DETROIT Marian Hossa recently said that this latest road trip, and the playoff-type atmosphere that came with it, was going to be a good challenge; were going to see where were at.
So far, the Blackhawks are meeting that challenge.
Patrick Sharp scored a power-play goal and Ray Emery stopped 23 of 24 shots as the Blackhawks beat the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 on Sunday afternoon. The Blackhawks have won three in a row and remain in sixth place in the West, four points behind idle fifth-place Nashville.
In another game where the Blackhawks needed a complete team game, they got it. Emery was solid once again, and the penalty kill and team defense was strong against a Red Wings team thats always dangerous.
Its kind of what were looking for coming off the Ottawa game. We had to play another perfect road game and we did a lot of good things tonight, coach Joel Quenneville said. We (were good with) details, we had purpose and we were positionally aware. Everybodys contributing and we stuck together.
It was typical Blackhawks-Wings hockey on Sunday: close, combative and entertaining. And the Blackhawks power play, which had been so anemic for so long, came through early for them when Sharp scored for an early 1-0 lead.
Its a big difference when the power play can get one like that, said Sharp, whose shot got through a Jamal Mayers screen up front. Our penalty kill was solid all night long. Thats the way things are going to be down the stretch: tight, and goals are going to be hard to come by. Well take it.
Sharp was it it again late in the second period, with a sweet behind-the-back feed to Patrick Kane, who backhanded one past Joey MacDonald for the eventual game-winner.
I dont know if (Sharp) had eyes in the back of his head or said his prayers and put it into the slot, said Kane, who now has goals in three of his last four games. But it was a great play all around and a huge goal, especially at the end of a period.
The Blackhawks are getting more consistent in recent games. Their defensive pairs look more confident both Quenneville and Duncan Keith were again complimentary to new defenseman Johnny Oduya and Emery has been strong in several games. The Blackhawks top players are finding their offense again.
Its that time of year when games are tighter and the emphasis on them is big. The Blackhawks knew when they embarked on this trip they were in a precarious position in the West. With their last two games, theyre helping their situation plenty.
Its important were still winning games, Emery said. Were not scoring big numbers but were getting it done. Come playoff time, those are the kind of wins you have to have.