Ranking the Best Highlights for the Chicago Blackhawks So Far in 2014-15

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistNovember 13, 2014

Ranking the Best Highlights for the Chicago Blackhawks So Far in 2014-15

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Chicago Blackhawks (9-6-1) have played decent hockey through the first four-plus weeks of the season, but they have not yet hit the kind of stride that head coach Joel Quenneville envisions for his team.

    The Blackhawks have had some early season problems when it comes to putting the puck in the net. That's highly unexpected for a team that that is loaded with stars and talented offensive players.

    However, there are some signs that—even though they have been shut out twice at the United Center—they are starting to come around offensively. Meanwhile, their defense and goaltending has been at a higher level than had been expected.

    Here's a look at the top highlights in the early part of the season.

5. Kruger Has Magical Hands

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    Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Corey Crawford were putting on a remarkable goaltending display Nov. 11 at the United Center.

    The talented Lightning and Blackhawks were locked in a 1-1 battle early in the third period when Chicago center Marcus Kruger went to the net to create some traffic in front of Bishop. As he moved to a dangerous position, Niklas Hjalmarsson wristed a soft shot on net. 

    Kruger had it in his sights the whole way, and he opened his blade and deflected the shot with perfect touch. It went past the outstretched right foot of Bishop and gave the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead.

    They would go on to record a 3-2 shootout win over Tampa Bay.

4. Bickell Does It on His Own

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    The Blackhawks were coming off a painful 3-2 loss to the Washington Capitals when they hosted the San Jose Sharks Nov. 9.

    Chicago had a 2-0 lead over the Caps late in the second period two days earlier, but a brief defensive lull allowed Washington to score three goals in succession and steal the game.

    They were bound and determined not to let that happen against San Jose. However, the game followed an uncomfortable pattern, as the Blackhawks broke out to a 3-0 lead, but the Sharks charged back to make it 3-2 in the third period when Joe Pavelski scored.

    Bryan Bickell was not about to let this one get away from the Blackhawks. He had the puck behind the San Jose net and came out with it when he couldn't find an open teammate. He skated to the right of Antti Niemi, turned quickly and fired a sweet shot over the goalie's right hand to give the Blackhawks a 4-2 lead and control of the game.

    Chicago finished off San Jose by a 5-2 margin.

3. A Darling of a Save Helps Blackhawks Secure Win

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    When No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford was injured in late October, the Blackhawks called up Scott Darling from Rockford of the AHL to assist backup Antti Raanta with the Blackhawks goaltending chores. 

    Darling was in net Oct. 26 when the Blackhawks hosted the Ottawa Senators, and he was tested severely as the Sens fired 32 shots on goal. Darling saved all but one of them in a 2-1 victory at the United Center.

    This save on a net-crashing Alex Chiasson demonstrated Darling's battle level and competitiveness, as well as his skill.

2. Kaner Makes Habs Pay the Price

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    The Blackhawks went to Montreal Nov. 4 with a major sense of purpose. They had lost three of their previous games, and their offense was struggling to put the puck in the net with any kind of regularity.

    They needed a huge game against a quality opponent, that's what they got as they rolled over the Habs 5-0. There were several highlights, but none were better than this third-period goal by Patrick Kane, as he finished off a rush with Jonathan Toews by backhanding an artful shot by Montreal goalie Carey Price.

    It's hard to imagine any two teammates working better together than Kane and Toews did on that play at the Bell Center.

1. Toews OT Goal Ruins Predators

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    When the Blackhawks want to win a game, they often turn to their captain.

    That's been standard operating procedure for Chicago since Jonathan Toews was a rookie in 2007-08, so it was no surprise when he scored the winning goal in overtime Oct. 18 vs. the Nashville Predators

    As usual, Toews was in the right place at the right time, and he had a breakaway against Nashville goalie Carter Hutton. While Hutton made the initial save, Toews stayed with it and knocked his own rebound in the net for the winning goal in a 2-1 victory.