The Blackhawks have played 9 of their 11 games on the road, which has helped give them arguably the worst schedule to start off a wicked important run. Because, as everyone says, starting strong in a shortened season has increased importance. Well, your Chicago Blackhawks, after destroying the Quebec Nordiques just enough to send Smith out of his crease and onto the bench as an audience member, are leading the league by 4 points.
In the Division, the Hawks are sitting on the top with a 7 point lead over the 2nd place Predators within only 11 games, and the teams below them are paying relatively strong for themselves.
WTF right? What gives, and is this sustainable? I think it just might be.
First, if you throw out the past few years of the coaching performance, and only use this year as evidence, there aren't too many reasons to complain. I am ready and willing to give Q a second chance and let bygones be bygones. I have heard rumors of strong team spirit, of allowing the proper amount of time off to heal and be human beings, we have seen a huge improvement in ice-time, role playing, positioning, and effort, along with a vastly improved PK and PP. Q showed some confidence in Crawford the other night which paid off, and he seems willing to see things through (even it is a bit too much).
Did I mention power-play? You're darn tootin. With the explosion of Patrick Kane behind a newly healthy and happy Hawks, the power-play is scoring goals. 2 last night, and both came off of Kane's stick. If this was a video game, he would be glowing red as to indicate his present state of being on fire. Second in overall points, and 3rd in goals right now. It is quite a treat to watch this guy play his game, which is not defense in the slightest.
I have been hard on the coaching, and on Kane in the very recent past, and with reason, but it is time to enjoy the show. I like to think our pressure on these guys had a hand in steering them straight.
Besides team spirit, and this is probably even connected, the Hawks are playing their roles as a team. Kane has taken his place on the offensive throne, Toews never left his, Hossa has been a healthy Hossa, the 3rd line has found a groove with each player doing their thing, the 4th line is beyond impressive, and the defense has gotten their act together, found their rightful places within the roster and are playing very controlled hockey.
I could go down the list of great elelements presenting themselves so early this year, but it would just take too long. However, I do believe that the 4th line, especially Frolik and Kruger deserve a lot of credit. Not only for their work on the 4th line, eating up ice, and providing added pressure to the opposing team, but largely for their PK performances. Big reason why the Hawks are standing so pretty right now.
Essentially, the Hawks are looking pretty good across the board, and this has allowed their overtly talented roster to overwhelm even the most composed of teams in the NHL. Anaheim will be a pretty hefty challenge on Sunday though.
The forward movement through all 3 zones was just exceptional last night. They took advantage of open space, but better yet, created their own. You could even say that they are starting to get cocky about it, which is something I would watch if I was Q, but entertaining and working nonetheless.
The 3rd line got us started with a great play on Shaw's behalf, proving again how well everyone is going to the right places, and doing the right things. The big guys put it out of reach, as we saw 2 goals from Kane, 1 from Toews, and 1 from Bolland, with Sharp picking up 3 assists. Then, the 3rd line finished what they started. There aren't many better reasons to be happy. The Hawks have found all the goals they were looking for in the playoffs last year. Here's to hoping it continues to rain.