There's no better barometer on the "Are They For Real?" scale than beating the defending Stanley Cup champion.
The Blackhawks had an opportunity to see exactly where they stand among the hierarchy of the Western Conference playoff opponents when they faced off Wednesday night against an Anaheim Ducks team playing some of the best hockey in the NHL.
The Hawks ended up standing tall against the Ducks as they recorded a 3-0 victory before a United Center crowd of 16,666. The triumph was the Hawks' third straight and sixth in their last eight games. It moved them within four points of the eighth and final postseason spot.
The Hawks also got a good look at their goaltender of the future as rookie Corey Crawford, making his first start of the season and second of his career, made 19 saves to earn his first shutout.
"The guys played awesome. I saw the puck all night," said Crawford, who was giving Patrick Lalime a rest after the Hawks' 4-2 victory Tuesday night over Minnesota. "The good feeling right now is getting two points over a team like that."
To help keep the pressure off Crawford the Hawks clamped down defensively. They allowed three Anaheim shots in the first period, eight in the second and eight in the third, while racking up 28 against Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
The Hawks took a 1-0 lead at 7 minutes 7 seconds of the first period as Dustin Byfuglien knocked in a rebound of a Cam Barker shot past Giguere.
"We needed a big effort [Wednesday night] and everyone played well," Barker said. "We needed a big homestand to get some points and get on a roll."
Crawford's first save was also among the Ducks' best opportunities. Midway through the first period Chris Kunitz broke in alone while short-handed, but Crawford handled his wrist shot from inside the left circle.
"It's a great tribute to him," Hawks coach Denis Savard said of Crawford. "A young man put under the gun to step up for us and he did."
The Hawks took a 2-0 lead when they scored their second power-play goal with 10:59 left in the third period. Barker's shot from point deflected past Giguere with Byfuglien providing traffic in front.
Patrick Sharp closed the scoring as he was awarded a goal after being slashed while skating toward the Ducks' empty net.
"If we're going to make a playoff push, like we are, we need to win every game," Sharp said. "We can't afford to take any nights off.
"It's nice to sit back and see that we just beat a Minnesota team in their building and knocked off the defending champs on a back-to-back night. If we don't believe we can compete with teams, we should after this week."
Naturally, Savard agrees:
"We played the champions, and played right with them."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times