The Blackhawks were just that much happier following their victory against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night.
They’re always glad to get that Central Division victory, especially against longtime rival St. Louis. But they were especially pleased because this triumph came on the road, where victories have been elusive thus far. And as the Blackhawks embark on their annual Circus Trip they’re looking to build off their game in St. Louis, which was just their second road victory of this season.
“There was a sense of urgency, an importance to that game and we had to find a way to win on the road, too, which was important for us,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “It was a very intense game, very competitive game and I liked our team game across the board.”
What was going wrong through those early road games? It could’ve been the newness the Blackhawks experienced: new teammates, new lines and new defensive pairs. They got off to bad starts in a lot of those games, went into catch-up mode, and that is rarely good.
“I just think we’ve started slow in some of those games on the road, putting ourselves behind the 8-ball a little,” Trevor van Riemsdyk said. “I don’t know if there’s a real reason for that, but we just have to come out focused and ready to play a quick and smart game on the road. The home teams sometimes come out with that big jump and press early with the fans and all that excitement there. So we have to be ready for that, come out playing smart and keep it really simple.”
Two other problems were injuries and one line doing all the scoring. Both issues have improved recently. Duncan Keith and Michal Rozsival returned on Saturday and the others not named Artemi Panarin, Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov have shown up on the score sheet.
Now the Blackhawks have to put it all together on the road. Here’s the good news for them about the Circus Trip: it’s usually been a successful trek. The Blackhawks went 5-1-0 on it last season, then won seven of their next eight after that. The team has always considered this trip a good bonding opportunity. Considering how many new faces are on the team this season, that time together may be especially beneficial.
“We spend time with each other, get to know each other. That’s been great,” Marcus Kruger said. “That trip is always something we look forward to and it’s good to come together as a team, practice, play and get to know each other a little bit better. We’ve done a good job in previous years with that. Hopefully we can keep that going.”
[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]
Quenneville said the Blackhawks seem to find the right balance on the Circus Trip.
“There’s a lot of business to be attended to and a lot of good moments as well for the team bonding to exist. I think there are some fun moments for everybody but I certainly think your team gets a lot closer. And with the number of new guys we have, I think that’ll be a good experience for some,” Quenneville said. “And the best thing about it is, it’ll be a good test for us to find out how we can play consistent on the road in some real tough buildings.”
The Blackhawks used to be as reliable on the road as they were at home. That wasn’t there at the start but they’re about to go on what’s usually been a good trip for them. They need to find that again.
“We need to keep it a little more simple. I think in previous years we’ve been pretty good on the road and pretty comfortable there, too,” Kruger said. “We have to climb back to that.”