Hawks head West in high gear

CHICAGO -- It’s often said the start of a long road trip begins with the final home game. Add two nice road wins this week to a 6-3 home victory over Edmonton on Sunday and the Chicago Blackhawks are--all of a sudden--rolling.

“You want to respond well,” defenseman Steve Montador said after the game. “There are going to be bumps in the road. That’s just part of a long season. I sound like a typical hockey player saying that but at the same time it shows some character and strength we have in this dressing room that we can come home and bear down when we need to. I think it’s a good setting to go on the road.”

Montador is pumped because he’s been on fire. He scored two goals on Sunday -- as did Jonathan Toews -- after scoring his first as a Hawk on Thursday. In fact the entire defense is on fire, igniting the current three-game win streak. The blue-line has accounted for six goals in the past three games after netting two in the first 15.

“Great response to two really tough games,” Joel Quenneville said of recent losses to Vancouver and St. Louis. “The D [defense] are a big part of the attack, and the offense, and the results have been showing. Whether they do it [on the scoresheet] or not we need that for the overall team game.”

Make no mistake the defense providing the transition offense has transformed this team in a matter of days. Two bad losses -- and three overall --are a distant memory.

“It’s good to come back [from losing streak] but obviously you don’t want to lose a string of games like we did but we were able to battle back and now we just have to run with this momentum and bring it into the next game,” goalie Corey Crawford said.

The Hawks played it perfect on Sunday, and it wasn’t against an also-ran of the league. The Oilers may or may not be there come playoff time, but they were off to a hot start, especially goalie Nikolai Khabibulin. That came to an abrupt halt on Sunday. The Hawks scored early, forcing the Oilers to play from behind and that’s the formula any team wants.

“We can get offensive chances off of them trying to try things out there,” Toews said of playing with a lead. “We got that. Whereas we have a lead going into the third period whether it’s at home or on the road, our style of play doesn’t change.”

Toews said it’s the big difference between last year and this one. The style doesn’t change in the third period and there is no panic in a close affair.

“It’s great for everyone’s confidence,” Toews continued. “It’s great for our team’s confidence to see different guys score. It really doesn’t matter to anybody who scores the goals on any given night as long as we find a way.”

From a sluggish three-game skid to a dominant three game winning streak during one of the busiest stretches of the season. Impressive is the word that comes to mind. And now the circus comes to town.

“We’re going on the road for two weeks so you want to win the last game at home to gain some momentum to go into the road trip,” Crawford said.

Mission accomplished.