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Post-Game Notebook: Early Lead Plays Key Role In Win

04/02/2009 12:28 AM - From (link)

Even when they were sitting near the bottom of the Western Conference standings, the St. Louis Blues always got up to face the Blackhawks. In fact, heading into Wednesday’s game, the Hawks had been shut out by the Blues in two consecutive meetings. But with their divisional rival on a five-game winning streak and making a push for the West’s eighth seed, Chicago finally pushed back, defeating the Blues in a 3-1 victory.

“They’ve had our number this year and now they’re fighting for a playoff spot,” said Colin Fraser. “It’s nice to finally beat them in regulation.”

“They’re a tough checking team,” said Jonathan Toews. “I know I’ve personally had trouble scoring against them, and I didn’t want them keeping me off the scoresheet again. It doesn’t matter who it’s against; it’s nice to get this kind of win.”

Each of Chicago's last six games this season feature match-ups with Central Division opponents. While the Hawks notched a record of 19-11-2 against their division last season, they entered the game against St. Louis with only a 4-7-6 record. But with the convincing win over a usually-disruptive opponent, the Hawks may have found the spark in their game that they've sought through the month of March.

“We just played the way we were supposed to play,” said Samuel Pahlsson. “We lost a couple of games recently and our confidence went down, but we know what we can do. We played a really good game today.”

The Hawks also reversed another recent trend in the win: with Toews’ goal early in the first period, Chicago held the lead, was able to play from a position of strength and was more selective with their scoring chances.

“We were talking about it this morning, and I said that playing with a lead is night-and-day in our league,” said head coach Joel Quenneville. “You don’t have to score, you don’t have to force, you don’t have to create. Tonight, we had the lead and it played in our favor.”

“It was a good bounce-back game after some not-so-good games,” said Pahlsson, whose game-winning tally was his first in a Hawks uniform. “We just wanted to be ready from the start today.”

Maybe even more important than the two points earned on the night, the Hawks played a consistent team game from beginning to end.

“I liked our preparation, being in the right place at the right time, and the consistency of the lines from shift to shift,” said Quenneville. “In this back-to-back situation, I really liked the way we competed. We did what we had to do.”

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