Quick starts putting Hawks on right path
March, 18, 2012
By Jesse Rogers | ESPNChicago.com
CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane wasn’t even asked about the beginning to his team’s 5-2 win over the Washington Capitals on Sunday night. He brought it up on his own after being asked about the Hawks’ recent hot play.
“It’s kind of attributed to our starts,” he said. “Getting up 2-0 in games really helps, especially where we were the last couple games before that. We had to play from behind a lot. It takes a lot of strength and effort to come back in those games. It’s nice to get a lead and hold onto it.”
For the second straight game the Hawks were up 2-0 very early in the night and it set the tone for the rest of the game. That’s a departure from recent play when the Hawks were caught scrambling to recover. Not anymore.
Bill Smith/NHLI/Getty ImagesViktor Stalberg's first-period goal put the Blackhawks ahead by two on Sunday.
“If you would [have seen] me hammering away in the three home games prior to Dallas and the last game you might say ‘OK,’” coach Joel Quenneville explained of the Hawks’ improved early play. “It was a broken record. A lot of nights the starts are instrumental to the outcome.”
That they are. Statistics prove it. If you lead after the first period in the NHL, you’re winning most of those games. The Hawks are 19-2-2 when that happens and now 22-7-2 when scoring the first goal.
“It’s nice to get an early lead and shut a team down like that,” Andrew Shaw said.
Kane and Shaw were dynamic. They accounted for three goals and four points but it was the beginning of the game that should have fans excited. Just as they did in Dallas two nights earlier, the Hawks showed a playoff style by taking charge early.
“A team you’re not familiar with, you don’t want to sit there and watch and see how they’re going to play,” Quenneville said of the Eastern Conference’s Capitals. “You want to try and initiate. I thought we had another good start.”
“Initiate.” “Impose their will.” “Dictate the pace.” Those phrases have been used more often than not in describing the Hawks’ play of late. They improved to 8-4-1 without Jonathan Toews in the lineup. Considering what he means and what’s at stake, has there been a more impressive stretch of hockey this season?
“It’s fun to win,” Kane said. “No matter how you do it, it’s still fun either way. In some games we didn’t play our best. Tonight we had a strong game from everyone.”
And because of it the Hawks can start to at least think of moving up from the No. 6 seed. Especially with starts like they’ve had this weekend.
“We’re playing great team hockey and playing really hard out there,” Shaw said.
Right from the puck drop. That’s winning hockey.