MONTREAL — When the Blackhawks came out of the Christmas break, I wrote a story looking ahead to another busy stretch. I wrote that it wasn’t about trying to catch the Dallas Stars. It was just about keeping pace in the Central Division.
Yeah, about that.
Thanks to their 2-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens, the Blackhawks have now won nine in a row and have 62 points, just like those first-place Dallas Stars. Credit where it’s due: The Blackhawks have been winning in every way possible and taking advantage of Central opponents who have been up and down since the break.
It’s going to be one hell of a stretch run. But that’s enough of the big-picture stuff. For now, let’s look at the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory over Montreal.
1. Congratulations to Joel Quenneville, part deux. With Thursday’s victory, Quenneville is the NHL’s second all-time winningest coach. It’s his and his alone, his 783rd victory helping him surpass the late Al Arbour. Quenneville said following the game that he spent his latter playing days working as a retail broker and, “getting ready for the real job.” Choosing to stay in the game has worked out pretty well.
2. Corey Crawford does it again. During the third period on Thursday, one of the TV cameras caught Crawford smiling during a time out. You could see why with his performance. With plenty of family and friends at the Bell Centre, Crawford didn’t disappoint. He made some hair-raising saves in the process, making sure the 2-1 lead the Blackhawks gained 13 minutes into the game stood.
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3. Fourth line contributes again. The Blackhawks needed their fourth line to play more minutes, to spend more time in their opponents’ offensive zone. Any points it could add were gravy. On Thursday that line supplied the game-winning goal, thanks to Ryan Garbutt. The lines are looking more balanced. Said Garbutt of the fourth line, “we have to have good starts and chip in a little bit, if not offensively, work the puck in their zone, be physical and do things good fourth lines do in this league. When we do stuff like that, it definitely makes the game more fun.”
4. Marian Hossa is OK. Hossa was bloodied when Alex Galchenyuk, following through on a shot, caught Hossa in the face with his stick. Hossa went to the locker room and got repairs before returning to the game with about seven minutes remaining. He joins Jonathan Toews as a top liner with a sliced lip.
5. Top line is starting to sizzle. It took a while, but the first line is on a roll now. Andrew Shaw set up Toews’ 17th of the season tonight, and the trio had a few more chances throughout the game. As Quenneville said, “that line’s been dangerous.”