It didn’t have to be pretty on Tuesday. After two consecutive losses and blown late leads, the Blackhawks just wanted to get back to simple, strong, less mistakes/more defense hockey against the Calgary Flames.
That, they did.
Nick Leddy’s career-high fifth goal proved to be the game-winner, and Ray Emery tallied his first shutout since the 2009-10 season as the Blackhawks beat the Flames 2-0 at the United Center.. The Blackhawks (25-4-3) snapped that brief two-game losing streak and remain atop the Western Conference with 53 points. Anaheim, idle tonight, remains in second place, five points behind the Blackhawks.
Emery improved to an unblemished 12-0-0 this season. While he didn’t have the bountiful workload he had against the Flames the first time this season (47 shots faced, 45 stops), he was there when the Blackhawks needed him. It was Emery’s first shutout since Feb. 1, 2010, when he recorded one against the Flames as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers.
After a forgettable night against the Los Angeles Kings, the Blackhawks wanted to return to the hockey that’s gotten them atop the West in the first place.
“I liked our game tonight,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We talked about it before the game. We welcomed the challenge of playing to a certain standard of how we compete and play with a purpose. We met the goals and objectives.”
True, the Flames are not the Kings. Languishing in 15th place in the West, the Flames didn’t have a great night against the Blackhawks, save goaltender Mikka Kiprusoff. He stopped 33 of 35 shots in the loss. Leddy’s shot was the first one to get past him, which surprised the young defenseman.
“We knew we had to get bodies in front of him to create scoring chances,” Leddy said. “I was just trying to sneak in a little bit, the puck got deflected and I was in the general area. I just tried to put it on net. If it went in, great. If the rebound went to Jimmy [Hayes], even better.”
It was a tough night for the Flames and Jarome Iginla, who’s been the subject of trade speculation for some time now. Iginla, whose stick proved a deflector for Brent Seabrook’s sixth goal of the season, said whatever happens, happens.
“I haven’t been in this much speculation since I started playing. But guys go through it all the time, every year at the deadline. It’s my turn,” said Iginla. “As far as the rumors go and stuff, it’ll work itself out in five or six days or whatever it is. We’ve been dealing with it for a few weeks, so five or six days will go fast.”
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks were just happy to get their game back in form. Patrick Kane was strong again, tallying two primary assists. And Emery was, well, Emery.
“It’s a nice number, great stat,” Quenneville said of Emery’s 12-0-0 mark. “He had a great game tonight. He’s played two remarkable games against these guys. He was very quick, very big.”
The Blackhawks have had a few minor hiccups this season. Where they’ve erred, they’ve soon corrected. That continued on Tuesday night.
“One of the things we’ve been trying to do all year is try to get better as a team,” Kane said. “We were on that long winning streak and it seemed like everything was golden and there were still some problems that we needed to fix. There still are. We’re obviously never going to be perfect. But that’s a fun thing about the process is trying to improve and keep getting better.”