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Thursday, November 17, 2011
Hawks turn the tables on Vancouver

VANCOUVER -- The Chicago Blackhawks turned the tables on the Vancouver Canucks in a 5-1 victory Wednesday, playing out Joel Quenneville’s gameplan to near perfection.

“It’s a great way to start the trip,” Quenneville said afterwards. “A lot of good things happened tonight. It was a complete team win. We’re very happy with it.”

As well the coach should be. It’s hard to pick the most impressive aspect of the Hawks' fourth-consecutive victory. Staying out of the penalty box is probably near the top of the list. Just 10 days after scoring five power-play goals in beating the Hawks in Chicago, Vancouver didn’t have a single power play attempt in their own building.

“Discipline was the biggest thing we wanted to talk about tonight,” Quenneville said of pregame instructions.

Marian Hossa and Bryan Bickell took penalties, but so did their counterparts on Vancouver at the same time. Ironically, Dan Carcillo was called for slashing but it was at the 20-minute mark of the third period. That power play doesn’t carry over.

“They capitalized on a lot of their chances last game we played against them,” Duncan Keith said. “That was a huge part of the game so for us to be disciplined like we were tonight, it was a good job.”

No power-play attempts against? Check. How about the Hawks' own man advantage tries?

Their first two attempts came with the Hawks down 1-0 in the second period. Two scores later, the Hawks had control of the game. But it was the first tally that shifted the momentum. And once again it was the second unit that ignited the scoring. Steve Montador feathered a pass to Marcus Kruger who set up Andrew Brunette for a one-timer.

“Big goal by Bruno,” Jonathan Toews said. “Great play by Monty and Kruges to get us on the board and get us going.”

Not to be outdone, the first unit scored five minutes later and the Hawks never looked back. Six power-play goals in the last four games has changed the entire mood when the Hawks go on the man advantage. They claimed the goals would come and finally they have.

“We’ve been saying that for a long time,” Toews stated. “It’s just a matter of time. We have players on both units that can make plays. We can’t panic and go crazy when it’s not working.”

So discipline was achieved and power-play scores set the tone for the second half of the game. What else? How about no let-up as the Hawks pulled away in the third period. It was 2-1 with 7:20 left.

“We’re coming off two really good third periods with the lead,” Quenneville said. “Couple of things we stressed tonight, we really like how they followed.”

The Hawks' Achilles' heel a year ago was giving up leads and ties in the final 20 minutes, it’s been a complete 180 this year. The Hawks have outscored their opposition 22-12 in the third period this season.

So a disciplined game, which included power play scores and a third period where the Hawks kept the pedal down was all they needed, right?

Add playing without a key defenseman to the mix. Brent Seabrook’s absence caused some scrambling in the first period, but the Hawks hung in there.

“We were going through a few different pairings,” Keith said.

That’s an understatement. Hawks’ blue-liners were jumping back and forth trying to find the right match-up. Once they did they settled down.

“When we did get in trouble we tried to play smart and not make it worse than it was,” Toews said.

Maybe it wasn’t a perfect game but with all those things stacking up in the Hawks favor, it was close enough. And the roll they’re on continues.

“We’re just happy to pay them back a little bit for what they did to us in our own barn,” Toews stated.

Pay back indeed.