Chicago Blackhawks top performers help take down Columbus - New York News

Blackhawks top performers help take down Columbus

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The Columbus Blue Jackets put up another valiant effort while facing the Chicago Blackhawks but once again fell short losing in a shootout 2-1.

The Blackhawks were not in top gear throughout much of the opening 40 minutes. Maybe that had something to do with Columbus doing a nice job of limiting scoring opportunities. Possibly it took awhile for the Hawks to find their legs as they had a rare three day break between games. In the third period the Hawks dominated and when the Blue Jackets challenged, Corey Crawford was strong.

The big guns for Chicago were the difference.

Patrick Kane kicked into gear and showed why he is one the NHL's best passers. Kane feathered a saucer pass across ice to Johnny Oduya who connected with a well placed shot to give the Hawks the lead. The Chicago advantage didn't last long and after a holding penalty by Sheldon Brookbank, who had spotty performance, the Jackets evened the score. Defenseman Jack Johnson scored a power play goal and Thursday night looked like a third overall draft pick. Johnson was one of the better players in the ice.

Even though Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa were held scoreless they created many chances. Toews led the game with seven shots and Hossa recorded three. The two stars accounted for 10 of the 40 Chicago shots. Toews like Kane chipped in with an important shootout goal.

Columbus doesn't have any forwards close to the caliber of Kane, Toews or Hossa but they are playing their system well and aren't an easy mark. The Jackets are near the bottom of the Western Conference although they compete hard. Columbus lacks the top end talent and subsequently has trouble scoring goals. The Blackhawks have played one less game than Columbus and have scored 24 more goals this season.

To say the Jackets are operating on a razor thin margin for error is an understatement as they have often been involved in one goal games this season. Thursday night Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky was in top form. His performance was outstanding, especially in the third period and in overtime. If not for Bobrovsky, the Blackhawks could have been a lopsided winner.

Rockford call-up Jimmy Hayes made his season debut and wasn't bad. Hayes caused some commotion in front of Bobrovsky and may have provided a screen on Oduya's tally. Hayes was playing center for most of the season but was at the wing position with Dave Bolland and Kane on the second line.

Hayes isn't the best skater and will be counted on to use his size. At 6'6" and about 220 pounds, Hayes isn't a dominant physical force but Hawk management felt he deserved a promotion. Daniel Carcillo was a scratch and Hayes got his chance versus the Jackets.

The Blackhawks road show stops in Dallas on Saturday night.

The Stars are currently two points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Over their last 10 games Dallas is 4-4-2. On Thursday the Stars dropped a 2-1 shootout decision to the Anaheim Ducks.

Despite the outstanding start to the season by the Blackhawks, the Ducks have only four fewer points with a game in hand.

Al's Shots

The overtime period featured some great end-to-end hockey and fine goaltending. There were a total of 13 shots taken in the very exciting session.

If the point system is not going to change or the shootout isn't going to be scraped, somehow the NHL needs to increase OT to 10 minutes.

The Players Association squawk at first but it is far better to decide a game playing 4-on-4 than with something so far removed from real hockey. An extra five minutes of playing time will help in not deciding games by a shootout.

Recently EJ Hradek on the NHL Network had a good idea, teams would switch goals after the third period, and that should lead to more scoring. If the OT period isn't lengthened, this may help games not get to a shootout because of the longer change for defensemen.

The April 3 trade deadline is approaching and Hawk fans are wondering if GM Stan Bowman will try to improve his roster. Bowman can stand pat, look to add a depth forward or possibly swing big and try to acquire a second line center.

The Washington Capitals are currently seven points out of the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. If they were to hit a cold streak soon the Caps could turn sellers. If so Bowman should make a phone call to long time Capitals GM George McPhee, who may be on borrowed time.

Maybe McPhee will look to deal an upcoming UFA for a draft pick and a decent Ice Hog prospect. If so Washington center Mike Ribeiro is having a fine season and his 28 points in 25 games is good enough to secure a top line role on many teams. With the Blackhawks he would be a second line pivot candidate and would be a nice rental pick up.

Ribeiro doesn't shoot a lot and probably would mesh with Kane and Patrick Sharp. He has good hands and is a fine passer, when Ribeiro does shoot he often converts. His current shooting percentage is 27.3% and has recorded nine goals and 19 assists.

A player like Ice Hog center Brandon Pirri or even hard luck forward Ben Smith could interest McPhee. Bowman will have to give to get because if McPhee is willing there will be other suitors.

Unfortunately Ribeiro isn't a great faceoff man but it is difficult to cover every base. What he can do is skate, play with an edge and contribute on the power play.

Ribeiro is an upcoming UFA and does have a 10 team no-trade clause. It would make sense Ribeiro would agree to come to Chicago with a chance to win a Cup. It could also be great exposure as he will be looking to sign a new contract this summer.

It could be decision time on some Ice Hogs and this trade deadline may prove how much they are valued around the league.

The Hawks new point streak stands at one, surprisingly the Blue Jackets have a nine game point streak. Eight of the nine games for Columbus have gone to overtime or a shootout.

I have to wonder if defenseman Michal Rozsival is nursing an injury. Brookbank hasn't been great and if Rozsival isn't dressed on Saturday something could be up.

Brandon Bollig was back in the lineup and had a couple of good scoring chances. Maybe Carcillo will be out of the lineup versus the Stars as well.

I will be back on Saturday morning and you can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia

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