The Blackhawks defensemen’s main role is preventing others from scoring, and on this recent road trip they did a pretty good job of that.
Adding a few points on the other end, however, never hurts. And in the Blackhawks’ last three games, their defensemen did that.
You’re used to seeing Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith getting their share of points, especially considering their minutes and their roles on the power play. But other defensemen also chipped in during the Blackhawks’ three-game winning streak. Trevor van Riemsdyk had a goal and an assist in his past two games. Seabrook had an assist in each of his last two games, Michal Rozsival had his first goal of the season against Arizona and Niklas Hjalmarsson had two assists vs. the Dallas Stars.
“Guys that don't do a lot of scoring, whether they're up front or on the back end, it's kind of like a bonus,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I think it's the reflection, too, of what we're talking about, just putting pucks at the net and things happen. Bad-angle shots or just, you know, clears out of our own end and beating them in races that develop into scoring chances and situations from that type of play.”
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The Blackhawks’ winning streak was a combination of several things: energy gained from the All-Star break, great goaltending from Corey Crawford and a strong puck-possession game. The Blackhawks took their share of shots with that puck possession – they had 42 and 40 shots, respectively, vs. Colorado and Arizona – and the defensemen were as much a part of that as the forwards.
“Obviously we’re trying to be involved in the offense, whether it’s jumping in the rush or being active when we have the puck in their end,” van Riemsdyk said. “It’s nice to get contributions from the D and not just have only the forwards put the puck in the net.”
Van Riemsdyk added that, from a defenseman’s perspective, it’s about reading each situation to see if you can/can’t get an opportunity for offense.
“You always want to be right on the back of the rush, whether you’re fully jumping in and going into the other end or reading from there and pulling off or whatever you do,” he said. “Any time we make those passes we want to be moving our feet and joining the rush, and as we jump in, diagnose it from there.”
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Andrew Shaw said any points the defensemen can add are beneficial.
“They’re getting the puck up ice quick, getting shots on the net and it’s going to help our offensive game. We keep getting the pucks in, keep getting them deep they’re going to keep chipping in.”
The Blackhawks were lacking offense heading into the break. Again, a lot of that was a symptom of fatigue for a team that had played a non-stop schedule entering the All-Star weekend. Now they’re getting it back, and their defensemen have played as big a part in that as their forwards.
“I always say there's enough offense within our team, so we don't care where it comes from, but it’s nice to see,” Quenneville said. “And I'm sure those guys feels good about it.”