It was a good night for the Chicago Blackhawks in St. Paul, even with the incoming snow that fell after the game. Patrick Sharp was back on the bench, Nick Leddy was playing in front of friends and family and Ray Emery earned his third shutout as the Blackhawks beat the Minnesota Wild 1-0. If you wanted to look for a “but” statement, here goes: they earned the shutout, but they could’ve scored more goals.
It was a game of almosts. Both sides had some close calls, but the 31-20 shots on goal tally said that perhaps the Blackhawks had a few more than the Wild. There was the goal scrum in which the puck had slipped out from under Niklas Backstrom, but the play was already blown when Marian Hossa stuffed the puck across the line. There was the shot that Leddy made that clanged off the goalpost. Patrick Kane even had a mini-breakaway that sent him airborne when Backstrom and Clayton Stoner stopped him. The incredulous look on Kane’s face spoke volumes.
The Wild had their chances as well. In the first period, Devin Setoguchi swatted the puck out of the air and took a shot into the wide-open net but managed to pull it across the goalmouth instead. Cal Clutterbuck came close in the second period when his shot was rescued from the back of the net by Emery’s skate blade. Clutterbuck tried in vain to dig the puck free, but Emery clamped his leg down on it.
The one shot that did get through wasn’t the result of some tic-tac-toe pass or fancy stickhandling. It began with Stoner attempting to make a pass, only to have Hossa there in the slot to intercept it and snap a wrist shot five-hole past Backstrom. It proved to be the only goal the Blackhawks needed to win the game.
The Blackhawks are still proving that they can play a complete game. And even if it takes 31 shots on goal, they’ll find a way to get one in the net. Sometimes, one is all it takes.