Welcome to Week Nine of Blackhawk Up’s 2013-14 Three Stars of the Week. As the title says, we will count down the top three performers in the Chicago Blackhawks’ lineup over the past seven days, and analyze their contribution to the team. These players don’t have to be the guys with the most points, or ice time, but the players that really stepped up their game, and made a positive impact.
The Blackhawks closed off their annual “circus road trip” in style in Week 9, winning all four games against Edmonton, Calgary, Dallas, and Phoenix.
Third Star: Antti Raanta
After Antti Raanta got his first taste of NHL action earlier in the Blackhawks’ road trip, the 24-year old finally got his first NHL start against the Calgary Flames. Raanta impressed in the affair, making 22 saves on 20 shots, in a game that he admitted to having nightmares about. Raanta really put on a show in Phoenix on Saturday night, where he made 32 saves on 34 shots, and was credited with his second win to start off his NHL career. Raanta didn’t appear shaky in either appearance this week, and was a huge help on the Blackhawks’ penalty kill, including making a flurry of saves against the Coyotes en route to killing off a 5-on-3 advantage early in the game. Raanta will be a huge help to Corey Crawford, who made 15 straight starts until Wednesday night. If Raanta continues to back-stop the Blackhawks at this rate, Blackhawks’ General Manager Stan Bowman will have a tough decision to make once regular back-up Nikolai Khabibulin returns from injury.
Second Star: Brandon Saad
Brandon Saad has continued to impress in the month of November, with another week of contribution to the Blackhawks’ offense. Saad kicked off the past week with a two-assist performance in Edmonton, and followed that up in Calgary with another helper for a three-point week. This week, Saad’s impact wasn’t felt primarily on the score sheet, but his dynamic play spoke volumes just as loud. Saad was a force on the back-check, driving him to his +10 rating on the season, and the 18+ minutes of Time On Ice he logged in both Edmonton and Dallas were huge for a second-year player such as him. Saad has registered a shot in every game since November 6th, and has 9 multi-shot games in that span. His great speed has been huge for the Blackhawks’ forecheck, and is part of the reason why the Blackhawks spend so much time in the offensive zone. Saad’s versatility and durability allow him to be effective in any position, giving Blackhawks’ Head Coach Joel Quenneville lots of options for the 21-year old.
First Star: Patrick Kane
Patrick Kane was a beast in the last seven days, and his offensive contribution puts him among the NHL’s best in that span. Kane kicked off the week with a power-play goal in Edmonton. Kane had his best performance of the four games two days later in Calgary. With the Blackhawks behind 2-0, Kane started the comeback with a goal, and brought it full circle, scoring the game-winner with 18 seconds left in the third period, tying himself for the NHL lead in game-winning goals with his fifth of the season. Kane failed to register a point against Dallas on Friday night, bringing a close to his career-high 12-game point streak, but logged 20:34 of ice time and had five shots on goal. Kane was back on the score-sheet on Saturday night against the Coyotes, where he put up an assist, and scored his seventh power-play goal of the year, bringing him up into second League-wide in that category (Alex Ovechkin). Kane’s explosive game never gets old for Blackhawks fans, and at this rate, he will be a serious contender for the Hart Trophy at the end of the regular season.
In Week 10, the Blackhawks are back at home for a rematch against the Stars on Tuesday, before heading to Minnesota to take on the Wild on Thursday. The ‘Hawks close off the week with a pair of home games against the Anaheim Ducks and Florida Panthers on Friday and Sunday respectively.
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