When you need points, you need to beat teams that are struggling. When you need points, you need to win games within your own division.
That is exactly what the Chicago Blackhawks achieved over the weekend. After the Hawks defeated the New York Islanders on Friday night in a shootout, they took care of business on Saturday night against the St. Louis Blues with a 5-2 win.
While Friday night’s win was ugly, you’ll take it. Realistically, nobody should take the New York Islanders to a shootout. Other than the shootout, Corey Crawford, again, was not brilliant. It was a sigh of relief more than anything else when Matt Moulson clanked the pipe on the final shootout attempt. It was a gritty win off the skin of their teeth, but necessary.
Many skeptics could have easily predicted a let down coming into St. Louis on Saturday. What the Hawks accomplished was certainly encouraging.
They won the special teams battle. Down 2-1 in the second period, Marian Hossa picked the corner with a shorthanded goal to knot the score. Patrick Sharp added a powerplay later in the frame, and Hossa potted an additional man advantage strike in the third to make it 4-2.
For a team that has struggled mightily in special teams, having that the difference in victory is a huge confidence boost.
The Hawks entered Saturday night’s game last in the NHL in penalty killing. Adding a shorthanded goal and killing all four St. Louis powerplays is a plus.
The Hawks have also had some recent goaltending issues. Backup, Ray Emery was solid on Saturday turning away 23 shots.
The Hawks have also had a more favorable line-up the last couple of nights. Markus Kruger and Ben Smith have made significant contributions. This was the hope at the beginning of the season and we are now seeing results.
The Hawks have not been in the position where they have had to wonder what sort of efforts they will receive from John Scott, Bryan Bickell, and Sami Lepisto. All three were in the press box over the weekend and that is a good thing.
Good teams beat the teams they should and that’s what has happened the last two nights.
Hopefully the four points the Hawks notched will result in a refocused team heading into the holidays. A lot of NHL clubs would consider a four-point weekend a milestone or season changing. Now Chicagoan’s are expecting the Hawks to win every night.
Should fans expect the Hawks to win against the Islanders and Blues? Absolutely. At the same time, that should not minimize the value of these weekend wins.