Marian Hossa surging: Five Things from Blackhawks-Avalanche

Marian Hossa surging: Five Things from Blackhawks-Avalanche

Tonight’s theme is, “stop if you’ve heard this before.”

If you’ve watched the Blackhawks lately, you’ll know what we mean by that as you go through this story. A few trends are developing, some good and some bad. But the end results have been victories lately, so the Blackhawks will take those and keep working on the issues.

So while you all prepare for the Cubs’ victory parade tomorrow — oh yeah, it’s real— let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 4-0 victory over the Colorado Avalanche.

1. Corey Crawford, once again, his tremendous. Yep, this is one of those good trends for the Blackhawks — sort of. They’re allowing some quality shots way too often but Crawford has been locked in the last few games. That includes Thursday night, when Crawford stopped 38 for his second shutout in his last three games. Crawford has long said he doesn’t mind being busy, and he was up to the task yet again against Colorado. But the Blackhawks can’t get into a habit of leaning on him too much.

2. Brent Seabrook’s great defending. Seabrook doesn’t get enough credit, really — yes, we realize that’s our fault — but he had a strong game. He helped cover the net the rare time Corey Crawford was out of position and, when facing a 2-on-1 later in the second period, went down to block Nathan MacKinnon’s pass.

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3. Marian Hossa still slick. No, he’s not 25 anymore. No, he likely won’t have a 30-goal season. But there’s no doubt Hossa has looked good to start this season. His first goal was vintage Hossa, a strong, driving goal that saw him push away an attempting-to-hook Fedor Tyutin. His second, off the great feed from Duncan Keith, saw Hossa splitting the defenders. Hossa struggled terribly last season but he’s shown none of that early. Maybe getting over that 500-career-goal hump was a big help, along with the restful offseason. Whatever the reason, Hossa is surging.

4. The penalty kill keeps improving. We’ll get into this more on Friday but the Blackhawks are reversing their worst trend slowly but surely. They killed off three more penalties and have now nixed 12 in a row. There are a myriad of reasons why it’s working better now — again, we’ll write about that tomorrow — but, as coach Joel Quenneville said, “I thought tonight was one of our better nights, PK-wise.”

5. Quick strikes. We’ll say this for the Blackhawks: when they have had scoring opportunities, they’ve been opportunistic. Jonathan Toews andHossa scored within 38 seconds of each other to turn an otherwise forgettable first period into a 2-0 Blackhawks lead. They had only four shots in the third but scored twice (Hossa again and Artemi Panarin). Again, the Blackhawks want to get their shots up — the Avs outshot them 38-21. But when they do get chances, they aren’t missing.

The pros and cons of reuniting Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on Blackhawks top line


The pros and cons of reuniting Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on Blackhawks top line

Jonathan Toews' offense usually comes in spurts. We're seeing it again right now.

But it's no coincidence his numbers have spiked since Patrick Kane joined him on the top line.

After recording another two points in Saturday's 5-3 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, the Blackhawks captain has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in his past eight games; he had 11 points in his previous 23 games total.

Toews also reached the 20-goal mark for the 11th straight season, joining Kane and Alex Ovechkin as the only three active players to accomplish that feat to open their NHL careers.

Kane has seen his offensive production pick up, too. He has 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) in his past 13 games after going five straight without one, which was his longest point drought of the season.

When the two of them are on the ice together at even strength, they control 57.9 percent of the shot attempts. It hasn't quite translated on the scoresheet (14 goals for and 17 goals against) maybe the way it should, but they are certainly spending far more time in the offensive zone than the defensive end and are generating a high volume of shots.

So yes, reuniting the dynamic duo has worked stats-wise.

But it comes at a cost:

— Vinnie Hinostroza and Nick Schmaltz haven't scored in six straight contests.

— Alex DeBrincat's season-long goal drought is up to 13 games.

— Artem Anisimov's last even-strength goal came nine games ago.

When you put Kane and Toews together, you risk losing some balance across the lineup and that's why Joel Quenneville has always been reluctant to go to that nuclear option. He prefers when opposing teams are forced to play 'Pick Your Poison.'

Ideally, you'd like to spread out the scoring, but one thing is for certain: The Blackhawks are better when Kane and Toews are each producing offensively, whether they're apart or together. 

When the wins start to dry up though — and they have — that's normally when it's time to try something different.

Perhaps more importantly, the last thing you want are those scoring droughts mentioned above to stretch even further and get inside the younger skaters' heads, then carrying it with them into the offseason.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Has the championship window closed?


Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Has the championship window closed?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Jonathan Toews sits down with Pat Boyle for a 1-on-1 interview. Toews weighs in on his season with Brandon Saad, whether he expects major changes this offseason and has the championship window closed?

Also, Adam Burish joins the podcast and plays the game: “Building block, not sure, or no thanks.” Burish runs down the Blackhawks forwards and predicts whether or not they have a future with the team.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: