The Blackhawks really needed a slumpbuster, and they finally got one. The Columbus Blue Jackets came into Friday night’s pre-Christmas finale losers of five straight and they never got off the bus. The Blackhawks whipped their butts the entire first period, out-shooting the Jackets 14-5 in the opening 20 minutes. Chicago had a lead barely last three minutes earlier this week, though, so a two-goal lead didn’t mean anything when the second period started.
But goals from Andreas Athanasiou and Taylor Raddysh 53 seconds apart pushed the lead to four and the Blue Jackets wanted absolutely nothing to do with playing a competitive game. Well, not until Sean Kuraly hammered Jonathan Toews a little under eight minutes into the second period and the players exchanged holiday recipes. It was good to see Isaak Phillips jumping in to defend his captain quickly; it was a clean hit that Kuraly finished high on Toews, but after the Jackets spent 27 minutes showing absolutely zero effort, the intent was clear and the Blackhawks didn’t like it.
It got interesting in the third period for a bit, but Kane set up Toews to make the score 5-2. That power play goal marked the 300th time both Kane and Toews factored into a goal for the Blackhawks, a remarkable number.
Star 1: Patrick Kane
After a night in which he put nine shots on net and couldn’t buy a score, nearing the end of a month in which he’s done just about everything with the puck but score, Kane finally put one on the board. And his response was almost exhausted relief when he finally got one past a goaltender (and without hitting a post or shooting it wide). 88 wasn’t finished, though. He set up Max Domi for the Blackhawks’ second goal of the night with a pretty dish, and broke up a rush for Johnny Gaudreau. Kane wanted it again tonight, and finally got some payoff. He finished the night with one goal and two assists.
Star 2: Jonathan Toews
Like Kane, Toews finished the night with one goal and two assists. Chicago’s captain also won 18 of 25 faceoffs (72 percent). When things got messy early in the third period and the Blackhawks went to the penalty kill, Toews was over the boards first for PK duty. He had another terrific all-around night and the points came from the effort.
Star 3: Alex Stalock
Stalock returned to the ice for the first time since Nov. 1 when he was knocked out of the game against the Islanders with a concussion. Not only was he good enough to pick up the win, but he was in it the whole night. He aggressively played the puck and helped get the attack started. He ran his mouth at times, too, and showed his displeasure with Mathieu Olivier grabbing Toews in the second period by stomping on his stick and kicking it aside. The Blackhawks needed a little burst of energy and Stalock was precisely that in his return to the lineup.
- After completely dominating the Jackets for 30 minutes, the Blackhawks took their foot off the gas a little. Columbus was able to score a power play goal and they were buzzing after that; the Blackhawks were out-shot 17-9 in the second period. Thankfully they had rolled to a four-goal lead before they got caught watching. Allowing themselves a moment to exhale has cost them way too many times recently (see the final seconds of the second period in their last game with a 2-1 lead that disappeared).
- Raddysh’s tenth goal of the season is a nice benchmark for a guy who hadn’t played a full NHL season before this year in Chicago. He scored 11 goals last year in 74 games last year, five of which came in 53 games with the Lightning before he was traded to the Blackhawks.
- Boris Katchouk absolutely trucked Marcus Bjork and was called for boarding with a little more than 14 minutes left in regulation and while the Blackhawks were already killing a penalty with a two-goal lead. It was a completely unnecessary hit that was not only dangerous, but just dumb. The Blackhawks are playing fragile hockey right now, the Jackets had momentum and had cut the lead to two and were already on an advantage. There was absolutely no need to run a guy at that point. That might get Katchouk an evening in the press box to watch after Christmas.
- The Blackhawks successfully killed off 59 seconds of 5-on-3 when Katchouk went to the box, and killed Katchouk’s penalty completely. It could/should have been a huge moment for the Blackhawks in the game. But Katchouk came out of the box and immediately jumped Kuraly and wanted to fight again. And went right off to the box when Kuraly was probably going to get the only penalty on the play. So… yeah. Katchouk could probably take a night off after Christmas.
- Max Domi had a two-point night with the secondary helper on Toews’ PPG.
- The Blackhawks need to get the puck on net more often, and from more sources. They did that tonight. Seth Jones and four forwards were credited with at least three shots on net.