Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Three bad defeats at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche left a bitter taste in the mouths of the Blackhawks. But there was more than revenge on the Hawks’ minds.
“It’s an important game for that reason and other reasons as well,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “The standings have a lot to do with it.”
With a 4-0 victory Wednesday night at the United Center, the Hawks prevented the Avs from sweeping the season series and also jumped ahead of them in the ever-changing Western Conference standings.
Corey Crawford again was stellar in net, making 24 saves for his second straight shutout. The Hawks “checking” line was productive as Dave Bolland and Fernando Pisani each had a goal and an assist to help the Hawks win their third game in a row.
“The standings are so tight right now,” Pisani said. “Every point matters. We’ve been playing well the last couple games, but tonight was a good test for us to measure up against a team in our conference. They’re a strong team. They move the puck well. They’re a fast team.”
There were plenty of positives again for the Hawks.
They got off to another good start as Troy Brouwer and Bolland scored 40 seconds apart in the first period.
The Hawks’ penalty kill also was better, keeping the Avs off the scoresheet on two key first-period power plays that could have changed the complexion of the game.
Brent Seabrook had two assists and Duncan Keith one as both recorded a plus-4 rating. Jack Skille capped the scoring with a goal in the third.
“We didn’t match their intensity at all, right from the start and all the way through the game,” Colorado coach Joe Sacco said. “We’ve played well against them three times; tonight wasn’t the night, though.
“[The Hawks] have a lot of their players back, and they just worked hard. They were on the puck, and they won a lot of one-on-one puck battles.”
Except for Vancouver and Detroit, the West is a crowded pack of talented teams that tend to be more streaky than consistently good; for instance, take the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks.
Both teams were projected to be contenders in the West — but like the Hawks, they’ve both been prone to inconsistencies. The Sharks have lost five in a row; the Kings have fallen in six of their last seven.
As good as the Avs have been with players like All-Star Matt Duchene leading the way against the Hawks, they were 3-5-2 in their previous 10 games.
“Everybody seems to be streaky one way or another,” Quenneville said. “We’ve been in that pack all year. We don’t feel sorry for anybody. We still need our own run that really puts us in a good spot.”
Of course, three wins in a row puts them in that good spot with five games left before the All-Star break. The win over the Avs was a better indicator than the Hawks’ previous victories over the Ottawa Senators and New York Islanders that they’ve recovered from a recent stretch in which they lost four of five.
The Avs had given the Hawks plenty of problems in their first three meetings, using their speed and scoring a total of 15 goals en route to three victories.
Colorado came up with good scoring chances Wednesday, but Crawford turned them all away, and the Hawks did a decent job of clearing rebounds. Peter Budaj stopped 27 of 31 shots for Colorado.
So, there would be no sweep.
“[Our] team is playing great,” Crawford said. “The last few games we’ve been skating really hard and we’ve been really fast, so we’re making it hard on the other team.”