It’s clear now that the NHL lockout and resulting shortened season haven’t affected the early season play of the Chicago Blackhawks. On Sunday night the Blackhawks defeated their Central Division rivals the Detroit Red Wings in overtime by a score of 2-1 to improve their season record to a perfect 6-0-0. The Blackhawks’ current season start is the best in franchise history.
The game winning goal came at 2:45 of extra time, when young Blackhawks’ defenseman Nick Leddy caught a cross-ice pass from teammate Viktor Stalberg and fired a snap shot past Red Wings’ goalie Jimmy Howard. In Howard’s defense, the shot deflected off Damien Brunner’s stick and changed directions, making for an arguably difficult save. The goal was Leddy’s first of the season.
Leddy, who spent his time during the lockout playing for the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs (the Blackhawks’ top minor league affiliate), has clearly benefited from the experience. For this season, he appears to be a much more confident player than in the past. As a result, he can be seen contributing on the power play and often leading the rush into the defensive zone.
The Blackhawks drew first blood while on the power play, their first of the game, at 2:24 of the first period. Duncan Keith corralled a pass from defensive partner Brent Seabrook and buried a slap shot high and to the stick side of Howard to make it a 1-0 game. The goal was Keith's first of the season.
The score would remain 1-0 and there wouldn't be another tally for either team until the third period.
Although there was no scoring in the second period of the play, the period would prove to be crucial time for the Blackhawks since they committed four back-to-back minor penalties. As a result, the Blackhawks’ penalty killing unit was put to their toughest test of the season and performed outstanding. The Red Wings would go 0-6 on the power play for the game.
Finally, the Red Wings broke through and tied the game at 4:30 of the third period, when Johan “The Mule” Franzen gathered up a rebound in front of the net and put the puck between the legs of the Blackhawks’ Corey Crawford. The goal was Franzen’s first of the season. Damien Brunner and Henrik Zetterberg were credited with the assists.
After the Blackhawks failed to score on two power play opportunities during the second half of the third period, the game headed to overtime with the score tied at 1-1 and set the scene Nick Leddy’s game winning goal.
Corey Crawford made 29 saves on 30 shots. With the win, his record improves to 5-0-0 (1st in the league), with a save percentage of .933 (6th best in the league) and GAA of 1.78 (6th best in the league).
Bryan Bickell led the Blackhawks in hits with four in 11 minutes and 58 seconds of ice time.
For the first time this season, the Blackhawks will have two days off between games. They will travel to Minnesota to take on the new look Wild on Wednesday, January 30th. Puck will drop at 7:00 CST. The game will be the first of a scheduled six game road trip.