Birthday boy, er, man Brandon Saad knows how to celebrate turning 21. He logged a beautiful Spin-o-rama assist and a goal in the Blackhawks’ 5-1 victory against the Wild Monday.
Perhaps fitting for the Minnesota Wild’s every-game-is-Christmas-and-every-player-an-elf sweaters, I used my Blackhawks wish list as a guide for Monday’s rematch game.
- Shots. Get the puck on net. There are no flair points in the NHL. Shoot, shoot, shoot. It doesn’t matter who the goalie is, with enough shots, eventually some pucks will slip by him. Patrick Sharp is trying. He’s in the top 15 of the league with 45 shots on goal this season, but he’s only managed to score once. Bryan Bickell has scored four in four games after a slow start. They haven’t all been pretty, but he’s been shooting.
The Hawks had 27 shots to the Wild’s 30. Honestly, I’d like to see even more. However, players were there for rebounds. They were firing from the blue line. When they had they puck, they were shooting it, making this the among their highest-scoring games this season–with the widest margin. Saad had four shots, with one goal and one assist. Kane had three shots, with one goal and one assist. Sharp broke his slump to score a goal.
- Power Play POWER. This has been problematic for the past few seasons. They managed to get by in spite of a poor Power Play showing last year. But with an inability to maintain leads this year, they need to capitalize on every advantage. Saturday’s Power Play was one for seven.
Nick Leddy scored while the Wild’s Marco Scandella served a holding penalty in the second period, making a Power Play play!
- Penalty Killing. Last in the league?! Again, last year, the Hawks could score goals down a man. The Wild Saturday scored five seconds into their Power Play. They Blackhawks have allowed two that early into the Penalty Kill. Three others came less than 36 into the PK. Now they can’t win faceoffs, they can’t get control of the puck, and they aren’t giving their goalie any help.
No PK goals Monday night. The Hawks helped Crawford’s fantastic game by protecting their net, even when shorthanded.
- Not getting bad penalties to begin with… Toews has served 12 penalty minutes this season. Marian Hossa, another successful penalty killer, has served plenty of time in the box as well. He had two penalties Saturday. And many of the team’s shorthanded minutes are the result of lazy plays–hooks, high sticks, trips. They need to play smarter and with more speed.
The Blackhawks and Wild were evenly-matched at six penalties Monday. Chicago was called for holding, interference, unsportsmanlike conduct, and a game misconduct. While fewer would be preferred, they weren’t taking as many desperation or lazy penalties.
- Star Power. Patrick Kane has scored six goals so far this season, but is currently a -9, the lowest on the team. The team’s captain is racking penalty minutes and losing faceoffs.
Patrick Sharp scored the lone goal of the first period at 17:33 to give Chicago a 1-0 lead. The goal, Sharp’s second of the year, snapped a personal five-game goal drought. Kane tallied a goal and an assist.
- Chemistry. They need to get in the swing of things. The Hawks are missing passes, not seeing each other, and looking sloppy. All that said, this isn’t a 48-game season. There’s time to get it together.
Saad, Kane, and Brandon Pirri had a stellar game playing on the second line together.
“We’ve had a couple of shifts together this year, a couple looks, but to play a full game, that’s the first time,” Saad said. “Communication was huge. We got each other the puck and played well.
“It’s a different look for our team. [We] had never been together, and we jelled well. That’s big for our team.”
With Saad, Kane, Leddy, Brookbank, and Sharp all lighting the lamp Saturday, and Bickell scoring a goal in each of the four previous games, it’s apparent the skill set is available. It just needs to come out–and stay out for all 60 minutes (or more) of play.”In all zones, in all areas, we didn’t play like we did the other day,” said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. “I thought we were very loose in our last couple, three games, and I thought the approach today was good and the consistency was what we were looking for in our team game. I thought we may have had the most consistent game we’ve had.”Hopefully they’ll keep this up. They’re back home tonight (Tuesday) against the Ottawa Senators and off to Winnipeg Saturday to take on the Jets.