The Chicago Blackhawks came into Toronto riding high on three straight victories. Their hot streak continued with an exciting 5-4 victory over the Maple Leafs. Here are my Five Thoughts on the victory.
1 – Momentum is on their side.
The Chicago Blackhawks scored 7 goals in their previous game against the Arizona Coyotes and their hot offense continued right into the start of this game. Their top line started strong with intense offensive pressure. The improving Dylan Sikura initiated the assault on Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen with a solid shot on goal from the right circle.
The 2nd line continued the attack with intense pressure, culminating in a
shot from the top of the left circle that squeaked through Andersen’s pads for the first goal.
At just under the halfway point of the period, the ‘Hawks led the Leafs in shot attempts 11-2, and shots on goal 4-1. This is reminiscent of dynasty Blackhawks hockey and so much more fun to watch than their recent no-defense look.
The ‘Hawks continued their offensive attack through the first period with goals from Brendan Perlini, Dominik Kahun, and Brandon Saad. The 4-0 lead was a big statement that the team is intent on reaching the playoffs.
2 – Brendan PERLINI.
Whoever would have predicted the scoring tsunami from Brendan Perlini? The “throw-in” forward in the trade with the Coyotes has suddenly become an absolute scoring machine. After a hat trick against his former team, Perlini once again lit the lamp for the Blackhawks’ second goal of the night.
Perlini made a great stick move past Leafs center
, skated to his left toward the slot, and fired a shot to his right to beat Andersen. This one is worth watching for the nifty stick work and smart shot selection by Perlini.
Not only did Perlini score this goal, his dynamic play also led to Alex DeBrincat’s 38th goal of the season.
Watch how Perlini uses both his speed and long stick to make a perfect pass to DeBrincat for the tally. And by the way, Mr. Perlini was awarded First Star honors for his great play.
3 – Forwards are helping out on defense.
The big surge in the last three games has been the result of the forwards helping out the defensemen in their own end. Just about every forward has contributed to this rapid improvement in play.
In the first two periods, the Chicago Blackhawks outshot the Leafs 27-18. The back-checks, area awareness, and tighter coverage have enabled the ‘Hawks to finally string together dominant performances.
On their third goal,
made a smart play up high in the zone to seal off the boards and poke the puck away from
. The ensuing play saw
rush up the ice to set up a streaking Kahun for his goal.
Notable mentions for defensive play from forwards include Perlini, Sikura, Strome, and Chris Kunitz, who quietly had a solid game. Alex DeBrincat recorded 3 (THREE) blocked shots. Kudos to the defensemen, who collectively racked up 14 blocked shots, and cleared the home plate area to prevent rebound retrievals by the Leafs.
4 – Rut Roh, Corey.
Corey Crawford left the game after the second period, causing a stir among Blackhawks fans. With the type of luck he’s had, any lost game time from Crawford is reason for concern. But, rest easy fans, it’s flu season.
5 – What Chaos!!!
Down by 4 goals in the third period, the Leafs mounted a serious offensive attack that resulted in some defensive breakdowns from our Chicago Blackhawks. The Leafs are obviously a very talented team, and it was just a matter of time before they awakened from their offensive slumber to give the ‘Hawks a run for their money.
They managed to out-shoot the ‘Hawks 29-12 in the final frame, causing NBCSN’s Mike Emrick to shout out his famous, “What chaos!” The mad offensive scramble brought the Leafs to within 1 goal with 1:31 remaining in the game.
Just when you thought the ‘Hawks had completely turned the corner defensively, they managed to revisit some bad habits late in the game. Two major defensive gaffes by Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook almost cost the game, but somehow the ‘Hawks managed to survive the onslaught from the Leafs.
Want your voice heard? Join the Blackhawk Up team!
And so, it’s another Canada foe on Saturday night in a tilt with the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs are in a dogfight for the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference, while the ‘Hawks now sit just 4 points out of a Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.
Buckle up fans, your surprising Blackhawks are somehow gelling at the right time of the season to actually be in the playoff conversation. Who knew?