Changes pay off as Blackhawks cruise past Blue Jackets
Andrew Shaw stopped a long scoring drought. Jonathan Toews had another big game. The Chicago Blackhawks had 13 players with at least one point.
Yup, those line changes worked out pretty well for the Stanley Cup champions.
Shaw and Toews had two goals apiece, and the Blackhawks beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 6-1 on Thursday night to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff race.
”I think all the lines had some chemistry tonight,” Shaw said. ”It was a big win for us.”
Brandon Bollig and Bryan Bickell also scored as Chicago bounced back from a 4-2 home loss to Colorado on Tuesday night. Corey Crawford made 22 saves for his 10th consecutive victory against Columbus.
With St. Louis and Colorado also winning, the Blackhawks remained two points back of the Blues for the Central Division lead and one point ahead of the Avalanche.
”We’re motivated to build ourselves into the team we want to be come playoff time, but that adds to it to keep us honest, to make sure we’re competing the right way every night,” Toews said, highlighting the bunched standings out West.
Ryan Johansen scored his 25th goal for the Blue Jackets, who had won three in a row. Sergei Bobrovsky made 14 stops before he was pulled during the Blackhawks’ three-goal second period.
”We weren’t emotionally into the game,” Columbus coach Todd Richards said. ”The intensity wasn’t there. I thought we lacked intensity. It wasn’t everyone. We had some guys that wanted to get involved, but there were too many guys who weren’t involved in the game.”
The Blackhawks had managed just eight goals while dropping three of four, and five of those came against Pittsburgh at Soldier Field on Saturday. That prompted coach Joel Quenneville to shuffle his lines, putting Shaw with Toews and Brandon Saad in the top group and moving Patrick Sharp to the second line with Michal Handzus and Patrick Kane.
After Johansen took advantage of a bad line change to tie it at 1 at 7:56 of the first, it was all Blackhawks. They outshot the Blue Jackets 33-23 for the game and lead the NHL with 221 goals.
”Jonny’s line had the big night, with several offensive zone shifts, some real nice plays and some nice (finishes) as well,” Quenneville said.
Shaw said it was his first time playing on the same line with Toews since his first NHL game on Jan. 5, 2012, at Philadelphia. Shaw also scored in that one, with Toews picking up an assist.
For all that time apart, they sure looked pretty comfortable together.
Shaw sparked the runaway win when he made the most of a terrific pass by Sheldon Brookbank, beating Bobrovsky into the upper right corner with 3:16 left in the first. Brookbank’s long pass banked off the boards and sprung Shaw for a breakaway on the right side of the ice.
”It was unbelievable. I think we just made eye contact and we knew what we were going to do,” Shaw said.
Chicago added three more in the second, highlighted by Saad’s impressive series of moves that set up Toews for an easy score.
Saad skated around James Wisniewski and Nathan Horton before he was stopped by Bobrovsky. The rebound went right back to Saad, who passed to Toews on the other side of the net to make it 3-1 eight minutes into the second.
Bickell had a rebound score that chased Bobrovsky and Brent Seabrook’s slap shot went off Shaw and past Curtis McElhinney with 2:16 left in the period. It was the 16th goal for Shaw, who stopped an 11-game drought.
Toews added a power-play goal in the third for his 24th of the season. The captain has five goals and an assist in the last three games.
”It’s frustrating because we didn’t play our game and who knows what these points, what difference they’ll make at the end of the season,” Johansen said.
It was more than enough for Crawford, who improved to 10-2-0 in his career against the Blue Jackets. He made a nice save on Matt Calvert’s backhand in the first and turned away Nick Foligno on a close opportunity in the second.
NOTES: Blue Jackets D Nikita Nikitin left in the second period with an upper body injury. Richards said Nikitin would travel with the team to Nashville, and then be re-evaluated. … Blackhawks C Peter Regin missed the morning skate, but Quenneville said he was resting and he had 15 shifts in the game. … The Blue Jackets scratched LW Blake Comeau, RW Corey Tropp and Ds Ryan Murray and Cody Goloubef. … Ds David Rundblad and Michal Rozsvial, plus injured F Marian Hossa, were the scratches for the Blackhawks.