Blackhawks prevail 4-3 in a shootout with St. Louis - FOX 32 News Chicago

It’s never easy but the Blackhawks prevail 4-3 in a shootout with St. Louis

Updated: Mar 30, 2012 9:33 AM CDT
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The Blackhawks squandered a two goal third period lead but still managed to edge the St. Louis Blues 4-3 in a shootout. It's seldom easy for the Hawks but as was the case versus New Jersey, the opponent's goalkeeping was a significant factor. Fortunately on Thursday night at the United Center, a truly fine performance by Blues goaltender Jaroslav Halak could not prevent the Hawks from recording a victory.

Corey Crawford came up with big stops when it counted but the second St. Louis goal should have been saved. Those who want to be more critical could suggest Crawford should have prevented the first Blues tally as well. What can't be questioned is Crawford was the better goaltender in the shootout and gave his club the opportunity to chalk up another home ice victory over the Blues. St. Louis has not won at the UC since February 3, 2010.

The Blackhawks top players were solid as was basically the entire squad. That's not to say Nick Leddy didn't have some rough moments or the Hawks were error free in their own zone. In any regard, given the injury situation and the level of competition, that's about as good of a performance the home team can muster. The Blackhawks controlled the pace of the game and their 40-20 shot advantage was indicative of a strong effort.

Every line performed well versus the Blues but Marcus Kruger and his crew had an especially strong game. Winger Viktor Stalberg followed Tuesday night's fine outing with an even better showing Thursday night. Stalberg is more responsible with the puck and has developed some nice chemistry with fellow linemate Patrick Sharp. The effective contributions from Kruger and Stalberg set up some interesting possibilities.

After dealing with holes in his roster for the entire season, head coach Joel Quenneville finally has a nice "problem" on his hands.

During a SiriusXM interview Thursday, a question was asked as to whether Patrick Kane should stay at center when Jonathan Toews returns. Toews is supposedly set to be cleared for contact soon and it is possible he could play in the final two games of the season. My answer was Kane should stay at center and maybe Kruger would then move down to be the fourth line pivot. Actually Kruger could play a wing position on the third line as well.

My response makes less sense after watching Kruger perform as a second line center the past two games. Although there are some issues as the strongest position for both Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane is right wing. That's why Toews does not usually center a line flanked by Kane and Hossa.

What appears now to make more sense is to move Andrew Brunette out of a top six forward spot rather than Kruger or Stalberg. Kane could go back to wing and Stalberg could replace Brunette on the Toews line.

Quenneville will have options and maybe one that will be tried first is to play Stalberg on left wing, Hossa on the right side and Toews in the middle. Kane could then play right wing on a line centered by Kruger, while Sharp switches to left wing. Sharp has played either wing position so maybe this could be a likely choice for Quenneville.

The bottom line is with the strong play from Stalberg and Kruger, Coach Q. has some choices. He could flip flop Kane from center to wing depending on the game situation or the opponent. For once Quenneville has a pleasant conundrum to deal with and having flexibility is a great asset for a head coach.

The Blackhawks will have to wait to officially clinch a playoff spot because the Coyotes defeated San Jose 2-0, but they are very close. To secure a post season reservation on Thursday night, the Hawks needed to win while Phoenix lost. Due to the loss to Chicago, St. Louis will have to wait to clinch the Central Division title. It is not a question of if but rather when the Blues are going to capture the Division crown. This will be the fourth consecutive year Chicago will be a playoff participant as they should lock up a post-season berth soon.

The Blackhawks have done well against the Blues but Saturday's opponent has been Chicago's nemesis. The Predators are 4-0-1 versus the Hawks this season. The Blackhawks will be looking to avenge an ugly 6-1 home ice loss to Nashville last Sunday.

The Hawks will be without Toews for the 19th consecutive game when they face the Preds. Steve Montador will also be unavailable because apparently he has had a reoccurrence of concussion symptoms. Defenseman Sami Lepisto is skating but his return to action will not likely happen until the playoffs.

With another strong effort, as in their last two games, the Blackhawks can get revenge in Nashville.

Al's Shots

Dave Bolland played a strong game and recorded the lone shootout goal Thursday night. Bolland was 0-7 while participating in previous shootouts. Quenneville mentioned in post game comments he asked his assistants who the next shooter should be and they both answered Bolland.

Bolland put a sweet deke on Halak and tucked the puck in behind the sprawling Blues goalkeeper. Bolland showed some of the slick moves which earned him 57 goals in 59 games while playing for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League back in 2005-2006.

In the upper right corner there is an audio link for a SiriusXM interview with Jamie Shalley from Thursday. The interview was done before the updated status on Toews was reported.

Jamie and I discussed the power play woes, plus recent Hawk performances with a look ahead to the playoffs.

Follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia

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