The Chicago Blackhawks: Sunday night superiority keys 5-2 win over Caps

The Chicago Blackhawks: Sunday night superiority keys 5-2 win over Caps

 

After Friday's quick start in Dallas, it seems the Blackhawks might have learned how a quick jump can lead to a strong lead. Tonight saw them apply that lesson, and the Washington Capitals never really seeming to show up to play at all. The Hawks were out to a 2-0 lead in the first 8 minutes, while it took the Caps almost 16 minutes before they registered a shot on net. The first goal saw Duncan Keith fire a shot from the point that deflected off Andrew Shaw and past Caps goalie Michael Neuvirth at 3:35, and 4 minutes later Viktor Stalberg blasted past the Washington defense and put the puck past Neuvirth before he barely had time to recognize.

The second saw the Caps get a goal early after a Nicklas Hjalmarsson turnover, but the Hawks answered on a beautiful give-and-go that with Andrew Brunette that left Patrick Kane with a wide open net. Shaw added his 2nd of the night on a nifty wrap around to make it 4-1. Alex Ovechkin made himself known with a highlight reel goal that abused Duncan Keith, but Chicago's defense tightened up in the third and an empty netter from Bryan Bickell brought the final margin.

A few quick thoughts to wrap it up:

  • Though only notching one goal,  Patrick Kane was a force to behold, leading the team in shots and carving through neutral ice numerous times. Kane held his own in the face off circle and defensively as well, and continued his strong overall play since shifting back into the middle.
  • Bickell and Shaw both with 3 point games. When you see that in the box score, you know it's probably a good result for the men in the Indianhead sweater. The checking line is running on all cylinders lately though, and I think it's no coincidence the Hawks have been winning since this occurrence.
  • Speaking of Shaw,  despite his scoring run in his debut, I hadn't been fully on board, given his numerous defensive lapses and giveaways in the neutral zone. However, Shaw just doesn't quit, and is proof that hard work gets results. And tonight saw him improving some in his own end, and had a bit of a battle with Ovechkin all night.
  • Michael Frolik was in the lineup for the first time in 8 games, and didn't look much worse for wear in limited time. I'm sure he'll end up back in the pressbox for some unknown reason.
  • While it wasn't a sterling performance in net by Corey Crawford, he made a few tough saves and had a strong D in front of him, limiting the high-octane caps to 3 shots in the first and only 18 in the game.
  • Ovechkin's through the legs jocking of  Keith was a beautiful move and a great shot from a tough angle, but might've been one Crawford got caught leaning on.  In other news, Alex Semin is already in playoff invisible mode, assuming the apitals even hold on to their 8th seed.

Overall, the Hawks controlled the pace of the game almost throughout,  minus the first 5 minutes of the second, but the result of the game never seemed in doubt. Washington, meanwhile, looked like they'd rather have been anywhere else then on the ice. And for that reason, the Hawks get another meaningful two points. 

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  • At a time when a few previously hot teams are struggling, the previously struggling Blackhawks are giving some teams something to think about. I don't want to keep tearing an old scab off, but I have felt the Hawks have sucked defensively all year, and I blame much of that suck on the departure of Brian Campbell. Oduya is not Campbell, and does not need to be. What Oduya is, is stable. He is confident, he is patient, he can move the puck out OR make a smart pass. And I truly believe this is being felt across the entire team. Tonight, the Hawks played a very tight game in all three zones. More importantly, Q did not go short bench tonight. The ice time was balanced up and down the line and the Hawks got contributions from seconday and primary scorers.

    As always, I assume nothing going forward. Bit by bit, however, the Hawks are making some noise.

  • In reply to VegasHawksFan:

    I do not agree with the idea that Campbell is the reason for our defensive woes. Based on his game to game, shift to shift play, I did not see anything that would suggest that. Yes, he was a puck mover, and yes he was more skilled at getting the puck from our zone to the opposing zone, but it most often short lived, as he frequently dumped it (and the Hawks never chased), or skated it in and just kind of lofted towards the net. You could argue that this was more effective than what we saw out fo the Hawks earlier in the season, but I would point to the many instances in which Campbell put his fellow players in jeopardy because he was unwilling to take a hit.

    I do not think Campbell was playing to his skill as a Hawk though, much in the same way I find other Hawks underperforming. Campbell's speed was his best attribute as a Hawk, and it got him out of a couple of disasters.

    I prefer Oduya, from what I have seen so far, and yes, he does bring a lot to the D, and offensive movement. This was extremely evident last night. His poise with the puck and defensive skill has been well received.

  • I think the improved defensive play is due to a team commitment to do so. I also thought I detected a bit of the infamous "left wing lock" being employed by the 'hawks last night. From that I can deduce the SBsr and Barry Smith have been instrumental in the improved defensive play.

    I like Oduya too, but not over Campbell. JO is a smooth, poised player and a real stabilizer for Nick Leddy. While I still don't think the D is physical enough, there seems to be a much better balance with the pairing of late, and Oduya is the reason why.

    Q didn't need the short bench because, once again, the 'hawks controlled from the outset. Importance of the first goal(s). Just wait until they fall behind. Q horse doesn't change his colors.

    What impresses me of late is the discipline with which the 'hawks are playing. One minor penalty in the last two games, and if you go back further than that its apparent that this is more than just a hiccup.

  • I would tend to agree that the loss of Campbell is the probably the biggest reason our defense struggled this year. The Hawks have struggled clearing the puck from our zone all year and that was a Campbell strength. If nobody was open, he had the ability to skate it out. I believe the loss of Campell is also the biggest reason why our PP struggles as well. His puck moving ability and vision are unbelievable.

    The biggest problem with the loss of Campbell was SB believing that we could survive with Leddy and Hjalmer as second pairing. Hjalmer has been a huge disappointment and I think, early in the year, too many people drank the koolaid with Leddy. While he has potential to be a Campbell-type player, he is not there yet. He is still a two or three years away from it.

    The addition of Oduya helps push Hjalmer down in the rotation which is just as big as the addition of Oduya's skills for this team. While Oduya is not equal to Campbell, he is now the closest thing we have to him and it is a very big upgrade to what we had before the trade.

  • Getting back to the game, and I do think the defense has improved because of the team commitment it as FF pointed out. The Hawks are much better if they start off strong, and get secondary scoring.

    I also want to second BTN's comments on Kane. Somebody has finally decided to wake up and play his game. There were many great moments from him, his mates, and the rest of the team for that matter. Once again, that puck control thing continues to improve.

    I also want to take this moment to comment on and get overlly excited about Stalberg's speed. Holy Cow! Seriously, this guy is the fastest skater in the league right now, and should be a 30 goal scorer by next year easily. His all around game has improved tremendously over last year, and I anticipate similar growth next year.

    All 3 top lines firing on all cylinders equals a win against most teams in the league.

    But, the way things are being talked about with reference to Toews has me worried. I am just not convinced that a playoff run without Toews is worth it.

    Kudos to the team for getting it together during his absence though.

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