ST. LOUIS – They were bashed and battered, clutched and grabbed, and face-washed and crunched into the boards. And in the end, the Blackhawks skated off the ice with their winning streak intact and two more points in the standings.
The postseason arrived a little early for the Hawks – or at least the way teams are likely to play against them when the playoffs begin in a little more than 2 weeks – and they responded with a 2-0 victory over the Blues on Sunday at the Scottrade Center.
The Blues came out intent on neutralizing the Hawks' speed with physical play and by standing them up at the blue line, but the Hawks maintained their composure and flexed just enough offensive muscle to win their fifth game in a row and extend their point streak to eight.
"It seemed like a playoff game," said Hawks winger Marian Hossa, who effectively put the game away with a short-handed goal early in the third period. "Physical, not much room to move, basically just a grind game. You don't have much room to dangle or play the nice hockey like we do sometimes during the season. That was a good test for us, and we passed it."
In addition to Hossa's goal, Bryan Bickell also found the back of the net, and that was more than enough for goaltender Corey Crawford, who made 30 saves to record his third shutout of the season and eighth of his career.
The teams combined for 14 penalties – five for roughing – in what has become the norm for the Central Division rivals.
"They were trying to intimidate us maybe a little bit and push us around, but we did a good job of not letting that get to us and just shrugged it off and played our skilled game," Crawford said.
"The most important thing is not to get frustrated when they give us a cheap shot and the ref doesn't see it. When you spend energy trying to get them back or get frustrated by a hit … that's not so legal, you're only taking away from your focus on the game."
After a scoreless first, Bickell broke the ice when he tapped in a rebound of a shot by Viktor Stalberg. The goal snapped Blues goalie Brian Elliott's shutout streak at 214 minutes over three-plus games.
Hossa then struck off a faceoff win by Jonathan Toews, rifling a shot from the top of the right circle through Elliott's pads.
The win improved the Hawks' record to 32-5-4 with seven games remaining as they march toward clinching the Western Conference title and the Presidents' Trophy, awarded to the team with the most points in the NHL.