(Photo: SportsnetCanada Youtube)
With the Chicago Blackhawks’ win over the Carolina Hurricanes Monday night, two team leaders earned career milestones.
— NHL (@NHL) March 24, 2015
Coach Joel Quenneville tallied his 750th career victory, making him the third-winningest NHL coach behind Hall-of-Famers former New York Islanders coach Al Arbour at 782 and current Blackhawks senior advisor of hockey operations Scotty Bowman who amassed a whopping 1,244 victories, leading three teams to the Stanley Cup. Quenneville has coached the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, and, since 2008, the Blackhawks. Now, at 56 years old, with 18 seasons of coaching, he’s hit 750 wins. This feat’s been accomplished so quickly because of Quenneville’s impressive record. He’s never coached a season below .500–and that’s putting overtime losses in the loss column. His outstanding record came on the heels of a less-than-impressive win. But this time of year, points don’t have to be pretty. “I really liked those two points,” Quenneville told media of the win that gave him his milestone. “They were definitely necessary.”
The Captain’s Points
“It wasn’t the ideal way to get [the 500th point], but it was a big goal by Shawsy at the end to close it out,” Toews said. “It’s kind of a cool thing to think about. The main thing is we got our two points tonight.”
Toews’ performance has jumped recently, in the wake of Patrick Kane’s injury last month, with 12 points in the 12 games since Kane was hurt.
And, his path to 500 points has been a highlight reel, even if number 500 was relatively lackluster.
“I think he always should be considered for the Selke every year,” Quenneville said of Toews after the game.
Mile Markers for this Season
Chicago bested Carolina 3-1 thanks primarily to Corey Crawford‘s strong netminding.
The team came out strong, scoring two goals within the first 10 minutes of puck-drop.
First, Shaw fired the puck in point-blank off a behind-the-net pass from Marcus Kruger just 7:48 into the first period.
Just over a minute later, Niklas Hjalmarsson fed Marian Hossa the puck. Hossa then hit a rushing Patrick Sharp right on the tape for an easy redirect into the net and a two-goal lead.
But the rest of the game belonged to the Hurricanes. In the second period, Carolina outshot Chicago 19-6.
Fortunately, Crawford held the Hurricanes to just one goal that period.
“When we go into the third period with a one-goal lead, we’re thinking that we’re going to keep working and keep checking and key off the other team’s offensive mistakes,” Toews said. “We had some great goaltending by Crow, and that’s the reason we snuck that one out.”
Much of the second and third periods looked like a penalty kill for Chicago. They blocked 25 shots to Carolina’s nine for the game. And Crawford made 44 saves to Anton Khudobin‘s 22.
“I thought we had an excellent first period,” Quenneville said. “Then, what we did to them in the first, they did to us in the second. We hung on there in the third. [Crawford] was solid, but I think we’ve still got to be better than that.”
The win, which brought them up to 94 points, moved them closer to the second place St. Louis Blues (96) and first place Nashville Predators (97) in the Central Division.
Mile Markers on the Road to the Playoffs
It also came on the heels of an embarrassing 4-0 loss to the Dallas Stars Saturday, ending a four-game win streak and seven game point streak for the Blackhawks.
Despite leading in shots 33-29, the Stars were able to dominate by scoring two out of three power play goals while the Hawks couldn’t gain any other advantage.
For another milestone, Blackhawks goaltender Scott Darling had his first NHL shutout in the Blackhawks’ 1-0 defeat of the number one New York Rangers March 18 at Madison Square Garden.
The Hawks led 31-25 in shots on goal, but didn’t score until 12:41 remaining in the third, when former Ranger Brad Richards carefully directed the puck in on a play set up by Duncan Keith and Andrew Desjardins.
With luck and talent, the Blackhawks defeated the New York Islanders 4-1 on St. Patrick’s Day. New York outshot Chicago 39-30 at the United Center, but the guys in red skated away with victory.
Toews and Hossa each had two goals for Chicago, while Nikolay Kulemin tallied the Isles’ lone goal.
The Isles are in second place in the Metropolitan Division.
Sharp broke through his slump with two goals in a 6-2 victory over San Jose March 14. Again, the Blackhawks were behind in shots–35-30. But, they capitalized on man-advantages, scoring on two-of-four power play opportunities, a frequent weakness for the team.
Despite being active with his injury, Kane’s timetable to return has not yet changed. The Blackhawks would have to make it to the second round for him to join them on the quest for Lord Stanley.
There are 10 remaining regular season games, including two against the St. Louis Blues.
“We want to get home ice for the playoffs,” Crawford said. “Our building is a fun place to play in the playoffs. We just have to take it game by game, but we’re definitely chasing for first.”
That means they’ll need to stop the second-period slumps and forget about coasting through games to remain competitive.
“We’ll win ugly if we have to, on the road,” Toews said after Monday’s win. “We’ll do what we have to to win those tight games.”