Following a successful (six win, one loss) seven game road tour, the Chicago Blackhawks have had a rough go the last three, losing to the Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, and Anaheim Ducks.
““That’s when you hit rock bottom, when you score with one second to go on one power play when it’s been a disaster,” Coach Joel Quenneville told media after Friday’s loss to the Ducks. “We can only go, from there, right up.”
And that they did Saturday, when Florida came to Chicago.
They started Saturday’s game against the Panthers with 21 power play goals in 31 games. Within the first 20 seconds Patrick Sharp scored one (assisted by Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews) after a thoughtless hit by former Blackhawk Tomas Kopecky on Nickolas Hjalmarsson. A short while later in the first period, Brent Seabrook tallied a power play goal.
They maintained penalty kills through the first period as well, despite a record of only 71.8 percent killing so far this season (29th in the league), a stat that was particularly bothersome these last three games.
Goalie Corey Crawford left with an injury toward the end of the first. He went down for a save, couldn’t get back up, made another save, and had to be assisted off the ice and into the locker room. His injury is listed as lower body, status unknown.
Marian Hossa scored 17 seconds into the second period on a Patrick Sharp rebound.
Dylan Olsen, who Chicago traded to pick up Kris Versteeg, answered Hossa’s goal against Antti Raanta.
Marcel Goc scored a second unanswered goal about halfway through the second.
In a scary moment late in the third, Raanta took a hit to the head from former Blackhawk/Icehog Jimmy Hayes and appeared shaken up momentarily. It led to a no-goal call due to goalie interference, but no penalty on the play.
“I knew it was not so bad, even though my head was a little hurt,” Raanta told media. “I knew I had to play to the end. I didn’t even want to act like I was hurt. I had a good talk with (head trainer) Mike Gapski on the ice.”
Without another goaltending option, players on the bench discussed who might step in if Raanta weren’t so lucky.
“I asked (assistant coach Jamie Kompon) who was going to go, I think (Andrew Shaw) volunteered. If Antti couldn’t finish, that would’ve been a sight to see,” Sharp said after the game. “(Shaw) keeps getting hit with pucks, so might as well put him in our net.”
Shaw’s puck-to-the-shinpad Sunday scored a goal a’ la game 1 of last year’s playoffs “I love shinpads!” Shaw scored on another power play off a shot by Sharp, with another Kane assist early in the third.
After more than a period of chirping and aggression, Krys Barch and Brandon Bollig finally dropped gloves.
Brandon Saad finished the game coast-to-coast, goalie-undressing breakaway in the final minute. Jeremy Morin and Kris Versteeg, who took a hit to allow the play, had the assist against his former team.
With six different scorers, and holding the Panthers to two goals despite plenty of drama in net, the Blackhawks have shown they can do much better than they have performed the previous three games. Perhaps having Michal Handzus and Andrew Shaw back in the game was a chemistry booster.
Raanta stopped 29 of 31 Panther shots after his unexpected entrance, but jokingly gave himself the assist on Goc’s goal. Because Raanta was on the ice for the Blackhawks’ game-winning goal, he is credited with the win.
There’s no real update for Crawford yet.
“I haven’t talked to the [doctors], but I don’t think it’s too serious,” Quenneville told media. “But when it’s a goalie, it’s a little more serious than other players because of how important he is to our team.”
With no practice Monday, no updates are expected until the Dallas game Tuesday. Until Crawford is cleared, Raanta will serve as starting netminder.
Monday afternoon, the team recalled goalie Kent Simpson, 21, from Rockford and placed Bryan Bickell on the Injured Reserve. Bickell was expected to return to the team soon.
Simpson has q 6-7-0, record for his 15 game appearances in Rockford this season. He has a 3.38 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage for those outings.