. Shaw can also play center and was a perfect 6-0 in the faceoff circle. To go along with his other accomplishments Shaw recorded five shots on goal in 16:51 of playing time.
The Hawks’ forecheck has improved since Shaw has arrived. His aggressive play appears to be contagious as Shaw looks like a keeper. Another Blackhawks who has been a pleasant surprise and is solidifying his place as a top six forward is Viktor Stalberg. He notched his fourteenth goal last night, which is third best on the Blackhawks.
It’s true Stalberg is playing with skilful players who provide him with scoring chances. What shouldn’t be overlooked is Stalberg is winning puck battles and working hard along the boards. He also finds the soft spots in coverage and puts himself in scoring position. Stalberg is converting chances and looks like true a NHL goal scorer.
Blackhawks fans have witnessed the evolution of a young player who needed time to develop. Stalberg was like another youngster with skill who also had lessons to learn.
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