Blackhawks conclude soft portion of schedule with blowout win over Canadiens
Corey Crawford continued his dominance in Montreal by leading the Hawks to a 4-1 win, their ninth in their last 13 games.
MONTREAL — Coming home from Vancouver two weeks ago, the Blackhawks had played the NHL’s toughest schedule through their first 42 games and were set to play perhaps the NHL’s easiest schedule over their next six.
The Hawks concluded that soft stretch with a convincing 4-1 win over the Canadiens on Wednesday.
They won four of the six games, beating all four truly bad opponents — the Red Wings, Ducks, Senators and Canadiens — while losing to the Flames and Predators, the two competitive teams among the bunch.
“It’s a tough league,” Patrick Kane said. “Any team can win any given night, you can’t take anyone lightly in this league. Every game’s going to be closer and we have to play it that way. It seems like, when we play it a little bit closer, it works in our benefit.”
One could argue the Hawks, considering the deficit they still face to climb back into a wild-card spot, should’ve won more than four of six.
But coach Jeremy Colliton has been preaching a simple mindset of “win two out of three,” and to his team’s credit, that’s exactly what they’ve done lately.
“We’re never satisfied, but I think we did a decent job,” Colliton said. “Would’ve loved to get at least one of those games [versus] Calgary and Nashville, but we’re moving in the right direction, finding a way to scratch points together. We’ve still got lots of room to improve, but we’ll get a little healthier soon and that’ll help.”
Kane added another point Wednesday to pull within two of 1,000 for his career, a milestone he has been eyeing since New Year’s Eve.
And Corey Crawford turned in another spectacular performance in his hometown, making 32 saves on 33 shots to maintain his exact .971 save percentage in eight career starts in Montreal.
Nevertheless, it was the depth players — Zack Smith, who doubled his season goal total in a span of three minutes during the first period; Drake Caggiula, who has been fantastic since returning from his concussion; Slater Koekkoek, suddenly a stabilizing force on the third ‘D’ pair — who impressed most.
“It might not be pretty all the time, but we’re finding ways to stay in the game and control the game,” Kane said. “It’s been good for us.”