Although yesterday's opponent featured two prominent members of the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks, the 2013-14 Winnipeg Jets will likely never be confused with any of the great teams in hockey history. That said, the Blackhawks played a very strong game yesterday, pretty much firing on all cylinders, in dispatching the Jets 5-1 at the MTS Centre.
The Hawks got goals off two bombs from Niklas Hjalmarsson and Nick Leddy respectively, the latter on a textbook screen by Bryan Bickell. While the Hawks' first and second lines were both strong, the third and fourth lines were outstanding.
And although he failed to make premier, deuxieme or troisieme etoile, I'll throw a name out as a star in this game: Marcus Kruger. 2 assists, team-leading +3 and 11-4 in the faceoff dot. Kruger appears to be utilizing a lower grip with his bottom hand on his stick to positive effect on faceoffs.
Another deserving party: Corey Crawford, who made a number of outstanding saves, especially in the first period, where the Jets played pretty competitively.
The lines look good. Players like Marian Hossa and Bickell appear to be finding their legs after playoff injuries in the Spring—both looked very strong in this game.
For perspective's sake, this is the kind of game that the league's top teams win in this fashion. Business-like, dominant, and resistant to any kind of effect of playing on the road.
But it is not the yardstick of a great club. The Hawks' record stands at 9-2-3, strong by any measure. But they have yet to beat the St. Louis Blues or face the upstart Colorado Avalanche, a team that's given Chicago problems in the past.
Yesterday's game has to be seen as part of an overall, though not completely consistent, trend of improvement in the Hawks' play since the beginning of the season. But the process continues with greater tests looming on the horizon.
That's all for now, the Hawks face the Flames at home tonight. And I'll be back with a recap tonight or early tomorrow. In the meantime, check out Central Cast today at noon Eastern:
Host and Leaf's blogger Mike Augello will lead myself, Jet's blogger Pete Tessier and other Central Division scribes in what is typically a spirited and informative discussion of all things Central to the NHL (haha, sorry, couldn't resist). Today's topics include the Steve Downie trade, Semyon Varlamov's issues, and the division in general.
Thanks as always for stopping by,
Central Buzz(with Peter Tessier, Bill Meltzer and John Jaeckel) Recorded 11/03/13