As the losses started to mount in the Chicago Blackhawks' recent losing streak, so did the whispers about their core players. What’s happened to Marian Hossa since the All-Star break? Are Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp still hurting? And the Internet’s favorite, should the Hawks trade Patrick Kane?
As the streak ended, so did their lackluster play. It’s a good bet one had something to do with the other.
Chicago's stars were all over the boxscore in the Hawks' 6-1 win over Columbus on Saturday, their second straight after nine consecutive losses.
“It's huge to snap that losing streak but to come back with a win like we did today, I’d say it was even bigger,” Jonathan Toews told reporters after the game.
Like he did in New York on Thursday, Toews opened the scoring for the Hawks with a bull rush around forward Jeff Carter who was playing defense at the time. That goal ignited the team, but not before a lackluster start. The Hawks got down 1-0 on a Sami Lepisto turnover. Their response was key.
“We got better as the game went along,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Johnny’s goal helped us again tonight and we took off from there. We had an ordinary start ... but we responded after that.”
It’s an important point. Though the losing streak is over, some fragile feelings might still linger. Even against Columbus, which has actually been playing better lately, getting down 1-0 could have made for a long afternoon. The team responded as did Corey Crawford, who couldn’t bail out Lepisto after the give-away and score by Derick Brassard.
“It’s good for everyone, especially the goaltender,” Toews said. “When they get one early on the chance we gave up, it’s not the way any of us wants to start the game. Crow [Crawford] bounced back and made some big stops for us. We started playing better in front of him. He was really good.”
Crawford faced double-digit shots in every period, stopping 33 for the game. It’s the first time he’s given up less than two goals since Dec. 26, a span of 15 games.
“I thought he was really good,” Quenneville said. “He was square, he was big. And quick. He responded to that early goal. That was definitely an A-plus chance against him. He really battled back and was solid.”
There’s that word again: response. The Hawks had very few responses for goals against during their losing streak but over the last two games they’ve responded in the right ways, especially early in games so there’s no doubt late. With better defense and solid goaltending and with stars playing their part the Hawks are on mini streak again -- in the right direction this time.
The big four of Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa totaled nine points after doing much of the damage on Thursday against New York. If you consider Crawford as part of the extended core and add Duncan Keith’s plus-4 rating in the game, the key players responded the way the Hawks needed and wanted.
“Not the best start but we responded well,” Kane said.
That word yet again.
• After being benched for a bad turnover which led to the Blue Jackets lone score, Sami Lepisto tallied his first goal as a Blackhawk and first in the NHL since Jan. 15, 2011.
• Defenseman Dylan Olsen tallied his first NHL point, an assist on Viktor Stalberg’s goal in the first period.
• According to the Blackhawks, Stalberg’s eight goals against Columbus are the most by a Hawk against any one team since Jeremy Roenick and Phoenix in 1993-1994.
-• The Hawks finished their longest road trip in franchise history with a 2-6-1 mark. They play three straight at the United Center before their next road contest.