The Chicago Blackhawks’ win over the Pittsburgh Penguins was a much needed one for fans and players alike. More than being good for morale, this game demonstrated how much potential the Blackhawks have, as well as how far they need to go.
As Chicago Blackhawks fans, we have been spoiled into seeing some of the best teams this past decade and a half have had to offer. In return, both fans and players have set themselves up to have incredibly lofty expectations.
Not goals, wishes or wants.
After coming back down to Earth following their red hot start, the Chicago Blackhawks lost 18 of 21 games, forcing fans to realize that those expectations might need to be put on hold, or altered, this year.
While one win certainly doesn’t change that – the Blackhawks are now only in second to last place in the NHL – their performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins demonstrated how much potential this team still has.
Perhaps more importantly, it also showed just how far this team has to go.
They’ve proven that they have the ability to play like a legitimate, competitive hockey team. Issue is, doing it consistently is something this team simply cannot accomplish consistently with their current roster.
But hey, let’s have some fun anyway.
Starting on time
The Chicago Blackhawks demonstrated during Wednesday night’s matchup that they still know how to play hockey during the first 20 minutes of a game. This isn’t something terribly difficult for most NHL teams, but welcome to the 2018-19 Chicago Blackhawks.
They came out strong during the first, snapping their streak of 11 consecutive games in which they gave up the first goal.
The stars were the ones leading the charge to kick the game off, something which had been missing from their recent starts. Under a minute into the game, Alex DeBrincat went tape to tape on a stretch pass with Patrick Kane, who led a 2-on-1 with Dylan Strome into the Penguins’ zone.
Kane missed wide short-side, but that shift alone set the tone for how the Hawks would perform throughout the period.
Put simply: they were hungry.
Fortunately, the Blackhawks best first period effort in the last 18+ days resulted in them taking a 2-1 lead into the first intermission. They tied Pittsburgh for shots on goal, defended well in their own zone, won puck battles and generated more than a handful of solid offensive zone possessions.
Hard work pays off.
The Blackhawks proved they’re still capable of starting a game on time. The challenge for them will be figuring out how to bring that same level of competition every night.