Defense paves way for rout of Sabres

CHICAGO -- It might get lost in the shuffle of the Chicago Blackhawks' 6-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday, but the key to the win wasn’t just rookies Andrew Shaw and Jimmy Hayes. Nor was it the goal-scoring prowess of Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.

None of those players earn their goals without the play of the Hawks’ defense. The blue-line was spectacular, especially igniting the offense.

“Our defense, across the board, [I] thought it was one of our better games all year,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I thought they were very active in the attack.”

That’s high praise and needed. The Hawks have been maligned, at times, on the back end, giving up big goal totals while not always producing at the offensive end of the ice. On Wednesday, a good defense started with a good offense.

“The lanes were there, and we were able to get our shot on net and we had some traffic in front, so it’s a good job by the defense to get our shots through,” Duncan Keith said.

That was especially true on the power play. Keith had a helper on Shaw’s continuation goal just after a power play expired. Then Brent Seabrook blasted one that Toews put back in on their next power-play attempt.

“I thought both units moved it around, good shots today,” Keith said. “The lanes were there. Good job by the defense to get open and guys to get in front of the net.”

But it wasn’t just the power play where the defense excelled. Instead of taking the safe play, Niklas Hjalmarsson fired a pass up ice to Andrew Brunette who found Hayes for his score. Before that, Keith whirled around and headed toward the Buffalo zone to ignite the Hossa tally. That’s Blackhawks’ hockey at it’s best. Defense to offense as quick as lightning. Five of six defenders had points in the game.

“I thought our ‘D’ had a strong night,” Quenneville said.

That sums it up and is the real reason the Hawks blew out the Sabres.


• The Hawks had a goal disallowed late in the second period after the referees determined Shaw had used his hand to pass the puck to Marcus Kruger who slammed it home. Replays showed Shaw may have put the puck to his stick before it got to Kruger. “I knew I got a piece of it,” Shaw said. “We tried to explain that to him but he was more worried about blowing it dead because of the hand pass not because the puck went into the net.”

•Toews earned his fifth multi-goal game of the season and ranks second in the league with 26 goals. He also led the team in shots with six and won 65 percent of his face-offs.

•Shaw led the Hawks in points (tied), hits (4), was second in shots (4) and played the second-most minutes among forwards.