Gritty Blackhawks Stay Undefeated

For almost 36 minutes, it looked like the Blackhawks were shooting at a brick wall. But a lucky bounce got the Hawks on the board, and a great team effort kept the Blackhawks’ record perfect on the young season.

Patrick Sharp had a three-point night, getting the Hawks on the board with a power play goal late in the second period and then assisting on goals by Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.

The game-winner from Hossa, who had been victimized more than anyone by a ridiculous Kari Lehtonen, was a filthy one-timer off a blind spin-o-rama pass from Patrick Kane. Kane has been incredible through four games this year, and the dish to Hossa was his second assist of the night.

Dallas stole the lead with less than two seconds remaining in the first period – while short-handed – when Loui Eriksson blew past Brent Seabrook and bounced a puck through Corey Crawford. Seabrook had a rough night (looked slow the entire game), and Crawford should have stopped the shot.

Ray Whitney extended the Stars’ lead in the middle of the second period, and many (including myself) wondered on Twitter if that would be enough. Lehtonen played as well as a goalie can in a loss, but the Hawks were able to break through with two power play goals in the game.

Nick Leddy continued his roll to start the season; the young defenseman has an assist in all four games. He led all Hawks’ defensemen with 6:44 of powerplay ice time, and skated the third-highest ice time on the Hawks blue line (19:17). Seabrook (23:41) and Duncan Keith (26:21) led the defensemen in ice time.

While Seabrook struggled, Keith showed flashes of the player that won the Norris Trophy after the 2009-10 season. His body positioning was good, his puck-handling was improved and his speed was great up and down the ice all night.

But Leddy’s speed was noticeable throughout the game, mostly when the Hawks had a man advantage. Also noticeable was another strong performance by Niklas Hjalmarsson, who might be playing the best hockey of this NHL career to start this season.

Toews led the Hawks up front, winning 13 of 20 faceoffs. Dave Bolland was also strong at the dot, winning 12 of 20 faceoffs.

In net, Crawford bounced back from two mediocre goals to have another strong third period. He kept all nine shots he faced in the third period and overtime out of the net, including a number of tough saves to keep the Hawks in the game. Crawford allowed two goals on 23 shots in the game and earned his third victory of the season.

Finally, something that cannot be ignored was the Hawks’ work on special teams yet again. In spite of the short-handed goal against at the end of the first period, the improvement on both the power play and penalty kill cannot be ignored after four games.

In Dallas, all three of the Blackhawks’ goals came on the power play as Chicago converted three of their seven advantages.

The Hawks weren’t short-handed until the third period, but killed both of the Stars’ opportunities. Chicago has only allowed one power play goal in 12 chances though Thursday night.

27 thoughts on “Gritty Blackhawks Stay Undefeated

  1. Puck handling was atrocious, but they pulled it together in the nick of time. 2 points is 2 points is 2 points…

  2. Another great analysis Tab…I thought the Hawks played very well on the road, again, and right now the Hawks look BETTER than the Cup winning team did starting the 2010 season…but Lehtonen was absurd in net…those were some of the best saves I have seen in a while…the Hawks Offence could easily have potted 6 or 7 again tonight…

    I agree, that Leddy is excelling, and the Hawks have figured him out…keep him on the 3rd pairing…limit his time against their best players at full strength, and then let him excel on the PP…until he gets a little bigger and stronger, this is an excellent usage of Leddy…Hammer, IMO, is playing some of his best hockey as a Blackhawk right now…Seabrook has had a slow start to the season, and yes, Keith is playing at a much higher level, right now, than he did the last 2 years.

    The one thing I would say, and I have kept quiet about it until now, is that the Hawks goaltending hasn’t impressed in any game thus far…Crawford had some work and a few good saves in the Blues game, but he hasn’t been great yet, and his penchant for letting point shots beat him is still there…IMO, the Hawks are going to need better goaltending…and I hope we get it!

    A great win in a game we deserved to win in regulation…

  3. This is a game I don’t think they would’ve won last year. Gritty is very apropos Tab. This team plays for each other. The recovery by Forwards and D men was very positive. They all gave of themselves tonight and got a team win. Last year we wouldn’t have seen those hustle and hard working plays and we would have lost a game because of a few turnovers and a goalie standing on his head.

    We all know that this team will score goals, but if they continue to play for each other and play unselfish they’ll go a long way.

  4. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like Seabrook has been turning the puck over a lot in the Hawk’s end in all 4 games so far this season. I’d have to say that of all the Hawks, Seabrook has been the only disappointment up to this point. Not only has Seabrook been slow, but I haven’t seen him taking guys hard into the boards. Usually Brent does that regularly.

  5. Three most improved aspects thus far in my opinion: Sticks in the defensive zone (breaking up passes), controlling passes (especially the non-top tier guys), clearing the puck out of their own zone. Yes the special teams have looked stellar, but those three factors are why they have been so successful.

  6. No doubt Ross, we look crisp on our passes no hesitation… fast pace try to stop me team. Lehtonen stood on his head tonight and we solved him, in the end!!!!

