Blackhawks defense finally figuring it out

February, 21, 2012
2/21/12
10:52
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Who knows why it’s happening now, but Chicago Blackhawks' fans must be happy about it. The Hawks played another tight, defensive game in beating their arch-rival, the Detroit Red Wings, 2-1 on Tuesday.

It’s the Hawks’ fourth straight win and, more importantly, it’s their third consecutive game giving up less than two goals. That’s the first time they’ve done that all season.

“This is playoff hockey,” Brent Seabrook said afterwards. “After that streak we really put ourselves in a hole. This is the kind of hockey we have to play. It’s good to see.”

“That streak”, of course, is the nine games in a row the Hawks lost preceding this run. It’s quickly becoming a distant memory.

[+] EnlargeBrent Seabrook
Bill Smith/NHLI/Getty ImagesBrent Seabrook and the Blackhawks have picked up their defense.
“We definitely learned a lot,” Seabrook continued. “We had to start playing the right way. We were working on it but it wasn’t coming together as we liked but it was nice. You can see the rewards now.”

The Hawks and Wings bring out the best in each other. They’ve played four games this season, splitting two apiece. All have been one-goal affairs. And all have felt like a playoff game.

“It’s a fun game,” Seabrook said. “They’re a great team. They play the game the right way.”

As for the Hawks’ stellar play on defense, some things don’t make sense. Taking almost 60 games to understand that tight defense wins games, especially when a power play is dry or you’re missing key players, is one of those things. But at least the Hawks are learning it now instead of when it’s too late.

“We checked [played defense] well,” Joel Quenneville said. “Even at 1-1 or down 1-0. We had a purpose to our team game. We had some smartness to our positions in all zones. We managed that puck pretty efficiently tonight.”

Make no mistake, this is a key to what the Hawks have learned. Getting down a goal or two in a game doesn’t mean they need to abandon anything on defense. It’s the whole idea of “sticking with it.” Coaches say it all the time. Players don’t always follow.

“That’s another good game for us to play,” Corey Crawford said. “We’re down for most of it but we just keep playing our game. Not trying to do too much to get back in it. Making the plays that we should and eventually we tie it up. That’s the way we have to continue to play.”

Crawford has been in net for all four wins and is finding his game after some rough stretches. It doesn’t hurt that the defense in front of him has been better.

“The last 10 minutes of that game, they barely had anything,” a beaming Crawford said.

And all this great defensive play came without Jonathan Toews or the Wings’ Pavel Datsyuk for that matter. Those are two Selke Trophy candidates. But the Hawks have learned it’s not individuals but the team that will determine how many goals they give up. They’re finally playing as one.

“That’s how we have to play,” Seabrook said a second time. “We know that now.”

Everyone does.

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 +/-
78 34 44 13
OTHER LEADERS
GoalsP. Sharp 34
AssistsD. Keith 55
+/-M. Hossa 28
GAAC. Crawford 2.26