Surprising trio ignites Hawks' PP

January, 12, 2012
1/12/12
11:28
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Everyone knew at the start of the year if the Chicago Blackhawks were having power play problems they could count on Dave Bolland, Jimmy Hayes and Steve Montador to break the slump, right?

[+] EnlargeJimmy Hayes
Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty ImagesHawks rookie Jimmy Hayes had made an instant impact.

They did just that as the former two players assisted on each other’s goals in the second period to break open a close game and propel the Hawks to a 5-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday.

“We’re out there just to shoot pucks and to get pucks to the net,” Montador said. “We’re not going to make the plays that those guys make and we don’t care and we don’t have to.”

Montador is referring to the first power-play unit that contains more star power in the form of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa. But they tend to look for the pretty play while the second unit is more direct, starting with big Jimmy Hayes standing in front of the net.

“He’s a guy that we need there in front,” Bolland said. “He’s causing a lot of havoc. He’s got a good stick. All I had to do was put it in front and he had to bury it.”

Bolland was behind the Minnesota net when he saw Hayes standing in front of the goalie, waiting for the pass. Hayes is hard to miss.

“That’s where I belong, in front of the net,” Hayes said. “That’s what they want me to do so that’s where I have to be.”

Three goals in seven games is going to earn Hayes more time on the power play and elsewhere.

“Just trying to play hard here and cash in on my opportunities,” he said.

In his postgame press conference, a reporter brought up the “B” word, to Joel Quenneville. As in [Dustin] Byfuglien, the former Hawk who excelled in slot/crease presence. Is Hayes reminding people of Byfuglien? The Hawks have been looking for his replacement since Byfuglien was traded in the summer of 2010.

“Hayes has got comparable size [to Byfuglien], and around the net that disruption and disturbing the goalie is what it’s all about,” Quenneville said. “I thought having a net-front presence is something that, when your power-play is struggling, ugly goals are what we’re looking for, and we got one of them like that.”

It’s still too early to say for sure Hayes is going to be that guy in the middle come the postseason. But his hockey IQ, along with his monster size, has him ahead of the game already.

“We know he’s huge,” Montador said. “He has a presence of mind of someone that’s in tune with where he needs to be. It’s good on him and obviously helps us out.”

It did on Thursday.

Slappers

• Again Joel Quenneville praised his young players. Andrew Shaw also scored to go along with Hayes’ two points.

“I thought [Shaw] was very good, dangerous off the rush, smart, keeps himself in the play, quick stick, protects the puck,” Quenneville said. “We’ve got number problems, we’ve got roster problems, [Marcus Kruger] looks like he could be back here, playing on the weekend, so we’ll have to look at some options here, but we’re right at the roster limit.”

Viktor Stalberg set a career high with his 13th goal.

Andrew Brunette earned an assist on the first power play goal. The Hawks are 16-1 this year when Brunette tallies a point.

Jesse Rogers | email

Chicago Cubs beat reporter
Jesse joined ESPN Chicago in September 2009 and covers the Chicago Cubs for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN Radio 1000.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Patrick Sharp
PTS GOALS AST +/-
4 2 2 0
OTHER LEADERS
GoalsP. Sharp 2
AssistsJ. Toews 3
+/-J. Oduya 5
GAAC. Crawford 1.66