  7. Tab, again, spot-on analysis. (Thank you.)

    Brad – “Crawford hasn’t been great yet, and the Hawks are going to need better goaltending…and I hope we get it!”…really? I think his puck handling was a little “shaky” in the first two games, but he’s been pretty good otherwise. NO doubt, there is always room for improvement, and I hope it happens – Crawford and the rest of the team…”build on it”.

    Uh, not to be a prick or anything, but to all those wh0 were pushing to move Kane (- he was an asshole off the ice three times, etc.), “How you like him now”?!?! Was there ever any doubt he has “ELITE” skill(?) – I hope he continues to “build on it”.

    GO HAWKS!!

  8. Dickie: as one of those guy interested in moving Kane, it was never for lack of skill, and in every scenerio I proposed, I attempted to fill 2-3 needs in the process. Those needs aren’t there so far this year. Crawford, although not lights out, has been above average (and with this offence clicking thats more than enough). The PK has been fantastic. Bolland has been a really good centerman for Sharp and Kane and Shaw and Bickell have played much better to replace bollands grit on the 3rd line. So when the 3rd line is keeping up and bolland is solid in the 2C role, I would never trade Kane.

    About last night specifically, I was only able to catch the first period, and I was glad to see we fought back. Every team needs those games to prep for the playoffs, and this is a very good sign! As for this weekend, we can really put a stamp on the division with 2 big wins. Im thinking we can do it!

  9. Dickie… I was one of the person’s asking for Kane’s Head!!! And Yes he is playing like an Elite player now… My question to you- Why didn’t Kane skate and shoot like this all of last year (he did skate hard for a 10-15 game span / around the end of our horrible losing streak)- but really his skating, tempo, shooting- were off most of year!

    1.) he needs to be on wing where he can transition/cherry pick a little
    2.) as mentioned by Ross- the Hawks are clearing the puck from own zone w/ much better speed and frequency- which allows Kane to sneak out in open ice
    3.) back checking has been fantastic- Hossa (always great at it) but Kruger, Bolland, Stalberg, Frolik- have been incredible backchecking. (which once again allows Kane to do #1)
    4.) PP ( which I commented last year is the “Kane excells/cuz open ice”)- has changed/coaching- and is now using “player movement”- instead of last year’s statue PP.
    5.) he is more focused! He is doing less commercials/tv-

    Stalberg, Kruger, Hammer have been great-
    It would still be great to have a “mini-Buff” on PP- Shaw/Stalberg -not that guy!
    But I will say that Stalberg can be used on PP to beat D to the loose puck/ and keep puck in zone.

    Lastly- Mayers does not fit this group- can’t skate with rest/like Bruno- Bollig/Hayes/Smith- better options

  10. I would agree that Mayers is a little “aged-out” of this roster, but to be a veteran leader in the locker room and to only play 8-10 games to help keep other guys fresh, i think he’s fine.

    Also.. fun stat i wanted to share… Of the 10 teams with 4 games played only 3 have more than 4 points… The Hawks, and 2 of the teams we have already beaten… Blues and Stars.

    Its going to be a fun spring!

  11. Kane and Hossa are unstoppable right now

    Crawford looks like his rookie year

    Rolling 4 lines and 3 pairs. Good things are coming.

  12. Hawks Brass should get a lot of credit…

    I for one have begged for more physical players… Bowman has elected for faster… so far it is enough… Perhaps Scotty knew how the Rule changes would benefit skating teams vs. Physical teams- the Hawks are getting ALL the calls right now- I wonder if the refs will loosen the calls in next few weeks- or if the officiating will stick- IMO the Hawks have benefited greatly from several calls that would have never been made in past! Furthermore, the Hawks have been very disciplined on not delivering the interference and checking to the back hits.

    if Carcillo can come back and stay healthy- we will be even better- move Saad to 4th line and that line would be awesome w/ speed and checking…

  13. Tim – I understand and completely agree with you about “filling needs”…after Kane allowed himself to be photographed again it seemed to me that there was a WAVE of “HAVE to get rid of him NOW” (- addressed to nobody specifically), which I believed to be overreaction. Hopefully he’s “grown-up” and the nonsense was just part of the process. Nobody is “untouchable”, but there aren’t too many players with that level of skill and upside. Maybe Crawford is the guy who played so well his first season? (…if not, any deal for Kane better include Carey Price)

    Wall – didn’t Kane start the year with a wrist injury? That may have been a factor. Also, the “experiment” of Kane at center was mostly a bust. I can’t quarrel with any of your other points. “have a “mini-Buff” on PP” – net presence is important – what do teams who don’t have a Holmstrom or Byfuglien do? Movement and lanes? On several previous occasions I opined (harped) about “TEAM defense” – they have good talent they just need the *consistent* effort that was missing most of last season. Obviously, they need to stay healthy.

    Mayers – good points. “Its going to be a fun spring!” – FULL SPEED AHEAD!!

  14. Somthing you missed.

    In the first thirty minutes the Hawk rturned to a horrible habit of relying on lazy stretch passes. This has been the ane of the Hawks possession game for the last two years. It’s aggravating watching the wings exit the zone much to early and then having to watch the d men make long hero passes to a stationary forward standing at the opposing blueline.

