We’re on the eve of the first month of the NHL’s shortened season being complete, and the Chicago Blackhawks still have not been defeated in 60 minutes. In all 15 of their contests so far, they have escaped with at least one point. They are now chasing history: at least 1 point on Tuesday against the Vancouver Canucks, and they will tie the ’06 Anaheim Ducks for the fastest start in the history of the NHL (That Ducks team went on to win the Stanley Cup.) Needless to say, it’s a good time to be a ‘Hawks fan. With that being said, here are last week’s 3 Stars.
#3: Marcus Kruger
If you have watched any Blackhawks broadcast lately, especially yesterday’s game against the L.A. Kings, you will know why Kruger gets the 3rd Star nod. He (and his whole line) have been outstanding, and seem to always be in position, whether that may be in the defensive end, neutral ice, or the opposition’s zone. His forecheck seems to be relentless, and he is tipping opponent’s passes, thanks to a good reach, and excellent vision. He scored the game-winner Friday night against San Jose, were he had a big game as well, not only scoring a goal but adding an assist, and he almost had another on the penalty kill when the puck took a weird bounce off of the end boards. Now that he is brought into the spotlight a little, (increasing his ice time in each game this week) ‘Hawks fans will notice that he works very hard and moves his feet extremely well. Despite only playing 10-13 minutes a game, Kruger was a key contributor this past week, and this could be a very good sign of things to come in the short-term and the long-term for him.
#2: Jonathan Toews
Okay, so maybe dancing with Jumbo Joe Thornton wasn’t Toews’ smartest move in the last week, but he has made plenty that make up for it. Even though our Captain took a boarding and unsportsmanlike penalty to go with the fighting major on the shift, you have to admire his bravery. It isn’t often you see Tazer drop the mitts, and it’s also rare to see anyone get the better of Thornton. It was an easy win for the Sharks captain, but let me remind you it was Thornton who sucker punched Toews last season on the way to his concussion, and those two also have a history, and not a pretty one. Anyway, it might have been the spark the ‘Hawks needed, as they went on to win 4-1, and Toews earned 2nd star honors for that game. In Sunday’s matchup with Los Angeles, Toews also played a gritty game, going into the corners and crashing the net with more determination then we’ve seen from him lately, and the latter is where he knocked in a pass from Duncan Keith to make it 2-0 Blackhawks. Toews also notched the primary assist on the game-winning Patrick Sharp goal, just into the 2nd period. The Captain is showing more heart than he has so far this season, and even though this past week might not have been his best on the scoreboard, it was great to watch and that is why he gets my 2nd Star award.
#1: Ray Emery
Even though the Blackhawks are not perfect, backup goaltender Ray Emery is; He’s 5-0 on the season! He started 2 out of 3 games in the last 7 nights, and he was very solid in both outings, allowing only 3 goals on 52 shots combined. To his credit, the 2 Mike Richards goals on Sunday were on the Powerplay, and could have been prevented with a little better PK from the 4 men in front of him. He is controlling his rebounds well, and is more aggressive than I remember, challenging a bit more than he has in the past, and that helps him with his angles. Another big point on why I gave Emery the 1st Star: He got ran over by the Kings’ Kyle Clifford late in the third period, (which should have been penalty-worthy) then still managed to stop the flurry of L.A. offense on the remaining 1:04 of 6-on-4 time. This is a good problem to have, rather then last year where both goaltenders struggled, they are both playing exceptionally well.
Brent Seabrook: Great game against L.A., sacrificing the body on a shot block that took him out of the game temporarily, but returned later on.
Here’s to one more week atop the NHL! LET’S GO HAWKS!
Who were your Three Stars? Let us know on Facebook: Blackhawk Up; or Twitter: @Blackhawk_Up.