Physicality and Forecheck
The Blackhawks finished with 35 hits, Jujhar Khaira leading the way with 10 total hits on the night. Next in line was Jake McCabe with 4, but everyone brought the grit this game on the forecheck. The forecheck is an underrated part of this game as a good one can change the momentum as the opposition tries to counter it with different breakout plays. The Blackhawks took away time and space with their forecheck strategy this time around and Vegas was not prepared to counter it.
It's hard to fault Vegas for this, though, as the Blackhawks didn't aggressively forecheck the defensemen since beating Nashville in November. Since last season, I have noticed that the fast tempo and grit of this team would cause problems for the opposition, and they finally brought it back. On that forecheck, two forwards would attack the puck carrier with another cheating at the blue line, ready to defend the breakout play. Tonight was different, with a new coverage of a single guy pressuring the puck carrier and two more ready to either double and swarm the guy or get back to defend with four guys instead of three. They wore down the defensemen this time by either hitting the guy or making sure that their presence was felt.
Hopefully this forecheck returns as this is a huge step for this team to bring a much-needed winning streak. Next takeaway was the lack of special teams... In a good way this time.