In 2 days the Chicago Blackhawks have posted 11 goals against 2 elite goaltenders in the NHL. As was the case with the win in LA, the 6-4 win against the Phoenix Coyotes is exciting, starts to get our hopes up, shows a lot of promise for this current roster, and it is still too early to make any big picture assumptions.
What can we say went well for the Hawks last night? Quite a bit actually. The only glaring negative, and this goes for both clubs, was goaltending. Ray Emery needs to be better, allowing a few questionable goals, but lucky for us, Smith was even worse. Phoenix produced an awful lot of giveaways, which is not their style, and with Smith giving up 6, a few questionable on his part, this was not a conventional game in Phoenix.
I am very impressed with certain aspects of the Hawks game. From their positioning, which was pretty strong through most of the 60, to their play in the neutral zone (an area of strength or demise in last year's play), how well the Hawks were getting pucks to the net (a problem last year), to Kane's overall play, and Hossa's feel for the back of the net lately, to the power-play goals scored in 2 games, the penalty kill's success, their ability to take advantage of the open ice they have gotten, the defensive core's performance, and all the little things that go into building a successful run.
It would honestly take me too long to go over all of the good things I saw last night. So let's try and bullet them, because we all know what the outcome of this game was.
- Patrick Kane is playing like a man on a mission. Dare I say, he looks like he wants it, and has been reminded that he loves to play the game of hockey, and on top of that, he is darn good at it. Not only his goal and assists racked up so far through 2 games, Kane is doing it all, and boy is it fun to watch.
- Hjalmarsson is playing some exceptional hockey folks. If you were taking any notes, his name would have come up quite a bit for a plethora of individual efforts. From simply destroying Sullivan with a very clean and powerful hit, to saving Emery's ass on a few occasions, to a well positioned body and active stick, Hjalmer was the best defensive force on the ice last night.
- Kruger and Frolik coupled to form a very effective 4th line through the 1st half of play, not to mention their efforts on the PK. Kruger is making me eat my words a little, and I am glad to do it. I can't see Fro staying on the 4th line, but while he is there, the depth of Q's options are abundant.
- The Hawks PK is more effective when they are being aggressive on it.
- Carcillo's injury has made it possible to see Saad in his spot, and I have to say, he deserves it more. Saad had a great 1st game. His aggressiveness, hunger for the puck, and speed make him a great fit for that 1st line. If he can sustain it, he should have a permanent home there.
- Speaking of sustaining play, what the hell is Shaw's story? The man made a pretty big hit on Doan early on, proving once again that he is bigger than he looks. Shaw is a force of nature, the smallest guy on the ice, he plays like a big boy, and this helped aid the 3rd line in rebounding from a less than impressive performance the day before.
- Stalberg had that jump in his step we have all to come to love (putting himself in the right places, and winning races to pucks), and this helped the 3rd line become effective. I still have my doubts about this line's combination, but Stalberg and Shaw both proved their worth with some great individual and team efforts. Kaner had a big roll in that first goal to Bolland, but less mentioned was Stalberg's effectiveness in front of the net on that play. He caused just enough havoc to confuse the defense and Smith for Bolland to slip in his first on the night.
- Leddy also rebounded from a rough first game, playing a tight and strong defensive roll. If the play we have seen from the defensive end of the roster continues on their resent course, we could be looking at one of the best defensive rosters in the league, and goaltending might not be as big of a factor as everyone fears. This is of course, a big if.
- Worth noting, Keith was a bit rough around the edges last night, and from first looks, Brookbank had a better performance than Rozsival in their respective games.
- Bolland and Sharp were invisible in game 1. They were extremely noticeable in game 2. It looks as though this Bolland experiment might work, as all 3 players on that 2nd line were great at finding and taking advantage of the open ice against a team that is notorious for not providing. And they put it on the board.
- The Hawks have goals from their top 5 guys in just 2 games. Adding goals from Stalberg and Frolik to that list makes for some good arguments to start thinking positive about this season, and the ones following.
Q has a lot of options right now, and it would seem his team has decided to play some puck for him. Again, it is far too early to tell. I would give it a week of play before making any predictions, but the start is promising. What has happened for the team to respond so well? Maybe it is the time off, the time away from the coaches, motivation from Captain Marvel, or more pressure from SB, either way, the start is something that Q has to be happy with. Let's hope he can keep it together.
I hate to say it, but I am excited to watch again.