COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Steve Montador will steal headlines for achieving a rare Gordie Howe hat trick and people will talk about the revival of the power play. But make no mistake, the key to the Chicago Blackhawks 6-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets Thursday night was their defense playing offense.
In their heyday (2009-2010), the Hawks were a transition team that devastated opponents with a fast moving defense-to-offense attack. Thursday was a throwback to those days as the six blue-liners accumulated eight combined points in the win.
“I think that makes a big difference when we’re part of the attack,” Duncan Keith said afterwards. “Just part of the play and things like that. It alleviates some of the pressure on our forwards as far as giving them some room. All the defense was better at that tonight.”
Keith included. He assisted on Montador’s goal with a pass from the corner to the slot and was aggressive in going down low instead of hanging out at the point.
On both of Jonathan Toews’ goals, the primary assist came from a defenseman. First, Brent Seabrook went below the goal line before putting one on net for Toews to rebound then Nick Leddy performed what is becoming a patented rush up-ice and then dished to Toews, who scored off the wing.
“It’s one thing for the defense to carry it up the ice and be more active,” Toews explained. “As forwards we knew we had to be more active and get open through the neutral zone so we gave them options tonight. It makes their jobs easier.”
No one knows if this kind of play from the Hawks' blue line will continue. Afterall, the Blue Jackets aren’t the best measuring stick but players like Keith, Seabrook and Hjalmarsson needed a confidence boost. They got it.
Coming into the game, the six defensemen who dressed for the night combined for 21 points through 15 games. Thursday, they had eight in one.
“I thought our defense was very noticeable tonight into the play," Quenneville said. "Coming out of our zone into the offensive zone. We led to goals because the defense was activated. I thought the defense spearheaded the attack.”
They carried the puck, pinched in to keep plays alive and were arguably more aggressive than in the previous 15 games combined. It made that big of a difference and could be a turning point for the team if it continues.