The Chicago Blackhawks have played well enough to win their last three games. While the game against the Maple Leafs was a little sloppy, fans and players should be very happy with back-to-back road victories in Ottawa and Detroit. Sure, Detroit did not have Lidstrom or Datsyuk, but you'll take any win you can in Detroit. You'll also take three wins in a row without Jonathan Toews regardless of how it gets done.
As far as the key to their road success? Look no further than the the big names. Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa have been buzzing. Joel Quenneville recently made the decision to link Kaner and Hoss together and it has paid off. Though the Hawks only have nine goals in their last three games (wins), this trio has accounted for 11 points.
As expected, when it comes to offense, the Hawks will only go as far as their best players produce. While missing Toews is still something the Hawks are learning to cope with, it is no secret that their major offensive weapons have been leading the charge the last few games.
Hossa has hit another gear. Kane now looks like the player we all hoped he would be this season. Hopefully he is past his funk and we will see continued production. Sharp looks like he is playing with renewed confidence and has excelled at both ends of the ice. Things are good for now. It needs to keep rolling.
Another major contributor has been the man between the pipes. After filling in admirably for Corey Crawford in the second period against Toronto and posting back to back wins, allowing one goal a game per win, is Ray Emery the go-to guy? It certainly seems that way and it should be so. Crawford will get another start in the regular season and probably more than one, but you have to go with the hot hand in Emery.
Let's not forget two important things. Emery has gone on a long playoff run before, taking the Ottawa Senators to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2007. Secondly, this would not be the first time the Blackhawks have moved away from their "money" goaltender to go with a more consistent option.
If you recall, March of 2010 was a very tumultuous month in the crease for the Hawks. Both Antti Niemi and Cristobal Huet were seeing starts, and neither one was clicking. The Hawks opted for their then-No. 2 goaltender, and the rest is history. Crawford has had his moments this year, but his inconsistencies have hurt the club. Look for Emery to continue to see the bulk of starts this month and perhaps for the rest of the season.
In my last piece, I had some "not so nice" things to say about Stan Bowman's efforts at the trade deadline. Rightly or wrongly I was not overly impressed with what Bowman did or did not do. Did I think he did too little with the center position? Yes, but that's not my call to make.
There are some interesting things to note. One is that the Hawks are 3-0 with Johnny Oduya and that's great. He moves the puck well and despite his rough outing against Toronto has been solid in the last two games.
Also, the summer of 2012 could be a busy offseason in the Windy City. Bowman has saved a bit and still has cap room left. The Hawks could have some extra money to spend as well. After this season the Hawks do not owe a dime to Huet, who they are currently paying $5.6 million a year. While this is not a cap hit, it certainly takes a toll on the organization.
If this is money that they will put back into signing a free agent to a long-term deal, then look for the Hawks to be major players in either the Zach Parise or the Ryan Suter summer sweepstakes. Suter would be huge.
Thanks for reading.
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