ST. PAUL, Minn. – It’s scary, but the Chicago Blackhawks don’t feel like they’re playing their best hockey yet.
Despite notching their fifth win in a row on Monday night, 4-2 over the Minnesota Wild, and recording points in nine of their last ten games, they believe there is another level to achieve.
“We don’t even feel like we’re on a hot streak right now,” Jonathan Toews said after the game.
Really? For 40 minutes the Hawks played near-perfect hockey.
“I would say we are getting there,” Tomas Kopecky said. “We still have a lot to improve, especially when we get the lead. We need to learn how to play that type of game.”
He’s right about that, but surely this is the best the Hawks have played all season.
“We’re committed to how we have to play,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We have more urgency across the board in our team game as well. There’s some things we can’t be happy about leaving this game, but obviously the two points is the best part.”
That’s something no one would disagree with.
Dominant Toews: Toews’ three points on Monday gave him 11 in his last six games. He’s been the most dominant player on the ice nearly every night in the Hawks’ recent run.
“He’s been great,” Quenneville said. “You can look back over the last month or so. He’s been a force, dominating all aspects and areas of the game. Huge goal at the end. Great patience.”
Toews is finishing and playmaking all at the same time. Its arguably one of his better stretches as a pro.
Line balance:The Hawks seem to have found what they were looking for in their offensive lines. A chemistry experiment all season, there is better balance and production than at any point this year.
“All four lines are bringing something when they are out there,” Toews said. “No one is playing huge minutes up front, that makes it a lot easier for some of our offensive guys to go out there and really use their speed and keep their energy, especially late in games.”
“I like the other lines,” Quenneville said. “We’re sustaining the momentum of the game. They’ve been doing good things offensively and defensively and we like the balance of our group.”
Scott returns:: John Scott, called into action on defense for the first time since early in the season, held his own in limited minutes by playing it simple.
“I wasn’t going to do anything crazy,” Scott said. “I was just getting the puck off my stick and moving it to the forwards and go from there. I was a little rusty. I played all right. I felt good.”
Scott, who played only 4:20, came to the defense of teammate Brian Campbell after Campbell was illegally checked by Brad Staubitz while touching up for icing. Scott beat up Staubitz, but was called for instigating.
“The referee came up to me and said ‘I have to call that,’” Scott explained. “He didn’t want to, but he has to. It was a really late hit [by Staubitz]. Had to stick up for my teammates. I told him, ‘You can’t be doing that. You’re going to hurt somebody.’”
“I had a little mind-blank,” Leddy said. “When I realized it, it was too late.”
Niklas Hjalmarsson played only 14:59 and spent no time on the penalty kill. He’s nursing an injury near his hand. He was nearly declared out for Sunday’s game against Phoenix but managed to finish both games.
Sharp rebounded from a one-shot-on-goal game on Sunday to finish with a team high five, including his 33rd goal. His career high is 36.