It has been a long couple weeks for the Chicago Blackhawks.
The losses have been mounting, and many of them were coming at the hands of mediocre teams. Health has been an issue all season, and coach Joel Quenneville hasn’t found a rotation he can stick with yet.
Despite all of these issues, Viktor Stalberg continues to force his way onto the ice and produce whenever given the opportunity.
One night after skating a team-low in minutes, under nine total for the game, Stalberg’s hustle was rewarded with his spot back on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. He skated 15:58 on Sunday night, was credited with two hits, two takeaways, four shots on net and the game-winning as the Blackhawks finally got an elusive overtime win against the hottest team in the NHL, the Anaheim Ducks.
Stalberg has scored a goal in consecutive games and now has six goals and four assists in 19 games. What the box scores don’t show, though, is that Stalberg has consistently pressed the pace on every shift and has been aggressive in every situation. Quenneville continues to play veterans like Troy Brouwer and Tomas Kopecky on the power play (to no success), but Stalberg’s play is going to force his coach to consider him on special teams as well.
Sunday night was Stalberg’s second game-winning goal this year.
There were a lot of things beyond Stalberg’s outstanding play that the Blackhawks can take with them on the annual Circus Trip as they attempt to recapture some momentum and climb back into contention in the Western Conference.
- Marian Hossa ended a personal seven-game pointless streak with his eighth goal of the season, giving the Hawks the lead mid-way through the second period.
- Patrick Kane scored his seventh goal of the year to open the scoring. He now has five points in his last six games… but has only scored in two of them. After only shooting the puck more than three times in a game once in all of October, Kane has averaged 4.6 shots per game in November.
- The Blackhawks killed both of Anaheim’s power play opportunities, and have allowed only six power play goals in seven games in November. Place that six goals into the context that the Hawks allowed three in Atlanta and the Blackhawks penalty killing unit has been outstanding this month.
- Anaheim did not score twice in the same minute… or five minutes… or even the same period.
- After starting the season allowing nearly 10 shots per game more than last year, the Hawks have settled down. They have allowed more than 26 shots only twice in the last nine games, and both of those were overtime games.
- Finally, the Ducks game into Sunday night’s game the hottest team in hockey. They had won six straight, and the Blackhawks struggled to beat bad teams. But the Hawks finally put together a really good 60 minutes (well, really a 64:32), and won the game in the end.