The United Center crowd gave the Blackhawks a standing ovation at the end of the second period on Sunday night. It was earned, considering the Blackhawks put up six goals in the first 40 minutes.
It’s been a good time for the Blackhawks, who won their seventh in a row on Sunday with a 6-3 decision over the Colorado Avalanche. The Blackhawks are midway through the season, a time when a team can hit the doldrums. Instead, they’re hitting on all cylinders. So before we head into another busy week, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory over the Avalanche.
1. Marian Hossa is back. Hossa was well aware of his scoring drought – his last goal was on Dec. 6 – and it was definitely frustrating, considering the chances he was getting. But he was one happy forward on Sunday night when he scored two goals. Hossa was part of a top line that played the part of a top line in this one. So did he rejoice afterward, scream “Thank God” or “finally”? “Something like that, definitely,” Hossa said.
2. Fourth line contributes. Brandon Mashinter waited for another chance to crack the Blackhawks’ lineup and he made the most of it. Mashinter scored his second goal of the season 8:27 into the game to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead. That line of he, Dennis Rasmussen and Ryan Garbutt was better overall. After no shots and playing about five minutes of the Blackhawks’ last game, those three each had a point and combined for seven shots on goal.
3. The right combination vs. Varlamov. Semyon Varlamov is tough to beat for two reasons. First, he’s a pretty good goaltender. Second, he’ll stop anything he sees. For most of their latest matchups, the Blackhawks have allowed Varlamov to see most of their shots. Not on Sunday, however, when they got on his doorstep or in his way. Traffic and shots getting through: who knew?
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4. Keeping the pressure on. When the Avalanche – make that Matt Duchene – got back to within one of the Blackhawks in the second period, there was a sense that the Avs were going to bring more. Credit the Blackhawks for not getting complacent. They kept pushing, using a power-play goal to regain a two-goal lead before expanding it to three before the end of the second period. The Blackhawks also didn’t get on their heels in the third period. Colorado scored one, but the Blackhawks outshot the Avs 14-11 for the period.
5. Richard Panik is (almost) here. Well, you all wanted to know when he got into town and coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks are “hopeful” that Panik gets here on Monday. Quenneville also talked of giving him a top-line shot. Does that still hold now that the Blackhawks are rolling with their current lineup? Following Sunday’s game Quenneville said, “we have to get him on the ice first. We’ll go from there.”