Hawks fans can breath a sigh of relief after the Blackhawks staved off the New York Islanders in a 3 – 2 victory Friday night at the United Center. After two late-game breakdowns, including one very late collapse in St. Louis earlier this week, Chicago needed to correct some of those closing minute woes.
With Nikolai Khabibulin giving Corey Crawford a break in net, a new face had the chance to change the tides. But Quenneville took no chances and did some line juggling anyway. Bickell saw himself dropping to the third line aside Andrew Shaw and Joakin Nordstrom while Brandon Saad jumped up to skate alongside Toews and Kane. No changes came until the Hawks started experiencing some problems, though.
Nordstrom scored his first NHL career goal to open the scoring at one with a thread-the-needle pass to pair with his thread-the-needle goal just before the halfway point of the first period. Moments later, Jonathon Toews scored his second goal of the season when he caught Islanders goaltender Kevin Poulin chasing a shot on the far side of the net. Both goals were set up by quick puck movement on the part of the Blackhawks that found New York running around to catch up.
The Hawks made made crisp passes all night and generally had the Islanders chasing pucks when they had the chance to set it up, credit to timely faceoff wins, which Chicago had the edge 35 – 30 on the night. Nordstrom went 67 percent Friday night at the faceoff circle in addition to adding a goal early in the first. But as much as the Hawks had New York running around, the Islanders had their fair share of forcing Chicago out of position in the defensive zone as well.
Chicago struggled with clearing the puck (reminiscent of last season) out of the defensive zone which led to costly turnovers and too much scrambling for the puck. New York’s first goal came from a defensive breakdown resulting from an odd-man rush into the zone. Keith over-committed leaving Bickell and Seabrook to deal with the loose change but Josh Bailey was able to cash in. The tying goal came from Kyle Okposo when Oduya was caught below the net and Toews was left to defend the front of the net with Kane.
The third period saw the final goal of the game from Michal Handzus on a wide-open net after another deflection from the boards left New York chasing late.
Chicago’s PK was perfect, but so was New York’s: no power play goals were scored tonight and Chicago had some good looks. Poulin was better in net than the Hawk’s PP unit but they were able to sustain great pressure. Sixty and ninety second stretches of the PP completely in New York’s zone was common Friday night. Promising news for Joel Quenneville.
“We got a zero tonight and that’s progress,” said Quenneville. “We’ll take baby steps from here.”
Chicago plays again Saturday night against the Buffalo Sabres, who are 0 – 4 – 1 thus far on the season. As far as the lineup goes, all Blackhawks were healthy tonight and should remain so for tomorrow. Lines and goaltenders have yet to be announced.