Another strong performance last night by the Blackhawks as they took down the Rangers 4-1.
It was reminiscent of those old Blackhawks again. A 37-19 shot difference as they got outhit 20-9 (because of their strong possession game).
Corey Crawford came up big in the 1st period as he faced 5 high danger chances but after that it was smooth sailing for #50.
There are some interesting trends happening with this team; some I can see with my eyeballs and others the stat sheets are telling me.
Overall, what I'm seeing is a confident team that is in sync. They are supporting each other all over the ice and their team defence is on point. The backside pressure from the backchecking forwards has been a level of commitment that hasn't been as consistent over the last couple of years.
On the stat sheet (outside of Corey's lights out stats of 1.52 GAA / .946 SV%) there are a few things that jump out to me.
Some didn't see Nick Schmaltz's drop to the 3rd line as a demotion of sorts – I was not one of those people. This is indicative of his ice time last night. He was last on the team with 5-on-5 TOI with 9:46. It was only his time on the PP (5:54) and PK (1:31) that brought him back up.
Schmaltz looked good last night in his time. The last couple of games he's playing with more "purpose" as Q would say.
Alex Fortin brings an element to the Hawks team game that has been really fun to watch – speed. Just flat out burn ya on the inside / burn ya to the outside speed. It really puts an opponent's defence on watch and can change the dynamic of how they play against the Hawks. Nice to see him with another goal last night.
Henri Jokiharju's play has still been top 4 quality, however, due to the strong play of Gustafsson and Seabrook as a pairing, he's not being asked to play as much. He was 4th on the Hawks defence last night in ice time. This is a good thing, you don't want to wear the kid out.
The Hawks are using Manning and Rutta as their top "shutdown" / PK unit. While the Hawks didn't give up a goal short-handed last night, I can't help but wonder if this Hawks defence would be better than expected if you replaced them with a Forsling-Murphy pairing.
Obviously, there needs to be some give with the backend now that Forsling is healthy and playing in Rockford. It was reported that Murphy was ahead of schedule as well and could be back at the end of November.
I can't see Brandon Manning moving on so soon after Stan signing him so I say he stays as the 6th/7th D. Jan Rutta, on the other hand, could really help Stan out if he plays really well over the next couple of weeks. His expiring 2.3M contract would be easier to move, plus he's a right-handed shot.
In other news, the Hogs are Hot!
The Rockford IceHogs are now 4-0-1 in the last 5 games. They had a mid-week game on Wednesday vs. San Antonio which ended in a 5-2 victory.
The big dogs came out to play with Ejdsell, who was recently scratched (healthy-style) showed up with 2 goals.
Highmore, D. Sikura and Samuelsson also tallied for Colliton's ‘Hogs.
I can't stress enough how much of a positive influence Jeremy Colliton has had on this team. His presence was very much welcomed and appears he lifted a dark cloud off this team since Ted Dent's departure.
Their next game is tomorrow vs. Cleveland.
Colliton's been doing a nice job juggling the lineup to ensure he gets everyone in the lineup, but it can't last forever, especially carrying 3 goalies.
In case you were curious, here was the lineup last game:
The Hawks play back-to-back games this weekend starting tomorrow in St. Louis. They then return to Chicago for an evening tilt with the Edmonton McDavids.
See ya out there,