The Chicago Blackhawks dominated the Pittsburgh Penguins in snowy conditions Saturday in the last installment of this year’s stadium series. It was a snowy night in Chicago and the snow had to be swept off the ice regularly. The home team was not slowed by the conditions, however, as they put five goals past the Penguins to win 5-1.
The Blackhawks Captain Jonathan Toews stole the show with his two goals and one assist. One of his goals was a masterpiece as he weaved flawlessly through the Pittsburgh defense unassisted and got off a nice backhand shot that goalie Marc Andre Fluery initially saved, but the puck ended up finding a way to make its way through his legs and past the goal line. The normally potent offense of the Penguins was only able to muster one third period goal through James Neal which made it 3-1. The Blackhawks made sure that they did not let the game get too close as they scored twice more throughout the third period with Toews scoring the fifth and final goal.
It was a clash of two of the top teams in their respective conferences with the Blackhawks in second place in the Western Conference and the Penguins leading the Eastern Conference. This was thought by many to be a possible preview of the Stanley Cup Final matchup, as both teams will be going into the playoffs with very high seeds. Both teams will enter the playoffs with the confidence that they can bring home the cup, with the Blackhawks being defending champions and winning two of the last four Stanley Cups and the Penguins with a few deep playoff runs over the last few years and having a lot of the same players on the team from the 2009 Stanley Cup title. A matchup between the two teams in the Stanley Cup would be quite intriguing considering the two teams have probably the most talented rosters in the NHL including four of the best players in the world in the Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane and the Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby.
Over the past few years the NHL has used its stadium series as a way to get their marquee games more exposure by playing them outside in either football or baseball stadiums around the country. While this has been a very good marketing tool for a league that regularly struggles in television ratings compared to the NBA and NFL, it has not been without its flaws. A lot of hockey purists say that it detracts from the quality of play since hockey is usually not played with any elements involved. While it is easy to see that side of the argument, especially considering the conditions of last nights matchup in Chicago, it is hard to say the play was affected when the game has six goals and the quality of the goals was no less than any indoor goals that are scored.
Both the Blackhawks and Penguins are still fighting for playoff position and any win is helpful, but the Blackhawks have got to feel very confident after a win over the top team from the Eastern Conference. It was a good preview of what might be coming in the Stanley Cup in a fantastic outdoor setting. Going forward the Blackhawks should use this domination of the Penguins in the snowy conditions to boost their confidence finishing the season and going into the playoffs.
Commentary By Max Petkevicius