The Chicago Blackhawks outlast the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 - KMSP-TV

The Blackhawks outlast the Sabres 2-1

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

In some ways it isn't easy to look good against the Buffalo Sabres. On Sunday night the Blackhawks didn't take care of some details and the Sabres would not fold. In the end, the team with the superior talent won as the Blackhawks outlasted Buffalo 2-1.

The Sabres have recently beaten a couple of strong teams in Boston and San Jose on home ice. Maybe it is a case of the opposition playing down to the lowly Sabres, but It would probably be wise to give credit to their head coach Ted Nolan. He seems to get his club dialed up against better opponents on home ice. Buffalo was bad before they traded away their best players, and now they are really overmatched on most nights.

Patrick Kane came back to his hometown and wristed a laser past Jhonas Enroth to give the Hawks an early lead. The Sabres tied the score about six minutes later. Actually a soft hooking call prevented a goal which would have given Buffalo the lead after 20 minutes.

This was the type of game when followers of analytics will scratch their heads because the Blackhawks didn't win by three or four goals. The Sabres didn't have the puck much but they did block a lot of shots. Enroth was a good at times and at other times the goal post bailed him out. More than anything, the effort by the Hawks could have been more complete.

Chicago had 31 shots hit the net, another eight missed and the Sabres blocked 18 shots. That means there was a lot of offensive zone time for the Blackhawks. Which in a perfect world would generate more than two goals.

No matter what the statistical advantage meant the Hawks finally took the lead 94 seconds into the third frame. Brandon Saad made a beautiful pass to Jonathan Toews who didn't miss an open side of the net for the game winner.

Corey Crawford looked uncomfortable at times and seemed to be overplaying shots. In the final period, when he was most needed, Crawford was in top form and preserved the lead.

Andrew Shaw and Kane led Chicago with four shots each. Patrick Sharp was flying and recorded three shots and notched an assist.

Duncan Keith had a nice game as did Nick Leddy. Johnny Oduya has had better nights but his partner Niklas Hjalmarsson was very good. Hjalmarsson recorded three blocked shots, but it seemed like more. Brent Seabrook led the game with four blocks.

The Blackhawks third line has had issues for much of the season.

Last night Peter Regin's performance wasn't impressive. Kris Versteeg was okay and Bryan Bickell wasn't noticeable. At even strength the line did not have much playing time.

Versteeg skated 8:23 at even strength but was also on the ice for 2:41 of power play time. Regin recorded 7:32 of ice time and Bickell was the low man for the Hawks playing only 7:22.

As has been mostly the case, Joel Quenneville doesn't like what he is seeing from Bickell.

Last night John Scott, who in my view has the least talent of any NHL player, had three shifts over the final 40 minutes. To put things into perspective Bickell had a total of six shifts in the last two periods. Bickell celebrated his 28th birthday on Sunday and so far hasn't been able to string together consistent performances.

The Blackhawks will need to keep rolling if they want to finish first in the Western Conference, which would also mean first in the Central Division.

On Wednesday the Avalanche have an opportunity to jump ahead of Chicago if they pick up two points tonight against Winnipeg. Currently Colorado trails the Blackhawks by three points and has played one less game.

In Colorado the Hawks will have to play an effective game over sixty minutes or longer. Quenneville's edge is to be able to roll all four lines. For that to be the case, Bickell and his linemates will have to be noticeable.

I will be back on Thursday morning and you can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia.

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