Rogers: Stars aligning for surging Hawks
January, 23, 2013
By Jesse Rogers
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesThe Blackhawks' stars are playing up to their potential, which has figured into a perfect start.CHICAGO -- Starting 3-0 for the first time since 1972-73 might not be as random as it appears for the Chicago Blackhawks.
After all, with five days of training camp, a West Coast swing, three games in four nights and three playoff caliber opponents it would be hard pressed to find someone who predicted a perfect start.
"We're very happy with the way things began, especially when you start off in the defending Cup team's building (Los Angeles) and got a little momentum against a team (Phoenix) that beat us in the playoffs and a first-place team (St. Louis) last year," coach Joel Quenneville said after a 3-2 win over the Blues on Tuesday night. "I like the focus right off the bat."
And maybe that's the key right there: Focus. Maybe the Hawks' heavy road schedule combined with a bad taste coming off last season is all they needed. That and a little offensive chemistry.
The Hawks have lit up the scoreboard to the tune of 14 goals in three games. That might not happen if not for the fact that all 12 forwards returned from a team that was knocked out in the first round last season. A criticism of general manager Stan Bowman, who some thought should have dealt for some new players, might turn into a positive for this unique season. The roster is mostly the same which means some chemistry must remain. Who's most ready for the 48-game sprint? The Hawks might be at the top of the list.
"It's almost like you win one, alright, think about the next one," Patrick Kane said. "If you keep doing that you're going to have a good recipe for success."
That sounds like Quenneville talking. The coach promised things would be different than last year's maddening second half, and so far they have been.
"The defensive part of our game, the quickness of our four lines ... the importance of special teams we have to have improved over last year," Quenneville rattled off as things that needed to be different and have been so far. "It's been a good start in that area."
The Hawks finally gave up a short-handed goal, but giving up one every three games while scoring once per game on the power play is definitely a recipe for success. Those numbers will go up and down, but at the end of the year, if the Hawks are mid-pack or better in special teams, then a great season will be there for the taking.
"For us, especially," Jonathan Toews said. "We've been very conscientious as a team, we want to play hard right off the bat. We want to remind ourselves why we're winning these games."
The Hawks weren't this focused -- this ‘conscientious' -- last season. How they've gone about their defensive play is the most telling. When the game was being decided in the first two periods on Tuesday night the Hawks outnumbered the Blues in scoring chances three or four to one. They owned the middle of the ice and that defense eventually led to offense -- including a rare 3-on-0 to start the scoring.
Some of the Hawks' turnaround was predictable. It wasn't the role players who were hurting their special teams last season, it was the stars. A return to form was likely and the early returns on the two newcomers -- Sheldon Brookbank and Michael Rozsival -- are pretty good. The only "X" factor is in goal where Corey Crawford is off to a good beginning.
A 3-0 start in 1972-1973 didn't lead to a Stanley Cup title and it remains to be seen if this one will, but it's quickly erased a lot of bad memories -- of poor netminding, bad special teams and a 100-plus-day lockout.
A good start indeed.