The welcome mat was laid out for coach Quenneville's squad last night at the United Center, as the Blackhawks returned to their home ice for the first time in 12 days. During that stretch, the Hawks went 4-0-2, while increasing their league-leading point total to 22.
The Anaheim Ducks, who are positioned right behind the Blackhawks in the Western Conference standings, are a much older squad, but are playing very well behind rookie goalie Viktor Fasth. Home ice to the Blackhawks looked like a beaming light at the end of a long, cold and dark tunnel, but resting on ones laurels can have an effect.
It's been so long since I've seen this team in its home reds that I actually caught myself getting excited when a white-jerseyed Teemu Selanne gracefully skated towards Corey Crawford. I shook off the cobwebs and reached for my water to regain composure.
The Blackhawks looked about as steady throughout this one as they have all season. Patrick Kane was making good passes (he received another point last night on an assist to Nick Leddy on a power play), Jonathan Toews looked every bit the part as a leader on the ice, Patrick Sharp came close to scoring another goal but also chalked up an assist on the Leddy goal, and even Corey Crawford showed more signs of confidence, snagging would-be goals out of the air.
What hurt came down to the final 2:40 of the game when Andrew Coligliano tipped in a Crawford save uncontested, which tied the game at two and, for the most part, let all the air out of the UC. Two points were on the doorstep, but the Ducks shut it, locked it, and killed not one, but two very key power plays in the overtime.
Toews was the only Blackhawks player to notch a goal in the shootout, which is credited to Fasth doing a phenomenal job down the stretch. In the end the streak of voiding a regulation loss is still alive, as the Blackhawks move to 10-0-3.
We're still spoiled with this team, as Marian Hossa has cooled down some, and Sharp isn't even scoring. Yet the Blackhawks are still either winning games or taking it to overtime. The long home stand continues with the San Jose Sharks coming to town on Friday (7:30 p.m. puck drop). The teams will be tough at home, but look for the offense to find its groove again by not having to travel for a while. The only thing this team has to fight is complacency.