    Case in point, Whitney’s goal. both Sharp and Kane just abandoned Roszival and sped away to the other blueline leaving Roszival with three bad decisions to make all of which would have ended in a turnover. 1) Pass laterally to a stationary Nick Leddy who would have been plastered by an oncoming forechecker. 2) pass to a covered Dave Bolland. Or 3) try and chip the pick out. Roszival opted for choice 3 and got burned by Whitney and Eakin. Still, that play doesnt happen if either Kane or Sharp stayed back and gave the d an outlet pass. Terrible.

    Luckily the Hawks figured that one out aftr the second goal. The wings started staying back to rally on the breakout, th passes got shorter and (hey, imagine that) they stopped turning the puck over and got back in the game.

    The stretch pass stuff needs to stop though. not only are long passes more likely to get picked off, a stationary foward standing at he blueline can’t do anything with the puck other than chip it into the zone, which goes againt our possession game’s whole MO. If the hawks keep the breakout passes short and transition as a team then they hit the blueline with speed, enter the zone with the defense on their heels, and immediately give themselves an advantage. Even though the hawks controlled possession anyway, they will not get away with the way they played for the first thirty minutes against a team with an actually competent defense.

  15. Keith’s ice time keeps creeping up toward the mid 20s. I’m concerned that the new and improved Q that spreads out the d pairing minutes is really just the same old guy, just not crazy enough to run keith out there for 30 minutes after 5 minutes of training camp.

  16. Aaron, great points on the wings “leaking” early-
    to my point about HUGE difference between this year and last-
    the wings are able and willing to get to the side boards and be outlets for the D-men to move puck out of Zone— last year the wings were absent much of time (especially slow-mo Bruno)- but others as well.

    And w/ O Donnell, Monty, on the backend… wings could not afford to leave early!!!
    Love Rosey’s intinct but he is not swift footed… Hawks wings need to understand this and Help when they can- that one turnover/bad bounce was a perfect example of what will happen if the wings breakout too early

  17. re: Bannerman’s comment about Keith’s ice time. Here are Keith’s four games played this year.

    @ LA – 22:44
    @ PHX – 21:52
    StL – 22:45
    @ DAL – 26:21

    In October 2011, he averaged 24:58.
    In October 2010, he averaged 29:10.
    In October 2009, he averaged 26:38.

    I’m not worried about Duncan Keith’s ice time so far this year. To the contrary, I think the coaches have done a good job of limiting his ice time through the 4 games.

  18. @wall

    I only hope that play didn’t earn Roszival a place in Q’s dog house. Becaue there is nothing that Brookbank beings to the third pair that Roszival does not do better. Not excusing his weak attempt at chipping the puck out but pointimg to the fact that that play should be examined as a team error. Kane and Sharp have to hang back and outlet the puck there, none of our defensemen not named Keith or Leddy are going to skate the puck out on their own there.

    Again this was a dominant performance in possession that should not have happened. And the sooner he Hawkswee themselves off the idea that they can rely on long blue line to blue line passes in transition the better.

  19. @JS, I don’t know if you have watched CarBomb play, but he possesses plenty of skill. He is fast, has good hands, and brings alot of energy. He can pass and goes hard to the net all the time. He’s reasonably priced to, and protects his teammates. Whats not to like?

  20. Protects his teammates by getting suspended a few times a season and putting them on the penalty kill all the time?

    In the 3 games Saad has played he has created more chances for Hossa and Toews than Carcillo will all season.

  21. I wasn’t sure about Saad on the 1st line but he seems to know the game very well and makes good decisions. I also agree if we had a Buf type on the power play, WOW that would be something.

  22. So far the only mention of Saad was in reference to moving him to the 4th line?!?! Saad has been incredibly impressive so far this year, acquitting himself quite well to the top line. Hes done a great job on the forecheck and while the points aren’t there and he hasn’t been flashy, hes doing all the little things. Both he and Leddy have really impressed, especially considering their rough starts at Rockford.

  23. Great comments Wall…I concur…if our defence holds up and the goaltending gets a little better, we will be fine.

  24. Saying Carcillo can’t play hockey is maybe the stupidest thing I’ve ever read on the internet. Ever.

  25. It’s the 2nd dumbest thing I read on the net.Ever.The first was we made a mistake signing Carcillo.Even though he makes crumbs compared to his potential

  26. To those ragging about talks of Saad- moving down to 3rd/4th line… I really like Saad- but he has not showed a lot of poise/patience yet skating w/ 19-81… plays hard, skates fast, backchecks well- but is pressing IMO and not yet in sync…

    Carbomb- worked well w/ 19-81 because he made quick/crisp little passes, chips to those two and let them do rest- ( Saad will be much better Pro then C-bomb) but right now is not making those plays-

    When Q has more confidence in Saad- wouldn’t mind seeing him flipped w/ Stalberg on lines- I think both would be better- Stals receiving “gifts from 19-81” and Saad playing against lesser D-men/less scoring pressure. The only negative is Stals would put up better Stats and be much harder to retain as UFA!!!

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