Nov 9, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wingBrandon Saad
(20) skates past San Jose Sharks defensemanJason Demers
(5) during the third period at the United Center. Chicago won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
The Chicago Blackhawks had a busy weekend at the United Center, as they hosted the Washington Capitals on Friday night and the San Jose Sharks on Sunday night. Sloppy play at the end of the second period cost them the game on Friday, with the Capitals winning 3-2. But the Hawks were able to turn things around with a resounding 5-2 win against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday! Now I know I’ve really crossed over into hockeydom, as I missed most of the Bears/Packers game (heard I didn’t miss much). Here are five things that stood out to me during the Blackhawk’s weekend games.
5. Brandon Saad is looking really good. In the Capitals game, Saad had a team high 5 shots on goal. He tallied Chicago’s first goal, with a picture perfect pass from Marian Hossa, and was able to generate a number of great chances. In the absence of Patrick Sharp, Saad was promoted from the third line to the second line with Shaw and Hossa. This line seemed to have a lot of chemistry and energy all night long.
In the Sharks game, Saad again played on the second line and had a very complete game. He once again generated a team high 5 shots on goal, and recorded an assist off Brian Bickell’s goal, the fourth goal of the game. In the second period, Brent Seabrook took a shot that went off the post. This was all made possible by Saad’s strong play to outmuscle his opponent and keep the puck in the zone. At the end of this period, Saad did a great job of breaking up a play and then hustling to get a shot on net. Even when the Hawks were winning 5-2 at the end of the third period, Saad didn’t stop playing, and made a good rush to the net and drew a tripping penalty. Keep up the good work Brandon Saad!
4. Net front presence is key. In the Capitals game, Andrew Shaw seemed to be the only one who was fighting to the front of the net. No one else seemed to be willing to make the commitment. Toews, Kruger, Bicks, where are you?
The Sharks game was a different story. Trevor Van Riemsdyk started out the scoring (his first goal in his NHL career!)that was screened by both Toews and Versteeg. The second goal was made by Brent Seabrook, with Peter Regin being able to block goalie Antti Niemi’s view. Even Niklas Hjalmarsson’s goal (the third of the game) was partially screened by Marcus Kruger.
When goaltenders have a lot of traffic in front of them and can’t see the puck, it makes their job a lot harder. Goals aren’t easy to score in the NHL. The Blackhawks are really good at getting shots on goal, but if they want to continue to keep scoring, they need to commit to a consistent net front presence.
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3. Brent Seabrook knows he needs to start earning his paycheck. Seabrook had a rough night on Friday. He made a bad pinch that caused the opening for the first goal by Andre Burakovsky, and then deflected the shot made by Marcus Johansson for the second goal.
For Sunday’s game against the San Jose Sharks, Seabrook was essentially demoted, and moved to the third defensive pairing alongside David Rundblad. He had only 17:13 minutes of ice time, much less than he is accustomed to. Other than a bad turnover on a Sharks power play, Seabs didn’t make any other glaring mistakes, and he was able to redeem himself a bit by scoring a goal. Brent Seabrook is a veteran player, and I’m sure this is a bit of a wakeup call for him. I expect him to adjust accordingly and start to play better.