“If he would have lost these two games, it would have felt like we didn’t really deserve to have a break,” Hjalmarsson said.
The Blackhawks instead feel worthy of the All-Star Game break after routing the Arizona Coyotes in Chicago on Tuesday and finding a way to pull out a hard-fought road game in a shootout against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday.
Where the mood in the Blackhawks’ dressing room was dismal after they dropped their second straight home game to a Central Division opponent on Sunday -- leading to a rare team meeting on Monday -- it much lighter and happier Wednesday in Pittsburgh.
“I think these two wins were big for us, especially today on the road,” Hjalmarsson said. “It’s always nice to get two points. At least we battled hard. That’s all that matters really. As soon as all of us start battling and start winning those 1-on-1 battles, I think we’re a tough team to beat. I think that’s what we started to do the last two games.”
The Blackhawks dominated Tuesday’s game against the Coyotes from start to finish. The result wasn’t surprising, as the Blackhawks were motivated and the Coyotes just haven’t been good lately.
The Blackhawks’ real challenge was getting two points out of Wednesday’s game against the Penguins. How they did it wasn’t pretty either. The Penguins had more shots on goal (35-26) and more puck possession (48-43 Corsi). Aside from the line of Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, the Blackhawks rarely created offensive chances.
Despite all that, the Blackhawks were leaving Pittsburgh with two points, and that’s what was important to Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville.
“Playing the right way,” Quenneville said. “Games that are tied in the third period, we got to make sure we get points. You’re not as comfortable as we’ve been in the last few years in that situation, so probably played a little tighter but found a way to get it to overtime.”
Toews insisted the Blackhawks weren’t panicking when they dropped those back-to-back home losses to the Jets and Stars. He had faith they would be able to turn things around. He felt they showed that promise over the last two games.
“Even when things aren’t going so well," Toews said, “we’re good at taking responsibility for it and not kind of dragging our feet around and not dwelling on what we’re not doing and what’s not going our way. We just find ways we can make things better. We showed an example of that in the last two games.”