Chicago Blackhawks down Blue Jackets, face the Canucks next - FOX 32 News Chicago

Chicago Blackhawks down Blue Jackets, face the Canucks next

Updated: Mar 21, 2012 10:38 AM CDT
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Whether the Blue Jackets are a hapless group or simply one lacking talent, they are certainly a bad hockey team. On Tuesday night the Blackhawks defeated Columbus for the six consecutive time this season. Once again the Hawks rolled on to victory as this contest was never in doubt. The 5-1 score was an accurate indication of the dominate play of Chicago.

It would have been a perfect night if Corey Crawford could have pitched a shutout. The Blackhawks are the only NHL team to have not recorded a whitewash this season. It would have been an even sweeter victory if the Hawks could have completed the match without the possibility of an injury. So much for wishes, but all in all the Blackhawks did not fall victim to a "trap" game versus the lowly Blue Jackets.

Corey Crawford was good once again and couldn't be faulted on the Blue Jackets lone goal. My guess is Joel Quenneville will start Crawford against the Vancouver Canucks Wednesday night at the United Center. Quenneville could hardly be questioned if he gave Ray Emery the nod, but Crawford has been good and the Hawks keep winning. Quenneville, like most head coaches, doesn't like to mess with a winning lineup. With a short trip home and not a heavy workload in Columbus, Crawford should be ready to play once again.

Unfortunately defenseman Nick Leddy may have suffered a head injury early in the third period. Leddy turned his back to an oncoming Darryl Boyce who didn't let up. Boyce got called for a boarding penalty but Leddy could have been more careful as he crashed into the boards.

The Jackets have been used as a punching bag all season. It is difficult to keep focused when a game is in hand but Leddy should have better protected himself. Boyce was going to finish his check, although he could have held up, but players let their frustrations out when losing. As it was, Boyce didn't throw a vicious check into Leddy, but the young defenseman was caught in an awkward position.

There is no telling how serious Leddy is hurt but he didn't finish the game on the bench. In post game comments, Quenneville mentioned Leddy was held out as a precaution. That smells like another concussion, which would hurt the Hawks. Maybe it is time for a little good luck and hopefully Leddy won't miss any playing time.

Once Boyce received his boarding penalty at 3:23 of the third frame, Leddy took only one more shift. That meant more minutes were piled on to the other Hawks defenders in a lopsided game. With Leddy only getting three shifts in the final period there wasn't the opportunity to rest some players.

Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook skated 12 shifts each while Johnny Oduya had 11 shifts in the third frame. Assistant coach Mike Kitchen normally has a difficult time spreading out the minutes for his defensemen. With Leddy's early departure, Kitchen was as challenged as he would have been in a tightly contested game.

Viktor Stalberg's goal total against Columbus stayed at eight but he did record an assist Tuesday night. Stalberg's goal production versus the Jackets has been unreal. In six games versus the Blue Jackets, Stalberg recorded eight goals and two assists. Keith also had a great deal of success while playing Columbus as he recorded eight assists this season.

Tuesday night the Hawks best players were all dialed in and the third line had another strong outing. Rookie Andrew Shaw scored yet another dirty goal and also recorded an assist. Hawks tough guy Brandon Bollig won a fight, plus, was credited with four shots on goal and two blocked shots.

The hated Canucks come a calling Wednesday night.

The Sedin twins and company were in Chicago on Tuesday and will be ready and rested. Maybe the Canucks had a long night in the Windy City, but they will probably be focused to take on the Hawks. Actually, facing the Blackhawks may be exactly what the Canucks need.

Currently, Vancouver sits in second place in the Western Conference with little chance of overtaking first place St. Louis. The Canucks are almost guaranteed to finish second in the West so some added incentive of playing a hated rival could be a benefit.

The Canucks have been struggling the last few weeks having gone 3-5-2 over their last 10 games. With time dwindling down Vancouver will want to regain their winning form and focus. Vancouver began a four game road trip by getting shutout in Minnesota on Monday night.

The Blackhawks will once again be without injured defensemen Sami Lepisto, and Steve Montador. Montador seems to be doing better and has begun to skate. If Leddy is unable to play, 40-year-old Sean O'Donnell will be pressed into action. O'Donnell is a savvy veteran and will have to shake off the rust and be ready to contribute. O'Donnell hasn't dressed since February 26, in Anaheim.

Jonathan Toews supposedly skated on his own Monday and Tuesday morning in preparation for his return. Even if all goes well, Toews will most likely be out of action for at least another 10 days.

The Blackhawks are on a very nice roll but their upcoming schedule won't be a soft one. After Wednesday night's game, the Hawks will face the Predators, Devils, Blues and Nashville once again. Three of the next five matches will be at the UC and capturing home ice points will be very important.

Al's Shots

On Tuesday afternoon Jamie Shalley and I chatted on SiriusXM radio. We discussed the new and improved Blackhawks, the return of Crawford, the emergence of Shaw and an injury update on Toews.

The link is located on the upper right side of this page.

Follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia

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