Chicago Blackhawks: 5 Takeaways From This Weekend

By Gail Kauchak
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Nov 4, 2014; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Patrick Sharp (10) before the game against Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Ah, well. The Chicago Blackhawks had a bit of a hiccup on Saturday night, as they lost to the New York Islanders by a score of 3-2.  But they got right back on track at the United Center on Sunday night, beating the Calgary Flames by a score of 2-1.  The Hawks are now 21-9-1.  They currently sit on top of the Central Division with 43 points.  Here are 5 things that stood out to me during this weekend’s games.

5.  The difference zone time makes. The Hawks spent way too much time in their own zone on Saturday night. The Islanders did a really good job of taking away the Hawks passing game, forcing a number of turnovers.  The Hawks were on their heels most of the night.  I was starting to get tired of hearing my husband say, “What is this a power play?  Geez!”

I heard former Blackhawk Nick Leddy was going to meet up with some of the Hawks on Friday night.  I’ll bet he gladly paid for all the drinks.

Sunday’s game against the Flames was a completely different story.  The Hawks controlled possession most of the night, and they came away with the victory.  I never heard my husband ask about a power play all night (Some poor sap in Calgary was saying it).

4.  Sharpie is finding his stride. Patrick Sharp had a team high 7 shots on goal in the Islanders game.  At one point in the 3rd period, he was being very aggressive and had 3 shots on goal in the same shift.  Throughout the whole game, he was a strong presence.

During the tilt with the Calgary Flames, Sharp kept it coming.  In the 2nd period, Sharp scored on a power play goal.  Kane gave it to Toews, who passed across the middle of the ice to Sharp.  Sharp was in just the right place and buried the goal to make it a 1-1 game.

Sharpie usually plays on the left side, but since being brought back into the line-up after his injury, he has been playing on the right side.  Even this adjustment hasn’t fazed him.  I predict more good things to come from Patrick Sharp.

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3.  Goalie Strength. Scott Darling played on Saturday night against the New York Islanders.  This was his 7th game played, and his 4th consecutive start.   He is now 5-2-0 on the season.  Even though Chicago lost the game, Darling stopped 38 of 41 shots, for a .927 SV% average. He looked pretty solid in goal, except he was giving up a few too many rebounds at the end of the night.  Fatigue could have easily been a factor.

Hence Coach Q brought in a fresh Antti Raanta for the match up against the Calgary Flames.  This was Raanta’s 6th season game played, and he now has a record of 4-2-0.  Raanta stopped 23 of 24 shots for the win, with a SV% average of .958.  Before this game, Raanta hadn’t played since December 5th against Montreal.  With Darling getting the last 4 starts in a row, there was a lot of pressure for him to do well, and he was up to the task.

It sounds like Corey Crawford will be healthy enough to play as soon as this coming weekend.  We’ll see what the coaching staff is thinking as to who will be his primary back-up going forward.  Although it seems the media has its favorite.  Now I know it was a pretty uneventful 1st period, but did it seem strange that Scott Darling was interviewed during the 1st intermission Sunday night?  He wasn’t even playing!   Darling is the new “darlin”.