Dec 6, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; Chicago Blackhawks players celebrate after a goal by right winger Marian Hossa (81) during the second period against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
It’s been another weekend of wins for the Chicago Blackhawks! They found the way on Friday night, beating the Montreal Canadiens by a score of 4-3. On Saturday night, they owned the Nashville Predators, coming away with a 3-1 victory. This makes a streak of 6 wins in a row, and is good for 1st place in the Central Division (37 points). There are lots of good things to talk about here, so let’s get to it. These are my 5 takeaways from this weekend’s matchups.
5. 1st lines turn. Much has been made about the Blackhawks second line being on fire lately. Well this weekend the baton was passed to Chicago’s first line of Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews, and Marian Hossa. During the game against the Canadiens, Toews tallied a power play goal, and was credited with an assist off Saad’s game winning goal. He’s also been doing a great job getting to the net and causing trouble for the opponent’s goalie.
As I just mentioned, Brandon Saad was the hero on Friday night, scoring the game winning goal with 27 seconds to go, keeping the game from going to overtime. But Saad wasn’t satisfied yet, as he also scored the 1st goal in the tilt against the Predators. He held on to the puck for that extra second and then shot high to beat Pekka Rinne. He was later credited with an assist on a Hossa goal. Saad is using his speed and his determination to create chances for himself and his line mates (although I still think he should shave the beard). He now has 3 goals in his last four games, with 6 for the year.
Last week I mentioned that the stars would align for Marian Hossa. Man, I love being right! Hossa broke out during the second period of the game against the Predators, getting a great feed from Saad, a screen by Toews, and making no mistake to score. He later made a typical Hossa strip and tallied the empty net goal for the final score of 3-1. Hossa had a team high 7 shots on goals during Saturday’s tilt.
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4. Depth. Not only are the Hawks top players producing, but everyone across the board seems to be contributing to all these wins. On Friday night against the Canadiens, the first goal was produced by 3rd pair defenseman Michal Rozsival, with assists from third liners Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw. The second goal came from Ben Smith of the fourth line. Smith’s line mate Marcus Kruger had the team high 6 shots on goal.
During the Predators game, defenseman Klas Dahlbeck made his NHL debut, and on his first shift, he fed fourth liner Joakim Nordstom a great tip-in chance (IceHog power!). Andrew Shaw was taking out the trash when he pushed James Neal over the boards into the Hawks bench. You have to admit that was great payback for Neal’s hat trick from the last match up, and it sparked the team.
Two back-up goalies had 2 great games over the weekend. Antti Raanta played on Friday night against the Canadiens. He made 38 saves on 41 shots, with a .926 save percent average. It was Scott Darling’s turn to shine on Saturday against Nashville. He recorded 32 saves on 33 shots, with a .969 save percent average. Both goalies were busy, and they were both up to the task.