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Chicago Blackhawks: 5 Takeaways From the Last 2 Games

By Gail Kauchak
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Dec 29, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) shoots the puck against Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne (35) during the shootout at the United Center. The Chicago Blackhawks defeat the Nashville Predators 5-4 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Here we are, on the brink of the Winter Classic, an event that not just Chicago and Washington, but the entire hockey community, has been greatly anticipating.  But first, the Chicago Blackhawks have taken on two division foes since their Christmas Break.  They faced the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday, beating them by a score of 5-2.  Then they hosted the Nashville Predators on Monday night, and won a very exciting game in a shootout, 5-4.

And wouldn’t you know it?  Santa got my message and gave Brandon Saad a razor for Christmas!  I almost didn’t recognize that clean shaven young man donning the #20 sweater!

Here are my 5 takeaways from these last 2 games.

5.  Resilience. Because of the new CBA agreement requiring 3 days off for Christmas break, the Blackhawks had to catch an early flight to Colorado the day of the Avs game, instead of flying in the day before.  They had less than 12 hours to acclimate to Colorado’s altitude.  They also ended up having to fight back from a one goal deficit two times during the contest.

In the Predators match up, the Hawks found themselves down by 3 goals.  Against a team that gives up very little and has great goaltending.  Yet they were able to fight back to tie the game, then come back from a 1 goal deficit, and finally, win in a shootout.

It should come as no surprise, as this is what championship teams do.  They fight adversity and find a way to win.  They’ve done it in the past, they did it in these last 2 games, and I’m confident they will continue to do it in the future.

4.  Kane and Toews. In preparation for this post, I asked a number of people after the Avalanche match up what their biggest takeaway was from the game.   Almost unanimously, everyone mentioned Patrick Kane.  Kaner was the hero of Saturday night’s tilt with 2 goals and 1 assist.  He had great presence in front of the net to tap in his first goal off a Duncan Keith shot.  Then he had the secondary assist on Patrick Sharp’s power play goal.  Finally, he scored an empty netter at the end of the game off of a nifty feed from Ben Smith.

In Monday’s match up, although there were many heroes, Jonathan Toews was the one that came through with the win.  The team fought hard to come back from 3 goals down, and then tied it with an extra attacker at the end of the game.  But it took a shootout winner to finally get past this very good Predators team, and Toews provided just that.

These 2 players are the foundation of this Blackhawks team, and they take turns coming through time and time again.  They currently lead the team in points.  Kane has 18 goals and 22 assists, for 40 points, and Toews has 13 goals and 18 helpers, good for 31 points.  We are lucky to have not just one but both of them on this Chicago Blackhawks team.

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3.  The third line comes through. The third line of Andrew Shaw, Brian Bickell, and Daniel Carcillo hadn’t been doing much lately.  During Saturday’s tilt, Bickell only had 8:35 minutes of ice time, and Carcillo had 7:16.  None of these players had scored since Bickell did back in early December.  Shaw hadn’t had a point in 10 games.

But this past contest against the Preds finally brought these scrappy players out of the woodwork.  Bickell was able to come through with the tying goal at the end of regulation with Crawford out for an extra attacker.  It reminded me of the playoff Bickell we know and love.

Shaw made a great all around play to earn his goal.  He lost his stick, so had to kick the puck with his foot, quickly retrieve his stick and pass the puck back to the point.  Then he rushed to the net, where he was able to poke in a rebound off a Patrick Sharp shot.   Yes, Patrick Sharp was back on the third line by this point, and Carcillo was switched to the fourth line.  Which brings me to my next point.

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