I'm not one for award shows, so I'll keep this one brief. I'm handing outthree major awards for the Blackhawks and there was a stiff competition for each. Here arethe awards and the breakdown.MVP: Patrick SharpThis one looked like a lock for Jonathan Toews, until he went down on February 20th with concussion-like symptoms. So with almost a quarter of the season missed, I've got to give it to a guy who would have given Johnny a run for MVP even if the captain had been healthy all year. Patrick Sharp had a slow start to this season, by his standards, scoring onlyfive goals in his first 18 games. Once he shook the rust off, he was razor sharp, scoring 28 times in the next 57 games. Even an ugly wrist injury that kept him out forthree weeks didn't slow him down. Honorable mention to Marian Hossa who does what he always does, play among the elite.Best Defenceman: Brent SeabrookIt's hard to upstage a former Norris Trophy winning defenceman, but Seabrook did it this year. Duncan Keith came on strong the last half of the season, but from beginning to end, Brent Seabrook was a beast. Top 10 in the league in hits, top 12 in blocked shots, and top 20 in time on ice. His 21 was second best on the team. He also tied his career high withnine goals. Hard to believe he's only 26 years of age.Best Rookie: Andrew ShawThe Blackhawks saweight different rookies make it into the lineup this year and they were all very good and should have long careers with the this team. But none had more of an impact than Andrew Shaw. Taken in the 5th round in the 2011 draft, he scored in his very first NHL game, then addedfour more over his nextseven games. It's not just the numbers, it's the passion, the grit, the surprising skill and elusiveness when he has the puck that really makes you watch him.If you wantto see some old school hockey, take a picture of Andrew Shaw. And it just goes to show you, it's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.
It wasn't pretty, but the Blackhawks found a way to pick up another two points and improved to 6-0-1 over their last seven games, and 18-3-1 over their last 22.
With Minnesota's loss to Philadelphia, the Blackhawks have taken an eight-point lead for first in the Central Division and are only two points away from the Washington Capitals for home-ice advantage throughout the entire Stanley Cup playoffs.
Let's take a look at Quick Hits from the 3-2 shootout victory over the Dallas Stars on Thursday night:
What Worked: The finish and shootout. While the Blackhawks scored the game's first goal, it was another slow start by a team that has had a few of those over the last several outings and has preached working on turning in more of a complete effort. They recorded only 14 shots on goal in the first two periods, and it took more than six minutes after Patrick Kane's goal to record their next one.
But they finished on a positive note yet again, and went 2-for-3 in the shootout thanks to Kane and Artemi Panarin, who potted the game winner. Kane said after the game that he tried his move on Scott Darling during morning skate and it worked. So he went with it tonight in an effort to snap a mini shootout drought and he did.
What Didn't Work: Controlling the puck. The Blackhawks seemingly have the puck more than their opponent does almost every game, but it doesn't reflect in the shot department because they often look for the perfect pass or shot and fail to record one at all. They had 50 shot attempts with 26 of them on goal compared to the Stars' 64 attempts with 44 on goal. They know they must get better at that.
Star of the game: Corey Crawford. After allowing four goals on only 10 shots in Tuesday's overtime loss to Vancouver, the Blackhawks netminder bounced back in a huge way. He matched a season-high with 42 saves, and recorded his 30th win of the season.
He Said It: "He played amazing tonight. Reason we won the game. Hats off to him, he's done that a lot this year. For a goalie it's probably tough to show up every night, even the goals he let in last game you can't put all the blame on him, but he was outstanding tonight." — Kane on Crawford's performance
By the Numbers:
167 — Niklas Hjalmarsson blocked one shot in the win, and it was enough to set a new career high in that department, previously established during the 2010-11 campaign (166).
15 — Trevor van Riemsyk assisted on Marian Hossa's goal in the third period, giving him a career-high 15 points on the season in 50 games. He had 14 points in 82 games last year. He also extended his point streak to three games.
6 — With the victory, Crawford has earned at least 30 wins in six of his seven NHL seasons as a full-time starter. The only time he didn't reach that mark was during the lockout-shortened year in 2012-13 when he went 19-5-5.