A few weeks ago, this would have looked like a very easy win for the Chicago Blackhawks. Heading into Toronto, against the lowly Maple Leafs, two points seemed almost a lock. But these aren’t those same Leafs.
Toronto had played very well of late, and went into Saturday’s tilt having won 10 of their 17 games since the All Star Break.
None of that mattered to the Blackhawks.
As one of the hottest teams in the NHL over the past couple of weeks, the Blackhawks have been getting started off on the right foot, which didn’t change on Saturday.
Marian Hossa finally got a goal when there was actually a goalie in net, taking advantage of a Leaf turnover just over a minute in, to give Chicago the 1-0 lead.
The turnovers continued, as Troy Brouwer got the puck going the right direction for the Hawks, shipping it to Michael Frolik, who scored his third goal as a Blackhawk.
There was more first period magic for the Hawks, who know it’s not a party until Jonathan Toews tickles the twine. The Hawks captain scored a goal for his fifth consecutive game, while running his point streak up to nine, on a gorgeous cross-ice pass from wingman Patrick Kane.
After a goal from new Leaf Joffrey Lupul, the Hawks would do more pouring on. The former Leaf Viktor Stalberg got a piece of a Tomas Kopecky shot to make it 4-1. Dave Bolland and Bryan Bickell caught the Toronto D flatfooted, with Bickell scoring on the 2-0n-1 rush.
But those Hawks like to make things interesting.
Toronto cooked up 13 shots on goal, with Corey Crawford flashing the leather all throughout the period. The Leafs did creep back into it with a pair of third period goals, but Crawford took home the game’s 1st Star honor for a reason. The Calder Trophy candidate stopped 30 of 33 shots, en route to his 26th win of the season.
After a busy week, the Hawks will slow things down a bit, not playing again until Tuesday. They’ll next take their talents to somewhere near South Beach, for a matchup with Frolik’s former mates, the Florida Panthers.
Chicago Tribune Photo