Blackhawks unstoppable in 6-1 rout of Blue Jackets
BY MARK POTASH Staff Reporter March 6, 2014 9:34PM
Chicago Blackhawks center Andrew Shaw (65) celebrates his goal with teammates Duncan Keith (2), Brandon Saad (20) and Jonathan Toews (19) during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday, March 6, 2014, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Updated: March 7, 2014 12:10AM
Coach Joel Quenneville changes his lines like most people change their socks. It’s a little bit intuition and a little bit world-class roster. And it almost always works out.
Quenneville’s tinkering worked like magic on Thursday night as the newly constructed No. 1 line of Jonathan Toews, Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw was dominant in the Blackhawks’ 6-1 rout of the Columbus Blue Jackets before 21,179 at the United Center.
Toews and Shaw each scored two goals, and Saad provided the highlight of the night by stickhandling around three defenders to set up Toews for a wide-open gimme that gave the Hawks a 3-1 lead eight minutes into the second period.
‘‘Being back with Saad, it’s like old times,’’ said Toews, who has scored five goals in his last three games and has 24 for the season. ‘‘We have a lot of experience playing together. We’re similar players, so we always seem to be thinking the same thing when either guy has the puck and there’s an opportunity to go to the net — and help each other find a way to create a scoring chance.’’
Saad and Toews, who played together with Marian Hossa for much of last season’s 21-0-3 start, were paired again after Hossa suffered an injury against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field. But it was the addition of the relentlessly aggressive Shaw that sparked the trio against the Blue Jackets.
Shaw broke a 1-1 tie with a mini-breakaway goal 3:16 into the second period after taking a half-rink pass from Sheldon Brookbank along the boards at the blue line and beating Sergei Bobrovsky. He also scored in his more traditional fashion — in front of the net — when he deflected a blast by Brent Seabrook from the point to give the Hawks a 5-1 lead with 2:16 left in the second period.
‘‘I think we fit in well with Shaw,’’ Toews said. ‘‘He was working. It was almost like Hossa out there the way he was working it — trying to recover pucks and throwing his body around.’’
Brandon Bollig and Bryan Bickell also scored for the Hawks (88 points), who stayed two points behind the St. Louis Blues and one ahead of the Colorado Avalanche in the Central Division.
They all trail the Western Conference-leading Anaheim Ducks (92 points)
The Blue Jackets came in with three consecutive victories and were 14-5-1 since Jan. 4. But Bobrovsky, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, was overwhelmed by the onslaught and pulled after Bickell scored on a rebound of a Kris Versteeg slap shot that gave the Hawks a 4-1 lead in the second period.
The Hawks’ fourth line — the only line Quenneville left untouched — also came through. Bollig, with position in front of the net, deflected Marcus Kruger’s backhand from the slot to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead just 4:12 into the game.
After a poorly executed line change led to Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen’s tying goal, the top line took over.
‘‘[Toews’] line had a big night,’’ Quenneville said.
‘‘Shaw’s [first] goal was a big goal for us. Heck of a play from the pass up the ice [by Brookbank], the way he received it [getting behind Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson], and the shot he made was a huge goal. We took off from there.’’