Big Win in a little Big Season.

Big Win in a little Big Season.

The Chicago Blackhawks bounced back with a mighty roar last night in Dallas. Posting 8 goals in 60 minutes with a dominating performance worthy of all the praise it will get. The Hawks said something last night about their very short fall from grace in the past week or so. Among talks about how many 1 goal games the Hawks had won, they showed just how deadly their offense can be, and that maybe a little break was all they needed in this crammed season.

The score of 8-1 doesn't even do justice to the commanding performance the Hawks placed on the Stars last night. There could have easily been 10+ goals scored by the Hawks, and Dallas really had no right having any goals at all. Their only quality shot went in. Sure, the Hawks are a much faster team than the Stars, and this was an example of just what kind of game has to be brought against the Hawks to tame them, but it was a clear example of what the Hawks look like when they are firing on all cylinders, and that was without Sharp.

Thank you for finally calling up Hayes BTW.

This was the kind of performance any team should fear from the Hawks. Every single line and player was a constant threat, providing the kind of pressure that is hard to sustain, and they made it look easy. 80 percent of this game was played in the Stars zone, a glorious achievement expressed very well in the 3 shots Dallas mustered in the 1st period. Again, speed was a huge factor, but beyond that, we saw the workmanship that had defined the earlier part of the season for the Hawks.

The Hawks won every single battle to the puck. When Dallas actually got control for a moment, the Hawks went and took it back. There were so many turnovers forced by the Hawks, and at many moments they just took the puck right out form under the Stars. Passes were broken up, and the gap control was immaculate. Even in an 8-1 game, when the Stars looked like they had something going, the Hawks gave everything they had to stop it, as illustrated by the diving play Hjalmer made in the 3rd to break up a 2 on 1 centering pass.

And that is just what made me so happy about last night's performance. The Hawks never took their foot off the gas. Yes, the Hawks have won a lot of 1 goal games, and this has developed a constant sense of urgency and a domineering trait to the Hawks game. They have gotten use to playing where every goal counts, and have an urgency towards keeping pucks out of their net. This will serve the Hawks well come playoff time.

The pluses to winning by 7 goals are obvious. Just look at how much icetime the 4th line received in the 3rd period. A few more games like this might help keep the top 3 lines more rested. Speaking of that 4th line, Bollig's recent offensive surge has been pleasing to the eye.

8 players had multiple point games, 5 of them had 3 points. Toews had a 2 goal 1st period, Hossa had a 2 goal 2nd period, and I was waiting for Kane to have his 2 goal 3rd period, but he just brought a highlight reel goal that will be watched for years to come instead. He also had a breakaway late in the game which I assumed would have made it a 9-1 win. Oh well.

Staying on the same theme, those same 3 players are all within the top 15 goal scorers in the league with 13 or more goals each, and the only other team to have that many players with the same privilege is Pittsburgh. And yes, the Hawks have won a lot of 1 goal games, but they also have a plus 35 goal differential, which is best in the league.

I read an article on NHL.com which stated that Anaheim would surpass the Hawks for best record in the league, and that St. Louis would make it close in the division. With the stats the Hawks continue to put up, including those just mentioned, this begins to seem doubtful. There are many who are shocked at the Hawks  performance this year, but the Ducks weren't even in the playoff picture for many analysts before the season started. Not that I am doubting the Ducks, we have always talked about how hard of a team they are to play against on this blog. What I am saying is the Hawks are for real, and any struggles they have will only make them better in the end.

Before I call this post quits, I want to point out a few more things that excite me about last night's game and this year's team.

The play of our 3 stars are certainly cause for celebration, but this game pointed to 3 other players who are huge difference makers this season. I am talking about Stalberg, Saad, and even Bickell. These are 3 very difficult players to play against. They are winning battles in big ways, and generating a ton of offense alone. This might be exactly what the 2nd line is missing. Stalberg's skill cannot be overlooked going forward, and we all know now what Saad is capable of and what he will most likely accomplish going forward.

The 3rd line is a beast. Stalberg and Bickell each had 3 assists last night. They were all on goals that a defensemen ended up scoring, and both of them were the generators of these goals. They are both making forechecking and backchecking look easy, but their play in the offensive zone along the boards and behind the net is why they are so successful as a line. Throw Shaw into this as well. We all know what Stal's speed can do, but 3 pointmen scored goals last night because so much of Dallas' resources had to be given to containing Bick and Stals down low. It opens up the point something fierce, and this fan is anticipating more goals from the point while these guys are on the ice.

The only downer we can find in this game is the recent performance of the PK. Is that 8 goals on 13 attempts in the past week or so? Ouch. I am hopeful that this is just a glitch, but am starting to fear the worst. It seems like the communication has broken down, that the kill is not anticipating the flow as well, and not being as aggressive. This apprehension just adds to the failures, and it will only continue to worsen unless they change tunes, and regain their aggressive approach. It does not escape me that this coincided with Frolik missing a few games, and the absence of Sharp.

As long as they play the full 60 like that, it might not matter as much, but come playoff time, the special teams need to be flowing.

Kane will always suffer against a few teams in the league, but other than that, he has been a special player, making plays that few can make in this league. From picture perfect cross ice saucer passes, to behind the back no look passes right on his player's stick, to spin-o-rama backhand goals in the top shelf. The Kaner we had all hoped for is here, and he was voted the #1 right winger in the league by NHL.com.

A shout out to the coaching staff for giving the team a couple of days off, and embodying that player's coach mantra. Listen to your players, and give them what they need to be successful. Stan Bowman believed in his roster, and now the coaching staff does too. Wins like that can turn into practice sessions, where passing and positioning are fine tuned for future games. I am beginning to salivate for the fast approaching Duck's games. Before that, we have the always frustrating Avs. A decent test awaits the Hawks this week.

 

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  • My big schtick for two years has been to complain about balance. For as psycho as Q has allegedly been with his line combos, I don't think there is any denying he simply has not had the ability to roll four lines the way he does now. No longer do the top players do one thing without accountability while all other players get held to a different standard. They play as a team, they stand up for each other and while I don't make any predictions about cup runs, I don't think it was a fluke they had the start they did. This is legitimately one of the best teams in the league this year and they look like they want to win again.

    The weakness I see is part of what you talked about. You have to have strong special teams to go deep in the playoffs. Their power play is currently 13th, which isn't horrible and if you subtract a couple of team ahead that aren't likely playoff teams, they move up a little more. Still, they are not close to Anaheim. On the PK, they are 11th, just below Anaheim. With Fro back, we'll have to see if that improves again. That said, I am firmly in the camp that believes they must improve their face offs. I think they can live with where their special teams are at IF they can win some critical draws.

    Compared to any other team out there right now that is considered a contender for a deep playoff run/cup run, this team is a legitimate consideration. The importance of staying healthy and tightening up on special teams and faceoffs can't be undersold.

  • Great effort by all. Note to Hossa: when you elevate the puck like that, they go in more often. Keep it up,

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