Blackhawks surge to victory, defeat Dallas 4-1 - FOX 32 News Chicago

Blackhawks surge to victory, defeat Dallas 4-1

Updated: Mar 17, 2012 10:08 PM CDT
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Going into Friday's game at Dallas, the Blackhawks were focused on getting off to a good start. Stars net minder Kari Lehtonen had an off night which helped lead to the Hawks scoring two goals in the opening 1:42. The Hawks came out aggressive and took control and were able to skate away with a 4-1 win.

It is unusual to see two goals scored so quickly to start a game and the Hawks did the same thing to open the third period. The Chicago third and fourth goals came within 1:45 of the start of the last frame. Lehtonen had only given up 12 goals in his preceding nine games and recorded three shutouts in that span. Friday night, Lehtonen looked uncomfortable and wasn't at his best but the Blackhawks still needed a top effort from Corey Crawford to secure the win.

Dallas had only six shots in the opening frame but they did have some solid scoring chances. As the first period wore on Dallas came on and continued their stronger effort throughout the second frame. The Blackhawks weren't as sharp in the middle period and if not for Crawford, Dallas would have been able to get on the board. Fortunately, the very good Crawford was in goal and the Hawks surged again to begin the last period.

A few days ago, it didn't appear Crawford would have much opportunity to regain the role of starting goal tender. Ray Emery was out due to the flu on Friday, but my thinking was Crawford was getting the start anyway after his strong relief performance versus the Blues. Crawford looked good on his positioning once again and wasn't overplaying shots. As good as Emery has played, the best from Crawford is still better.

Dallas came out and looked to hit every Blackhawk in sight and they accomplished their goal. Steve Ott was credited with nine of the 41 hits the Stars recorded. The way hits are calculated seems to somewhat change from building to building. In Dallas, the official scorer appears to be very generous but no doubt the Stars were a much more physical team.

The Hawks didn't put forth the same strong physical effort as in their last game versus the Blues. If the season ended today, the Hawks would face the Stars in the opening round of the playoffs. Dallas sits third in the Western Conference but is only two points ahead of the Coyotes for the Pacific Division lead.

The first three playoff seedings go to division winners no matter their overall point totals. Dallas has 83 points compared to 86 for Chicago but they would still hold the home ice advantage in the playoffs. The Hawks might be locked into sixth position, and either Dallas or Phoenix would offer a stiff challenge in the post-season. The Blackhawks could defeat either but the Stars would be the more physical opponent.

Joel Quenneville has his foot on the accelerator and won't let up.

Even though the Hawks had a four goal lead with over 18 minutes to go in the third frame, Quenneville didn't take any chances. The ice time for Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook was over 25 minutes. The Hawks top forwards of Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp still played close to 20 minutes each.

Unfortunately due to injuries and sporadic play, the Hawks don't have much wiggle room. Most likely the physical conditioning of each player will be strongly tested in the final 10 games.

Jonathan Toews missed his 12th consecutive game and there is no telling if and when the Hawks captain will return. The road to recovery from a concussion can be bumpy and Toews appears to have suffered a setback. If everything were to go well, Toews probably won't return for at least a week.

Niklas Hjalmarsson was back in action Friday night and played a solid 16 minutes. There is no word as to when injured defenseman Steve Montador will be ready to play again so Quenneville will continue to rely heavily on the top players who are able to perform.

The Hawks will only have one day to treat their bumps and bruises before they face another desperate team.

The Washington Capitals lost a big game in Winnipeg on Friday night and will skate into the United Center on Sunday. The Caps cling to a slim two point lead over the Jets for the final playoff spot in Eastern Conference.

The Blackhawks played well in spurts versus Dallas and deserved the victory but the 4-1 score was flattering. It was more a case of Crawford being a lot better than Lehtonen than the Hawks dominating the Stars.

With only 10 games remaining, of which five will be at the UC, it doesn't matter how but the Hawks must continue to rack up points. The Capitals will lay it all out on Sunday and the Blackhawks must match their intensity to be successful.

All points are precious and opportunities on home ice can't be squandered.

Follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia

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