Mar 14, 2015; San Jose, CA, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Bryan Bickell (29) is congratulated after scoring a goal during the third period against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center at San Jose. Chicago won 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports
Our Chicago Blackhawks did it up right and provided their dads with a trip of wins and entertainment this past week! Thursday night featured a 2-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes, and on Saturday afternoon the Hawks pummeled the San Jose Sharks by a score of 6-2! Before these last two contests, there were many question marks about how the Hawks were faring heading into the final stretch of the season. Let’s take a look at some of these things, and see how the team is coming along.
Offensive Production. Dating back to even before Patrick Kane’s injury, the Blackhawks seem to be having more trouble than usual scoring goals. As Kaner was and still is their leading point score, lighting the lamp without him is definitely a cause for concern.
Well these last two games have certainly been a step in the right direction. Let’s start with the biggest story first. Yes, that’s right; Patrick Sharp has come out of his slump and scored 2 goals against the Sharks. And did anyone else notice that after his first goal, he spent a couple of shifts on the first line with Toews and Hossa? It was like Coach Q’s teaser for him (Hey Sharpie, if you keep scoring goals this could be your reward).
This first line combo of Sharp-Toews-Hossa just so happens to be the line I called for in my last post. Last season it was one of the most potent lines in the league, so why not give it another shot? I’ll tell you what; if these three guys play together for any extended amount of time in the next couple of games, I’ll buy everyone an ice cream!
But the offense doesn’t stop there. These last two tilts have definitely been a team effort. Andrew Shaw, Brad Richards, Duncan Keith, and Bryan Bickell all scored goals to snap out of pretty lengthy slumps of their own. The Hawks tallied 8 goals in these last two match ups, and 7 of those goals have all been scored by different players (Sharp had 2).
Let’s not forget the importance of the set-up, or the assist. If you factor assists into the equation, the Hawks have also had 7 players that have earned 2 points in these last 2 games. Marian Hossa beats out everyone with 3 points because, well, he’s Marian Hossa (1 G, 2 A).
To make a long story short, the Chicago Blackhawks offensive production is trending upward, and lots of players are getting involved in this party, not just a few. This is a very good sign.
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Power Play. Before these last 2 games, the Hawks were 0 for 15 on the power play. When the team would get a man advantage, everyone watching would cringe and hope for at least a shot on goal in the ensuing two minutes (hopefully by the Hawks and not the other team).
Well things are looking a little better; they went 2 for 7 on the PP against Arizona, and 2 for 4 against San Jose (4 for 11 overall). It could definitely be argued that they should have capitalized more against the Coyotes, but at least they’re having a little more success. They have to start somewhere.
Duncan Keith earned both of his 2 points on the power play. The first was an assist on Shaw’s goal during the Arizona game. The second was his goal against San Jose.
Teuvo Teravainen has been spending more time on the power play, and it paid off for him on Thursday against the Coyotes. He earned a secondary assist on Brad Richard’s goal. TT has been looking more and more confident out there. He deserves his spot on the power play, as well as his spot on the second line.
I’m sure this recent success with the man advantage has helped the player’s confidence. Hopefully they can stop holding their sticks so tight and focus on the fundamentals. Keep plugging away boys! You know you can do it now; so keep it coming.
Net Front Presence. Both goals scored during the tilt against the Coyotes were power play goals, and both were a direct result of someone hanging out in front of the net. For the first score, Andrew Shaw tapped in a rebound off of a Duncan Keith shot. For the second tally, Brad Richards also cleaned up a rebound off a shot by Kris Versteeg.
On Saturday versus the Sharks, Duncan Keith’s goal and Patrick Sharp’s second goal came with Andrew Shaw providing the screen in front of the goalie. Shawsy has the right idea by being willing to take the abuse and park himself in front of the net. As the playoffs approach, things are only going to get tighter and tighter out there. These greasy goals are going to be what it takes to get the job done.
Whether it be screening the goalie, or being at the right place at the right time to gather up a rebound, good things happen when you go to the net.
Corey Crawford has had six consecutive starts and boasts a 5-0-1 record in that stretch. During this time, he has a .962 save percentage, and 1.15 goals against average. Do you think he just sits around and meditates all day long in order to stay so focused? Whatever he’s doing, it’s working.
Johnny Oduya has returned from an upper body injury for these past 2 tilts. He’s been paired with his usual partner, fellow Swede Niklas Hjalmarsson. In the Arizona game, he had 20:59 minutes of ice time, and against the Sharks he played 21:02 minutes. He’s looked a little rusty out there at times, but I’d still rather have him than David Rundblad.
The Chicago Blackhawks have gone 6-1-1 in their last 8 games. They have managed to pick up 13 of 16 possible points. They still currently sit in third place in the division. They have 88 points, and St. Louis and Nashville both are 4 points ahead with 93. But St. Louis had played one more game and Nashville three more games than the Hawks. Every point counts! Don’t you love this time of year?
Can the Hawks keep up the good work and continue to win? Can they capitalize on the good things they’ve been doing and get even better? Time will tell. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday are your game dates for this week. Let’s get ready to rumble!
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