Hawks Getting Better and Get Their First "W"
There are a lot of positive trends happening in Hawks-land.
It has taken some time but this was to be expected after the training camp, travel and schedule that the Hawks were handed to begin this 2019-20 season.
Chicago took a tough OT loss on Saturday to the Winnipeg Jets, however, they played well enough to win.
The Hawks were able to learn and build off some of that momentum as they secured their first win of the season last night. The 3-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers was an impressive one as they Oil can into the United Centre undefeated.
There has been a lot of fans living on the edge to begin this season. There has also been a lot of negative vibes out there on the Twitter-sphere and on the message boards, so I'm here to offer optimism on this post-Thanksgiving (Canadian, eh) blog.
The Hawks have had back-to-back solid goaltending performances. If they are to win close games, both Crawford and Lehner have to be above-average. It's just the reality of how this team is built.
Lehner had a strong opening game as he began his time in Chicago. While he deserved a better fate, his play was encouraging.
Crawford was outstanding last night. I really thought he was going to get his first shutout since March, but a late James Neal (c'mon James Neal you're not this good) tally spoiled the SO party.
Crawford was particularly good in the 1st period when the Hawks needed him to keep them in the game.
The Hawks coaching staff were seeing a troubling trend with their team's 2nd periods. So Colliton made the team watch successful middle frames from last year as they lead into last night's game. It worked.
The Hawks 2nd period was great and really set them up to win.
What else am I liking?
Brandon Saad comes to mind. He's playing out of his mind and it was great to see him get the empty netter last night. He was finally rewarded by Colliton as well with 16+ mins TOI. The way he and that 3rd line are playing, he needs to be closer to this amount every night.
The Andrew Shaw trade this summer was met with mixed reviews. I, for one, was thrilled when I heard it.
Do you remember this happening in any game last year?
I'm struggling to recall any time in the last couple of years that the Hawks had a human being capable of sparking the team with hits like this.
Shaw has the ability to sway energy in the entire building (including on his own bench) and this move by Bowman could pay off huge if the Hawks perform well this year.
Patrick Kane scored… it's always good to get him going. Now if he can tell Toews on how he did it – sorry… this is a positive blog. I'm sending you good vibes Johnny.
I have to give Alex Nylander a shout out too. He only played 9 shifts for a total of 8:20 TOI. In that time, he scored the GWG. That's how you make the best of your 4th line ice time. Will he stay there or move back up?
This list could go on-and-on but I'm going to wrap this up. The last thing I want to call out is the defence – all of them.
The last couple of games after Colliton shifted the pairings to Keith-Murphy, Maatta-Seabrook and de Haan-Gustafsson the Hawks have tightened up the team defensive play immensely.
I think it is a combination of things, but inserting Calvin de Haan definitely has helped. Also, Erik Gustafsson is going back to school on a 3rd line pairing. He kept it simple last game and looked much better. If he can still contribute on the power play, I think this is where he lives this year. He may not score 60 points again but the Hawks might not need him too if they can do a better job keeping the puck out of the net.
Overall, the Hawks have been more physical (36 hits last game, what gives?) and harder to play against. Let's hope they have "figured it out" and can keep this up.
Because this schedule is awesome, the Blackhawks don't play until Friday vs. Columbus.
I will be back tomorrow to discuss Kirby Dach updates and Rockford's 0-3-0 start to their season. This is a positivity blog so let's not go there today.
See ya out there!