The Blackhawks now have 6 power-play goals on the season, after scoring 3 of them in last night's odd contest with the Dallas Stars. These 3 goals have allowed the Hawks to progress to a 4-0 winning streak, which suggests some very positive things, given that the last time they started a season so well, they made an appearance in the finals. There is a lot of positivity in the air that is pushing out a lot of the bad vibes we left lying around last year. Still, we are only 4 games into this nonconventional season, so this fan is waiting until somewhere around game 10 to bring out the "jumping to conclusions" matt.
Last night's game is probably better looked at from the Dallas perspective, because if you are the Stars, you can't be happy with what went down. Even if they had held on for the win, they were in for an earful from their administration based on their performance. There was no reason that after 50 minutes of play and 5 penalties against them that Dallas should have had a 1 goal lead. Oh right, there was 1 single reason and that was Kari Lehtonen. By the end of the night, the Hawks would have given 41 shots to Lehtonen to handle, and that is just what got through to him. Dallas only tested Crawford 23 times in comparison. A lot of credit has to go to the Dallas goaltender, because not only were the shots plentiful, but there was a lot of quality added to that barrage. In one such barrage on the net, the Hawks 1st line had 3 great chances in a row which Lehtonen kept himself poised and in a position to stop. There was the sense that he had to break eventually, but as the minutes wound down, you started to lose hope.
Yes, the Hawks dominated this game, yes, they proved something big by hanging around and being persistent enough to find the win (something that might be a glimpse into this team's character), and yes, the Hawks PK was brilliant, if not perfect, and yes, the Hawks tallied 3 power-play goals. All things to be happy about, so let us dissect that a little further shall we.
Starting with some obvious negatives, because people seem unwilling to let go of this parade to perfectville.
- This was not a perfectly played game by any means. In fact, I would say it was a rough one for the Hawks. They started out looking a bit sluggish, or maybe flabbergasted is a better term for the performance. 4 games to start the speedy season and 3 on the road will get to you, and the Hawks showed that fatigue last night.
- They made more than a few mistakes as a team, some players worse than others, but still managed to dominate.
- Seabrook had cement feet again. He has had maybe the worst start of any Hawk.
- Kruger made a couple of uncharacteristic mistakes, such as falling out of position and not hustling when he needed to. He just didn't have it in him last night.
- There were a ton of turnovers, made by many of the Hawks including some big ones by Sharp and Stalberg, and the missed communication was abundant.
And that's where we get to something awesome about last night's contest that I think says more than the win:
The Hawks are taking ownership over their individual play, fixing their mistakes after they happen, covering for each other's mistakes, recovering on bad plays and just plain battling as a team.
When Stalberg caused a turnover in the offensive end, he battled to get the puck back. Sharp made a costly turnover, but he dug pucks out all night, and hustled hard to fix what he had broken. The Hawks are aggressive right now, they are fighting to win the small battles, take back pucks they lost and doing it as a team that seems to care about the outcome of their efforts. This is by and large the best element that we have seen from this 4-0 start so far.
This new found fight in the Hawks is emphasizing one of their strengths, and that is puck possession. Pure and simple, there was no way Dallas should have had a chance last night, because they never had the puck. When they did manage to acquire it, the Hawks took it back and moved it around, keeping it from their slower moving feet, and killing their morale with every won battle.
Where goaltending is concerned, Lehtonen could have easily given up 3 or 4 more goals, and we could probably hold Corey accountable for the first one. So, based on the efforts, this game should have looked more like a 6-1 win, rather than an OT win. A shout out should also be given to Crawford for his penalty shot save, which would make him even in my book. Maybe, just maybe, he can get to the positive side of the argument one day.
Patrick Kane has kept it going for 4 games so far, delivering another great performance. He took a very similar shot to his first goal on the season in which he rocketed a one-timer from the far-side with pinpoint accuracy that ended up being one of those saves Lehtonen most likely shouldn't have stopped. Kane was making the right passes all night, almost converting to Stalberg on a great rush, and aiding in the success of the power-play throughout the full 60. The Hawks dominate in puck possession and Kaner is the master of it. Man it feels good to watch him play to his abilities.
Duncan Keith also had an extraordinary night. He came out of the gates like a bat out of hell, making some giant defensive plays, saving a goal two games in a row, and providing the extra offensive edge we want to see from our defense. Props to Leddy for doing the same thing. I am liking what I see from the youngster. Too bad it took so long for Q to realize he is better suited for the 3rd pairing and PP-time at this point in his career. Leddy had a couple of strong rushes that set his forwards up for some big chances. And let's not forget Hjalmer, who continues to illustrate his defensive dominance. He is even projecting some new found confidence with the puck, and a better vision of the ice.
Once again, Captain Marvel was there when we needed him to be, and Hossa gave us that added punch he often gives to put the Hawks up. Having these 2, and on the same line is quite a luxury for any coach and team. Toews is so clutch, and you kind of felt him brewing a goal, because he scores when we need it, and his shot was just perfect enough to beat Lehtonen. Kaner's behind the back pass to Hossa for the game winning goal, coupled with Hossa's quick and powerful release are building a picture of just what this squad might be capable of.
This is a roster that Stan Bowman can be very proud of, and it isn't even that different from last years. The comparisons to the dream team of 2010 are being spread like wild fires, but I might even jump to say that with the growth of pivotal players, they have it them to show us something new, and maybe even better. But, no jumping to conclusions just yet, we have to go to Columbus first, where Stalberg put up at least 2 goals.