Chicago Blackhawks: Road games
DETROIT -- A quick look at the Chicago Blackhawks' 2-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena on Sunday.
How it happened: The winning goal came late in the second period when Patrick Sharp put a no-look pass in front of the Wings net, finding Patrick Kane, who slid a back-hand shot by goalie Joey MacDonald for the score. The teams exchanged goals in the first period, Sharp scoring from the point on a power play followed by a Niklas Kronwall goal from the blueline after a nice play by Darren Helm to feed him. MacDonald replaced Jimmy Howard after the first period. Howard left the game with an undisclosed lower-body injury. The Hawks played a smart, and desperate, third period to maintain the slim lead and come out on top.
What it means: It’s another gutsy effort by the Hawks as they’ve taken the first two games of the road trip by playing tight defense and opportunistic offense. Sharp showed his versatility with his blast from the point and his nifty pass to Kane for the game-winner. The Hawks have scored a power-play goal in three of four games and it’s made a difference in the last two wins. Ray Emery continues to be solid in net and has most assuredly won the job for at least the near future. The Hawks are learning to win without Jonathan Toews and continue to battle favorably in tight, low-scoring affairs. It’s something that didn’t happen most of the season. Maybe they are rounding into playoff shape, as they improved to 36-24-7. Another solid win anchored by solid special-teams play.
Season series: The Hawks and Wings have played five one-goal games, with the Hawks coming out on top in three of them, but Chicago has a point in all five. Two have gone to overtime and none have combined for more than five goals in any single game. It’s been a great season series with the regular-season finale still to come.
What’s next: The Hawks complete their road trip on Tuesday in St. Louis after a practice day there on Monday.
“I don’t think there is a change right now,” Quenneville said after the game.
The team doesn’t play again until Wednesday in San Jose and isn’t scheduled to practice again until Tuesday. Can the time off actually help after two bad losses?
“It does but it also gives you some time to regroup,” goalie Ray Emery said. “It’s a balance between getting it off your mind and remembering so you can fix it.”
For the record, the Hawks have done these types of “side” trips before. Last season, they went to Las Vegas as well after defeating the Vancouver Canucks 7-1 on the annual November road trip. In the 2010 playoffs against San Jose the Hawks went to San Francisco on a day off.
“We haven’t had a super difficult schedule as far as teams,” Sean O'Donnell said. “I’m hoping these two losses kind of wake us up a little bit. It’s good to get away.”
VANCOUVER -- A quick look at the Chicago Blackhawks' 5-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night.
How it Happened: After getting down 1-0 just seconds into the middle period, the Hawks scored five straight goals. A once dormant power play has come alive, scoring twice in the second period to take control of the game. Steve Montador and Marcus Kruger were again part of the action on the first goal as the former fed the latter, who fed Andrew Brunette for a one-timer.
Later, after a face-off win in the offensive zone, Patrick Kane took a puck to the middle of the ice and deflected one in for a second man-advantage tally by the visitors.
Three third period goals broke open a close game. Jonathan Toews scored after a hustle play by Marian Hossa, as Hossa found Viktor Stalberg, who fed Toews in front of the net for the easy goal. Less than two minutes later Patrick Sharp sent one on goal from the point that squeaked by goalie Cory Schneider. Finally, Steve Montador scored his fourth goal in as many games after Hossa set him up with an open look.
What it Means: Everyone knew the Hawks had too much talent to fail on the power play for very long, but it wasn’t until Joel Quenneville made the right changes that it took off. It’s scored six goals in the last four games. Montador and Kruger continue to look like power play veterans showing unusual chemistry. Playing without Brent Seabrook the Hawks had to figure things out in the first period, skating in their own zone too much, but they settled in pretty well after that.
Corey Crawford was called upon to make several big saves but the key to the game was special teams. The Hawks got the message after the previous meeting between the teams when Vancouver scored five power play goals. Chicago didn’t give the Canucks a single chance with the man-advantage on Wednesday. The visitors played a great third period to leave no doubt about the outcome. The Hawks have won four in a row after losing three straight to improve to 12-4-3 on the year.
What’s Next: The Hawks will take a flight to Calgary immediately following the game for a practice day there on Thursday before facing the Flames Friday night.
If the Philadelphia Flyers are planning to use their home ice as a launching pad to get back in the series, they might have to think twice about it. The Blackhawks are road warriors this postseason, having won a NHL record-tying seven consecutive games away from home. They’ll try to set the record with eight in a row on Wednesday.
Here are five reasons that make them so good on the road:
Mentality: There is a saying in hockey when you go on the road: Prepare to win a 1-0 game. At home, sometimes, the Hawks look like they are preparing to win a 5-0 game, but on the road they have subscribed to the saying -- at least since midway through the Nashville series. How does that translate on the ice? Fewer turnovers, more focus on changing on the fly, and reacting to opportunities rather than taking chances to create them. In short, they have been better mentally prepared on the road than at home this postseason.
Goaltending: Whether by coincidence or not, Antti Niemi has had his best games on the road. This even extends back to the regular season, when he won in Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Detroit (twice) and several other of the tougher venues in the league. In the playoffs, he shined in Nashville, where Shea Weber and Jason Arnott were firing pellets during a 5-on-3 power play, and in San Jose he faced 45 shots to open the series, and won. Vancouver didn’t turn out to be as tough as it first looked to be, but he held his own winning an unthinkable three games there in one series.
Coaching: Watching the mass fire drills the Hawks go through in trying to get the right matchup on the road has been a thing of beauty. There were very few times, seemingly, that the Sedins or Joe Thornton didn’t see Dave Bolland on the ice in their own rink. Aren’t the home teams supposed to get the matchups they want? It appears the Hawks are getting it as much on the road as they are at home. That takes communication and awareness, and that comes from coaching. It’s been outstanding.
Leadership: Almost everything written above can be attributed to the Hawks’ great leadership. It’s not something that happens overnight, and not all the credit goes to Joel Quenneville and Jonathan Toews. By all accounts, John Madden has stepped up in the playoffs and Patrick Sharp is a go-to guy as well. Dealing with whatever trials and tribulations (and temptations) the road presents isn’t always easy, and the Hawks have handled the postseason with relative ease. Whether it’s an extremely hostile environment in Vancouver or a week-long stay in San Jose, they’ve shown the proper dedication and respect the playoffs demand.
Mario Kart: The Hawks aren’t the first team to bond on the road, but there can’t be many that have done it better. From Finland, to an eight-game road trip, to a week in San Jose, there has been plenty of time for bonding and sometimes fighting. But just like real brothers, none of it extends beyond the moment or the next Wii contest. If it takes wrestling matches, video games, and championship belts -- to keep guys engaged -- then so be it. Bottom line: this team likes to win and have fun on the road. They’ve done both this postseason.