With the severity of the injury to starting goaltender Corey Crawford still not determined, the Chicago Blackhawks remain atop the Central division by six points. Despite coach Joel Quenneville telling the media “I don’t think it’s too serious.” Crawford is locker room leader and the Blackhawks’ success truly depends on his performance.
Despite not having Crawford for 46:15 of last night’s 6-2 victory against the lowly Florida Panthers, the Blackhawks persevered through a sloppy performance thanks to a total team effort. Unlike previous games where the team relied heavily on its top line of Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp, the Blackhawks managed to put forth a team effort from top to bottom to rout the Panthers.
Rejoining the score sheet was center Michal Handzus, who returned to the lineup after battling an illness. Handzus scored a goal on his lone shot, while his 5:40 ice time shorthanded led all forwards He was also 55 percent from the faceoff dot. Despite a rather sloppy performance, the Blackhawks’ penalty kill was perfect, while their power play unit took advantage of Florida’s 28th-ranked penalty kill. Sharp was absolutely lethal from the point last night, and should benefit the team’s already excellent power play.
By remaining out of the penalty box, the Blackhawks can use their special teams as an advantage, not something that needs to be game-planned around. All of this will benefit Antti Raanta, the Blackhawks’ now starting goaltender.
Raanta still has minimal experience, but has shown he can win games in the NHL. However, the Blackhawks schedule going forward features two back-to-back games, where their team consistency will likely decide whether Chicago stays atop the central.
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486