The Blackhawks played last night at the U.C. in another “Great 6 o’clock games” against division rival Minnesota, with whom they were tied in the standings.
Plenty of positives to take away in this one as it pertains to both collective and individual efforts, but a few are especially noteworthy. My first note is that Corey Crawford has become an absolute machine. Seriously, can you recall a time in recent memory when the Hawks had a more dependable goaltender? Excluding some untimely injury issues, Crow has really found himself between the pipes. He is always square to the puck, is spot-on as far as the ideal depth in his net, and has his rebound control looking the best it ever has. He is far and away the most valuable player on this team so far.
Nick Schmaltz gets some praise in this one as well. Throughout this winning streak the ‘Hawks have put together, I’ve noticed that they are doing a much better job using all 85 feet when passing East/West. Schmaltz had the vision and the awareness to blow the play wide open with a home-run pass to Kaner for the first goal, even my eyes were sucked into the corner when he fed that one all the way across.
The Hawks collectively as a team transitioned well in this one. When they were able to force turnovers they were quick to gain numbers on the counter-attack. They played a rush-oriented offense that is innately less predictable than the boring perimeter passing we were getting for a lot of November and earlier this month.
Next, how about Jordan Oesterle? He’s a +4 in 8 games played so far and looked super competent and poised with the puck tonight. He made a great play midway through the second when he was able to kick stick-to-puck on a keep in at the blue line all while setting himself up in the slot for a one-timer that caught the inside of the pipe. Aside from that, he had that heads-up 80 foot saucebomb to spring Kaner on a breakaway that led to the Hawks’ second goal. That one was reminiscent of 2010 Brent Seabrook.
Ryan Hartman looked strong as well. He’s at his best when he’s lowering a shoulder muscling his way towards the net. Beautiful finish on that goal.
Could all not be lost with this team? It’s hard to say at this point. It’s nice to see them making formal adjustments in practice that are translating into sharper play, but the jury is still out on whether or not they have the horses to make a deep run. One thing is for sure though, should they continue to play well, Stan Bowman will inevitably become yet again a buyer in a seller’s market come the deadline.