After suffering disappointing and bad losses to the Lightning and Wild in consecutive games, the Blackhawks got back on track last night with a 5-1 victory in Minnesota over the Wild. It took the Hawks a couple periods to really get going, but the end result was very satisfying. After two periods the Blackhawks led by a score of 3-1, and everyone was anxious to see if they could finally pull away from their opponent and seal the deal in the third period. Well, they did, and they did it with an exclamation point.
Sharp, Brookbank, and Leddy accounted for the Hawks’ first three goals last night, with Leddy’s coming on the powerplay. Then just under three minutes into the third, Brandon Saad pulled of a beautiful spin-o-rama, behind the back pass to Patrick Kane that resulted in a tap in goal for Kane. Easily the prettiest goal of the year up to this point for the Blackhawks. About six minutes after that, it was Brandon Saad again, this time scoring his own highlight reel goal after receiving a perfect pass from Duncan Keith. This put the Hawks up 5-1, and it remained that way for the rest of the game.
So here are my observations from last night’s game:
- Brandon Saad is without a doubt a top six forward on this team. He’s got all kinds of skill, he’s smart, and he is responsible defensively. Looks like he and Kane have developed some chemistry together as well, which never hurts.
- Brandon Pirri finally got his first crack at centering the second line with Michal Handzus scratched for the game. I’ve been calling on Quenneville to make this move for a while now, and finally it happened. Pirri finished the game with two assists (all three players on that line had two points in the game), and now has 5 points in 7 games since being brought up to the NHL.
- Sheldon Brookbank is making a strong case to be the Blackhawks’ number six defenseman. This is three games in a row now that he has played really, really well. His goal last night didn’t hurt either.
- Corey Crawford had a nice bounce back game after giving up 5 goals to the Wild on Saturday night. He really made some big stops through the first two periods to keep the game close.
- The powerplay scored again. I believe that’s five straight games now with a powerplay goal. Compare that to last season, and I’ll take it. There are still times when they don’t shoot enough, but last night was better.
- Sharp finally scored. He’s got just two goals on the year now, but maybe last night’s goal will get him going. He seems to be a streaky scorer based on his past.
If the Hawks can figure out how to play every game like they did last night, then they should be just fine moving forward.
Getting back to Brandon Pirri, I don’t think it’s any coincidence that as soon as he joined the second line, all three forwards had a great game and totaled six points combined. Michal Handzus, love him or hate him, is not a second line center, especially on this team. He is way too old and slow and doesn’t have the skill. He is good for winning faceoffs and that’s pretty much it. I honestly don’t see a place for him on this team on a nightly basis. He might be okay as a “plug-in” player who might play every 4 games or so, but he’s not good enough to play every game as the Hawks had hoped coming into this season. Guys like Pirri, Smith, and Morin should not be taken out of the lineup to make room for ‘Zus.
Speaking of Jeremy Morin, he has looked really good since being recalled prior to Saturday night’s game. He has really improved his game since last season and looks like he’s here to stay. Brad Mills has also looked good in his first two games with the Hawks. Looks like he may have found a home on the PK with Marcus Kruger.
Tonight, the Blackhawks take on the Senators at the UC. Ottawa is 3-5-2 in their last ten games and has struggled here in the early part of the season. I’m expecting a Hawks’ victory tonight.
That’s all for now.