Feb 6, 2015; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Chicago Blackhawks forward Brandon Saad (20) celebrates after he scores during the overtime period against the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre. Chicago wins 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports
Hey, hey, hey! Now that’s more like it! The Chicago Blackhawks had two wins this weekend, and finished above 500 on the road trip (4-3). They beat the Winnipeg Jets in overtime by a score of 2-1 on Friday night, and put away the St. Louis Blues 4-2 on Sunday afternoon. These were two big wins over division rivals, so it deserves some high-fives all around. Here are my top five takes from this weekend’s games.
5. What to do to beat the Winnipeg Jets. Steve Konroyd must have had the night off on Friday night, so I took the liberty of jotting down my own keys to the game. Unfortunately I didn’t get too creative; I mostly just stuck with the theme of goals. Let’s see how the Blackhawks fared.
Score the first goal! As the Hawks haven’t scored in the last 2 games, just getting a goal would be a moral victory. But to score the first goal, now that would set the tone and give the Hawks a much needed boost of momentum. Ah, it was not to be. Instead Mark Scheifele of the Winnipeg Jets was the first to tally a score. I was sweating it a little, but I wasn’t in all out panic mode. Sure enough, in the second period, Patrick Kane turned on the jets (pun intended) and finally got that elusive goal, with a little help from Brad Richards and Patrick Sharp of course.
Don’t let any ex-Blackhawks score. The Winnipeg Jets currently have three former Blackhawks on their roster. Andrew Ladd is Winnipeg’s captain, and he plays on the first line. Dustin Byfuglien plays on the Jet’s second line. Both of these players were very important members of Chicago’s 2010 Stanley Cup winning team. The Jets also have Michael Frolik, who plays on the third line, and was a member of Chicago’s 2013 Stanley Cup winning team.
The Hawks have already lost to Winnipeg three times this season. During these 3 matchups, Frolik had a goal and an assist. Ladd earned 1 goal and 2 assists, and Byfuglien was credited with 2 helpers. So keeping these guys off the score sheet for this game could be very helpful. And yes, the Blackhawks were able to do just that, containing those pesky former teammates. No goals or assists for any of them.
Score the last goal. Brandon Saad and Patrick Kane came to the rescue for this one. The game went to overtime, so the Blackhawks were assured at least 1 much needed point in the standings. But they weren’t satisfied with just 1 point. They wanted to win. Patrick Kane worked his magic and made a great wrap around attempt, but it bounced off goalie Hutchinson’s pads. Saad was once again at the right place at the right time, and he poked in the rebound. Here’s a video of the goal. Hawks Win!!!
4. What to do to beat the St. Louis Blues. Since the Hawks fared 2 out of 3 on my keys to the Winnipeg game, I thought I’d try my hand at it against the Blues. Here’s what I came up with.
Bring your physical game. No doubt about it, this was definitely another physical game. The hits were 11 to 30, with the advantage of course going to the Blues. Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun Times mentioned the topic of hits on Twitter during the game. He said that teams like the Blues and the Kings need to be physical to win, but the Blackhawks don’t.
The key here is to handle this kind of play the correct way. The Hawks seemed to do this on Sunday. They took the hits, and concentrated on not getting caught out of position or giving away turnovers. Standing up for your teammates is sometimes needed, and Daniel Carcillo did this when he dropped the gloves in defense of a hit to Marcus Kruger (more on Carcillo later).
Either the third or fourth line needs to contribute with a goal. Much talk has been made recently about the third and fourth lines not contributing offensively. Scott Powers of ESPN Chicago wrote a good article about Chicago’s fourth line a few days ago.
Apparently the players got the memo, as it was Marcus Kruger and Daniel Carcillo that started out the scoring with a powerful 2 on 1 charge. This was Kruger’s first goal in 27 games. Then Bryan Bickell added his name to the mix when he collected a David Rundblad rebound for a goal.
That’s a goal and an assist by 2 fourth liners (Kruger and Carcillo), and another goal by a third liner (Bickell). Great contributions by all! Keep it up guys; your help is gonna come in real handy in the playoffs.
Score on the power play. The Chicago Blackhawks last scored on the power play against the LA Kings a week and a half ago. They had 4 chances on the PP in that game, and only converted once. Since then, they have had 7 unsuccessful man advantage chances in the last 4 games. A power play goal against the St. Louis Blues sure would be a welcome change.
Well it turned out to be our lucky day! Marian Hossa came up big with the power play goal in this one. It also turned out to be the game winning goal. He corralled a great pass by Brandon Saad and was able to break his recent scoring slump. This was Hossa’s first goal since January 21st.
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3. The good and the bad of David Rundblad. David Rundblad only had 3:50 minutes of ice time during Friday’s game against Winnipeg. It was his turnover along the boards that led to the lone Jet’s goal. Now, I ask you, would Rozsival or Oduya get stapled to the bench if they made a similar mistake? I think not. This is a classic case of Coach Q’s affinity for veterans over the youngsters. I caught a segment with Steve Konroyd on 670 The Score, and he mentioned that Rundblad is really having a hard time with the forecheck in the corners. He isn’t absorbing the hit to make the play. Instead he’s prone to turning the puck over in his zone.
Well, Rundblad ended up with 9:20 minutes of ice time in the St. Louis tilt, and he didn’t make any glaring mistakes. One thing he does have is a great shot. He used that to his advantage on Sunday, throwing his wicked shot on net. It didn’t go in, but it caused a juicy rebound that Bryan Bickell punched in for the goal.
Rundblad has the presence and the timing to contribute offensively. He just needs to keep grinding away at his defensive game. Time will tell where he ends up once Trevor Van Riemsdyk returns to the lineup.