The Chicago Blackhawks didn’t like what they gave up to the St. Louis Blues on Saturday, didn’t like how they got sloppy and away from that defensive mindset that’s been so good for them this season. They wanted a strong return to that against the Los Angeles Kings.
They got it, from their goaltender on out.
Antti Raanta got the first NHL shutout of his career and Brandon Saad supplied the lone goal in the Blackhawks’ 1-0 victory over the Kings on Monday night. The game was a nice rebound for the Blackhawks and for Raanta, who weren’t too happy with what they gave up, and when they gave it up, to the Blues on Saturday. On Monday, however, the Blackhawks were strong defensively, and Raanta was unbeatable between the pipes.
“That was a pretty tight game both ways. (There were) not a lot of scoring opportunities, not a lot of room. Both teams were checking and taking away the rush game,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Scoring first was important. I thought we had our best (period) in the third. We didn’t give up much.”
[WATCH: Keith talks about win, Raanta]
Duncan Keith notched his 36th assist of the season and now leads all defensemen with 39 points (Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson is second with 38). Patrick Kane’s career-high 14-game point streak was snapped.
The Blackhawks didn’t give up much. Raanta gave up even less, stopping all 26 shots he faced. he talked this morning about getting a better effort than in St. Louis, where he gave up five goals in regulation and the shootout winner. Raanta’s biggest save on Monday was on Dustin Brown’s penalty shot in the second period.
“There were a couple times in the last two minutes, I was like, ‘Oh my God, it’s like the same kind of thing like last time we played against L.A. and they’re going to score in the last two minutes.’ But the guys were playing really, really nice in front of me and they were blocking the shots all of the time,” Raanta said. “I think I got three or four saves in the last period, so they made my job pretty easy.”
Keith said they’ve liked what they’ve gotten from Raanta in the wake of Corey Crawford’s injury.
“There was kind of that uncertainty when Corey went down: we don’t know, as players, what we’re getting. He’s come in and played unbelievable. Tonight, he had a huge save against Brown; that could’ve been a turning point. He kept the momentum with us.”
Still, the Blackhawks weren’t getting many opportunities, either. The Kings were determined to unleash their physical game on the Blackhawks, and they did that, doling out 45 hits. As Quenneville said, there weren’t a lot of scoring opportunities.
But the Blackhawks took advantage of one of their best chances in the first period. Saad and Bryan Bickell got loose on a 2-on-1 and Bickell passed toward Saad. A Kings defender got his stick on the puck but it wasn’t enough to deter Saad, who corralled it and scored his 14th of the season.
“I don’t have many assists this year, and I should’ve shot it. But I thought I’d mix in a pass,” Bickell said. “He stuck with it. The D-man had a good stick, and for (Saad) to stop and pull back and bury it, it was nice.”
Saad said he, Bickell and Andrew Shaw are starting to get familiar with each other on that third line.
“We’re getting back to basics. There’s more chemistry with Shaw and Bicks and we’re playing well,” Saad said. “We feel good about our game.”
After that, it was just about containing the Kings. The Blackhawks were best at that in the third period, when they allowed the Kings just five shots on goal.
“They’re a big, physical team and they skate well,” Keith said. “It’s always hard games against these guys. But when we focus on our game and play the way we can, that’s what we have to do. For the most part we did that tonight and stuck with it.”
The Blackhawks have been a good rebound team for a while now. Raanta’s done the same in his brief career. The Blackhawks had to withstand the Kings’ physicality and hold on with the little offense that was available. Mission accomplished.
“Some (games) are going to be low-scoring affairs and we have to be willing to play that game,” Quenneville said. “You have to play that type of game in front of you. You can’t open it up.”