The snow fell throughout the Stadium Series game on Saturday night, sometimes at a torrid pace and other times lightly. Either way, it accumulated, covering up the on-ice logos and slowing pucks down.
You would think it would be difficult to make slick plays in that type of weather. But for the Chicago Blackhawks, that wasn’t the case. In a snow-globe setting at Soldier Field they performed their type of artistry in the form of great passes, nimble moves and pretty goals.
Jonathan Toews scored twice and Patrick Sharp had a goal and an assist as the Blackhawks beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-1 in the Stadium Series finale. It was a successful game for the Blackhawks, at least for the most part. The only problem was they lost Marian Hossa, who suffered an upper-body injury off a big hit in the first period. Coach Joel Quenneville said Hossa will “miss some time,” but it wasn’t expected to be long term.
Kris Versteeg and Bryan Bickell also scored for the Blackhawks. Versteeg has now scored in both of the Blackhawks’ outdoor games – here and at Wrigley Field in 2009. Corey Crawford stopped 31 of 32 shots – the only one that passed him was an accidental Brent Seabrook own goal.
Meanwhile the snow fell, the shovels tried to clear and the teams continued to try and play through the wintry conditions. The Blackhawks excelled at it, out-shooting the Penguins 40-32. After just one goal in their last two games, both losses, the Blackhawks were relieved to put five on the board on Saturday.
And some of them were dazzling, from Sharp’s goal sneaking just inside the post to Kane’s well-timed pass to a waiting Kris Versteeg to Toews dancing around Pittsburgh defensemen en route to his first score.
So how were the Blackhawks so stylish in this weather? They kept it simple.
“We just threw pucks down the ice and chased after them. When we were getting them, we were throwing everything on net,” Toews said. “Something about the conditions, I don’t know if it was tougher for the goalies to see or if pucks started bouncing. But we felt like, even our power plays early in the first that pucks could find a way to go in. It was a nice shot by Sharpie to get it started, and we weren’t sure how many more we’d get after that.”
They did, and it was because they didn’t change their plan.
“The thing is, we kept stressing going into the game (about) the simpler we play and the quicker we advance the puck. Just moving it ahead and getting it out of their zone as quickly as possible is what we were looking to do. Because all of a sudden, the snow, and the people coming at you, it's hard to make a play,” Quenneville said. “So that was basically something we kept stressing and the players were very good about it. We generated some odd-man breaks with quickness as well through the ice.”
The Blackhawks’ defensive work was just as strong. The Penguins got their share of shots but they didn’t have a lot of sustained zone time. And they couldn’t capitalize on their power play, either; the Blackhawks nixed all six of the Pens’ advantages.
“You can bet a team with that many power play looks, they're going to find a way. But I thought our penalty killing was outstanding,” Quenneville said. “You know, I think we've got some help knowing their crispness and the way they can make plays and their patience with the puck certainly was challenged tonight with the snow and all of that. But I thought the pressure and getting on them quickly was a real good job by us.”
It could have been an ugly game, considering the snowy conditions. The Blackhawks, however, found a way to perform with style.