Maybe there is some life in the Chicago Blackhawks. Playing without Jonathan Toews, against a hot team and goaltender, they skated their way to a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators on Friday -- and it could have been a lot worse for the Senators.
“I said to the guys after the game I think it’s our biggest win,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville told reporters. “It’s exactly what we wanted tonight. We had everybody going. We had short shifts, we had good energy, we had purpose. And we needed a great start to this trip and that’s the type of game we wanted. It was a great game by us. You look back over the year -- I said biggest win -- that may have been our best game.”
That’s high praise from the Hawks coach but it comes well-deserved, especially for Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Andrew Brunette. With five rookies in the lineup, these are the veterans that need to step up, especially on the road and in the absence of Toews. And for the second straight game, Kane, in particular, was flying.
“They missed some A-plus, plus, plus chances,” Quenneville said. “You have to love their puck possession, their threat off the rush, their in-zone possession. It was a dangerous line two games in a row for us. Kane has been tremendous in these games as well.”
Kane dazzled with his passing, finding Brunette on the doorstep several times and earning a break-away chance as well. The lack of finish didn’t come back to bite them, which means the scoring chances should simply increase their confidence heading into Detroit and St. Louis.
There is little doubt both Toronto and Ottawa allowed the Hawks to play their style, but give the Hawks credit for imposing their will. They may not be able to play it wide-open as they head back to tighter Central Division play, but this is about confidence. The Hawks showed they can take it to a team after having it taken to them too many times since the All-Star break.
Quenneville is right. It’s a big win.
And then there is Ray Emery. He may have just secured his short-term future as the Hawks’ No. 1 goaltender. He gave up a meaningless goal in two periods of work on Wednesday against Toronto and just one in three periods of play against Ottawa. He saved 25 overall on Friday.
“Not an easy task for him today, going into his old building here,” Quenneville said of the former Senator. “I think he made some key saves right to the end.”
He did, just as he did on Wednesday. Emery is proving to be his best at the most crucial of times. It’s exactly the kind of performance the Hawks need.
As they tighten up on defense they’re bound to be involved in some close games. Crunch time is when a goalie is needed most. The opponent will take chances and add a man to the attack. That man is the one Emery has to stop. He did it several times as the Senators had middle-of-the-ice looks, but with no luck.
The Hawks dominated the game despite winning only 29 percent of their faceoffs. Dave Bolland was just 4 of 14.
Patrick Sharp had two assists, but missed on a penalty shot in the second period.
Ottawa goalie Robin Lehner stopped 37 of 29 shots to keep the Senators in it. He was most impressive in a 17-save first period.